As I continue journeying into the unknown, in this season passionately and particularly venturing into the creation of reflective, healing, and transformative spaces, I’m reminded once again how much we, how much I, need this work. I’m pretty frightened, honestly. I’ve taught the Enneagram for 6 years now, and I’m almost certified, but the fears still crop up.
Fears keep us safe. They remind us that we have to look both ways before crossing the street and that we need to go to work so that we can make money to buy some food and stay sheltered. Fear helps avoid danger—which is really, really, really important. In that way, we can thank and honor our fear responses for keeping us alive until this point. The fight, flight, and freeze mechanisms that run day and night security duty for our emotional, mental, and physical well-being are to be honored for what they have done. But, there are lots of things that fears do not need to determine or be given the reigns for. What kind of job could I do? What are my neighbors like across that street? Fear keeps us safe, but if given too much power, it starts to see everything as a threat—those people who are different from me, or the pursuit of a dream.
So we adopt a posture of reactivity and defense. The posture of defensiveness only works for so long. At some point, we realize that we’ve been, thankfully, kept pretty safe in the small, familiar box we’ve built. It is well-defined and well-defended. There are times when it is very helpful and we are glad we have it, and then there are times that we are invited into an ever-increasing and expanding space, filled with possibilities. But, possibilities aren’t certainties, so we peek our head out of the box and it feels like the best way to avoid failure, pain, conflict, discomfort and disappointment is just to stay in the space we know, the certain, smaller one. It’s like groundhog day, forever.
Most of us have at least some understanding that this is no way to live a life. It isn’t wide awake, it isn’t filled with awe and wonder, and it isn’t any kind of thriving. And although we may know that, we still often opt for the old ways, even when they don’t work anymore, even when the box is too small for us, even when we start to recognize the box as the barrier to loving ourselves and other people well. But we’ve worked this way for so long that it doesn’t feel like a choice anymore. There are literal pathways in our brain that are well-traveled highways, and we get on them and fall asleep as we ride them to the normal destinations.
I’m sure you can guess where I’m going here: we need to wake up, we need to dismantle the box, we need to let our fears stop running the show. At 30,000 feet, the predictability doesn’t seem safe anymore, it seems sad. But, feeling things about it doesn’t quite transform the situation. So how we do transformation work?
Well, there are many ways, many practices, many insights and many traditions. Enneagram for Wholeness is being birthed to practice the use of one tool (the enneagram) and one method (the narrative tradition), grounded in the belief that freedom and wholeness are possible, and they become even more possible when we begin to encounter things we are afraid of with courage. This particular process necessitates two things:
Willing participants, interested in practicing self-awareness and self-love.
An insightful system called the Enneagram of Personality, which serves as a guide and map for exploration of “the territory”—our individual inner experiences.
This is a journey and a work, not a quick fix. It won’t solve all your problems immediately—which is a really American way of trying to do transformation work. Though the enneagram is specific enough to aid efficiency, we should be skeptical of anything that quickly and efficiently heals all our problems.
I once had a history teacher talk about racism and say, “we created these wounds over years and years, why do we think we’ve healed them in a fraction of the time?” Healing takes time, wholeness takes time, and it takes space. We need to air out our souls—our essential selves—and give them room to breath. They have been confined for a long time in the boundaries of our egos and personalities, which are they themselves defended by unexamined beliefs, patterned behaviors, and emotional habits.
Those boundaries that no longer serve us need to be reconsidered, peeled back to catch a glimpse of the expansive and surprising possibilities in ourselves, in others, and in our world:
“When we catch sight of the soul, we can become healers in a wounded world - in the family, in the neighborhood, in the workplace, and in political life - as we are called back to our 'hidden wholeness' amid the violence of the storm.” -Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
Welcome to this space. I’m really glad to have you here.