Studying the Enneagram For Healing and Growth: Part 1

In this series, I’ll be sharing my personal journey digging into this tool. Initially I’ll be sharing what I discover about myself, how I have grown, and the areas I hope to see God work in going forward. Eventually, I hope to study all the types and how I personally can understand and love them better, starting with the types of those I am closest to. If you are not familiar with the Enneagram, start with Pinterest like I did, and read about all the types, and maybe that will give you a solid start.

If it’s not already obvious, I am a Two on the Enneagram.

So.

I started dipping my toes into the Enneagram as a tool for better self understanding and to help me love others better the day before my 35th birthday. I was in a re-he-heeeallly bad place, and it was barely a toe dip, but I was fascinated. Scott and I took an online free test (not the recommended RHETI, because that costs money), and I came out as a blazingly clear Two, and Scott was (and still is) very hard to type. (We think he is a 4w3, but he sometimes presents as a 3w4 due to just.. life.) Over the following month or two I read a bunch on Pinterest about our types, about my sister’s type (she’s an Eight), her husband’s type (Five), and made two of our closest friends take the test too. I didn’t really go far beyond what was on Pinterest, but i did get a lot out of what I as able to learn even from that limited and often subjective information, about myself, Scott, and about our friends. My brother in law is, just like with his Myers-Briggs type, an extremely special and loving version of his type, BTW. Also, it’s worth noting, around this same time, I discovered my friend Kristine was super into studying the Enneagram also, and, like I’ve said, if there’s something I’m marginally interested in, and Kristine mentions that she is too… I’m no longer marginally interested, but ready to dig deep. I wasn’t ready yet, though. The weights I was carrying as far as my self image were too heavy, to withstand the assessment of the types that I knew had made at least two people weep when first reading them.

Then, last week, I started digging into some homework from my therapist regarding Self Esteem, and i felt like starting to learn more about my Enneagram type would go really nicely alongside this work. I had heard really good things about Suzanne Stabile and The Road Back To You, so I decided to begin there. I purchased the book and its accompanying study guide, because I love me some structure (Myers-Briggs J, anyone?) Then I dug in, initially planning to learn all i could, not only about my own type (2), but about Scott’s (3/4), Max’s (5), My friend Jett (7), my Mom’s, Dad’s, both my youngest sisters… but some events occurred over the weekend that called for me to dial my enthusiasm waaaay back and stick to self-discovery.

I am going to write about these events, or at least the parts of them that are relevant to my overall story and respectful of others’ journeys as soon as I have the emotional resources, because I would say that last Sunday was a day where God really drew back the curtain and let me see how He has been working in me in beautiful, powerful ways that I was totally unaware of. Look for a post very soon, maybe even this weekend, about my favorite two songs from The Greatest Showman.

Pretty much immediately after i started reading about Twos, I became frustrated and a bit hung up on one aspect of the Two that is absolutely not true of me. There is a lot of talk about how Twos (and the rest of the Heart Triad) put on a false persona, and if you know me, that is just not me. I am genuine and open literally to a fault. The general context in which Twos put on a facade is twofold, and I see how both make sense: First, we tend to deny ( primarily to ourselves) that we have needs, pouring into others, ostensibly so they will love us in return (because we dont find ourselves worthy just as we are), and second, Twos want to be liked/loved, so they dont show their more vulnerable neediness in case people don’t like that. That second one of sho ain’t me. I definitely am guilty of not taking care of myself and not being able to articulate my needs – part of a whole deep painful lifelong mistaken belief I’m sure you’ll get to hear me process a lot over this series- but nobody is ever gonna be able to say I put on a facade of cheerfulness when that’s not the case. I never fake my feelings, and it hurts me deeply to be asked to do so or when others do so towards me. In the past, when i am asked to be around someone who causes me pain, I have dug deep to find some sort of hope (of this time being different- because i never write anyone off permanently) or positive thing to anchor me through the experience, but I cannot and do not fake anything.

