I’d like to give an enormous hat tip to Dr. Peter Attia for championing the integral role our emotional health plays in the overall quality and length of our life. He is shining a beacon on the many ways that our emotional health impacts our physical and cognitive health, our most treasured personal relationships and maybe most importantly — how well we actually know ourselves.
From the outside looking in, Dr. Peter Attia certainly seems to be a shining example of living the good life. He has a hugely successful career in medicine, is a renowned authority on the subject of longevity and good health, is in great physical and cognitive shape, and is married with three children. He practices what he preaches. In other words, he has checked all the boxes for a successful, happy life.
Yet in recent years, while writing his newest book, Outlive, Dr. Peter Attia became acutely aware that there was a gaping hole in the complete picture of longevity and quality of life — emotional health. What good is checking all the boxes that outwardly give the impression of success and happiness, if in fact inwardly we are miserable?
Yes, we can be physically and cognitively very healthy; we can be proactive with preventive measures and early detection to ensure we live longer — and possibly longer without illness, disease or cognitive decline. But if we are unhappy, discontent and lack emotional regulation, we will continue to be miserable no matter how physically fit or mentally sharp we are; no matter how many measurements of success we seem to have achieved.
This is a true fact for so many of us. We have a very big blind spot about how our emotional health has taken its toll on us and our families, all while we have been actively checking off the boxes.
We can be so unaware of the impacts of our emotional health that we will unconsciously sabotage ourselves over and over again. Dr. Peter Attia uses the metaphor of Formula One racing to help us grasp the magnitude of ignoring our emotional health:
Just a few short decades ago, Formula One racing had a very high rate of death among its drivers because of the risk factors. The cars were engineered for performance not safety. Today that risk factor for death and serious injury has been dramatically reduced. What changed? The cars are now engineered for safety first and performance second. Minimize risk.
As Dr. Attia points out, we use risk factors all the time to help us minimize the risk to our physical and cognitive health. We intervene early to prevent infection, illness and disease. Yet we have been ignoring emotional health all the while.
No one asks the questions — “What is your risk for poor emotional health and what are we doing about it?“
It has become very clear over the past decade or two that it behooves us all to reflect on how the old parenting models impacted us — and especially our emotional health. The risk factors for our emotional health are imbedded in those old parenting paradigms that disconnected us from understanding and effectively utilizing our emotions. Our emotions are an integral part of our brain/body connection and we are long overdue for a major upgrade to our human operating system.
Just look at all the advances that we have made in modern medicine to fight genetically inheritable diseases. We have been blind to the generational inheritances of poor emotional health. And now our eyes have been opened – we have a brand new pathway to addressing the quality of our emotional health.
Not only are we able to intervene early for our own emotional health, we can begin to ensure that our children get a head start on a lifetime of good emotional health.
We are the change agents; the ones that will break the cycles of dysfunction that got passed unconsciously from one generation to the next. We will advance human evolution by proactively integrating our emotions with our complex, developing brains.
Dr. Peter Attia shared with Dr. Andrew Huberman in a recent podcast that for most of his life he got really good at drywall repair – because he was dealing with an unconscious inner rage from trauma in his childhood – and that anger often had him punching a hole in the wall. In fact, it was that same anger and strong urge to punch a guy in a parking lot that made him realize he had to get help for his emotional disregulation. He realized in that moment that he could have lost everything he had spent his whole life building — his reputation, his career, his marriage and family – because of unchecked emotional health.
I just have to say that Dr. Attia still packs a punch — a positive and very healthy one. He punched a big hole in our blindspots when it comes to emotional health and the integral role it plays in the overall quality of our life.
As I was reading Dr. Attia’s book, Outlive, I was delightfully surprised to discover that he had turned to two of my favorite resources to help him in his search and recovery process for emotional health — Esther Perel and Terry Real. I have long followed their work, participated in their seminars and read their books. It was Terry Real’s relationship summit in May, 2022 that prompted my blog post “Whatever He Has, I Want It” featuring Hugh Jackman’s journey with personal growth and emotional awareness.
