Compulsions and Gifts

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Once you know your type, what then? The next task is to determine your level of functioning. How are you doing in life? You may have been working very hard on issues of self-awareness and responsibility and could be high functioning at the healthy end of the spectrum. Life may have been giving you difficult experiences. You have not coped well and find yourself at the low or unhealthy end of the spectrum with significant emotional distress and problems in living. Or, you may be average in your functional level.

When introduced to the Enneagram, most of us find that we normal or average in our functioning. With the Enneagram normal means that like the majority of people, we are trapped in our personality type and do not know it. We do not know that there is a structure to our lives. We unknowingly live out our compulsions and avoidances. We think it is normal. Since we do not understand the true nature of our personality then we try to become better and better at being who we think we are. This means we become more and more compulsive. We do not live from our essence but from the False Self of limited identity.

If you are a Reformer or Perfectionist you think it is good to try and make yourself and the world perfect. Everyday you try to become better and better at being more and more perfect. You criticize and correct yourself and others daily. You hold yourself and others to extremely high standards. You have an inflexible point of view since there is only one way (your way) that will succeed. On a day in which you have displayed all of this behavior to a high degree, you feel very good about who you are. You have been "perfect." The truth is you have fallen deeper into the rut of personality but do not recognize it.

If you are the Helper you try to be more and more helpful until you are helpful all of the time. You help everyone that you meet. Once you start helping you do not stop. Eventually, through your compulsive helping you help people into helplessness. Your compulsive helping is not truly helpful. It is only controlling and only benefits you and your self-image.

The Gift

There is a secret in the midst of the compulsion. Your compulsion that drives you is what you are good at doing. It is actually your gift. It is what you bring into the world to share with others. But if a gift is overused in a compulsive manner it is no longer a gift. Used in this way a gift becomes inappropriate and begins to be a burden. There is a proverb that says, " If the only tool you have is a hammer then everything is a nail." Some things do not benefit from being beat upon just as not everyone needs to be helped, perfected, controlled, or told to lighten up.

To truly use your gift it must be used with creative flexibility. There are times not to use it, or it will be harmful. For a Helper sometimes the best way to help someone is not to help. This requires discrimination and judgment. For example, a Helper sees some one in need. Before rushing in to help it is best to ask, "What is truly needed here." It may be seen that the true need is not of help in the form of rescue but help in the form of allowing the person "responsibility" so that through a difficult time with their own effort they become independent. Not helping may help at a deeper level. By not compulsively helping, a Helper has more freedom to help where it is most helpful.

This pattern is true for all types. We must give up our compulsive use of the gift so we can find our true giftedness.


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