It felt like I was always in my own way. The way I would enter a room. The way I would propose a change in some process. The way I would ask a challenging question. The way I would initiate a difficult conversation. It all felt so right to me and yet it was often - too often - perceived completely differently than I intended. I felt misunderstood and to be honest, angry. I wasn't going to change who I was just because who I was made other people uncomfortable. And yet I wanted things to be different. I wanted to be able to communicate in a way that was heard. I yearned for the ability to approach a challenge collegially. I hated it that others found me intimidating.
For most of you reading this, the way you are in the world is unlike my way. Your way might leave you feeling like Joe - unappreciated for the endless ways you give to and for the people you love. People tell my friend Sue that they are not sure which version of her will show up. Pat is often told to stop being so dramatic and odd. Courtney is often perceived as aloof and disengaged. Mark's bosses have labeled him negative because he is constantly warning about potential problems. Bonnie gets tired of hearing about her fear of commitment and her "inability" to focus and complete a task. Ashley's partner is constantly pushing her to engage, participate and make a decision. Those close to Wally experience his "one, right way" to do almost everything as distancing and judgmental.
Like me these friends, at least initially, find the way others see them as surprising. I think this is a common experience for most of us. We often don't feel on the inside the way others receive us or interpret us. Perhaps this would not be a problem if those misunderstanding us weren't our lovers, coworkers, friends and family members. But this gap between who we think we are and how others see us is at the crux of many broken relationships, broken lives and self-inflicted misery. But there is another way. And that way is in.
But as my friend Richard used to say, "in" (whether that is in to the head or the ego) is like a bad neighborhood we should never go into alone. So we take companions with us on this journey - this blog, our fellow readers and seekers, and for some of us, loved ones we invite to walk with us. And as always, we take a map. There are many maps out there that can help us with this journey inward but none of them have been as helpful to me as the Enneagram. The purpose of this personality tool is to develop deeper self-awareness and knowledge so that we can grow beyond the self-limiting aspects of our personality. The goal ultimately is freedom. Freedom to choose our responses in everyday situations instead of knee-jerk reacting to our environment in ways that are unhelpful and isolation. The Enneagram has been around a long time and now science is beginning to catch up, supporting the basic tenets of the Enneagram with solid neuroscience. Like any model the Enneagram is more helpful to some folks than others. All I know, is that in my own spiritual growth, no other model, system, inventory, you name it, has been as helpful to my growth - both personally and spiritually - as the Enneagram.
And so it is with this tool as our guide that we begin a journey together. Over these next weeks we will learn some harsh truths along the way, as well as discover amazing gifts we did not know we possessed. We will laugh at ourselves and occasionally close our eyes in disbelief at the ways we have been hiding. But it is all good. It is all part of the journey home.
Keep your hands inside the ride if you must, but join me. You will not be sorry you did.