One of the many things that I love about being a CEO Coach with Vistage International is the challenge. I challenge my members to be better and they challenge me right back!
One of my Peer Advisory Groups recently gave me some feedback and issued this challenge: They wanted to learn more about me, personally, and the Enneagram, specifically. Using the context of the Enneagram, this post is my attempt to answer some of their questions about me and share the power of the Enneagram through a recent insight.
In business and in life, the Enneagram aids personal growth and development
The Enneagram is a powerful tool used to raise self-consciousness, and I have to say, it has transformed my life. It is a dynamic personality system used for personal growth and development. More than a personality typology, the Enneagram is a deep map of the ego that describes nine different patterns of habitual thinking, feeling and acting which stem from a core belief related to personal survival and satisfaction.
In essence, our core belief as human beings warps our perspective by magnifying certain aspects of our experiences and blinding us to others. This combination of magnification and blinding determines where we focus our attention and energy, which, in turn, drives our behavior.
I identify with Type Eight, also called the "The Protector"
Like other Type Eights, I believe that I live in a hard and unjust world where the powerful take advantage of the innocent and impose their personal will on others. In such a world, if I am vulnerable, weak or unprotected, I feel that I will die.
My attention is focused on anything that I perceive as being unfair and on disarming any mal-intentioned powerful individuals who could be a threat. In most situations my natural, automatic reaction is to take the offensive, whether the situation actually calls for any action or not.
Like other Eights, I am comfortable being direct, strong and action-oriented. Carried too far, though, I can also be excessive and impulsive, and I am often angry.
A juxtaposition between imperviousness and vulnerability
This seemingly hard exterior protects my inner “mush,” an indescribable sense of fragility where the feelings and senses are totally vulnerable and subject to destruction from the next, inevitable bad event. It’s obvious (at least to me) why this must be protected at all costs.
Herein lies the essence of the deep secret of me and my fellow Type Eights. Inside ourselves, when we allow it, we feel the complete opposite of what we display. We may show that vulnerable inner side to others, but only when we completely trust them and feel absolutely safe with them.
It’s no surprise, then, that my core belief blinds me to the “softer” side of life. I have difficulty receiving and trusting love, affection, complements, etc., and I HATE to feel my own vulnerability or weaknesses in any way.
This is where my challenge comes in. In fact, sharing this post and showing “the world” this very private vulnerable side of me causes me great anxiety. (Right now, I am fighting my inner voice telling me all the reasons why this blog is not a good idea!) Because I know that we only grow when we push ourselves to do what is uncomfortable, though, I feel compelled to push ahead and share the impact of a recent experience where I deliberately shifted my attention to focus on my own inner blindness.
The power of shifting one's attention from negative hurt to positive gratitude
A couple of weeks ago, I was ruminating on how unfair and unlucky my life was and the many ways that I was deprived. Not surprisingly, I found myself depressed and worn down. Years of self-observation practice, though, helped me to become aware that my inner attention was magnifying the difficult experiences in my life.
Once I realized this, I made the conscious decision to change my focus.
Instead of reflexively focusing on what was unfair in my life, what if I looked for the ways the people in my life showed their love? There had to be another side to these experiences that I didn’t see. Maybe that same world that I saw as hard and unfair world was really filled with love! If so, where was it?
Here is how that change of focus caused me to see my experiences in a different light:
- I had always felt angry and cheated because my mother died when I was only 15. Where is the love here, I wondered? Then, I saw it. My mother demonstrated it by leaving my abusive father in the 1960s. To protect her children, she chose to become a divorcee and single mother at a time when society (especially in our small town) condemned both. As a single mother with only a high school education, she faced many challenges. Her love of my sister and me and her drive to protect us was much greater than her fear of the unknown and an unpromising and insecure future. Only love could have motivated her to make such a difficult life change.
- Based upon my experience of losing my mother and father, I have always been haunted by a semi-conscious fear that my husband would also leave me. Now, I finally see his love and acceptance of me has been right there, in front of me, every day! I am embarrassed to admit that, sometimes, I can be the poster child for “girls behaving badly.” During these rants, temper tantrums and feelings of unworthiness, he has shown steadfastness and patience with me. After 24 years, he is still here, loving and accepting me. Wow! This new thought brings tears of gratefulness to my eyes.
- I frequently dwelled on how my bad choice in my first husband caused my daughter great pain (is there a more powerful force than parental guilt?). Now, I saw the gift of love that my “new” husband brought into her life by raising her as his own since she was a baby. When she was 21, he legally adopted her.
- I frequently grieved and was angry about the experiences that I was not able to share with mother. Now, I saw the many instances of emotional and physical support that my caring aunts and uncle provided for me, helping to fill the void left by mother’s death.
- Here is my favorite example that shows the ridiculousness of an unchecked core belief: I suspected that my conniving cats only used me as a “petting machine” and didn’t really care about me at all. Now, I melt and feel their unconditional love when they curl up on my lap.
The power of self-observation and the conscious refocusing of my attention opened a wonderful new perspective for me. My warped focus, caused by my core belief, prevented me from seeing, experiencing and appreciating so many good experiences in my life. Unfortunately, “Old habits die hard.” In order to create lasting change, I must continuously be aware of how my core belief automatically directs my attention and energy, distorting my view of the world around me.
The good news: Once I aware that I am “on automatic,” I can consciously shift my attention. Although it will never become a habit, the shift is easier the more I practice it.
Curious about your own core belief and how it warps your view of the world around you?
Take a few minutes to learn more about The Enneagram and how to discover your own type here. And let me know if this helps you in your journey, whatever it may be. I'd love to hear from you!