Profoundly Helping the Next Generation

Now that we know just how much our childhood experiences can impact us far into our adult lives, what are the big takeaways that can guide us in helping our little ones to avoid some of those emotional and behavioral pitfalls?

This has been on my heart a lot lately. I watch my young grandchildren, who range in ages from 4 – 8, and I delight in witnessing how their little personalities are developing. It’s not surprising that they remind me quite a bit of their parents at those ages. It makes me ponder what I might have done differently had I known about their early childhood brain development, emotional regulation development and the enneagram.

Admittedly I was pretty naive about parenthood at age 25. I relied on a paperback Dr. Spock baby and child care book and my budding maternal instincts. And yes, I had that list in my head of all the things I vowed I would never say or do to my children that came from my own childhood experiences.

I was often baffled how three kids raised in pretty much the same environment could all be so different. While I laughed about this with other young mothers, I’m pretty sure that few of us really adapted our parenting approaches to the unique personalities of each of our children.

This is where I am finding the enneagram to be such a useful tool. Maybe we can’t truly identify which of the 9 enneagram types a child might be. However, I do think that having an understanding of our own dominant enneagram type can be really helpful in finding better ways to relate and interact with children.

My two sons are now in their mid-40’s and my daughter is 34. We’ve each figured out our own enneagram types and frankly it has been eye-opening for me. I wish I had this insight when they were teenagers. I think it would have alleviated some of my frustration and it certainly would have been beneficial for my kids to understand their own natural hard-wiring.

My oldest son was always on the go as a child. He was the life of the party, sometimes impetuous and always full of big ideas. It was no real surprise to me that he’s an enneagram type 7 — The Enthusiast — fun loving, spontaneous and distractible. Teachers might have labeled him with attention deficit but I just thought he was smart, easily bored and needed an outlet for his artistic talents. I agreed to hold him back a year in school, but supplemented his education with art classes. His teen years were the most challenging for us when his impulsiveness would often clash with his responsibilities. If I had understood his personality better, I think we could have found resourceful ways to strike a balance. Today when he describes his own son’s antics, I wonder if he too might be a little Enthusiast in the making.

My middle son is an enneagram type 9, The Peacemaker. When he was younger, I’d get so frustrated because he appeared so indecisive. If I had known that he would rather harmonize than rock the boat by stating his personal choice for dinner or weekend activity, I could have navigated many conversations much better and empowered him to make meaningful decisions for himself. I often thought he was an introvert, but in hindsight, I think he preferred collecting information and reading a room before engaging — a consummate harmonizer and conflict avoider.

When my daughter was in elementary school, I often described her as my M & M that had been left in the warm sun. She had a very hard outer shell, but inside she was soft and mushy. She was strong-willed and not afraid to push back — and she had a sensitive, tender, loving heart and carefree spirit. She’s an enneagram type 8 — The Challenger. Turns out that my M & M description of her was spot on for a type 8. Her four year old son is so much like her we often comment on the mold not changing much. He can drive her crazy and melt her heart all in 30 seconds flat. Understanding how he is hard-wired diffuses a lot of frustration and points us toward ways to interact to help him feel heard and understood.

As for me, I am a certifiable Enneagram type 2 — The Helper. Over recent years, I have become acutely aware that I often “over-helped” and in doing so may have unintentionally disempowered my children. And because I was so sensitive to their feelings, I would often swoop in to soothe with ice cream, or inadvertently dismiss what they were feeling by telling them “not to feel that way”. What I should have been doing is fully acknowledging their true emotions and adjusting my parenting skills to meet their unique needs.

My middle son recently described his eight year old daughter to me with positive adjectives that I would have used to describe his feisty sister at that age. At the same time, my granddaughter’s mother often experiences the more challenging behaviors she possesses as well. This has me intrigued. I am wondering what enneagram type my eight year old granddaughter might be. Can we find some clues about how she’s hard-wired to help her navigate her emotions and circumstances in healthy ways? I’m also curious about the impact of the pandemic, virtual school and a major change in her familial life.

Like my own daughter at that age, my granddaughter is experiencing divorce. She is now in that challenging stage of dealing with co-parenting, two homes and merging into a new family with dad, his fiancee and her nine year old daughter.

It is only natural that my granddaughter will struggle with her emotions as she’s trying to fit into all the changes. Understanding how things land in her heart, and what she needs to feel safe and valued, will be key in helping her navigate it in healthy ways.

Kids often do not have the skills or language to articulate everything they are feeling, especially when it is a very confusing concoction. This requires some special parenting skills and a lot of patience. I’m beginning to understand more clearly the relevance of that relational scaffolding that Dr. Bruce Perry says is critical for children who are experiencing any kind of trauma and disruption. This is where other family members — and especially grandparents — can provide so much support and continuity for young children and their parents.

I can look back at my own divorce now and have a better understanding of how it impacted my children and especially my daughter who was only 8. When a parent forgets that their innocent children should not be paying the price for an unhealthy marriage or divorce, poor choices and actions can have long-lasting debilitating consequences. It was a compelling reason why I stressed the importance of healthy co-parenting when my son and daughter-in-law separated. I also recognized how extended family members can provide a safety net through divorce and transition. Not choosing sides, but choosing to be emotional glue and unbiased support, can ease a lot of the turbulence.

What if we had a parenting resource that would help us balance “nature and nurture”? I believe that the enneagram just might be the field guide we need.

The enneagram sheds light on the core fears for each of the nine types — and it is easy to spot the correlation to childhood experiences. Core fears include feeling unwanted, unloved, unworthy, disrespected, controlled, or a fear of chaos or of being wrong. These unaddressed fears become the root cause of problematic behavioral patterns that can follow us into adulthood.

The enneagram also helps us identify the core motivations for each type such as having integrity and being good; being admired and successful; being unique and special; having security and guidance; protecting yourself and your inner circle; being wanted and loved; being fully satisfied; and having inner stability and peace. When we are aware of the importance of these core motivations for each child, we can become more skillful at fostering and respecting those needs in healthy ways.

This brings me to another invaluable tool for parenting. Dr. Dan Siegel refers to it as “rupture and repair”. We often have this hope that we won’t mess up or that we will be nearly perfect parents. This isn’t reality — we are beautiful, complex, messy human beings. Disagreements, hurts and conflicts happen in all relationships. Repair is critical — and the sooner it happens, the better. Repair means making up for a momentary and impulsive loss of control. What if we reframe these moments of “rupture and repair” as meaningful experiences in raising kind, respectful and resilient children?

