there are a few moments of insight when time really stops and you feel the masks falling away. and then there’s just you and you. in a certain sense, the naked self.
the insight is a scary thing, and yet at the same, a welcome relief and a comfortable re-discovery - like when you find an old pair of shoes hidden at the back of the cupboard, and slipping them on is accompanied by a profound sense of recognition: “we know each other - where have you been all this time…?”
It was like that a few weeks back when I attended an enneagram workshop. I went with limited knowledge, thinking that I was a certain type (a “3″) because so much of my life has been about the quest for achievement and the need for affirmation and the recognition of others. But the retreat leader quickly suggested I should reconsider. She suggested that I had focussed too much on the behaviour of a type, when the heart of the enneagram is really the core energy that is at the centre of our lives. This was the moment of realisation - when i found that at the core of my life is not the energy of achievement but rather fear. Wierd - because I’m the one who ridicules my wife over her fear of spiders. It seems that every person is familiar with fear. The thing about a “6″ is, they are afraid of fear itself. Fear is such a scary thing that 6’s will do anything to eliminate it. They suss out danger (or potential threats) a mile off and put strategies in place to avoid the threat. Of course a common response to fear would be to flee. Not many people have witnessed me fleeing :) That’s because I can’t let fear get on top of me. I am so afraid of fear that I confront it head on. For me, it must be overcome and disempowered, else it may threaten my entire existence. This may seem courageous or stupid (yes, i have been known to jump off cliffs into the sea in the middle of the night) but these displays of courage are a sign of my ongoing struggle with fear.
As I’ve spoken about this moment of recognition with others, they don’t always immediately make the connection. I may not seem like a person motivated my fear. But inside my body the recognition is increasingly obvious. I’m often anxious. I have little ways - instinctive ways - to handle and manage the many fears that I live with. The drivenness to achieve and succeed is much better understood through the eyes of fear - fear of failure, insignificance, fear of the church closing it’s doors. This fear of “the end” motivates much of my challenges to the church to transform and find a more relevant and engaging way to be.
More important than categorising myself and knowing “what i am” the ennegram workshop has helped me to grasp something about myself that has always been but not so well appreciated. An important value of the workshop was awareness and acceptance. Knowing your type is not about changing or mastering yourself as much as it about becoming more aware of yourself and learning to accept the way you (and others) interact and manage daily life.
A little bit about the enneagram: The enneagram is an ancient map of the inner life - which idenitifies 9 basic perspectives of the world. Each number represents a group of people who tend to operate within themselves in characteristic ways. The internal map is complex, not binary and the “types” have an internal relationship which is best understood in spiritual - even mystical - terms. The number or “type” is not so much a category that describes your behaviour as much as it is a way of understanding the passion or energy that motivates a person inwardly.