Little holes have been being poked into our need to focus on emotional health from a diverse array of sources for several decades. Neuroscience has been paving the way as we make tremendous breakthroughs in understanding how our brains, bodies and emotions need integration in order to function optimally.
Changes are happening at a very fast pace now. Old methods once used for parenting, for treating trauma and mental health issues are being tossed out and replaced with protocols that focus on integration of emotions. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk even emphasizes that it is not necessary to go back and revisit all the re-traumatizing details of a childhood event. Instead, the focus and therapy becomes on how a person is feeling today, what they are experiencing in the present moment – and integrating that into more manageable responses to current experiences.
Dr. Attia explains that we can reframe this work as an “invitation to view our own young experiences through the eyes of our own child”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he learned that from Terry Real, who often says that the best motivation in the world for personal change is our children. Terry says that we might not change for our partners or ourselves, but we rarely resist change if we know it will help our kids.
Our emotional health is rooted in our childhoods. There is no doubt about that. It is crystal clear that we will be the change agents for breaking generational patterns of poor coping skills, unhealthy attachment styles, maladaptive patterns of behavior and lifelong poor emotional health.
Dr. Attia would encourage each of us to view our emotional health and its risk factors the same way that we view our physical and cognitive health. Dig into our family history, intervene early, develop healthier approaches and incorporate a daily maintenance program to support an ongoing healthy trajectory.
Develop a list of podcasts that become your “go to” playlist to support your emotional health. Here are a few of my favorites:
Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that emotional health is fast becoming a foundational pillar for the length and quality of our lifespan. A subject that was once relegated to the self-help and personal growth space is now being integrated into a healthspan revolution.
Healthspan is not just living longer, it is about living longer without chronic and major health issues, living with vitality, strong cognitive and physical abilities and strong emotional health.
Dr. Peter Attia, host of the very popular podcast, The Drive, and author of “Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity” emphasizes that while cognitive and physical health are germane to the quality and length of our lives, our emotional health may potentially be the most important component of all. “After all, what good is a long life if you are miserable?”
“Emotional health encompasses happiness, emotional resilience and distress tolerance, mindfulness, stillness and fulfillment, among others. It touches on our sense of individual purpose, as well as our ability to engage in meaningful and supportive relationships with those we love.” — From the Mental & Emotional Health Archives of Dr. Peter Attia (https://peterattiamd.com/category/mental-health/)
While listening to Dr. Attia discuss his new book Outlive with Dr. Andrew Huberman, I found myself completely captivated by the last 48 minutes of that podcast conversation. What he shared so openly about his own emotional health journey fit like a puzzle piece into my recent series of blog posts about the negative impacts of old parenting models. His personal story is so relatable on many levels – and proof positive that it behooves us all to take our emotional health as seriously as our exercise, nutrition and sleep.
From the outside, most of us would just assume that Dr. Peter Attia was living a happy, successful life. A Stanford/John Hopkins/NIH trained physical, he has built a thriving medical career focusing on the applied science of longevity. He has won prestigious awards, was the first person to make the round trip swim from Maui and Lanai, and has a huge following for his extremely popular podcast about longevity. He’s married and has three kids. Sure seems like he checked all the boxes for a good life.
Yet he shared both in his book and in the Huberman Lab podcast that he was driven to be a perfectionist and his inner critic was harsh and unrelenting. He also admits to becoming very skilled at drywall because he was prone to break a lot of things — both when he was younger and into his adult life. It took not one, but two, rock bottom moments in recent years to motivate him to get serious about his emotional health. The root causes of his core emotional issues were in his childhood — unprocessed trauma, lack of emotional language and lack of skillful emotional regulation.
Boom – there it is — the inescapable fact that what has happened in our childhood gets carried right into adulthood — and even when we work hard to build a successful life and check all the boxes, we still can get tripped up by our own unconscious obstacles.
In my recent blog post “Learning What We Need to Teach”, I shared that Dr. Dan Siegel recommends going back and examining our childhood so we can understand our relationship attachment style, how our parents influenced our development and how we made sense of what happened to us.
While Dr. Siegel readily acknowledges that most people are very resistant to revisiting a painful or dysfunctional childhood, it is a clear path to addressing the behavioral patterns and limiting beliefs that become our unconscious obstacles. Dr. Attia would likely frame this examination of our childhood an early intervention for our adult emotional health — and that framework comes from his personal experience and his scientific approach to longevity.
