Even with all I’ve shared on this blog over the years and how deeply I feel about many of the topics and issues I’ve tried to address, I have kept these posts largely focused on my “professional” life and less on my “personal” life (though such distinctions are always a bit arbitrary and contrived since I bring my personal self into all of my work-related activities and find professional work and colleagues significantly impact who I am as a person). As I post a string of entries during the weeks I am transitioning professional roles I wanted to share about something a bit more personal.
I frequently find helpful insights about both myself and the people in my life from “personality” tests. Skill evaluations, interest indicators, and such personal style assessments as the Myers-Briggs often help me understand things about myself and the people I live and work with that are helpful in deepening our interactions or working through conflicts. Deeper than any of these “tests” for me has been the Enneagram. The richness of this approach to self-understanding is too vast for me to summarize easily (you can get the basics and more here if you’re interested) but I will say that since becoming familiar with the Enneagram over 20 years ago I have regularly returned to its insights.
My own “type” is often called the thinker or the researcher and brings both strengths and weaknesses for me to be aware of. I’ve been reading a fabulous book about using the wisdom of the Enneagram to chart a path toward personal growth, and came across the encouragements below for “Type 5” people like me:
As Fives work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of walling themselves off from the sustenance of emotional connections with others by creating a stronger connection to their own emotions, learning to believe in their own abundance, and opening themselves up to receiving more love and support from others… This process involves observing the ways in which they perpetuate their own sense of inner depletion; exploring the ways they maintain a sense of safety by erecting boundaries and limiting contact with others; and making active efforts to expand their comfort zone in social interactions. It is particularly important for them to learn to challenge their beliefs about inner scarcity, open up to receiving more nourishment from the outside, and regain a greater sense of inner aliveness and vitality through feeling and expressing more of who they are. [The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut]
The nine challenges embedded in this brief passage offer me a lot to think about and work on, and part of why I’m posting this is to serve as a reminder for me to check in on how I’m doing across these areas. Working against ingrained personal habits and defense mechanisms will surely be challenge, so it’s comforting to remind myself that in truth it’s not that simple.