I watched a demonstration recently where a man tried to stand up from his chair while someone, holding a sign that read “trauma,'“ stood behind him and pushed him down.
Each time he hit that awkward half-standing place, a better-leveraged, hard-to-see force in the background threw its weight and sat him back down.
Does that feel familiar?
It does to me.
Deconstructing the False Self.
This past Easter - which happened to be the ninth anniversary of my own resurrection - I went to Upper Room Church at Pensacola Beach, at dawn.
In the tiny coffee shop next door, there’s a lending library. On a shelf, with its title at eye level was a book called The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner.
I’d never heard of it and I’ve heard of everything, (more on that in a minute) so I borrowed it. (Sorry Drowsy Poet - I still have it.)
In the book, Benner talks about the Enneagram and the destructive power of our False Self which keeps us separate, striving and desperate to enter into lives we, as followers of Jesus, already have.
Since Easter, I’ve done nothing but plumb that rabbit hole because I feel seen, understood and spacious in a whole new way. I’ve also been terrified at the process the Enneagram heralds, which some call “a great emptying.”
As Benner said, you don’t go looking to the Enneagram for validation, you go looking for growth.
What is the Enneagram?
In short, it’s an ancient, fairly mysterious, personality assessment of unclear origin that seems to have descended orally through Sufi traditions, but may date as far back as the 4th Century Desert Christians.
It holds that there are nine personality types which usually solidify in the first half of life, in response to environment, family, culture, stress, etc. It’s how you cope but it isn’t all of you, it’s a container you think is you.
Midlife has a way of taking that container, like a smallish cardboard box covered with fancy ribbons, and leaving it out in the rain. Out of this mushy, brown mess, what’s really you?
Your type is neither good nor bad, and the Enneagram it’s not a panacea or a replacement for the gospel. It’s just a tool designed to expose, on a daily basis, whether your natural gifts from God are well-integrated and on display, or distorted and on display.
Meet the person standing behind your chair.
My False Self On Display.
A year or so ago, I heard some friends rave about the Enneagram and I took a free test that misidentified me as an Enneagram One - The Perfectionist. I wrote about that here. It was close, but as often happens, deeper reflection reveals better truth.
I’m actually not a One at all. I’m a Three. The Achiever. The Performer. The Star. The Chameleon.
I’m the woman who has to achieve big things easily and perfectly every time, because I think my value depends on it. So I get stuff done and I’m impatient with those who don’t. Then I go make more stuff and I get that done too. I thrive on the praise this behavior generates. So does America by the way. This behavior is REWARDED.
I’m also the woman who can walk into just about any room and know within 5 seconds exactly who I have to be in it. I can talk about anything and charm anyone, which is why I’m a good salesman and fun at parties. My spirit animal is Bill Clinton - FYI a lot of Presidents are threes, including, I suspect, the current one.
Unsurprisingly, the deadly sin of threes like me - the distortion - is vanity and deceit of myself and others. I believe my own PR to the point I don’t even know what’s true. I also bury my emotions to better mirror others, to the point I don’t know how I feel. But I hide that by being boastful and grandiose, competitive and self-promoting. This is shattering and hard to admit.
My annihilation? Failure, which I simply don’t do. I just work harder and more perfectly until I wind up in the emergency room with chest pain, which I did earlier this year.
How’s that for self-disclosure? Gather round everybody, want to see something gross? If you’re being honest and really sitting with it, that’s what the Enneagram does. It’s a process I described to a friend as “Yay/ugh.”
You want to know your type now don’t you? Take the test yourself.
Doing something with all this deep, dank knowledge will ultimately test your contemplative practice, so it’s a good idea to get one asap. Fr. Richard Rohr, one of the early re-adopters of the Enneagram, recommends reviewing all nine descriptions and dwelling with them until you find the one that feels humiliating and true. That’s probably your type.
Are you insane? Why would you do that?
The genius of the Enneagram is that it clearly called out my false self, which is not divine, but distorted, so I can do something about it. Now I can see a lifetime of ego, pride, fear and striving as the source of wicked anxiety. Of course I’ve been resisting it. The false self I didn’t know I had is fighting for its life.
My soul however, the part Jesus owns, stirs at the possibility of redemption and proper expression of the me he created. Wow. What will that look like?
I have no idea what happens next, but I’m ready to get up from that chair. You?
This is the work of the Firegirl Academy.
We do it because we refuse to allow our false selves to continue stealing our potential. Firegirls learn to own the freedom and abundance that Jesus died for us to have.
This freedom is a gift in the same way a packet of seeds is. You still have to plant, cultivate and tend the weedy bits in your garden. It’s just work that requires, paradoxically, surrender and courageous action.
If this interests you, your next courageous action might be booking a call with us to talk about your life, your potential and where it’s leaking out. The call is free and the time is now. The time is always now.