At first I asked myself if I was just being proud, and maybe I am a big fake? But look, the Two’s pet sin may be pride (and I’m actually fully on board with some aspects of that being true of me, as I’ll share!), but I am humble enough to recognize and admit the areas I fall short in, and being false just ain’t one of them. Next, I asked Scott. He told me something that I am now going to filter all of this through, and probably be a lot better for it. ‘Honey, this book doesn’t know you. You know yourself, I know you, and you know that these general descriptions of nine different types of people are not going to check all your personal boxes. Read it, learn what you can about it, but don’t take every word of it so personally.” My sister essentially said the same thing. So, even though I am a Two, and one that struggles mightily with self-condemnation at that, I am going to approach this Enneagram journey with the understanding that I am unique and not a profile in anyone’s book but my own.

From the beginning of the chapter on Twos, here’ the list of traits I identify with:

You’ll see that I asterisked number 11. I truly do not care what people think of me in general, and certainly not enough to change who I am for them. The one Exception is that I do care when it affects my relationships with loved ones or might cause conflict. I definitely want to receive love and be accepted, but I am still not looking to change who I am at my core for anyone, but I will also quickly apologize for who I am if there is a conflict. Or…I used to.

Number 12 rankled me to read. I will say that there are people I do not love, but every one of them started out as someone I tried to love and was rejected or deeply hurt by, and every one of them could be back in the category of people I do love if they wanted to. I’ve had two friends, within the past four years, who just cut me off out of nowhere, for reasons that have never been discussed (and I hope never will, if I’m honest, because it just doesn’t matter), come back into my life and those relationships are sweeter than the first go round. It doesn’t even require an apology. I want to love people.

Number 15 would have been circled if it had been worded a little differently. If I’m asked what I need, I often don’t know where to start because i need so much! I feel a little embarrassed writing that, but it also got me thinking. Maybe I need so much because i spent 35 years as a very unhealthy little Two, denying my needs as irrelevant or selfish or whatever, but definitely not as anything that was worth attention.

After that list, I read the descriptions of Healthy, Average, and Unhealthy Twos. This is when I began seeing how far God has brought me in the past year or so.

I’m gonna start with Unhealthy.

I was this girl for FAR too long. I’m beginning to identify why, and replace what got me there (lies about who I am and my worth) with truth, and I can honestly say that there is little to none of this left in me. PRAISE GOD!

One word in this description prompted some reflection, though. Manipulative. That word was thrown at me a lot in my childhood and teen years, and it always stung because it didn’t feel accurate. So, in context, what does this mean? What does it say about me, if anything- because maybe, like the false persona thing and caring about appearances, it’s just not true. But if it is, i want to address it, because I’m in this to grow, not hide from the truth. So i started with asking Scott. Nobody has known me better for longer, good, bad, and ugly. He said he would not describe me that way at all. So that’s something. But again, this word was not new to me. My mom has used it a number of times, and I can think of at least one other person who might use it too. So, I need to pinpoint the behavior that might be perceived this way and my motives in that behavior to both understand it and not let it be a hinderance to relationships.

In my mind, manipulation is tied to deception. It’s slimy and tricky. Getting your way through selfish deception. A woman with crocodile tears who dries up when she gets what she wants. And that is not me, especially as an adult. But maybe there is more to it than that.

As a matter of fact, that’s not really what it means at all. The definition is:

Influencing or attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for one’s own purposes.

(Source: dictionary.com)

The sense I have always had of deception or malice is not there.

I feel like most of the times this word has or could have been used for my behavior it’s been when I am feeling something extremely, overwhelmingly strongly, and kind of vomited it onto someone, maybe in hopes of changing their mind, or understanding my pain. In every case I can think of, it’s been that i was deeply grieved about something that I have been unable to express out of fear of rejection or dismissal. Or, in a few cases, response to my feelings being dismissed. It was probably the same way when i was a child. My feelings get so big that I literally feel like I’m losing my mind, and I cannot cope anymore. Now, recognizing that, I can avoid coming across as manipulative, how?

