Lately I've been thinking a lot about the ego and how, if we don't watch it, it can cause major devastation wreaking havoc and mayhem in its path. I live in a state where severe storms are a normal part of every day life, especially this time of year. When a storm warning is issued everyone tends to watch cautiously, taking the necessary precautions if and when a violent storm hits. There is a strange sense of alertness that overtakes you when caught in a potentially dangerous situation. Your vigilance and problem solving mind become hyper-acute and you begin to take stock of what really matters. We should apply the same diligence to our internal states.
Ego storms are similar to atmospheric storms in that they are the manifestation of agitated emotional energy in the body. Depending on our personalities these storms can take the form of anxiety, despair, anger, blaming, addictive patterns, isolation, etc, but whatever the content of the storm it's sure to cause some upheaval in your life.
Cultivating ego storm vigilance means we begin to practice predicting and monitoring the emotional reactions (much as we would watch our local weather for severe storm updates). By gaining intrapersonal distance we can act with more presence and insight. At first this concept seems like an a paradox because how can one both be the storm and watch the storm. However, this is the irony of human condition.
We all have the capacity to both react and observe our reactions simultaneously, but it is a skill that must be practiced. The problem is we mistake the reactor for the self. It cannot be. We are that which watches, in Buddhism they call this "the watcher" or the Observer. We are the meteorologist, not the storm, although the storm (the reactor) must be acknowledged because it's power can be mighty if not harnessed properly.
Becoming an ego meteorologist requires that we zoom out, even if temporarily, and assess our emotional and mental reactions with objectivity. It requires that we take stock of what is happening in our bodies, the thoughts or beliefs that triggered our stormy reaction, and then assessing the strength and velocity of the storm's winds. It requires that we learn the proper prediction skills through self work (therapy, meditation, spiritual practice, etc) so that we are properly educated on the tendencies of our emotional/mental wind patterns.
Cultivating this objectivity allows you (the real you: the one that watches) to take the precautions needed in order to reduce the storm's damage on you and your loved ones. How often have you found yourself standing in the aftermath of an ego storm wondering how you managed to cause so much damage in such a short time?
Sometimes surviving the storm requires taking cover (removing yourself from the situation) and at other times it simply requires quiet observation during the reaction. Like standing in the calm eye of a tornado. This does not mean the storm will necessarily end (in fact, it may strengthen to get your attention), but rather you begin to notice the storms patterns and in the future equip yourself with the proper storm tracking equipment to thwart danger in the future. Ego storms thrive on similar energy so they may try to pull in the emotional/mental energy of your loved ones, coworkers, spouses, kids, environment in order to gather more intensity and cause more damage. This often works, unless the others have learned to recognize the patterns and start to take cover early.
Once you become an adept "ego meteorologist", you can begin to control the storm. You essentially become a master creator, much like a powerful wizard that can control the severity, trajectory and impact of the storm, because you have mastered the knowledge of the weather patterns, and can manipulate the impact through the force of your higher willpower. Once you gain this kind of mastery you can then direct the emotional or mental energy into more constructive outlets that become renewing rather than destructive.
However, destruction is inevitable sometimes, and some storms must be allowed to pass through in order to make room for new growth. At times we must destroy in order to rebuild. It is at those times that we must simply watch the weather, sheltering ourselves and our loved ones from destruction as the energy of the storm's winds and rains blow through. These are times for hope and faith.
We must remember that we will make it through the depression, panic attack, rage flare-up, substance or food craving, etc., if we can simply watch it pass through without panicking and feeding it with the belief that the storm is the totality of our experience. It is not, it is only a fleeting state. It is important to remember that the more you feed the storm with the belief that it is you (identification), the stronger it becomes, and eventually you lose the ability to play the role of meteorologist, and are at the mercy of the storms chaos yet again.