Enneagram and Keirsey Temperament Sorter

My husband was in a leadership training where much of the focus was on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter and the Enneagram. He wanted to know my scores so I took several on-line tests. Every time I take any Jungian based Typology test, I am told I am an ENFP. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter was exactly the same, so I guess there is no question that I’m an ENFP.

The Enneagram is a different story, however. I score differently on every test I take! I took the RHETI which originally said I was tied between 7 and 8 and that I should take the test again in 2 weeks. Meanwhile, I took several other Enneagram tests which placed my scores all over the place, although most placed me as a 7 or 8. In reading through the typologies, 7 and 8 do seem to be the closest fit. Supposedly, ENFPs are more likely to fall into either the 7 or 8 typology than any other, too. According to Riso, an ENFP is more likely to be an 8 than a 7. Women often misdiagnose the 8 type because it includes aggressive, domineering traits that are applauded in men but viewed as negative in women.

Type 8, the Challenger, takes control because they don’t want to be controlled. Type 7, the Enthusiast, is a pleasure seeker and planner in search of distraction. I easily fit with either of those. One of the texts said that 7s often misdiagnose as an 8 because they can also be domineering, especially if they have an 8 wing. The difference is that an 8 is not anxious, has a high energy level that is more physical than mental, and is more focused than a 7. The 8 does not have the quick mental energy of the 7. That would probably indicate that I am a 7 with an 8 wing. (My high energy level is probably more mental than physical, and while I can be focused, I am also very easily distracted.)

I think the general description of a 7 (excitable, spontaneous, curious, optimistic, eager, outgoing, future-oriented, adventurous, variety-seeking, quick, and talkative) fits me better than that of an 8 (strong, assertive, resourceful, independent, and determined, action-oriented, pragmatic, competitive, straight-talking, shrewd, and insistent). There is not one description of the 7 I could argue. With the 8 description, I would agree that I am strong, assertive, resourceful, independent, and determined. But I’m not always action-oriented, pragmatic, insistent or straight-talking. I am even less often shrewd or competitive. I attended a Richard Rohr Enneagram class several years ago as well as a Lela class in Austin. Both claimed I was a 7. But who knows?

For now, I’ll just tell him my KTSII/MBTI is an ENFP and my RHETI is a 7 with an 8 wing and sexual instinctual variant.

This Emotional Life

I finished an excellent three-part series called This Emotional Life late last night.  It was available on “Watch Instantly” through Netflix.  Each episode is about 2 hours long and is hosted by Dr. Dan Gilbert, a Harvard Professor of Social Psychology.  The series covers a LOT of a topics which are all extremely interesting.  But four things stood out for me in particular….

  • The first is the idea that we all are born with a certain level of happiness and no matter the ups and downs in our life, if we win the lottery or end up paralyzed, we are likely to return to the designated level of happiness we were born with.
  • The second is that married couples with children are less happy than married couples without kids.  In fact, the more kids you have, the less happy you are.  (Maybe children give you something that is beyond happiness?  Kids can definitely be a pain in the ass, but I can’t imagine my life without them.  They are my very heart!)
  • The third is that the best (and probably the only) way to solve post traumatic distress disorder is to directly face the fear and relive the trauma.  I don’t know why, but that totally blew me away.
  • The fourth is that there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence for activities that boost happiness levels except for two totally opposite things: social interaction and meditation.  Studies on meditation are proving very interesting. Sitting in silence is not a frivolity.  It completely changes the brain.  When people meditate, their brains become more active, not less active, so something major is going on but no one is sure exactly what that is.

Amen, Amen, Amen by Abby Sher

Just finished reading Amen, Amen, Amen by Abby Sher and I am a little disturbed with how much I related to it.  Everyone always jokes about me being OCD, but I’m not OCD! I just have tendencies.

Except…

When she explained her childhood obsession of having vivid images of accidents and ambulances, I remembered doing the same thing.  I used to be scared to death to let my parents go out because I was certain they would die.  I have no idea why I was so certain.  I would sit in the middle of the room crying about how I knew they were going to die and they wouldn’t know what to do with me. I had horrible visions that were I freakishly detailed and realistic and I earnestly believed that I was somehow linked to all of the horrors in the world.  I prayed constantly to keep God happy, which is what attracted me to Sher’s book – the title resonated with me.I also played counting games with myself – if I just do this so many times, all will be well.