It was just a few years ago, as that second “rock bottom” was hitting hard for him, that Dr. Peter Attia’s good friend pulled him aside and told him he really needed this intervention. His good friend knew firsthand why unpacking family dysfunction and childhood trauma is of paramount importance for a good life. He is none other than Dr. Paul Conti, also a Stanford/Harvard grad, who is a psychiatrist and author of Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic; How Trauma Works and How We Can Heal From It.
The synchronicity of Dr. Paul Conti being a psychiatrist whose focus is on healing trauma and Dr. Attia being a medical doctor whose focus is on longevity and quality of life is not lost me. I have been witnessing the emerging integration of multiple disciplines and modalities for several years. So many significant neuroscience breakthroughs are deeply connected to the mind/body connection; the very integration of emotions with the lower and upper parts of developing brains for which Dr. Dan Siegel advocates the whole brain parenting approach.
We got emotions wrong for generations. Full stop. Emotions are the very first part of our human programming that needs to be installed. Emotions are how we learn to care for, and meet the needs of a precious baby. It is second nature for us to respond appropriately to an infant’s cries or their engaging laughter. How could we have been so blind to the obvious? The old parenting models actually had us overriding the most integral software component of being a human being. This is precisely why we have so many interpersonal difficulties, why our inner critic is so debilitating, and why we perpetuate problems from one generation to the next.
Peter Attia took Paul Conti’s sage advice. He did a deep-dive into this healing work in a 3 week program in Arizona, where he discovered a lot about his childhood that provided answers and insights. He learned tools and practices to help him pivot to the healthy end of his emotional health spectrum.
I was not at all surprised to learn that Dr. Attia was able to go back and look at blocked memories from childhood through the lens of an adult, who is now a parent himself, and discover deep compassion for a little boy who had no way of processing what he was experiencing; a little boy who strived to be “perfect” in order to feel safe and loved. His inner critic who was so hard on him when he missed the mark of “perfection” was parental message playing over and over….for 5 decades of his life.
This transformational experience was an enormous pivot for Dr. Peter Attia. He came to fully comprehend that all the work he was doing to help people live longer, without disease, chronic or major health issues, to ensure they stayed physically active and cognitively healthy was missing one compelling component — emotional health. In his mind, there could be nothing worse than living a very long life and being miserable, discontent and emotionally disregulated throughout it all.
As I listened to Dr. Attia convey all of this to his longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Andrew Huberman, I thought about a very familiar story that really brings this message home — Scrooge in the Christmas Carol. Past, present, future. See how our past influences our present….and where our present blindspots predict our future. We have instinctively known this for generations.
As he was going through what he calls his “rehab and recovery”, Dr. Attia was also deeply entrenched in writing his book, Outlive. There was no way he could not include his profound discovery about emotional health and it’s direct impacts on the quality of our lives — and although his editors and publisher thought it belonged in a separate book, he strongly disagreed. Integration of emotional health was essential to the pillars of longevity and quality of life.
This is so profoundly important, I am going to share it again:
Integration of emotional health is essential for our longevity, physical and cognitive health and the overall quality of our life.
Dr. Attia likes to create a dashboard for his patients as part of his comprehensive approach to mitigating health problems in the future. Not only does he seek to improve the length of their lifespan, he also wants to increase the length of their “healthspan” and shorten the length of “diseasespan.” He acknowledges that we have many ways to predict future possible health consequences by taking into account family history, genetics and using the wide array of medical tools (blood work, MRI’s, bone density, colonoscopy, mammograms, EKG, etc). There are many tools available for pre-screeening and preventive actions for our physical health; and a plethora of ways to measure and mitigate risk.
The same cannot be said for emotional health. There are no clearly defined ways of measuring it. As Dr. Andrew Huberman acknowledged, measuring emotional health is tricky — and language is our dissection tool. If we have a very limited emotional vocabulary and equally limited understanding of our inner emotional world, it would be like trying to do a biopsy with a blindfold on.
