Copyright 2017 Version 1
The Healthy Type Nine
Marty, a lanky Type Nine addiction’s counselor, glides across the room, his presence so seamlessly interwoven and in-flow with the texture, depth, and the psychological energy of the space you hardly see him. He’s beside you, he’s in you, he flows past you, a graceful chameleonic wave blending and unifying with what is. You think he’s barely there, he being so invisibly nimble and non-intrusive, but he is fully alive in the psychic waters of the room extending his awareness into the vulnerable heart-space of soul-desperate men at Mercy House addiction’s rehab.
There is a gentleness to his gait, he emitting an enveloping wave of safety, extending unseen tendrils of support to those around him. A sea of silence envelops him, a silence that has a quieting depth that penetrates, collects, senses, and feels what is here. He touches you lightly with his presence, calms you down, softens you, lets you know that you can just settle, it’s safe here, safe to settle, safe to be. Relax, really, it’s okay to relax. And then suddenly he looks up and gazes at you, smiles, sensing perhaps a disturbance in the force, an intuitive knowing, he glancing to see what he’s felt, his eyes lakes of stillness touching you with kindness and consideration. In a blink he takes you in, reads you, without intruding, without making you uncomfortable. He’s got the gift of touching your soul with such grace that nothing in you tightens or wants to withdraw in self-defense.
At Mercy House Center he is a precious jewel. Sitting with a group of guys in very early recovery, all gnarled, grizzled, street-sharpened, punchy, heart-torn and mangled, humiliated by life’s stupidities, edgy with paranoia and wired to fiercely defend against any suggestion of insult to their body or soul—the felt sense of Marty’s presence settles them down. He’s the landing gear for their inner turbulence, their fear-jangled bodies, their trust-no-one-rigidity, their soul-scarred disappointment and hardness. He’s the welcome mat, the salve, he emitting a softening psychic substance that beckons you to drop your hard stance, go easy, real easy. And it makes no difference where you’ve come from, the county jail, the streets, the homeless shelter, the state prison, the back woods of Maine, the hospital ER, an STD clinic, a mental institute—all are welcome here. Somehow this beautiful guy can hold the suffering of these men, hold it and not be broken by it, hold it with a magical non-attachment and tenderness such that it touches him but doesn’t bury him. And in holding their suffering with this gracious and light touch, not denying any of the heaviness or sharpness of their suffering, he teaches them by his example to viscerally walk easier and lighter in the belly of their suffering. Something softens, relaxes, let’s go in them. Whatever suffering they’ve come to identify themselves by, and all the psychological prison structures this suffering has created for them internally, well, these inner chains begin to loosen. It’s like a mysterious light begins to break through their conditioned beliefs that they are losers, irretrievable drug addicts, hopeless men, rejected and unwanted men, failures with no hope, unredeemable criminal men, men of no value. Marty’s light starts to penetrate these negative self-identities such that something softer, deeper, truer starts to stir and form in them.
You see, he is a stealth ninja delivering the awesome power of unconditional love and kindness and acceptance, and you hang around Marty and you start to feel it in your bones, in your gut, in your hardened heart, that you are forgivable, lovable even, that you can redeem yourself, that you can make amends, that you can belong to this life. Such that slowly, slowly, persistently you begin layer by layer to let go of the chains of your past, or more clearly, you quietly relax and they begin to slide off you. One at a time. Easy does it…one at a time. This is what Marty embodies and teaches, this letting go, in the way he speaks with earthy kindness and directness to the men (picture the beloved Mr. Rogers), in the way he honors and holds space for men regardless of how they are showing up. Big space, breathing room, a landing strip, a welcome mat, slow down, land right here—this is what Marty creates and evokes. A messenger of indomitable kindness and unshakeable penetrating calm—the toughest and most hardened men are rendered into gentleness.
