– David Whyte
Author’s note: My desire is to introduce the Enneagram to a wider audience. Connect Ur Dot is an attempt to create curiosity around personal change and increasing self-awareness. I’m using a dot as a metaphor to view your self from a new perspective and start a conversation with your self about who you are, where you are, and what you are doing. Opening the door for this powerful tool to reverse an automatic pattern of living and open up options to choose a different response.
Change is hard. You notice something that isn’t working. Something you need to stop doing, or something you need to start. The something usually involves ending an old habit or beginning a new one. It doesn’t take long to find out change isn’t comfortable. Why don’t you want to do something that is good for you? Why don’t you want to stop doing something that isn’t in your best interest? Any change involves this kind of conversation with your self. Sometimes you convince your self to change, but most times you give up. Change is hard because you have become disconnected. Disconnected from your ability to choose. Disconnected from knowing how to love your self, how to choose the best way to live. You are unplugged. The way you relate to the world has been interrupted. Most of the discomfort and pain you have can be directly related to parts of you being disconnected.
You were made for connection. If connection stops, life stops. Physical connection introduced you into the world. From your very first breath, connection kept you alive. Connecting with the arms and care of someone who nurtured you. You learned to walk by following the steps of people moving around you. Love and relationships connected you to the world. You learned early on, you needed love to survive. It didn’t take long to find out that love doesn’t come easy and you were going to have to work hard to get the love you needed. In this struggle, you try to find a way to protect your self from the pain of not getting loved. The search for love turns into a plan to avoid pain.
You already know your plan hasn’t worked very well. You have more pain than love. To find more love you need to notice how you have disconnected. You have to pay attention to the separation that divided you on the inside as you worked hard to find love and acceptance. Your defensive strategy caused your body, heart, and mind to begin to work alone to solve your problem, to present a version of your self that will get loved. But your body, heart, and mind were meant to work together to handle the pain of not being loved and find love without protecting and avoidance.
Because the plan wasn’t very efficient, you became numb to the pain that it doesn’t avoid. The numbness allows the plan to become automatic, requiring less and less attention to operate. The result of this way of automatically reacting is more and more pain and less and less love. Over time, you get more and more confused about what is good for you. You are looking for love in all the wrong places. Experiencing pain and rejection over and over can only lead to suffering.
This is why change is hard. You are trying to convince your self to abandon a plan you have invested years of time and energy in. You need to wake up and see you are on auto-pilot. You need to plug your self back in. It is your only hope of lasting change. It is the first step back to finding the love you need.
First Step To Change
“We sense that something is missing in our lives and search the world for it, not understanding that what is missing is us.”
– Parker Palmer
Taking the first step to connection involves opening your eyes to what is actually happening. Reactions are the first clues. If you touch something hot, you react and move your hand away. You have parts that react in similar ways to pain. Each part has a unique way of reacting. Identifying the parts and their reactions will reveal why we hurt and how we try to stop the pain. Just like quickly dropping something hot, all reactions happen fast. The speed of the reactions steal the time that you could use to choose a different response. Reaction time speeds up with each repeated reaction. The quicker you react the less time there is to pay attention. The more this repeats the less space your attention has to operate. Reacting becomes automatic. Automatic reactions do not require any attention to operate.
So to get your attention engaged you need to find a way to break into your automatic system. This will be challenging because the reactions have been flying under your radar. The reactions do help to temporarily numb the pain. But numbing encourages no attention. This combination keeps them off the screen. As the effects of disconnection remain unnoticed the damage can multiply. Separation becomes a virus that continues to spread with each passing year of automatic reactions. To break in to this cycle, you need help to see your self from a different perspective.
Start a Conversation
“We are only half conscious of our unconsciousness, only half aware of our disconnection.”
– Claudio Naranjo
The simple shape of a circle forming a dot will provide a change of perspective. Using other circles and layers will help your imagination to fill in the shape of your dot and how it relates to the outside. These visuals can help you step outside your familiar reactions, to pause and create some space and ask some questions.
