Thursday, February 14, 2008
In my last blog entry, I claimed that we don’t need any more Enneagram books, classes, or information. Of course, my tongue was only slightly nudged against my cheek. I have nothing against learning or new ideas. In point of fact, I revel in them. Yet all too often, I find seekers (myself included) becoming seduced by “ahas” and new discoveries rather than making solid use of the insights we’ve gained. When we learn our Enneagram type and understand our personality’s bias, we have the potential for liberation from our “default” mode. .
Self observation is the primary key to stepping back from our habitual ways of perceiving, feeling, and acting in the world. Easy enough to do when we are meditating or when things are going well. But how do we interrupt our old patterns when events or people trigger us in unexpected or uncomfortable ways?
My favorite technique for breaking my personality’s habit is the “PAUSE”. Our initial reaction at any given time will most likely result directly from our personality’s default setting. As long as no actual emergency exists or life-threatening situation, we have nothing to lose by stopping for a moment or three.
The next time you feel a reaction rise, stop and wait to see if something more true, something more authentic might be residing beneath your initial feeling, thought, or desire to act. If you are with another person or persons, simply say “I’m trying to see how I feel about that” or “I’m trying to figure out how to respond here.” That will buy you time and won’t make you feel like a moron who can’t answer a question. (Our Western culture sets us up to answer or act quickly in every situation; often to our detriment, so this may seem awkward at first.)
Allow a few moments to pass and look for what more might arise from inside you. A quick hint: unlike the initial reaction, thought, or feeling, there is usually very little “juice” or “energy” to this new layer. It simply is. Voice this new revelation as it comes and notice how a situation unfolds differently than in the past. Communication may open into a new expansiveness; indeed you may feel expanded as well. Continue observing yourself and the interaction(s). I think you’ll be surprised and gratified by what unfolds.
Here’s a simple everyday story of the Pause working for me. I was walking in a Hawaiian rainforest with a group of people who were filming a TV segment with my photographer husband and a supermodel. (Why is not important - it’s a long story.) The husband of the supermodel was walking behind me and my spouse in front of me on a steep, slippery trail. Keeping my head down, I never noticed the branch at head level spanning the path. Bam! I banged right into it with my forehead, nearly knocking myself out. I stopped, waved away the daytime stars swirling around my brain, and rubbed my forehead gingerly. “Are you okay?” yelled Dewitt? “Yes, I’m deeply embarrassed and I’m going to have a good-sized goose egg, but I’m fine,” I confessed.
“Wow,” breathed Greg, the supermodel’s athlete husband. “You handled that really well for a woman.” Personality jumped up with several retorts and a fair amount of energy, ready for a comeback. I PAUSED for a few moments, found a quiet truth underneath my first reaction, and replied, “I have no idea how to respond to what you just said, Greg.” “Well, it has always been my experience that whenever I’ve gone camping or hiking with a woman, everything that goes wrong is my fault. Insect bites, turned ankles, rain, you name it. But you didn’t blame anybody and that was so amazing to me.” We went on to have a long discussion about personal responsibility and woundings in his past relationships (present marriage excepted, he affirmed.) We connected and communicated in a more open, spacious way - thanks to a small pause.
So give it a try. You have nothing to lose except the constraints of your own personality. I promise you that this simple (not always easy) technique really is ALL you need to know to free yourself from your Enneagram type’s default mode. Oh sure, you’ll forget sometimes. I do. But more and more, you’ll find a wonderful Pause And Effect.