Do you ever wake up in a bad mood?
I slept terribly last night, probably because I drank iced tea until too late in the day.
The only time I really felt sleepy was when I realized I'd overslept by 15 minutes and had to get up.
After grabbing my cup of hot Wild Blueberry tea (by Republic of Tea...my favorite), I snuggled under my cozy blanket and stewed.
So much felt wrong and it was only 6:20 am.
I found a sticky note that I'd made when I got home from spring break (at the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown). I had noticed that the bad feeling I had was resistance, so I had made a list of all the things I was resisting (anxiety about the virus, anxiety about money, anxiety about my mom, etc.).
I decided to make a similar list this morning:
If you're feeling in a funk, why don't you try this?
Grab a sticky note or scratch pad (I don't put this in my journal, but I guess you could) and make a list of all the thoughts that are causing you negative emotions right now.
Don't worry about whether the thoughts are reasonable or not.
It's certainly not reasonable to want to drink all the iced tea I want and expect to be able to sleep, but there you are. I want that to be ok!
Then here's the trick....allow those emotions.
This is harder than it seems. To allow an emotion, you want to observe what's happening in your body. Use the word "observe" or "notice" as you do this (this helps get you using your prefrontal cortex):
"I notice that my head and shoulders feel tense. I notice that I'm breathing really shallow, almost holding my breath. I notice that I have an angry, sharp, pointy feeling in my face."
I'm just saying these things to myself in my head.
Don't focus on the thoughts that are causing those negative feelings. Just focus on how the feelings actually feel in your body. This takes practice!
When you feel frustrated that you don't think you're doing it right (and as a Six, you probably will), just say, "I notice that I'm feeling frustrated. That feels like...." and describe how frustration physically feels in your body.
As you sit quietly just noticing how these negative emotions feel, you'll eventually feel the slightest shift. (When your Sixy brain starts doubting yourself and asking, "Is that the shift? Did I feel it?," just notice the emotion those thoughts are bringing up and wait for another shift. As soon as you even THINK you might have felt it, move on.)
Next I pull out my journal.
I begin my journal entries, "Dear Jesus" because they are really a prayer.
I start with gratitude and tell Him everything I'm thankful for at the moment. Today I started with:
"Dear Jesus, thank You for the sleep I did get last night, that my family is home, safe and healthy, and that the cats are OK."
Then I keep going, listing all the things big (two new possible website design jobs) and small (yummy dinner I made last night).
Take a moment to notice how gratitude feels.
Then I pray through the things that are really weighing on my mind, giving them to Jesus one-by-one, asking for His wisdom and guidance regarding each.
By this time, the negative emotions have passed and I'm filled with gratitude and peace, knowing Jesus has me and all that's going on in our lives.
A word of warning though....I don't always end up feeling positive AND THAT'S OK! This process takes practice.
Just notice what you are feeling and allow that emotion.
The last thing I do is set an intention for the day. For me it's about the emotion I want to feel and today I want to feel useful and productive. I make my to-do list (being careful to not set myself up for failure by being unrealistic about how much I can accomplish) and imagine myself going calmly and purposefully through my day.
Our Sixy brains are amazing.
We are at the center of the head triad and it is our brains that get us into so much trouble, but it's also our brains that get us out.
We need to learn to harness the power of these Sixy brains and use that power for our benefit.
We can do it.
I'd love to hear your reaction to this post. Did you try it? Are there any parts that don't make sense?
Leave a comment and let me know!
"When Sixes disintegrate toward type Three, they find themselves overworked in an attempt to calm their inner distress, thinking if only they gave more effort they would find the safety and stability they are so afraid of losing." The Sacred Enneagram, pg. 130
It's been a long journey for me to figure out just how much of a Six I really am. I read things like the statement above and at first it doesn't resonate with me. What does it mean to be "overworked in an attempt to calm their inner distress?"
All Enneagram work takes time to become aware of not only what we are doing, but why we are doing it. It is the why that is so deceptive.