I never cut myself, but I imagine had someone mentioned it to me, I would have tried it.  Anything to detensify the intensity that was in my head. In high school, my fingers were constantly moving, either pretend typing what I or someone else said, or playing the notes of a song I had in my head on a pretend flute on my arm. I thought I had stopped this habit but my daughter brought it to my attention just the other day.  I was reading a book and my daughter asked me what I was doing with my fingers.  I was typing out the words.  I don’t notice I’m doing it so have no idea how often I do this in front of people without realizing it.

When my son was first born, I had detailed visions of kidnappers walking through the window and snatching him from his crib.  So he slept with us, where I knew he was safe.  I was constantly checking the stove to make sure it was off.  Sometimes, we’d be on the road and I’d make my husband drive back home to make sure it was off, even when it probably hadn’t been used that day.  Everything in my home, on my computer, in my files, in my drawers had to be perfectly organized and orderly because I linked disorder to impending doom.  Certain patterns would drive me absolutely insane because they weren’t appropriately balanced or because I’d get lost in them and not be able to break free.

After reading Sher’s book, I wonder how much this sort of obsession has to do with being taught that we can somehow manipulate God through our prayers and behavior?  We are taught that God is in control, but at the same time, we are taught how to control God through flattery and plea bargaining and are told this is prayer.  Of course, children are often taught this form of a prayer because it is an effective way to get kids to obey their parents and other authority figures. I remember being appalled when I was helping out in a preschool Sunday School class and a little girl had brought in new crayons. A little boy wanted to use them but the little girl refused to share. The Sunday School teacher demanded that she share saying, “God doesn’t like it when you don’t share.”  I was horrified, but that was how I was raised, too.  God doesn’t like it when you lie.  God doesn’t like it when you have sex before marriage.  God doesn’t like it when you talk back to your parents.  I think Sher is right – when we are young, we think of our parents as God’s right hand “man” and so confuse what it is God doesn’t like with what it is our parents don’t like – especially when our parents reinforce it by saying God doesn’t like what it is they don’t like.

For years, when anything bad happened, I somehow thought it was my fault.  I was the oldest growing up so was often in charge of my younger siblings.  When they got into trouble, my mother frequently blamed me for their behavior. She would blame me for her own behavior, too.  It was my fault that she knocked over a lamp.  It was my fault that she ran the stop sign. It was my fault that she couldn’t control her emotions.  I am very careful not to pass the same blame game onto my children, but sometimes I catch myself doing it and I feel horrible.  (I’d really like to be able to blame my teenage son for my high blood pressure!)

There have been times when I can’t get to sleep because I’m convinced I am the most horrible mother on the face of the earth.  I blame myself for every sadness, hurt or pain my kids experience.  I blame myself when they fall down or get bad grades.  I blame myself when they are heartbroken because a love interest has fallen through. My husband has caught me sobbing in the middle of the night bashing myself in the worst way for not being the mother I should be.  Sometimes he just holds me, rocks me back and forth, and says, “Shhh, It’s OK.  Shhh.  It’s OK.”  He has always maintained that I am the best mother his kids could possibly have and that I see myself so much differently than the rest of the world does. He and the kids think I am an amazing mother.  But it doesn’t help to tell me this when I’m in the throes of feeling like I’m the worst mother. The non-judgmental, “It’s OK” works much better.

Over the years, I’ve been slowly but surely letting go of my belief in a personal God. The more I’ve given it up, the more my obssessions and self-bashings have calmed down. I still feel a personal connection to God.  I just no longer think of God as anything even remotely personal.  Not even in the New Age sense.  I know God exists.  I just don’t think my ideas or anyone elses ideas about God are real.  They are ideas. Not God.  Even saying “God is Love” is a judgmental idea that is potentially dangerous for me. Thinking of God as “The Ground of Being” without any emotional value attached whatsoever works best for me.  God IS.  No need to fill in a blank after “IS”.

