Category Archives: Habit

Reset Your Mindset

I wrote about mindsets on my website Farther to Go! last month, but as with many of the topics I write about there, this seems relevant in terms of Enneagram types. I suspect it is easier for some types to develop–or to already have–a Get Better mindset, while other types find it more difficult to break out of the Be Good mindset. Full article here.

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The Categorizing Habit

brainSometimes people resist learning about the Enneagram (or MBTI) because they don’t like the idea of categorizing people—and they themselves are especially reluctant to be categorized.

But it turns out that our brains categorize things and people all the time at the unconscious level. And this can be very useful.

In Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, Leonard Mlodinow says that categorization is one of the most important mental acts we perform.

One of the principal ways we categorize is by maximizing the importance of certain differences…while minimizing the relevance of others. If we conclude that a certain set of objects belongs to one group and a second set of objects to another, we may then perceive those within the same group as more similar than they really are—and those in different groups as less similar than they really are. Merely placing objects in groups can affect our judgment of those objects.

Substitute “persons” for “objects” and you can see how categorization can lead to problems.

Our brains categorize other people whether we’re aware of it or not. And how our brains categorize them determines how we react to them and often how we treat them. But since this categorization is unconscious, we aren’t aware of it.

I remember that when I moved to New Mexico from California, I soon made the acquaintance of several other 8s. Immediately, I felt comfortable with all of them as a result of our similarities. Although we all have significant differences, those differences did not seem as important as our similarities so I downplayed them.

Categorizing people by Enneagram type is usually a conscious and deliberate process. But the traits and characteristics we associate with different types—and our attitudes toward them—may not be entirely conscious. Those unconscious attitudes may lead to negative stereotyping we aren’t even aware of.

So we don’t really have a choice when it comes to our brains’ categorizing habit and we aren’t privy to that information. But we can pay attention to the way we use the Enneagram to categorize people. We can notice when we perceive all 2s or all 9s as being alike. We can remember that although all 2s and all 9s have a lot in common with each other, each 2 and each 9 is different from the others. And even though we may not be 2s or 9s, we still have things in common with them. They are not as different from us as our categorization might imply.

Look, a Bird!

Procrastination

Everyone procrastinates at one time or another, but not everyone is a habitual procrastinator. Procrastination is a characteristic often associated with 6s. It is also quite often linked with perfectionism, as if perfectionism is a direct and quantifiable cause of procrastination. This is one of those things I’ve always wondered about because 6s have never seemed like perfectionists to me.

6s can be full of anxiety, however; so maybe anxiety leads to procrastination. But according to the research, the anxiety people feel when a deadline is staring them in the face and they aren’t sure they can meet it is the result of having procrastinated.

According to analysis of about a hundred studies involving tens of thousands of participants, anxiety produces a negligible amount of procrastination at best—and even that tiny amount disappears completely after you take into account other personality characteristics, especially impulsiveness.
–Piers Steel, Ph.D., author of The Procrastination Equation

Impulsive?

It turns out that perfectionists actually tend to procrastinate less than other people do, which makes sense when you think about it. According to Piers Steel, it’s impulsiveness that is “the nickel-iron core” of procrastination:

[I]mpulsiveness creates procrastination because it makes small but immediate temptations, like playing Minesweeper or updating your social network status, especially attractive. The reward might be small but the delay is virtually nonexistent. On the flip side, large but distant rewards, like graduating or saving for retirement, aren’t valued much at all. Despite their importance, these long-term goals don’t motivate us until the march of time itself eventually transforms them into short-term consequences. Only in those final hours do we frantically try to catch up on what we really should have addressed long before. The more impulsive you are, the closer to deadlines you need to be before you’ll feel fully motivated.

Or Distractible?

That makes sense, but I wonder if distractibility—which means to turn away from the original focus of attention or interest—might not be a more apt term for this than impulsiveness—which means to act suddenly on impulse without reflection.

Just as everyone procrastinates from time to time, anyone can become distracted. But maybe some Enneagram types are naturally easier to distract than others.

1s, 2s, and 6s, the Compliant types, are prone to getting caught up in, and distracted by, whatever is going on in the immediate moment, at which point they lose sight of the bigger picture. It seems like they have a more difficult time keeping focused.

9s are notorious for their low distractibility threshold. One 9 in an Enneagram video confessed that even if she had to be somewhere at a particular time and was already late, she might still find herself at home picking dead leaves off of her plants. Random elements in the environment reach out and grab 9s’ attention. “Look, a bird!”

4s and 5s are not naturally focused on or attuned to the demands of the external world. When they put things off, is it because they are procrastinating or because they simply don’t care? Maybe it’s the same thing. Steel says:

Two big contributing factors to procrastination are straightforward: low self-confidence and the aversiveness of tasks. If we doubt our ability to complete a chore and find it as exciting as watching concrete set, we are more likely to put it off. It is no wonder that taxes, which are both difficult and boring, are famous for making procrastinators out of almost all of us.

So 4s might be inclined to procrastinate about boring tasks and 5s about tasks they feel less confident about doing successfully.

