Substitute Skillful Responses for Reactive Habits
A few years ago I came to AEA with a vague hope that a dive into the Enneagram world would help me understand why my marriage failed despite mutual good intentions. My questions were not vague. Where did communication in my marriage fail and why? What was my responsibility and where did my partner let me down? What role did type-based tendencies play in our failures? What, if anything, could I have done differently? What am I missing? I was familiar with Helen Palmer’s early writings, but unsure how the Enneagram could be used proactively to avoid the hidden traps and misunderstandings that emerge as relationships gradually acquire habit-driven routines and unresolved, conflicting views.
Participation in AEA meetups and workshops has led to a stream of cognitive and feeling-based insights that directly and indirectly addressed all of these questions. Reading about the types did not compare to the value of real-time, face to face interactions with exemplars of the all nine Enneagram types. I’ve been so impressed to witness the courage of the AEA community as participants have shared their own blind spots, reactive triggers and habitual problems. Yes, I have a deeper understanding of my own Enneagram type structure. More importantly I’ve discovered the great value of direct interactions with others who know their own type and are starting to see beyond the perceptual filters and restrictions imposed by type. These experiences have added both meaning and inspiration to my meditation practice in ways I could not have predicted a year ago.
Ironically, I’ve become more tolerant as I’ve become more aware of my own unskillful and reactive tendencies. As a 5, it was a great surprise to directly comprehend that both feelings and thoughts underlie reactive tendencies. Understanding type structures I could begin to tease apart and then “rewire” the associations between my discursive thinking and my underlying feelings and emotions. This has led directly to more skillful behaviors. My participation in AEA reaffirmed that we all have an innate ability to substitute skillful responses for reactive habits. At a time when the psychological state of our nation is pulling us apart we all need occasional assistance with opening our hearts to those who choose to pull in a different direction. Without the generosity of the AEA leadership and volunteers none of this would have been possible.
May we all be safe and protected, strong and healed, and most importantly, may we all live with open and loving hearts.