Projecting Self-doubts on Others


"I must have deserved this."He “blamed” a restaurant after he lost his house.

Seth’s house washed away in a storm. He lost everything, including valuable paintings, antiques, and computers containing all his writings.

In the nineteen years since he designed and built his dream house, several floods have come close and terrified him. Recently he woke up to the sound of rushing water and began filling sandbags. All his neighbors evacuated but he stayed to fight. The neighbors, who had collected together in a safe place, thought he had died. Some scolded him for taking a dangerous chance.

After listening to the details of his experience, his friend Linette did Seth a favor, she thought, by telling him about the new take-out restaurant that delivers a hot meal in less than ten minutes for $6.00, thinking he could use such a convenience as he rebuilds his life. To Linette’s surprise, however, Seth became angry and attacked the restaurant: “This place is delivering food to 3 year olds who can’t cook it themselves!” he ranted. “Restaurants have to make sure they never run out of food, so they waste a lot of it. People these days don’t even know how to cook their own meals!” And he boasted that he only shops for food every two weeks. Linette felt his anger was directed partly to her, as if he was telling her, “I-have-all-the-answers-so-why-are-you-wasting-my-time?”

Perhaps Seth’s sudden burst of moral superiority was an unconscious attempt to feel better about himself after his loss. Suffering a natural disaster can result in feelings of self-doubt and shame. “I got picked on because I’m a loser.” Without quite realizing it, we try to feel okay by comparing ourselves to others, tearing someone or something down to inflate ourselves and prove our worth.

Linette felt Seth was browbeating her and calling HER one of those 3 year olds. She wanted to keep the peace, however, because Seth had just undergone a trauma. So she struggled to keep her mouth shut.

Seth seemed to be making sure Linette, and more to the point, HE (Seth), knew he was capable and could handle everything. In Enneagram terms, Seth, an independent 5-Observer, has a strong 4-Romantic wing and a need to feel special. He needed more attention than he was getting concerning his loss and his survival.

Linette eventually realized Seth had lashed out in response to  stress, fear, and shame. Scolding her and “her restaurant” was a projection—a way of scolding himself for putting himself in harm’s way. She realized his need to boost himself up had little or nothing to do with her. When she next saw him he was more in touch with his grief. Instead of lashing out he expressed his real feelings, that he was depressed and overwhelmed.

Visit http://wagele.com to check out my books (including The Enneagram of Grief), CD, cartoons, essays, music, and Famous Enneagram Types.

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Religion an Issue Between Dogmatic Dad and Searching Son


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This is a story from my book, The Enneagram of Death. Tom’s father is a skeptical and mistrustful 6-Questioner personality type and is motivated to protect himself. He trusts his church and the afterlife but he’s pretty grumpy about life on earth. He’s Tom, however, is a 9-Peace Seeker who looks for commonality among people and is seeking the truth.

 

Death Will Be Graduation Day

 

 

 

By Tom Purcell.

 

 

 

             My father died a month before his 94th birthday. He was a social subtype Questioner through and through. He often complained about “the powers that be,” yet enjoyed socializing with them; he was instrumental in the campaigns to re-elect our local Member of Parliament, yet refused to run for office himself; he was friendly with everyone he met, especially the underdogs of society. Yet he often said he was unable to trust anyone.

 

            My loving father maintained his intellectual faculties until the last few months. During his last ten years, following a few minor surgeries, he experienced brief periods of memory impairment, but bounced back quickly. The official cause of death was old age.

 

He was a devout Roman Catholic with an unshakeable belief that he was going to heaven. His concept of heaven wasn’t elaborate, but he did expect to see predeceased friends and family members there when he arrived. He never disclosed to me what they were, but in his later years he expressed regret about mistakes he had made in his life.

 

            Overall, he was accepting of his fate. He didn’t believe the world was such a great place with all the moral corruption, poverty, wars, and suffering. Life on earth was a test of faith, and death was graduation day.

 

In light of the current health consciousness and the focus on physical well-being, I found it interesting that my father ate red meat daily, drank alcohol, smoked, never exercised, carried at least 70 extra pounds, was always worried about something, had high blood pressure and cholesterol, and was never particularly happy or relaxed. However, he was proud of the fact that he never ever missed Sunday Mass. Perhaps he was onto something.