Ruptures are opportunities to strengthen our relationships. If a rupture can be repaired, it demonstrates that the relationship is solid enough to withstand when things get bad, and even ugly.” (Psychologist Adam Rodrigues) Repair builds trust and resiliency.

Painful ruptures can be amplified for our children when they are caught in the cross-fire of divorce. Trust is the one crucial element that gets tested most fiercely for children of divorce.

I found Dr. Siegel’s and Tina Payne Bryson’s book, The Power of Showing Up” to be a phenomenal parenting resource, especially for divorced parents who have the added pressure of rebuilding trust and showing up in new ways for their children.

We now know that the way to help a child develop optimally is to help create connections in her brain –her whole brain — that develops skills that lead to better relationships, better mental health, and more meaningful lives. You could call it brain sculpting – or brain nourishing – or brain building. Whatever phrase you prefer, the point is crucial, and thrilling; as a result of the words we use and the actions we take, children’s brains will actually change, and be built, as they undergo new experiences.” — Dr. Dan Siegel

What I am observing is that being present with our young children, giving them eye contact and fully engaging with them and their wide range of emotions is a key component for effective parenting and grandparenting. Often children simply need our full attention and a safe space to share their honest feelings. Too often, we are distracted by our devices, our own emotions or own agenda in the moment.

Dr. Seigel describes “showing up” as bringing your whole being — your attention and awareness–into the present moment when you interact with your child. When you show up with your whole being you are mentally and emotionally present for your child. It is this power of presence that enables you to create an empowered mind for your children — even when you mess up.

Admittedly this takes a lot of practice but the payoff is worth it. That’s the remarkable thing about kids — you will see a shift in their reactions and responses almost immediately. Over time, with consistency, you will see that your child is gaining some agency over his emotions and reactions. It’s that brain re-wiring taking place and it is exciting, just as Dr. Siegel has noted.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t put a little plug in for mindfulness and meditation right here. It’s really hard to shift gears, clear your mind and de-escalate your own emotions so that you can “show up” for your children. Yet it is not impossible. Awareness and practice will help you earn your “calm” badge especially for quality parenting. A bonus is that mindfulness and meditation are invaluable skills in our emotional regulation toolbox that we should be teaching our children, just like good manners.

I believe that each generation embarks on parenting with ideas on how to improve. It’s so encouraging to see young parents today who are knowledgeable about their own personal growth, coping skills and core values. In my heart, I am hopeful that our younger generations will grow and thrive in parenting environments that open them up to their full potential.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Rupture and Repair Article by Nick Bowditch (This article, written by a dad about his relationship with his young daughter is so relatable, honest and encouraging)

https://medium.com/@nickbowditch/rupture-and-repair-48a2d3e408b8

Typology Podcast – The Enneagram & Parenting series

In 2020, Ian Morgan Cron presented a series called the Enneagram & Parenting, and each week did an episode for each of the 9 enneagram types. I listened to them all and derived so much insight and ideas. I’ve shared this series with family and friends and I highly recommend it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_moAPp2fXVg

The Big Why

I recently discovered some great new resources about the enneagram, a favorite tool of mine for self-awareness. What is driving my excitement is how the enneagram is now being used to help us not only get to know ourselves better, but also to be able to engage more effectively with others. Better yet, how we can tap into the individual strengths and motivations of all 9 types to create dynamic new solutions to our collective, repetitive problems.

The distinctive difference between the enneagram and other personality assessment tools is that the Enneagram addresses the “why” of our behavioral patterns. It reveals why we are motivated to respond and behave in familiar patterns, taking the phrase “it’s just who I am to a whole new level. Think about how transformational it would be in your closest relationships if you had this deeper insight about yourself and each other. It has the potential to take conflict off the table and replace it with understanding. Just that awareness alone can turn disagreements into more empathic and productive conversations.

To shed a little light on the “Big Why”, take a look at the core desires and basic fears for each of the 9 enneagram types:

  • Enneagram Type 1: The Reformer
    • Core Desire: Having integrity, being good, right, balanced
    • Basic Fear: Being wrong, bad, inappropriate, imperfect
  • Enneagram Type 2: The Helper
    • Core Desire: Being loved, being wanted
    • Basic Fear: Being unloved, unwanted, needy
  • Enneagram Type 3: The Achiever
    • Core Desire: Being valuable, successful, admired
    • Basic Fear: Failing to appear as successful, being exposed as incompetent
  • Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist
    • Core Desire: Being authentic, unique and special
    • Basic Fear: Being without identity, flawed, misunderstood, inadequate
  • Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator
    • Core Desire: Being competent, independent and knowledgeable
    • Basic Fear: Being helpless, incompetent, without resources
  • Enneagram Type 6: The Loyalist
    • Core Desire: Security, guidance, having help
    • Basic Fear: Being unprepared, afraid, being blamed, without support
  • Enneagram Type 7: The Enthusiast
    • Core Desire: Fun, happiness, freedom, contentment
    • Basic Fear: Missing out, being deprived, trapped or bored
  • Enneagram Type 8: The Challenger
    • Core Desire: Being in control, protecting self and others
    • Basic Fear: Weakness, vulnerability, being controlled
  • Enneagram Type 9: The Peacemaker
    • Core Desire: Peace, stability, harmony
    • Basic Fear: Conflict, feeling shut out, losing connection

Having this basic understanding of key motivations and basic fears helps us become more aware of the root source of our own reactive behavioral patterns. It also gives us a relevant focal point for understanding where others are coming from and what is at the heart of the matter for them.

It was through a recent Typology podcast with Ian Morgan Cron and his guest, Seth Abram ,that I learned about another enneagram podcast — “Fathoms”. I just loved that name, Fathoms, and what it represents: discovering our inner depths, one fathom at a time. I scrolled through the Fathoms podcast episodes and found several that caught my immediate attention. I’m going to share the highlights of these episodes in the hopes of whetting your appetite to learn more for yourself.

