I see you. You matter.
In a medieval love story told by Chaucer, two young lovers, forbidden each other because of war and politics, catch each other's gaze from afar--and that gaze seems to be the beginning of their love story.
We love to look into each other's eyes; it is powerful.
But gazing is not always simple, loving, and mutual; it is sometime pandering, destructive, unequal. And there is an ugly power in "the male gaze"--a toxic form of machismo that focuses on bodies and body parts as objects to be owned through a lens of possessive looking.
Aggressive looking is, in fact, probably the OG bullying behavior. It is often aimed at someone who is about to get popped.
Looking changes reality
So--looking is not passive. It changes things--and those changes are measurable. They have a name: the observer effect, which simply means that very act of watching something changes it.
Even in Chaucer's story, the lovers themselves are gazed at, noticed, watched. Betrayal and tragedy unfold.
When we are looked at, we are vulnerable. And at the Enneagram 9-point, our bodies respond to that vulnerability by disappearing from view.
If we are not seen (even better, if we are not
If you can't see me, I literally don't matter.
At the 9-point, we become like Emerson's transparent eyeballs--where we see but are not seen. Our experience is a transcendent merging between our individual self and all that is.
We cease to exist as separate from the whole.
Making yourself "not matter" seems at first like the ultimate act of accommodating--but it actually more complex than that. The 9's self-erasing is rooted in the driving need for autonomy that 9's share with 8's and 1's (the other points in the Enneagram's body triad.)
(The body triad, by the way, is associated with the brain stem and is concerned with the body's instinctual need to exist, to have form--literally to be matter.)
And this makes sense, even though it also drives us crazy. If we are not seen--even better, if we are not seeable--then we cannot be threatened or changed by anyone but us.
Mothers especially are sort of pushed into the 9-point of inwardly apologizing for taking up space. For being matter. For mattering.
But the word mother comes from mater
Making mothers "not matter" is incredibly ironic because our English word mother comes the Latin word mater.
This truth is so powerful that we cannot bear it.
Virginia Wolf's Angel of the House is a 9-spirit at an unhealthy Level of Development. She "kindly" insists that we 9s, we women, we mothers, we others, we make ourselves not matter.
But we are matter.
And what does it mean to matter?
What does it mean to matter?
To know that we are matter?
To know that we are body, that bodies exist in space and time, that showing up in our lives means being vulnerable enough to be seen?
These are the most important, meaningful, and sometimes most difficult questions to address directly. So the invitation is to address them playfully and with curiosity, either in the comments below or in a workshop or or coaching session with me.
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then I'm in love with grace, with the unknown whatever-it-is that cracks us open, and light shines through. That's why I developed this workshop--a whole weekend of nature and breathing and art and Enneagram learnings. 18 CE's for social workers and therapists. One more earlybird spot for August; four more for October.
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On a particularly dark night of the soul . . .
On a particularly dark night of the soul, when my husband was with his new love, I exploded from sleep, drawn to my computer as if it were oxygen, not yet aware that I was awake, yet typing in the words: ”What is an enabler?”
Just days before, upon discovering the thing between them (the thing that would someday have a name--affair--but which was presently was just a terror devouring my universe), I had snapped at my husband, trying to stay in touch with the deepest place in my soul, a thing that I thought would be an investment toward healing our marriage: “The forgiveness is in place and ongoing.”
And I meant it with all fury of wisdom, righteous truth, and comic justice.
Still, there was all this pain, all this emergence of disconnected pieces from the recesses of memory coming together and forming patterns, fatal flaws, and tragic consequences. All this realizing, over and over again, that even with the support of friends, I was really and deeply alone in this.
I had been toying lightly with this concept for some time: joking with my husband and friends about certain "enabling tendencies" and feeling good that I had accurately, openly, and without shame identified a key characteristic of my intricate inner survival system.
But that was before I knew how fully I have been betrayed. And not only by my husband and friend, but also by my own innocent, intentional blindness.
Now there was only a pounding, tunnel-vision urgency define what went wrong, to understand how I had created this mess, and to figure out how to escape the flames.
Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping. A dozen memories surfaced at once, from early childhood to adolescence and college, into professorhood and marriage and motherhood.
Yes. I did this.
I was this.
I did not have "enabling tendencies."
I was an [expletive deleted] enabler!
I have always been like this.
Forgiveness feels good.
And so does enabling.
The relief associated with releasing anger, coming into equilibrium, restoring relationship, and helping life becomes sweet again is powerful.
Forgiveness brings relief.
And so does enabling.
Both meet an incredibly deep need for relief from relationship pain.
And it is often literally impossible to tell the difference.
On the school bus, when I was a very little girl, a boy started hitting me over the head with a book--a very heavy textbook. I had no defense but enduring and not responding. (Yes--classic Enneagram 9.)
All my instincts told me that eventually, he would get bored and stop.
Which he did.
But it took a long, long, long time.
And the relief of him finally, finally stopping was so great that for a brief half-second I literally wanted him to start hitting me again, just to feel how good it felt when he stopped.
In that buzzed-out place of dissociation, relief is all that matters. And relief happens naturally when we let go, even when we let go of the need to be treated with deep respect. Thus it is that enabling (not letting others take responsibility) disguises itself as forgiveness (letting go of what no longer serves.)
Those of us with “enabling tendencies” are therefore called to a deeper responsibility than we are used to taking on. We are called to
And here is the scary part: we are called to see our own abusing of forgiveness.
Please do not imagine that I take this work to be simple, surface-level adjustments. I tried these ("silly me, yes: I have enabling tendencies"), and they were a first micro-step. But only that.
But neither does the work have to be hard or traumatizing. Trauma clearly is not a path to freedom.
We must take the body to a safe and clear place, deeply present and alive. And then (think of Maslow's hierarchy here): safety of the body becomes our baseline--the place that feels normal, the place of grounding to make any deep shifts that your own wisdom is calling you to make.
The call is into your own ocean, into your own bleached coral reefs.
Being with the damage.
There are reliable ways to shift back to wholeness
Yep. I can teach you these ways. I sought out wisdom and the tools that I now teach when I was in desperation. I practiced and honed and cried and died and came back to life and somehow went on healing. I found out what really, really worked, and sloughed off all the rest. Then I got myself trained to teach and coach and challenge and support others.
I take this stuff very seriously.
And also very playfully.
Because life is the thing we are freeing in ourselves, and love is what flows through.
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So I tried. I really did.
And everyone applauded me.
Everyone except my furious, scared-to-death daughter. Every time I got strong enough to spark, she attacked me with every bit of rejection-laced fury that her tough little body and tongue could hurl out at me.
And I knew in a vague and fuzzy kind of way that my daughter needed me to expand my dang consciousness.
I'm just so tired, said the echo of my patterns.
But by now it was just the two of us in the house, and my inner sanctum was wearing thin. My daughter felt rejected, exposed, unsafe.
My daughter will not become a thug.
Here are the words that I read and reread, fiercely determined to keep myself from falling back into stupor: Eights become more aggressive and belligerent, demanding that their energy be met. Nines respond by not responding: they go on emotional strike.
I kept finding the will to stop the bullying as it arose.
No. This will not happen. My daughter will not become a thug.
Seeing how destructive type-patterns might play out in my daughter’s life gave me the courage to stand and bear and confront her torrents of anger.
The paradoxical nature of living unstuck was playing itself out in me.
It was terrifying. It took every bit of strength and will and goodness and determination inside me. And it still would not have happened except that I loved my daughter with a fierceness beyond words, and her well-being mattered way more than my own false sense of who I was and what I was capable of doing.
Here's the short-course version of what I did:
And then – more lasting shifts.
Here is a big one.
I was at a dance. My daugher was with me because she was still just barely too young to stay by herself. She wanted to leave, and she was snapping at me, desperate to get me to do what she wanted.
But I was not about to leave. Dancing was bringing me back to life. She had her phone and some books, but this was not what she wanted. So she was being rude and obnoxious, snarling at me in front of my friends and fellow dancers.
Finally, I snarled back: “We are not going. And I am not going to speak to you until the end of the dance. You are being incredibly disrespectful.”