This is going to be a tricky operation. You have been avoiding this kind of reality check with the help your reactions. Asking some tough questions could stir up more reactivity. To keep this from happening you need another set of eyes, the eyes of an impartial observer. This observer needs to be unbiased, noticing your reactions without judging. Your reactions’ intent is to help. If this worked you would be connected, but the good and bad get mixed up with the wrong labels. Sometimes what you think is good is the worst for you, and what might seem the worst is actually good for you. To see these reactions more clearly, they need to be seen without labeling good or bad. This will help pause the cycle long enough to catch a quick glimpse. With your new observer in place a conversation can begin between your different parts. To start this dialogue you need to identify the different parts and notice how they are reacting. Then the question can be asked, are these reactions in your best interest. This can open the door for another choice. Choice starts the movement and direction of change.
To begin to understand disconnection, you need to identify the parts that have disconnected or separated. Then you can assess how the parts are working. If the parts are reacting, focusing your attention on them flips the autopilot setting off. Reactions can’t happen automatically if you are paying attention.
Use your imagination to think of your self as a dot. It is three-dimensional, has an inside filling and an outside shape. Seeing your self this way steps outside, gives you another perspective above the struggle. Your dot has outside pressure to conform, and inside pressure to resist and keep its shape. Think of these two parts as layers that wrap around a smaller dot, deeper inside. This part is your core. These parts interact and try to adjust to the different forms of pressure and stress. The outside takes on the brunt of the pressure to conform, fit in, and be accepted. The inside layer tries to manage the space between the outside and the core.
The outer layer represents your body and its actions. It is tangible and objective. It is how you express and present your self to other people and situations. Love & pain are felt here first. Your outside is always connected to the real physical world. This layer absorbs and transfers the outer experiences to the inside layer. Painful experiences pass through and locate as tension in the body. In turn, loving experiences can pass through and locate as ease and calm.
Your inside layer includes your feeling, thinking, and instinct. It holds your ideas, goals, and dreams. It is the home of your motivations. It is unseen. It is abstract, and intangible. The inside is less familiar. It is harder to put into words, harder to communicate with. The inner layer manages the outer experience by sensing, feeling, and thinking. But it is just as real as the outer layer. It uses your body, heart, and mind to determine how to shape your outer layer. These three parts are in charge of your reactions to anger, shame, and fear.
Your core is the nucleus of your identity. It contains your worth and value. Your spiritual signature is written here. Energy for life fills your core. The raw materials for your true, real shape are buried here. Everything you need to connect your life spiritually, psychologically, and physically was put here. Connection can clear a path for the contents of your core to move out and express YOU.
The collateral damage of disconnection is your core staying buried and kept inactive. Without the real you, the layers could only provide a substitute identity to stand in place of the real one. If outside and inside work together and support each other, they can create an opening for the contents of your core to move through your inside layer and out into the world. The connecting of your parts can result in a true representation of you inside and out.
This perspective gives you insight into the pressure your inside layer is under. Pressure from the outside to conform to expectations and demands; and the pressure of your energy and identity trying to move its way out to find a shape and fit. Your instincts, feeling, and thoughts try to manage this ever-changing inner storm. These three layers were intended to work together, to present the real you to the world. As the reactions of disconnection started, the outer layer and the inner layer started to separate and start to function independently. In confusion, your outside and your inside have been so busy trying to protect you, each on their own, they have lost sight of each other. They react independently, unaware of the effect those reactions are having on the other.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
– Albert Einstein
Now shift your imagination to picture your dot being filled with three dots which together equally fill the inner space of your dot. The three inner dots represent your capacity to sense (move), feel, and think. Using dots to represent the three parts and how they fill your inner space, you can begin to visualize how you work inside. This is an ideal image of you, as if you were fully connected. An image of you being fully balanced, responding to life instead of reacting. You were created with this potential of availability and function. Even though you haven’t experienced this balance, it can be a reference point that your awareness can use to see how you are reacting and bring more choice to your living.
