Curiosity, the New Hat

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,





http://thetangential.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Curious-George.jpg 

I feel stuck, a wave of inaction has crashed over me and now I feel paralyzed, prey to resistance and scared.  Why am I weighed down?  I have a whole list of excuses and reasons, but when it gets right down to it, I think it’s procrastination born out of perfectionism.  I know this story well.  I feel safe in its sluggish embrace.  Truth be told I don’t even want to write this blog.  I can sense the desire to fold into myself, to hibernate, to disappear for a little while.  I spent a good six hours on Sunday bingeing on Scandal episodes, and it was safe, warm and cozy, I've even started dreaming about the characters.
There are a lot of things I do when I feel this way, and a lot of things that I don’t do.  I do watch a lot of television, especially HGTV.  There’s something about seeing other people build and create and makeover homes that’s incredibly satisfying, that's instantly gratifying, it’s as if I have accomplished something just by watching.  I don’t do a lot of exercising, moving my body.  I do ruminate a lot over why I’m stuck, scared, and anxious.  I don’t do a lot of sucking it up and just taking a step forward. 
The dilemma I am facing can be summed up as procrastination, and I believe I’m procrastinating because I want everything to be perfect.  I don’t write blogs consistently because I reign myself in with self-doubt.  I don’t exercise consistently because I want to be that person who naturally loves the gym and has amazing discipline.  I don’t do a lot of things because the image I have in my head, the ideal, the dream is so pristine in it’s unachievable nature, that I paralyze myself through procrastination.  
Time for sucking it up.  Time for kicking myself in the ass.  Time for getting out of my comfort zone.  What’s my ticket out?  CURIOSITY.  Isn’t that such a beautiful state?  When we are curious, we are open, we are willing to live in the unknown, we see new pathways, we get creative, we are filled with delight, we are alive.  Last week I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my niece and nephews, and boy, don’t children have curiosity in droves?  They are so moment-to-moment, so quick to find new solutions, to seek new possibilities, to play. 
So, enough with the procrastination, the perfectionism, the resistance, the paralysis.  I know that story well, I’ve mastered that role.  It’s time to try on a new hat, the curious one.  Time to see what the fear of failure actually looks and feels like: where does it live in my body, what color is it, what size is it, what is the nature of it's energy?  Time to see what tiny baby step I do feel capable of taking: writing this blog, for one, or maybe just laying my yoga mat on my floor and doing a few stretches for 10 minutes.  Already I feel lighter just by inviting curiosity to be a part of the conversation. 
How does the Enneagram factor in with all of this?  The Enneagram is a map of nine different personalities styles, including how they think, feel and act, where they focus their attention and where they place their energy.  The nature of my perfectionism and procrastination is articulated in my specific type.  The Enneagram is a helpful tool to figure out where you get stuck, why, and it offers practical applications on how to forge new paths.  If you're curious about your own process, sign up for a session today!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com.   

Seven Lessons of Our Own Personal Myths

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Narcissus-Caravaggio_%281594-96%29_edited.jpg
Narcissus by Caravaggio

I had a very upsetting chat/fight/argument with a loved one this past weekend, and whereas I won't go into the personal details of the heated discussion, I would like to write about what I learned from the experience.  But first, just a funny anecdote to begin.... This morning I told my boyfriend my intention to write about my lessons and he said, "Yeah, write about how you learned that you don't really listen."  I laughed and said, "that wasn't what I learned!"  I guess I can add and contemplate that (very possibly true) fact later.  Now, onto my lessons (as I deem them)...

Lesson One: We are all right, in our own right.

Most arguments or conflicts happen because two people are not on the same page.  They are each fighting their own fight, in the same ring as each other.  It seems like they are disagreeing, but if we could look from each person's perspective, we would see that they are both right, in their own right. 

Lesson Two:  Our own projections get in the way of being intimate with our loved ones.  

Our projections come from our own personal myths, or in Enneagram-speak, our type biases.  We see the world from this perspective and then look for evidence of our myths' reality.


http://thedailyneuron.com/trusting-people-make-better-lie-detectors/pollyanna/

Lesson Three: "If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." 

This is one of my favorite quotes is from the movie Pollyanna.  Pollyanna is speaking to the minister of the town, who is used to preaching about fire and brimstone.   Pollyanna's gift is teaching people about gratitude and how to find joy.  She wears a locket, from her father, and in it reads the quote, supposedly coined by Abraham Lincoln.

This quote took me years to understand.  As a child, I didn't get why anyone would "look for the bad in mankind."  I kept turning the phrase over and over in my head, and then, with time and experience, I began to realize what it really meant.  It's about assumptions.  It's also about finding evidence to confirm your own theories, or your own personal myth.  

