Enneagram and Faith: Has marriage hindered your development?

It’s said that in marriage, opposites attract. 

I used to think that meant people were different in everything- one likes sports, the other likes art, one like parties, the other likes quiet, etc, etc. But lately I’ve been wondering if it has more to do with personality than interests. 

We tend to like to be around people who complement us. People with whom we have enough in common to understand one another, but also people who approach things differently enough to enrich our perspective. This might be true in marriage more than any other relationships.

I’ve been married 15 years now. Long enough to have learned some things, not long enough to have learned it all. I think a lesson I have been learning lately could be relevant to more than just me, so I’m going to share it today. It relates to enneagram, and how marriage effects the development of our centers.

I’ve written here before that enneagram places personality types in three different centers: the gut (our body and instincts), heart (our emotions and relationships), and head (our thinking and reason). Good decisions involve all three centers to some extent, but we each have a tendency to default to one or two above the other(s). 

One key to growth is realizing which center is our default, and consciously stretching the muscles of the other centers in order to find more balance.

I think marriage can inhibit us from developing our weaker centers.

My husband has strong head and gut centers. One of the reasons I love to travel with him is because he’s so good at it. He’s not thrown when things don’t go as planned. He is able to think through a way out, and he has the confidence to ask for or demand what’s needed in the situation. 

In that same situation, my heart center reigns, with my head center close behind, but circling in fear more than in reason. So I let him take the lead. It’s one of his gifts, after all, so why not let him use it?

Marriages often develop roles over time: one person does the dishes, the other mows the lawn, one does the bills, the other cleans the bathroom. I think, if we’re not careful, we develop personality roles, too. Though I do believe in marriage two become one, I don’t think that means we are meant to give up our personhood.

Two individuals moving towards health and wholeness make for a much stronger team.

After all these years with my husband, I am realizing I have an under-developed gut center. I’ve used his strength as an excuse not to find my own. When he is around, I don’t need to stretch that muscle, so I don’t. Ironically, he wishes I would. In fact, it drives him crazy that I don’t have more confidence. The very thing I default to him to take care of is the very thing he wishes I would take more time to develop. He loves me, and he sees how much more balance I would find if I could pull from my gut center when it was needed.

Ignatius saw that there were three ways to come to a decision. One is to prayerfully consider the pros and cons of each option (head center). Another is to notice the feelings we have as it relates to each option (heart center). The last is to notice how we already know what option to move towards, and to simply do it (gut center). All three of those practices are helpful, especially when done in awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in each. 

Knowing that my default is feelings, I need to consciously employ my pro-con list and impulsive side a little more often, and not just count on my husband to do so. I was made to have all three centers available to me. As I learn to access them, I will become stronger, and so will my marriage.

Have you noticed this in your own marriage? What are your ideas for not allowing your partners strengths to halt your own development?


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*Since this post is focused on marriage, I am doing another giveaway! This time, of a couples enneagram coaching session. I will help you each understand your types, and think through how your types affects how you relate to one another and how you grow, individually and together. This can be done in person or on Skype if you are not local.

There are 3 ways to enter: 1. Comment on this post. 2. Share this post on social media. 3. Share my enneagram coaching page on social media. You can enter in any or all of the ways. Each way gives you one more chance to win. If you share on social media, make sure to tag @everydayawe on Twitter or Instagram or https://www.facebook.com/everydayawe on Facebook.

This give away closes September 3, 2015. Winner will be chosen at random, and notified by email or social media, depending on how the entry was made.

Good luck!

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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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Enneagram and Faith: How Exercise Could be the Key to Your Spiritual Growth

the enneagram and faith

In this post, I’m going to attempt to connect ancient Hebrew, the enneagram, and the importance of running as one of my spiritual practices. What?!? Hang on for the ride; here it comes…

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How would you define the word soul?

In many people’s minds, the words soul and spirit have become synonyms. We think of our souls as a sort of ethereal “otherness” that resides within our bodies, to be released upon the day of our death.

Though our souls are different from our bodies, they are also different from our spirits, at least in the Hebrew understanding. Both words are used in 1 Samuel 1:15, "But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.”

The word translated soul in 1 Samuel 1:15 is nephesh. Nephesh is the word used in Genesis 2:7, "then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (nephesh).”

Our souls are the whole of who we are. Our souls are what knit our minds, bodies, emotions, and spirits into unique creatures. 

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We tend to think the only important “spiritual” practices are the ones done in quietness and solitude. Though I fully affirm the importance of practices like prayer and study, I am also realizing anew the importance of exercise. Not only for our physical health, but for our soul health.

Exercise holds an interesting tension: it is a physical stress that reduces mental stress. I wonder if enneagram can provide one perspective about why that is the case.

In the concept of the enneagram, all personality types are connected by lines to two other types. Those are the types we move to in stressful states and secure states. Though our first response is to think stress = bad, my enneagram instructor pointed out that sometimes stress can bring out good things in us. In stress, we have access to another way of being in and viewing the world. 

Could exercise be a healthy way to access another type, and therefore, another piece of ourselves?

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I am a type 2 (the loving person), which means in stress, I connect to the 8 (the powerful person). The 8 can be a bossy and controlling type, and I apologize to those who have experienced this side of me come out in periods of unhealthy stress. However, the 8 also carries a confidence and strength I don’t often have access to when I am stuck in my normal way of thinking. 

Both type 2 and type 8 are connected within my soul. Learning to access 8 in a healthy way puts me in touch with a part of myself that too often lies dormant. Accessing the 8 within me puts me on a path towards better integration and wholeness of the nephesh God made me to be.

I have recently realized how running affects me differently than other exercise. There is something about the independence of heading out by myself, pushing through tiredness, and forging my own path that awakens something important in me. I connect to my power and my body in a different way, and suddenly find great clarity of thought and peace of mind. It’s amazing how often I have epiphanies when I am out on a run. 

As I learn to trust the strength of my body, I learn to trust the strength of myself, and in an interesting tension of truth, I then learn to trust even more in the strength of the God who made me.

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What kind of exercise might provide you with healthy stress and awaken you to a different part of yourself? 

For a type 6 (the loyal person), who connects to type 3 (the effective person), it might be taking the risk and challenge of joining a competition, like a road race or a triathalon. For a type 5 (the wise person), who connects to type 7 (the joyful person), it might be finding a fun adventure sport like rock-climbing or waterskiing… The potential and the possibilities are great.

Whatever your type and whatever your activity, exercise can be an opportunity to integrate your body, spirit, emotion, and mind on a deeper level. As those pieces of you integrate, you step into a fuller picture of the beautiful soul God created you to be. 

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. - Psalm 139:14