After a coaching session, a client remarked that she had experienced what she called spiritual chiropractic during our work. She said that her body had an internal shift, an energetic release as she recognized and relaxed around a long-held pattern of anticipating the worst outcome in most situations. Another client had an internal shift around the gradual relaxing of a lifelong pattern of keeping emotional pain at bay. A third person described what it felt like to drop into his heart after the release of his longtime sense of certainty and ‘making things right.’ These examples bring to light the softening of repetitious patterns associated with three different Enneagram personality types, and the resulting experience of “inner space” that replaces inner tension.
Repeating patterns exist everywhere. Nature provides great examples, from pinecones and the explosion of sunflower seeds bursting forth from the center, to the shapes of leaves, and the rippling of water, every life form reveals patterns, if we know where to look. So it is with we humans. Each of the nine Enneagram personality structures reveals specific patterns of thought, emotion, behavior and inner experience. These patterns operate on automatic, and for the person dominant in a particular Enneagram type, they feel like “This is the way that life works. This is just who I am.” Then, our perspective about what is possible and even probable in life is limited. These patterns can inhibit our ability to choose new directions, new actions.
Here’s the real kicker: the nature of personality patterns is that they hold energy, and thus, tension. (Consider the examples at the beginning of this note.) In fact, the personality structure itself is a primary cause of tension and stress. It determines how we react to circumstances that the personality considers difficult or in some way threatening. For example, in a conversation where there is conflict, some individuals will automatically shut-down, leave the conversation, feel paralyzed or simply quit engaging. Other individuals may react by dominating the conversation, demanding that their way is the right way, or physically moving toward the other person in a way that can feel intimidating. Still others may try to find a way to please the other, fix the situation or acquiesce. These stress reactions take and use energy and are exhausting over time. Given these realities, it may come as no surprise that the personality structure itself is at the heart of many physical illnesses and emotional, mental and spiritual distress.
It is not useful, possible or even desirable to try and eradicate our patterns. What we can do is begin to identify the patterns serve as defaults that we return to again and again, without even thinking about them. And then we can notice if or when they serve us or perhaps where they cause us difficulty and add to our stress.
I invite you to be a pattern-detective. Two benefits that come with being a ‘pattern-detective’ is that our natural curiosity grows, often offering valuable insight that has been hidden to us; and that we are put on a path to creating meaningful choices in life.
Through developing the inner witness, supported by the capacity to become grounded, and an attitude of open-mindedness and compassion, the early roots of our personality’s patterns can be revealed and healed, releasing these long-held, unconscious tensions that lead to distress and possible illness. Then, rather than reacting, new ways of responding freshly to situations become more apparent and accessible. We develop another degree of inner freedom from those constraints that have been historically troublesome or are just no longer serving us. Through this release, we gain a more expansive sense of self.