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.