Enneagram and Faith: What are your deepest vulnerabilities?

the enneagram and faith

Among the many things that made it difficult for me to see a therapist was the question, “Why this?”

I had been through many difficult experiences in my life. I didn’t understand why this particular circumstance was the one pushing me over the edge. Though I knew I was off, and felt I needed help, the things I was struggling with seemed like things I should have been strong enough to handle on my own. 

My therapist answered the question for me in our second session.

I told her the story about something that happened at work. Though I talked about it with fairly little emotion, the reality is it was making me want to shrink into a corner of my house and never walk out the door again. She heard beneath my voice to my heart, and spoke the truth, “Wow, that's hitting on every one of your deepest fears, isn't it?”

We all have fears. But some are so deep, we like to bury them beneath the others, with a few distractions piled on top for good measure. Vulnerabilities we try to avoid because they are the most difficult for us to handle. 

Now, here mine were, being dug up. Publicly. Of course I needed voices of reason and empathy to help me sort through what had been unearthed.

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One of the most challenging questions enneagram asks us to face is, “What are your deepest vulnerabilities?”

The answer to that question is crucial to our spiritual growth. It deeply impacts our ability to extend empathy and love. When we dig out our vulnerabilities, we also unearth our ability to extend grace.

I am shuffling my body as I write this. My anxious energy is pushing its way through my toes and my fingers, trying to get me to avoid what I know needs to come next. It is always easiest to write about my type as an example. Which means I need to share that thing I try to keep buried. 

As a type 2, my deepest vulnerability is a fear of rejection. Do you like me? Will you like me? What can I do so you will like me? These questions circle inside me all. the. time. Usually, I either avoid them or bury them. Or perhaps most often, try to make myself feel better by answering them in the shallowest possible way. (Hello Facebook!) 

When friends doesn’t have time to get together, I fight with the fear of what that means about the value our friendship plays in their lives. After getting together with a new friend, I fight with the fear of whether I said or did things that would keep that person from wanting to see me again.

Because of this vulnerability about rejection, there are things I feel like I should be able to handle that crush me. But there are other places where someone else might get crushed, but I can handle it. I’ve been told I’m good at receiving criticism, which is the vulnerability that can devastate a type 1. I am prone to disregarding my own needs for the sake of helping others, so the fear of being neglected that a type 9 struggles with feels foreign to me. A type 5 fears looking foolish, but I’ve fallen down that stairs enough in my life to have gotten over that one years ago.

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We all have our junk. We are vulnerable when it comes to some things and strong when it comes to others.

It does me no good to compare, and wonder why that person over there is so much stronger than me. We cannot just “get over” our struggles, nor can someone else just “get over” theirs. Comparing is another way to avoid what needs to be done.

We need to do the hard work of admitting and facing our vulnerabilities. 

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. - Brené Brown

For me, this means putting practices in my life that remind me of my belovedness. When I know that at my core I am not rejected, but loved, it helps me face the relationships in my life with less manipulation and fear. Other people may be able to read one book about God’s love and feel like it’s covered. I read books like Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen and Surrender to Love by David Benner on repeat. I return to the book of Psalms and the Gospel of John over and over again. I put quotes from John O’Donohue on my email and in Evernote so I can return to them whenever I need them. I wrap up in the prayer shawl someone knit for me and feel held by unconditional affection.

Lately, thanks to the enneagram, I have been more conscious of facing the rejection questions head-on with love and grace. I’ve noticed they’re getting a little softer. I might even be able to press publish without fearing how I came across in my self-disclosure and whether you will read me again. Maybe. 

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Do you know what your deepest vulnerabilities are? How might you be able to face your them today? 

Want help figuring out your enneagram type and finding the answers to those questions? Remember to check out my enneagram coaching page for details of how I could be a voice of reason and empathy for what is getting unearthed in your life. 

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Control, Panic, and Finding our Anchor

Breathing is something I usually don’t notice. If I slow down, I become aware of how wonderful breathing feels. How the air currents rush through my nostrils, as if they are racing each other to my lungs. How my entire body seems to open up in order to receive a new breath. How the whole process seems to make me feel lighter.

Usually, I don’t pay attention to these feelings. I just go about my day and assume breathing will continue on in the background.

I have been more aware of my breaths lately. Because not long ago, I couldn’t find them.