Just imagine the potential that could be unlocked for creative problem resolution if we cultivated an appreciation for different perspectives based on “others” core desires and unique strengths. In the episode entitled “A Conversation with Enneagram Magazine” two college friends share their initial introduction to the enneagram and how they came to launch their dream — the Enneagram Magazine. What makes this magazine so compelling is that Bekah and Molly are tapping into the collective insights of all 9 types to explore one singular topic per issue. For example, the most recent issue of Enneagram Magazine is entitled “Justice”. What a timely and critically important topic. Here’s the intro provided from their website for the Justice issue:

We begin 2021 by diving into the topic of Justice through the lens of the Enneagram. We will be honest, this topic is not an easy one to cover. However, the importance of discussing Justice has never been more apparent to us. We dive into uncomfortable conversations with grace, providing perspectives that may be unusual, unexpected, and unfamiliar to our circles–and that’s okay. Our hope is that this issue will help move us from individualistic comfort into higher communal awareness that encourages thriving for everyone. https://www.enneagrammagazine.com/order/issue-6-justice

Enneagram Magazine was launched just last year. The first issue provides the foundation — it is Enneagram Primer. Subsequent issues included Creativity, Leadership, Relationships. In 2021, they are embracing a theme of growth and using a relatable metaphor of the life cycle of plants. Topics will be Soil, Health, Endeavor and Wonder. Health will correspond to seeds and what is needed to grow from the inside. Endeavor will represent the emerging and Wonder will focus on the flowers and fruits of self reflection and personal growth. It is an apt metaphor for going inward and examining the areas of our life that invite change and then taking the big step to live it out. All 9 enneagram types will be represented for each topic. The diversity of self-discovery perspectives will be rich.

Another Fathoms podcast I found to be enlightening was the March 10th episode entitled “Addiction, Recovery and the Enneagram” with Michael Naylor of Portland Maine. Michael Naylor is an esteemed addiction expert and an enneagram teacher. I was fascinated by his background, stories and observations especially since the enneagram is rapidly becoming an invaluable tool for many types of counseling. The big takeaway from this episode was that people can successfully go through rehab programs only to relapse later because they never really got to the root cause of their motivations for their addictions – the big why. This is where the enneagram plays an impactful role. The rehab and the enneagram work done in tandem can be a lasting pathway to freedom from addiction and its root causes.

Michael is a type 4 and freely shared some humorous yet poignant moments with his own counselor as they unraveled his patterns and his recurring melancholy with the help of the enneagram. Michael stressed the importance of having two or three rock-solid people in our lives that will support our efforts to become aware of our behavioral patterns and help us “catch” them in real time. Early detection is key in the process of changing old habits and patterns for the better.

Since I recently shared my blog post, Author of our Own Stories, the next episode to catch my attention was “Understanding the Inner Critic” with Lynda Roberts, an authorized Enneagram Institute teacher and former president of International Enneagram Association. No matter what enneagram type we might be, we are all quite familiar with our inner critic.

Lynda offered that our inner critic plays two roles — the judge and the ego manager. Our inner judge is the one that offers an abundance of self criticism and is prone to shame or blame us. Lynda also pointed out that our own inner judge is the one who also judges “others”. Our “ego manager” sends our marching orders and this ties right into our core desires and basic fears. She offered an example of these marching orders for herself, a Type 6: “you need to be responsible, you need to do what is expected of you.”

Lynda pointed out that our inner critic was developed in childhood and absorbed both explicit and implicit messages about the rules of life. Since humans can’t survive on instincts alone, we needed this guidance to launch us into adulthood. But much of this messaging is no longer valid or needed as we evolve through our adult life. Lynda equates this to “taking off the training wheels” — we do not need childhood messaging that gets in the way of opening to our true selves. We can discover and enhance our own mature inner guidance that aligns with our personal core values.

It may have been serendipity that beckoned me to listen to one more podcast as I was working on this blog post. This Typology Podcast, hosted by Ian Cron, featured Dr. Curt Thompson, psychiatrist and author, focused on shame and how it plays out in the human experience. This conversation dovetailed so perfectly with Lynda Roberts insights about our childhood and our inner critic. It also circles us back to the beginning of this post where I shared the core motivations and basic fears of each other 9 enneagram types. The enormous take-away from this podcast was that the very things we do to cope with our basic fears ultimately end up reinforcing our fears. We create our own self-fulling prophecy through ineffective coping skills. We push away what we want the most.

Dr. Curt Thompson believes that the enneagram reveals nine helpful ways in which people develop their personal narratives. It helps us understand how we came to develop our attachment style and our temperament when we were quite young. Dr. Thompson says “It is the dominant way we make sense of our lives. Nine consistent, predictable ways to tell our narrative, that comes naturally, and was shaped in our family of origin.”

In this episode, Ian Cron and Dr. Thompson offer remarkable insights around the power of shame and the subtle, silent messages that are carried over from childhood into our adult lives. That inner critic that whispers we are not enough or will never be enough. They walk us through each of the 9 enneagram types and real life examples of where our strong desire to avoid shame at all costs can derail us. I have a few friends who are also students of the enneagram and we compared notes on these examples — and oh yes, they were spot on:

Afraid to ask for help for fear of hearing no (type 2)

Coming off as a bully to protect vulnerabilities (type 8)

Afraid to assert yourself (type 9)

Second-guessing yourself in a conflict (type 6)

Dr. Thompson shares that shame is a signal for us. We will first feel it in our body. He does an incredible job of explaining both the neurobiology and the neuroscience of residues from childhood experiences that cause us to be unconsciously triggered. He encourages us to pay attention to how we feel and to pause before reacting or responding.

His strongest piece of advice was also his most touching — “healing for shame requires that others come find us”. We need to be there for each other, to help each other recognize that often our pre-conditioned behaviors are preventing us from having great relationships and happier lives — not who we are at our core.

Michael Naylor sums up the value of the enneagram this way: “the enneagram assists people in discovering unconscious patterns causing them unnecessary suffering and guides them to more liberation from the patterns acquired as a little one.”

The Enneagram is such an enlightening transformational tool. It can really help us to see our full potential and the incredible capacity we have to be the best versions of ourselves. Each of the 9 types brings unique strengths and perspectives to the world. I am more than a little excited about harnessing all of that energy and creativity for the greater good.

THE MAGAZINE AND PODCASTS THAT INSPIRED THIS BLOG POST:

Enneagram Magazine

So beautifully designed, it will become a treasured resource, a coffee table magazine and a conversation starter. https://www.enneagrammagazine.com

Fathoms: An Enneagram Podcast https://fathoms.podbean.com

April 8, 2021 – A Conversation with Enneagram Magazine

https://fathoms.podbean.com/e/bonus-a-conversation-with-enneagram-magazine/

March 25, 2021 – Understanding the Inner Critic with Lynda Roberts

https://fathoms.podbean.com/e/interview-understanding-the-inner-critic-with-lynda-roberts/

March 11, 2021 – Addiction, Recovery and the Enneagram with Michael Naylor

https://fathoms.podbean.com/e/naylor-1614975740/

Typology Podcast with Ian Morgan Cron

April 22, 2021 A Framework for Wholeness with Seth Abrams (Enneagram 9)

https://www.typologypodcast.com/podcast/2021/04/episode04-044/sethabram

May 28, 2020 Dr. Curt Thompson on the Enneagram and Shame

https://www.typologypodcast.com/podcast/2020/27/05/episode03-044/curtthompson

Authors of our Own Stories

Did you know that each of us is an author, a storyteller? Brene Brown tells us that “the most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves — but beware – they’re usually fiction”.

