Newsletter March 2021
In the beginning of January 2020 I was walking the streets of Beijing, enjoying the many paradoxes of that people, heir to one of the most ancient and influential cultures on the planet. Flashes of thought, feeling and emotion were coming to me that I will never forget. I was observing robots walking fast without glances, hidden behind a mask that allowed only the eyes to be seen, fixed forward or to the ground. Even in the busiest streets, the sound was only that of traffic. The flashes of thought were those of a model of society towards which the whole planet was heading. The feeling was to be very close in time to this global scheme. And the emotion was that of anguish for the inevitable human disaster . Something about me knew what was happening even though I didn’t know how and when it would have happened.
Less than two months later, when the pandemic and the first lockdown was announced here in Italy where I live, my thoughts immediately went to the imminent obligation of a worldwide vaccine. The feeling was to be at a turning point with no return towards a radical transformation of our culture. And the emotion was the same as two months before, fear of being trapped in a system that does not correspond to my values, anxiety for something that I didn’t know if I would be able to place in my life, anxiety for the ineluctable.
It remains a mystery whether it is in my nature or an attitude imposed by life that whatever happens and whatever experience I have is for me an opportunity for growth and liberation. My priority has become to be available to discover how the situation could – and can – be useful for my evolution and a global one. There are so many reasons to be anxious or afraid all the time. To believe or imagine that we do not have enough economic or physical resources to manage the daily life or the future, for a past worry that can be repeated, for an emotional pain from separation and detachment that seems endless, for a government that does not govern, for climate change, for a neighbour who does not share the same human values. Anxiety, fear and anguish are an inevitable part of our earthly and finite life. Whether we recognise them or not, they exist in our nervous system with many shades and degrees. They are human experiences that we cannot avoid, but that we can learn to know and to which we can try to give a real sense that goes beyond the immediate moment of their occurring. A sense that embraces existence and that has an effect in our consciousness and in our quality of life.
The current situation that our planet is experiencing – connected to the pandemic, political, economic and above all social matter – has lit a huge beacon of fear. It is a big and precious opportunity to learn about what we really fear, to be present at the actual limits and resources we have within ourselves, to be freer from being trapped in them. The level of awareness of one’s and social fear is a fundamental key to avoid blindly suffering for them. In the immediate future, this awareness does not change the external reality that has unleashed and illuminated these hidden inner places. In the immediate future it radically changes the way we visit and manage them internally. However, in the long run, this individual process has the power to lead to a social and a cultural change as well. Just as the individual, unconsciously succumbing to internal automatic patterns and to the alleged external causes of one’s suffering, leads society in the direction of greater generalised and normalised imprisonment.
When the knowledge we have about ourselves and the vision of reality are restricted and limited to a single slice, we feel constrained and limited by something external, we live as if our state does not depend on us. The less we see, the more we suffer for the sake of others. Knowing oneself, our automatisms and resources in reverse open the recognition of more dimensions of reality and the experience of a greater inner freedom and possibility of choice. It does not mean that external constraints disappear, but that they are experienced with less sense of wholeness and constraint and with greater responsibility for ourselves and for the world. Nothing, absolutely nothing outside of us is the cause of our real suffering and freedom.
In the horizontal version of the Enneagram map the type defines the way we treat our mind, our emotions, our sensations and our drives; how we manage happiness, peaceful moments and difficult ones or tension. The problem is not to have a type of personality or an inner pattern because we are all narcissistically identified with what traps us, but believing that we are just that pattern, considering ourselves only a series of learned, automatic and habitual perceptions, behaviours, thoughts and reactions that we experience as normal. It is not what we feel that defines our type, but how we tend to interpret, react or respond to what we feel. Just as to indicate our awareness of the moment is not how good or bad we feel, but how broad or narrow is the perspective from which we recognise and experience our inner state.
