Looking Back: Arrows in the Other Direction

My last two posts highlight the importance of drawing on the characteristics and traits available to you from one of the numbers across the arrows on the Enneagram – the forward number.  Riso and Hudson most popularly describe this as our stress number, but Chestnut says it is a growth-through-stress number. O’Hanrahan describes it as our resource point designed to help us take action in the world. This can be an invaluable Enneagram resource in our antiracism work if we understand how to access this resource and what it means for how we approach the work.  Advent is a season for reflection such as this, for anticipation how God can break into our lives in a new way.

There is, of course, a second arrow for us to consider.  O’Hanrahan says it points to undeveloped aspects of ourselves: “It’s as though we have to relax and let down our usual defenses, let go of our normal way of seeing the world in order to become more flexible and more vulnerable.”  This shift within us helps us go deeper within ourselves, learn something new about ourselves, and connect with others in a more integrated and meaningful way.  

This move is more about looking back than moving forward, hence we call it the backward arrow. Brazilian Enneagram master, Uranio Paes, says that we must explore this direction “and integrate its lessons and issues before we move on to the [forward] point…. In other words, we must go back before we can go forward! 

I am so future-focused and forward leaning that looking back is always difficult, so this figurative, introspective “look back” at what I can integrate in order to be more whole is helpful, but difficult.  My point of connection here is from 3 to 6. I highlight below the importance of connecting with others that comes from this arrow number. We get too hung up on which arrow is stress and which is security, and what those words mean; what I think is most important is really that both numbers have something helpful to offer you at your core.  From 9, I learn to slow down and from 6, I learn to connect – both incredibly helpful to this achievement oriented 3. And, the learning to listen more intently has been key to how I want to grown in understanding the impact of racism in the systems where I have leadership responsibility. This year, I don’t need to only focus on achieving antiracism; I need to be loyal and committed to students and colleagues of color—that is the place from which real and lasting change will come and it is a lesson I draw from 6.

Looking Back: Enneagram Arrows in the Reverse Direction

As I highlighted with the forward arrow move, I will provide just a few thoughts for what this move in the other direction might mean for you and your work:

1’s who want to know the right way to go about the work of racial justice may be able to consider a range of ideas and possibilities as they are able to draw from 7. The reform-oriented 1 can relax into this part of their personality that is more relaxed, flexible, and enthusiastic, while still being purposeful and principled. 

2’s who are focused on the needs of others may be able to focus more internally by drawing from 4. Their own needs and feelings are able to matter more. The helping-oriented 2 can slow down, look within, and reflect on the pain and struggle of racism in our society, while still maintaining their deep sense of care and nurture of others.

3’s who want to achieve in order to be successful may be able to partner with others in thoughtful collaboration drawing from 6. The accomplishment-oriented 3 can ask for input, build consensus, and tolerate uncertainty and insecurity in work for equity and inclusion, being able to work behind the scenes while still being strategic. 

4’s who want to connect, but always find themselves comparing their significance, may be able to find a practical focus of their feelings connecting to 1. The individualist 4 can use their desire for distinctiveness to turn their dreams into reality, knowing the work of antiracism is full of ups and downs but that is no reason not to engage. 

5’s who are observing the world around them in order to understand it and their place in it may be able to find inner strength to engage that world with this connection to 8. The investigative 5 can become more active and assertive in a desire to be competently engaged in social change even if still quiet and reserved on the whole.

6’s who are loyal and inquisitive in their desire to be prepared may be more go with the flow and tolerant of the ambiguity in the work drawing from 9. These supportive protectors at 6 can be more trusting, open, grounded and relaxed, knowing their questions about injustice and inequities matter but need not paralyze them with fear.  

7’s who are spontaneous and enthusiastic in their passion for antiracism may be able to quiet their mind and look within by drawing from 5. The adventurous 7 who loves to think out loud can be more reflective and introspective while still having energy for the work.

8’s who are active and assertive in their intense work for justice may be able to connect with empathy and care when connecting with 2. The passionate challenge of the 8 can make a heartfelt connection while still being able to trust their gut to guide them. 

9’s who work at their own pace preserving their inner peace may become more active and engaged from a feeling perspective when drawing from 3.  The pondering 9 can seek to achieve by trusting their presence in working with others for equity. 

I know that is brief. And, I realize that I cannot understand fully what this means across race and gender lines, or for every person of your type. Instead, these brief considerations are possibilities that some people with your type experience and my goal is to ask if they resonate with you.

If so, is it a helpful point of connection for you in your antiracism work? Does it give you something you can reflect on in this season of lent, waiting and working towards God’s inbreaking in our world? 

If not, how might you connect back to this number, to learn from it in order to then move forward in your work?

Advent is truly a season of looking back while moving forward. May God reveal new insights within you on the journey of this season and in our shared journey of working with God for justice in our world.

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