Return of the Body

This week, we began our look at repressed intelligence centers starting with the Body. (Fours, Fives, and Nines on the Enneagram.) The repressed center is the one that is repeatedly wounded, so that we quickly figure out it is not the one to get our needs met. When the Body is repressed, a person will tend to withdraw from the world, focus on the past, and not get much done.

Because the Body center is the center for doing, those of us who have a repressed Body center are doing-repressed. This is not quite what it seems, as we are not necessarily lazy, though we can be. What is more significant is that our doing is often unproductive. We might make a task list – usually after a doing-dominant person advises us that we should just do more – but we probably won’t really look at it. Or we won’t be able to prioritize it. We might grab any random thing rather than the thing that really needs to be done right now. In the time I was preparing to teach on Sunday, I tried on an old suit, measured my study, read a cookbook, and did a dozen other small things that were so unimportant that I don’t even remember them. We can be busy, but not get anything done.

Our withdrawing stance supports the doing-repression. Because we are in a withdrawing stance, our reference point is internal. We move away from the world to get our needs met. There are some advantages to this. We are very independent because we are our own measure of truth, love, and success. Retreating inward allows us to experience our own complexity and the complexity of the world, so we are comfortable with complexity and nuance. But that is also our downfall. We’re not very good with the mundane, the day-t0-day. Often, we don’t even see what needs to be done because we’re in our own little world. In that world, thinking and feeling become equivalent to doing. We can plan something or fantasize about something and, in all ways except the doing, consider it done. We’ve played it out in our minds and actually doing it will only end badly, so why bother?

Our orientation to the past also supports doing-repression. In the past, it’s all already done. I don’t have to do anything about the past. Instead, I ruminate on it. Others might analyze it. Others might revere it. But we’re certainly not doing anything about it. In any case, when we do look at the past and all we did not do, we might come away with the sense that things worked out okay, which reinforces the idea that doing is a mistake. But we forget what it cost us along the way, what we missed by retreating. Or we might come away knowing what we missed because we didn’t follow through on something. It creates a cycle of regret that we can’t get out of. We get buried in regret, so we do less rather than risk failure. In the process, we lose the values of doing – self-assurance, self-confidence, stamina, determination – which makes it that much harder to do. The consequence is that we have gifts for the world that we’re not giving. That is the trap: we don’t think that what we do will matter anyway.

I can’t count the number of times people who are not doing-repressed have advised me to “just do it.” That doesn’t work. We can’t even see that possibility – not for any sustained period. Instead, we have to get at the root of the problem. This starts by breaking up the dominant and supporting centers.

For Fours, this means splitting feeling from thinking. When we think about our feelings, we don’t fully feel them and we don’t listen to what the feelings might be telling us. It leaves our feelings partially felt and completely misunderstood. If we allow them to operate separately, each can do its job independently and appropriately. We can fully feel our feelings to inform our relationships and needs and we can think objectively and make plans we can act on. This opens the door to doing because we won’t need to feel something to do something and our thinking will not be anchored by what has already happened.

Fives also need to split up dominant thinking from supportive feeling. Where Fours have thoughts about their feelings, Fives have feelings about their thoughts, which means they take it very personally when people disagree with them. Relationships are built around beliefs and strategies rather than connection. Fives don’t want to need anyone, but allowing thinking and feeling to operate indendently and appropriately will open them up to both the ideas and the needs of others. It will also make it okay for them to have needs and to see that others can meet them. Doing is opened up because they don’t have to have all the answers before acting.

You might notice that Nines are both Body-dominant and Body-repressed. This is not a mistake; they are what’s known as a “balance point” in the Enneagram, along with Threes and Sixes. Each one tries to be balanced between two supporting centers. For Nines, their goal is to be undisturbed. Thinking and feeling work together; Nines can ping-pong back and forth between them, though usually one will take on more of the workload. Nines struggle to be present, merging and disappearing into the needs and wants of others. If feeling is freed up, they can see their own needs and assert them. Nines also struggle to prioritize. If thinking is freed up, they can see the world objectively, see clearly what is theirs to do. And when they know what is theirs to do, they can allow themselves to be fully present, salvation for the Nine.

Our instinct is to go to combat with the ego, to try to wrest away control of the dominant center. That is the advice you will get from people who see the world differently – “Just do it!” But it won’t work. The more you fight, the more the ego wins and the frustration will build and you will give up. Instead, start by learning to see yourself. Learn to observe how feeling and thinking serve the ego, learn to see how they are separate and uniquely suited for their jobs. Then the soul invites us to reawaken what has been forgotten, to nurture what was stunted in infancy. If you really knew that you were loved and supported, you would be free to do what is yours to do, which is all anyone can ask and all we can ask of ourselves.


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