Try this: think about the color of red.  Now look around you and look for objects that are red.   All of a sudden, you'll see evidence of the color red everywhere.  It will jump out at you and you'll be surprised at how many things are red!  Well, the same is true for our assumptions, our projections, our type biases, and our own personal myths.

Lesson Four:  My myth is melodramatic.

To be a little more specific, let me state my own myth, that I've only just begun to expose.
Unless I am the ideal ________ (daughter/sister/girlfriend/friend/actress/server/consultant), I will disappoint the others in my life, they will not approve of me, they will not love me, and ultimately they will abandon me and I will be alone.
Exaggerated, much?  Yes, of course it is!  It's my own personal myth.  But until I had this very saddening talk with my loved one this past weekend, I didn't realize that this was my assumption, that this was my projection.  As I put this myth onto my loved one, they were shocked and dismayed, personally offended and felt attacked.  How could I even begin to attest that they were not supportive, encouraging, loving and proud of me?  During the encounter, I kept trying to state that I was just expressing how I feel.  And somewhere during the exchange, it hit me.

Lesson Five:  Though my myth feels true for me, it is not necessarily true for another.  

Yes, this is how I feel, but do I have real evidence to back it up?  All of a sudden my assumptions and my projections began to dissolve.  And this thought entered my mind: what if it isn't true?  What if I've been operating under a false belief?  What if, all the effort that I put into being the ideal daughter/sister/girlfriend/friend isn't necessary, because my loved ones will love me for who I am and not because I am some ideal. 

 

Lesson Six:  Our myths are old, protective devices.

We all have them.  But, what is both thrilling and terrifying is the notion that they may no longer be true.  We don't have to play victim to these debilitating assumptions any longer.

 

Lesson Seven:  Learning Lessons is hard.

I wish I didn't have to learn these lessons by having a fight with my loved one, by feeling vulnerable and emotional and ashamed.  Yet, it is what it is.  I hope that next time, before I project my myth onto my loved one, I am able to first check-in with myself.  I hope I am able to confront my loved ones in a non-critical, non-attacking way, and ask them gently how it is they do feel.  Then, as my boyfriend suggested, I also hope I will be able to listen to them with an open heart as they respond. 

Does this resonate for you?  What is your personal myth that you hold on to and project onto others?  Are you ready to let go of it, or test it's validity?  To examine these questions and more, schedule a Deepening Type Awareness session with me today!


Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com. 

Benefits of the Enneagram, or the Teachings of US Weekly

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,


As I've started my new Enneagram Consulting business, the question I hear a lot is: Why would I need to learn about the Enneagram?  What's the benefit?

On my website, I list the benefits as follows:
  • Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do
  • Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships
  • Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices
  • Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and others
  • Acquiring practical tools to manage the feeling of overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily life
Okay, sounds good, but what does all that really mean anyway?  What does all that look like?

Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do
http://hecwaltwhitman.blogspot.com/2012/02/hand-mirror.html

It's like this.  Imagine you had a hand mirror and you were holding it behind your head, then you bring it forward in front of your face and voila you see yourself more clearly!  That's how I felt when I began learning about my Enneagram type.  Aspects of myself that I had a deep awareness of, but just wasn't fully conscious of, rose to the surface.  For example, I've always known that I have a tendency to compare myself to others: am I better? Am I worse?  I flip through US Weekly, my guilty pleasure, and what I've come to realize is that I'm looking at it, in order to compare myself, as well as picture an ideal (both aspects of my type).  I look at celebrities' bodies and their dresses mainly and I see how I far off I am from their image of perfection, but it also gives me something to strive toward.  What I didn't realize before the Enneagram, is how much this behavior reinforces a sense of unworthiness and longing, as if I am missing something that others (celebrities, in this case) have.  Huge wake up call for me!  Now, just an added twist on this subject: this habit of comparing myself is pleasurable for me, there is comfort in our patterns, we are safe there, we know what to expect.  But the first step is just to notice, and say Aha!

Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships


I've been with my boyfriend for a little over a year and a half and I couldn't be more happy with our partnership.  I actually am not sure that I would have been able to find Michael and get this far if it weren't for my work with the Enneagram.  During our first year of dating we had about 5-6 fights, but they were big fights, fights where we almost broke up.  What were they about you ask?  We couldn't even tell you!  Honestly, the smallest thing would trigger one of us and then, like a pinball machine we would go back and forth wracking up a tornado-like mess!  What I came to realize is that we weren't talking about the same thing!  We weren't on the same page.  I was speaking from my own place of hurt and assumptions and he was doing the same thing.  So we were getting offended and hurt for no reason.  Once we finally began to understand each other's Enneagram type and point of view, everything shifted.  We could hear and really listen to the other without bringing our own baggage to the conversation.  We learned how not to take things personally.  We began to value our different perspectives and how much they are an asset to our compatibility.  Now, whenever we get close to skating towards a point of possible eruption, we look at each other and laugh.

Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices.

http://www.usmagazine.com/

Let's stay on the former topic of US Weekly, for expediency's sake.  Okay, so I now know that flipping through US Weekly leads me to compare myself with celebrities and inevitably feel that I come up short.  I also know that there is something wickedly delightful at looking at pictures of beautiful people in designer clothes.  So, I have a choice.  Do I want to continue to flip through US Weekly, despite the consequences?  Do I want to go cold turkey and see what else I might do with my time if I wasn't flipping through a magazine?  The point is not really what you choose, it's not about judgment or punishment.  It's about staying open, curious and compassionate with yourself and your habits.  And it's about realizing you do have a choice.  My teacher, Dr. David Daniels, calls the Enneagram "Liberation Psychology."  True Dat.

Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and others

Again, this ties into what I was just saying.  If there is a part of me that still enjoys reading gossip mags, that's fine, that's my choice.  But, if I can continue to be curious and cultivate compassion for myself, new pathways can form right in front of me.  I have this ideal that if I stopped wasting time on US Weekly, I would develop some of my artistic pursuits: drawing, playing the guitar, singing, etc. or I'd spend more time at the gym or cooking for my baby.  Maybe that's true, maybe that isn't.  The point is that the curiosity makes it fun: what would I do?  What could I do?  And the compassion helps you not stay stuck in a cycle of self-flagellation, repenting for defeating patterns.

Acquiring practical tools to manage overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily life

Can we all agree on something?  Life is hard, and in this day-in-age, incredibly overwhelming!  I think I would be much more content if I lived in the late 1800s where I spent my time on more simple demands: reading, cooking, cleaning, spending time with family, and maybe occasionally delighting onstage like Sarah Bernhardt.  (This fantasy is another quality of my tragic romanticism).  But still, we all have a lot on our plate, a lot that demands of us and drains of us and we need a way to put it all in it's proper place.  I say that if yoga, psychology and astrology had a love child, it would be the Enneagram.  It offers practical tools like those three disciplines/areas of study offer.  There is a component to get in touch with your physical body--through breathing and grounding.  There is an element of communing with your emotions, feeling the sensations and detaching from the story that perpetuates the emotion.  And there is the psychological element of understanding why you do what you do, and offering choice.  In essence, the Enneagram celebrates all three centers of wisdom: our heart, our mind and our body.  And it offers practical tools to deal with the curve balls that life throws at you.

So, these are just a few short examples of how the Enneagram has shown up in my life, just a scratch in the surface.  The Enneagram is deep, it's complex, it's endlessly interesting, and it's a process, a process that begins by discovering your type.  If you want to know how the Enneagram can be of benefit in your life, sign up for a Discover Your Type session today!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com. 

How Truth-Telling is Like a Soccer Field

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , ,


http://webtaj.com/soccer-field-fullhdwpp-full-9418.html

A question came up over the Thanksgiving holiday with family that I'd like to explore today.  That question is:  Would you rather be told the truth with love OR be pandered to?  Now, it's not really that black and white.  Of course, there are variations to truth-telling.  But, for the sake of this argument, let's just examine those two possibilities: being told the truth with love and being pandered to.

Allow me to give you an example as to why this question came up.  My boyfriend, Michael, and I celebrated Thanksgiving two days late, as I had to work at my restaurant on the official holiday.  We drove to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with his dad and his sister, Kim and her family.  I love Kim.  She's like a soul sister to me.  She is incredibly thoughtful and spiritual.  We bond over loving Oprah's Soul Sunday and great written characters, like Katniss in The Hunger Games.

Kim and Michael talk almost daily and one of the thing she picked up on and paid attention to is the fact that I love soy chai lattes from Starbucks.  So, on Saturday morning, Kim prepared chai bread.  Now, one of my weird quirks is that I don't really like pastries.  Growing up, my mom would make cinnamon rolls and french toast and I would never eat them.  I don't like muffins, either, unless they are the Duncan Hines kind.  I never order waffles or pancakes for brunch.  For some reason, I am just not a fan of sweet breakfast breads.


Now, Kim made this chai bread specifically for me, which is incredibly thoughtful and makes me feel good that she had me in mind and wanted to make me something that I would like.  And yet, I didn't like it.  I told Michael and he insisted I tell Kim.  But I didn't want to!  I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I wanted her to know how appreciative I was of her considerate gesture.