Not having a concise way to measure emotional health does not preclude Dr. Attia from adding it to the longevity dashboard for his patients however. He firmly believes that like cognitive and physical health issues, intervening early is key.
Can you imagine the positive and transforming impacts that are on the horizon for our mental health crises if there is a major pivot to include emotional health in comprehensive medical care? And it doesn’t stop there — we have growing evidence that stress and anxiety, unprocessed trauma, dysfunctional environments as well as generational trauma and addictions (epigenetics) contribute significantly to our physical health. Could it be that early intervention on our emotional health be the gateway to solving some of our most perplexing medical issues, including cancer, ALS, dementia and more. I firmly believe that it will.
For the record, Dr. Andrew Huberman was recently a guest on The Drive (Dr. Peter Attia’s podcast) and in that episode, Andrew really opened up about his own childhood, his parent’s contentious divorce and the debilitating impacts that it had on him for a great part of his adult life.
The candor and vulnerability that both of these dynamic, successful young men shared on each other’s podcasts is proof positive that we are witnessing a game-changing breakthrough that is long overdue. The skeletons are coming out of the closets! No more sweeping emotional health under the carpet.
Dr. Attia did not hesitate to point out that the top priority on his personal longevity dashboard is emotional health. He shared that “it is the easiest to get out of balance, the hardest to manage and the one that creates the most pain in his life.“
When Dr. Andrew Huberman pressed his friend for a definition of emotional health, Peter told him that it’s hard to specifically define it, and perhaps more relevant to recognize the components that make up strong, positive emotional health. The following is excerpted from his conversation in the HubermanLab podcast:
“Connectivity with others just seems to be an inescapable part of this (emotional health), so the ability to maintain healthy relationships and attachments to others; having a sense of purpose; being able to regulate your emotions; experiencing fulfillment; experiencing satisfaction — all of these things matter. And, if we take an honest appraisal of ourselves, we will notice that we have deficits is these areas.”
“Being “present” — which may have been less of an issue a hundred years ago than it is today — Being present is very difficult; thoughts about the future, not being satisfied with what is happening in the moment. I have to work hard to overcome those things. When you are present, you generally are in a much better frame of mind.” –Dr. Peter Attia
Connecting the Dots:
When Brene Brown began her research on shame and vulnerability back in 2001, she was an instrumental part of the necessary paleontologist team to excavate our human emotions. There were so many fossilized clues embedded in the stratifications of unprocessed emotions and traumas passed from one generation to the next over centuries.
When Dr. Bruce Perry published his book Born for Love in 2010, he unearthed what happens to infants whose basic needs and emotional pleas are not addressed in calm, loving and supportive ways. He was helping us grasp that there was a serious problem and he sounded an alarm for our growing empathy poverty. It was even more than a disconnect from our shared humanity and empathy – it was a snowball rolling down the hill toward our individual and collective declining emotional health — because we were not fully installing our basic emotional programming.
Also in 2010, Dr. Dan Siegel introduce us to his developing concept of “mindsight”- the newest science of personal transformation made possible through integration of the various parts of brain and mind/body connection. For more than a decade, Dr. Siegel continues to expand on his research and has introduced the most profound contemporary parenting model – The Whole Brain Child. Dr. Siegel is leading the charge for this dynamic pivot that “integrates” our fundamental emotional GPS system with all the parts of a child’s brain, slowly over time, as the child’s brain develops along with their physical bodies. Future generations who are nurtured with a whole brain parenting approach will most certainly be more “emotionally healthy” as adults and in turn, more physical and cognitively healthy as well.
This single pivot will have dramatic and positive impacts on our epigenetics and has the potential to stop generational cycles of inherited health issues, addictions, trauma and dysfunction in its tracks.
Stealing a line from Hamilton – “Look around. Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”
We can all be participating in this evolutionary pivot. We start by attending to our own emotional health and then we teach and model this integration for younger generations – for our children, grandchildren and our grandchildren’s babies.
Take advantage of all the resources that are integrating and cross-pollinating to help us live longer, live healthier both physically and cognitively — and most importantly to live a well-balanced, emotionally well-regulated, purpose-filled, satisfying, deeply rewarding life.