I can prioritize directly expressing my needs and even how they might be filled instead of letting them bottle up. I would say this particular thing is one of the biggest pieces of ongoing work I’ll have for the rest of my life when it comes to becoming and staying a Healthy Little Two.

But y’all, just reading this description is so encouraging, because i am truly not that girl anymore (in general- everyone has moments)!

So, am I the Average Two?

I still struggle with that first sentence, and am still, in many ways, at the beginning of the journey of recognizing what even my basic needs are, and making sure they are met on a day to day basis, let alone in relationships. Otherwise, though, I’m doing pretty well. God has used this season of my life to rip away so many of my crutches and heal me from the inside out. I cannot wait to share more of that with you.

So, am I a Healthy Two?

Is that possible, even as broken as I still am? I’m pretty dang close, according to this description, and for sure closer than I have ever been in my life. That last sentence makes me want to pump my fist! There is still lots of work and growth yet to do, though, because in this season (the past two years in particular) most of my relationships have been kind of at arms length, and as I slowly find ways to re-establish them and take more risks, there will be tests on all of this. Also, Like I said before, I have a lot of work to do internally when it comes to recognizing and communicating my own needs, and even fulfilling the most basic ones on a regular basis.

How did I get from unhealthy to pretty dang healthy without eve realizing it?

I have to flash back to a conversation I had with E pretty early on in my therapy journey. I was talking about how my mental illness had taken away so many things that I had considered part of my identity: serving with the youth group, just going to church and loving others and being loved, spending time with my family of origin, Scott’s family, being able to support others in person when they were doing something hard or going through something, being part of my sisters’ lives in a real tangible way… and the list goes on. I remember saying something along the lines of “loving people is what I DO!” And E saying ” God is stripping you down, He’s clearing everything you used to lean on for identity and significance away so you can draw near to him and learn your worth in who He made you. And it’s for your family too. They get to learn to love you without you doing anything for them. They get to love you just because you’re you.” Oh, how that terrified me at the time. I was pretty sure that unless I was doing what everyone else wanted me to do, keeping them happy, and certainly not prioritizing my own needs they wouldn’t love me anymore. But, y’all, God is working. In my relationships, yes, some that I’ve already seen, some that I am still shakily trusting Him for, but most of all in me. Even as I wrestle and fight and beg for Him to give me more belief and confidence in who He says I am, I already have more than I’ve ever had. It’s happening exactly as E said it was, being stripped of being able to do has enabled me to begin to Abide (her favorite word for what God is speaking into me). AMAZING.

In the next sections the chapter, the pet sin of Pride is discussed, and in some areas I definitely see it, in other ways, the perspective needs to be tweaked to be true of me.

It talks about Twos believing we are indispensable and that we know better than anyone what others need, even others themselves. Okay, I totally see how this could be the case, but for ME personally, it’s more that I WANT to be indispensable, but don’t really believe I am. Maybe my self worth is exceptionally broken, and that’s why, but i don’t truly believe I am indispensable to anyone, and my greatest insecurities and hurts have come from the fear of being replaced and the pain of it happening. This has been especially intense in a particular relationship- and it’s funny, almost all the negative expressions of my Two-ness that I can think of were in one particular season of my life in one particular relationship. Identifying that, though, is the way forward, and I am excited and confident to be free of that.

Ah, here is where the pride expression is VERY true for me.

“Twos rarely ask for help, at least not directly.” Yup. This is something that I have been actively working on, especially when it comes to my relationship wit Scott. I have such a tendency to drive myself into the ground and then blow up at him for not taking the initiative to help me. SMH Y’all. He’s for sure not a mind reader, and even if it’s fair to think he shouldn’t be hanging out on the couch while I’m cleaning, it’s not fair to get mad because I didn’t express that I needed help. I am really working hard at this in our relationship- but I have to start by even taking another step back. I need to start assessing my own needs. I need to ask myself starting each day and multiple times throughout- “What do I need?” Because I lose track so easily in all I want to do and be.