Do you know that we possess an imagination more creative than we believe possible? Best selling author, Caroline Myss is renowned for her work in the field of energy medicine. She offers very powerful examples of how we use our big wild imaginations to create the most anxiety-inducing worst case scenarios but fail to apply that same creativity to hope, best case scenarios and problem-solving.

The recent 21-day Chopra Meditation Program entitled “Getting Unstuck” echoed similar sentiments — that we are the author of every moment we live. What narratives do we tell ourselves about our life history and current experiences that prevent us from moving forward and expanding our perspectives? Are we stuck in the stories we repeatedly tell ourselves?

Here are some examples of places we can be stuck:

  • complaining about the same things day in and day out
  • self-defeating self talk
  • a wild imagination that only amplifies our anxieties
  • lost in thoughts about the past or the future
  • not accepting reality and relying on magical thinking

A few years ago I was trapped in some serious rumination. I was stuck reviewing a past that could never be changed no matter how much attention I devoted to it. The cycle often distracted me throughout the day and it definitely led to sleepless nights. So, yes I have firsthand experience with being “stuck” and with breaking free.

I credit the psychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson, for teaching me how the brain develops a “reward system” for these habitual but unhelpful mental loops. While we unconsciously retreat to these mental comfort zones, any peace we find there is short-lived. And then that cycle begins again. As he explains, neurons that fire together, wire together.

People can spend years trapped in those negative thought patterns, stuck not by choice, but by habit. Struggles with self-worth, abandonment issues, co-dependency and PTSD are all rooted in the stories we have written around our past and the natural tendency of the brain to spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy on negative thought patterns.

Being stuck, whether it is a small and short term matter, or an over-arching long term life pattern robs us of the present moment, of the love we desperately want but are unable to see or feel, of the connections to others that buoy us through all of life. Unknowingly, our stuck-ness also often creates collateral damage.

From personal experience and both sides of the fence, I can share that others get exhausted from offering support but seeing no real change or break-through from negative patterns. People get tired of hearing the same complaints. Eventually, they are worn down to the point of snapping when they don’t mean to, or growing resentful or even pulling away altogether. These collateral damage responses “feed” the self-fulfilling prophecies of the stories we tell ourselves. They confirm that we are unworthy, that we need to do more, or that we will be abandoned.

Another aspect of collateral damage is the highly contagious effect of negativity. We feed off of each other’s energy. Neurobiologically we are hardwired to find negative energy the stickiest of all. Have you ever noticed how someone’s bad mood can shift an entire family experience? Take a ride in the car with a family when just one member is throwing out some negative vibes and watch what happens. Best real life neuroscience experiment ever.

I recall telling a guy I cared about that I was not going to buy a ticket for the merry-go-round anymore when it was apparent that our relationship was stuck in a pattern of negativity. We just kept having the same conversation over and over. It was every bit as dizzying as an on-going merry go round ride to have the same issue crop up but never change how we handled it. Sometimes we just need to stop. Step back and fully take in the pattern. What is the story that we are telling ourselves and then ask “is it true?” (Thank you Brene for such a great tool.)

Elizabeth Lesser reminds us “tell me where you focus your attention and I will tell you who you are”. In the case of being stuck – either short-term or long term – consider this: “tell me where you focus your attention and let’s figure out where you are stuck.” Surprisingly, sometimes we honestly believe we are not getting what we want or need from others, but we actually are. It is our “stuck-ness” that is blinding us to seeing and receiving the gifts of love, time, attention, and encouragement. Re-writing our narratives can have a powerful transformational effect.

The day I realized that ruminating about the past was never going to produce a different ending to my story, I embraced the breakthrough and began to re-write my narrative. The shift in perspective was the equivalent of moving a giant boulder out of my path. I was free to move on, without dragging the past around. The circumstances could not be changed but my framing of it most certainly could. Yes, I was hurt and yes someone else’s actions caused a lot of pain and suffering. What did I learn from those experiences? Could I have made better choices? Could I have trusted my intuition? Could I have established boundaries? Was I still playing a role I had assumed in my childhood even though I was now decades older? Ah, yes — the answers I got to those questions set me free from rumination. I moved from feeling like a “victim of someone else’s unresolved pain” to a better informed “me”. I committed to regular meditation practice to re-wire my brain and break free from the strong urge to fall back into rumination. This was a gamechanger for me. I began to sleep soundly and I found that I broke the spell of being attached to a very sticky past.

My daughter and I were recently chatting about the day to day routine of life and how especially in the past year of Covid, it all gets so monotonous. The reality is that laundry needs to get done, bills need to get paid and meals need to be cooked and eaten. We can easily get stuck focused only on the boredom. A tool I learned from mindfulness was to “reframe a situation.”

An old memory came to mind and I shared this story with her: I was in my early 40’s and stuck in the hamster wheel of the daily life grind. One morning I realized that on my commute to work, at the very same intersection each and every day, I would rest my head on the steering wheel of my bright blue Achieva and lament “I am soooo tired.”

After several weeks of this, it suddenly dawned on me that I was stuck and I had this little chat with myself:

You have been saying this very same thing every day for weeks, at this very same place — and girl, it is getting you no where but even more tired. Something’s gotta change!”

The next morning, as I put my foot on the brake pedal of my blue Achieva at that very same intersection,I decided to change my self-messaging. I did not lay my weary head on the steering wheel. I looked out at the sunlight streaming through the canopy of trees. I proclaimed outloud “I love my life and my family.” I made a promise to myself that I would state that positive affirmation every day at that intersection.

Little did I know just how meaningful that shift in attitude and perspective would become. Those ongoing daily tasks were contributing in many positive ways to my family and were my expressions of love for them. My relationship to them changed from draining to rewarding — and my energy got in sync with that positive reframing.

As I shared with my daughter, another trick I would occasionally use back then was to imagine someone else having my life. Would they be grateful for the very things I was complaining about? Often giving myself that kind of perspective was all that I needed to put a little gratitude in my attitude.

