Place

March 6, 2020

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way through Suzanne’s teaching on enneagram subtypes. In the introduction, she talks about how each of the subtypes relates to one of Richard Foster’s three things human people need for contentment: provision (self-preserving subtype), personality (one-to-one subtype), and a sense of place (social subtype).

Sidebar: You can have any dominant subtype in any number, but there are some pairings that feel, to me, like exponents. Like you can be a social subtype of any number (n1), or you can level up and be a social subtype of a dependent stance number (n2), or you can really go for it and be a social 2: others referenced, seeking belonging, needing to be loved (n3). If the various trifurcated components of the enneagram — triads, stances, subtypes — can each be thought of as a three-legged stool, where the underdeveloped aspects need to be cultivated to bring oneself into greater balance, I’d venture that social 2s 🙋🏼‍♀️, self-preserving 5s, and one-to-one 8s are a bit more wobbly by nature than the others.

Seeking belonging for myself and creating it for others simply feels like how I move in the world. If I’m hosting a social gathering, I make sure everyone I invite knows someone else on the guest list. If a friend is struggling, I look for ways to help them feel less alone. When someone shares a vision with me, even a small one, I can see myself in it (and then I proceed to challenge the vision, because I am now fully in it, and while this in-it-ness is my superpower it has an equal and opposite chance of being highly annoying). My husband and I are known as “includers,” not because we’re extroverted (neither of us are) but because we want people to feel like they belong.

That’s all lovely and beautiful when you’re the one welcoming others in. But on the flip side, it means that being excluded — or even just passed over, not considered, not seen — is crushing. If I can’t stop crying in the middle of a Thursday, it’s probably because I feel like I don’t belong. If I’m neglecting to look out for someone else’s best, it’s probably because I feel like my own sense of place is being threatened. 

I’m having to learn how to stand in spaces in my life and believe that I belong. Even if my place there isn’t externally validated or encouraged or invited or acknowledged or even named. I have to choose belonging even when I don’t feel it.

This is of course terrifying and vulnerable and wildly uncomfortable. It feels foolish, like I’ve talked myself into believing a narrative that isn’t true. What if I actually don’t belong here? is the question raised every moment. It requires me to have faith that, if I don’t belong, I will know it or someone will tell me.

The thought of needing to leave is horrifying enough, and the thought of someone having to tell me to leave even more so because then I’ve failed them and inconvenienced them or made them uncomfortable in the process.

But under all that shame is a deeper truth about trust. About how I care for others because I don’t trust them to care for me. About how I don’t trust people to choose me if they don’t need me. About how I don’t know how to get the trust in my head down into my heart.

And in the end, there can’t be true belonging without trust. When you don’t trust, you don’t fully show up; and when you don’t show up, you can’t be known; and if you can’t be known, you can’t belong. Any sense of belonging you have is at best a half-truth and at worst an illusion. You know you only brought part of yourself in the first place, so only that part belongs, and what about the rest of you?

There’s a place for all of you, and for all of me. We just have to trust enough to stand in it.

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