Elisa had been reading all the right books, studying the cutting edge of current philosophy about how to reduce her suffering. She’d spent her life not speaking up but swallowing other’s perspectives like drinking a slurpie. It goes down kind of slow and sometimes gives you brain freeze when you take in too much. She was currently reading about the practice of “accepting what is” and it felt familiar. Hadn’t she been doing that already? What’s wrong with her that it doesn’t feel good when she does that?
From an Enneagram perspective, this may be the dilemma of Type Nine, called the Mediator or the Peacemaker. This is the type that tends to forget their agenda, opinions and needs to avoid conflict and keep the peace. Another brilliant survival strategy developed in childhood that ends up choking the adult. There is part of you in there that knows what she wants and she starts rebelling! That may be through depression, physical pain, or a general frustration towards life, but she will be heard. She wants to get your attention. She wants her voice!
You may be confused about this practice of “accepting what is.” Let’s start by talking about what it doesn’t mean. It does not mean withholding the truth about what you think, feel or need. In short, it does mean accepting YOUR EXPERIENCE. It does not mean reacting to your experience through suppression or aggression. It’s like shaking hands with someone you know well or even someone you’re just meeting. You greet and open to them.
As a Two, the Giver, I share some characteristics with the Nine. It’s what we call a look-alike type as a result, but the underlying motivation is different. The Two is desperate for approval while the Nine is desperate for peace and to avoid discomfort often produced by having conflicting opinions or needs. I can remember in my twenties thinking I should have a tee shirt that had a doormat printed on the back. That’s what I felt like long before I knew about my Two orientation. So yeah, we were both accepting, but not accepting of ourselves.
Elisa was really confused. She had already started working with the Enneagram and decided to talk to me about it in our next session. She brought up a recent incident that although relatively minor, elucidated her confusion. Elisa had gone to dinner with several friends to a restaurant that she really didn’t like that much but she didn’t mention that. She spent the evening feeling resentful and chastising herself for not being able to just accept “what is.” “It’s only dinner,” Elisa thought to herself, “what’s wrong with me?”
As we explored Eilsa’s situation and reactions, it became evident that Elisa was not including herself in her acceptance practice. Accepting what is means being aware of and telling the truth about what you think, feel and need. It means accepting who you are and what’s going on for you. And it means speaking those truths. It also means accepting what others think, feel and need for them! It allows us to be unique individuals, which creates the beautiful tapestry of the world. We are individual threads of color and texture that when woven together create tremendous beauty.
For Elisa, this meant specifically, being aware of and acknowledging her own inner experience, from what she felt in her body and heart, to what she thought. And it meant sharing that with her voice. Sharing her particular wisdom with herself and others. It meant coming into relationship with herself rather than simply “going along” with others, the hiding place of the Nine, and a misperception of acceptance.
When we accept our own experience as valid for us, we can allow ourselves to be different, and then we can really accept others and their unique expressions. And that doesn’t mean you’ll always get your way! But it does mean you won’t be suppressing your own expression and that you will find the world a more delightful place that includes you.
This article does not represent an actual client but my experience with many Mediator’s through individual and group work.