The Work of the Enneagram Centers

The last two posts have provided some Advent reflections as we prayerfully anticipate and participate in God’s coming anew to our hurting world where the power of racism is so destructive. 

As we pray, we learn to be open in new ways to how God is always coming into our world and into our lives. God is breaking into your life if you can allow it. These are advent prayers. And, they are Enneagram prayers. 

As we reflect on the Enneagram and the themes of advent, we pray that what God is doing in us might make a difference in breaking down the racist structures that surround us.

As part of Magee’s “Racial Emotional Awareness Practice,” her contemplative practice that we learned a few days ago, we reflected on our emotions, thoughts, and sensations. In Enneagram language, this is a call to reflect on the role of the heart, head, and body and the role of each of these three characteristic centers that function within each of us. 

In other words, how does the heart function within us? What role does feeling play in helping us become present to the impact of race and racism in our lives? Are we attuned to our own feelings and to the feelings of others? How does shame play a role in how we feel about and respond to racism in our world?  

In addition, what about the head? What role does thinking play? How do we seek to understand the information and develop the knowledge you need with regard to addressing racism? Likewise, what role does fear play as you seek to make sense of it?

Finally, what role does the gut, or body, play? What are we doing as we reflect on our response to racism? What energy do you bring to the work of antiracism? How do you engage the power dynamics? And, to what extent is anger playing a role?

I know that it is not only the 8s, 9s, and 1s who are angry about racism. We all must be. We must all recognize our anger. It need not consume us, but how can it motivate us?  It is perhaps the 8s, 9s, and 1s who can teach us the meaning of our anger and who can guide us in how to use it. Anger, we say, is just under the surface for these three types; it is a default emotional response for them. They are likely more motivated and shaped by anger than the other types. What have 8s, 9s, and 1s learned about their anger that can help us? How has it controlled them in ways they have learned to allow and let go of? How is this bodily, instinctive response of value in our antiracism work?  And, when does it keep us from slowing down?

Doing something in response to anger matters, but so does honoring our feelings in response to shame. Shame and grief are a part of how many of us feel about racism. It can be debilitating.  And, it is not only 2s, 3s and 4s who feel it. These numbers may be more in touch with it, but shame and grief, empathy and care are important to the work. We wrestle with how to express our emotions, but regardless of the external emotions, what have you learned about the feelings that underlie those emotions? Are you able to stay in touch with them? Sit with them? Feel them deeply? We do not need to let feelings of shame drive us, but we must notice it, allow it, and learn to let it go as we respond and engage the work. 

And, our responses and how we feel about them must be informed by how we understand and reflect critically on these matters. What we think about them? And, fear can be a common response when we just don’t know enough to be competent and courageous. The 5s, 6s, and 7s  may be more in touch with a desire to understand before they respond or to think through and talk through what is happening around us. That is absolutely helpful; but it is also helpful to see if the thinking-through is paralyzing. Does is get in the way of your response? These head numbers can share how thinking shapes the work of antiracism, as well as how fear can paralyze the work.  

Our dominant Enneagram center (and number) shapes the emotions, thoughts, and sensations that Magee is asking us to consider.  Can you recognize this?  We all have emotions related to racism, but the heart types respond from feelings first. Likewise, we all have thoughts, but the head types are thinking dominant in their response. And, the body types sense racism and a response in their gut faster than the rest of us. Do these hold true for you? Can this be a season for reflecting on how God is at work through these parts of who you are? And, can this awareness create an opening for God to do a new thing in your response to the racial structures that shape and surround us? 

“As we do the outward-facing work of racial justice, we must do the inner work of healing from our own experiences with racism and developing the mental and emotional capacity to handle daily challenges.” – Magee

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