What I love about these conversations with my daughter is that it reveals how from one generation to the next, little has essentially changed about building independent adult lives and raising children Babies grow through all their stages the same as they have since the beginning of time.

However, so many aspects of our contemporary daily life has dramatically changed. Technology alone has had a major impact, good and bad. My daughter and I both recognize that we can easily get “stuck” to our phones and get caught up in the drama, energy and emotions of news cycles or the latest post. We’ve had some very good conversations about how even the news cycle gets “stuck” and how we see others getting “stuck” based on their social media feeds. Once you become more enlightened about ways that we get “stuck” you start to see the patterns popping up everywhere.

After more than a year of quarantine, when I see people out for dinner, shopping or having coffee meetups, I’m so surprised to find most folks are staring at their phones — not the faces of their friends and family, not looking around and taking in the music, the conversations, the collective energy of others. They are stuck, held captive by a phone that they can stare at all by themselves at home alone. What do we miss when we are not paying attention to all that is around? What fun things could we be taking in if we turned our attention away from the phone. If you have ever drank your entire cup of coffee and then realized that it was empty but you weren’t even aware that you drank it, then you know just what I am talking about. Remember what you long for about the old “normal” and steep yourself in that when you are out and about.

Deepak Chopra shared another compelling example of where we can get stuck. He termed it a “second hand experience”. In other words, we acquiesce the essence of a present moment to someone else. We let another person become the author of our experience. He offers the ways in which this can happen:

  • when we do what someone else tells us to do
  • when we live up to someone else’s low expectations
  • when we do things that are not really true to who we are

Often in these situations, we will feel unsettled, frustrated and pressured. We feel a sense of relief when we can get out of that kind of influence and can just be ourselves. There have been numerous times in my life when I felt this way and now I am aware that the cause was my strong desire to be accepted, or to ensure someone else’s happiness at my own expense. Having boundaries prevents these experiences from recurring. Paying attention to our internal “warning signs of discomfort” helps us to get back on track and to enjoy life firsthand.

Deepak offered this awesome insight: “One reason people are thrilled to fall in love is it feels new, exciting and original. You should have some flavor of that in your everyday experiences too. If you can say, I love this moment even when nothing big is happening, you are enjoying first hand experience.”

There is no one better at first hand experiences than my brother. He is such a positive guy and extremely grateful for moments that many of us take for granted. Being around my brother is like having a magnifying glass to ensure that you don’t miss one drop of the good stuff that life is doling out. Whenever I need a reminder to change my perspective or reset my vision, I just think of him. I’ve come to realize that the reason he is so resilient to all that he has weathered in his life has come from his continual harvesting of gratitude. Dr. Rick Hanson tells us that if we can just hold onto those moments of joy for 30 seconds — in the moment they are happening, then we create a reservoir of resilience for the future.

So many people are feeling overwhelmed these days with the ongoing uncertainties that we are collectively experiencing with Covid, quarantine, working from home and more than a year of virtual school. We are all feeling the effects of the strain in one way or the other. It is easy to get “stuck” and it is easy to get writer’s block about our life experiences and the stories we tell ourselves. In a recent Dare to Lead podcast, Brene Brown and her guest, Dr. Angela Duckworth, confirmed that there has been a very sharp rise in mental health issues over this past year.

Take heart that we are not alone when we get stuck, struggle or just become listless. So much honest conversation about what we are collectively feeling is supporting our efforts to break free from old stories and mental loops. Take advantage of the many tools, therapy and friendships that support our efforts to reframe experiences and expand our perspectives.

There may never be a better time to revisit our old narratives and give them a “refresh”. We can use this time as a springboard to write a healthier, honest and evolving life story.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Places I find inspiring, encouraging and chock full of good ideas for perspective taking:

TYPOLOGY PODCAST with Ian Cron

Awesome episode with David Nurse, NBA Life & Optimization Coach and author of a new book entitled Pivot & Go. We can all draw from his coaching and learn to “pivot” when we need a new field of vision.

https://youtu.be/fgSewebQPyw

DARE TO LEAD and UNLOCKING US PODCASTS

–Both are hosted by the dynamic Brene Brown, free on Spotify

Check out the latest Dare to Lead Episode with Dr. Angela Duckworth for a relatable conversation about trying new things and perspective taking:

https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-dr-angela-duckworth-on-grit-and-the-importance-of-trying-new-things/

DR. RICK HANSON, Author of Neurodharma is my go-to resource for a rare combination of neuroscience and mindfulness. He’s relatable, informative and encouraging. Here’s an endorsement from Lori Gottlieb that captures the essence of his game-changing book:

LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER • “An easy-to-follow road map for creating day-to-day inner peace in today’s increasingly complex world.”—Lori Gottlieb, MFT, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

In this Youtube video, Dr. Hanson offers the 7 practices that enhance higher levels of happiness in our lives.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aR4y_kX7xI

Oprah Magazine – Brene Brown, author of Rising Strong https://www.oprah.com/omagazine/brene-brown-rising-strong-excerpt

Greater Good Magazine – How Anxiety Hides in Your Habits https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_anxiety_hides_in_your_habits

Welcome Change

Its not unusual to get a knowing chuckle from a friend or family member when I announce that I have officially retired from chief problem solver. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to solve problems. I still readily show up when someone needs my help. But now I am more of a ‘guide” helping others empower themselves to find their own solutions. I credit the Enneagram for helping me to discover a rewarding new path for my natural inclination to be a “helper”.

The Enneagram provided a good blueprint for me to better understand my approach to life, and most importantly, my motivations. As a Type 2, often referred to as the Helper, I was motivated to gain acceptance and love by “helping others”. In other words I believed that I had to “earn” love, trust and acceptance.

Looking back over the years, I can most definitely see this pattern play out over and over again. Sometimes it worked. Most times it didn’t. Diving deeper into understanding myself, I freed myself from falling into the trap of “helping too much.”

I’d been blindly operating on the principle that If those I cared about were happy, then I would be happy. Yet it was my over-involvement when problems cropped up that got in the way of others discovering for themselves what that really looked like. And it often left me feeling like a failure in my biggest hopes of making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Classic “unhealthy” Type 2 paradox.

Beatrice Chestnut, a renowned authority on the Enneagram and also a Type 2, helped me gain a deep perspective on the pitfalls of the “unhealthy” patterns that my Enneagram type can easily migrate to and why. She also came up with a new moniker for “helper” that shines a light on the best part of healthy Enneagram 2’s. She calls us the “befriender.” I liked the sound of that — the “befriender” and it become a good framework for this shift I was seeking to achieve.