 

            A major theme of his stories was a mistrust of authority figures and an inability to express emotion. He felt powerless to change any aspect of the world. As a skeptic, he believed politicians were skillful liars and the news media were the mouthpieces of rich and powerful interests, but he was loyal to his wife, his family, his employers, his religious faith and his political views.

 

He was afraid of losing his job, although he held the same position for over 23 years, and he often expressed suspicion of other managers at his workplace. His co-workers wouldn’t listen to him when he said their employer was headed for bankruptcy, but his fear of being out of work inspired him to seek out another job. Three months later he found out his former employer had indeed gone out of business. My father had landed a much better position, even though he was already in his mid-fifties. He attributed his success to prayer and God’s work—never giving himself credit for his own virtues. I wished he’d take pride in his reputation for scrupulous honesty and loyalty to his employer.          

 

 

I questioned his blind faith in a belief system that had evolved through many centuries. In its highest expression, through the example of the loving kindness of Christ, it commands its followers to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” My father, however, divided the world into members of his club and nonmembers. It bothered me deeply as a young man when he spoke negatively about people who did not agree with his beliefs. I became even more frustrated when he refused to discuss religiously based beliefs at all. Now, however, I can understand my youthful desire to seek the essential truth in all religions as rather threatening to my dogmatic father.

 

            When I was a teenager, I would try to engage him in theological debates about other religious traditions, but he would dismiss anything that didn’t conform to his own narrow and rigid interpretation of official Catholic dogma. Later in his life, he softened somewhat and relaxed his rigid views when he acknowledged, “good people of all faiths go to heaven.”

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there ~ Rumi

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Read reviews of The Enneagram of Death.

 

 

 

See The Enneagram of Death pages on Face Book.

 

What are the Advantages of Using the Enneagram When Grieving?


The Enneagram of Death

The Enneagram of Death

         A NYC Death Café member kindly brought to my attention that I have posted blogs about the Enneagram with little explanation of what the Enneagram is. The Enneagram personality system holds there are 9 ways (plus variations) of being in the world. When you find your own type you soon realize the other 8 types are equally important, legitimate, and necessary. This leads to the invaluable concept that there are many ways to grieve—there’s no one right way. The Enneagram is used all over the world for self-growth, relationships, getting along in the workplace, child-raising, and careers. It fosters acceptance and teaches us who we are. It is a useful tool for anyone who is struggling with grief, fear of death, or dying.

 

         The word “Enneagram” (pronounced “An’y-a-gram”), comes from the Greek word, Ennea, for nine, and gram, meaning a drawing:

 

Enneagram figure

The Enneagram (“Any-a-gram”)

 

         The Enneagram is increasingly used and recommended by psychologists and coaches. You can profit from knowing a little about it, but it’s complex enough to become a life-long study. It shows us in a positive light by highlighting our gifts. Since it is based on real people it points out our defects as well. The Enneagram models change and growth and helps us become better inner observers and more keenly aware of others. We don’t use it to point fingers but to reveal our habits of behaving and to become more mindful of our strengths, needs, and likely pitfalls. Families, love relationships, work situations, and teacher-pupil relationships improve from using the Enneagram. The best introduction is my book, The Enneagram Made Easy, followed by Are You My Type, Am I Yours?  I’ve drawn cartoons in all my Enneagram books and in my book on introversion (The Happy Introvert) to increase accessibility, to help readers feel relaxed, and to add complexities not found in words.

 

         The Enneagram system describes these nine personality types or archetypes: Perfectionist, Helper, Achiever, Romantic, Observer, Questioner, Adventurer, Asserter, and Peace Seeker. The types to the sides of each type (“wings”) influence our personalities as do the two types at the end of the lines attached to them within the circle (“arrows”).

 

         While we relate to all nine Enneagram, types in varying degrees, we indentify as only one. For example, Asserters are natural leaders who tend to be decisive, strong, confident, and dominating. Someone of this type can’t at the same time be a gentle Peace Seeker, who wishes to avoid conflict. We’re all familiar with the skeptical Questioner, the ever-harmonizing Helper, and the upbeat Adventurer. 