The traumatising events of life, individual or collective like the one we are experiencing, initially awaken the fear of losing a known world which, despite being a prison of automatic survival schemes, illusory reassures us. We can choose to stop there, at the tip of the iceberg, blaming the external causes of our inner state and how we live. Complaining, getting angry with those who broke the spell, hoping they will give us back the cell we were used to, waiting for a saviour in government or from heaven, living in anxiety and blindly respecting imposed rules hoping that it will pass, adopting another prison, waiting for a decisive vaccine. Or we can take the opportunity that allows us to go beyond the surface of things and discover that this fear has deep roots in the negative experience of something terrible that we have all registered in our nervous system, the catastrophic moment of falling from the grace of this earthly life. Underneath the anxiety or fear for contingencies there is a fundamental fear that concerns the loss of experience of connection with our soul.
The map of the Enneagram, specifically in the approach developed by Riso-Hudson, in its horizontal reading describes 9 fundamental inexorable fears that, however we try to evade or manage, exist as founding places of our human being.The Basic Fear of our type is the one in which we fear falling with no return, the deepest and least recognisable especially for those at the beginning of the path of self-knowledge. It’s a matter not easy at all because the fear of fear is a powerful little dragon that becomes huge with a good play of light. Instead, recognising it is important because it hides a huge potential for liberation and space. It is often a journey of discovery that is difficult to do alone.Using the Enneagram map, the root of all our anxieties, fears and anguish is in the area of survival, in our physical finitude. It is the hardest one to accept. The Enneagram also describes an emotional level and a mental level that are necessarily associated with it. If we consider the emotional aspect, regardless of the type in which we recognise ourselves, there are nine Basic Fears.
The Basic fear of type Nine is being fragmented within, disconnected and separated from all his familiar world, not existing. And nothing outside or what he strives to do can give him a sense of wholeness, inner stability and peace.
The Basic fear of type Eight is being lifeless, dead, helpless and empty. And nothing outside or what he tries to do can make him feel fully strong, real and alive.
Type One’s Basic fear is to be evil, corrupt, damned, condemnable, chaotic. And nothing outside or what he tries to do can make him feel truly whole, virtuous and aligned with the right and the sacred.
The Basic fear of type Three is to be worthless, useless, inadequate. And nothing outside or what he tries to do can make him feel truly worthy and useful.
The Basic fear of type Two is to be loveless, unworthy of love, that there is no love. And nothing outside or what he tries to do can make him feel that he is truly one with love, a source of love for the world.
The Basic fear of the type Four is not having personal identity or meaning. And nothing outside or what he strives to do can make him find his true self and personal meaning.
The Basic fear of type Six is being lost without direction, support and guidance. And nothing outside or what he strives to do can really make him find a ground, a direction and a reliable orientation.
Type Five’s Basic fear is being lost in ignorance and lack of meaning, unable to recognise what is true and real. And nothing outside or what he strives to do can make him truly understand reality and discover the essence of things.
The Basic fear of type Seven is being deprived, dissatisfied and trapped in emotional pain. And nothing outside or what he tries to do can make him feel truly happy, free, satisfied and fulfilled.
How much we can contact, embrace, welcome and feel that we are greater than these fears depends on our intention and level of awareness. The good news is that awareness grows with training. And I will write about this aspect and the mental and instinctive one in the coming months.As I wrote above, it is a difficult journey of exploration to do alone. I therefore allow myself a final note concerning ethics, deontology and professionalism in the world of the Enneagram (and in fact in many other arena). Here in Italy I am receiving more and more invitations to Enneagram training that issue certificates of qualification to teach in a few hours of workshop. Some are copy and paste of the notebooks of the Enneagram Institute, for which I am the only representative in Italy and the only authorised teacher in Italy. Some are reproductions of the Enneagram Institute program itself or or of my programs or intact portions of my book. There is no regulation on teaching and recognition for being professional in Italy as well as in Europe, anyone can come up with anything and propose whatever. I take responsibility for what I transmit knowing that it does not belong to me and that whoever receives it will perhaps take their own for what they do with it. In Italy and in Europe we have excellent teachers with adequate training who continuously work on themselves, who transmit their experience and not needing to mess with this map and with the good faith of those who want to undertake the delicate work of introspection and growth with it. I want to invite to discrimination and to pay attention when choosing the references for their inner journey, especially as when in this case it touches the soul. Remembering that our choices are never ours alone, but they have a powerful reverberation in all living beings.
May your entry into spring be good.
Maura Amelia Bonanno