It can take awhile to accept that turning toward our trouble is necessary for a wholehearted life. But once we understand that concealing or bypassing our difficult emotions doesn’t help in the long run, we who are drawn to grow and heal are faced with learning how to turn toward them in ways that do help. 

The idea of working with our inner difficulty is different from actually being with it. Really being with our difficulty is impossible without a courageous heart. Continue reading “The Courage to Stop Hiding From Your Truth”

Despair?  It’s horrible.  

Helplessness?  Absolutely not.  Get me out of here.

Betrayal?  No way!  I spend all my energy staying away from that!

Inherent in each of our personalities is a persistent approach to try to not feel upset in particular ways.  We don’t want to feel alone, wrong, worthless, powerless, helpless, incapable, trapped or disconnected and our ego structures are devoted to ensuring we that don’t. 

Except they fail. Regularly and consistently, they fail. All of ours do.

In fact, as we look longer and more closely at the effect that our personality “security systems” have on us, we begin to see how our enneatypes themselves can add to our suffering. And maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work so we eventually open to something more.

Coming from type Nine on the Enneagram, for example, I may be able to acknowledge over time how my habitual avoidance of conflict ends up creating even more inner and outer conflict for me. This awareness can be very useful, as I consider my situation from beyond my usual lens of type. If conflict is unavoidable in life, how do I want to engage it?

Such realizations can also stir a tendency in us to think of our enneatypes as wrong, as trouble, and in need of overthrowing.  But seeing our automatic tendencies as the enemy or as something to be eradicated also adds pain and frustration. Is there no way out of this maze of human suffering?

It turns out that looking for the way “out” can be part of the problem. If I tell myself I shouldn’t be experiencing what I’m experiencing, I add another layer of angst.

So what is another way? 

Continue reading “The Trouble with Turning from Trouble: Are You Running in the Wrong Direction?”

Navel Gazing and Bungee Jumping

Does the idea of skydiving, ice climbing, or drag racing intimidate you? Or thrill you? Or both? 

Do you dread the thought of heading into the wilderness of your emotions and sensations? Or do you long to immerse yourself in them? Or both?

It could be said that we humans are organized by fear. Fear compels us to great achievement, preparation, and avoidance. In the face of feeling our helplessness or insignificance, it is natural to want to change our experience of fear through distraction, pursuit, numbing out, combat, or escape. 

Different Enneagram types will be able to recognize this more or less directly, but each of our inner platforms is structured to have us not feel our particular dreaded feeling and to experience ourselves in a particular way. We each have a core fear. Type Four, for example, feels “allergic” to experiencing the self as ordinary or mundane; at Four, I am reassured when I experience myself as unique, significant, or unusual.  

Biologically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, culturally, and existentially we can rack up whole piles of fears. And by habitually trying to override or avoid our fears, most of us don’t realize the weight we are constantly carrying. Or the gold mine we’re pushing away. Continue reading “Inner Work as an Extreme Sport”

There’s been a lot of stir in the US lately about “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Not too many decades ago, people could relax to a certain degree into a defined religious, scientific, or other worldview and assume that it was substantial. Real.

Since then Western cultures have undergone ideological deconstruction and entered a postmodern era where “objective reality” and “absolute truth” are no longer sure bets. We still want to know what’s real or true, while some suggest we’ve entered a “post-truth” era.

It can feel disorienting and anxiety-producing to not know what information we can rely on- what path we can trust. Contemporary culture turns up the volume on our collective angst and simultaneously creates ever-more flashy ways of trying to deliver us from it.

How can we find our way through? Cling to the headlines of a political party? Harken back to some golden era? Profess that future solutions will take care of our troubles? Get more facts and data to put this to rest once and for all?

Trying to recapture an idealized past or imagining ourselves in a preferred future will not do the trick. What we need in order to find our way through is available to us right here and right now. It is a capacity intrinsic to us, even if no one ever taught us about it or how to “use” it.

I’ve learned to reliably find my way there by engaging the wisdom that the Enneagram points to. Continue reading “Post-Truth? Enneagram as Balm for Postmodern Angst”

As someone drawn to working with the depths of our inner territory, I want my devotion to development to be relevant and helpful in the context of practical life and collective troubles. I don’t want my reflection to be a way of disengaging or bypassing what’s happening around me.

These questions rise up:

What if you’ve been missing the memo that your relationship has been trying to broadcast to you? What if all those annoying things about your dynamics and your partner are actually here to help you grow?

In this article, we’ll look at how modern relationships present us with new developmental opportunities, ones than most people in the past never “got” to grapple with.  

We will also look at how your Enneagram type contributes to your dissatisfaction in relationship, and how you can start to steer into more fruitful and satisfying territory instead.  

I will illustrate some of what’s possible with a story about my own relationship distress, and also offer you a 5-Step inquiry exercise to reflect on yours. Continue reading “BRAVE HEART! What Your Relationship is Really Asking of You”

Why is it that when I try harder in relationship, it can make things worse?

Why when we care about each other, do we keep hurting each other in the same ways?

Our Enneagram types can, by their very architecture, keep us dissatisfied and in conflict in relationship. At least when they are on auto-pilot.

This in itself is a bit of a paradox. It is hard to accept that my personality or ego-structure would be undermining me and my happiness. After all, I kind of think of my personality as me. It’s who I take myself to be, ordinarily. Why would I habitually or automatically be undermining myself?

In this article, I will offer you some ways to reframe this conundrum and four practices to help you work with the dilemmas we find ourselves in over and over.
Continue reading “Satisfy My Soul: 4 Practices to Transcend Enneagram Relationship Paradoxes”


Why did I choose this person?

It seems they are here just to push my buttons!

No matter what I try, they won’t respond the way I want!

Do they even care about me?

Why can’t I figure this out? 

What’s wrong with me?


Have you ever had a thought like this dart through your mind when you can’t break through the gridlock in your relationship? 

So have I. So have we all.

How can the Enneagram help us in this ancient dilemma that poets, philosophers and psychologists have already tried to answer in countless ways? The Enneagram reveals how we inadvertently sabotage our own ability to be satisfied— at least in a deep or lasting way.  It also points the way toward how we can do things differently.  Continue reading “Can’t Get No Satisfaction? 9 Paradoxes in Relationship”


A confession: I used to hate hatred. It’s not that I enjoy hate now, but I see it differently.  

I wanted to offer you some reflections on this with the hope that they may be of use to you when you are facing your own or others’ hatred.

Hating Hatred

A paradox in my Enneagram Type 9 pattern is that if there’s one thing I’m fundamentally intolerant of, it’s intolerance.  

I still feel hatred when I witness hate being acted out- to me it looks like a wounded heart in such despair that it’s creating more wounds in its helplessness. I hate the misunderstanding, the assumptions, the harm, the seeing others as vile, and the cold disconnection that accompany hate. 

I see how raw rage, and the pain under it, make it almost impossible for the other to turn toward it with love or understanding. It is heartbreaking to me that in our despair, others are repulsed by us. And in my heart of hearts I just want it to stop. 

Maybe my Nineness makes it comparatively easier for me to access compassion for the rage and pain I see underneath it— these feelings seem to always spring from somewhere very elemental, human and vulnerable in us. It’s like my values, my worth and what is dear to me is being insulted, trod upon, harmed, sometimes even murdered, and I must rise up to protect.

But personally, I felt stuck in my rejection of the hate. It felt like a dead end where I was remained activated and helpless. I wanted another way. Continue reading “An Alternative to Hating Hate?”