The Pain of Awareness

I know I’m late to the game, but I recently started looking into the Enneagram. A friend bought me some books to peruse about it, but I was content just knowing I was an INTJ/INFJ, so they sat in my Kindle library for awhile, unread.

She reminded me in passing, so I decided to at least start one of them, much more out of gratitude for the gift than genuine interest. The first few pages were difficult to get through. I found the author’s writing style annoying. Even as an analogy enthusiast myself, I feel like he uses way more than necessary.

Then we arrived at the brief lists of each type. After reading them, I didn’t feel like I was completely one of them. How does that work? I have the obsession with productivity of a 3 and the black-and-white thinking of a 1. Those can’t be wings of each other (see, I know the lingo), so uh, I’m not really sure what that means.

While I do have a lot of 1 attributes, I found myself unwillingly resonating with the underlying fears and motivations of the Enneagram 3, which is the point. I do fear being worthless. And as much as I’ve put forth great effort to not care what people think about me, I do still care. And that frustrates me to no end. Here’s a nice little summary if you’re curious.

As I walked through the self-discovery of being an Enneagram 3, it wasn’t as fun or enjoyable as being pegged an INTJ. I felt exposed. And ashamed. And sad. I was discovering things about me that I really don’t like. I’d rather pretend this isn’t my framework, even though I can really see how it is.

Photo by Benny Samuel on Unsplash

In another sphere, yesterday, David wanted to know my love/attachment style. He gave me a test and handed me the How We Love book. “I’m not really sure what you are,” he said. “None of the descriptions really fit you.”

After skimming the lists myself, I had to agree. I wasn’t as intense as the controller, I didn’t agree with the victim, I’m not a pleaser. I resonated with a few of the vacillator attributes, but way less than half. Maybe 2?

After reading the childhood experiences that make a vacillator, though, we decided that’s the one I was. “I think we can’t recognize the type in you because you’ve grown past most of these descriptions,” David said. “You’ve grown a lot, babe. I think these things would describe you if you hadn’t focused on growing in them.”

He’s right. I’ve put forth a lot of effort, a lot of time in therapy, a lot of hard discussions and reflections and surrenders, to grow in ways that do not come naturally to me. And although I see infinite to go, I can see that I’ve come far. And it’s good to acknowledge that.

The point? Though it’s been painful to realize my unflattering framework as an Enneagram 3, I can simultaneously be grateful for progress I’ve made in how I love people. Both can be true: there’s more to learn, and I’ve already learned a lot.

Learning about ourselves is never easy work. But ignoring the pain we cause ourselves and others — for any reason — isn’t the way to fix it. Pretending it away doesn’t make anyone feel better in the long-term. It takes awareness first. Awareness can be painful, but it’s the safe path.