Young People Talk about the Enneagram and Death, Part I


Image

A Perfectionist talks to Death, from “The Enneagram of Death.”

Four years after his father died, author and psychiatrist Mark Epstein’s mother told him she was still upset. This conversation pleased him because, he said, “grief needs to be talked about. When it is held too privately it tends to eat away at its own support.”

Epstein says in “The Trauma of Being Alive,” (New York Times 8-4-13), “Trauma isn’t just the result of major disasters. It does not happen to only some people. An undercurrent of it runs through ordinary life, shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence… If we are not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we are suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder.  There is no way to be alive without being conscious of the potential for disaster. One way or another, death (and its cousins: old age, illness, accidents, separation and loss) hangs over all of us… “

Trauma was also a theme of the panel of 9 people mostly in their 30’s I had assembled to talk about death, fear, and grief at the 2013 International Enneagram Conference last August.

Earl, the 1-Perfectionist, was concerned about his need to leave the world better than he found it. “I’ve always had this sense of mission and zeal. I want to have an impact. In the background I desire to make improvements and bring forth a new perspective. My fullest form of self-expression is to change things. I don’t want my mission to be cut short. Death is the point that, whatever you’ve done by then, you’re done.

“My own death seems like a zen or transition point, but physical and mental decline scare me. Back in my 20s I was depressed and felt a disconnect between the way I wanted to live and the way I was. It’s painful to think about losing my mobility, my capacity to enjoy activities. I hope to think rationally, have a clear sense of judgment, and see things how they are. Realizing how much we regret decisions we’ve made and fear living with the consequences are big fears for Ones in general. This sheds light on death itself. You die and there’s nobody there and no more regret. A lot of times when I’m anxious about something I can’t control (job security), I’ll get tunnel vision and concentrate on what I CAN control. Like the 6-Questioner, I’ll ruminate, think, and keep busy.”

Linda, the 2-Helper, said “I relate to the 6-Questioner’s mental anxiety. I make up that my husband will die and I’ll be alone. I am the one with health issues, but the habit of the Helper is to focus on the other. He eats a lot of Snickers so I’m always criticizing his diet in my head. I go on rants about nutrition and how we’re killing ourselves with toxins. I’m a health nut because I have rheumatoid arthritis—I’m the one who has had to change my diet.

“When I was 9 years old a horse kicked me in the head. I went to a beautiful place where there was no separation. There was no light but it wasn’t dark. No pain. Peaceful. Infinite. I can’t imagine anything more amazing. My whole life has been about getting back there. There’s nothing to fear. We have moments of heart connections where there’s no separation. The thought of dying is a comfort. I think about it a lot and look forward to it.”

See Part II (types 3, 4, and 5) on Oct. 8.

Look for my blog about healing PSTD in Psychology Today Oct. 1.

Visit “Are You My Type, Am I Yours?” on FB and check out my work on wagele.com.

Advertisements

People Who Smile Too Much


Smile, smile, smile

Smile, smile, smile by Elizabeth Wagele

I don’t smile constantly, but I have always been afraid to show it when I felt angry inside. Early on I began smiling automatically when someone upset me. The feeling was similar to if you’ve ever smiled when you saw an accident–from someone slipping on a banana peel in a cartoon to a real indignity that didn’t seem at all comical after you thought about it. Perhaps we’re relieved it didn’t happen to us. Perhaps the danger involved makes us anxious and our anxiety produces a smile response.

Smiling from anxiety is a natural defense. Years ago I was walking with my friend, Rebecca, when I smiled at an acquaintance and acted happy to see her. After we passed, I told Rebecca I didn’t like this person. Rebecca, a schoolteacher and a Buddhist priest, said, “Then why did you act just the opposite?” Since then I’ve tried to be more aware of what I’m doing. I try to show on the outside the way I feel on the inside. Sometimes I’m so uncomfortable I still smile from tension and I try to not let that bother me.

Please read my Psychology Today blog, “Why We Smile,” for more ideas on this subject. 

A blogger wrote, “I have a compulsive smiling problem. When someone gets on the elevator with me, I smile. When the bagger hands me my groceries, I smile. When someone opens the door for me, I smile. The only time I don’t smile is when someone at the grocery store says, ‘Hey, why don’t you smile for me?’ and I want to stuff arugula down their throat.

 

“I think this is a female thing. I also think it’s a desperate-need-to-please-others-and-be-liked thing, which I am working on getting over… We laugh as a social function to let people know, ‘Everything’s ok! We’re all friends here!’ I think smiling is the same way. I smile to let people know I am not a threat. Please don’t give me trouble. Smile, smile, smile.

 

“It is hard to stop smiling. I find the corners of my mouth being pulled up by invisible marionette strings. Don’t do that! I murmur in my mind… I will not Botox my smile muscles closed. I will still smile when someone has been nice or if I really do want to flirt. I just need to stop smiling for no reason or strictly out of fear or discomfort.”

Here is another take from an internet forum: “People who are always smiling and don’t seem to have one serious thought their lives irritate me… They try to please everyone, but in the end have no real friends. I abominate lies, even the ones hidden in a facial expression.” – Nawyrus from INTP Forum

On medhelp, Kirkgregor said: “I am in my mid forties. All my life people in a wide variety of settings have come to the same conclusion about me when I try to socialize: ‘What are you smiling ‘bout?’ They stare me down and don’t understand why I smile.

“… As a boy (ages 0-12), my mother was routinely beaten by my father. He still lives as a selfish hermit on a 120-acre former dairy farm. My mother vented some on me after her beatings, but she has the Smiling Too Much disorder too. I think she just does it with me though. I have studied her around others and she does not smile so much to them.

“I smile as I communicate with every human I associate with.”

This was answered by Roger Gould, M.D.: “…The kind of smile you describe is like a mask that covers up what you are really thinking, and probably has a defensive look to outsiders, …as if saying what you are thinking about people. The best thing you can do is to start sorting out what you are feeling, what… is real and what is memory/feeling. It would be best to do this with someone close to you that you trust, and if not, with a therapist.”

Read my WordPress blog of 9-26-13: “When Women Sound Like Little Girls.”

Read my Psychology Today blog, “How to Achieve Success at Work,” Part One.

“How to Achieve Success at Work, Part Two” will appear on 9-17-13.

Visit http://wagele.com to check out my books, CD, cartoons, and essays, and Famous Enneagram Types.