I’ve been captivated by the extensive research that explains how childhood experiences shape our personalities and impact our ability to cope with life’s inevitable adversities. It intrigues me on several levels. One, it helps me unpack a lot of mystery and confusion about relationships I have had since childhood. And two, it fuels my advocacy for children, mental health and the importance of personal growth.
I’m extremely grateful for the work that Dr. Bruce Perry, Brene Brown and many others have been doing over the past several decades that is culminating in a greater awareness and deeper understanding of our hard-wired need for love and belonging. Research is shedding a lot of light on all the ways people go about trying to fill these deficits of worthiness, trust, and connection — and what goes wrong more often than not.
The cause of these feelings of deficit are often rooted in our childhood experiences and even the culture of the time.
Acceptable and normalized punishments for “bad behavior” from my generation have thankfully evolved. As is so often the case, because we did not understand basic brain functions, we were making things worse — for ourselves and our children. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We are now beginning to understand that a child’s bad behavior is not a choice, but a natural limitation due to childhood brain development.
Our personalities and our behavioral patterns are all shaped in early childhood. They are a direct result of our lived life experiences. We develop our coping mechanisms and behavioral patterns as a child to to keep us safe all while also seeking to be accepted, to be valued and to be heard. We need love and belonging to grow and thrive.
As we make our way into the adult world, we subconsciously take these childhood experiences and patterns with us.
Imagine how many relationship problems could be resolved in a supportive and meaningful way if we actually addressed the “right’ problem. Between the armor we have all piled on to protect ourselves from childhood trauma and insecurities — and the behavioral patterns that become walls to scale, we truly do get in our own way of achieving a wholehearted life.
When I left a failed relationship six years ago, I decided I needed to unravel whatever it was that I was doing that was blocking my success in rebuilding my relational life after Skip’s death. I had no idea how invaluable that broken relationship would become as a reference point for educating myself about the complexities of living an authentic, wholehearted life.
One of the most revelational tools I discovered was the Enneagram.
The enneagram was the equivalent of having an MRI to uncover my learned behavioral patterns and the core motivation driving them. When I took my first enneagram test to determine my type, I found it to be remarkably accurate. It dovetailed perfectly with my childhood experiences, and the people pleasing skills I carried far into adulthood. It was a helpful starting place for me to unpack the “why” questions. Why was I a “rescuer”, why did I avoid conflict and why was I so afraid to express my own needs.
As I began to recall childhood memories, I saw the pattern of frequent occurrences of painful experiences. In order to navigate the chaotic uncertainty, I developed coping skills to mitigate adverse consequences. I was also witness to the experiences that my two younger brothers had and as the big sister, I felt a responsibility to protect them.
The enneagram evaporated all the beliefs I had that I was somehow irreversibly flawed. It allowed me to realize that the behavioral patterns I’d developed were simply coping skills intended to protect me. These now irrelevant behavioral patterns were the product of my environment. I was not a product of my environment. At the core, I was a big-hearted, tender, spirited girl.
My personal growth work was to reconnect with that girl — and step out of the armor I no longer needed.
I don’t think my story is all that unusual. A hardship or a heartbreak causes pain and self-reflection. Some of those events bring about change that cannot be avoided, like me having to get on with life after Skip died. Some become the catalyst for proactive change and that can be a job, a divorce, a diet, a move — or personal growth. Self-awareness, personal accountability and acceptance can all feel very vulnerable and overwhelming.
It is often a family member or close friend who becomes the emotional glue when we are in that vulnerable state. They care for us through the healing. They encourage us through the transition. It just takes one trusted, caring human being to make a meaningful difference.
Dr. Bruce Perry has repeatedly stressed the value of having one trusted person that we can confide in, who will provide the scaffolding we need as we work through the awareness, the healing and the growth. In fact, professional therapy may not even be required for most people.
I was so blessed in this department — for some unknown and incredible reason, my friend Judy and I reconnected at that very vulnerable point in my life six years ago. Although our lives had taken remarkably different paths, we found ourselves in the same place at the same time. We both were knee deep in some personal development work. We initially stuck our toes in the pool of vulnerability and self-disclosure and once we discovered how safe and therapeutic it was, we took deeper dives.
