So many of the Enneagram enthusiasts that I meet proudly proclaim that they almost never access their stress points. It seems that there is some confusion about movement on the diagram to stress and security – e.g. stress points are bad and security points are good. Likely, this is partly due to our societal concern with alleviating “stress”. Unfortunately, for purposes of growing into our best selves, an aversion to the stress point may keep us from evolving.
As we become more aware, we find that we actually have access to the high and low sides of all the Enneagram points of our wings and triangle. As our inner observer becomes more acute, we find that we can actually direct our attention more to the high sides of all the points we touch. In other words, we can choose to utilize the high side of our stress point through the simple act of focusing our attention there. (Simple does not mean easy, however.)
This choice came as a startling revelation to me in my early Enneagram days. Indeed, when I traveled from my home base at Seven under stress, I often exhibited the low side of One. I became resentful and judgmental with the archetypal tight jaw. To say that I was not pleasant to be around is a gross understatement. My family will vouch for this.
A whole new dynamic opened up when I realized that the high side of One was just as available when stress came to visit. Prioritizing, organizing, and bringing order from chaos was liberating. And stress relieving. Clarity opened new possibilities and vistas. All I had to do was notice the move to One, focus attention on the higher aspects of the Perfectionist point and they seemed to magically manifest.
If my inner observer was not particularly awake or present, the low side of One seemed to hold sway. Clearly, awareness and directing attention were keys to maximizing the potential of my stress point. Great, so how do we do this in everyday life?
It’s peculiar that with all the attention paid to stress and its relief, it is sometimes difficult to recognize when we are stressed. It may be easier to recognize the behavior of our stress point as a signpost that we are indeed experiencing stress. It certainly was so for me.
Firmly believing that I was not at all stressed but that my family were a bunch of pigs, laying waste to our clean home with little thought or care made it seem to me that my One-ish irritation was perfectly rational, indeed appropriate. Never mind that on other days, it bothered me little or not at all.
It wasn’t until I found myself lining up the sponge so that it was equidistant between the faucets that it came to me how my behavior presaged knowing that I was stressed. As I noticed these types of behavior, I learned to intervene on my own behalf. (As well as my family’s).
Ah, stress. Time to stop, reassess, take time out for me – meditation, a hot bath, a long walk. Next I’d harness that energy of One to figure out what needed doing now, what could wait or be jettisoned, what potential might come of this release of energy. I’d open to recognizing perfection rather than striving to create it.
However, you think of it – stress provides a call to action, a distinct push for change. And the stress point has a useful energetic to assist in that change. For me, the One energy is a slow fire that fuels new ways of working. For my Three husband, the Nine energetic can provide an expansive quietude and connection that can recharge him rather than the low side paralysis that he experienced before learning to focus on the high side.
Try these steps to enhance your own work with the stress point of your Enneagram type.
- Notice your behavior on a daily basis. Be aware when it changes to mimic more of the energy of your stress point. You may want to keep a behavior journal until you get the hang of it.
- Learn the high and low sides of all the points you access. For this work, pay particular attention to the high and low sides of your stress point. See if you can notice if and how they crop up in your daily life.
- Now that you can observe how your stress point manifests as behavior, focus your attention on the high side of your stress point. Notice if that focus changes the behavior or how you feel. See if you are able to access the high side more often with this focused attention.
- Pay attention to the energetic provided by the stress point and be open to the change that result. Energy is fuel for transformation and growth.
If you have techniques that have helped you work with the stress point, let us know. Post them in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org