This third life story, from the forthcoming book co-authored by C.J. Fitzsimons, is condensed from an interview with an Enneagram Three. In the book there will be eighteen life stories, two for each Enneagram style.
“Until I started doing some real work, all my energy had gone to being a success, putting on a show, and hiding what was underneath – it was how things looked as opposed to how I really was. The mask became what I thought was real. I can take the Three patterns back to grammar school. I remember how important it was for me be accepted by my peers. It didn’t matter if I was good or not, I wanted to appear good. I can think of one incident when I was late for a baseball game we were playing. I rode up on my bike and everybody cheered, and I thought, “Yeah, I’m here!”
“Early in my career I was a football and baseball coach, and I got a choice spot in a choice school. Being a good coach might be altruistic, helping the students achieve something, but I think I went into coaching because it’s out in front – to be noticed, to have people say, “Oh, just look at that! He’s a great guy!” I loved being a leader, putting my ideas into practice. It was also an area where I could have self-doubt and pretend I didn’t, being frightened and pretending I wasn’t, not knowing everything I thought I should know.
“Later I had a real estate office, and needed to make more money, so a couple of us hired a therapist to help us learn how to sell, how to relate to and motivate people. We met with him weekly, and what it boiled down to was that I had to know about myself – to see what people were responding to. I wanted to develop a manner that didn’t appear pushy, because how people thought of me was important.
“The bottom line was that I had to look at myself from the inside rather than applying a lot of selling techniques on the outside. I had to learn more about who I was so I could come off in a more authentic way, be more believable to people and more trustworthy. That got me on the road to doing inner work, started me on Gestalt and Rolfing and other therapies. The comedy of the inner work was that it backfired, because then I didn’t want to do the real estate business anymore. Working with that therapist was the beginning of transformation for me, the beginning of inner work, inner awareness.
“Going through divorce in the midst of all this was transformative because it forced me to look at my responses, how I dealt with my children through the separation. That was a major shock point. My work with Claudio Naranjo was very transformative. Also what is now called the Hoffman Quadrinity Process – where you work from zero through puberty, looking at your negative patterns, things you don’t like about yourself; look at your parents, your caregivers, get the thread going through your life and see where the patterns come from. I went through the program and then became a teacher, taking groups through the process.
“Claudio tied the Hoffman work to the Enneagram, and that gave me a clue as to where all these patterns came from. Because of the inner work I became more conscious that what I did had been important so I would look good. Self-doubt was one of the patterns I learned about. I got the message from my parents that I was supposed to be good enough and smart enough to become a professional, a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, or someone of that nature. But they discouraged me from studying a musical instrument, saying they’d spend money on lessons and I’d just quit, because I wouldn’t be good enough. That’s the message I grew up with: I’m not good enough. Yet something in me longed to play music at an early age. It was very conflicting for me to have that negative expectation put into me. To this day I still struggle trying to learn music, trying to fill that hole.
“There was never enough assurance, and I still work on it. Attempting to be conscious of a pattern I’ve learned about myself – and they do come up – I see it and can chuckle at it or respond differently, or say to myself, Oh, that’s what’s going on and get off it, not behave in those ways as intensely as I once did. I think the transformation process helps us become more aware, more conscious, so our behaviors and patterns change. But I think the fixation always remains with us.
“I get frustrated, very frustrated. I do keep striving and I usually achieve everything I try,. but I’m still trying to prove I’m good enough and know enough. Even if it doesn’t work when I tackle something, I keep trying to find ways to make it work. There’s such a deep desire for me to learn to play music. But I’m critical because I don’t think I’m spontaneous enough, not enough! And I put a lot of obstacles in my way rather than just getting up and playing three chords and making that OK. I don’t want to appear mediocre, so I have to consciously make it OK to just be how I am with it. It feels good when I can play along and sing a song, when I can learn new things, when I can perform. But it doesn’t flow that way naturally.
“Even at this point – not that I’m so enlightened – judging myself too much is probably the thing I need to stay conscious of most often. It’s a lot better than it used to be, but I have to constantly do my little self-talk. I take more risks, do more things from an easy place, even though they might not be perfect. But I’m generally pretty conscious of it and the feelings underneath don’t feel solid or confident or secure.
“I became a singer and performer, to move through some of those inhibitions I had. And then I created a whole work around it for others. What I taught was to feel the fear and do it anyway. To move through and let the experience teach you something different rather than what’s in your head. So if I were going to suggest something for Threes – or anyone, actually – it would be to move through your pattern, to get right up to the edge and push it. And for me, performance and looking good is the edge. I’ve got to be willing to get out there and not look good.
“I’ve always been a searcher, in spite of the self-doubt. I started meditation really early and that felt right for me, something I felt aligned with, had a hunger for, something innate, and that moved me into more and more spiritual work. The word spiritual means so many things. Back in those days it was being in touch with, aligning with some energy or power or God in some way. That’s true for me today, too – just trusting and knowing this is a friendly universe, things happen and it’s only our perception that makes them good or bad. Spirit is something within me and out there, too. Some of the East Indian teachings I’ve studied have really helped me, and the work in seminary I did to become a minister. It’s certainly been part of my transformation to work with different teachers – Buddhist, Jewish, Christian.
“As a metaphor for the process, I look at the seasons or the growing of a tree – all the environmental influences – and whether you do anything or not, you’re going to grow. We have seasons of our lives. In the later years you get more security with yourself, do more service work, not struggling so much to survive, whereas in the earlier years you’re struggling to raise a family, slaying dragons. I think you gather and do a lot of work; then you need some time to digest it and to put it into practice. Then you go to another spurt, another peduncle as Chardin described it.
“I’m 61 years old, definitely in the early winter of the process. I’m moving more and more into community work, more volunteer kinds of things, in a conscious way. And it feels good and feels right. I don’t know if this is true of all Threes, but I’ve been pretty much of a loner. Not that I haven’t worked with people, but I’ve been more self-sufficient. Now it’s getting to be that I really enjoy sharing and working with others.
“I’m still transforming if that’s the right word. I’m much more secure in myself now than I ever was. And I’m still doing the work I need to do.”
Mary Bast, PhD, coach and coach mentor, is co-author of the first Enneagram coaching book – Out of the Box: Coaching with the Enneagram – and author of several coaching workbooks. More information at www.breakoutofthebox.com.