For the past year, I've been trying to build up a freelance website design business. It's been a rough journey for this Six. It's required a lot of action outside my comfort zone (and Sixes really love their comfort zone!).
Lately, during the COVID-19 crisis, it's been harder than ever to get jobs on Upwork (a website where freelancers can bid on jobs posted by potential clients). Now that most people are working from home and lots of people have been laid off, the Upwork website is busier than ever. This means where clients used to get 10-15 proposals total, they're now getting 20-50, sometimes more, within an hour of their job posting.
I apply for job after job, but I don't hear back from the potential clients. I start to feel panic. What if I never get another job on Upwork?
I begin a frenzy of activity. In my mind, this is smart because I have bills I need to pay and to pay those bills, I need clients. But as my coach says, it isn't the activity itself that's the problem; it's the emotion that's driving that activity.
For Sixes, 10 times out of 10, the emotion driving a flurry of activity is fear.
I'm not just afraid that I won't have the money to pay my credit card bill this month (and I have savings...so it will get paid regardless):
It is out of that unspoken and unexamined fear that I leap into a frenzy of activity.
"Frenetic: marked by fast and energetic, disordered, or anxiety-driven activity" (Merriam-Webster).
Anxiety-driven activity. I think that's a hallmark of a Six in a downward spiral towards an unhealthy Three.
Why am I doing these things?
"...if only they gave more effort they would find the safety and stability they are so afraid of losing."
I yearn for safety and stability, and at the moment I think that is found in financial security. I think, "If only I could get more clients, I'd have financial security and then I'd feel safe and secure." So I panic and start grasping at straws, trying to drum up the business to produce the financial security I think I so desperately need.
As Beth McCord says, we need to use the path of disintegration as a warning light that we are on a downward spiral.
When we feel that panic and start acting out of that panic in a frenetic burst of activity, we need to slow down and allow that feeling of panic. It's just a feeling. As scary as it feels, it won't kill us.
Once we can allow the panic and observe it in our body and take note of what activity the panic is compelling us to do, we can choose a different path.
We choose a different path by choosing a different thought.
I choose a thought that leads to a calmer emotion and therefore calmer actions.
For me, today, my thought is how nice a clean kitchen would be. While I've been frenetically spinning on my business, I've neglected my kitchen. You can hardly see the countertops. I feel increased stress every time I walk in there.
I can't control (at the present moment) how many clients I have, but I can control how much stuff is on my kitchen counters.
I also think that it would be wise to step back from my business, at least for today, to gain some perspective.
God has this. He has me.
Marilyn Vancil says, "An inner peace will replace [the Six's] anxious thoughts when they stand in faith on the ground of God's presence, even when circumstances are difficult and uncertain." (Self to Lose, Self to Find, pg. 117)
I will turn my thoughts to God, knowing that He is here and He cares about me and my situation.
I will do what my hands find to do. For me, today, that's cleaning the kitchen.
When fear starts to bubble up again (and it will), I won't fight it. I will say to myself, "I notice that I'm feeling afraid" and I will quietly observe what that physically feels like. I'll observe that feeling of fear until it subsides (and it will if I keep my focus on how it feels in my body instead of spinning on the thoughts that are causing the fear.)
It's OK to feel fear. It doesn't mean anything has gone wrong.
When I feel the fear release or shift just a bit, I'll remind myself that God has me. He's here, right now, and He's not surprised by what's happening.
Then I'll ask myself, "What's the next right thing to do?" For me, today, that's doing yoga, getting dressed, and bringing order to my kitchen. Just for today I'll imagine putting my website design business into a manila file folder and I'll hand that folder to God.
God has this. He has me. I'm OK.
If you're a Six, you've heard that you succumb to worst-case scenario thinking.
Read this blog post to learn how the term "worst-case scenario" almost kept me from realizing I was a Six.
If you read that post, you know that a Six is situational in their assessment of worst-case scenarios.