Honestly, we didn’t know then just how helpful and transformational our deep friendship would be for our personal growth. We did not know about Dr. Perry’s research. We bumbled along for a while without the benefit of the enneagram, peeling back layers with the encouragement of Brene Brown, daily devotionals, inspirational quotes and self-help books. Our trust in each other grew organically and our healing came naturally. We forged a rare sisterhood built on our mutual commitment to become better versions of ourselves and we held each other accountable to the work, to our progress and to continued learning.
I was recently listening to a podcast with Dr. Bruce Perry where he was describing a “teaching” experience he had twenty years ago, but didn’t realize it at the time. He needed to have more experiences, more knowledge, more insight to extract the wisdom from that teaching moment. This really resonated with me because I too have very recently become aware of the master class I was enrolled in during chapters of my life.
It is only now, as I sit on the other side of a lot of hard personal introspection and the work done to heal and transform, that I can look back and see others through a much better lens. If I step way back from those confusing, dysfunctional relationship issues, I am aware that we were often addressing the wrong core problems. We were attempting to treat the consequences of behavioral patterns. We should have been addressing the key motivations.
This is precisely why it is so imperative that we each “do our own work.”
I was often puzzled why people in my life could not see and feel how much I loved them. I would wear myself out, doubling down on my efforts to help, to rescue, to solve, to soothe. The truth is, they were not in “receiving” mode — they could not take in what I was offering and accept it unconditionally as proof positive that they were loved, valued and seen. All the armor they wore, all the core beliefs they had about being unworthy, unloveable and not belonging blocked any possibility that they could absorb these affirmations and confirmations. It underscored my belief that I was a failure. Two people trapped in old history, false narratives and blind spots. Mother and daughter, husband and wife, brother and sister. Nobody wins in these scenarios.
Dr. Perry talks about how the wheels get set in motion in early childhood years — a disregulated stress response system contributes to poor coping skills and emotional regulation later in life. Learned behavioral patterns close us up to receive what we need the most, so that even when we get it, it is foreign to us and we feel vulnerable. This is the root cause of emotional triggers, PTSD and panic attacks. Left unaddressed, these factors will set us up for a cascade of problems throughout our adult lives.
Overlay Brene Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability on top of Dr. Perry’s findings and you get a profound sense of why her work resonates with millions of people all over the globe.
Brene has taught us that when we numb all these hard emotions in an effort to get some relief, we also numb the joy in our lives. This is yet another example of not being in “receiving” mode. Numb the pain and check out for a while. It means we “disconnect” so we just double down on what causes the problem. Disconnection, isolation, not being present in the moment — we are treating our pain with the very stuff that causes it.
Sitting with our real feelings, even the hard painful ones, is our brain and body’s way of processing. It builds resilience and it helps us self-regulate in a healthy way. We use the phrase “No pain, no gain” for our physical health, but we shy away from it for our mental health. As Dr. Perry says, no one gets out of life unscathed. We will all suffer loss, health issues, heartaches, adversity. We can — and we should — do hard things.
We have the tools to do this in a safe, healthy, productive way. It can start with a trusted friend. Asking for help is not an admission of weakness — it is a sign of strength and a desire to overcome whatever is holding you back from enjoying life and building resilience. This is precisely why Brene calls vulnerability the birthplace of courage and creativity.
I believe that the enneagram is another invaluable tool for self-discovery. Just as it evaporated my false beliefs about who I am at the core, it can have that same impact for others. It diffuses all that negativity and heavy emotional investment we have around our sensitivities and needs. It turns the spotlight onto the core motivations and that gives way to clarity and understanding. I believe we all really do want to support and help each other, but it gets so hard, so frustrating and self-defeating if we put all our time and energy into solving the wrong problem.
The more I learn about all nine types in the enneagram, the greater my awareness of what makes others tick. I have a clearer sense of what drives their behavior especially if I am familiar with some of their life history. A little awareness, coupled with a healthy dose of empathy can go a long way in creating the scaffolding for anyone who wants to get a foothold on their own personal growth.