Obviously, I appreciated the book because it was honest and courageous.  Had it been a little shorter, I would have appreciated it even more.  In reviews, people claim that they can’t relate to Sher and that she was narcissistic, manipulative and uncaring.  I think her ability to express her relationships in a non-flattering way toward herself shows she cares immensely about others even if she’s not always able to express it appropriately.  Nowhere did I feel like she was writing this to put others down.  It was simply about understanding herself, her relationships, and her disease to the best of her ability.  It’s always easy to judge – especially when someone lays themselves bare as did Abby Sher in Amen, Amen, Amen.

Puzzles

In a recent plane ride home from Rhode Island, a woman in front of me was explaining how to work Sudoku puzzles.  She was a patient teacher and I was soon able to complete my own puzzles. At first, it was very enjoyable.  But as I do with almost everything, I turned it into a job, having to prove to myself I was worthy of completing the most difficult puzzles and that I could get them right.

I have now completed every single puzzle available on my Centro and I’m all the way up to the “Diabolical" puzzles.  For every other level, I could easily ascertain the patterns and have most puzzles finished in under 15 minutes.  Not so with the Diabolical puzzles.  These are tough!   I get stuck and can’t figure out how to solve them.  I finally succombed to reading Sudoku tips on-line and there are ways you can add the figures to decide which number fits best in whatever square.  But I don’t want to have to do that!  The other alternative the tips suggest is to guess.

GUESS???  I don’t want to have to guess!  Sudoku had me hooked because everything made sense.  On all of the levels before Diabolical, no matter how difficult, the patterns quickly became apparent and all the numbers eventually fell perfectly into place.  Guessing means you might have to get something wrong before you can get it right.   I don’t like things like that.  I don’t want to have to get things wrong.  But if I do, I usually have a string of back-up plans – just in case.

I think it was Edison who said that he hadn’t failed, he’d just figured out 10,000 ways that didn’t work.   I can assure you I’m not Edison.  I get something wrong and I immediately think of myself as an idiot and failure.   Which is probably why I’ve never invented anything.   But I guess that’s the way puzzles work, sometimes.  You have to keep trying different pieces until you find that one that fits.

Do you suppose our lives are like that?  Like puzzles?  Are there pieces that fit and that don’t fit?  I think that is what I was probably taught – that there is a completed picture at some distant place and time and if I mind my p’s and q’s and don’t mess up, I’ll put everything together in the right way and will be rewarded with that completed picture. Everything will make sense.

I’m beginning to realize, however, that life just doesn’t work like this.  After 20 years of marriage, you can’t go back in time and try someone else and see if it works better.   Divorce statistics are higher for each subsequent marriage which suggests that chances are good the second marriage will be just as bad as the first, and possibly worse.  My second marriage, however, was much better than the first.  So maybe the third would be even better?  Probably not.  I’m perfectly happy in my marriage until I start wondering if there might be a better fit for me out there (the piece that will complete the puzzle).

You can’t take your kids back to the time they were 5 and put them in a different school to see if that makes their lives “better”.  There is no way to measure these things.  If you made the decision to put your kids in public school, what is the point of wondering if private school would have been better? There is no way to know what the “right” way is.   We may decide to take a different route with our younger child.  Or our kids may decide they will do things one way or another for their kids, based on their personal experiences.  But they can’t know if this will be “better” for their kids, either.  It’s simply a choice we make given our experience and available information.

Maybe it’s OK to quit searching so frantically for that perfect piece?  Maybe we can simply enjoy the process as it unfolds, however imperfect it may be.

Jesus Wept by Barbara C. Crofton

Jesus Wept, When Faith & Depression Meet is a courageous attempt to take the religious shame out of depression.  Barbara Crofton is right on. I know from personal experience that there is a tendency among the religious to think that if they are not exuding a positive attitude about life, even in the face of extremely difficult challenges, they are somehow less than faithful. I am no longer what I would call religious, but I still struggle with that thinking. Positive thinking is the name of the game and if you aren’t positive, it means you lack faith. Of course, maybe this is really more of a capitalistic mindset than a religious one. Most world religions teach that we can be in the throes of a deep, dark, depression and still maintain faith – especially Christianity!

