The holiday season is over and by this time the excitement of the new year has subsided. This is precisely the time of year that it really hits me that we are in the middle of winter. It’s still cold and it’s still dark outside, but I no longer have the distraction of the brightly colored lights and the songs of cheer. I don’t know, it just seems a bit anticlimactic. I have a tendency this time of year to want to stay in a lot more and focus on the things close to me that I may have blew past during the whirlwind of parties during December. For me, this translates to spending a lot of quality time with my husband and reminding him that he is the most important thing to me. We are lucky that we celebrate both our anniversary and valentine’s day around this time of year so we always have plenty of excuses to go on fancy dates and reconnect.
I’ve been married for 5 years (we’ve been together for about 7) and it never ceases to amaze me how much I learn about my husband seemingly everyday. Situations arise and I realize just how different we are. I plan a lot in advance, he doesn’t. I worry a lot, he, not so much. He is quiet most of the time and I am pretty much the opposite. I often find myself wondering why he does things so differently than me.
The truth is that we are using different operating systems and once I realized that on a deeper level, our entire relationship became much easier to navigate.These operating systems dictate our thought patterns, behaviors and general world outlook. Each system has a specialty focus and general function based on what our underlying motivation is.
So how am I supposed to use a Mac when the only thing I’ve ever used before is a PC? I mean, there isn’t even a right-click option on the mouse! This is how it feels when we interact with people using different psychological operating systems. We need a manual to help us translate the foreign patterns of those we interact with. Enter the Enneagram.
At its simplest, the Enneagram is a map that gives us a common language to understand the nine general strategies humans use to navigate successfully through the world and it is the most influential tool that I have found that has helped me understand myself, others and the relationships I have with others.
You see, from the moment we are born we are trying to figure out how to survive in this crazy and imperfect world, but (as the gross saying goes) “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. When we are young we figure out pretty quickly that certain strategies work to meet our needs of survival, but our brains our LAZY. Once the brain realizes that doing / feeling / thinking a certain way makes them feel Safe / Happy / Loved / Etc. they keep doing it over and over and over again. By the time we are adults, we have been doing these same patterns again for so long we forget there might have been other ways of doing them in the first place. It becomes our default setting, the easiest option and the lens in which everything else is seen through. So, when we interact with someone who doesn’t do / feel / think the same way we do, we can’t always wrap our heads around it.
The Enneagram articulates what these motivations are and how they show up in the lives of the people who live in them. It helps me understand why I focus on the problem areas of life while my husband will deny that problems even exist. It helps explain why I am so much more high strung than him and why he has a hard time starting projects. It has been the single greatest relationship tool I have ever found that can truly help you understand yourself and your partner (current, past or future!). Even if love relationships aren’t your thing, it can help you in your relationships with your family members, friends and co-workers. It’s my secret tool for really getting to understand other people and what makes them tick.
It is my passion to share this information with as many people as I possibly can because I believe in my heart that deeply understanding yourself is the first step for a better world. It increases our capacity for love and compassion towards others (and ourselves) and allows us to be conscious and free. Knowledge is power and the most potent power you can have is knowledge about yourself.
About Karen Blanchette
Karen is a Certified Enneagram Teacher in the Narrative Tradition and has spent 14 years studying the Enneagram. She currently leads the Young Adult Enneagram Community in Austin and is an active member of the Enneagram Community of Central Texas. She loves teaching the Enneagram through workshops, classes and typing interviews and hopes to add coaching services to her business in the near future. Find out all about what Karen is up to at her website: http://www.karenblanchette.com