Riding out the Storm
May 20, 2018
If you read my last post, you’ll know I’m currently smack dab in the middle of a storm. An emotional storm, that is.
In a nutshell, my 15-year relationship is coming to a close. And even though the parting is amicable, my emotions aren’t granting me a pass. Grief, anxiety, and despair float in and out like the tide on their own timetable. I never know when they’re gonna show up, when they’re gonna leave, or if they’ll be back.
At other times, I’m blessed with clarity, hope, and peace. And I can breathe. Smile and laugh, even. Because in those tiny moments, all feels well. Until another wave comes crashing in.
Why the storm? Because my inner being and my ego are battling it out. And it’s definitely not a friendly fight. Because my ego isn’t the reasonable type. I doubt any ego is.
My ego isn't willing to sit at the table and negotiate. Nope. It won’t even sit, never mind listen. It’s flailing around, shouting insanities, and making impossible demands of me. It's kinda like trying to reason with a feverish, teething two-year-old running on four hours sleep who's watching the family dog shred her favourite toy.
That’s my ego. In all her glory.
So what exactly is the ego? And how do I know when she’s in charge? Here’s my take on it:
The ego is that fearful part of ourselves that resides in the mind. I say “fearful” because the ego is all about survival. Survival at ALL COSTS. Did you catch that last part? At ALL COSTS.
Here, I'll paint a visual:
Imagine me in a jungle being chased by a tiger. So, there I am doing my best full-out sprint and the tiger is gaining on me. Rapidly. It’s like watching a kitty readying herself to pounce on a piece of fluff. And I’m the fluff.
All I know is if I don’t get my bum outa this tiger’s reach, I’m gonna have no bum to worry about.
Now imagine a passer-by enters the picture. Let’s call him Joe. Joe Schmo. Joe is out for a walk, enjoying the beautiful day. The sunshine is warming his neck, the rich green landscape is pleasuring his senses, and he’s watching one of nature’s gorgeous creatures getting a little exercise. All is well in Joe’s world.
“Good morning!” Joe says to me, seemingly unaware of my current predicament.
AHHHHHhhhhhHHHHH! I shriek.
H—E—E—E—E—L—P ! ! !
STOP THE FRICKING TIGEEEEER!!!!!
Notice how all my niceties have gone out the window. I have no time for politeness or manners. I don’t have good listening skills and I don’t care how Joe is feeling or what’s on his mind. I’m loud and demanding. I’m focused exclusively on me. And I don’t give two ta-hoots what Joe thinks of my behaviour.
Go ahead. Judge me, Joe. Won’t hurt my feelings none.
Because none of it matters. Because my focus is solely on getting my needs met. On being heard. On getting away from the tiger. On getting Joe to see the threat. On living to see another day. In a word, all I care about is SURVIVAL.
Congrats! You’ve just met my ego. Welcome to my nightmare.
Want some even worse news?
You’ve got one too! Hee hee.
Well, most of us do. Unless you’ve managed to extinguish your ego altogether. But that ain’t me.
So, now you may understand why my ego isn’t being reasonable. Why it’s hard to shut’er down once she takes charge. Why I’m currently in an emotional storm.
Because my ego hates uncertainty. She despises it. And since the ending of a relationship is fraught with uncertainties, my ego is feeling extremely uncomfortable right now.
And she’s acting out. Big time. Telling me all sorts of nonsense. Stuff like, "You can't afford to live on your own." Or, "You’re gonna be homeless." Or, "You're gonna spend the rest of your life alone."
So, why not just step out of her way? Why not just let her have her little temper tantrum? She’ll calm down eventually, right? And when she’s all done being stupid, my inner being can simply pick up the reins and carry on? Sounds reasonable, right?
Y-e-e-e-e-e-a-a-a-a-a-h-h-h-h-h [said hesitantly in a high squeaky voice]
...in my experience, it doesn’t work that way. Cuz when my ego takes over, it pushes the real me aside and grabs the wheel.
At times, I have enough awareness to realize what’s happening and it isn’t too difficult to grab the wheel from her:
"Hey, look at the pink fuzzy bunny over there!!!"
[ego shoots a glance]
Cool. Now I’m back in the driver’s seat with my fingers lapped around the wheel.
But other times I don’t notice right away. Cuz my ego can be pretty sneaky. And then it can be much tougher to regain control. Because she’s driving recklessly and disturbing the normally peaceful neighbourhood. She’s laying rubber, driving at high speeds, and taking sharp turns that throw my inner being me off balance.
