I agree with you; it is the new hip thing. Which is unfortunate, because typically, the moment something becomes a fad, it is simultaneously stripped of its true meaning. And so, because it is hip, I know of plenty of extroverts who recently claim introversion just because it is the new, cool way to be. In doing that, it’s like a double-handed slap in the face to those who are true introverts. This seems to be the way our culture works - we pick up on something, whether it is introversion, shame, or even something as simple as food. For example, how the hell can brussel sprouts and bacon be cool? It’s food, not a trend! But this is what our culture does. We quantify and commodify; we turn things into fads, make them shallow, and strip them of their value until it loses interest and we’re on to the next. I apologize; this is a soapbox of mine. But it isn’t just our secular culture that does this. Think of the ways the church does this - donning embroidered jeans and pearl snaps to calling our wives “smoking hot brides,” we commit the same action. I could go on, and I’ve gone off track because this kind of nonsense is irresistible to me. In short, you are right, and the fact remains that we do “need to accept who we are and have permission to live into that true self in healthy and redemptive ways.”
I think that is what I appreciate so much about the Enneagram, in the way it deals with one’s shadow side.
So, I’m an 8.
And…the driving passion of the eight? Lust!
Me? Lust? Seriously? Well, that’s great news for Sarah! I need a beer.
Of course, my understanding of lust was purely sexual, but I couldn’t own that. I was ready to write off the Enneagram, but someone told me to read the definition of lust according to the Enneagram, and I’ll paraphrase what it says.
The Enneagram says that “the passion of lust is not primarily sexual lust, but might better be understood as an addiction to intensity.” Whoa! Addiction to intensity? Yeah, it might be on to something there. So I keep reading. “Eights attempt to gain this sense of aliveness and freedom through the intensity of their interactions with the environment and with others. Getting ‘worked up’ makes them feel strong and real.” I’m half way through my beer, and this is getting easier to admit, and it goes on. “The more insecure Eights are, however, the greater their need for intensity, excess, struggle, and control. Their need to assert themselves can turn into the desire to dominate their environment and the people in it. Ironically, when we have succumbed to the passion of lust, we are quite out of control. The objects of our lust, positive or negative, dominate and control us.” Ouch. But yep, that pretty much says it all. I don’t even want to get into my secondary as a five.
The question, and I always have questions, is “Why?” Why the intensity? And of course, there was an answer. “This lustful intensity arises in response to the loss of the virtue of Innocence.” What the heck does that even mean, the loss of the virtue of innocence? You guessed it, the Enneagram had a different definition of innocence than my own. “Innocence is being fully, deeply human; it is simplicity itself.” Okay, I get that, and that is pretty true, but it continued. “When we [Eights] are present and awake, we behave without artifice or manipulation. Our responses to life and to other people are completely sincere, direct, and heartfelt. We are completely unselfconscious because we experience a profound communion with the natural world. The universe feels intimate, like it was made for us.” In short, we, eights, are destined to be old souls, but we [as most people are] are our own worst enemies.
Then it talks about an eights’ ego fixation as being vengeance, and the element we seek to avoid at all cost is “weakness”. That was the bait or gateway into this whole thing. Something deep down inside of me felt attracted to weakness. It felt oddly comforting.
My whole life has been about avoiding weakness. I couldn’t afford to be weak. Being weak and vulnerable only lead to pain, often at the hands of those I loved. So, being weak was never an option. When those around me were hurting or lost, they needed someone to be strong, not weak. They needed someone with the strength to take it for them. That was me. That was my role. But I was good at it. I like being a rock. So, of course, I avoid weakness. As a bonus, being strong helped me gain a reputation for getting things done - that's what I did. I got stuff done. All that said, the idea of avoiding weakness was really the doorway into this whole thing.
Each year, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, I pick a word, a virtue, posture, or idea, and I spend the whole year focusing on that one idea. Ironically, the word or idea I felt I was to focus on the year I stumbled upon the enneagram was “weakness”.
For several months I would wake up and meditate on the Biblical and Buddhist ideas of weakness. They seemed so appealing. And Ironically, they seemed to be the doorway into this innocence I apparently seek. It seemed that when I began to allow myself to feel at home in my weakness I was actually closest to being, “completely unselfconscious” and fully experiencing “profound communion with the natural world” and those I loved most.
Jenn, for me, I don’t know about you, but for me, when I know there is something that is holding me back from whatever, I feel my best move is to “step into it” against my own feelings. Does that make sense? In other words, even though I am strong, I needed to nurture weakness. And I needed a more tactile way of doing that. In other words, I needed to put myself into places where I was weak and strength failed me. I needed to find contentment in just being.
Part of moving here was just that. Here I am weak. Here, it is more obvious how lust or extreme intensity disrupts the healthy rhythm of life. Many of the disciplines I've put into play plant me in weakness and strip lust of its power.
Anyway...I hope this makes sense...look forward to hearing from you...