Fear, Faith and The Enneagram

I grew up with a lot of fear. It pervaded my youth. I was timid, shy, over shadowed by my father, uncomfortable with woman and had no sense of confidence or self esteem. At the age of 26 I had a serious car accident. It was in the days before seat belts and when drinking and driving was all too common. The accident was totally freakish. I was struck by an empty car careening down a hill in an eastern suburb of Toronto. The vehicle was empty because it had been stolen, involved in a police chase and abandoned. The series of synchronicities that had come together to ensure that I was in the precise spot to be hit were remarkable. The impact caused my chin to collide with the steering wheel resulting in fifty stitches in my jaw, broken glasses and bruised ribs however I came out remarkably unscathed. I remember sitting at home reflecting on the ten different decisions that had led to me being in that exact spot at that precise time. It was almost as though fate had determined the outcome. I remember concluding that I would get something out of this experience besides sore ribs and a swollen mouth. I decided to recreate my image and consciously leave my old self behind. I bought a pair of John Lennon glasses, round frames with blue tinted lenses and I decided to grow my hair. The effect was remarkable. I felt like the ugly duckling transforming into the beautiful swan. Everyone seemed to like my new image. (In hindsight I realize that because I started to like myself more, I developed some self esteem.) I put away the discomfort and fear of life and assumed a confident new image. Life responded accordingly and my faith in my own projection was reinforced. 

Thirty years later I came across the Enneagram, which is a personality typology profiling system. There are nine possibilities and when I completed the test I thought I was an 8 – adventurer or challenger. There was some suggestion that you should complete the questionnaire based on the character you had before you turned twenty-five. This seemed ludicrous to me because I had changed so much. Some years later I was given a copy of The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul by Sandra Maitri. After reading it I felt somewhat dismissive because I did not fit the profile of the 8 at all. However when I realized how well it fitted a friend of mine I gave it a second chance and realized that my background precisely matched that of a six. At first I had dismissed it because a six is based on fear and anxiety. Then I encountered the counterphobic six who address their fear by taking a rebellious stand to things they find threatening. This is the Six who takes on authority something I have done all my life. Suddenly it became clear to me that before the age of twenty-five I had been a phobic six but once I developed confidence I tucked the fear in the background and assumed the counter-phobic personality.

Many years later I became more aware of the possibility of assuming a persona that perhaps only represents an aspect of who we are. My persona was successful at building a successful life but masked much of who I was at a deeper level. Only when I embarked on what I realize now was the path of individuation, did I start to explore some the deeper aspects of my personality. Like most men I had never really got in touch with the feeling side of my nature and this exploration opened me up to some of my deeper wounds. Sandra Maitri suggests that ennea-type sixes have lost touch with the “Holy Idea”. This made sense to me as I had no sense of anything “Holy” for much of my adult life. The soul did not exist as far as I was concerned. What a six needs in their life is a sense they are more than their bodies, minds and feelings. This realization of our true nature gives us faith. I have been very blessed in my life with a series of individual experiences that have affirmed for me beyond any doubt a sense of the divine or spirit or presence. (The name doesn’t really matter.) I recall the first occasion that I really heard the words “You are not a human being having a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being having a human experience”, my paradigm shifted and I could never see my life again in quite the same way. 

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