 

         I once had a request on my Face Book home page to join a group called “Knowing the Difference Between ‘Their,’ ‘There,’ and ‘They’re.’” Of all the types, Perfectionists are the most likely to be so interested in correct spelling and grammar—in getting things right. A good example of this type is Hillary Clinton due to her idealism, the measured way she speaks, and the careful way she dresses and carries herself. We all probably had this type as a teacher somewhere along the line.

 

Each chapter of The Enneagram of Death (see reviews here) is made up of contributions by a different Enneagram type—stories, poems, and essays I have chosen and lightly edited. Their defenses against grief and fear range from spacing out to over-worrying to over-doing. These are healthy and natural reactions unless they go on too long. You’ll distinguish how people with characteristics similar to and different from yours cope with the shock of a loved one’s death, end-of-life care giving situations, and more. You’ll see how some other cultures deal with death. You’ll especially resonate with your own type. The Enneagram of Death (available here) isa more individualized way of looking at death and dying than many other books on this subject. Stories of types different from yours will offer you new perspectives.

 

        The Enneagram system provides tools, models, soothing, and inspiration. 

 

Check out Finding the Birthday Cake – Helping Children Raise Their Self-esteem – for teaching the Enneagram to children.

 

Read my Psychology Today blog: Why Studying Music is a Good Thing Part I

 

Visit The Enneagram of Parenting on Face Book.

 

Young People Talk about the Enneagram and Death, Part IV (final)


 

Death gets some attention, from “The Enneagram of Death.”

Death gets some attention, from “The Enneagram of Death.”

 

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.’”

 

Defenses

 

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.

 

A Peace Seeker talks to Death from “The Enneagragram of Death”

A Peace Seeker talks to Death from “The Enneagragram of Death”

 

 

 

 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. 

 

Visit “The Beethoven Enneagram” on FaceBook.

 

 

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

 

Young People Talk about the Enneagram and Death, Part III


From "The Enneagram of Death" by Elizabeth Wagele

From “The Enneagram of Death” by Elizabeth Wagele

Continuing what my panel of mostly young Enneagram types had to say about death at the International Enneagram Association conference last August , Max, the 6-Questioner, said, “I work in community health. One of the clients I’m seeing is drinking himself to death at age 52. He’s a pleasant drunk who acts like a 7-Adventurer and has been abusing his body. We all know that someone who refuses treatment can’t be helped. I went to his house a week or two ago. He was pissing on himself, sitting on the floor drinking his third beer at about 10:00 a.m. I told him, ‘You’re dying.’ He said, ‘Yes I know. I was taken to the hospital yesterday. The doctor told me I had one week to live.’ I sat with him that morning as he faced his death, his circumstance, and it brought me up against my own death.

 

“If a person is a danger to himself or others and can’t be trusted, we can do what we have to do to help them. But alcohol is in a gray area so we community health workers can’t do anything about it. Generally, the reaction of the mental health community is paranoid—to overreact. But I wasn’t told I could do anything. This man had burned all his bridges and was purposeless. Even his son didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

 

“I realized death is simply a transition. Most people clutch to the enjoyment of life but we don’t know what’s on the other side. It could be less difficult than life. I’ve gone through losing a father and close friends. Vicariously living through this man, I didn’t fear dying. I realized I like my attachments and friendships, but I also realized death doesn’t have to be something to be terrified of. I shared this with my supervisors and they said, if the person really wants to die….”

 

Bonnie, the 7-Adventurer, said, “I prefer not to think about death. I don’t like to think about negative emotions so I try to think about the good parts of death: letting go, the end of something. My own death feels more like a deadline; I only have this much time to get all the things done I want to do. It’s pressure. The only people I’ve known who have died have been very old or suffering for a long time and we knew it was coming. I’m still somewhat naïve. I don’t like thinking about the pain that would come.”

 

Claus, the 8-Asserter, said, “I have the sense that I’m the one in charge. I want to make sure my children and my wife are independent and capable before I die. My children aren’t old enough to take care of themselves. They have to be strong enough to be independent.

