Well, if I had any lingering doubt that I am a Five on the Enneagram, it was put to rest this week. I listened to a couple episodes of the Typology podcast (thanks, Michelle!) featuring Fives and it was like so many locks sliding home.
The woman on the panel, singer-songwriter Lori Chaffer, mentioned at one point during the broadcast that she feels like her thoughts are like a bunch of people all trying to push out the front door at the same time. Or, like merging traffic. So many cars trying to squeeze into one lane.
I immediately, thought, yes, oh my gosh, that’s exactly it. She mentioned trying to meditate and laughing at the notion that is popular in meditation / prayer practices regarding distracting thoughts that come to mind when you are trying to sit in silence. Usually the guide or leader will say something along the lines of “when a thought enters your mind, just notice it. And then let it go. Dismiss it.” Chaffer said it felt absurd. One thought! Just one?
I knew exactly what she meant. I often feel like my brain is buzzing. There are so many thoughts. So many things I want to write about, research, think about, that I sometimes get stuck because I can’t choose one. The blog here is the perfect example. How on earth can I choose something to write about when I’ve got 47 things floating around in my head that would all be interesting to explore?
File It Away
I think every person on the panel resonated with the notion of tucking their feelings away to analyze at a later time. I didn’t even realize that I do it. But I do. Just the other night, someone said something at Cgroup that was (very mildly) hurtful. I noticed it and immediately filed it away to think about later. I didn’t feel anything in the moment. Just a slight agitation and then I set it aside to consider later.
When big things happen — hard conversations, emotional situations, fighting, even just sharing sentimental thoughts — I rarely know what I feel in the moment when it is happening. I have a lot of thoughts about it. But feelings, not so much. I file it all away to ponder later when I can be alone to figure out how I feel about it.
One of the things Ian Cron, the host of the show, suggests for Fives to work on is feeling their feelings in the moment. He stresses on the podcast and in the book he co-authored with Susan Stabile called The Road Back to You is that information is not transformation. Simply knowing that I file things away doesn’t actually change me. That’s just step one. Step two is figuring out when that sort of thing might be unhealthy or unhelpful and learning how to do things differently when the situation calls for it.
Phone a Friend
One of the other things Cron suggests for Fives is to ring up a friend to just chill. No agenda. Just hanging out for the sake of hanging out. I did the awkward laugh when I heard that. Wait, seriously, though? But why would I do that?
I recently had a friend (one of my closest, by the way, not just an acquaintance) ask me if I wanted to get coffee on the weekend and I hesitated. I’m embarrassed to admit that but it’s true! I hesitated! What, just coffee? Just to sit there and drink and talk? Not because I don’t like sitting and drinking coffee and talking. I do! Especially with her. But I hesitated because it… doesn’t feel obvious to me? I don’t know, exactly. I just know that it rarely occurs to me to initiate such a thing. Wouldn’t we all rather sit at home by ourselves so we can simmer in our own thoughts? No? Ok. I’m working on it. I went, by the way, and it was lovely.
Chatting with some close friends about the Enneagram a few years ago, we were looking over the dominant traits of the various numbers. When we got to the Fives, acknowledging that it was my number, I remember one of my friends reading the words “private, can be reclusive” and then looking at me and nodding emphatically. It was the first time I realized that other people see this in me. I didn’t know it was so obvious!
I’ve often assumed this was some sort of character flaw on my part – that I’m not a good friend, not involved enough, not forthcoming with information about myself, not enough of an initiator. Now I understand it as part of my personality type and it’s helped. I’m still working on it. I just messaged a friend about getting lunch next week. You know, just cause. Progress!
One of the things someone on the panel (I forget who – one of the men, I think) mentioned about their spiritual practices was that it can be helpful to follow a liturgy or memorize a passage or something along those lines where you have a set task. Something to do. It gives your brain a break. You don’t have to clear your mind of all your thoughts or pick just one to focus on. This is what Lauren Winner wrote about it in Mudhouse Sabbath. Maybe she’s a Five?
“But if roteness is a danger, it is also the way liturgy works. When you don’t have to think all the time about what words you are going to say next, you are free to fully enter into the act of praying; you are free to participate in the life of God.”
Liturgy has always appealed to me and I think this is why. It frees me. To that end, I decided that for Advent this year I’m going to work on memorizing something. I’ve lately felt frustrated by the sheer amount of activity in my brain. But instead of trying to fight it, I’m going to work with it and try something different. So I’m memorizing Isaiah 2:2-5 this December. Jason decided to join me even though he’s a One and so annoyingly good at prayerful meditation. And we’re going to try to have the boys do it with us. We’ll see!
In the days to come
the mountains of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills;
peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instructions will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.
Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light.
Any other Enneagram geeks out there? I’m so curious to hear how other people interact with their number and what sorts of self discovery there has been.
What to explore the Enneagram?
- I wrote about our Cgroup studying it last year – includes an overview and links to help you figure out your number.
- This book is good.
- This website is helpful.
- The typology podcast is cool – though I’ve only just started and only listened to the Fives so far.