This penetrating calm gets to your core, flows like soothing water into the tightened muscles flexed to clamp down suffering, flows and heals as it circulates in your being without stirring your defenses; just lands…touches and heals, touches and heals, coaxes you to part with your suffering saying, “Put it down, easy does it, let go…breathe…trust…nothing to prove here…relax…it’s safe.” You see, this capacity to encourage and entice men to relax, to let their guard down, without really saying it but mostly being it, emitting it, breathing it in from the center of his belly¸ this is what Marty does best. He’s like the Shiatsu practitioner who can sense which meridian in the body needs loving attention, that when attended to allows a magical healing force to circulate in your body. Marty senses and feels your psychological meridians, knows how to apply right attention and gentleness to those meridians, disarms you without intruding while transmitting this palpable message: you are welcome here. This is not registered in the thinking center, is not a verbal message designed to land there, but is transmitted through the heart center and the gut center. Your body feels it, your heart feels it…and your mind eventually signs on.
Soft spoken, what you see is what you get, no pretensions, no ego-strutting-counselor-flaunting-his-importance-or-needing-vanity-strokes such that you sense it in your gut that he’s right on your level—this is what disarms you and allows you to settle and feel safe. This guy meets you, is alongside you, and holds space for you. There is a dignity in this that is so compelling and invites instant respect from war-torn, street-smart men who are used to being treated like disowned objects. Because of Marty’s hard-earned presence—meaning he’s transformed his inherited emotional suffering into a mountainous stillness of mercy and kindness—he sits right exactly where you are sitting, in the belly of the beast, energetically inhabiting your heart, your body, your frightened mind, your tangled confusions, not repulsed, not bailing out, not overwhelmed, but peacefully abiding in the very waters of your suffering. Hang around him long enough and you learn to calmly engage your insides, your reactivity, your heart wounds and heart insults, such that your fast moving, hypnotizing illusions, your reactive fear-impressions that seal you off from reality start to slow…way…down…and you actually develop eyes to see them. And hey, let’s face it, unless you become a still presence in the middle of your own inner turbulence, nothing gets seen, nothing gets changed.
And with this comes the crown jewel. You begin to see yourself through Marty’s eyes of compassion. Suddenly it makes sense to extend tenderness to yourself, mercy to yourself, to relax your unrelenting self-punishment…to let love touch you. Marty’s presence—fluid, graceful and invisibly unrelenting—begins to tenderize you. And sometimes, because of his great kindness and gentleness, clients might think they can outwit Marty, that he’s an easy touch, but he has this ingenious way of righting your ill intentions, and without clamor or drama lets you know when it’s time for you to leave the rehab, you’re not ready for addiction recovery, perhaps another time, but go you must.
Clients get this. His intuitive wisdom often carries few words. But one day you sit there, aware that you do not want recovery or help, and rather than acting this out and blaming everyone for it, and leaving a dramatic emotional fire in your wake, you slowly go to your room, pack your stuff, and leave. Marty has unwittingly created a peace treaty with you, and storming out of the rehab would not honor this pact. You get that in your gut. With his slow, steady gaze, his slow steady capacity to breath peace into the room, his laid back, there’s-no-hurry, no-need-for-high-drama presence, he dials the inflamed suffering and despairing intensity these men carry in the core of their soul to a whisper. It’s often miraculous what unfolds when he enters the room, with his laid back easy-going earthiness, a tall six foot one man, so quietly graceful—he such a major invitation to just be, just be, as you are.
So you relax and let yourself be, and suddenly you start activating an interest in what goes on inside you. Unexpectedly you start to notice inner perceptions that you care about—soul-signs of real awareness—such that you begin to connect with hundreds of unconscious choices that led you to and on your torturous path of addiction. And from this settling into the moment an unusual motivation begins to arise in you, you haven’t felt it for a long time, but yes, you recognize that you’d like to have a life, like to be connected to people, like to live a life that is steady, sturdy and supports you. That you have something to live for, that you are in fact, most welcome and even needed on planet earth. You have a place and you can feel it. This is the medicine that Marty delivers and teaches. In your bones and belly and heart, you begin to feel it, to know it…the palpable sense that you do belong. As in, welcome home, my brother, as Marty, and Dominic, the brave Type Eight would say. Welcome home my brother.
And they mean it.