We aren't talking about the ULTIMATE worst-case scenario (like a nuclear bomb), we're talking scenarios like:
The gift of the enneagram is AWARENESS.
Once we realize that we are prone to worst-case scenario thinking, we can start to look for the signals our bodies give us when we experience anxiety.
For me, I realize I'm holding my breath and my heart feels like it's in a vize.
My thoughts are making me feel panic and I freeze!
It's at that moment that:
That's the key! Is there a better chance that the worst-case scenario will happen or the most likely scenario?
I think you'll find this tool so useful.
Next time you feel that grip of anxiety grab your heart and a terrifying thought seizes your mind, ask yourself, "Is this the worst-case scenario or most likely scenario?"
If it's the worst-case scenario, flip it!
Will you try this and report back? I'd love to hear how it works for you!
When I took my first enneagram test, I came up as a One.
It made sense to me because I sure do like to follow rules.
This fact about myself drives my Eight husband CRAZY, but that's for another blog post. :-)
When I later figured out I was really a Six, the "following the rules" thing bothered me.
But then I realized, I only follow rules when I think they'll keep me safe.
I actually have no problem breaking what I consider stupid rules that I preceive to have no bearing on my safety or the safety of those I love.
Let me give you an example to clarify:
When my eldest daughter got her driver's license, the DPS made a big deal about how someone under 18 can't use their phone AT ALL while driving.
I was all for that! Texting is dangerous!
But the DPS woman specifically said you can't use even use Google maps.
How does one get from point A to B without Google maps??
I'd taught my daughter to follow the audible prompts on the map so she'd always be able to get where she was going without having to look at her phone.
Fast forward a couple weeks and my daughter was leaving our downtown church by herself at night.
She couldn't remember exactly how to get home, so she looked on Google maps before she left the parking lot, then dutifully turned off her phone and started heading home.
Or at least she THOUGHT that's where she was headed.
She ended up in a sketchy part of town, at night, by herself, and pulled over to turn on her phone and look at the map.
I was scared to death when I heard that!
She could have been killed! Car jacked! Or who knows what else?!
Following the Rule made my daughter LESS SAFE.
So now I tell her I'll pay the ticket if she gets one for using Google Maps while driving (and she still has to use it only audibly and for no other reasons!).
A One would follow the RULE and not use Google Maps, but a Six follows what they feel is SAFE.
If a Six felt safer following the 'no Google maps" rule, then they would, but it would be about the safety and not the rule itself.
What example can you share of when you've chosen to not follow a rule because breaking the rule was safer?
I find some resources more helpful than others when learning about the Six.
The first book I read about the Enneagram, The Road Back to You, convinced me that I wasn't a Six.
He started the chapter on Sixes talking about some ultimate survival guide book and said that all the Sixes were out buying it. Since I hadn't, nor wouldn't, buy that book, I automatically assumed I wasn't a Six.
Also, the way the author described Sixes as always imagining the worst case scenario threw me off.
"I don't sit around worrying about the worst-case scenario."
THE worst-case scenario is a nuclear bomb being dropped where I live and my children being the only survivors.
And honestly, I don't spend much time thinking about that (not that the fear hasn't crossed my mind).
That said, just the other day my 15 year old daughter cut her foot on a rock in a river and I was CERTAIN she was going to die of either staph, tetanus, or a flesh-eating bacteria. No lie. That was my first thought and what I considered almost certain to happen. (She's fine, btw.)
I've now realized that I always imagine what I consider the worst-case scenario in every situation:
Thankfully, none of these scenarios has ever been true (for me anyway....but the scenarios I make up for myself are almost always based on someone else's experience, hence why they become my worst-case scenario).
So don't think you aren't a Six just because you aren't a prepper and constantly worried that the world is soon coming to an end.
Be aware of what your initial response is to any given situation. Do you automatically think of the worst-case scenario for that situation?
Then you just might be a Six.
I'll tell you how I handle worst-case scenario thinking soon!