My literal translation of my invented-term ‘Ego-References’ is ‘Self-identifiers.’ In other words, for a person with certain kinds of early childhood deprivations, it’s what their ‘Self’ is identified with or as, and thus what conveys their sense of identity. Those ‘what’s’ – in the unhealthy situation described by this Theory – are ‘conditions’ (such as always being cheerful) that are highly emotionally-charged because they are (subconsciously) experienced as requirements which must be met or fulfilled. For the young child, that would allow them to experience a sense of existing by merging with the approving caretaker. For the older child or adult, that would allow them to get the approval resulting in ‘feeling-good-about-Self’ as an unhealthy way of experiencing themselves as a ‘real person.’

So Ego-References are subconsciously-accepted absolute requirements to feel, be, or behave a certain way, or achieve a certain result, in order to gain a feeling of being approved and loved, which translates into a fleeting sense of ‘being allowed to be in existence.’ This then serves as a substitute for a sense of feeling like a ‘real person.’

Ego-References are conditions to be met (such as having to be always cheerful) or requirements to be fulfilled (such as always being on time) that the person accepted subconsciously in childhood, because meeting those conditions or fulfilling those requirements pretty reliably brought the feel-good vibes from the caretaker which were the child’s only (positive) chance to feel like a ‘real person.’ I say ‘positive’ chance because some children actually achieve this feeling in the opposite way: by being a pain in the butt to the parent!

As a person grows older and the situation staying the same, meeting these conditions or fulfilling these requirements has a huge emotional charge. In fact, they turn into ‘addictions’ and are subconsciously experienced as matters of life or death because unless the Ego-References are achieved or met or fulfilled, the person’s fleeting, superficial, unhealthy experiences of being a ‘Self’ or an ‘independently existing person’ are not available, and the terrifying ‘Black Hole‘ comes too close to consciousness.

Ego-References are the motives behind many actions. Ultimately their Hidden Goal is to provide the person with some experience resembling what never developed in the normal course of childhood: feeling accepted and taken into account as an independent and autonomous human being, which equals a Natural-Sense-of-Self. Unfortunately, Ego-References provide a substitute which is addictive and toxic to the person’s life, but it’s the best Nature could come up with at the time!