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If we were created with some very specific DNA – a uniqueness – a very specific way of being – that part that was not “contaminated” through life’s journey – essence, pure – then why do we not accept our fellow human beings’ or partner’s uniqueness? Think of it, how often do we look at others and wish for that special smile, correctness, creativity, determination and so many more. How often do we feel threatened in relationships by this? How often do we defend it with that three letter word, EGO?

Seeing couples all the time, I am always amazed when they refer to the fact that they are so different from one another. Will it ever work? Turning to the Enneagram we use as a self-knowledge tool, I present them with the question: Try and imagine in a typical day being exactly the same as your partner. Then an amazing thing happens: “Okay, but I think that will not work so well – then we will both be active controllers – we would most probably kill one another, or we would both be so intensely creative that we might bypass the real world, or we will both be visionaries running ahead with no brakes to stop us.”

Going even further – if each one of us has this kind of uniqueness who am I in a relationship to expect change in that very specific uniqueness? Do the challenge and dynamics in this relationship journey not reside in a combination of these uniqueness’s? Being a visionary and energiser, I need my friend/partner to slow me down – to provide a peaceful perspective. As a quiet specialist living in a world of my own – I need an energiser, entertainer to draw me back to reality.

Creating awareness through this imaginary exercise is but one little step closer to accepting DNA as part of our relationships, as part of life.

But then, so often our motivation behind our behaviour pops up. Those basic instincts that have been so distorted in our childhood. Motivations can be anything from: “I have to understand the world, I have to be in control, I have to be safe, I have to do the right thing, and I have to keep the balance.” The question is, how do these motivations impact our relationships? Let us look at some unconscious childhood messages that may accompany us throughout life: “It is not okay to make mistakes, it is not okay to have your own needs, it is not okay to have your own feelings and identity, it is not okay to be comfortable in the world, it is not okay to trust yourself, it is not okay to depend on anyone for anything, it is not okay to be vulnerable or to trust anyone and it is not okay to assert yourself.” In a relationship context [focusing on behaviour] one partner/friend can be preoccupied with getting and maintaining physical safety and comfort, which often translates into concerns about food, money, housing and physical health. The other partner/friend is concerned with maintaining the sense of value they get from participating in activities with others, be it family, group, community, so they like to feel involved, and they enjoy interacting with others for common purposes. The other partner/friend constantly searches for connection and attracted to intense experiences – intense contact – but in the process has difficulties focusing on their own real needs and priorities. Remember, these levels become distorted during childhood. So, physical safety and comfort marry interacting with others on a regular basis. In this context the drama in this relationship may unfold in: “You are more interested in connecting with others, socializing and so on while I have to worry about our finances and see to the house” – vice versa – “You stress so much about our life, health and financial situation that you become socially distant and totally miss out on life.” Yet another scenario may be that intense experience marries social interaction in a group context. The drama that may unfold: “You are so ‘superficial’ in relationships not giving all you have got” – versus “You are getting so overly involved in relationships that your priorities become distorted.” Worst scenario – most of the time the EGO’s voice plays out: I am right and you are wrong!!

So, we have DNA , a certain uniqueness about us, we have motivations behind our behaviour [formed by “distorted” childhood patterns….], but, we have even more….society – telling us what is proper, best, cool, in, out. That voice telling us that being yourself, having the things that you have are not enough, there is always more, always better, awaiting somewhere. So we build our dreams according to a 5 year plan, we structure our families accordingly, even though we miss out on the here and the now – on what we actually have. Our children need to become a lot of things other than themselves – their uniqueness – purity.

So logic tells me that in our relationships the ultimate will be an awareness of our uniqueness and being OK with it. Being aware that our expectations are born out of our own incompleteness, our falling dreams and that this can be a motivation towards our behaviour – my own distorted childhood messages. Being aware to challenge the prevailing discourses in society. Finally to know that this is a first step in a much longer journey to come.

Enneagram wisdom


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