“I don’t think that’s the best route here…I have a feeling we should be looking at this from a different perspective.” I say as I’m sitting in a stuffy conference room with a number of people wearing business attire. Collared shirts, ties, the norm for corporate folk. I then am looked upon with confusion in the faces of these people. A silent second goes by and the acting manager moves to another topic while neglecting my statement, giving it no comment whatsoever…and then I wake up.
This is an all-too-common scenario I fear during sleep and sometimes happens while daydreaming as well. Although this specific (yet, so generic) occasion hasn’t actually happened to me, it does provide a glimpse into my psyche and a lifestyle in which I try to avoid at all costs. This scenario helps me find my place in the working world. I find that I learn more of “what not to do” in worldly situations than “what to do.”
What I mean by this: there are so many options for places to go, people to see, and things to do in this world. To do everything is impossible. (but worth a shot) To narrow down the list, it’s helpful to learn from other’s mistakes. Simply put – see what people are doing wrong, and avoid the hell out of it. I’m not saying: don’t make mistakes. In fact, we should be making mistakes and taking risks often. But to be that guy wearing a suit to work every day with a bunch of jabronis who dismiss feelings in the workplace is a bunch of bologna. (there was a rhyme in there) Fortunately, the world has changed a bit since the age of all-male boardrooms, led by purely money and power-hungry tyrants. Even a 1% reduction in this is good, folks! (Science provided by my awareness of the modern world)
Where does this anecdote lead us? To the Enneagram in the workplace, of course. If you’re unfamiliar with this word – Enneagram, just know you can start here for the basics. In summary: it’s a tool used to help people discover their natural tendencies, where they can go from there, and how to interact with others, based on those natural behaviors. For example, the title of this article includes Type 4. Four is one of the nine types notated by the Enneagram. It’s a wheel of connections, shown below. At first, I thought it was an image showing off the satanic power of the numeric occult. (Hint, it’s not satanic, but some of us wish it was a bit more 666)
After you’ve taken an assessment and discussed with a qualified Enneagram pro (I’m lucky I have one nearby…) It’s time to be typed. Ugh, that sounds bad. We’re not put into cages, it’s more of a region – it may have boundaries but there’s lots to explore. Rivers, mountains, caves, houses, restaurants…it’s all there!
So anyway, I was typed as a Seven. Joyful, full of ideas, always following my bliss, and continuously avoiding pain and suffering. This is important; I was mistyped. Where I was at the time in my life played a huge role in this. I wanted to fit in and the group was small. I do share some of the natural tendencies of a Seven in the wild, but after a few months went by, I didn’t feel like my true self was shining through. I wasn’t giving myself permission to feel all of my feelings.
Then I moved to Colorado and starting going back to therapy. One on one; talking about feelings, past, present, relationships, you name it. The hard stuff. The work it takes to figure out what the fuck is going on in your life, and the steps it takes to deal with all your past traumas. For me, there was a lot of data to process. I won’t dive too deep on this subject, because the topic of the day is the Enneagram and being a type 4. “But, being a type 4 includes being willing to feel a huge spectrum of emotions, be aware of them, and at times, overshare! Why not, Robby!?!” Good point, inner-self…and way to summarize.
On top of all that, fours are creative, caring, and often-times stuck in their own world (fantasy). It just happens; we’re imaginative people, so we’re good at creating another world to live in. Sometimes, we feel all the emotions in the room of the people around us, and given our situation, it’s just too much! Escape to fantasy, no reality, please!! Then, anxiety. Then, tears or deep-seated rage, or any of the emotions in-between. The balance within can be lost quickly and swayed by the emotions. Though they’re not in complete control of one’s life, sometimes, it feels as though they are all that matter. As you can see, there’s a large spectrum, and this is true for every type and every person. By learning our types we’re able to interact with ourselves and each other in a healthier, and more efficient way (helpful at work and especially with more intimate relationships).
Back to my personal journey. The reason I went to therapy was simply to understand myself better and have the best relationship I could with my wife. Wanting to change my outside circumstances started going within; this was my route. I truly believe in the effects of therapy; so long as you’re willing to put your feelings and ego on the line in real-time, it can be very helpful. Easier said than done. My therapist was familiar with the Enneagram types and referenced it on occasion to help explain certain behaviors of mine. Flash forward a month and I was beginning to question my being a Type 7. I went back to the drawing board and sought out my OG Ennea-guru, dived-deep on the interwebs and books, and landed where my original assessment had me in the first place: Type 4.
And it reads: 4 – The Individualist. The Sensitive, Introspective Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental.
If you’d like to read more into it, go for it with the link above. What I will say about this discovery, is that it felt like going home. Going home in a way like leaving for your first year of college and then going back to see your parents for Thanksgiving, home. (not everyone can relate to this sentiment, I get it) It felt really good, and it helped ease my #1 Basic Fear whilst being a Four: Having no identity or personal significance. It’s weird, but just knowing who I am a little bit more, was a weight off my shoulders.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I bet there are many stories of folks who can envision a better path once they understand a bit more about themselves. That’s what the trials of life are for, right!? There are also those who struggle with being categorized to begin with. They might feel confined, or only focus on the negative aspects that go with their type. To those who might feel this way: be patient, accepting our own truths takes time and the willingness to be challenged on a very personal level.
What this new-found vision that came with being correctly typed with the Fours of the world, was something unexpected. I felt open to my creative side. It’s always been there, but I suppressed it for so long. Years turned into a near-decade after college of randomly playing music when I had the “extra” time. What I realized is that my creative efforts are a natural part of me that need tending to just like the muscles of the body need work to get stronger. Without movement, our bodies go to waste, and we become stiff and decrepit. Old before our time. It’s why I run. I’d rather die in an accident than for being a boring person for too many years…I digress. The creative pursuit is one filled with ups and downs, time spent focussed, and time lost in no-man’s-land creating absolutely nothing – but loving every second of it. (though you weren’t aware of where and what you were really doing…another topic for another time)
Creativity is a gift, and it is to be used. Continuing on the path of doing so, is a difficult journey. It’s easy to create the excuses of work, relationships, blah blah blah, to fill the gaps of time in life. But there is no substitute for creating. You either make something original or you don’t. You can write, play music, tell a story, or create a new route; the possibilities are endless. It’s up to me to attempt to be creative as much as possible. Or I’ll probably just get sad and depressed without enough of it – which is normal too! It’s just a stage of experience, or a weather pattern moving in for a day or two. Nature is impossible to avoid, we must work with, not against it.
Lastly, I’ll provide an opinion. Type, or no type, we’re all creative. We were created, and we create every day with our very existence, sometimes oblivious to the changes that we implement. With every action or non-action, there is an opportunity to be creative, and no need to sell yourself short.
Until next time, just be yourself.