Seeing Real

Learning to balance – Heart Mind Body

Posted by Mike | April - 25 - 2012 | Comments Off on Shhhh-ame – (keep it a secret)

One of the reasons I connected with working with the Enneagram, is how it helped me deal with my shame. Growing up in a conservative, christian home and culture, I developed a strong shame grid. The dictionary definition connects shame with bad or inappropriate behavior. What the dictionary definition doesn’t reveal is how each person deals with the emotion and pressure of shame.

We all have a natural reaction to present ourselves as good people. If we happen to do something bad, we would prefer that it didn’t end up on the evening news. This creates a tension in us as we try to decide what we should reveal of our bad behavior. Unless we are found out or asked, we tend to err on the side of secrecy. This is where the line is usually is crossed as each of us deals with the shame of our bad choices.

Shame and secrecy seem to feed on each other. Together they team up to cross the line from something that I did is wrong to I did something bad because I am bad. By keeping secrets, we allow shame to creep into our identity. As we identify with shame more deeply, inner tension grows. Inner tension creates more pressure on how we present our personality to the world around us. To maintain secrets we have to retell and hide the truth. We begin to fool ourselves as these lies are spun over and over. These lies combine to become stories we tell ourselves. As we begin to believe our stories, we get further and further from the truth about who we are and what we do.

The reason the Enneagram was helpful to me was that it helped me notice the truth about myself – the bad and the good. The first step is to me to tell the truth to myself. The second step is to tell the truth about myself to others. What is ironic is the way shame reverses these steps. The first step to making shame a part of my identity is to hide the truth from others. The second step is to begin to believe this false identity, allowing shame to burrow deeper into my personality.

The Enneagram teaches us to develop a non-judgmental observer. The observer’s role is just to notice what actually is, again, the bad and the good. This helps separate what we do and who we are. With this separation, change becomes a possibility. I can change what I do, not who I am. Resisting reality is the hurdle to most change. Most of the time our resistance is to a false reality that we have created. Truth is the antidote to our shame and secret keeping.

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