I watched him work with Rick-from-Boston, a burly tormented guy mired in loss, in depression, in hopelessness, nearly unable to function in any way. His alcoholism had further torpedoed an already unstable interior, like mixing gasoline with fire. But Marty, with his vast stillness and enduring patience, would hang with Rick and give him simple steps, over and over he’d recite them, as if there was no hurry, Rick, no hurry; here’s the simple steps. Go to meetings, ask for help, get a sponsor, show up. And Rick would remember, and then he’d forget. And back on the streets he’d go, a whirling dervish of chaotic agony, wandering in the despair of homelessness and alcoholic hopelessness, dead-eyed depression possessing him…and somehow, he’d make it back to rehab. Two legs and one arm in the grave, and there Marty would be, at the doorstep, while soul-hungry vultures sucked the last remaining blood of hope from big Bill’s soul, he so very close to becoming a lifeless stone of death.
And Marty would meet him like he’d been patiently waiting for him for a hundred years. Just hanging and waiting. No big deal, just waiting. And Rick, shocked numb from his last relapse, brain cooked and hard-boiled on confusion and turned to a scrambled mess, would listen to Marty with that 10% of him that he could still listen with, that tiny window of sanity in an otherwise torqued brain, and slowly Marty’s peace and enduring resilience got into Rick, into the pores of his heart, into the thought-stream of his mad thoughts, into the frozen musculature of his broken body. As Marty’s spirit seeped into Rick, slowly but surely he started to come on line, started to arise within himself, while Marty kept hanging next to him, one breath at a time, his still calmness touching the broken places in Rick, saying ‘No rush Rick, we’re just watching a sunrise here, just ease into this moment, and do one simple thing…one simple thing.’ And Rick, this big guy endowed with a wrestler’s body, who’d vanished into near invisibility such that he inhabited a sunken shell, disappearing into nothingness, seven years later is a peaceful rock of stillness and ease. Quietly he’s walked a thousand miles with Marty up the mountain of himself and found his soul, his sense of humor, his grateful heart, his dignity and his strength. Damn, it was amazing to watch. And Marty, his ceaseless stillness the antidote to Rick’s madness, is still humming along waiting for the next guy to help. No rush. The guy would come. He could feel it. He’d be there. He was ready. No river to push here. Quiet waiting was the magnet for the next lost and broken soul.
Type Nine in Addiction: Level 6 and Below
When the Type Nine slips down the ladder of addiction, his innate capacity to be a living well of kindness and support to others turns inward. Lou said it this way:
“When I dropped into addiction my only wish was to be left alone so I could drink. I existed in my own private bomb shelter. The lights were off and no one was home. I was a small flame of nothingness, and utterly invisible to myself and everyone else and that was fine with me. I was a ghost, and everything around me had a ghost-like quality, as if it had no substance, no weight to it, like everything was transparent and could be seen thru. Let me drink and die alone and don’t bother me, was my wish. Put me in front of the TV, deliver my beer every day at my doorstep, all is well. I neglected everything and everyone. I wouldn’t and couldn’t see any problems and instead dropped into a drunken blur where nothing could touch me, affect me, get my attention. If my stoic silence didn’t discourage you, if my lifeless-body-sitting-at-the-grave-sight-of-my-TV didn’t rivet you into hopelessness, if my dead-man-walking-I-am-a-corpse-not-a-human-being-laying-in-the-bowels-of-death didn’t cut you to the bone such that you’d look away in utter horror and disgust at my slow-motion-merciless-wasteful-angel-saddening death, my last ditch rages would. Rare as they were. The time came when my family abandoned me, quit trying to get me into recovery, and I thought, ‘Finally, I’m left alone. No more people to contend with.’ The point being I was entirely shut off from my heart, from the innate love I had for my kids, from the shame of disappearing with one option left—drinking until I passed out till death. This I did every day. Family could see my dying soul and I could not. Did I really understand what I was doing? Absolutely not! My awareness consisted of a vague, fleeting, flicker of reality, fogged and blurry—everything had an indistinct, shape-shifting, undifferentiated sense to it. Nothing was real. I felt like a transparent nothingness. Occasionally I’d feel the suffering of waking up out of hangover but I was so exhausted from my drinking, so closed-down physically, emotionally, and mentally, I could barely feel it for long. So I drank to numb out. At one point I decided to kill myself. In the dead of winter I went into the Maine woods on land that I owned, took a ton of booze with me, drank with the intent to die. It was a week later I woke up in an AA meeting at a detox, listening to the voices of other late stage alcoholics like myself, and remember saying, “I’m Lou, I’m an alcoholic, and I want to get sober.” It was the first time I’d ever spoken these words and felt them. I don’t know how I got there and learned later that two hunters found me passed out in the freezing cold and brought me to detox. Don’t know where the wish to stay sober came from, but I’ve been sober now 9 years and realize how lucky I am to be alive. In that alcoholic fog, death seems like a form of sleep, a comfort to be sought. All I wanted to do was fall asleep.”