7s are sometimes described as impulsive and other times as distracted, as if the terms mean the same thing, which they don’t. I think impulsive better defines them than distracted, but they are likely to procrastinate when it comes to doing things they see as painful or unpleasant.

8s are usually very focused and don’t appear to be procrastinators, but they are no strangers to it. For one thing, they tend to avoid doing things that aren’t a part of their current agenda. For another, they don’t see a problem in putting things off till the last minute, or not doing them at all, figuring they can deal with the consequences.

3s may be the least likely of all the types to procrastinate. Their drive to succeed means they need to do whatever they attempt well. Procrastinating would be too dangerous a game to play.

Go ahead, procrastinate

How much do you procrastinate? Here’s a link to a procrastination survey you can complete. It might be an interesting distraction.

In the Shadow of Type 9: Conflict

Disharmony

Disharmony (Photo credit: lewishamdreamer)

9s can be very pleasant and peaceful to be around. They are tolerant, calm, agreeable, supportive, considerate, patient, non-judgmental, accommodating, diplomatic, kind, and adaptable. Their very presence can be reassuring to those who may be more inclined to run in circles, scream and shout. They make excellent mediators, partly because they seek harmony and partly because they are able to identify so well with others.

The flip side is that in order to maintain this serene exterior and create a tranquil space for others, they have to contain all the non-nice thoughts and feelings roiling below the surface. Their compulsion leads them in the direction of tuning out their own preferences and going along with what other people want. True peace of mind is attained by acknowledging and coming to terms with the dark, unpleasant, and unharmonious aspects of life, not by trying to pretend they don’t exist.

Peace at any Price

According to Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, the defense mechanism favored by 9s is narcotization:

To avoid conflict you numb your feelings, wants, and preferences. You make everything the same and highlight nothing. You make molehills out of mountains.

9s don’t want to be upset, nor do they want anyone else to be upset. As is true for all the other types and the things they avoid, this is completely unrealistic. No one can escape conflict. It’s a part of life, and it isn’t always negative or harmful. Furthermore, trying to avoid conflict is disempowering to a type that has the potential for great personal, interpersonal, and spiritual achievements.

Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.
William Ellery Channing

9s think that if they speak out and stand up for what they want and need it will alienate the people closest to them. So they expend a lot of energy in making those molehills out of mountains, suppressing themselves and acting as if they don’t care one way or the other—about anything. While they constantly feel pressured to respond to the external world, they are frequently too tired to muster the energy to do it; hence the need for a nap or some other narcotizing activity.

I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.
Yogi Berra

The vicious cycle this can create is that by numbing out or checking out, 9s often fail to deal with actual problems that need resolution, which creates more internal pressure that takes effort and energy to contain. It’s exhausting!

The Importance of Being You

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have several good tips for 9s. One of them is for 9s to learn to sense anger in their bodies and to realize it’s OK to be angry and to tell others when they’re upset with them. But the following suggestion regarding personal development seems especially apt, given 9s’ habit of undervaluing themselves:

Take a tip from healthy Threes and invest time and energy in developing yourself and your talents. There are many pleasant, perfectly valid ways to spend your time, entertaining yourself or hanging out with friends or loved ones—but make sure you do not shortchange yourself by neglecting your own development. The initial struggles may bring up many of your anxieties about yourself, but the rewards of persisting in your development will be much greater and more deeply satisfying. Further, investing in yourself will not lead you away from your connection with others: everyone will benefit from a stronger, more fully actualized you.

9s often find themselves in circumstances where others depend on them, which gives them a compelling reason not to pursue their own interests and self-development. But they have played a role in creating those situations, and they have the right and the ability to modify them. As Riso and Hudson say, when they do that, everyone will benefit. Put that way, how could any 9 refuse? I jest, but some 9s may need to view stepping out in terms of their relationships with others in order to be able to take the first steps.

Questioning Resistance

no

no (Photo credit: the|G|™)

The primary issue of the Doing center is resistance (anger without a focal point). We can experience resistance toward internal factors, external factors, or both. Sometimes there’s a good reason to resist someone or something, but habitual or mechanical resistance cuts us off from the free flow of energy.

Whether we’re automatically resistant to certain thoughts or ideas, to experiencing or expressing certain feelings or physical sensations, or to behaving in certain ways, resistance limits and constricts us. It boxes us in to narrow ways of thinking, feeling, or acting.

Here are some questions you can use as journaling prompts to explore the issue of resistance.

  • What thoughts do you resist?
  • What beliefs do you resist considering?
  • What ideas do you resist?
  • What feelings do you resist?
  • What memories do you resist recalling?
  • What aspects or parts of your body do you resist?
  • What do you resist doing?
  • What do you resist changing?
  • Who are the people you resist?
  • What else do you resist?

Then choose something from your list and try to identify any underlying anger. What purpose does your resistance serve? What might it be like if you were to stop resisting that particular thing?

Since resistance is the primary issue for a third of the types, imagine how much impact it has on relationships and events in the wider world. Being aware of our own personal resistance is a small but necessary step toward lessening the overall resistance-at-large.

