Enneagram Burning Question:
I own my own business which has many elements to it already onsite and offsite, and I have begun developing it in new ways, including toward an online nationwide audience.
I am able to create visions of swimming success in each area of the business. And yet, by myself, I am unable to advance them all simultaneously to the place of bustling busy-ness that I can so easily imagine in each of them.
I can, at times, get quite excited about any of them. Or all of them.
The suffering comes when I look at how, over a year and towards years now, none of the areas are performing at the levels that I have been able to imagine them at. And when I recognize this as a pattern, the suffering takes on a new level, as I can then feel trapped, defective, inadequate… Where do I go from here?
Dear Sad Seven,
Isn’t it confounding when the Seven program of excitement and possibility can leave you feeling trapped? How, when you’re all about freedom, can your approach stop you from experiencing freedom?
It’s actually great news that you are seeing and feeling this contradiction— not only for your business development, but for your personal development as well.
The Paradox in Suffering
Really, for any of us, the idea of witnessing or experiencing our suffering directly, can be aversive to say the least. Even for types who seem more identified with lack, this is usually not an expression of their ability to be with suffering, but another way to stay away from feeling it directly.
And for Seven especially, hanging out with suffering seems bad, wrong and otherwise horrifying. The whole platform at Seven is about avoiding pain and about brightening things up to get away from it as soon as possible.
If you haven’t seen Disney/Pixar’s movie Inside Out, I’d recommend you do. The character of Joy is terrified that her teammate Sadness might threaten or destroy the delicate balance of the inner life of Riley, the 11-year-old girl whose mind they inhabit. In the end, what Joy learns about the value and wisdom of Sadness in life is what helps move Riley out of crisis.
So, congratulations on being willing to witness and own your suffering. It really is a big deal.
So where do you go from here, you ask?
You stay. (Deep breath.)
Yes, I’m sorry- if you are interested in transformation, it’s true.
And even if you’re just interested in business development, it will help there too.
Staying With Yourself
Staying means remaining with or returning to your direct experience no matter what tone it takes. It means not abandoning yourself when you feel scared or resourceless.
This is not an idea- it is a behavior and a process. It means showing up to sense your body sensations, to feel your heart, to watch the evocative content of your mind without biting the hook and being snatched “up and out“ again.
I wonder if this notion prompts you to want to stop reading now? Or to stop wanting to look to the Enneagram for insight? If “staying” is recommended, maybe you’d rather find another path that focuses on positive affirmations and visualizations to bypass your obstacles.
If so, you’re not alone. It is a tough proposition, and not just for Sevens. We all spend a tremendous amount of energy working to avoid the direct experience of the particular pain and fear at the center of our type structure. When we were little, it felt like we would not survive these overwhelming feelings, and so we built a clever infrastructure to try to avoid finding ourselves there ever again.
The good news is that there is unlimited dynamism, richness and reward to staying with it. At Seven, this can be a blind spot, since without my imagination and plans, life can seem bereft of vibrancy. How could staying with pain (or other limiting or non-attractive states) be vibrant or enriching?
Each of your business interests may feel like potential paths to satisfaction, and as you are starting to see, none of them is likely to become so if you continue in your usual way. This isn’t because you can’t or won’t develop them to the next stage successfully. It’s because you “can’t get no satisfaction” if you’re not here in the present.
The suffering of seeing that “none of the areas are performing at the levels that I have been able to imagine them” is in step with a common Seven confusion about the difference between visualizing something and its being a reality. When head types can envision something, it’s as though it’s real. So why hasn’t it been made manifest?
- When you notice that you are leaning into any of the possible future visions for your business, you might ask yourself something like, “What am I hoping I’ll feel when I get there?”
- If you can identify this hope, see whether you might be also able to find that feeling somewhere nearby.
- If the answer was “abundance” or “nourishment” for example, see whether you can open to the possibility of experiencing one of those hoped for states in this moment or watch for it during the rest of your day.
Why Fly Away?
You likely know that type Seven is known for having big plans and little patience with the mundane details it takes to pull them off. What you may not know is why. Encountering in your own experience what this pattern of attention tries to keep you away from will serve you much more deeply than if I just proclaim something to you about it.
- When you find it hard to stick with the details, ask yourself: “What do I notice in my body? My heart? My mind?”
- What if you could stay with those a little longer than you’ve tolerated before (and breathe)?
- Ask yourself, “What feels so hard or bad about staying with the details?”
When you feel discouraged by your pattern, it could be supportive to pay more attention than you typically would to your accomplishments (big and small) in order to counter the Seven tendency to hop over reality into the excitement of the next plan. It sounds like you have already obviously established a lot in your business.
- Rather than rushing past the moments of action toward your goal, what if you could directly sense and appreciate how the universe’s and your will are conspiring, through action, to help your development (personally by staying here, and practically by supporting your business goals)?
- Catch yourself in moments of action or completion and drink them in. Or pause during them to sense the tone or qualities of your body, heart and mind.
In her book The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul, Sandra Maitri describes that “…mapping and planning are the result of a Seven’s loss of a sense of the natural unfoldment of the universe of which he is a part…. he believes he can and must plan and direct his own life and unfoldment.”
What if you could imagine that a master plan is at work, and all you need to do to cooperate with it is show up in contact with yourself in the present moment?
When I read your words, “by myself, I’m unable to advance them all simultaneously to the place of bustling busy-ness,” I felt surprised (or impressed?) that you could imagine advancing multiple goals simultaneously to a level of “swimming success” while pulling off the daily business details.
While the mind of a Seven is uniquely capable of entertaining multiple complex ideas simultaneously, I’m not aware that deliberate action happens that way. Sometimes our plans are too big for their (our?) britches.
It’s a little like having several concurrent, compelling romantic interests and wondering why they are not all getting more serious at once. It’s one thing if you’re just wanting to be a “player.” But if you are wanting things to deepen, it’s hard to invest enough time in any of them to have the experiences that actually create bonding, deeper knowing and investment.
Keeping our options open (ironically) limits us from the richness that comes from a deep dive.
What would it be like to choose one aspect of the current business to develop with depth? This wouldn’t mean abandoning the other ideas, just giving one a real chance first.
- Choose one realistic goal and list out the steps and timeline you imagine it will take to get there.
- Ask someone who knows you for feedback about your goal and plan to help you keep it realistic.
- Set up reinforcements for achieving key steps along the way— especially after the parts that are less glamourous.
- When it is hard to do any of this, offer yourself the gift of inquiring through your body into your resistance, your fears, your desires.
- When you are able to stick with the details, notice how that feels in your body, heart and mind.
- Celebrate doing any part of this process differently- even if you aren’t able to shift your habits significantly.
Where do I start?
In discerning which aspect of your business is the right one to attend to first, you will need to include more than your mind. It’s hard to get meaningful inner guidance without the input of the belly and heart centers. How will you discover which one of your interests makes most sense to “court” first?
- Choose a favorite practice for getting into your body in a sensory way- movement, breath, lying on the earth, etc., and sense yourself directly in it.
- Once you have access to your felt-sense, see how that presence affects your heart.
- Once you have contact with your heart, open up the question about which might be the most meaningful or practical tack to take first.
- Be still and quiet as you notice your reactions to what arises.
Although I’ve offered you several ideas and practices here, any one of them would be plenty to start with. Use your heart and belly to consider which of these suggestions might be the most important. Which might be the most doable?
We don’t want to perpetuate the multi-track imperative in your personal development, or we won’t be getting anywhere new.
Thank you for sharing your dilemma, Sad Seven. I hope your explorations are fruitful— both inwardly and outwardly!