The Nine, whose gifts of supporting others, whose unconditional positive regard for the suffering of others is the hallmark of his humanity, slips away into the darkness of his soul when addiction takes him out. Hunkered down in the bomb shelter of his imagination, fantasy is his primary refuge. Unlike the Eight who when descending into addiction hell, becomes more explosive and volatile, the Nine gets more passive, more distant, more withdrawn, more wraith-like. It’s not unusual for the Nine to be literally carried into addiction recovery by loved ones because left to his own devices will die quietly (Betty Ford is a great example) but imagining he’s resting. He’s got this dying thing mixed up with relaxing, taking a needed rest, just chilling out, while his lived life is one drink after another until he passes out. As in going, going…gone.
First Twelve Weeks in Recovery—Helping the Nine
Devan sits in group day after day, so still and quiet you’d never know he was there. Second week in it dawns on me. I continually don’t ask Devan to share. It’s like he emits a strange force-field that actually makes him invisible. He’s there on the couch but you can’t really see him. Your eyes pass over him without questioning him, as if he’s a part of the furniture. His ability to emit zero-life-force-energy is remarkable. It’s as if he’s a Jedi Master who waves his hand and says, “Look away, counselor, I’m not here. No need to ask me any questions, move on. Ask the next guy. Look away, counselor.” I call him on it. “Devin, how to you manage to avoid getting asked to share? How do you do it?” A big, sun-splitting grin creeps across his face, eyes suddenly lighting up with recognition, he arising from his internal camouflaged bomb shelter for a brief minute. “I learned it in grade school,” he says. “I just knew how to get teachers to not see me, to move past me, to pass over me as I lie quiet as a mouse. I got pretty good at it.”
No kidding, I think. He skillfully emits a force field that quietly delivers the message, “Don’t bother me. Don’t approach me.” And wildly enough he can morph into the color and contour of the couch so he’s virtually indistinguishable from it—he’s become a part of the furniture. And even trickier, he can morph into the client that looks like he’s doing just fine. It’s amazing (unlike the Type Eight who’s a bull in a China shop). In fact, he’s the master of “I’m fine.” (In recovery-speak that means ‘I’m F—uped, insecure, emotional and neurotic!’) He’s lost his family, his kids are broken-hearted over him, he doesn’t have a job, and he’s over there on the corner of the couch looking as chill as anyone possibly could. (We say the Nine gives ‘good face.’)
His outer expression looks like he’s appropriately engaged, listening to others, exuding facial expressions that look like he’s paying attention (not overdoing it of course, that would draw attention, but not totally checked out either, right in between where he gains no notice), adeptly not reflecting anything that might draw ‘counselor attention’ to him. No, let’s keep the counselor skillfully chilled out too. You see, he cultivates an enticing ambiance around him that has everyone nodding along in ‘spiritual bypass’ mode when it comes to him, all feeling hypnotically at ease with his I’ve-charmed-you-into-relaxing-and-over-looking-me, presence. Yes, he’s gotten everyone to disassociate from him the way he disassociates from himself! Except, with a little awareness you see that he’s a little too nice based on the terror of his situation, and so accommodating even the angels are on red alert. But he gets away with it because he can emit a kind of soothing, honey-like psychic emotional substance that wordlessly says “I-support-you-counselor-dude, I’m your friend—no problem here—all is well in my private Death Valley, in my swamp of poisonous snakes, I’ve even charmed them into relaxing and sleeping, even the vultures are passing me by for better, juicer meat”—such that he numbs you with it.
