Continuing what Claus, the 8-Asserter on my panel of mostly young Enneagram types had to say about death, “I freaked out when I was a child and my mother and father were about to get divorced. I had a bad relationship with my father. I was afraid and wanted them to stay together. I said if they get divorced I would find a way. But I wanted so badly for them to wait until my younger sister was older.
“My worst case senario is if someone had a funeral and there was only a priest, the undertaker, and the photographer. What kind of life did I have if no one showed up? I’d rather be dead. When I die I want it to be spectacular.”
Brita, the 9-Peace Seeker, said, “Death was always a present thought, not necessarily a fear. I always loved staring at the stars. I see myself floating around them after I die, in and out. I remember thinking when I was little I wanted to be buried in an Egyptian sarcophagus. If I were to lose anyone so close to me—it’s okay if it’s me, but if it were one of my siblings, it would leave such a hole in my heart. It’s okay to talk about it and I do with friends.
“I was filling out a life insurance thing and my dad was a cosigner. This was a good opportunity to approach my death with him. My dad said, ‘Do you think they make those Egyptian urns?’ I didn’t know but I said, ‘Make it happen.’”
Mark Epstein (in his article, “The Trauma of Being Alive,” New York Times 8-4-13), “In resisting trauma and in defending ourselves from feeling its full impact, we deprive ourselves of its truth.” The young people on my Enneagram panel were willing, however, to tackle the subject of death and to discuss the defenses they use. Some said they’re likely to worry about something else rather than what’s really bothering them; others said they get busy doing as a defense.
Brita, the 9-Peace Seeker, has the defense of spacing out to avoid the unpleasant. “Part of what I struggle with is narcotization. I can see myself having warning signs, like chest pains or something, and ignoring them. Being here and speaking about it, I can call myself out on it. I don’t want to space out. As a 9, I work on showing up and having deep heart connections. If I allow myself to be numb to the world, isolate, and withdraw, when I do pass on I won’t have experience life and touched the lives around me. It will be as if I was never here. I’ll be damned if I’ll let that happen.”
Defense mechanisms are normal and useful, Epstein says. His article ends: “The willingness to face traumas—be they large, small, primitive or fresh—is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.” An undercurrent of trauma runs through ordinary life, shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence.”
That we all share in these mysteries brings us together as humans.
End of series. See part I Sept. 24, Part II Oct. 8, Part III Oct. 22.
Read my blog about healing psychotherapy’s image in Psychology Today Oct. 15.
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