The weight at the end of my fishing line touches the bottom of the river as I bob my fishing rod up and down. We’re back-bouncing in the Kenai River in Alaska.
All of a sudden I feel a tug on my line. It gets stronger and I jerk my rod into the air to set the hook in the fish’s mouth.
It’s set, and now I can feel the fish’s resistance. My line gets tangled with another line in the boat, and as I trip and bang my shin on the hard edge of a seat box. But I get up as quickly as I fall and I scurry around the boat, following the line’s movements — to the bow, down the other side, around the motor, and back to the bow.
I keep the pressure steady, reeling in line whenever the fish allows some slack. We go back and forth — she swims out, and I pull in — and after about fifteen minutes she’s close enough to the boat for us to net her.
Feeling the fish high
Since I decide to keep the fish, I have to put my rod to rest — there’s a limit of keeping one King Salmon per day. I sit down on my seat and my fellow fisherman congratulate my first landing.
I’m beaming with satisfaction.
(I did come to Alaska to hunt for salmon after all — not for sport fishing or anything recreational. Because I had been wanting to come to terms with my carnivorous nature for a long time, as I don’t like to kill spiders in the house and have to transport them outside instad. So I figured that one way to integrate this was to partake in the act of hunting itself.)
Well, I’m not sure why exactly I’m so ecstatic — maybe it’s because I can relax for the day, maybe it’s because I have bruises to show for it, or maybe it’s my brother telling me I looked pro — but my ego is clearly bloated. The other fishermen look over to me and I’ve got a smile plastered on my face — they understand the feeling and laugh. It’s such a powerful emotion that I start to wonder if I somehow tapped into a hunter-gatherer reward circuit in my brain, because everything seems okay. I feel no worry about the future and no regret about the past.
I have what they call the “fish high.”
And I start to see how catching that fish turned me into a fisherwoman — before I was just a girl tagging along with some guys on a boat.
It feels like that fish validates my entire existence.
The male ego
And then I start to think… “Wait a minute! That fish so does not validate my entire existence! I’d be the same person had I not caught it!”
Before the analyzing gets too far, I say to myself… “Maybe so, but my ego is happy right now and I’m going to let it bask in its glory while I sit back.”
Naturally the analyzing continues on a subroutine — so as not to interfere with the feeling itself — and I realize that my ego has not felt this indestructible in a long long time, if ever in such a pronounced way.
The female ego
This puzzles me, as I wonder if I’m feeling something I’ve never felt before, and I search my memory for the last time I felt a sense of proud accomplishment.
The most recent incident was the traffic spike on this site last week — but that’s not anything like the feeling of catching a thirty-pound fish. First of all, conceptualizing the traffic spike is a complex phenomenon, which requires imagining the virtual presence of visitors, among other things. Catching a fish doesn’t get any more complicated than, well, catching a fish.
And more importantly, the traffic spike represents something that’s more feminine than masculine. Traffic is something that my site (which is an extension of me) receives, whereas in fishing I go out and take the fish from the river. Furthermore, the site is set up to inspire thought, conversation, and connection — in some respect a nurturing environment — whereas fishing is a hunter-gatherer thing to do.
Why gender the ego?
We all have feminine and masculine aspects of our ego, and we all have egos, since we are by nature multidimensional.
Gendering the ego as feminine or masculine isn’t necessary; your ego has the respective characteristics either way. But assigning a gender helps you to understand your ego better, and why you behave in the ways you do. And this understanding helps you lead a more response able and emotionally intelligent (read: emotionally healthy) life. It’s when you don’t try to understand your ego that it can more easily lash out and harm others.
Additionally, assigning a gender to your ego during an egoistic circumstance can help you relate to it, rather than shutting it down as being nonhuman. And that’s much better than suppressing your ego so that you can’t recognize it and you inadvertently let it take the driver’s seat throughout more of your life than you’d like to admit.
Another benefit of gendering your ego is that it helps you tune into what feminine and masculine really mean, and how both of these aspects are integral parts of you.
So the next time your male ego comes out, pay attention, have a listen. You might learn something about yourself.
Something for your male ego
Now, for those of you in touch with your male ego — you’re absolutely right, if there is no picture then it didn’t happen!
So here it is:
(Photograph taken by Andrew Karnaze)