I used to be in total control. Self-disciplined enough to get something done or, conversely, resist doing something. I put this down to being well brought up and that made me feel good about myself. Do what I had to do, and not do what I shouldn’t. A safe way to go through life.
Sounds great – but everything has a price. And the price I paid for this self-discipline was that I could no longer be candid and intuitive in my reactions. What I didn’t realise was that this was actually a defence mechanism that I had developed: reaction formation. In short, this means I supressed my gut reaction to listen to my actual needs and reacted in a way that I thought I should.
Can you remember my earlier post about the nine idealised self-images?
If not, or if you missed that post, read it again as it’s very relevant here. My dominant defence mechanism – reaction formation – protects my idealised self-image, namely my idea of myself as a good and just person…And each of the nine enneagram types has a its own dominant defence mechanism, just as each has its own idealised self-image.
Defence mechanisms are often, incorrectly, explained as mechanisms that protect us from the outside world; as survival techniques enable us to deal with the outside world. And to a certain extent that is what they do. However, they also do this when it is totally unnecessary. The actual function of the defence mechanisms is, in fact, to protect your inner world. More specifically: they protect your ego and reconfirm your idealised self-image.
The enneagram method is not, unlike strict Eastern spiritual practices, focused on freeing yourself from your ego. On the contrary, we believe – in line with Western psychology – that you need a healthy ego. What we also see, however, is that if we are controlled by our ego and are thus unable to make free choices, our ego can actually get in our way. By stopping us from fulfilling our actual needs, or from enjoying life to the full or…..well, you get the picture.
Recognising and understanding my dominant defence mechanism helped me become aware of when it was taking over, how I experienced this and how, eventually, I could rise above it. THIS is the enneagram method. It generates a great feeling of inner freedom and choice. For example by freeing me from my self-imposed need to always finish my work before going outside.
Can you see how this could help you too? With your own story, based on your own enneagram type? And can you see what insight this can give you as a coach when working with, for example, a type 1 coachee (the perfectionist, like me)?
Can you now see why there’s no point in telling a type 1 coachee (or yourself) that good is good enough? The perfectionist can usually see this for themselves. What stops this coachee from acting in accordance with this is situated in the deepest level of their defence mechanism. As a coach (of yourself or others) you can only create the space for personal development when you work at the level of these defence mechanisms. You can read about how to do this in my next posts.
In my blog I use the example of type 1 because that represents my story. There are of course nine defence mechanisms:
type 1 – reaction formation
type 2 – repression
type 3 – identification
type 4 – introjection
type 5 – isolation
type 6 – projection
type 7 – rationalisation
type 8 – denial
type 9 – numbing
Would you like to read more about one of these other defence mechanisms in my next post? Share this in the comments box below, preferably with a short explanation of why you want to know more about that particular defence mechanism. If there’s enough interest, I’d be more than happy to oblige.
And THANK YOU for the time you have invested in reading my blog and reacting to it.
To your personal growth!