• Rev. Ani

What is at the root of our habitual reactivity?

Updated: Mar 29

~converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation



photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.com


What’s really going on when we get activated (triggered/flooded)? Do you notice that you get trapped in the same cycle of reactivity to uncomfortable events? Well, the enneagram personality typology system (EPS) purports that there is an underlying cause skulking just below the surface that prompts our unskillful behavior and that unless addressed, will remain active, debilitating, and result in our own suffering—while creating collateral damage for others. Let’s take a look at the premise.


Theorists, such as Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, suggest that the human ego or personality has three "emotional programs for happiness": the need for security, the need for validation (approval/esteem), and the need for a sense of control. Don Riso and Russ Hudson, EPS experts, called these "motivational aims." Due to how we internalize the events of our childhood, we tend to develop a disordered relationship with one of these needs, emphasizing its importance more than the others and relying on the fulfillment of that need to make us happy. The EPS incorporates this understanding of the disordered needs of the ego and is divided into three different triads. The first triad is based on the three parts of the human psyche, which mirror the triune human brain: the instinctive or reptilian brain, the feeling or limbic brain, and the thinking or neocortex. In the context of the EPS, the instinctual (gut) center is correlated with the need for control and autonomy; the feeling (heart) center is correlated with the need for validation (approval/esteem); and the thinking (head) center is correlated with the need for security.


When activated (triggered/flooded), each enneagram type defaults to coping by trying to establish control, gain validation, or create security. This process is habitual and subconscious when we have not been practicing self-observation and mindfulness. So, it can be quite helpful for each type to recognize the underlying instigator of their discomfort and the ways that they try to relieve that discomfort. In this way they can address the true issue, rather than simply trying to relieve the symptoms.


 

For these types, a feeling of POWERLESSNESS creates discomfort, but they blame it on someone or something else. Types Eight, Nine, and One, when you are upset, recognize that you will start trying to manage things to resolve the issue; but your relief will come when you surrender and apply your virtue.

Type Eight thinks that the way to invulnerability is through force.


The fundamental desire of Type Eight is self-protection/invulnerability. They try to achieve invulnerability through exerting control in the form of domination and intimidation. When they are in their type box, control becomes an idol; therefore, seeking control is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to try to manage life through force. Empowerment comes when they offer mercy, embracing the virtue of their type. When they offer mercy, the result is what they wanted in the first place—a sense of inherent invulnerability and protection.


Type Nine thinks that the way to peace is through avoidance.


The fundamental desire of Type Nine is to remain peaceful. They try to achieve peace through gaining control in the form of passive resistance, avoiding stress and conflict, going along to get along, and endless rumination—in essence, not taking action. When they are in their type box, control becomes an idol; therefore, seeking control is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to manage life through avoidance/resistance. Empowerment comes when they stop avoiding/ruminating, trust their gut, and take decisive, loving action on their own behalf, embracing the virtue of their type. When they take action, the result is what they wanted in the first place—a sense of relief and peace.


Type One thinks that the way to integrity is through doing the right thing.


The fundamental desire of Type One is to embody integrity/be good. They try to achieve integrity through securing control in the form of judging themselves and others, being conscientious, and focusing on correction. When they are in their type box, control becomes an idol; therefore, seeking control is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to manage life through righteousness. Empowerment comes when they accept themselves as they are and life as it is, embracing the virtue of their type. When they rest in serenity, the result is what they wanted in the first place—knowing that they have inherent integrity/goodness.


For these types, a feeling of INVALIDATION creates discomfort, but they blame it on someone or something else. Types Two, Three, and Four, when you are upset, recognize that you will start trying to get attention to resolve the issue; but your relief will come when you validate yourself and apply your virtue.

Type Two thinks that the way to gain love is through giving and/or serving.


The fundamental desire of Type Two is to be loved. They try to secure love through gaining validation in the form of attending to the needs of others, supporting others, and excessive self-sacrifice. When they are in their type box, validation becomes an idol; therefore, seeking validation is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to chase validation through giving and/or service. Validation comes when they release self-importance through humility, embracing the virtue of their type. When they rest in humility, the result is what they wanted in the first place—knowing that they are inherently loved and wanted.


Type Three thinks that the way to gain value is through performing.


The fundamental desire of Type Three is to have value. They try to secure value through gaining validation in the form of presenting what they think others want, achieving goals, and endless work. When they are in their type box, validation becomes an idol; therefore, seeking validation is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to chase validation through performing and achieving. Validation comes when they tell the truth to themselves and others, embracing the virtue of their type. When they show up authentically, the result is what they wanted in the first place—knowing that they are inherently valuable.


Type Four thinks that the way to gain significance is to be uniquely flawed.


The fundamental desire of Type Four is to be significant/have meaning. They try to secure significance through focusing on what is missing, indulging in excessive emotionality, and defining themselves as the outsider. When they are in their type box, validation becomes an idol; therefore, seeking validation is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to chase validation through focusing on what they perceive as their unique deficiency. Validation comes when they stop abandoning themselves and release emotional volatility, embracing the virtue of their type. When they rest in equanimity, the result is what they wanted in the first place—knowing that they inherently belong and have intrinsic significance.


For these types, a feeling of INSECURITY creates discomfort, but they blame it on someone or something else. Types Five, Six, and Seven, when you are upset, recognize that you will start trying to create your own security to resolve the issue; but your relief will come when you trust the process and apply your virtue.

Type Five thinks that the way to gain competence and sufficiency is to remain detached.


The fundamental desire of Type Five is to be competent and sufficient. They try to acquire competence and sufficiency through collecting knowledge, observing from the sidelines, and refraining from emotionality. When they are in their type box, security becomes an idol; therefore, seeking security is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to create their own security through detachment and knowledge acquisition. Security comes when they trust that their inner wisdom is sufficient, so it is safe to engage with life, embracing the virtue of their type. When they open their hearts in full engagement, the result is what they wanted in the first place—knowing that they are inherently sufficient and competent.


Type Six thinks that the way to gain security is to remain skeptical.


The fundamental desire of Type Six is to be safe/have security. They try to ensure safety and security through withholding trust, meeting their fear with fight or flight, and preparing for the worst-case scenario. When they are in their type box, security becomes an idol; therefore, seeking security is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to create their own security through skepticism, defensiveness, and avoidance of risk. Security comes when they have the courage to take risks and offer trust, embracing the virtue of their type. When they dare to have courage and access faith, the result is what they wanted in the first place—knowing that they are inherently secure.


Type Seven thinks that the way to gain security is to plan for a bright future.


The fundamental desire of Type Seven is to be content. They try to ensure the security of a bright future through planning for fun adventures and projects, distracting through consumption, and staying upbeat and positive. When they are in their type box, security becomes an idol; therefore, seeking security is their top priority. Because this habitual way of showing up in the world makes sense to them and the mental fixation associated with it is so compelling, without awareness, they fail to recognize that they don’t need to create their own security through perpetual planning and endless distraction. Security comes when they have the sobriety to find contentment in the present moment, embracing the virtue of their type. When they are fully present in the here and now, the result is what they wanted in the first place—finding inherent contentment in this moment.


 

Dear friend,

May your mind be peaceful and calm,

may your body be relaxed and comfortable, and

may your heart be filled with love. Thank you for reading. Blessings and gratitude,

Ani



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