She fled in a controlled rage and stood in the doorway. A dancer I don’t know very well began to upbraid me for basic bad parenting. I looked him in the eye and told him he had no idea what he was talking about. He left, and I looked for my daughter, still in the doorway, still across the room from me. She was in full-out the protection mode: arms crossed, face a mask of toughness, body armored in her own energetic force-field.
I caught her eye. So bundled and tight, such a thick shell.
She saw me soften, saw me almost rise to approach her, to speak to her, to tell her how much I loved her.
Almost imperceptibly, she shook her head.
Don’t. You. dare. Talk to me.
So I sat down.
She needed to trust me. I had said I would not talk to her till the end of the dance, and I had darn well better follow through. Trust is a big one for 8s.
And by now I knew it.
So, as I said, I sat down.
And I saw my daughter relax across the room, where she stayed in the doorway until the dance was over. Then and only then, she approached and cheerfully helped me pack away my things.
I treated her during that time in ways that would’ve killed me if I were that age and in her shoes.
But her core fear (of being controlled) is very different from my core fear (of loss and separation).
And once I understood both my core fear and hers, I was able to act more skillfully, even though it meant dipping my toes into waters that felt me as if they would annihilate me.
This is why I said that the Enneagram gave me back my daughter.
(Who, by the way, is amazing.)
And maybe my son.
The jury is still out on that one. My son was in a Russian orphanage before my former husband and I adopted him at the age of 8. His life was not at all supported in any normal way. On the Enneagram, he’s a 4, which means all kinds of ambivalence around both the nurturing and the protective elements of relationship.
My part in making it probable to have an adult relationship with my son stands not entirely, but in a good amount, from the myriad forms of consciousness work that I’ve done, especially with the Enneagram, and from both of us understanding that even though my 9 patterns and his 4 patterns may want to run the show, we are free in any moment we choose not the patterned response to life, but life itself, as it emerges.
The secret of living free is . . . making agreements. (I know, right? Yawn.)
Why bother with good agreement habits?
Because your precious life energy is not entangled in either 1) getting out of agreements you didn’t make cleanly or 2) figuring out this or that relationship under the weight of semiconscious or unconscious agreements.
Our experience of life is actually much sweeter and cleaner, less sticky and less clogged with drama when we make, keep, and change agreements consciously.
See? I told you. Totally boring.
And that’s the point.
Making and keeping agreements with integrity keeps relationships mostly drama-free.
So, how do I do it?
How do I make totally boring agreements?
Here are the basics:
My own practice stems from my training with Rhonda Mills and the Hendricks Institute. And I highly recommend that you explore these videos and download "Impeccable Agreements" from this page.
It’s a backhanded compliment:
And then it backhands us.
(Like an abuser.)
(Which it is.)
Imperfection is okay, then.
It just means the we are human--right?
So what tools in our kit of mindful living might be useful when our experience of living feels constrictive, when things seem very strongly as if they ought to be different (and better!) than they are right now?
Here's a good one:
Befriend things are as they are.
But how do I befriend reality when it feels unacceptable?
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Paradox: two incompatible things that are both, somehow, mind-blowingly, true.
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We all want to live unstuck. We just don't know how. Because HOW is a paradox.
So, if we are going to invite ourselves to experience life-unstuck, let's make it easy.
Let's allow the inherent paradox. Let's examine its two incompatible elements.
Incompatible Thing One
Living unstuck happens fast—happens instantly, in fact. It always and only happens in this moment, in this present unfolding now, in this instant melting and melding, in this knowing of each in-breath and outward touch and word unsaid and minute stretch of muscle and thought and on and always.
Incompatible Thing Two
Living unstuck takes time. Old patterns loosen their grip on our consciousness only over the course of time as it unfolds through our lives.
An easeful resolution . . .
Moment after moment of awareness (Incompatible Thing One) that we are life (as Tolle says) loosens the patterns of thought, behavior, and emotions that otherwise keep us stuck.
Lynnea (her Ph.D. being in English) shares her training and wisdom here, to help her gentle readers live freely and fully in the unfolding present.