Systems fascinate me. So do people. Which is probably why those that attempt to categorize and explain personality, identity, and patterns of human behavior are my favorite kind.
The system I'm most and best acquainted with is the Enneagram (that's it, up above, on my arm). I've been studying it off and on to varying degrees of depth for 10+ years. And it continues to offer new insight - one of the many reasons I find it so valuable.
When describing to others how I put the Enneagram to practical use, I often reference the way it increases the opportunity for objectivity in relationships. It de-personalizes attitudes and behaviors of our coworkers and loved ones in a way that can make interactions more fluid. For example, consider that your boss, who might be an Eight, confronts you fiercely and directly about your work. Although there was a time when you would have been inclined to feel scared or offended in response, after studying the Enneagram you might say to yourself instead, "Ah, she's acting like an Eight. It's not personal. It's not about me."
Easier said than done, of course, but the opportunity is there.
So that's been on my radar for years, this means of not taking things so personally (including our own behavior), and it's undoubtedly one of the most advantageous uses of the Enneagram and other modalities like it.
But what I hadn't really considered until this afternoon (while reading about yet another esoteric system regarding personality, path and purpose), is that by fully embodying and accepting our individual propensity towards a particular way of being in the world - which can show up as both weakness and strength - we may actually relieve undue pressure to be any other way.
Let's put ourselves back into your Eight boss's shoes for a moment. Yes, she can be fiery and intense when she communicates. But... it's actually a major part of why she's good at her job, no? If she suddenly became soft spoken and sensitive, would her work really - forgive the expression - pack the same punch?
If the boss example is a stretch for you, maybe a sports analogy will convey my point better. We don't want quarterbacks to stop being directive and calling the shots; it's exactly what makes them who they are, and why we've chosen them to do the job they do.
Now, if any of you are anything like me, you might be thinking, "Well, I can see what you mean... but my boss could certainly stand to be more compassionate; and the quarterback would probably be even better at calling plays if he learned more about being a team-player."
Of course I wouldn't disagree, and actually think both are great points (if I do say so myself). It's also coming from precisely the perspective I'm suggesting we reevaluate. (For you uber-intellectuals: don't worry, the irony is not escaping me here. Just go with it, will you please?).
There is a major invitation for those of us who seem to be eternally committed to changing and growing, to shifting negative patterns into positive ones and moving anything that's stuck into motion. An invitation to see and be with and accept things as they are. You've heard the phrase, "Go with the flow"?
From my observation, this progressive, forward thinking, growth-oriented mindset has some serious setbacks. For one, we run the risk of being like the horse who, when mounted by a human urging it on, will literally run to its death. And two, it's highly likely that by behaving this way, we miss the beauty of the moment. The stuckness. The what-is.
If you will, envision a mountain brook, dappled by smooth stones throughout. Picture the water moving down and around the river rocks, uniquely altering its flow, creating ripples and streams as it changes course. Hear the sound of the stream, the burble and hush of it rushing softly by. Notice how the sound changes tone as the water encounters each stone or branch in its path...
Now I'm willing to bet no one here read those rocks as a problem, or the swirl water creates when it encircles them as an issue. We seem to reserve those kinds of judgements for ourselves, our paths, our "stuck" places.
What if we chose to accept them, rather than trying to change them, shift them, remove the rocks? What if we got really radical, and dared to consider them beautiful?
Let's come back to the Enneagram now, and say that each one of us is like a stream of life. We all have different "blocks," rocks, patterns and tendencies that define our individual flow.
Getting vaguely personal for just a second, I'll share that the particular Enneatype I identify with has a tendency for the dramatic, and an urge to self-express. My "wing" (I'll explain another time) gives me the gift of a sharp and busy mind; and my "action point" fuels me with a desire to serve and support others. All of these attributes combined can, when allowed, result in the creation of something like, well... what you've just read. Which I'm frankly hoping you've found to be some combination of engaging, intellectually stimulating and helpful - and none of which would have even been possible if I'd been resisting the way I, by nature, seem to be.
So there you have it.
If you're inclined to inquire further, push back, or smother me with praise, please do. I invite your unique and authentic response.
Thanks for reading.