Living in An Enneagram World

I think I mentioned a while back that I took an Enneagram personality test, via Project Progeny. The results? I’m a type four, an “Individualist.” I didn’t enjoy reading the personality description. It was not very flattering, in fact, it was pretty judgemental.

From the site:

“We have named this type The Individualist because Fours maintain their identity by seeing themselves as fundamentally different from others…They often see themselves as uniquely talented, possessing special, one-of-a-kind gifts, but also as uniquely disadvantaged or flawed. More than any other type, Fours are acutely aware of and focused on their personal differences and deficiencies.”

I would say this description sort of fits my blogging persona, which mostly focuses on my infertility journey. And being infertile? Well, it means that I am in reality a person who IS “disadvantaged and flawed” when it comes to reproduction. I think it’s probably true that I still carry the scars of infertility, and that I feel flawed overall sometimes. But I don’t think I am uniquely talented or that I possess special gifts. If anything, I think I am exceedingly ordinary.

It gets worse.

“They (Individualists) are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity.”

Ouch.

In other words, the description was “Way harsh, Tai.”

When I joined a company a while back, I took the Meyers-Briggs personality test. I was classified an INTJ. I don’t remember feeling that the description made me feel, well, deficient. The INTJ description embraced my personality for its good points and offered useful ways to work around my weaknesses. The Meyers-Briggs used a constructive criticism approach, if you will.

In most of the parenting books I’ve read, positive reinforcement is praised as the most proactive tool we have to affect change with our children. It’s difficult sometimes to remember to give that positive reinforcement to children, because our eyes can be so focused on the negative, on the lookout for the worst.

And so it seems in blogging, too.

I was struck by this post by Uppercase Woman today. I’ve gone into my feelings about how blogging has shifted from a landscape of “letting it all hang out there” emotionally to a picture perfect world of bloggers whose lives are beautifully turned out at all times. And I’m starting to think that this change is really reflecting society at large. It’s a case of a zeitgeist shift.

Here’s my theory. Back in the 2000s when we all thought the economy was good and all groups in society seemed to be making gains, and all economic levels were encouraged to make the American Dream a reality by buying homes, remodeling homes and taking expensive vacations: well, maybe we all felt a bit privileged, whether we were or not. Maybe we were more open to being sympathetic to others, to the plight of others. Maybe that expansive sense of security led to listening more. Maybe we felt secure enough to speak about problems and issues we were facing, from infertility to parenting.

We are obviously not in a good economy any more. Things are improving, but the sense that things are going to be better for any of us? That optimism seems to be mostly gone. Women have been the beneficiaries of most of the jobs in the Great Recession. And guess what? With that gain has come the biggest backlash on women’s rights I have ever seen in my lifetime. But there’s more than just a backlash at work, as troubling as that is. There seems to be a pervasive, stoic, “suck it up” attitude. A sort of revised “keep up appearances,” if you will. Had you ever heard the term “first world problems” before 2008? I hadn’t. Yet now more and more infertility is dismissed as a “first world problem.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is it seems to me to be a shame that in an increasingly judgemental world, a woman can go to a conference like BlogHer, which I found to be a wonderfully empowering event last year, and be afraid to let her guard down.

But back to the Enneagram test. Right now I feel like we are all living in an Enneagram world instead of a Meyers-Briggs world. A place where we are judged for not fitting into a graceful, perfect mold. And I find this to be a very dismaying development.

What do you think? Have you noticed a more harsh, stoic sense attitude among others or even yourself since the Great Recession began? Are you often afraid to express negative feelings for fear of being labeled ungrateful?

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13 Comments

Filed under Blogging, writing

13 responses to “Living in An Enneagram World

  1. It’s funny, I had such a different experience of the decade. I always joke that it was sort of like going into the Peace Corps when I went to Missoula for graduate school because it was just as people I knew were riding The dot com bubble on the way up out in San Francisco and here I was in the middle of Montana making no money and in fact getting poorer. That was in the mid to late 90s and by 2000 I was back in the Twin Cities just beginning my academic career.

    I have felt the world to be a more sarcastic and somehow a meaner place but it is probably just as equally wonderful and miraculous what technology does… I am just not focusing on it. I just heard a great piece from Krista Tippet in her On Being show about resilience in this new world. I’ll try to post it on Twitter.

    I have felt increasingly out of step with the new world. This is a result of parenting a teenager right now but also feeling generationally out of step with the new blogging world. I feel increasingly analog in a digital world. I always credited writing with connecting me to a sense of my own survival — For me it was reading as a child and creating my own world with words and later through finding a supportive community while blogging through infertility… But I find my own reaction to how literature and publishing is changing to be very visceral and not very useful for what this new world values.

    I am afraid I have always had a sort of harsh and stoic attitude toward things. I make it my practice to try to not turn that outward to other people. When I find myself reacting that way the first thing I have to ask myself is what is it about my own life that I am unhappy about.