Well, it’s trickier than that…he can sooth you with his numbness. That’s his real Jedi gift: he emits that calming, hypnotic, sweet as sugar, sit-back-and-relax energy through his instinctive center and swear to god you get lulled to sleep and complacency, and you like it. He’s found your numbing button and he’s pressing it. (Of course, this is a gift of his instinctual intelligence wherein he’s learned to survive in traumatic situations and not draw dangerous attention or circumstance to him.) And next thing you know he’s left rehab, a wave of pleasantness coating your most recent perception of him so you didn’t notice the impending signs that he was leaving, that he’s slipping away. He was so likable, you think to yourself. In retrospect, like waking from a dream, it dawns on you that’s he’s been gone ever since he arrived in rehab as he’s hidden skillfully and seamlessly in your fast-asleep-perception, and only the next day do you barely notice he’s not in group. Where the hell did Devan go? Hey, did anyone see him leave?
And what drives Nine’s passion to stay hidden behind their invisibility cloak? Fear. Utter, vulnerable, raw, I could die if I’m seen, fear. If I’m seen, located in space, I will be annihilated, cut off from all that I love. Like the terror Sandra Bullock in the role of an astronaut in Gravity, nearly cut loose from the mother ship and sent spasmodically out of control into deep space, nothing to hang on to but her lifeline as the terror of her impending death and end of contact with all she loved, family, children, home, hung in the balance. If that fear doesn’t freeze you with a bone-chilling wish to not be seen and to stay invisible, I don’t know what would. So I (the Nine speaking) lie low, below the surface of my life, a stone underneath the surface of the stream, life gliding over me, you not noticing me. In fact, I don’t notice me. I’m so good at hiding, you don’t notice me and I don’t notice me, so no disturbance occurs inside or outside me. I hide out, go for cover, trying not to be affected by anything because being noticed means losing all security, safety, and peace that I imagine I’m in possession of, regardless if it’s only my imagined, delusionary peace found between my ears. Which is it. It is…it is…it is!
Problem is, this ‘I-protect-myself-by-disappearing’ phenomena is the exact, precise thing that calls his addiction to him, wakes the slithering snake up, because in the fog of this dream undigested and unrecognized emotional disturbance located in his real, lived life, located in the interior of his being—fear, anger, shame, vulnerability, powerlessness—can only be held at bay outside of his awareness for just so long before it merges with the vampire force of his addiction, and wakes it up such that suddenly, out of the blue, three years sober, the Nine finds himself drinking himself to death not knowing how he picked up the booze in the dreary alcohol aisle of Shop N’ Save. How did that happen? I don’t even remember picking the bottle up! Truth is he was mesmerized watching a euphoric-recall video of his addiction life (all the good parts, that is) that crept into his mind-stream in the midst of his fog of numbness, and unwittingly seduced him, saying, “Time to drink, time to shoot up, then you’ll feel relaxed and at peace; then you will feel as if you are home.” As the Type Nine later describes it, “Entering my thought stream like an old friend, erasing all memory of the terror and horror that awaits, I sipped on the euphoric recall of past drinking and drugging experiences and down I went, into the forgotten abyss of my repetitious suffering. And weirdly it felt good to sink into annihilation, like dropping into the arms of an old friend. How can hopelessness feel good? How weird is that?” It is a song, a hypnotic movie, a videotape that is always willing to meet him, that seeks him out.
So the work is cut out for the Nine, from the standpoint that he has been residing, hibernating, building a secret garden of pleasure and comfort in his imagination while his “lived life” where real family members have lost faith in him, where his children grieve deeply for him, where his contact with reality has been avoided by the next moment of shooting up with heroin or dousing his life force with other painkillers like alcohol, appears as something unreal, a fantasy. Everything has been reversed. His real thoughts and real suffering that brought him into addiction treatment feel like ‘unreal’ thoughts, dreamlike thoughts having no substance or capacity to ‘touch’ him. His imaginary life where pleasurable scenes and euphoric recall images of all his fun moments drinking and drugging play like a nonstop movie in his imagination—these feel real to him. (An example of this dream world addiction is found in the movie Requiem for Dream, most especially in the role played by Ellen Burstyn. Her imagination becomes what she experiences as ‘real.’)
