Monday, November 11, 2019

Identity Crisis

I’m scheduled to teach two more Enneagram + Writing classes and we’re hammering out a schedule for a third and fourth class. I’ve got a forthcoming book on the subject. 
That did not stop me from unknowingly being one of the lucky people who mistyped myself. 
For over a year now I’ve thought I was an Enneagram six. 
It turns out that I’m a nine. Now I can’t help but laugh at myself for ever thinking I was any other number. 
Remember when I read and loved Reading People? In her Enneagram chapter, I pretty quickly determined that I was a type nine. I hate conflict. It terrifies me. I lie awake at night worried about negative interactions that happened years ago. I can’t help but to fret about the human I was in high school and college, about the things I said and did that hurt other people’s feelings. If Ryan trips over my shoe on his way out the door and sighs, “Can you pick this crap up today?” I will spend the entire day sick to my stomach and worried that we’re fighting. My greatest fear, the terror that haunts my every move, is the horrible thought that my children will grow up and tell people they haven’t spoken to their estranged mother in years. I can’t stand for people to be mad at me or dislike me. 
But see, because I am prone to lying awake fretting about these interactions, I mistook my conflict worry to simply be worry. I plan for worst-case scenarios and I have dealt with a lot of anxiety in my life so I had myself convinced I was indeed a six. The nine’s greatest fears are conflict and separation. The six’s greatest fears are being unsafe or being without support or guidance. I absolutely fear conflict and separation. I don’t want to be unsafe but it just isn’t my biggest concern. I’ve been telling people from day one that the support/guidance fear was more like me than the safety/security fear. 


What I constantly talk about, yet failed to recognize in myself, is that core motivation trumps behaviors 100% of the time. 
9 goes to 6 in times of stress. I have four children under the age of six, I homeschool, I take my writing career seriously but motherhood even more seriously, and we live in a one-bedroom house in the middle of the woods so, yeah, I’d say I experience a bit o stress. It’s not bad stress so I’m moving into the healthier six traits and therefore didn’t see it clearly. Also, a test told me I was a six and a friend said “I knew it!” so I, in classic nine fashion, said “Oh, okay. I’m a six, then.” 
I couldn’t see myself as a nine, despite that whole all-i-ever-think-about-is-relationships-and-how-each-and-every-decision-will-be-perceived-in-my-relationships thing, because I was blind to a few of my own issues. They say whatever number you initially hate is probably the number you are. And you know what I thought? “Not me. I’m definitely not a nine.” 
Because you know what I thought? Nines are the worst! They are lazy! They have no opinions. They are just floating through life, Netflixing their lives away. I hate conflict but I don’t do any of those things. I’m not a nine

Nines often fall asleep to themselves and I didn’t think I’d ever had a problem with that. But some people might argue that waking up one day and realizing you’ve been bulimic for over a decade but somehow didn’t realize it is a lot like falling asleep to oneself. I’ve watched a lot of movies that didn’t align with my values or that I knew would give me nightmares because my friends wanted to. 
When I read the descriptions about wings, I knew I was more of a 6w5 than a 6w7. The 6w7 is “the buddy” and they are energetic, impulsive, lighthearted. I am approximately none of those things. The 6w5 is focused, observant, cautious, rational, detailed. I’m some of those things so, therefore, I determined that I must be a 6w5. 
I even shared in my six post that I have always considered myself to be a much warmer person than what the six description usually entails. I’ve also shared on social media that I tend to be much more sensitive and emotional than six descriptions tend to portray. I’m also a lot more positive and a lot more imaginative than most six descriptions. I love learning, structure, routine… but I’m also quite an imaginative daydreamer which is what fuels so much of my writing. 
The 9w1 has some similarities to the 6w5 but fits me much better. 9w1s are controlled (or even rigid at times… guilty), idealistic (check), imaginative (check), cerebral (check). 
I’ve always said that the Ennegram helps me to love better since it helps me understand where other people are coming from. The nine is also very serious about seeing the world from others’ perspectives. I’ve also always loved reading books about things I can’t understand so I can see the world through another’s eyes… I love reading books that allow me to see what life is like when you’re being racially discriminated against or when you’re dealing with a medical condition. Jodi Picoult’s books were my favorites for a long time because they forced me to see things from the perspective I wouldn’t normally choose to look at, and then to even find compassion for them. A school shooter, a white supremacist, an adulterer, a Nazi soldier…  
I find that I actually have a lot more nine behaviors than I initially realized (some because I chose not to see them, and some because I simply move to that stressful 6 space when I’m out in social settings but hang out in my safe 9 space when I’m at home with Ryan and the kids), but more important than these behaviors are those core fears and motivations. I’ve shared here before that I’ve always worried I’m not lovable or that others are secretly only pretending to like me. Nines are afraid that their presence doesn’t really matter to others. No one is completely conflict free but I sure put a lot of thought and energy into avoiding conflict. I avoid conversations with people I know enjoy stirring the pot. I fret nearly constantly over the person I used to be and the ways I have hurt people in the past. I carefully plan out my punctuation and emojis when I send someone a message. If I don’t answer your text it’s because I haven’t read it, not because I forgot about it. If I’m worried your text might be uncomfortable, I won’t read it until Ryan is sitting next to me. 
“Just open it,” he’ll text me. “I’ll open it when you get home,” I’ll reply.
“So-and-so texted me today,” I’ll say. “What did (s)he say?” he’ll ask. “I don’t know. I haven’t opened it yet.”
90% of the time these texts aren’t even a little bit conflict-y… but that doesn’t matter. The easiest way to ruin my life forever is to text me “We need to talk. I’ll call you later,” but then not actually call me. Aaaargh!!  

Also, I have lots of opinions. Sometimes I share them but often I don’t. When I do share, I regret it. But mostly, I just work the conversation in a way that lets you think whatever you want. Take politics, for example. I was just reading that sixes are proud to stand up for the platforms they believe in. WHAT?! Not me at all. In fact, my husband is literally the only person on the planet who knows me true stance on all political issues. My parents probably have a pretty decent guess but I wavered and changed a few opinions in college so I imagine they’d have a few question marks. How about you? Do you know my stance on abortion, recreational marijuana use, food stamps, public health care, gay marriage, and capital punishment? What do I think about mandatory minimums, sales and property tax, veterans’ affairs? Who did I vote for in the Obama-McCain election? What do I think about Trump and Trump’s administration? And for those things you do know (or think you know) the answer to… did I specifically say to you that I agree/disagree with your stance? Or did I say something non-committal that sounded like I was agreeing? 
I didn’t actually realize I had a habit of doing that until I starting diving into all this nine information but it was almost laughable to realize how cunning I am at avoiding my political believes in conversation even with very political people. It’s possible I might even deserve some kind of major award for my great work in this area. 

I love the Enneagram. I love learning more about the people I love, I love using it to write and teach others to write better fiction, and I love using it for personal growth reasons. One thing I find very interesting is that my personal growth journaling has often turned away from the six journaling prompts and focused instead on reworking my view of myself as a more valuable person than I used to believe. I’ve given myself the exact affirmation of “I make a difference. I matter,” which I am now seeing as a recommended affirmation for nines. I have been making more of an effort to speak up this year which is a recommendation for nines. I believed I was a six but my heart knew all along exactly what I needed to do to find my true, God-given purpose

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Thanks so much for your comments! I always read them, don't always have time to answer quickly. Sorry about that!