So, the question came up, over breakfast: which would you rather?  Be told the truth with love?  Or be pandered to?  Well, finally, after discussing with Kim and Michael which we would all prefer, we decided that we'd rather be told the truth with love.  I am a firm believer that honesty is the best policy.  So, I came out with it, the truth.  I let Kim know that I was grateful for her kindness of making the chai bread, but that I was not a fan.  I stammered and stuttered and was not very graceful in the telling, but in the end I was honest and she heard me and was fine with it.

Now, this is just a simple example with fairly low stakes.  It's much more difficult to be honest with someone when there is a greater risk involved of hurting their feelings.

How does all of this fit in with the Enneagram?  Well, the Enneagram is about having compassion for ourselves, our own truths and perspectives, as well as each other's.  It is important to take responsibility for your own truth, all the while keeping your heart open to the other.

http://www.gladstonesoccer.com/fields.html

Imagine communicating truth with others like the landscape of a soccer field.  You are responsible for your half of the field, the other is responsible for their half of the field.  In order to best communicate, you approach that center circle on your side of the halfway line and you speak your truth with compassion and respect.  Now, depending on how hurtful your truth may be to the other, they may stay all the way back to their goal line.  However, as long as you remain solid and grounded from a place of love, the other has space to hear you, to respond and perhaps even to move closer and meet you halfway.

This, of course is all easier said than done, but I believe it is not only possible, it is imperative.  It never feels good to be pandered to, and if we can remain open to each other's truths, as well as our own, I think we will be stronger and closer as a result.

Where do you fall in the spectrum of truth-telling?  Would you rather be told the truth with love or pandered to?  Do you find it easy to be honest with others?  Are you a people pleaser?  Are you a bulldozer?  Chances are, whatever your truth-telling style, your personality type can give you clues as to how to rise to a place of more compassion and integrity.  If you don't know your type, sign up for a Discover Your Type session today!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com. 

Counting My Blessings

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,


My Official Enneagram Consultant Certificate!
A lot of Enneagram excitement has happened since my last blog.  I attended the EANT Conference in San Francisco in mid-October, where I felt honored to be a part of such a beautiful community of seekers.  At the end of October, I became a Certified Enneagram Consultant in the Narrative Tradition.  And in early November I launched my new business: Enneagram New York City.  Woo hoo!

In the final week of my certification process, I attended the Enneagram Intensive in Montreat, North Carolina.  The second half of that week is about growth: how we can all grow using our types as a guide.  So, the question posed to us as we sat on panels of our type was: What is your next step?  My answer: To focus on what is present rather than what is missing.  As a Four, my natural focus of attention goes toward what is lacking or what is missing.  This leads me to favor feelings of longing and melancholy and is summed up perfectly in one of my favorite quotes.
True joy lies not in the having but in the desiring.  The bliss that is eternal; the delight that never fades, is only yours when what you most desire is just out of reach.
-C.S. Lewis
So, this next step will be a particular challenge for me, as there is juice in longing, in desiring the unattainable, and in being attracted to what is missing.  I have remained comfortable in this pattern, of dreaming about my castle in the clouds rather than taking action towards materializing that dream.

However, that pattern is no longer working for me.  There are many things I want to accomplish in this life and I am aware of how fleeting it can all be.  I am tired of being disappointed by my dreams not coming to fruition...by thinking the deadly phrase: If only...

I am excited about the prospect of growth.  I am looking forward to taking action.  I want to embark on this next step.  And I have a feeling that when I start focusing on what is right in front of me, on the blessings I do have, I will realize how much my life is already dream-like.

As I've mused over what "focusing on the present" really means, I am drawn to the concept of gratitude and counting my blessings.  I bought a Gratitude journal at least two years ago and it is so difficult for me to write in it.  I'm not sure if it's because I think I have to write a long entry or something profound, but it sits on my shelf weighing heavily with bare pages.

My Gratitude Journal

My boyfriend, Michael, pointed out to me that I have a tendency to make grand gestures when I want to effect change.  New Year's Resolutions are a big deal for me...starting things on Mondays...going on juice cleanses when I want to drop a few pounds.  Let's just say I tend to tackle things in extremes.  Go big or go home.  I have more difficulty with taking small, sure, steady steps.

However, in thinking about counting my blessings and expressing my gratitude as a way of staying focused on what is present, I am going to try to start small.  I'll share via Twitter and Facebook three things that I am grateful for as they come to me.  And I'm going to start right now.

Guitar Lessons with John Berenzy



Counting My Blessings

1.  Guitar Lessons
2.  Hot Showers
3.  Walking in the park with an old friend

What are you grateful for?  Can you count three blessings that you currently have in your life?  Please share in the comments below.  I look forward to reading!



Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com.