I’ve been around the enneagram for six or seven years now. I self-diagnosed as a three (I was raised to be a three) initially and went about my merry way, occasionally being so proud to be a perfectionist achiever. (If you don’t know what the enneagram is, this will be a terribly boring read so I suggest a quick google search or you can fall down the rabbit hole like many of us and in that case, you’ll probably get back to this post, never). But I had also heard that whichever number you are determined not to be, is probably the one that you are. Drat. I knew the one I didn’t want to be and this is #2. Each number has a “title” that has just been made up, that is supposed to give a little guidance as to what that number is about. #3’s title is “achiever” so you know I was down for that, especially in my years at home where I felt a little like I wasn’t doing enough (even though I was doing a lot, as usual). Are you ready to know what the title for #2 is? HELPER. My mind immediately goes to Debi Pearl and “helpmeet” and the Garden of Eden and ew. I do not want to be somebody else’s sidekick. Ugh. It’s so sexist and insulting. Unfortunately, here’s the problem - I am deeply happy when I’m helping people. I definitely don’t want the moniker of “helper” like I’m not even the lead character in my own story. No thanks. But do I find deep satisfaction in dropping everything and running to another person’s aid? I really, really do. And while that type of savior stuff can certainly be codependent, I am looking for ways to feed my inner 2 instead of resenting her or putting her in the “assistant” category.
One of the things I’ve come to is that I will always have a furry pet. We adopted a rabbit in April and I LOVE having a fur baby. And she’s perfect for a 2 because she isn’t a lap pet. Who would go through the trouble of caring for an animal that won’t even snuggle them? A 2, that’s who (yes, I rhymed and I am not ashamed). I enjoy the duties of taking care of her. I’ve also come to terms with the moments my 2ness is deeply zen and fulfilled and that is when I am holding a newborn baby. I am one of those weirdos who LOVES babies. The smaller and needier the better, people. I know, I know. But they can’t even talk or hug you. Yup. 2’s don’t need that. So I’m finding ways to nurture life without creating any more (no thanks!)
Another thing I’m acknowledging about myself as a recently admitted 2 is that broken relationship is deeply, deeply painful for me, more than it would be for any other number. Rather than using the title “helper”, I see 2’s more as “lover.” It is deeply fulfilling for me to “learn” someone I care about. I love to know the things that bring them joy and to find ways to give them to that person. I love that level of knowing someone and I enjoy being known well as well, though that’s secondary to getting to give the love. Hell, I love Christmas because I get an excuse to spend money on the people I care about. The fun for me is watching the joy they experience opening gifts. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them for myself. I do. But my energy around the holidays is centered around the joy of bringing joy to others. It almost sounds braggy because we elevate giving as superior in some ways, but it’s just honestly what makes me tick. It’s not awesome or terrible. It just is. And I think in some ways, I’ve repressed some of that.
The material that helped me finally own my number is a podcast by a musician who is writing a song for each number and consulting with a friend who is an expert in the enneagram. It’s really positive and fascinating to learn more about each one. The song for 2’s is all about deep, unboundaried love. Love with no strings. I have to tell you, and I know it can be unhealthy, but I love to love without strings. I love giving and sharing for the sake of it, not because I’m desperate for reciprocation. As you can imagine, a lot of work has to go into a 2 being a healthy person. And I’ve done some of that work (is anyone really done?) But his song (which I listened to with my best friend who shared it with me, both of us with tears streaming down our faces with our children racing around us) showed me how deeply I love and how painful it is for me when relationships I thought were for life end. I’ve had some of that occur in the last year or so and it has really unmoored me and been a great source of pain for me. No wonder. It doesn’t occur to me to hold back in my relationships. What is the point of loving people if you’re always afraid to lose them? But that makes the loss a giant, horrifying shock for sure.
This new insight into myself also broke my heart for ministry me. Of course, I was drawn to ministry! Of course, I took it really, really hard when we got fired. I poured myself into that work in a deep, personal way. Of course, I let it seep into my identity. Of course, I felt lost when it was taken from me. Oof. Big oof as I wonder, even now, if I will end up back in a ministry type context. How do I open myself back up again? Should I? It has to be about the value of doing so, not about the deservingness of the object of the love. It’s always been that way for me, but it’s something I need to lean into a lot if I’m going to put myself in that position again. It’s not about the receiver. It’s about the act of love, the beauty of giving. Then, if the receiver bites my hand, the work was still worthy. And believe me, sometimes the receiver does bite. That doesn’t always mean you did something wrong. Their actions get to be at least somewhat about them (of course, it’s natural to question if your choices “made” them bite).
I’ve been toying with the idea of chaplaincy. I’ve always been drawn to the work (even when I was studying psychology 15 years ago) and I think a 2 could give to people in crisis and not know the outcome beyond that moment. I enjoy interactions with strangers that are meaningful and transient in nature. It happens to me all the time! I am drawn to crisis and the people in it. I’ve been through a good bit of trauma. I know how critical it is to not say something stupid to someone living in what I call “trauma brain” and also how impossible it is to avoid that if you interact with traumatized people often (each person has their own hidden landmines and without intimacy and superhero abilities, the fuck up in inevitable). I’m hopeful I could maybe make space for that. I’m not sure. I don’t like getting yelled at and chaplains get to be the face of God for people who are going through the worst moments of their lives. Yelling is part of the deal. Although, I’ve been projected on a lot the last few years (yea, writing!) and I’m learning to better differentiate between what is my shit and what belongs to others.
All in all, I’m proud to be looking out for my #2 self. I am at peace. I think this lost part of myself deserves the nurturing she needs from me after years of denial. I’m going to stop judging her. I’m going to stop devaluing her work by trying to “be productive,” knowing that nurturing is just production in a different form. I know she has a place in the world and I’m confident she will find it.