He has learned to fix his attention here on his imagined life, to mistake this fantasy safe-zone, imagination-world as the ‘real,’ where he is anesthetized from his life-suffering until he can’t avoid it. Take the drugs away, drugs that fuel the inflamed imagination-retreat he has unwittingly created for himself, and he is left with no defenses except his capacity to withdraw, to pull an invisibility cloak over himself, and simply hunker down in hiding mode. And in that moment he is gripped by terror, the terror that he is unprotected and could die, simply by being here. The terror that what he imagined as real is nothing but. It is at this perilous point of awareness—in the cradle of emptiness—seeing that he sunk into a snake infested world of illusion—recovery begins. From this tender and most vulnerable place, those around him must be his anchor of reality until he begins to make friends with reality. (Fours also struggle with this imagination disease.)
In the first weeks of recovery when discomfort arises, dragons of annihilation at every turn, his suffering will arise unedited. His defenses will not work. Either he cracks open into reality, or he dives back into familiar suffering. It will take a monumental effort for him to simply say out loud what he is experiencing, and to stay with the realizations (Surely this is difficult for everyone!). Remember, his internal survivor script is to do nothing that causes conflict or suffering for others, and nothing that allows him to be seen. And yet, here on this cliff of death where he dangles off the overhang, he must be seen, must be heard, cannot stay mute. Yet the Inner Critic voice will screech through his brain, “You are nobody special and you better keep it that way.” When he starts to speak up and tell his truth, his Inner-Critic-fire-breathing-dragon will blare, “Who do you think you are? You’re taking up the breathing space of others simply by being here. Shut up!” And often he will. Or, as Bill-from-Chicago would say, “When feelings arise I feel so incredibly tired I could fall asleep on the spot. All energy drains from my being. I instantly forget what I was feeling or thinking. I go blank.”
His habit of retreating into non-reality awareness is a powerful magnet as is his habit of blurring all things of discomfort into unrecognizability. Feelings? What feelings? Marty says it this way:
“When I was in early recovery and you asked me what I was feeling I felt like I looked down into a deep well of foggy murkiness. I was upset, was feeling something, but the minute you asked me about it, it immediately became so indistinct and unclear, would fog up into a cloud of confusion, that mostly I’d say, ‘I have no idea.’ And I meant it. In actuality, I felt a vague formless discontent that if I rested in it too long, would suddenly ascend from this fog in the form of unnamed anxiety, like a snake slithering up my spine. I’d immediately shut down and slip into my delusion-space where comforting dreams could settle me down. Learning to feel inner distinctions around my feelings took a long damn time. My first task was to simply stay sober, keep showing up, and find someone to lean on, who could guide me, because I felt like I had no ground underneath me, and no inner sense of knowing what was real. My feelings and wants and needs, well, ask me about this and you’re asking me to speak a foreign language. I simply had to hang on with faith that at some point I’d come out of the fog. I didn’t realize I was in a fog until I started to get glimpses of real feelings. I needed my counselor, my recovery friends, to teach me to identify my feelings. Often they’d see and sense that I was sad and they’d note it for me, bringing my attention to my voice, saying, “You sound so sad. I hear it in your voice. Can you hear yourself as you speak?” Or bringing attention to my facial expression, they’d say, “Your eyes are moistening. You look sad. Can you feel sadness in your face, or your throat, or your chest? What do you notice?” I had to practice attuning to these details, sensing into them, inch my inch, allowing myself to open to what was going on inside me. It was extremely weird and difficult because I had so many buffers built in to keep my emotional experience on a very thin band of existence. No highs, no lows, just a gray zone that kept me safe, so I thought. Widening that band of feeling experience, well, I needed people to notice and teach me the language, teach me how to identify what was going on inside me. Slowly I learned to lean into the terror that I was going to be abandoned if I felt anything. Little by little I learned that it is safe to be here as I am, with the feelings I’m experiencing, with the desires I possess.
