Friday, June 17, 2016

Nailed: Enneagram Styles as Addiction

Question: I've heard our attachment to an Enneagram style described as "addiction." In what sense is that true? 
The word attachment, I was intrigued to learn, comes from attache, a traditional French word meaning "nailed to." 

According to Gerald May in Addiction and Grace, attachment nails our will and desire in addiction -- a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation. Such addictions include "work, performance, responsibility, intimacy, being liked, helping others, and an almost endless list of other behaviors." 

Doesn't that sound like Enneagram compulsions? ("I must have order/control, please everyone, be the star of the show, nurse my emotional upheavals, understand completely, submit to/rebel against authority, pursue life madly, tell others what to do, bliss out.")

Years ago, I came home from a writer's workshop quite disappointed. The instructors were great, I admitted to myself, I loved my roommate, the setting was breathtaking, but more than half the writers come year after year, and they've formed cliques that don't include me. My reaction was to keep myself separate. I did not try to connect with people in those groups and spent most of my time with my roommate or alone, deciding I wouldn't return to this splendid workshop the following year because I didn't feel sufficiently welcome.

Shortly after my return, I met with a style Nine client who said, "I realized I've been separating myself from people who could help me. I've said to myself, I don't fit in. The mirror of his self-awareness shone my reflection back to me. I'd blamed others at the writer's workshop for my story that I'm invisible, for my own decision to hold myself apart. We all reinforce our stories this way. Then we can say, "See? I told you [insert your story here]!" 

More than a year prior to that I'd coached this client and his team, but efforts to reschedule over a period of months never led to a committed date. When we did connect, he admitted he'd separated himself from me, thinking, Maybe she doesn't care about me. When I asked what would have let him know I cared, he said, "If you'd sent an email saying you hadn't heard from me and hoped I was doing well." 

What had I been doing instead? Carrying out a parallel attachment, thinking Maybe he hasn't committed to a date because he didn't like my work with his team.

Each of us could have made contact (and faced potential conflict) instead of keeping ourselves separate. Just as I could have reached out to some writers at the workshop who already knew each other. But my client and I were both nailed to a style Nine pattern, acting as if someone else was supposed to bring forth our creativity and they had dropped the ball. We both made sure our story was reinforced: "See, no one cares what I have to say!"  

Style Nines don't own this generic pattern, by the way. All Enneagram styles, when acting habitually, are reinforcing an old, old story that sustains their compulsive patterns. 

I've often coached style Nines to see potential conflict as a way to draw closer to someone. When my client and I took the risk of telling the truth, we opened our hearts and truly engaged with each other. I felt full of love. He told me later, his wife was so caught up in his emotions that she wept when he described our renewed connection. 

Which brings me to the grace part of Addiction and Grace. Gerald May defined grace as a dynamic outpouring "that flows into and through creation in an endless self-offering of healing, love, illumination, and reconciliation." We can't force those moments of blissful awareness and unity, can't control grace, but "we can seek it and try to be open to it." 

A friend tells me the Siddha Yoga path is sometimes depicted as a bird whose wings are self-effort and grace. Through our own steady effort, through our intention to seek the truth, we can help ourselves stay open to grace.

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