– Work on ourselves proceeds layer by layer, from the most external forms of personality to the inner core of our Being.
– We will succeed in our Work if we are willing to know the truth about what is really occurring in us.
(Understanding the Enneagram)
And I’m definitely a fan of tools that aid in the cultivation of awareness and insight (that’s the personal part) so we can actually DO something about it (that’s the development piece).
Assessments like the Meyer’s Briggs, the Enneagram (my fave!), Astrological Natal Charts and more all provide us with a decent blueprint of the way we see the world and how we tend to show up in it or react to situations and people.
This awareness and insight cannot be overly emphasized. It’s literally the key to beginning a path of self-actualization and certainly to a more profound spiritual life.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. One of my biggest pet peeves with the self-help industry is its over-emphasis on the love and light side of things. Too many coaches and counselors etc. prefer to keep us high on knowing our strengths. They may not have the balls to step on our toes with the truth of our shadow sides, leaving many all too content with owning a happy label.
PRO’S & CON’S OF SUBGROUPING
You see, inherent to personal assessments is the accompanied subgrouping. They label us; giving us a way to categorize ourselves which, on one hand, social psychology says IS uber important to psyche, allowing for quick connections. Your brain doesn’t have to go searching for information on what you think or feel about a particular thing.
Let’s take a closer look at whether this actually helps or hurts us in the long run though.
- When we subgroup, we BELONG.
For example, I’m an ENFJ (Meyer’s Brigg’s), Type 7/ Wing 8/ with a Sexual Variant Instinct (Enneagram) and a Gemini (Astrological Sun Sign) etc. I’m also a registered Democrat and a New England Patriots fan, having spent my formative years in Mass and RI.
Instantly many of you are either feeling closer to me or repelled by reading that. I’m okay with both.
- Subgrouping also allows us to feel UNIQUE.
Differentiation reminds us we are special. There’s only so many people in the world who have similar characteristics or interests.
As a humanistic-existential counselor, I belong to a division that typically comprises only 11% of clinical faculty at any given university and approx. 28% of counseling faculty. So for students or clients who enjoy taking a look at the deeper questions in life concerned with meaning, purpose, and passion, I could be an answer to prayer because it can be hard to find a professional who operates from that angle. I stand out in this way and sometimes that’s kinda fun.
- Subgrouping further provides a sense of connection to SELF.
We humans are addicted to trying to figure ourselves out. If a therapist or psychic can tell us we are a _____ (e.g., trauma survivor) or have _____ (e.g., karmic issues to work out), we naturally start to feel more empowered because meaning and purpose have been given where before there was none. And now we can work on a plan to climb the self-actualization ladder.
- Subgrouping plays into our ego/ false sense of self.
If we’re not careful, assessments and subgrouping become yet another bullshit way our egos keep us locked in the illusion of personality or persona. YOU ARE NOT the sum of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors!
You are the conscious awareness/ soul/ spirit behind them. Tricky and trippy I know.
On one hand, whatever it is that is YOU, is currently located in this flesh and blood body and is walking around experiencing thoughts and emotions, and is acting out based on those. And when we take note of the patterns in them, we can label them as a particular personality type or expression.
But still, you are NOT that label. It could all start to change at any moment if you wanted it to (hence, personal development). 😉
- Subgrouping lulls many into spiritual bypassing or staying complacent.
Awareness of your tendencies and patterns isn’t enough. The REAL work begins in taking personal responsibility for your blind spots. (You can see some of mine in the pics below based on my Enneagram Type.)
Way too many people will stop at the point of aligning with whatever an assessment tells them. They may even talk a good game about “shadow work” but they truly have no idea what the hell that really means!
It’s cute and all to say that I am an ENFJ (Extroverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging …aka super feely planner who prefers to rely on her intuition and is energized by social interaction), but if I prefer to wear that like some badge of honor rather than seeking to smooth over my rough parts and strengthen any vulnerabilities as well (e.g., respecting other people’s boundaries and not acting like a bulldozer in barrettes or an anal-retentive Bob Saget with a clipboard), what the hell good is it?!
It’s equally as destructive to use your weaknesses or shadow as an excuse or to stay overly focused on them. Cop outs and self-deprecation are never a good look.
You can buy all the courses in the world, receive all the activations and alignments, chant for hours on end, and meditate until your third eye pops a gasket, but if you don’t actively work to stay mindful of your blind spots and DO something about them, you’re missing the point entirely.
Listen to recent interview I did on this very topic here.
Or click player below:
YOUR BLIND SPOTS
Where do you find yourself on the spectrum today?
Do you know who you are? What makes you tick? What lights you up, energizes you, triggers you etc.?
Can you name a few blind spots in your “personality?” What might you need to work on?
If you’re feeling completely stumped, I would invite you to take an assessment or two or to talk with a trusted advisor or close friend or family member you feel comfortable allowing to speak into your life.
The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
― Jim Morrison
About the Author:
Tamara Powell, LMHC is a licensed therapist, university psychology instructor, and empowerment coach who believes life should be lived as a journey that is “anything but ordinary.”
Her work is specialized to help individuals break free from toxic cycles of distress, dysfunction, and dissatisfaction with life that are created when trying to live according to someone else’s rules. Only by living what she calls radical autonomy, can one obtain soul nourishing relationships and a sense of true life purpose and inner peace.
If you’re interested in working with her, either in person or online, you can learn more about her services here.