"Linds, I am reading this blog because it helps me learn about other people in my life or at work, but I have never understood how talking about emotions or problems will help me actually solve anything... When I have a problem I just sort it myself. I read something. I go for a long walk. I find a logical answer and then I move on."
How's that working out for you, Friend?
I bet all the people, especially in your intimate relationships, tell you every day how much they love when you shut down, shut out, and retreat to your hiding place. Am I right...?!
Just recently I had a personal experience that made me want to tuck my tale and run for the hills. As a business owner, wife, and mother-of-two I knew I was unable to retreat to the far corners of the earth so instead I geared myself up for my usual retreat tactic: I would throw myself into my work.
I prepared myself for a personal flagellation that included long nights at my desk, painful training sessions in the studio, and an overly booked teaching schedule. With any luck I could successfully schedule out and numb out any feelings of shame, sadness, regret, stupidity and fear that I was experiencing. As there was no simple and logical way to mire my way through my feelings, the next best solution was to try to forget I ever had them.
I also started to convince myself that it was safer to retreat and hide in my work because I didn't know how my major stakeholders in what I was experiencing would respond. As I couldn't properly prepare myself for how they might respond, putting myself in the line of fire seemed even more illogical and potentially tiresome.
But here's the bizarre thing, while I was still drafting my 'schedule out and numb out' militia, what I also noticed taking shape was a concurrent desire to detach from all things that, only yesterday, caused me great joy. Suddenly life around me started to appear a little too hard, too exhausting, and too damn draining. I was hit with the overwhelming realization that I was either going to have to spend my days fighting off my emotions, or that I was going to have to consistently flog myself at work just to drown them out.
That's the weird exchange that comes with allowing ourselves to only experience the logical, safe, and acceptable emotions, everything else - happiness, joy, deep intimacy and connection - get caught up in the exchange. It's not like your brain has an emotional filtering system.
"Hear ye! Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
Acceptable emotions to the left for a
fun-filled day of sunshine and rainbows.
And unacceptable emotions to the right for an
eternity of isolation and hermitage."
So I did what I believed at the time (although I am still seriously questioning my judgement) to be the most courageous thing I could do: I shared my truth with my major stakeholders. And it hurt. Oh believe me it hurt. And truth be (further told) I am still dealing with the aftermath, but I am trying to logically accept that pain and hurting do not just disappear over night. Especially when I put the militia on hold and challenge myself to really feel and embrace whatever comes up.
Participating in life, and in our feelings, takes great tenacity and courage nowadays. It is so much easier to retreat behind the anonymity of our devices, our work, our self-inflicted solitude. Right now, as I wade my way through what I am feeling, I have to remind myself that the promise of transformation is not a promise that I will feel only good feelings for the rest of my life. It is rather a promise that I will learn how to live a truly fulfilling life. A life where I am able to fully express who I am, what I want, what I feel, and pull myself up by my damn bootstraps when my spirit feels weak and broken.
Dr. Brene Brown reminds us in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that we are connection and belonging animals. Well I can tell you from personal experience that it is hard to connect and belong with, or to anyone, when the 'emotion militia' are always on their guard.
If finding the courage and energy to fully participate in the world is something that could help you find the sense of connection and belonging you've been seeking, and help you recognize and understand other people's feelings, then let us return to my Simple Guide To The Enneagram: A Practical Guide To Getting Out of Boxes, and learn about the Type 5, The Observer.
Simple Guide To The Enneagram:
A Practical Guide To Getting Out of Boxes
Introduction to Type 5: The Observer
Early on in life the Little Observer took on the idea that the best way to get their needs met was to do it themselves. Fearful of being useless, incapable or incompetent the Little Observer becomes intent on being competent and knowledgeable - avid collectors, researchers and hoarders of information - which if left unchecked can deteriorate into useless specialization into areas of interest.
The Observer, thinking that is not okay to be comfortable in the world, desperately needs to know that his or her needs are not a problem. (For example there innocent need to explore a subject deeply, to question, to take a break from big parties, or deep emotionally draining conversations)
If you are an Observer, or know an Observer, you might describe someone who presents as an introvert, but suddenly becomes the life of the party when feeling comfortable. But you might also describe someone who gets emotionally drained easily, and would rather retreat to the confines of a good book then stay and have an emotionally confronting conversation. Or if pushed, use logic to stay emotionally distant and cold.
So how does this get in the way of transformation?
1) I prefer to observe my emotions through a calm and logical lens.
2) I get emotionally drained easily and feel like retreating.
3) I feel disconnected from the world and people in my life.
4) I sometimes feel like being reclusive and cutting of ties with people.
5) People in my life have told me that I can be 'holier than thou' and not allow them to express their feelings.
6) I often miss things that are going on around me, especially subtle body language and emotional cues.
7) I prefer to observe other people, watching all the games they play and the way they interact with one another.
It can be difficult to start your path toward transformation when you are sitting on the sidelines of your life. It's scary as hell, Dear One, but you've got to get out there and participate in your own life.
You will not be overwhelmed by your emotions. You will find the energy you need to stay present.
Your needs are not a problem, Dear One.
You don't have to be capable and competent all the time, Dear One.
I don't need to know the ins and outs of the latest book you read. I want to know the ins and outs of you! What makes you laugh? What takes your breath away? Who broke your heart?
I want to connect with YOU! Let me in!
Can you let me give you this love!?
You are useful, capable and confident.
You are useful, capable and confident.
Now get to work figuring out what your needs are, the ones you've been too scared to focus on or let bubble up to the surface. Then write and tell me about it here; firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week, Type 6: The Loyal Skeptic
Lindsey T. H. Jackson