    I do find that the world especially the one that is reflected by our technology is a brutal and materialistic one. It’s actually been depressing me quite a bit. (Again, did I mention that I am parenting a social media connected teenager right now? )

    Sorry for the novel. Comments seemto be the only place and time I have to write these days

    Xo

    Pam

    • Sorry I was not very articulate there. I probably should’ve just written: the world is moving way too fast my brain cannot catch up. Old dog. New trick.

      • Jeez now I just read Cecily’s post and have to add that I remember the blogosphere she’s talking about and often miss it; sometimes the entire blogosphere reminds me of a bad day in a competitive MFA program when every writer forgets the joy of writing and the miracle of connection and instead focuses solely on ego; each person’s success seeming a threat in a world of such scarce resources. Okay. I promise. Totally done commenting. Xoxo. But hopefully every writer has a moment like Cecily’s– this right here… I read to know I am not alone… This is what we’re on earth for. To love one another.

  2. “…sometimes the entire blogosphere reminds me of a bad day in a competitive MFA program when every writer forgets the joy of writing and the miracle of connection and instead focuses solely on ego; each person’s success seeming a threat in a world of such scarce resources.”

    YES. This. I often wish I had known about the infertility blogosphere from the beginning of my infertility journey. The IF world remains a good place, but it sounds like it was a really special world back in 2005-2006…

  3. I was also thinking that I wish I had started blogging early, because it sounds like I missed out on something truly remarkable. I wouldn’t have had anything to write about back then, but I regret not being a part of the community during its heyday.

    I don’t know if I can speak to the phenomena you’re speaking of here, as I was too young to be very tuned into the world and what people were like during the dotcom bubble and before, when people felt so much more secure than they do now. 9-11 (which I personally believe created the new world you’re speaking of) happened during my senior year in college. By the time I had graduated it was all already starting to go to shit. I think I had a vague inkling of what I was missing out on, becoming an adult after that nation-altering tragedy and the recession that followed, but it was all so abstract in my mind, I couldn’t say that I missed the way things were before because I was never an adult making my way in the world before.

    I do see the disconnects though, between my generation and my parents’. To know that we are the first generation that can expect less than our parents had, well it’s sobering. But it’s always what I’ve expected so it doesn’t seem that disappointing (though I can’t deny I experienced some growing pains getting to this place of acceptance). I wonder what my child(ren) will be able to hope for. It kind of scares me to consider that.

    I used to think that social media giants like FB and Pinterest created the look-at-my-beautiful-picture-perfect-life culture that seems to persevere today but now I think it was always there, it just wasn’t so pervasive. Before it existed in small talk over drinks or before dinner, at family reunions and preschool parking lots. Now it’s unavoidable, or at least we make it unavoidable by being so addicted to it all. Instead of being exposed when we see other people, now we are exposed even when we’re alone. And the ability to share digital images so effortlessly also ratchets it up many notches because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. But I don’t think FB and Instagram and Pinterest CREATED this culture, in fact I think they are so popular because they provide platforms on which people can share in a way they already were and wanted to. They allow people to do what they were doing, only times a thousand.

    I believe this because even before these social media giants started defining our interactions with people, I wanted to speak my truth WAY MORE than people ever wanted to hear it. I don’t believe it was any more fashionable back then to voice your fears or worries or anger or disappointment, because no one ever wanted to hear that stuff from me. That is why they ALI community was so valuable to me, it was the FIRST TIME in my life that anyone gave a damn about my troubles. It’s the first Tempe anyone ever really LISTENED to me and HEARD what I had to say.

  4. Hi there! I am also a 4, a tragic romantic. Although I feel intensely, I do have a bit of the rose coloured glasses and like to accentuate the positive. People have commented that I always put pics on Facebook of Nicky smiling too much, that it’s like false advertising. Well, the truth is he does smile a lot and he has a pretty sunny disposition. And I don’t really want to go on and on about the bad times. I once listened to an excellent talk about luck and this lady said (Rebecca Marina) that the surest way to be unlucky is to go on and on about the negative stuff. If you want good things to happen you have to change your story – try and focus on the more positive things. At the time I listened to her it really helped me in my job – to stop going on about my problems and focus on something more positive. So it did help me. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t acknowledge the negative, but its like you kind of have to give it a hug and move on and not allow it to drag you down, if that makes sense. As bloggers I think we can talk about our problems but then try and say something positive as well.

  5. I’m a 1 and an ISTJ. Both descriptions make me feel icky! But, maybe that’s how it is with all of them. We don’t like to turn the mirror on ourselves and look at the negatives.

    Well, I wouldn’t classify my blog as painting a picture perfect life after adoption, that’s for sure. But, I am starting to feel lonely and a little scared every time I hit publish on a difficult post. Overall, I think i follow blogs of writers who are still putting the sh!tastic stuff out into the universe.

