As a Type 7 on the Enneagram, I’ve practiced avoiding pain and discomfort most of my life. In fact, you could say my whole makeup is organized about this strategy.
Lately, I’ve noticed this exhausted strategy no longer works. I can no longer push down or ignore the pain and heartbreak of seeing both my parents enter the stage in their life where they need help. Admitting that they are getting older. While this is of course part of life, seeing this change in both my parents is heartbreaking. The thought that keeps tumbling around in my head is did I miss the briefing session from my aunt and uncle letting me know what to do and how to handle it?
My mind races to keep up with the thoughts and pretense: I’m ok, I can handle this and I’m not really sure. I’m sad. I’m sad that this is the stage we are in, I’m sad because I believe it means we are coming to the end of our relationship, where my parents take care of me. I’m not equipped to manage this on my own. I know I’ve written about this before and I still don’t feel like I have the tools. I only how to avoid the pain and discomfort, that’s an ingrained behaviour from my childhood. I’m beginning to question the effectiveness of this behaviour.
I’ve learned recently how to manage myself when I’m on the slippery slope towards burnout, however, what I don’t know is how to manage the day to day stuff. Where nothing exceptional is happening, where I’m just sitting with my feelings and the magnitude of it all is overwhelming.
It’s so uncomfortable, and blatantly awkward that I don’t know what else to do except write about it. In these moments I find myself pouring over FB as if the answer to what is happening will be found in the daily newsfeed. Recently I’ve seen hours slipping away as I search for the answer.
Trying to stop tears in midstream, trying to control the waterworks when watching a moving movie. It’s all just a strategy in resistance. A strategy to avoid the painful awareness of the inevitable.
Lean into the pain, lean into the discomfort, lean into the sadness. Advice from people who have been there. It’s not intuitive for me to lean into the pain, I’m an expert in doing just the opposite. It’s a game of time, the more I lean into the feelings the faster I’ll move through them. But that’s just it, my body and heart don’t seem to be as wise as my mind. My body seems to be the barrier to me moving through this.
The coaching from my enneagram mentor suggests it’s about grieving over all of the losses we have not yet worked through (not just the current one). Is this an opportunity to work through some of the losses I haven’t done the work on yet? Knowing my type and the predictable ways I deal with things I’d say yes it is an opportunity.
“The natural process (of grief and loss) involves leaning into pain, not away from it, and releasing through the pain into love and into life as it unfolds in each moment.” by David Daniels M.D.
As a Type 7 I use my mind to gather intelligence, so of course, I’m looking at this through a logical and analytic lens. The Enneagram community would urge, check in with my heart and body and try listening to those centers of intelligence, integrating all three areas. This is the practice for me.
What is there to do?
- Work with this each time I do body movement? Walk, kettlebell, yoga. I find some relief in this.
- Talk to a therapist, work through the emotions. This definitely helps.
- Write about it and keep writing. Each day something eases up, something loosens.
- Do things that will evoke feelings. Today I tried watching a Ted Talk and found five ted talks on coping with grief. Definitely a helpful link. I could only manage one and it made a difference.
- In grieving, Type 7s need to be more present and steady in the moment, allow their hearts to open to themselves and others, welcome in the natural pain/sadness of grief, just practice presence to what is, and sustain their great optimism. Referenced from David Daniels M.D.
Leaning into the pain is a little easier when this blend is in the defuser. I call it PPTOH (Practicing Presence, Opening Hearts) blend.
I’ll continue to work through this. I’m committed to adopting this notion that life and grief go hand-in-hand in a natural co-existence.
What do you do to work through grief? I want to hear from you.