I met a woman who suffered from Graves Disease which was quite costly, but her family didn’t have insurance because her husband believed “God would provide”. When push comes to shove, God provides for the uninsured through citizen tax dollars. So who is it that provides help to the depressed? God? Most depressed people do not sense God’s presence. Even Mother Teresa, as Crafton points out, ceased to feel God’s presence.

I can relate to much of what Crafton has written in this little book. In my teens and 20s, I was obsessed with suicide until a dear friend pointed out that it is simply another option. Crafton claims that the option to commit suicide can actually be life giving and I agree. Strange paradox, but I think it’s true. Once you see it as simply another option without all of the religious baggage that has been attached to it, it doesn’t hold the power it once did.

But could it be that depression occurs because we attempt to hold on to a particular perception of reality rather than adopt a willingness to accept reality as it is?  Maybe that is why so many religious people experience such deep dark depressions. Our cultural religion has been deeply ingrained in us – so deeply ingrained that even many of the atheists among us don’t realize how deeply defined they are by that cultural brainwashing. True, their philosophy is a stance against the brainwashing, but by being against it they subconsciously give it power.

Crafton has a chapter on “The Dark Night of the Soul”, but I think she has potentially misunderstood its ultimate significance. Her focus is on a way of out of the dark night, a healing from it. But I don’t think that is what St. John of the Cross was teaching. I think he was telling us to adopt a willingness to fully enter into the dark night of the soul – to go into the depths of the emptiness by way of the dark, pathless path.

Of course, this isn’t for everybody and he’s very specific about what can happen if you are not psychologically prepared for this descent. Suicide is a definite possibility.  I think if anti-depressants had been available in St. John’s day, he would very likely have prescribed them for some students to help prepare them psychologically. But St. John was very careful to decry many religious rituals and beliefs in God as an unwillingness to make the descent so I feel certain he would have seen anti-depressants in the same way. Like religion and ideas about God, it is helpful up to a point, but it ultimately becomes an obstruction once we begin to make demands upon its legitimacy.

True, the depressed can remain faithful.  But the sort of faith we are talking about is not a faith in religion or in God or in anything else. That sort of faith is belief and belief is opinion. It isn’t faith. (Faith in belief is not faith!!)

Faith is trust. As Jeremiah said, “Trust is the Lord!”  In that sense, God is our active participation in trust – not some “thing” or idea to believe in.   St. John was showing us the way of the mystic which is faith in the face of meaninglessness. There isn’t some sort of absolute meaning to be discovered or to “believe in”.  We create all the meaning there is, including the meaning we assign to “God”, which includes disbelief in God. If you claim not to believe in God, you are still upholding an idea of God through your disbelief. The question of whether or not God exists is the flip side of the same coin and is based on circular logic. It can point nowhere but back to itself. It’s the wrong question!  It’s no wonder we get either angry or depressed if we get hung up on our beliefs in the answer. The answer is completely meaningless.

Crafton refers to Mother Teresa’s spiritual malaise as clinical depression. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe meds would have relieved her of the emptiness she felt.  I’m not a fan of Christopher Hitchens and I don’t think he had any right to judge Mother Teresa’s spiritual malaise or the Church’s role in it. But, I fully agree that many of us become depressed precisely because of our Christian brainwashing.  I think this is the point of Crafton’s book, but ultimately I don’t think Crafton has let go of her brainwashing.  She’s holding on to an ideal she doesn’t want to let go which may be what Mother Teresa was doing, too. Or else Mother Teresa had a deeper understanding of the way of the mystic than people realize because it’s so counter-intuitive to those of us in the west who are so used to consumption. As the Buddhist say, “Before enlightenment, depression.  After enlightenment, depression.”  You aren’t going to become enlightened by seeking a way out of your depression, because desire is the very thing that keeps us from realizing we already are enlightened.

We can’t consume enlightenment. Neither can we consume meaning. Faith isn’t going to give it to us – whether it is faith in reason, superstitions, science, Jesus, technology, God or whatever.  We have been brainwashed to think that if we do things the right way, according to religion or according to reason, we will finally “know”.  We will finally understand all of the mysteries that have eluded us.  But it is we who give everything all of the meaning it has for us.  Outside of our perceptions, it is meaningless.

