Almost everyone would be in pursuit of happiness at some stage of their lives. Most people seek happiness all of their lives and would miss it even in front of their noses. The truth is that authentic happiness is not something to attain by pursing it, it can only ensue. Ultimately it can only ensue as a result of dedicating one’s life to knowing oneself. Now this journey of self-knowing takes many different shapes depending on the circumstances and the life stage one is in. For instance Viktor Frankl; highly respected; puts it this way:
“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” ~Viktor Frankl (in Man’s Search for Meaning)
9 Personality traits blocking happiness
What is it that drives you to get out of the bed in the morning to get on with your daily life? Or for those who might be bored and a little depressed; preferring not to leave the bed; why is it so? At the personality level, the push-pull mechanism of life seems to be driven by our hopes and fears. What are the hopes that give you the energy, the fullness, the meaning? What are the fears that pull you back, make you act in ways to feel safe or frustrated, or bored, or empty? If we don’t pay sufficient attention to our personality traits that drive us, then our ongoing cycles of hope and fear dominate our lives and effectively ruin it for us in an unconscious way.
So how do we go about this? Well, many systems of personality typing have been developed over the centuries in order to help us recognise general and specific traits. For instance astrology, numerology, Hippocrates four classic temperaments, Carl Jung’s system of psychological types and MBTI, Karen Horney’s tri-type of moving-towards, moving-against, and moving-away; the DISC, the 16 Personality Factors, and many others. Here I would like to use the Enneagram system as I find it more accurate and effective compared to many other systems. It is unique in the sense that not only it reveals one’s personality traits like a mirror, but it also bears the wisdom to guide us to freedom outside of our personality box; it can act like a guiding light beckoning us towards our highest potentials. (See The Guiding Light of the Enneagram for more details.) Enneagram is made up of the two Greek words, ennea meaning nine, and gram/gramma meaning something written or drawn. There is a lot of depth and breadth to the Enneagram system, but at the simplest level it divides personalities into nine basic types. Below we just touch on the nine core beliefs and fears to offer us initial insight about our various hopes and fears. By the way, we all have all the nine types in us, with one type usually more dominant than the others.
9 Core Beliefs fueling our hopes
Our core beliefs are major contributors to our secret hopes. We magnify any data in our environment that support our core beliefs and tend to neglect or undermine data to the contrary. We don’t know we are doing this until we become present and aware of our personality conditioning. Below are the core beliefs of the nine Enneagram types. See if any of these sound familiar to you:
- One: I must be right and not totally wrong in order to be worthy. In search of integrity and improvement to be good.
- Two: I must be giving and not totally useless in order to be loved. In search of intimacy to feel love.
- Three: I must do things, achieve and be successful in order to be appreciated and loved. In search of acceptance and validation to feel valuable.
- Four: I must be unique, special/complete and not totally deficient/incomplete in order to be loved. In search of identity to be myself.
- Five: I must be self‐sufficient and hence not have others totally deplete my energy. In search of mastery to be capable and competent.
- Six: I must be certain and self‐sustaining and not helpless and dependent in this world you can’t count on. In search of security and safety to have support and guidance.
- Seven: I must keep life open and flowing and not be totally limited by others and negatives. In search of variety, fun and satisfaction to feel content.
- Eight: I must be powerful and strong and not be totally powerless in a world that will take advantage of me. In search of physical and legacy survival to protect myself.
- Nine: I must blend in and go along to get along and not be discovered as unworthy of love. In search of harmony and stability in order to find peace of mind and wholeness.
9 Core Fears
Related to the core beliefs are the core fears that drive each personality type as follows:
- One: Fear of something wrong with me, of not being good enough; being bad, imbalanced, corrupt.
- Two: Fear of rejection, of being needy and not being loved.
- Three: Fear of failure, of being worthless.
- Four: Fear of having no identity or significance, of abandonment, of own sadness, of being lost.
- Five: Fear of entanglement with someone, running out of resources, of losing what one has. Fear of being helpless, incompetent and incapable.
- Six: Fear of being without support and guidance. Fear itself in a nameless, faceless way.
- Seven: Fear of boredom, of grunt work, of being exposed as a charlatan. Fear of being trapped in pain and deprivation.
- Eight: Fear of being weak, not in charge, not on top of things. Of being harmed, controlled and violated.
- Nine: Fear of conflict by making oneself and one’s needs too obvious. Fear of fragmentation, separation from others.
The sure way to let happiness ensue
Let us stay open for a moment to the idea that authentic happiness ensues as a result of orienting one’s life activities towards knowing oneself. If this was true what would it mean and how would it work practically?
Well, “self-knowing” is essentially a matter of endless curiosity about oneself and one’s place in the world in relation to others and everything else without judgement or a preset agenda or certain outcome expectations. Of course, our instincts are included in this journey as they play a major role in what we do and don’t do. In fact the Enneagram system does take the instincts into account. Self-knowing involves the practice of self-observation and cultivates self-awareness leading to more presence and being real. It becomes a matter of reorienting one’s viewpoint of life situations towards understanding oneself rather than second guessing others. Towards understanding one’s own motives and blocks, hopes and fears rather than focusing energy on changing the other or the situation to what we think is right. I have discussed this reorientation of viewpoint also in Social and essential self: Two aspects of our nature.
Life situations include all our life endeavors such as in relationships at various levels, at work and recreation, self-development and search for meaning, and even religion. For instance, if your boss is a difficult person and makes work very unpleasant for you; instead of trying to change yourself or him/her, you wonder “What this situation and my reactions to it are trying to tell me about me?” This does not mean you approve of the “boss from hell” or that you become passive; no you keep working at the situation but the action comes from the truth of the situation and your enthusiastic attention to your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour without any judgement. Similarly, when there is choice about career directions, we tend to make better decisions if we pay attention to our personality hopes and fears so that we will be less likely to be held hostage to our own inner conditioning. The same principle holds in difficult relationships. In fact most relationships break down because people focus too much on changing the other person, rather than being curious about their own issues in relation to their partner. Let me emphasise again that this does not mean you approve of the other’s misdeeds, nor that you remain passive; just that the source of your action would be a more informed, fresh and creative place rather than your usual conditioned place.
In this manner, while life might not feel easier to one’s personality at the start but as the reorientation gradually takes place, we begin to sense authentic happiness finding us, most of the time for “no good reason”.
If you would like to know your personality type and how you personally might block your happiness by reacting to life, please contact me to arrange a special Enneagram Package. In the meantime you can also check out our Enneagram Resources page to take the Free Simple Enneagram Test to get an initial idea of your type.