I had overcome my fair share of adversities in life and always hoped to be a shining light of inspiration for others. I wanted to be a good friend, a good role model. While I was resilient, positive and always willing to help, I had a big blind spot. There was one critical missing piece to my personal puzzle — the person I need to trust, love and accept the most was — myself.

Brene Brown’s ten guideposts in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, became an invaluable aid to accepting myself fully — embracing my imperfections and becoming rooted in an unshakable belief of my own worthiness. My challenging childhood set me up for simply accepting “being less than” and “unworthy” for a very long time. Brene’s book unlocked the fallacy of this messaging and set me in a new direction.

As I took both Beatrice’s wisdom and Brene’s research to heart, I had an eye opening moment. It dawned on me that in the past when I was jumping headfirst into solving other’s problems, I actually had a very vested interest in the outcome for my own reasons. Let me share a few examples:

I was so uncomfortable in conflict situations that I’d rush to calm everyone down. Instead of letting them blow off steam and get the problem out in the open, I was focused on me achieving peace and a calm environment where I would feel safe.

I’d often feel guilt when something was left undone though it wasn’t mine to do. I’d get right to work and undertake tasks on my own without even asking if help was wanted or needed. It was me that was feeling uncomfortable about unfinished business.

I would often agree to do things that I really did not want to do, or outwardly agree with others just to keep the peace. While others were often happy with that approach, my own internal peace and values were often in conflict.

The Enneagram enabled me to understand the underlying reasons for unconsciously choosing these options. There is no doubt that many were rooted in coping mechanisms related to my childhood experiences. Being the oldest child, I grew up too fast in a volatile environment, always striving to protect my younger brothers by being one step ahead of the impending and inevitable trouble created by our parents.

I became a compliant, responsible, harmonizing peacekeeper, entrusted to care for those who couldn’t defend themselves and diligent enough to cover for irresponsible adults. A perfect recipe for a helper with no boundaries who was comfortable in co-dependent relationships and skilled at people pleasing.

Here’s the rub with this ineffective “comfort zone” I had acquired. It was not serving me well at all in my adult life and it certainly was not beneficial to those I loved and genuinely wanted to help. Once I was enlightened about my problematic “comfort zone of unconscious responses” I definitely started paying attention to them with greater awareness.

Looking at the examples I shared above, I gained a lot of clarity about how my coping mechanisms landed on others:

When I would swoosh in to calm tempers and diffuse a tense situation, I’d actually be derailing getting the real issue out in the open. Some could feel that I didn’t value them because I shut down the opportunity for them to share their perspective. Some could feel a sense of superiority because they escaped accountability. My intervention was not productive and often not welcome.

Doing unfinished tasks could feel like micro-managing to others. Or, give an impression that I viewed myself as more capable and efficient. While that was not all my intention, I can surely see that so clearly now. Not to mention the fact that some people like to have “works in progress” rather than rushing to complete a task.

My lack of boundaries and inability to say no caused a lot of confusion for others. They really did not know just how far they could push me til I’d lose my temper. Neither did I. No wonder others would often tell me I was “too sensitive” when I’d lose it over something minor (because I had stuffed a lot of bigger things for far too long). If I finally found the courage to draw a line in the sand, few people actually believed I’d actually adhere to it.

You could say that the Enneagram gave me a full 360 perspective about the way I was “showing up” in life. It made me aware of how the armor I was using to protect myself from being hurt was really getting in the way of building healthy, flexible relationships. It was also problematic for actively engaging in life in an authentic, whole-hearted way. While I had good intentions, what I also needed were grounded, healthy emotional tools. I found the Enneagram enabled me to get very clear about where I needed to focus my attention to make positive changes.

The Enneagram is often used in individual therapy and couples counseling. And just like Myers-Briggs and DiSC, it is now being used in the workplace and career counseling. It honestly takes a lot of the emotional attachment and defensiveness out of the equation when it comes to our unique personality traits. Understanding how we are naturally hard-wired and how our “motivations” move us through the range of healthy and unhealthy behaviors is a big key to acceptance. We can accept ourselves as we are. And when we can do that, we are more open to accepting others as they are too.

The heartwarming “aha moment” for me was the realization — and the affirmation — that I could “fully embrace my natural born passion of a helper” and be more in alignment with my true nature and life purpose just by moving toward the healthy spectrum of being an Enneagram Type 2. Honestly, I laughed and cried simultaneously when I made this discovery.

So let’s go back to my three examples and take a look at the work I had to do:

I had to learn to get comfortable with confrontation. I could not let it trigger me anymore. Meditation really helped with this one. It took a long time and lots of practice, but I have a mental image of “dropping my anchor” into my core of calm and I ground myself with three deep breaths. The game-changer for me is not being sucked into my own emotional vortex just because there is confrontation. It enables me to truly be “other” focused and to listen attentively to what is being said. I do have to remind myself mentally turn down the volume if there is shouting involved. Oh and the most meaningful change — if it doesn’t involve me, I stay out of it. True confession here — the more I have practiced this in real life situations, the better I have gotten at it. I keep a few gold stars tucked in my pocket for times when I realize just how far I’ve come.

I am an anal organizer and have a hard time sitting still. If there is laundry or dishes to do, I’ll be on it. But just because I run my household that way does not mean that everyone else wants to. I’m also aware that it was my own undoing as a young mother that taught me how to get more organized and prioritize things. So now, when I find myself itching to becoming the cleaning Tasmanian devil in someone else’s space, I pause and take those three deep breaths again. And I do nothing. And oh my gosh it is hard, but only for a few minutes. My discomfort with unfinished tasks has waned. I’m growing to like this new feeling of respecting others space, the way they like to do things and the control they have over their own life. If I sense that they could use a little help, I ask before jumping in. “How can I best help you?” is my new “go-to” question. I have learned that some people thrive in the most creative ways in an environment that might feel out of control to me. I’m learning so much about consequences and accountability since I stopped doing things no one asked me to do.

This brings me to boundaries. If you read my last blog post, Growth Spurts, you will know that I came to a deep understanding of the value of boundaries and how they actually supported me in becoming a better version of myself. Boundaries are a form of self-care for me. Most importantly, they really clarify for others what is acceptable and not acceptable for our relationships. As Brene Brown has stated, “Clear is Kind” — and my boundaries make perfectly clear what my values are. Here’s the surprising twist — personal boundaries actually give me improved agency to be more flexible with others. I credit Dr. Rick Hanson and Nedra Tawwab or teaching me this.

