When people ask me how I got the idea to write about death, I tell them I wanted to explore the differences in the ways the 9 Enneagram personality types feel and express their deep emotions. I was interested in the intensity of our feelings when we’re confronted with our own fear of death or when we’re grieving or dying ourself, or close to someone who is dying.
Probably the first time I really understood the word death was when I was 5 or 6 and tried to save a tiny baby bird that had fallen out of a nest. I loved this little bird. I nursed it, hoping it would grow big and strong enough to release. But it died and I was devastated.
Death became a mystery to ponder, to fear, and to grapple with. My father and I discussed it together. My mother hated the subject. I couldn’t talk about it with her. How could she not be curious about death?
So early on, I found out death affects people in different ways. When the stories, essay, and poems for my book started coming in, some of the contributors had successfully healed great fear or grief and they did so by plunging themselves deeply into their feelings and coming out the other side. Some at first had taken refuge in defense mechanisms, but with the help of the Enneagram were able to perceive these defenses and change course. I found out the key to being less frightened is to let yourself feel deeply.
Many of us are afraid of our own demise and the loss of loved ones, though some of us may not realize it because we avoid thinking about the end of life. But neither fear nor avoidance changes death’s reality. A third relationship to death, however, exemplified in many of the contributions in this book, is to engage with it to the extent we overcome the fear. Then a precious new beginning is possible and we can release the energy previously held back by fear.
Some of the signs of resisting true feelings are:
• spacing out (taking drugs, excessive drinking, eating, TV, etc., so as to not feel anything),
• restlessness of the mind (distracting oneself by excessive worrying, fretting, pessimism, or inner torment), and
• excessive doing (keeping busy to avoid pain).
In a few cases, the subjects of the stories never do recognize they are avoiding feeling their true feelings; these stories are helpful, too.
This press release tells about the International Enneagram Association publishing The Enneagram of Death and includes some short reviews of the book. There’s also more information to the left of this blog.