This is ego death: prevailing while Thanatos acts upon us

Nich Garza, Staff writer

It’s 2 a.m. on a Thursday morning, the sky is clear and the apartment complex around me is mostly silent. We’ve all been wasting away for hours, but as that high turned into a buzz that turned into something resembling sobriety, we came outside for some fresh air before we had to join the stillness of the night. So there I am, sitting on my friend’s balcony, a puff bar in one hand and my phone in the other. I get a notification from TikTok, a video my friend sent me. I watch a guy passionately explain the dangers of unregulated puff bars (the only kind still available in North America) and snicker to myself as I inhale another hour off my life. It’s the quiet moments like these you have to look out for. When your brain stops moving long enough for a split second of self-reflection that reminds you of everything you’ve been ignoring. Just a second is all it takes, long enough for me to wonder, “What the hell am I doing here?”

I have dreams. Every night I dream of something beautiful and inspiring and wholesome. Then I wake up and think of what beautiful, inspiring, wholesome things I can bring into the world. Then I take my pills and go to work. I waste so much time doing things for other people. Making money for my bosses, working on a degree that’ll soon be worthless, talking to people I can barely stand. I finish all that and come home with plenty of time to do things that I care about. But I don’t. I watch tv and play video games. I lay in bed and stare at my ceiling, wondering where I went wrong. Sometimes I lay on my side and stare at the wall. I want to fall in love again; I want to remember what human connection feels like. So I open Tinder and find someone to ghost after two dates. I want to create art, to write and sing and paint something beautiful. So I write about writing and make something too self aware to be relatable. I assume what I lack is inspiration, so I fuel myself with enough spiritual and philosophical crap to keep myself as unstable as possible. And every so often, when the voices quiet down and my room stops spinning, for a split second I wonder, “What the hell am I doing here?”

Eros is the Greek god of love and sex. Thanatos, the god of death. In Freudian psychology (yes, that dirty old man), they represent the life and death instincts that all humans possess. Eros pushes us to take care of ourselves, look out for our wellbeing and reproduce. Compassion, happiness and sociability come from Eros. Thanatos pushes us toward self-destruction. Hate, violence and aggression are fueled by Thanatos. Freud’s theory states that people are either motivated by Eros or Thanatos when making decisions. Depending on how one acts in their life, you can pretty easily tell if someone has a stronger Eros or Thanatos. Do you instinctively act with kindness toward yourself and others, or do you live perpetually on the brink of oblivion? Are you happy to be alive, or do you mutter “I’m going to kill myself” at the drop of a hat?

For most of my life, I’ve been a lot better at school than most of the people I knew. I tried not to show it, but I could never hide the way it built up my ego. Everything was easy for me, so I assumed I was better than other people. Everything was easy for me, so I was a huge jerk that nobody liked. I was too stuck up to admit that I wanted friends, and I rarely attempted to actually make them, so I spent a lot of time alone growing up. I got pretty comfortable living like that, and for a while, life was simple and quiet. Nobody hurt me, and I didn’t hurt anybody else. And then I started to meet people, and I found out what having friends was like. I understood what it meant to care about someone and let them care about me. I finally had a reason to be alive-so I ruined it. I said horrible things and told people to go to hell. I pushed away friend after friend and found myself alone in a way I didn’t know how to deal with. It felt like there was nothing I could do, but something had to change. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This is ego death: letting Myself die so that I could be here today to hopefully be less of a jerk sometimes. Can Thanatos, the personification of the human desire to die, be a force for positive change in our lives?

Thanatos may have as vital a role as Eros, but he shouldn’t rule your entire world. Eros was practically ignored, but he deserves more than a passing mention. I’ve got a lot more to say about both of them, but I’m out of space for now. I promise it’ll be less depressing next week. In the meantime, tell Eros you love him and try not to let Thanatos act up while you’re driving.