Faith is an acceptance of the fact that everything we see and everything we believe is meaningless.  Faith is trust beyond the egoic need to make sense of everything.  Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to make sense of our world. We must first know how to live within it in order to transcend it. And if that requires anti-depressants, so be it.   We simply need to have the humility to recognize that what we perceive through our five senses and the ideas we come up with to make sense of what it is we don’t understand are not the final say on reality.  Ultimately, we give mental and physical illness all of the meaning it has for us. Meaning is our responsibility.

Ordinary People (1980)

I saw Ordinary People in the theater when it was first released.  I was in high school and related to the son who had attempted suicide. I thought when I watched it this time, almost 30 years later, I would relate to the mother since I now have a 17 year old son. Thankfully, I didn’t relate to her at all! I related to the father.

I remember being embarrassed for bawling in the theater when I was in high school. I watched the film at home this time and bawled again, maybe even harder than I did when I was in high school.  It’s  a disturbing film. Mary Tyler Moore did a fantastic job.  So did Timothy Hutton. This was his first big role and he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. I have no idea who won Best Actress in 1980, but it must have been a phenomenal performance if it topped Mary Tyler Moore’s performance. Robert Redford won an award for Best Director and the film won Best Picture.

Mary Tyler Moore plays Beth whose oldest son has died in a sailing accident. The younger son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), managed to survive and she can’t quite forgive him for it. She’s become cold and totally image driven, trying to carry on a “normal” upper middle class existence. Conrad (Donald Sutherland), tries desperately to connect with his son, but is awkward and unsuccessful. It’s heartbreaking! Slowly, it dawns on him how disconnected and image driven Beth has become.

The psychologist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch), is an interesting character – definitely not your average pop-psychologist.    Conrad, probably inspired by his mother, claims he wants control, but Hirsch sees right through this. What Conrad truly wants, which is likewise what his mother wants, is not to feel. Beth is much better at accomplishing this than Conrad, but this ability is based on cowardice, not courage. It takes courage to feel, especially when the pain is so deep.

I think the reason this film disturbed me so much originally is because I grew up in upper middle class suburbia.  It wasn’t as wealthy as the Jarrett’s suburbia, but it wasn’t too far off. The country club was my second home and I had excellent training through various social high school etiquette clubs that were popular at the time. I know that feeling of having to be perfect, suppressing your feelings, and making sure things appear to be much better than they actually are.  It’s absolutely crushing.   

The area we currently live in is classified as upper middle class although it seems much more like an upper middle class wannabee than an actual upper middle class. But the perfectionism that goes hand in hand with climbing the social ladder is unmistakably present in our little suburbia and it’s the sterility of that perfectionism that has always made me hate the burbs. Mary Tyler Moore plays the facade perfectly and it’s so incredibly familiar!!

Resistance vs. Rebellion

I was thinking today about our current drug culture and how much addiction there is to not only drugs, but shopping, etc. because I was talking to a bunch of my son’s friends about why they think there is so much drug use at their school. One of the boys said it’s because “youth resists authority”. 

I woke up this morning realizing that although his answer may be true for much of American youth at this particular point in time., it isn’t true in general. In many countries, the youth are very respectful of those in authority and it seems likely youth was way more respectful of authority prior to the Industrial Revolution.

American youth doesn’t respect authority. And frankly, that seems to me fair enough. Many of the people who are telling our youth what to do don’t have lives worth admiring. Plus, many in authority are perceived as having made a mess of things.  

However….there is a big difference between rebelling and resisting.

It is likely that resistance is an important aspect of youth in some circumstances, but it becomes problematic when it is nothing more than rebellion. And if the reason kids take drugs is to resist authority, then that’s rebellion, not resistance.    Resistance would be taking drugs because you enjoy the effect despite the fact that authority insists you “just say no to drugs”, not because you don’t want authority telling you what to do.

So what I wonder is this – is there a correlation between addiction and rebellion against authority? What we rebel against we tend to strengthen. Kids don’t want authority telling them what to do so they take drugs and when they end up addicted, they have basically substituted one authority for another. The drugs now control their lives and the “authority” of the addiction makes resistance extremely difficult.

This seems to me to apply to all sorts of aspects of life, but more on that later.