Working with the Type Nine
Very different from working with the Type Eight who has a quality of irrepressible, in your face, sometimes explosive presence, the Nine is in many regards, the opposite. While working with the Eight has much to do with sometimes restraining the Eight’s intensity, working with Nine has something to do with waking up their intensity, turning up their life-light, calling them out of hiding such that they begin to trust that contacting their innate aliveness will not destroy them, but empower them. The core message of the Nine’s Inner Critic warns them that if they are not peaceful, or the people around them are not at peace—meaning if they can’t fix the upsets and conflicts of others—then they are not lovable. Well, lovable is putting it mildly. As William, a Nine, reports in recovery:
“The moment I begin to arise and tell my emotional truth, or state my individual perspective, I was greeted by the terror of annihilation. Kind of like the annihilation Dave, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, experienced when jettisoned by the plucky, rebel-robot-computer Hal into space in a space capsule, experiencing the real annihilation of his existence, and captured in the last words of Dave saying, ‘Hal…Hal…Hal’ while Hal gleefully said nothing. This is not a quiet annihilation but one that speaks of losing everything and everyone I am connected with. It hits hard and quick, and what I do as a Nine is I back right off and accommodate those around me while I disappear under a cloud cover, and drop through the entrance to by rabbit hole where I am safe. Now you see me, now you don’t.”
So it’s worth understanding the recovery needs of the Nine. The first is simply this: pressuring them to change locks the Nine into resistance (as in, change will destroy all my peaceful connections with those I love, back the ‘f’ off), a quality of stubbornness that may not be externally visible but is immovable and outstandingly effective (the Nine can become an invisible mountain in a heartbeat). It’s like trying to get the wind to change directions. Put pressure on the wind and your hands slide right through the substance, effecting nothing. Exert pressure on the Nine to change and your intentions and pressure pass right through them. The magic trick of the Nine is to pretend he’s going along with your good intentions and your oh-so-thoughtful-advice so that you’ll get off his back while digging his heels in protesting, “Hell no, I won’t go.” Encouraging and inviting the Nine out of hiding works far more effectively than pressure which means that there is an element of patience that you must be comfortable with to really help the Nine. Meaning you’ve got to get it out of your counselor-sponsor-thick-head that you know how quickly the Nine should be moving. You don’t! I repeat, you don’t.
Truth is, they have this funny thing they do wherein they move as slow as molasses, or as one Nine put it, I move in slow-motion so as to stay invisible, where I’m safe. And then, when you’re not looking, they burst forth and fly by you in the jettisoned flow of their personal transformation. So, the ultimate question is can you be patient enough to trust their chosen speed? Can you stay away from that addictive and compelling and very well intended AA recovery habit of saying things like, “This is an action program and you’re not taking any action. Speed this ship up or you will relapse.” Not useful, usually to anyone, but truly well-intended. The Nine yawns and externally agrees, and then hides out. Take the pressure off him, and he gets curious about coming forward. And hey, some folks, namely the Three, Seven, and Eight need to stop action, slow down, get still, don’t move at all. With a little observational skill one sees that each recovery slogan only fits some of the Types. One size does not fit all.
So, what do they need? Space, room to move, trust in their process, understanding that for the Nine, stepping into life, taking steps to assert or nurture themselves, feels as alien as learning Russian. They are hardwired to accommodate you, and to accommodate you some more. And buried down deep is a wish to have a life. Your job as a counselor or sponsor is to notice this, notice the signs of their meaningful preferences, point to it without expectation, simply reflect, as in “I really feel your wish to get connected with your kids.” Notice it and notice again, because as their real passion arises on their screen of perception, it will disappear as quickly, as if it was never there in the first place.” Or, “I notice that when you talk about your dreams or hopes, that you quickly change the subject and bring attention back to others in the room. What’s it like to talk about what you want? What were you feeling when you were talking about a dream to be a teacher? Where did you experience that in your body?”
Or, “I noticed that when you spoke, I could feel anger. Did you feel it? I often experience it in my belly. Where did you notice it in your body? Some Nine’s report that when they feel anger they dissociate from it quickly, so quickly that many times they don’t notice they were actually experiencing anger. It’s like wind that slips thru their fingers. Is this true for you? Like right now, where did your anger just vanish too?” Be prepared and patient when they reply, “I don’t know. I don’t know where my feelings vanish to.” And keep gently and patiently noticing. When they finally get it, watch for a revolution in their awareness.