A big gift of the Enneagram was a deeper understanding of all nine types — what motivates each type, their unique attributes and the places they feel less comfortable. Having some basic knowledge of how others show up in life and why, it becomes a lot clearer to see what their hot buttons might be. Truthfully, it takes a lot of unnecessary emotion and drama out of the equation when you have greater awareness of others basic needs. As I shared above, this is a great opening for “acceptance” of our differences and a bridge to finding creative solutions to recurring disagreements and misunderstandings.

As I have reframed my helping proclivity to that of a “befriender”, I rely more heavily on curiosity, acceptance and non-judgment when interacting with others. The better I get to know myself, the more I want to discover about others. We are all complex human beings with so many stratifications of emotions and experiences accumulated over our lifetimes.

While empathy and compassion come naturally to me, I am keenly aware not to dismiss another’s feelings by reminding them of their blessings. I know I did that in the past and while well-intentioned, it was not helpful. We all feel how we feel. Our feelings are legitimate and neither right nor wrong. We respond differently because we are uniquely different and our life experiences are not the same. We have no idea what another’s history might be and why they are sensitive to things that may never hit our radar screen. I’m learning to listen carefully and talk less. I’m learning to ask questions to gain understanding. I’m also learning to ask questions for which I don’t need the answer, but my friend may want to sit with for a while.

Little did I know when I started my personal growth journey six years ago, I would become better skilled and more effective at the very things I loved so much but that once got me into a lot of trouble and some very dark spaces.

I wish I had learned much earlier in life to look inward first and to remove the obstacles that were no longer needed as I did in fact “come through” an adversity, a setback, a painful loss. I wish I had given myself grace when I was just being vulnerable and healing. I wish I had learned to trust myself and my worthiness. If I had loved myself as I was loving others, I think I would have reached this peaceful, joyful, grateful, grounded space much sooner. The learning and the growing never stops which I find delightful. I feel more in alignment with my gifts and I genuinely feel I am making a meaningful difference in a much healthier way than I ever did.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut

The Enneagram Institute https://www.enneagraminstitute.com Great resource for an introduction to the Enneagram and a free test to determine your type

If you enjoy a daily dose of inspiration, sign up for your Enneagram number’s Daily EnneaThought email. I love getting this daily encouragement to stay on my healthy path in my inbox every day.

Typology Podcasts with Ian Morgan Cron, author of The Road Back to You, An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

https://www.typologypodcast.com

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Let Go of Who You Think You are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

Yung Puelbo’s Book Inward and his new one being released in mid-April, Clarity & Connection

Growth Spurts

One of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed over these past six years, is recognizing when I have had a growth spurt. Not the kind that shows up on the number of candles on my birthday cake, or the way a favorite dress fits differently.   It’s the growth spurt that I feel — about who I am and about how I am showing up in my life — for myself and others.  

It has been quite the journey and I could not have done it without some remarkable support from my family and my most trusted long-time friend, Judy. I’ve recently come to the realization that there has indeed been a big transformation in me.  By turning my attention inward and pulling back all the layers that I have carried with me over my lifetime, I have shed old behavioral patterns like unwanted pounds and I do feel lighter, yet more grounded than I have ever been.

I can tell you what that actually feels like in the midst of most any situation now. 

It feels like I am being the person I always longed to be — calm, respectful, helpful and understanding.  I am untethered from old triggers, of feeling overwhelmed by others emotions or actions, of feeling helpless or hopeless.   I am finally really understanding what Brene Brown has been teaching for so long about how my “armor” got in the way of living my most authentic life.

If you haven’t been around me for a long time, you may not be able to discern this subtle but significant shift. It is true that in the past I put up a pretty effective “front”in the midst of crisis or conflict, but the truth was that I was just very skilled — and far too comfortable — with stuffing my emotions or powering through them.  It resulted in me being numb to my own feelings and needs or becoming a powder keg down the road.  

It has been a few years now since I have experienced either one of those former, very familiar uncomfortable outcomes.    What a relief it is to no longer find myself getting “pulled” into a situation and reacting from a place of bottled up old emotions because my “reservoir” was so low. To come away from a present day tense situation and recognize this positive change in myself is both a reward and an affirmation for a doing the “inside job” of self-awareness work. Awareness is the real key to my growth spurts which I will unravel for you now.

A counselor once told me that I was “too patient.”  At the time, I had no clue what she meant.  I thought being patient was a strength of mine.  However I have slowly come to understand what she meant — I accepted a lot of behaviors from others that I should not have.  She was encouraging me to discover and voice my personal boundaries.  I surely wish I had learned this lesson ten or twenty years ago. I did eventually get there though it was at a turtle’s pace.

Here’s the thing about boundaries that I had to understand. I often showed respect to others even when they didn’t necessarily deserve it, but I rarely respected myself enough to call someone out or to simply say no. I wanted to be sure I was operating from a place of my own integrity so I’d be generous with my respect of others. Somehow I had forgotten that my integrity also served me — as an anchor for self-respect. I had to learn to respect myself enough to pause when I would get that internal nudge and then choose to state my boundary. This is where Brene’s words “clear is kind” really came to life for me. Calmly stating my boundary clearly is the kindest thing I can offer to someone else. There is no mystery or guess work about what is important to me. I free myself to stand firmly in my ground without drama or long explanations. It puts the onus of respecting my boundary back on the other person.

This brings me to anger. Just typing that word can send shivers down my spine. For far too many years, I did not do “anger” well. Like most of us when we are pushed to the limit and anger flares, I’d raise my voice, say things I would quickly regret and be prone to slam a door on my way to anywhere other than where I was. Honestly I have been afraid of anger since I was a child. It seemed that nothing good ever came of it and that was the lesson I took to heart based on a lifetime of personal experiences. Anger might as well have been a lit stick of dynamite in my hands — I was terrified of it and instinctively reacted on that fear rather than what anger was actually trying to tell me.

So I had to change my understanding of anger and my relationship to it. Anger often showed up when I failed to set a boundary. So it served as my warning light to feel the anger and redirect my attention to the real issue — which often was boundaries. Did I make my boundaries clear? Were my boundaries ignored or dismissed? The answers to these questions quelled the anger and gave me footing for a better response.

Anger would also show up when I was overdoing the “helping” I can be prone to do. My exhaustion would be accompanied by my disappointment from the lack of positive results for all my well-intentioned efforts. Anger was telling me I was resentful of working so hard doing things that no one actually asked me to do. It would be the equivalent of showing up with six bags of groceries and two casseroles when a friend needs a plumber for a clogged drain. Yep, that is just how far off base things can get for us consummate “helpers.” Again, understanding that my feelings of anger were actually my own doing became a huge catalyst for meaningful change.

