Monday, September 21, 2015

5w6: We're Here, We're Repressed, and We Don't Wanna Talk About It!

A few months ago I was introduced to the Enneagram, a personality test with a lot of interesting things to say, with a touch of new age woo mixed in just for fun.  As with all of these tests, some of it is spot on, some of it isn't, but there were parts that put words to aspects of my personality I hadn't had words for.  For that, I'm abundantly appreciative.

Per the Enneagram, I'm blessed or cursed to be a type 5, sub-titled the Investigator, or Observer.  The website sums it up this way:

We have named personality type Five The Investigator because, more than any other type, Fives want to find out why things are the way they are. They want to understand how the world works, whether it is the cosmos, the microscopic world, the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms—or the inner world of their imaginations. They are always searching, asking questions, and delving into things in depth. They do not accept received opinions and doctrines, feeling a strong need to test the truth of most assumptions for themselves.

That last sentence sounds noble when it's phrased that way, but it's not necessarily a positive personality trait.  The way it presents in me is that almost everything that goes into my brain gets filtered through a series of questions: "What's this person's motive?  Who are they trying to persuade?  If nobody that's listening is likely to disagree, why are they saying it?  Why is everything mindless signaling with no authentic discussion?  Am I just signaling? I think I hate my in-group."

This kind of filter makes it REALLY hard to be a joiner.  Because everything goes through the filter, I tend to summon objectivity in times when it's damaging to me and others.  Since my brain examines things 50 different ways all at once, I'll find a piece of what someone has said that isn't true, or isn't entirely honest, and I'm not always good at keeping that realization to myself.  For example, I'm a reluctantly pro-choice person.  But the way most like-minded people discuss the issue is so frustrating!  My options are usually to be the asshole that disagrees with everyone, nit-picking trivial points until everyone wishes they'd never brought it up, or to shut up and repress it. 90% of the time, I go with the latter.  

Repression is probably the area where the Enneagram has been most helpful.  Once the type 5 is separated into 2 categories, the description looks like this:

The 6 wing brings an orientation to detail and technical knowledge, along with the tendency to think in logical sequence. Especially intellectual, far more analytical than Fives with a 4 wing. Can be loyal friends, offering strong behind-the-scenes support. Kind, patient teachers, skillful experts. May have a sense of mission and work hard. Sometimes project an aura of sensitive nerdiness and have clumsy social skills. When defensive, they can be unnerved by the expectations of others. May like people more but avoid them more. Especially sensitive to social indebtedness. Could have trouble saying "thank you." Fear of taking action, develop "information addiction" instead. Ask lots of questions but don't get around to the decision at hand. When more entranced, they develop a suspicious scrutiny of other people's motives but can also be blind followers. Misanthropic and Scrooge-like when defensive. More able to keep their feelings cut off in a constant way. Can be cold, skeptical, ironic, and disassociated. A Five's 6 wing can be phobic or counterphobic. Counterphobic 6 wing brings courage and antiauthoritarian attitudes. When defensive they may mock authority, or angrily tell others off. Tend to "push the envelope," experiment, find what the limits are.

The last year has been rough.  Most of my life has been fairly free of strong emotion.  It's just how I've always been.  The highs aren't that high, and the lows aren't that low.  For whatever reason, I've become a much more emotional person, and it's the worst!  Some of the emotions are recent and identifiable.  "That awful thing happened, and now I'm sad."  Easy enough to identify.  Some of the emotions are decades old, and I had no idea they existed.  For example, I've been getting back into disc golf again, and watching YouTube videos of various tournaments trying to pick up mechanics and habits I can emulate. Putting those into action on the course, I've gotten a lot better really quickly.  I had the best round of my life over the weekend, and on the way home I was able to identify an emotion that's about 20 years old.  

As a kid, almost everything came easy to me.  I was one of the top picks on the playground for just about any sport, and won various awards in little league.  My formative years produced a healthy confidence that has served me well my whole life.  But in 8th grade, my natural abilities succumbed to the earned-through-practice abilities of others, and I was no longer king of the ball field.  Until this weekend it had never occurred to me that losing my status as athletic phenom had caused any kind of pain.  I just moved onto other things like choir and youth group, preferring to stick with things I could excel at.  But playing that round of disc golf, and playing it well, brought back feelings of pride I hadn't felt since I was 14, and with that, the feelings of loss that never surfaced all those years ago.  How strange it is to find a mystery inside your own head.

A writer I enjoy developed what he calls the typical mind fallacy, wherein people tend to project their own mental processes onto others, then judge others' actions based on how they think they themselves would have handled the situation.  Becoming aware of my own feelings could be a great way to break out of the typical mind fallacy.  Some of you wonderful people have the ability to recognize and deal with your feelings in real time!  Crazy!  My task to is to remember that next time I want to roll my eyes because someone freaks out over something little.  Yours is to forgive me if I take a year to get over something that seems little to you.  It's likely that even the smallest emotion looks like a kraken to me.  And I don't have any experience fighting krakens. 

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