It is hard to build a relationship, especially with someone with a different background or beliefs, if you are not being true to who you really are. Think about the relationships in your own life. Who can you have deep and authentic conversations with? Who do you trust? Most likely, people that you can be yourself with, that know the real you. You let them see you, and in turn, they let you see them.
A challenge is that for some of us knowing who we really are is not easy.
Using myself as an example, one of the characteristics of type nines on the Enneagram is that we have a tendency to “merge” with people. One illustration is from the movie Runaway Bride. Julia Roberts’ character is asked how she likes her eggs prepared. She can’t answer the question because she has always deferred to the way her various fiances have liked their eggs prepared. Going full circle with Julia Roberts, in Eat Pray Love, there is a scene when her brother says that she is starting to look like her boyfriend again, the same way that a dog looks like its owner.
When I was younger, I “merged” in a similar way when it came to music. When my elementary school friends liked the latest pop songs, I had a Michael Jackson folder shaped like a record. When I went to a high school and everyone was into heavy-metal and hairbands, a cut-out picture of Bret Michaels covered my Trapper Keeper. I didn’t hate pop music and hairbands, I just never took the time to wonder, what do I really want to listen to?
Years later, I can see that my underlying fear as a kid was that if I don’t like what they like, they won’t like me. When in reality, by going along with their likes and dislikes, I wasn’t being my true self and we weren’t building an authentic relationship. Those pretend connections were shallow at best.
When we are trying to build common ground, being agreeable won’t last.
Even now, I don’t always take the time to wonder who I am. I’m trying though. I recently read The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz. Like other Enneagram books, Heuertz describes the inner workings of types and triads, but what I found most enlightening was the end of the book where he explains how to use what is conveyed through the Enneagram to guide our self-discovery.
He talks about the practice of Centering Prayer, “a silent prayer that prepares its practitioner to receive the gift of loving presence.” I had heard about Centering Prayer years ago, but honestly never tried it until this week. (Cynthia Bourgeault leads a session at the Festival of Faiths, which provided a great guide.)
“Centering Prayer slows down the initiating energy that drives (us), creating a sacred pause that nurtures accountable action.” It slowed me down enough to consider myself, my actions, my likes. I will definitely do it again.
I am learning that getting to know ourselves is as important, and as much of a journey, as connecting with others to build common ground. I recently heard or read the line, “Every great character is searching for the answer to the question, who am I?” How much richer would our lives be if we took the time and energy to go on that journey.