Reflections on the Enneagram, Part 2: On Getting in Touch with Emotions

Facial expressions - The Cartoonist's ArtAs usual, I’m not really keeping up with the pace I had hoped.  In some ways that reflects quite well the issue I wrote about in the first installment, i.e., facing unpleasant and difficult things.  While I don’t find writing unpleasant, I do find it difficult, in that I so often lack confidence that what I write is any good. Criticism can be difficult for me as I try to hide from my negative emotions.  I don’t want to feel anxious that someone will tell me that I’ve written something poorly or, worse, that what I’ve written is utter garbage.  So…I procrastinate and dream of the brilliant things I will write without ever actually writing them.

Hiding from negative emotions takes a lot of energy, and I think it’s why 9s can check out and chill out, even when that’s not appropriate.  The second release from the Riso book that caught my eye was “I now release being numb and emotionally unavailable.”  This particular way of putting it feels a little harsher than my experience, but it’s true that I can hide (even from myself) my true emotions and check out into a false sense of peace.  Not writing or creating things that can be criticized is also a way to stay emotionally balanced through emotional “numbness.”  Eventually, I can’t decide what it is I really wanted to do or write.  Sometimes I’m not even sure how I feel about something (which is why it can be so hard to decide which restaurant to go to or what to do over the weekend).

The two “releases” discussed so far are really intertwined. To use learning a language as an example, I usually stall out on a language after learning grammar and reading skills (which I take to easily) without ever mastering how to speak and listen (the two most uncomfortable skills for me). The embarrassment level of being “wrong” or imperfect brings up unpleasant emotions. The unpleasant emotions make it difficult to keep going and master the language.  So far, I’ve been pushing myself to use the Say Something In Welsh challenges to get used to using my ear to understand rather than the ease of studying a book and grammar diagrams.  I’m also trying to participate in online Welsh-language forums and twitter conversations, such as the Awr Y Dysgwyr on Mondays. Admittedly, those challenges are writing, but the limited-time available on the twitter conversations means you have to use whatever of the language you can actually remember.  I also try not to fall back on grammar guides when I post on other forums.  I find it scary but liberating.

In other Enneagram-related news…well, news about me, I’m afraid…I retook one of the tests I’ve used several times. I’ve always scored highest on 9 on this test (and pretty much ever other one),  but I took it recently and scored 3 with average health.  I’ve never scored very high on 3, so I was bit taken aback.  I know that a healthy 9 often seems to take on the healthy characteristics of a healthy 3, so I didn’t know what to make of it.  I’ve dug into it a bit more and found that 9s under stress do tend to take on average traits of threes (needing to accomplish things and feel successful, even when what they accomplish are meaningless things).  In other words…distraction tactics.  I think I may have also been in a bad mood about myself when I took the test.

One last note, tests can be a guide, but you really have to spend time discerning your type.  I don’t really have a doubt that I’m a 9.  But I do believe in the tritype theory that some Enneagram experts posit.  In that theory, you have a dominant type for each “center.” My overall dominant type is also my dominant type for the “Gut”center (8s, 9s, and 1s).  In the “Heart” center (2s, 3s, and 4s), my dominant type is 4, and in the “Head” center (5s, 6s, and 7s), my dominant type is 5.  My tritype would actually be a 9-5-4 (my five proclivities being stronger than my 4 tendencies).  All this is rather esoteric, I know, but suffice it to say that the interaction of these three types explain a lot about the things I find weird or mysterious about myself.  One online description I saw for this tritype (I apologize, I can’t find the site, but I will add a link if I do) says this (among other things) about the 9-5-4:

Interested in understanding people and humanity in general and enjoy bringing understanding. Shun conflict. Intellectually curious and interested in the arts, philosophy, literature, and the social sciences….Kind, friendly and at times very gentle. Can appear cold and nonchalant….Lower energy, energy comes in bursts. Cooperative rather than competitive. Not interested in leading. Question authority. Not superficial. Appear to be emotionally stable, but can be quite emotional internally. Tries to contain emotions.

If that doesn’t sound like my who’s who entry, I don’t know what does.

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