Your reactions are tied to the way your inner space is filled. The three dots have a dynamic relationship, each affecting the other by the role they play, or don’t play. Under the stress of not fitting in, your body, heart, and mind separated and began to work independently. This caused the other two to react and move out of the way. A void began to form from the parts reacting. This dynamic formed a pattern around a dysfunctional combination of the parts being unavailable or too available. Noticing your personal combination can give clues to explain the why and the how of your disconnection.
The part that stepped into the void, was the one that was most threatened. Reacting to this threat formed the strategy of defending against anger, shame, and fear. Instincts defend the body and targets anger that rises as you feel less and less in control. Feelings search for value, to shield the heart from the damage of shame telling you that you’re never enough. Thinking protects the mind from fear by forming a plan to head off the unknown of the future. These solo strategies only make you more vulnerable to the effects of anger, shame, and fear. The part that takes charge becomes overworked and gets stronger with every reaction. This strength overpowers the other two and they are relied on less for support.
Identifying which part stepped forward, is the first step to reconnecting your body, heart, and mind. Turning attention to the two parts playing a minor role, can move you to reconnecting and balancing your self. Equally dividing the work fills your inner space, and corrects the way you are leaning into the world. Paying attention to this unbalanced relationship can provide you handles to grab onto change. The balance creates a space and a platform for the true version of your self to stand and take its first steps in the world.
“Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born.”
– The Winter of Listening, David Whyte
Nine Connected Dots
Now let’s shift your imagination to the outside of your dot. Picture your self in a circle of nine dots. These nine dots represent different combinations of reacting — nine different patterns. Finding your location in this circle can begin to explain the type of reactions that have caused your imbalance.
The spot of your dot can help explain why you do what you do, your underlying motives. Being placed in a circle you can understand, not only your self, but also the reactions of the other dots in the circle. The circle of dots form a boundary separating the outside world from the inside world. All the dots share the struggle when in and out meet, and the pain of disconnection. This circle places the dots in community to create a dialogue.
This system of observing and defining nine unique dots and spots is called the Enneagram. It provides a visual to begin a conversation to see what is real, the way your life really is. It describes nine different styles of disconnection. These nine dots are divided into three groups. The sensing group is 8,9,and 1. The feeling group is 2,3, and 4. The thinking group is 5,6,and 7. Each group and number can provide details of what keeps a person from being present. It provides a path from unaware, automatic reactions to aware, mindful choices.
The lines and arrows of the Enneagram open up a conversation, providing an opportunity to connect. As each dot becomes aware of their individual struggle, you gain insight into the struggle of other dots. Feeling the weight of this common burden can lead to empathy and kindness. You naturally connect with other dots as you connect and find the shape and fit of your own dot. This mutual connection and awareness start a movement and momentum of energy that can make you more alive.
The Enneagram can help you see how you relate to other dots in love, friendship, at work, and when you play. The same details that make your dot more familiar to you, are the same details that give you insight into the dots that you relate to. As you understand your own hows and whys, it is also important to know those details about other dots. It can free you as you understand the struggles of the people around you. Also, it can give you insight to your context, where you are connecting. It is essential to understand what is outside your outside. The disconnection has actually effected how and where your dot places its feet. Your protected reactions have made you unsure of where you stand and how you fit in. Where your feet actually connect to the ground under you is critical to knowing and connecting your dot.
So change is hard, but not impossible. Paying attention to your life, the reactions and choices, is the best way you can care for yourself. Learning to love yourself opens the door for you to love people around you in a fuller way. Balancing your body, heart, and mind equips you to be more available in the present moment and participate with your full shape and fit—your true identity. Freedom results from your full potential and energy engaging, where you are and with the people around you.
“Our true self knows there is no place to go or get to — we are already home — free and filled.”
– Richard Rohr
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