One thing that’s not true of me, though is that I have, as the book says, “an inflated view of my own power, independence, and value to others.” Nothing could be less true. As I said before, I fear/believe I am completely worthless to others, and I’m needy as crap. I guess I skip the pride and go straight to the Terror:

There’s talk about Twos loving with strings attached, a quid pro-quo arrangement. Again, that needs to be tweaked. Yes, it’s true that when I pour myself into someone it hurts when I don’t feel valued in return by them. But it’s not a case of, as the book describes ” ‘I’ll be there for you as long as you promise to be there for me without my having to acknowledge or ask you for help.'” My love is unconditional-if the “return on investment” isn’t “met” in the way I hope, nothing changes except that my heart is broken and in most cases I’m unable to express that and what I actually needed because then you might reject me all over again. And, honestly, the times I’ve been most hurt have been the times I have expressly stated my needs and they’ve been disregarded, so I don’t even know if that falls under this umbrella.

But again, this one camel’s back breaking straw of a situation that catalyzed this whole remodeling project starting almost two years ago has been an instrument of so much change and growth. I’m not glad it happened, but I’m so amazed at how Hod is using it. I became even more disillusioned by- or maybe just awakened to- the dynamic of most of my relationships, where I felt like I was giving so much and getting scraps in return, that my expectations were dropped to zero, and I had to learn to love exactly as much as I felt I could with those zero expectations. It’s been so painful, but, over time, it’s getting easier. It is a bit of a two in one- because it both frees me (somewhat) from heartache, and Also sets boundaries, of which I really had none before. In some cases those zero expectations are met with zero or the same scraps as before, and others are growing, or I see a space where i can actually give a little more so that the other person knows their value to me. I’m looking forward to growing even more in this.

Later, the book states that “Twos don’t believe others will be there for them when they need it unless they keep up this cheerful and fawning exterior.” For me, that needs another tweak. I don’t believe most people will be there for me when I need it, period. I don’t do fake, and life has taught me that even most of the people I have poured into and sacrificed myself for most (besides my husband, who is just wonderful!) will not be there when I need them most. Again, maybe I’m more broken to start with than the average Two (Insert shrugging emoji, my current favorite. )

Recognizing that the power that these loved ones who have hurt me was given to them by me has been a hard one. I’m also really wrestling with this new and tenuous sense of self-worth and what that means to me as a two. Okay, so I am supposed to give and love out of genuine desire and love (which I have plenty of!) but release expectations of any response at all to it, really. That doesn’t sound quite right in practice to me. It sounds a lot about how i have lived up to this point, giving and giving and letting others take and take – except I’m supposed to be okay with getting nothing in return? How is that healthy? I guess it’s supposed to be balanced out by the other side of the coin, being brave enough to express my own needs? I gotta say, outside of my relationship with Scott, that sounds pretty terrifying. I can just imagine saying to my Dad, who is an amazing man of integrity and faithfulness and just amazing but not all about expressing feeeeeeeelings “Papa, i need to know you love me and you’re proud of me and I’m important to you, even when it’s not my birthday.” I don’t even know if that’s fair to him. It might make him really uncomfortable. As I typed that, I heard E say in my head, “And that’s okay. He can feel uncomfortable. He can handle it.” Whoof. I don’t have to do that today though. Baby steps. But what if I express my needs, what if I take that risk, and I am rejected or brushed off? I guess that changes the nature of the relationship. That person can only love as they have the capacity to, and as my worth and identity grows and heals under God’s hand, that won’t feel quite so personal. Other people’s limits are not a reflection on my worth, and maaaybe not even on my worth to them.

I really hope to gain more clarity on that as I read and study and discover more about myself.

Those are my thoughts and reflections after working my way through the chapter about my Type in The Road Back to You. Next up is working through the applicable chapters in the study guide, and I’ll share all that with you soon!

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