I was lying on my bed, chatting with my husband. My mind was swirling with the unknowns of the future. I was crying and trembling as my heart raced to keep up with my thoughts.

Suddenly, the weight of panic settled in and rested upon my chest. My lungs could not bear the burden. I lost control. I gasped in short bursts. I exhaled in sputters. I ached for oxygen. I struggled to find a rhythm. I felt my torso heave.

I hyperventilated.

Slow and steady, my husband settled me into calm. He anchored me, and my breathing gradually returned to normal.

What caused this?

Housing. Another thing, like breathing, that I take for granted.

Months before, my husband and I made an offer to buy a house. It was a short sale. Lots of hands in the same basket meant a long process of negotiation. The banks could not come to an agreement with the sellers by the time we relocated.

We moved in with my husband’s parents.

As much as we love them, this was not a good long term solution. We were anxious to get the housing situation figured out.

Since the bank didn’t meet their deadline, we were no longer contractually obligated to the property. We made an appointment with our realtor to see what else was on the market.

As it turns out, by the time the day came to look at houses, the bank had reached an agreement with the first house. It was ours if we wanted it. With a guaranteed closing date within the month.

But, we still decided to look. Just in case there was something else we liked more.

Turns out, there was. We fell in love with another house.

We decided to pull our offer on the first house in order to go after the second house.

We waited, overnight, to hear back from the sellers of the second house. This is what brought on the panic attack.

This was a self-imposed stress.

Though it was nerve-racking, it was our choice to be in that place of panic. We chose to look for houses. We chose to give up the house we had in our pocket. We chose to take the risk of going for a different house.

We exercised our choice and exerted our control.

Interesting that as soon as we exerted our control, we lost our control. We had no influence over whether the sellers of the house would accept our offer. We had no say in when they would desire to move, and whether that would match up with our timeline. We had no ability to make the house pass inspection

And in the middle of these unknowns, I hyperventilated. A reminder of how little control I actually have.

Sometimes we feel like life is completely within our direction. Like we have a grasp around all of it. We think we can chose which way to go and know exactly what will happen.

Most of the time, it turns out, control is an illusion. We never have power over the unknowns. And sometimes, we even lose our influence over the knowns.

When the uncertainties of life cause us panic, the answer is not to grasp harder for control. It is allow the One who loves us settle us into calm. Because no matter what we don’t know, we do know this. Jesus is Lord, and He loves us beyond measure. Christ can be our anchor in the midst of our stress.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” –Hebrews 6:19

Have you ever panicked? How has Christ been an anchor for you?

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walking on the ledge

It is time to leave. I gather my sons to exit the building and walk back to the car. I am in a hurry to get to the next building, to the next item on my to-do list, to the next thing on my schedule. But my son is not rushed; he wants to make the most of the journey. So he does not go directly toward the car. Instead, he walks toward the garden bed. He is not going there to admire the flowers, for sadly, it is a time of year when they are no longer in bloom. No, he is walking toward the wonder of… the ledge. The ledge- I see nothing spectacular in it. I see it as a structure built next to the garden to keep in the dirt. My son sees it as an opportunity for adventure- a chance to walk on a different path than the boring old sidewalk. It is a path that requires more from him- more balance, more dodging of obstacles, more risk of injury if he falls. But he knows, instinctually, that something which requires more from him will also give him more in return. He knows the ledge will give him a feeling of adventure, a sense of accomplishment, and a fresh perspective.

When I ask my son if he would walk on the ledge if I wasn’t there, he responds with nervous laughter. He may not need me to hold his hand anymore, but he does want to know that I am nearby. My presence gives him the security to take a risk.

God’s presence is meant to give me that same security.

Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10). He leads us to green pastures. But in order to get there, we have to leave the security of the pen. Following Jesus means taking the road less traveled. There may be parts of the journey that are dangerous. There may be parts that are rocky or difficult. But we are with the Shepherd. We need not fear.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Our lives have purpose and meaning beyond our imagination. Our Father gives us gifts and asks us to use them. Jesus gives us transformation stories and asks us to share them. The Holy Spirit gives us guidance to make a change and asks us to trust Him. These are risky choices. But steps of faith are adventures worth taking.

I once heard Erwin McManus say, "Christ did not come simply to free us from death, but to free us from the fear of death... so that we can live a life worth living."

Go ahead. Walk on the ledge.

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