Before long, the real me is tossed into the back seat where it’s difficult to reach the controls. And so it takes waaaaay more effort to grab the wheel from my frightened companion.
The sucky part is every moment my ego is on the loose, she’s getting stronger. Finding her groove. Remembering where she left off last time. Gaining more experience. Getting trickier and more insidious.
Because she’s strengthening herself. She’s in survival mode. And she’s doing everything she can to ensure her continued existence. And the longer she's in control, the longer my inner sparkle remains dim—in the backseat of life.
You see, when the real me isn’t shining through it’s because something is clogging up my filters. Something is getting in the way of my true nature. Something or somebody. And guess who that might be. Yup. My ego.
My ego is the clogger-upper-er. She’s the one responsible when the authentic me is M.I.A.
At first, my ego’s so subtle it’s easy for me to miss the cues or ignore her. But the longer she’s in control, the longer the real me gets diminished. And before long, I find myself wondering why I don’t feel happy.
The reason, of course, is because my ego has robbed me of my joy. All of it. Because joy can’t exist with fear. And fear is the life-blood of the ego.
That’s why it’s a top priority to stop my ego from strengthening herself as SOON as I realize she’s taken control. Cuz the longer I wait, the harder the job.
How do I know when my ego’s taken control and getting stronger?
Ohhhhh, let me count the ways. Seriously, this topic deserves it’s own 100 part series! But for now, I’ll keep it short and simple.
Here are two ways I’ve experienced my ego exercising her muscles:
- When she tries to diminish anything good and positive about other people.
- When she tries to diminish anything good and positive about me.
Yeah. I know. Confusing, right? The first one seems somewhat logical. When I make others appear smaller, weaker, dumber, uglier, wrong-er, less-than…it makes my own self feel bigger, stronger, smarter, prettier, right-er, more-than. That’s the ego strengthening herself. Making “them” inferior to “me”.
But the second one doesn’t make sense at first. How does the ego make herself stronger by diminishing what's good and positive about me? If I secretly feel ugly, stupid, and not good enough, isn’t my ego getting weaker because I’m getting weaker? Isn’t it working against itself?
That’s what I used to think. I didn’t believe there was a trace of ego around when I was feeling anxious or depressed. Or ugly. Or stupid. Because I thought the ego was all about being boisterous and grandiose. Displaying a BIG presence. Being “out there”.
But then I realized by making me feel small and powerless, my ego was attempting to keep me safe. At all costs. Yup. All that negative mental chatter that makes me feel smaller, weaker, dumber, more fearful and less capable is actually designed to make me feel completely unworthy.
So I’ll feel too pathetic and fearful to do anything.
So I won’t challenge the status quo.
So I won’t take risks.
So I won’t do anything new.
So I won’t speak out.
Or put myself out there.
Or question anything.
And that’s how my ego wins. That’s how it get’s stronger. That’s how it takes over. That’s how it smuggles joy right out from under my nose.
Is that sick or what?
It’s like the tiger chasing scenario. It’s all about survival. My ego will do anything and everything to keep me “safe”. Even if it means creating a miserable life for myself. Even if it means zero joy.
Because it only cares about SURVIVAL. And my ego’s way of keeping me safe is to keep me in a box. Locked away. Where I'm seemingly untouchable.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to just BE alive. I want to FEEL alive. I want to feel happy. Free. Joyful.
Because FEELING good is EVERYTHING.
So here’s what I’ve come to know deep down in my bones:
Safety is a trap.
It's a trap because there's usually a sacrifice—cashing in feeling GOOD for feeling SAFE.
Yes, we all wanna feel some degree of safety. We all wanna lay our heads down at night and feel reasonably assured we won’t be attacked while we’re sleeping. We wanna know we can feed our bellies and those of our loved ones. We wanna know we’ve got our basic needs met.
So I guess the safety thing is a bit of a dance. I know I won’t eliminate my desire to feel safe. But I can question my ego’s assumptions and make sure she’s not nudging me closer and closer to that dreaded box. Make sure she’s not pushing something on me that’s actually a joy sucker in disguise.
Because this IS a dance with my ego. And my ego keeps trying to take the lead. But I got her number.
So onwards, I go. One day at a time. Because soon this storm will subside and my inner being won’t have to fight quite so hard to make her way through the garbage.
Until then, what I know for sure is she’s worth fighting for.
Cuz I’ll do anything for joy.
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and I’m not a mental health professional. Obviously. I can’t possibly know your full situation so please consult a professional before acting upon information from yourpurpleswan.com. Should you decide to act of your own accord, you do so at your own risk. Kinda like skydiving.
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