Lots of you have heard of the Enneagram, an ancient personality typing system. I went to a conference on it in September 2017, and what I heard resonated so deeply with my experience, especially when it came to the explosive shock that becoming a parent was to me.
Right now, my Enneagram guru is Suzanne Stabile, a Texan woman who first taught me (at the conference) about what it means to be a seven.
The Enneagram 7 is known as the Enthusiast- and I find that descriptor often suits me. I am energetic, generally happy, and – indeed – enthusiastic about many things.
But, I don’t usually embody the behaviors of a “typical 7”: having a tough time committing to long-term relationships, bouncing from job to job, or staying out all night partying. In fact, sometimes I feel like a “bad seven” because I get tired easily and love to be in bed by 9 p.m. I rarely can summon the energy it takes to keep up with my kid. BUT! It’s not the behaviors that make me a seven. It’s the motivation: to avoid pain.
I resonate deeply with the Enneagram 7’s core need, which is to avoid pain.
One important thing to note about the Enneagram is that is requires us to not only notice what we do, but why we do those things. For me – a seven – I often get seduced by productivity, busy-ness, and accomplishment because staying busy allows me to skim over pain and sadness and ignore the negative half of human emotions.
This has served me and not served me. From being involved in dozens of activities in high school to holding a job several years ago where I was doing about three different roles, I was and am able to concentrate on many things at once and do a lot of things pretty well and pretty quickly. I generally have a lot of energy and move fast in body and in mind.
My seven-ness gets me into trouble, though, because often I maintain a very fast, surface-level pace in order to avoid the pain that can await me in a slow, quiet, boring moment.
One reason why I love the Enneagram is because it makes me brave. It assures me that I can handle slow, painful, boring moments…that fearing them is often more painful that confronting them. And – on my best days – that being present to the slow, the boring, the painful helps me become the person I’m meant to be.