In the Shadow of Type 8: Weakness

Crying..

Crying.. (Photo credit: Anders Ljungberg)

People often look to 8s to take the lead because 8s are perceived of as self-confident, decisive, strong, powerful, direct, courageous, resourceful, just, and of course take-charge. They talk the talk and walk the walk. Since taking charge comes naturally to them, others pick up on it and often fall in line behind them. Hopefully the 8 taking the lead is heading somewhere everyone else wants to go and not for the nearest cliff. That’s a danger since 8s can be very convincing. This is often because they don’t rely on outside authorities but prefer to figure things out for themselves, so they are quite firm in their resulting convictions. That makes them appear extremely confident, which is something we value in leaders.

I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.
–Colin Powell

Right. No one wants a weak, wishy-washy, fearful, timid, muddled leader. And no 8 wants to be seen as such. So while 8s really do possess many of those admirable qualities, they also know those are the qualities others want them to project, especially when they are in leadership roles. However, it’s hard for 8s to take off the leader hat when they go home at the end of the day, hard to let down their guard in one setting and keep it up in another.

About that River in Egypt

Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, says the defense mechanism of 8s is denial.

To prevent weakness from showing up in your awareness or persona, you deny any presence of it. “I don’t hurt, I’m not nice, I’m not sentimental, I don’t need you,” etc.

Each 8 probably defines weakness in his or her own way, but however 8s define it, it is definitely anathema to them. They don’t want to experience it, and they certainly don’t want others to see any sign of weakness in them. So they power through situations that might leave others gasping at the side of the road. There’s a time and place for that, but not every time and every place.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
–Washington Irving

8s are good at denying, stuffing, covering up, or ignoring what they perceive as weakness. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make it go away, though, so the better 8s get at denial, the more pressure builds below the surface. Some days you can look at an 8 the wrong way and receive The Wrath of Khan in return. You don’t know what just hit you, and the 8 is as surprised as you are.

Take a Hike!

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have a number of suggestions for 8s that center on getting in touch with their feelings (which they admit is a cliché) and aren’t very specific. I don’t think telling 8s to get in touch with their feelings is particularly helpful, since not all 8s are out of touch with their feelings, or at least not all the time. They just don’t consider them a high priority. The following suggestion seems much more practical and therefore likely to appeal to 8s:

Take some quiet time to restore your soul. This doesn’t mean watching television, eating, or drinking—really take time to be with yourself and enjoy simple things. Take a tip from your next-door neighbors, the Nines, and let your senses be revitalized by nature. Although your type would not be among the first in line for a class in meditation, quiet, centering practices are tremendously helpful to reduce your stress levels.

8s are Doing types, so going for a walk or hike or just getting out in nature on a regular basis can be a non-threatening way for them to center themselves, if they do it alone, or to connect with other people. Physical activity is also an excellent way to de-stress. And the 8s also get to feel that they’ve accomplished something at the same time!

No escape, no effort…no despair

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s an excerpt from a piece in one of the Krishnamurti Foundation Bulletins that Krishnamurti dictated in 1970.It’s titled, “The Problem of Living.” When he speaks about how we act from our centre (center), he seems in this case to be describing how we act from our compulsion.

“As one can observe, we have always acted from a centre—a centre which contracts and expands. Sometimes it is a very small circle and at other times it is comprehensive, exclusive and utterly satisfying. But it is always a centre of grief and sorrow, of fleeting joys and misery, the enchanting or the painful past. It is a centre which most of us know consciously or unconsciously, and from this centre we act and have our roots. The question of what to do, now or tomorrow, is always asked from the centre and the reply must always be recognizable by the centre. Having received the reply either from another or from ourselves, we proceed to act according to the limitation of the centre. It is like an animal tethered to a post, its action depending on the length of the tether. This action is never free and so there is always pain, mischief and confusion.

“Realizing this, the centre says to itself: how am I to be free, free to live happily, completely, openly, and act without sorrow or remorse? But it is still the centre asking the question. The centre is the past. The centre is the ‘me’ with its selfish activities which knows action only in terms of reward and punishment, achievement or failure, and its motives, causes and effects. It is caught in this chain and the chain is the centre and the prison.

“There is another action which comes when there is a space without a centre, a dimension in which there is no cause and effect. From this, living is action. Here, having no centre, whatever is done is free, joyous, without pain or pleasure. This space and freedom is not a result of effort and achievement, but when the centre ends the other is.

“But we will ask how can the centre end, what am I to do to end it, what disciplines, what sacrifices, what great efforts am I to make? None. Only see without choice the activities of the centre, not as an observer, not as an outsider looking inward, but just observe without the censor. Then you may say: I cannot do it, I am always looking with the eyes of the past. Be aware, then, of looking with the eyes of the past, and remain with that. Don’t try to do anything about it; be simple and know that whatever you try to do will only strengthen the centre and is a response of your own desire to escape.

So there is no escape, no effort and no despair. Then you can see the full meaning of the centre and the immense danger of it, and that is enough.

–J. Krishnamurti
Meeting Life