"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.