Life is always providing lessons for us. The more we know what we don’t know, the greater the motivation to discover. I started out just trying to make sense of my own life six years ago and now I find myself a part of something that will greatly benefit my children and grandchildren. Imagine how we can all benefit from these game-changing, transformational shifts in how we raise children and how we support with each other.
Every now and again, I come across something that just blows my curious mind in the best possible way. That is exactly how I’m feeling about the Enneagram. What a dynamic tool for lifelong self discovery and enriching personal relationships with others.
In a recent post I shared Beatrice Chestnut’s book, The Complete Enneagram and how it truly was a personal owner’s manual for each of us. Since then I have also read Ian Morgan Cron’s incredible book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.
I found his book so fascinating that I sent copies to a few friends with a note telling them that I laughed out loud at some insights and cried at others. I was sure they’d have a similar experience as they read more about their own Enneagram type.
Ian Morgan Cron has a popular podcast called Typology https://www.typologypodcast.com featuring a broad diversity of guests who help “explore the mysteries of the human personality” and help us re-discover our most authentic selves.
At the onset of the quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ian did a whole series on each Enneagram Type and Stress. The podcasts were short in duration and long in helpful personalized advice for navigating anxiety during this time of great uncertainty.
In a subsequent series, he dedicated his teachings to the Enneagram and Parenting. I found the series to be so enlightening that I posted it on Facebook and shared links with my family. Who doesn’t benefit from solid parenting advice especially in the midst of COVID when so much about our daily routines have changed significantly?
I’ll often scroll through Ian’s podcast library to find topics and guests that might have answers to current questions I am pondering, or to gain deeper wisdom about my own type or that of a friend or family member. To my delight, I recently found one featuring Beatrice Chestnut, who is one of the foremost authorities on the Enneagram — and she just happens to be a Type 2 like me. Her knowledge and personal experience was revelational for me.
Father Richard Rohr is often credited with bringing the Enneagram to the general population decades ago when he offered 10 cassette tapes about the Enneagram. As he tells it, it was the first time people were hearing a voice explaining the value and wisdom of the Enneagram. I have listened to many of Father Rohr’s own podcasts about the Enneagram. His soothing voice and grounded genuine approach shed a lot of light on human nature, learned behavioral patterns and our blind spots (those places where we get in our own way and stunt our personal growth).
The Enneagram is often used in counseling sessions and with good reason. It is an objective, non-judgmental way to look at all the parts of ourselves and see clearly where we have room for growth. Admittedly, this isn’t always fun or easy, but the truth is we usually know we’ve got blind spots but its often hard to acknowledge it. It is those blind spots that inevitably are the cause of most of our self-created roadblocks. And as Brene Brown teaches us, when we armor up in an effort to protect our vulnerabilities, we lose our connection with our authentic selves.
It’s not hard to see how the Enneagram is such an invaluable tool for couples counseling also. Imagine the shift in relationship dynamics when each partner can have such clarity about the other — what motivates them, what their driving need truly is, their strengths and weaknesses — all without judgment, just pure awareness. I recently shared with a family member that I got answers to questions my former partner was never able to answer once I learned the complexities of his Enneagram type.
My enthusiasm for the Enneagram has been spilling over into my family and into my friendships. I have found some of my friends to be very experienced with the Enneagram and our conversations shed light on the many ways it can help deepen relationships and resolve familiar patterns of conflict.
There is nothing I enjoy more than helping others (that’s a classic Type 2), and now I feel I have a resource that helps me customize the best way to do that — for them! This is such a win-win because in the past, I would often help too much (the blind spot of a Type 2) and in the end I was tired and my friend was resentful of my overbearing help. Who knew?
During this quarantine time, I have been so fortunate to have reconnected with old friends, gotten to know my newer friends on a deeper level, and been participating in lively discussions with dynamic women on an “Untamed” Zoom book club. The compelling common denominator is that all of us are striving for personal growth to enrich this chapter of our lives. We’ve come to realize that the learning never ends and there is always room for improvement — that’s life. We also recognize that it is our friends who support us through this journey. The more we know and understand our unique authentic selves, the better we are for all those whose lives we touch.
Here are some of my favorite resources regarding the Enneagram: