Tag Archives: Self-Awareness

Getting Along with Others

getting along with othersIt’s easy to be annoyed or hurt or frustrated by the way other people interact with us. But if we can identify what kind of responses we prefer—and communicate that information (rather than accuse or make demands) to significant others—we’ll have a much better chance of getting what we want. And of  getting along with each other.

With that in mind, in 2016 and 2017 I added a question for the Enneagram panelists: what advice can you give other people for getting along with you? The actual question included the phrase in one sentence, but not everyone took that part of the question to heart. Here are the answers they provided.

Note: Only one person on the 2017 panel was also on the 2016 panel. So 3 is the only type showing a single response.

Type 1

2016: Be responsible.

2017: I’ve noticed that when I get really stressed and start to think that things aren’t going to work out, when somebody gives me reassurance that everything’s going to be OK, I’m able to relax about not having things be perfect. That’s really helpful for me, that reassurance that it’s going to be all right. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Type 2

2016: I like to be noticed and spoken to when I enter a room or group.

2017: Accept my kindness. I’m not running for prom queen or for office and I’m not flirting with you if I’m extra-nice to you. So just accept the fact that I genuinely really like people.

Type 3

2016/2017: In order for you to get along with me, put me in charge, and I guarantee success. And make it a challenge because I love pushing myself, and I’ll push you, too. Just don’t expect too much emotional connection.

Type 4

2016: I tend to be pretty introverted and I like to have a lot of solitude, so don’t take it personally if I want to be alone a lot. But don’t write me off, either. Keep inviting me because I like to socialize, too. I need to do that.

2017: Just keep asking us questions. Keep varying how you do it. But just keep trying because we’re really, really good people to know.

Type 5

2016: Listen and show an interest in whatever topic has captured my inquisitiveness at the moment.

2017: Realize I enjoy talking to people but I feel uncomfortable in front of groups, especially groups of strangers. Interaction drains me so eventually I’ll need to escape and recharge.

Type 6

2016: When I’m in a group that’s single-minded, I’m going to be the devil’s advocate. When I’m in a group that is completely disparate, I’m going to be able to identify with every person in the group and draw them together. I thought it was leadership, but it’s actually my personality type, I think. So don’t be surprised if I’m poking you on something when you’re single-mindedly running toward something. I’m going to slow a process. And don’t be surprised that when you’re considering everything, I’m going to go the opposite direction.

2017: Be open and honest with me, which will help me overcome my innate caution and skepticism.

Type 7

2016: Remember that I will tend to control the issue. I’m aware that sometimes I’m trying not to do that, but it’s going to come out that way, so deal with it.

2017: To get along with a 7, be reasonably indulgent in allowing the expression of these creative possibilities and always acknowledge us. 7s like to be heard and they like to have some room so they feel like they have possibility.

Type 8

2016: Just get to the point and I’m happy.

2017: 8s tend to be drivers; we always have an agenda. So it’s good to address that. I know you have an agenda, but could I take 5 minutes of your valuable time. Please step outside your agenda and deal with me, look at me. Because we’re going to discuss doing something.

Type 9

2016: I may not draw attention to myself. I may not be competitive. But I have a lot to contribute. So don’t take me for granted. And don’t underestimate me.

2017: Just listen once in a while. I’m happy to listen to you, but it would be great to be listened to once in a while, too.

As one of those agenda-driven 8s for whom interruption is actually painful, I’d like to share how my partner of 30 years learned how to get along with me. If he had something to tell me or ask me and I was otherwise engaged, he’d stand in the vicinity until I finished the compelling thought, action, sentence—whatever was driving me. At that point, I’d be able to give him my full, rather than distracted or grudging, attention, and both of us were satisfied.

Is there some advice you would like to give others for getting along better with you?

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No Explanation Needed

No One Is to Blame

No One Is to Blame (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I previously wrote a post for one of my other blogs about the idea that everything happens for a reason. There are a couple of odd things about this notion. For one, we tend to apply it only to unpleasant events and not to pleasant ones. For another, it carries an implication that the bad thing that has happened will in some mysterious way lead to something good.

Horrendous things do happen in the world, and everything happens for a reason is a proverb that’s meant to comfort. But it’s indicative of a worldview that bears examining. For one thing, it can be used as a palliative response that ignores the underlying cause of the situation or event, in which case it’s worse than useless.

Many of us habitually explain our current difficulties, bad habits, negative outlook, or troublesome behavior by referring back to our childhoods or other events from the past. Negative traits, behaviors, circumstances, or events require some kind of an explanation, even if it’s the not very satisfactory everything happens for a reason.

But how often do we explain our present good fortune, good habits, positive outlook, or admirable behavior by referring back to our childhoods or events from our past? We may recognize and even acknowledge luck and the kindness and generosity of others when we’re treated to it. But by and large, we don’t look for explanations for our positive traits, behaviors, or circumstances. We expect the good stuff; the bad stuff is an aberration.

Are you prompt, kind, generous, trustworthy, responsible, productive, optimistic, helpful, imaginative, creative, insightful, cheerful, broad-minded, well-read, accomplished or successful (at anything), happy, healthy, generally law-abiding, thoughtful, courageous, tolerant, objective, conscientious, or cooperative? Whatever positive characteristics you have, do you spend much time questioning how you got them?

THE WAY WE ARE

One of the great benefits of the Enneagram is that it shows us that, to a significant extent, we are the way we are because…that’s just the way we are. We were born with the temperament and the tendencies we have. It’s easy to give up the search for explanations for what we thought were our own individual quirks and proclivities once we discover how many other people who have very little, if anything, in common with us also have the very same quirks and proclivities.

When we give up the exhausting, stuck-in-place examination into our backgrounds to try to figure out why we are the way we are, we can begin to accept what and who we are and go on from there.

I wonder if we might not achieve the same result by starting to look for explanations not for the negative but for everything positive in ourselves and in our lives. I’m not talking about being grateful. I’m not advocating always looking on the bright side or maintaining a positive attitude. I’m suggesting we analyze everything that’s positive the same way we habitually analyze the things we define as negative as a way to break out of the habit of looking for explanations. Unless we’re really and truly trying to understand something and/or learn from an experience, simply trying to figure out why something is what it is isn’t particularly fruitful.

Focusing our attention on explaining the negative stuff leads to taking the stuff that’s OK—or even really good—for granted or assigning it less value than we assign the negative stuff. The underlying assumption is that good (at least our definition of it) should be the steady state and therefore good requires no examination. If things are not good, however, someone or something is to blame.

Most of us know from experience that observing ourselves without judgment, blame, or searching for explanations doesn’t come naturally. And the habit of judging, blaming, and searching for explanations extends outward into the world. But isn’t there anything better–or more product or even more enjoyable–that we could be doing with all the time, attention, and energy we spend on these futile activities?

Only the Shadow Knows

shadow on sidewalk

shadow on sidewalk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In A Little Book on the Human Shadow, Robert Bly calls our shadow “the long bag we drag behind us.” He describes a process whereby children, beginning at the age of 2, start stuffing aspects of themselves into this bag that others (primarily parents at that point) do not like or approve of. Parents being individuals, however, each one tends to have his or her own temperament, expectations, personal history, and likes and dislikes. So the same behavior could—depending on the proclivities of the parent—be rewarded, ignored, or punished. Luck of the draw, really.

If you accept the idea that our Enneagram type is the result of our early experiences, particularly our relationship with our parents, this all fits together nicely. But we know that who we become is a result of nature and nurture. Our Enneagram stance (aggressive, withdrawing, or compliant), if not our actual type, is likely innate. So then where does the shadow come from?

Carl Jung points us in a different direction:

Whereas the contents of the personal unconscious are acquired during the individual’s lifetime, the contents of the collective unconscious are invariably archetypes that were present from the beginning. …The archetypes most clearly characterized from the empirical point of view are those which have the most frequent and the most disturbing influence on the ego. These are the shadow, the anima, and the animus. The most accessible of these, and the easiest to experience, is the shadow, for its nature can in large measure be inferred from the contents of the personal unconscious.

He also wrote:

The collective unconscious is a part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from a personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition.

While the personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents which have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness, and therefore have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to heredity.

The Cat–er, the shadow–is out of the bag

So rather than being a bag we pack as we are growing up, and then must unpack as adults, our shadow, like our type, is innate to us. This view seems much more logical to me since it appears at least part of our shadow is directly related to our type.

At one of the IEA Conferences I attended several years ago, Jerome Wagner, author of The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Types, gave an outstanding and highly entertaining presentation on shadow issues and defense mechanisms. (His take on the formation of the shadow seems to align more with Robert Bly’s view, but that  isn’t critical for our purposes.) Jung wrote that it is easy for other people to see when someone is projecting his or her own qualities onto another person. That was amply demonstrated when Jerry had his audience, as a group, create two lists for each type: one under the heading I Am and the other under the heading I Am Not.

Under I Am, we listed keywords describing the positive qualities of each type—the way that type preferred to see itself. And under I Am Not, we listed keywords describing all the qualities that type refused to accept (either denied or projected onto others). I’ve since added to both lists for all nine types and have found this material to be extremely useful personally, as well as in a variety of settings.

As Jung wrote (quoted above) the nature of the shadow can be inferred from the contents of the personal unconscious. He added, that it can be seen through and recognized fairly easily.

So let’s see what we recognize when we explore our shadow issues.

Coming up: the shadow and type 1.

The Root of Understanding

To comprehend the whole we must first understand ourselves. The root of understanding lies in oneself, and without the understanding of oneself, there is no comprehension of the world; for the world is oneself. The other – the friend, the relation, the enemy, the neighbor, near or far – is yourself. Self-knowledge is the beginning of right thinking, and in the process of self-knowledge, the infinite is discovered.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Krishnamurti Foundation of America

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Curiouser and Curiouser

Naima, the Curious Cat

Naima, the Curious Cat

In his book, Waking Up, Charles Tart points out that most people, especially in the West, aren’t taught self-observation skills at an early age. What if we had spent as much time learning how to observe ourselves as we spent learning how to read?

I’m a fanatical reader, so I don’t say this lightly, but maybe self-observation skills are even more valuable than reading skills. In many ways, reading helps open up the outer world to us, but self-observation opens up our own inner world—which is no less vast, really.

These are a few things Tart has to say about self-observation.

It’s all grist for the mill

In its most general form, the practice of self-observation is simply a matter of paying attention to everything, noticing whatever happens, being open-mindedly curious about all that is going on. This everything will almost always be a mixture of perceptions of external events and your internal reactions to them. You should drop all a priori beliefs about what you should be interested in, what is important and not important. Whatever is is an appropriate focus for observation.

THREE WAYS TO PAY ATTENTION

This open-minded attention must be more than just intellectual attention. Remember that we are three-brained beings. Thus the attention we should strive to pay to our world and our selves is an emotional attention and a body attention as well as an intellectual attention.

Above all, be curious

The practice of self-observation…is the practice of being curious, along with a commitment to do your best to observe and learn whatever is there, regardless of your preferences or fears.

I have to keep reminding myself to stay curious about what is going on around me and within me. And also to stay curious about my own actions and reactions. It’s so much harder for me to get sucked into the drama, the compulsions, and the autopilot behavior when I’m able to maintain an attitude of curiosity about everything that’s happening.

My usual modus operandi is probably the same as everyone else’s. I operate on the assumption that there’s a way things should be and when things are going the way they should be going, all’s well. But more often than not, things do not go the way I think they should. And people do not behave the way I think they should. Even I don’t behave the way I think I should. And don’t get me started on the weather!

As an 8, when things are not going as I expect them to go, my resistance kicks in. That’s a perfect opportunity to wake up and pay attention. When I’m able to do that, I feel much lighter and more expansive. When I don’t or can’t do it, I dig myself deeper into my resistance. No good ever comes of that.

What kicks in for you when things aren’t going your way?

If I want to use the moments when my expectations rub up against the edge of reality to wake up, I have to have the intention to do so.

The practice of self-observation begins with a desire and resolution on your part: “I want to know what really is, regardless of how I prefer things to be.”

As I’ve remarked elsewhere, self-observation is not for wimps. It isn’t easy to let go of our preconceived ideas about how the world should work. It’s hard to give up having a temper tantrum when we don’t get our way. Growing up can be painful at times.

If you diligently practice self-observation, you will see much that his painful and much that is joyful, but seeing more of reality will turn out to be highly preferable to living in fantasy. You will begin creating “something” in yourself, a quality, a function, a skill, akin to learning how the controls of your automated airliner work. And you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more there is to life.