I watch Dominic, the majestic Type Eight counselor, work with Frankie the Flower, a type Nine client. Dominic’s gift is to give a client a name that exposes their weakness and strength, and then uses it to point to their growth edge. Dominic sees that Frankie is terrified, that his backbone is shaky if not non-existent, and Dominic, being a protector of the weak, does what he does. He loves a guy out of hiding. So, one day in the middle of the group, his back to Frankie, he says, “Now let me tell you guys about Frankie the Flower from New Yawk,” Dominic’s Brooklyn twang sliding thru his words. “I saw him with his kids yesterday and what I noticed was just how much he loved them, just how much he revered them, just how passionately he cares about them. Oh my God, his eyes lit up like the New York sun, which is by far the coolest sun on the planet. Hey, I’m from Brooklyn and I know these things. And his kids, the look in their eyes—they adore him. They couldn’t take their eyes off him. Frankie over there looks really quiet but don’t you buy that shit for one second. With his kids, he cares for them from the belly of his soul. Here he’s got fire. Not wimpy fire, but here he’s got sizzle, passion, guts. He just doesn’t show it. His passion, if you notice closely, will be found in his gentleness. This is a quality we all need to cultivate, gentleness and kindness. And this too, is muscular, dudes, muscular gentleness and kindness,” Dominic says, his eyes hot with conviction. “And when he gets over his fear, he will touch all of you. His kindness will melt you down into a kinder version of yourself.”
Turning to Frankie the Flower and holding him in the force-field of his attention, well, Frankie is in tears. He’s been seen by the majestic Dominic who has named his inner world. He has touched the chords of his real and caring heart. With his impacting instinctual energy he has felt deep inside Frankie’s soul, and struck chords of truth. He continues. “And I can only imagine after the kids left from the visit, the heartbreak that cut thru him, that almost knocked him breathless. I saw this. He was sitting over in the corner with his head down, chest sunken, both grieving and raging at himself. See, Frankie is deeply sensitive, and he cares passionately about the people in his life, so much so that he can’t find words yet to convey his love and caring for them, and he’s way more alive than you might notice. But we’ve got to notice him and help him find words to call out these feelings so that he begins to name what is beautiful within him, so that he can see his gifts. See, when he gets really quiet, when he’s disappeared before your very eyes, when he is so quiet he dissolves into the couch, you know that some intense shit is going on, so we got to help him notice this, and coax him out. Right Frankie?”
And Frankie, looking up at Dominic, is a well of sadness, tears streaming down his cheeks. Dominic has seen and mirrored him in a way nobody ever has. Because of Dominic’s magnanimous words, Frankie now has a felt connection with a very real part of his soul that matters to him. He’s been handed a precious jewel: the compelling reason for getting sober and walking through all of the inconceivable, god awful discomfort of early recovery. Dominic’s words zapping his inner world, reaching in and touching the very real fabric of his heart—has touched the ‘real’ in him, and the real in him feels ‘good.’ Dominic called it out, named it, brought it into the room, resurrected the real in him so that Frankie is developing ‘eyes’ to sense and feel himself.
Now Dominic—Brooklyn Dom he calls himself—his eyes teary too (and it is such an honor to see a powerful man, filled with the granite of courage, so powerfully vulnerable at the same time), says, “Okay, enough of this soft shit. Next thing you know you’ll have me doing yoga and eating vegetables, and this ain’t happening in the near future. I eat steak. And I eat potatoes. That’s it, dudes!” he says, eyes full of playful fire. And turns to Frankie, “Just remember this, Frankie the Flower from New York, whose soul is as soft and lovely as a flower, I have your back. We have your back. You can come forward and be seen. We want you to shine your light here. It is time for you!” And dear Frankie, blown away by how he has been touched, says meekly, “Thank you,” and bows his head in humble thanks. This is what is called loving a guy into reality. And what follows over the next several weeks is that Frankie starts talking in group, starts telling his truth, starts to arise, discovers he has a belly-splitting, unexpected, sense of humor, while Dominic continues to turn the fire of truth up in him little by little, inch by inch, saying ‘Come forward my brother, you belong here.”
It is in these holy moments that I am fully aware of the power of love. This above all else is what calls men to sobriety. More than AA slogans or recovery slogans, but sheer love and kindness for the suffering of the others, naming it, seeing it, and calling it forth. Powerful.