The Complete Enneagram - 27 paths to greater self-knowledge
How much do I want to read more? 10/10
Dang, this feeling again that is book is precisely what I need. Although I almost didn't want to open it because of my bias toward Enneagramm.
Self-knowledge. Being aware. Making a space, Quitting robot mode. Getting back in touch with our emotions: what's more important?
You need not, and in fact cannot, teach an acorn to grow into an oak tree; but when given a chance, its intrinsic potentialities will develop. Similarly, the human individual, given a chance, tends to develop his particular human potentialities….In short, he will grow, substantially undiverted, toward self-realization.
But, like any other living organism, the human individuum needs
favorable conditions for his growth “from acorn into oak tree;” he needs an atmosphere of warmth to give him both a feeling of inner security and the inner freedom enabling him to have his own feelings and thoughts and to express himself. He needs the good will of others, not only to help him in his many needs, but to guide and encourage him to become a mature and fulfilled individual. He also needs healthy friction with the wishes and wills of others. If he can thus grow with others, in love and in friction, he will also grow in accordance with his real self.
-- Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization
Introduction: Self-Awareness and the Enneagram
The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compos sui [master of himself] if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.
—- William James, Principles of Psychology
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In the space there is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
—- Victor Frankl
“Why do I do the things I do?” or “How can I have more fulfilling relationships?” or “How can I achieve better results in my work and live a more satisfying life?”
Being able to change your behavior is central to any personal growth effort, and at the same time it’s incredibly difficult, given the power of our unconscious habits. In order to change behavior to achieve personal growth, we must develop one capacity: We must develop the ability to create the mental and emotional space inside ourselves to observe and understand what we are doing and think about why we do it. From this starting point of being able to see our thoughts and feelings in action instead of just being absorbed by them, we can begin to see more clearly where and how we are stuck in a habit and how we can make the conscious choice to do something different. If we have the mental room to reflect on the nuts and bolts of our habitual functioning, we open the door to greater self-understanding.
- how ancient wisdom teachings illuminate the idea that self-knowledge—which I define as the capacity to observe, think about, and own your thoughts, feelings, and actions—is the key to real growth and the ability to live a happier, more balanced life.
- to provide a map and a set of instructions—your owner’s manual for your own self—that will show you how to expand your self-knowledge so you can start or deepen your study of your self in a way that leads to positive change.
You can create a seismic shift in your life through increasing your self-knowledge, and this book will help you examine the unconscious and automatic thoughts, feelings, and actions that make up most of what you do every day. It will teach you ways to make these moments more conscious and purposeful. From ancient times through today, this practice is the foundation for leading a life that is more creative, flexible, whole, effective, authentic, and content.
The Common Truth of the Human Condition: We Are Asleep
we exist in a kind of waking sleep because of our early childhood programming.
much of what we need to know about how to achieve greater peace, freedom, and self-knowledge has been around for hundreds or maybe thousands of years.
However, it can be difficult for modern people to access these timeless truths about what it means to be human and how we can transform ourselves to manifest our highest possibilities.
This ancient teaching begins with the idea that in order for us to grow and change—to develop our ability to make more conscious choices—we first need to know how we truly operate in the present.
To become all that we can be, we must start where we are and know exactly where and who we are.
One of our deepest unconscious patterns is the false belief that we already know ourselves well enough to understand why we think, feel, and act the way we do. I will argue that, in fact, we don’t; and that thinking we do know who we are is part of the problem.
In order to know ourselves and evolve in positive ways, we first need to see that we essentially operate in a kind of “waking sleep.” Without conscious effort, we function to a large degree mechanically, according to habitual patterns.
We think we have relatively unlimited freedom, when the opposite is true: We respond in predictable, repetitive ways according to the dictates of our early programming.
And like machines, we have no power to grow out of this pre-programmed condition as long as we have no conscious understanding of how our existence is limited by our programming. We don’t always understand what we don’t understand and we are limited to the degree that we don’t recognize our limitations.
When we go into a room and forget why we went there, or when we are reading a book and realize we did not really take in the content of the last page, or when we feel ourselves engaging in conversation while our minds are simultaneously “drifting,” or when something significant happens and we can’t really feel our emotions in response to it—all of these are telltale signs that our habits are running the show. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that our habits are the show. Our work, therefore, is to learn to pay attention more consistently to what is actually happening in our lives.
In psychological terms, this “dimming of consciousness” expresses as a way of surviving or staying safe in the world.
But while it may be good for our survival and our comfort to avoid an awareness of our own pain and fear—especially early on in life—if we don’t examine the ways we do this as we get older, we fall asleep to who we are and all that we might be.
How does this habit of falling asleep to ourselves get started? How and why do we come to be this way?
defensive maneuvers evolve into “patterns” of thinking, feeling, and behaving: beliefs about how the world works and how we must act in order to survive or thrive.
These patterned coping strategies turn into invisible and automatic “habits” that influence where your attention goes and what adaptive strategies you employ to interact in the world.
For instance, a child who feels constant pressure to “be good” may develop coping strategies that help her to be “perfect,” thereby avoiding criticism or punishment.
The behavior patterns we develop to meet early threats eventually devolve into habits of mind that trigger automatically—even when the original threats are long gone and we are not confronting anything even remotely like them in the present. Our psyches develop this desensitized “waking sleep” to protect us from early emotional pain, but we end up staying asleep to what’s going on in our lives as we move into adulthood.
This misalignment between our ingrained habits and our yearning to live authentically and spontaneously becomes a source for all kinds of suffering, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness.
The early coping strategies we don’t need anymore become unseen prisons that constrain how we think, feel, and act in ways that feel so familiar and integral that we forget we have the capacity to choose other options. In this way, we go to sleep to ourselves while thinking we are still awake. We lose our freedom to engage creatively and consciously in the world without even knowing we’ve lost it.
Many spiritual traditions attempt to explain our dissociation, or to practice ways to stay conscious to ourselves, but I believe that we only have to look to our own lives to see how we fall into old unconscious patterns that can make us unhappy.
Here is an example of this from my own experience: When I was growing up, I focused a lot on relationships—on making other people happy as a way of helping me feel safe. My strategy for avoiding the pain of other people’s criticisms or rejections was to be charming and pleasant. I would “make people like me” by being likable and pleasing so that I didn’t have to suffer from the bad feelings connected to disapproval and separation. Without being conscious of it, this led to me going to sleep to my own feelings, needs, and desires, because if I asserted my own feelings and needs, I might come into conflict with someone who didn’t want to deal with my anger or sadness, or couldn’t meet my needs. Over time, I lost touch with what I was feeling moment to moment. My roommate in graduate school once observed that I never got angry. I was surprised by this at first, but then I realized it was true. To serve my main life strategy of getting along with others and avoiding any kind of problem in relationships, I had lost touch with the natural flow of my emotions and the ability to know what I needed and wanted. And, for a long time, I didn’t even know this was happening.
Sometimes, just seeing a habit and understanding why it developed can be enough to free yourself from its grip.