How do you want other people to describe you?
Most of us have several answers to that question. We hope to be loving or successful or funny or mysterious or exciting or mellow or any number of other characteristics. Whether they are attributes we already see in ourselves, or qualities we envy in others, they are traits we want to have.
The enneagram helps us notice how what we would put on that list is part of what makes us unique. We are different people with distinct priorities about who we are and who we want to become.
The enneagram also helps us to see the shadow side of our list.
On the flip side of our attribute aspirations are our attribute aversions. If we want to be seen as loving, we don’t want to be seen as selfish. If we want to be seen as mellow, we don’t want to be seen as intense. If we want to be seen as successful, we don’t want to be seen as a failures.
So, we develop defense mechanisms. Some of us deny those parts of ourselves; others of us project those traits on others. Some of us numb out so we don’t have to experience the feelings on the flip side; others of us over identify with the traits we want, as if the other side didn't even exist.
Too often, Christians encourage these defense mechanisms by laying all sorts of “shoulds” on ourselves and others- we should be generous, we should be kind, we should be peaceful, we should be faithful… And so we repress, deny, and project the flip side, all in the name of “spiritual growth.”
The truth is, we move towards health only when we embrace the whole of who we are. We don’t need to push away the flip side, we need to reframe it.
As an example, let me use myself. I am a type 2, which means my highest attribute aspirations are to be loving and helpful. Which means I don’t want to be seen as selfish or needy. But if I deny those parts of myself, I am likely to either burn-out or get filled with pride about how it’s everyone else that needs help, not me.
Instead of pushing away the words selfish and needy, I need to reframe them into the concept of self-care. I need to know that I am a human being with limits. I need to ask for help sometimes. And I need to know that when I do, I am not loved or valued any less. The irony is, it is only when I do that reframing, it is only when I embrace my limits and messiness, that I can be the genuinely loving person I aspire to be. Until then, my efforts to help will be tainted by my aspirations to be seen as loving in order to feel my worth.
In Life of the Beloved, the great Henri Nouwen says,
“I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection… Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.”
May you find the courage today to reframe the flip side. May you embrace the whole of who you are, knowing you are loved as-is. No matter what.
It’s time to announce the winner of the giveaway! Last week, when I kicked off the enneagram and faith series, I announced a contest. Any who commented on the post, shared the post, or shared my coaching page, would be entered to win a free enneagram coaching session. Those who did all three were entered three times. I used Random Result to generate a winner.
And the winner is.... Beth Van Maanen. Congratulations! I'm looking forward to our coaching session. I'll email you to talk details.
Thank you to all who entered. As a consolation prize, I'd like to offer you a 40% discount on my coaching services. Check out my enneagram coaching page to learn more.