I’m recently back from a workshop with Rani Willems and I wanted to share these thoughts.
Rani spoke amongst other things about the Enneagram of Personality, a typology of character types formed as basic survival strategies in childhood. I would be type seven, and I can certainly relate to this. My basic strategy was to do everything it took to escape, not simply into an inner world but in terms of a complete break with my home environment and complete destruction of the power of my parents over me. This type is fixated with planning and work, and so was I, until I found myself at University, free, and realized that the cause of escape which had defined my life until then, having been achieved, no longer had a raison d’etre. This led to an identity crisis, and the start of my spiritual quest.
The basic fear of this type is boredom, and the fear of boredom was a constant theme in my childhood. Indeed it still is. My attention span for anything but spiritual matters is limited, and I have gone through interests and careers at a remarkable pace. Though I may admire them, I cannot understand people who are able to devote their life to a single cause, whatever it is.
The basic desire of this type is the experience of life. I would describe this as more than a basic desire in my case, but almost an obsession. It is hard for me to accept that there are aspects of life that I may not experience. Doubtless though, in experiencing them, I find it hard simply to stop and be present to the experience: the next one is always waiting. I also have the vice of gluttony and give in to the basic “temptation” of this type: moving too fast.
When we move too fast, however, we do not take all of ourselves with us. I may imagine myself racing down the motorway of enlightenment (as if any such existed) – but parts of me, my inner child, are left behind.
As they have been always. For me, childhood was an annoyance to be overcome. A weakness I could not allow myself. My inner child was never present to me – as much shorn of existence and personality by myself as by my parents, to whom it never occurred that a child might be a sovereign, complete spiritual being.
At the same time though, childhood was a refuge. I wanted to escape, but I did not want to grow up. Grown-ups were mean, and I found nothing to admire in them, and never imagined myself being one. Childishness was a part of my identity because I knew my soul was in my childish self, and could oppose it to the hostile world of adults around me. In this way, my inner child came to bear the weight of an attachment from my adult self which was a source of comfort; just as such an attachment was imposed on it by my mother, whose personality was incomplete without me.
So my inner child, who never got to be a child, still has to bear the weight of the needs of adults, and his own needs continue to be ignored. Setbacks, frustrations and weaknesses coming from my childish layer are treated by me with intolerance, instead of being seen as a quiet voice inside of me that still has needs and wants to be free.
And yet I love my inner child, because I know his beauty; observing my own son, I can be in no doubt about it. The beauty I doubt is that of the person I have become, and don’t really want to be. I feel a need for integration of which I have barely scratched the surface. In that journey, the most precious assets are those which lie deeply buried inside of me because, at the time, they were a distraction and a weakness I could not allow myself. The same negligence applies, by the way, to my body, the importance of which to me only became evident at puberty. It has always seemed to me that my sexual drives were the one force strong enough to save me from the futility of the destiny that inevitably awaited me relying for salvation on myself alone.
On the spiritual journey, dismissal of ones weaknesses and more generally the non-integrated or subordinate parts of one’s personality is just a sign of ego attachment. If we are travelling anywhere, baby comes too.