Once I began to understand that anger can be very healthy and that it does have a place in a well-rounded life, I relaxed a bit and even ventured so fas as to invite it in….just for coffee though. My safest place to explore anger these days is on these coffee dates, just the two of us. I find myself saying “tell me more” quite often. Turns out that anger is pretty wise and not nearly as volatile as I once believed. Anger reminds me that I am a woman who values fairness and accountability. Anger makes its case that many a good cause has a been fueled by a healthy dose of outrage. (Consider MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Drivers for starters).

I now have a very deep awareness that I cannot and should not attempt to fix everything that goes wrong in life, especially for others.   Where I once rushed in to clean up a mess, solve a problem or take someone else’s consequence on as my own, I have learned that my most meaningful response is to “hold space”  for others.   Others may need a shoulder to cry on or a safe, soft place to land when they are broken. They do not need or want me to fix things. I respect that now.

The Enneagram has been such a helpful resource for me by shining a big spotlight on how I often “rescue” others in an effort to feel valued and needed. I am learning the distinction between “I need help” and “I am needy”. When someone needs help and they ask for it, I am all in….but in a healthier way now. When someone is needy and just wants someone else to fix the problems they are creating, I am able to recognize it and back away.

The next logical step in this process of self-awareness is an invaluable one — it is simply “letting go”. Yet there is nothing simple about actually doing that. At least not when I was first striving to do it. But with a lot of practice over a few years, I have actually gotten so much better at this.

Early on in my mindfulness journey I learned about “not being attached to the outcome.” While I liked the sound of it in theory, I quickly discovered that I was quite often not only attached to an outcome but I was working pretty hard to get my own desired outcome. While I never considered myself a manipulating or controlling person, I began to see how my comments or actions felt like that to others. Letting go of expectations, letting go of wishful thinking, letting go of control — these are all incredibly hard to part with — and yet, it is so freeing to do so. It is quite simply accepting reality. It is accepting that other people may make choices that might be hard to swallow. Letting go often involves forgiveness, offering grace to others and trusting that they are doing the best they can, and embracing space for reflection and healing.

Letting go and not being attached to the outcome did require a lot of practice. Fortunately life never fails to provide ample opportunities for this needed practice. So I dipped my toes into this concept with minor matters, making the best decision I could in that moment with the information I had at hand, and letting go of any preconceived ideas I might have about the outcome. I found out that no matter what transpired, I could handle it. Often times the result was even better than I might have imagined. When it came to relationships and what I was hoping for, I found that letting out a little kite string was all that was really needed. If the relationship was genuinely mutual, our kite would soar. If the relationship was more one-sided, it was bound to hit the ground. Inspirational life quotes that have long resonated with me began to take on a much deeper meaning:

I began my focused personal growth journey by learning about, and embracing, mindfulness. Mindfulness led me to meditation. Meditation reignited my keen interest in neuroscience. Over these past six years, there has been growing overlap of personal growth tools and the teachers who guide us. And all of it is rooted in awareness.

Becoming skilled in awareness is the best practice of all. It provides a broad and fresh perspective to reframe things that literally are right in front of our eyes, but are often obscured by racing thoughts, rumination about the past, magical thinking, and dreaming of greener pastures.

Awareness of all the places where I was triggered by my past.

Awareness of my weariness or resentment growing to a boiling point.

Awareness of own value and strengths and not allowing others comments to diminish them.

Awareness of how others showed their love and respect for me. (hot tip — sometimes we are actually getting the love and respect we want but we fail to realize it because we want it in a certain way)

Awareness to offer myself grace and acknowledging I will always be a work in progress.

These are just a few of the many insights I gained from awareness. The self discovery journey has allowed me to get untangled and unstuck from experiences and emotions that clouded my vision, muffled what I was able to hear, and it opened my heart in ways I would have never thought possible. I found peace. A peace that I carry with me everywhere and one that I trust I can ground myself in when life gets turbulent.

I also found a deeper capacity for being aware of how others are feeling and reacting. Judgment has been replaced with a genuine interest and curiosity about what is beneath all of that. All of us have stratifications of the anxieties and vulnerabilities that we’ve accumulated over the years. I find myself understanding that about others and it serves me well as I hold space for them and listen fully. So often clues are embedded in those deep conversations. I now focus more on the other person. Its so much easier to do this now that I have cleared my own emotional landmines. My mind, my body and my heart isn’t competing for my attention. Instead, I can lean into what I have learned about myself and find greater compassion and encouragement for others.

My dear friend Judy and I have done a lot of this work together over the past few years, acting as confidantes and cheerleaders for each other. We were so fortunate to be able to compare similar life experiences and learned behavioral patterns we developed as coping mechanisms. We also shared a deep love of helping others and offering encouragement to those who are on a similar journey. What we have noticed in our improved energy levels, our discernment, and the people we are attracting into our lives is nothing short of miraculous.

Our family members and our friends have noticed our transformation and freely tell us all the positive attributes they are witnessing. They are experiencing how we show up differently in our own lives and in their lives too. This concrete evidence of the work we have been doing has become a guiding light for others in a much healthier way than our old approaches ever did.

When my daughter tells her friends that I am the most mindful person she knows, that goes straight to my heart. Who knows me better than her after all these years and who sees the consistency and continuity of all my positive changes?

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Chopra Meditation Center – Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life (How limitless awareness can help you overcome all obstacles — 21 Day Meditation Program offered for free)

http://www.choprameditationcenter.com

Typology Podcasts with Ian Cron (available for free on YouTube) I’m sharing this episode with renowned Enneagram authority Beatrice Chestnut who is like me, an Enneagram 2.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T-fP4WMHIQ

Yung Pueblo – check out this youthful wisdom influencer on Facebook and Instagram: https://www.facebook.com/yungpueblo

Greater Good Magazine – The Right Way to Get Angry https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_right_way_to_get_angry

I am a longtime collector and affectionate of StoryPeople — and I bought this one over two decades ago. No matter how much I tried to maintain some sense of control over my busy complex life, balancing parenthood, career and marriage, there were more than a few times that I just enjoyed letting go of the “to do”list and the human “doing” and trust fall into a strong wind like a carefree child. I had no idea just how insightful these words would be to me later in life when I learned the liberating feeling of “letting go” of outcomes and expectations.