 

“I’ve almost never lost anyone…  I lost my former fiancée when she was very young. When I hear a story about death, it’s hard to allow that injustice. Why did that person die?

 

My fear is only about people around me, not me. I’m a lot more terrified of being crippled—that’s much higher on my brain than my own death. A friend’s friend’s daughter was run over by a truck that backed over her. He held her. Then she died.  She was 3. How should I ever live ever if anything happened to my daughter? When something happens to kids it freaks me out.”

 

Part I was Sept. 24, Part II was Oct. 8. See Part IV (more of type 8; and type 9) Oct. 29. The inspiration for this workshop was the book, “The Enneagram of Death.”

 

 

Read my blog about healing PTSD in Psychology Today Oct. 2.

 

 

Visit “Finding the Birthday Cake” on FaceBook. Check out my work on wagele.com.

 

 

Young People Talk about the Enneagram and Death, Part II


The Reaper and the 3-Achiever from "The Enneagram of Death"

The Reaper and the 3-Achiever from “The Enneagram of Death”

Richard, the 3-Achiever (an older member of the panel of mostly 30-year-olds speaking about death at the International Enneagram Conference in Denver this summer) still mourns the deaths of his parents. “When I was young I was afraid of death. I’m not any longer. My parents modeled how to die for me. My father had heart disease. He said, ‘I’m done’ and slowly slipped away. My mother had a stroke and lived with a caretaker. I called her every day. Every month my brother or I went to spend a week with her. One morning at 7:00 I called and asked if she was okay. I heard something in her voice. I called my brother and said mom is dying today. Again at lunchtime and dinnertime, I told her I loved her. The call came at 1:00 am that she had died. I have no idea how I knew. I had had a troubled relationship with her; on my last visit she asked me if I had forgiven her and I had. It was peaceful.”

 

NY Times author Mark Epstein says, “Mourning has no timetable. Grief is not the same for everyone. And it does not always go away. [Therapists seem to agree that] the healthiest way to deal with trauma is to lean into it, rather than try to keep it at bay.”

 

Richard went on, “I never liked the idea of death. When I was faced with a coronary artery bypass I wasn’t frightened at all. I asked my family if they had any questions for me. My daughter asked, “Do you love my brother more than me?” I answered I love them differently and I couldn’t say I love one more than the other. If I died, I’d die. My son asked me if there was anything I wanted. I had heard a French pianist playing a Chopin nocturne and he got that CD for me, which I played over and over in my room. I woke up the next day with 5 stents and haven’t had any trouble since. I had done what I needed to do. I was surprised at how tranquil I was because I go to the 6-Questioner. I had gotten to the point in my life where I was okay with it. I don’t know where we go after we die but I’m not scared.”

 

The Reaper and the 4-Romantic from "The Enneagram of Death"

The Reaper and the 4-Romantic from “The Enneagram of Death”

 

Gail, the 4-Romantic, said, “I’ve had a lot of suffering because my brother was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. The possibility of losing him was so horrible, I just had to believe he’d be okay. I call my mother every day now; you’ve got to appreciate the people you’ve got while they’re still alive. I’m trying to balance the real possibility of my brother’s death with trying to not think about it. If anything happened to him or my nephews I don’t think I could survive. I don’t believe in god, but when this happened I wished I had something spiritual to help me.”

 

Kacie, the 5-Observer, said, “I worry the most about sudden death. I’m always aware I or my loved ones could die any time. When I see someone I care about, I tell them I love them in case we never see each other again. I feel we really don’t know what happens after we die. We have to live right now.”

 

Death speaks to an introvert and possibly an Observer. From “The Happy Introvert.”

Death speaks to an introvert and possibly a 5-Observer. From “The Happy Introvert.”

 

See Part I (types 1, 2, and 3) of this blog Sept. 24.

See Part III (types 6, 7, and 8) on Oct. 22.

 

Read my blog about healing PSTD in Psychology Today Oct. 1.

 

Visit “The Enneagram of Parenting” on FaceBook.

Check out my work on wagele.com.  

 

 

Young People Talk about the Enneagram and Death, Part I


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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.