    Maybe I’ve dropped the others who get a little too whitewashed because I’m constantly looking for people to commiserate with. More likely, those people have stopped blogging though, which I tend to think is ok. Some use blogging as a way to get through a difficult situation and don’t have designs on carrying on once infertility or adoption is resolved.

    I’ve also been lucky and not been attacked on my blog because I have a small group of readers. It definitely would be much more difficult if I had to read a nasty comment directed at me like I know others have.

  6. Well, my post today was not very Enneagrammatic. And maybe I’m an individualist, too. Certainly my therapist thinks so, and tells me that’s why I need to keep coming to therapy. But that’s interesting, too. Can’t I just live with the person I am? Am I supposed to be trying to make myself more graceful and perfect, or learning how to cope with my flaws so that they don’t run me over?

  7. That’s so interesting – I didn’t experience the Enneagram as judgmental even though I’m a 4 too, maybe it’s the evangelical milieu I grew up in that predisposes me to accept those kinds of judgments…

    I can’t speak to the larger milieu, living in different countries the zeitgeist is just… different. My online life has changed so much from 2006 when I started blogging that I don’t think I have a stable perspective from which to speak. I do know that I have never had any interest in the glossy magazine-cover style lifestyle blogs (the first blog I ever followed was Manuela’s Thin Pink Line which I liked because of how she let it all hang out). I like the gritty and raw stuff better.

    Back to the Enneagram – one thing I actually like about it is how the rubric can capture growth and change, that you can move away from unhealthy expressions of self (it has helped me identify my tendency to live in a fantasy world as something that holds me back from growth) towards strength, integration, harmony with self and others. As I think about it I agree that the Enneagram is more judgmental than the Myers-Briggs but I kind of like that about it.

  8. Like Geochick, I’m a 1 (well, tied with 3 as well) and an ISTJ. For once, I was pleased not to read a description that essentially says, “you are a rigid, boring stick in the mud who must follow rules at all costs. No one likes you; why would they?”

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around what I want to say. OK. I don’t get shiny, happy bloggers and shiny, happy attitudes. I tend to dwell on the negative; the ISTJ and Virgo that I am are naturally critical of everything. I think that there has been only one or two years in the last 8 in which I wasn’t worried, stressed or anxious about something. Is my life horrible? No. I know that. I know you admire Kelle Hampton, but I just can’t with her.

    Maybe that makes me bitter and cynical, but I’ve never felt compelled to hide it. Life is beautiful and ugly. Wondrous and harsh, and I believe that you can’t appreciate the highs without at least acknowledging the lows.

    What I do feel is old. I’ll be 36 in September and while that certainly doesn’t make me the oldest blogger around, I am usually at least 5 years older than most of the blogging/twitter folks I interact with, especially the ones who are parenting children the same age. We’re not even part of the same generation, and I find that I do see the world differently than they do.

    You might enjoy Steph’s post on a similar topic http://stephaniedulli.com/2013/07/29/coming-up-short/

    Wow. I hope I don’t sound belligerent! I’m just tired of discussion and disagreement being treated as bullying or attacking and ups and downs of real life being unappreciated or scorned. I don’t put on a happy face well.

    • Hey KeAnne! Thanks for your response. I don’t know that I made what I was thinking clear enough :/ What I was trying to say was I worry that with the Pinterestifcation of everything, bloggers are perhaps feeling as if they have to sugar coat things, and I also worry that we are all perhaps afraid to present life as it is to the world because we are afraid of excess judgement. Which leads to the picture perfect blogs and not enough “realness” which is what I love and need in blogging.

      Would love to get your thoughts on that… 🙂

  9. OK! I think your theory is spot-on. I think that the zeitgeist is insecurity, anxiety and fear and as a result, we are trying to take whatever control we have over our lives or at least the control we appear to have. That manifests itself in appearing to be perfect: making your own food, crafting, knitting, gardening, raising chickens. Living off the land and finding beauty in small things, the mundane, the twee. I think it also manifests in the appearance of being happy and grateful; sharing only the bright moments and not the less pretty ones. Because what’s underneath it all is fear. I think Pinterest is both a result of this attitude and a reinforcer.

    I’m not saying that if you garden or knit, you are somehow fake or less real. Or that you aren’t really happy. I see this trend towards shiny, happy life part of a larger movement that I think has anxiety and fear at its core.

    I read an article a few days ago that mentioned that the average age of individuals being diagnosed w/ depression for the first time has dropped to 14-15 instead of mid-to-late 20s. It seems like modern society wants to medicate away sadness or anxiety so that happy = normal and unhappy or sad = abnormal.

  10. Everyone is mentioning Pinterest here, and I believe it’s contributing to the current zeitgeist… but when you were writing about “a picture perfect world” where “lives are beautifully turned out at all times,” my first thoughts were actually of Martha Stewart. Martha seems to be laying low these days, but I remember what a huge impact she had when she first came on the scene in the early 1990s. I can remember being alternately fascinated by her TV show (which only came on once a week at first) & yellling at the screen, “Martha! Who the hell has TIME??!” lol

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