As 2018 ended, I reflected on my year and summed up my year as a “temper tantrum.” You see, as a self-professed Enneagram Nine, my modus operandi for too many years has been to “go along to get along,” a description so rightly stated by Dr. David Daniels. But 2018 brought about an inner rebellion, the likes of which I had never encountered!
I started 2018 with a minor surgery and a shoulder/arm injury that threw my eating and exercise habits out the door. Then, for the first time in my life, I woke up one day and wondered, “Am I depressed?” Alarmed, I sought the support of a therapist/spiritual director. I was relieved by her assessment that I was not depressed, but, as we talked, she noted that not far on the horizon, in July, was a very significant birthday for me and wondered how this might be impacting me. At first, I said “not much,” but, as we worked together, some unfamiliar symptoms began to say differently.
I noticed that many things that had been routine for many years, and what I had thought to be personal choices, were called into question. I couldn’t, for the life of me, return to my exercise routine, healthy diet, meditation, biking—you name it, everything in me fought to return to what I thought were the things that made me feel “normal.” Put another way, I had a battle going in inside of me—the one part of me was chastising me because I wasn’t doing all the things that I knew, intellectually, I should be doing, and the other part of me was saying, “I am not doing that stuff anymore!” Something was shifting in me, and the ground underneath me was shaky. I decided to go with the temper tantrum and just give in … let it all go and see what would emerge. This was not without dis-ease! My ego was corrective, punitive and fearful in its assessment of my state. It criticized me, made me feel guilty, and reminded me that I knew better. Despite the mental and emotional triggers, I worked to stay steady with letting go, relaxing those thoughts when they arose, and watching what happened when I didn’t give in to them.
Here’s what happened—those “old, familiar thoughts and feelings,” when not engaged, gave rise to inner compassion and a truce between the warring forces within me as the year ended. The greatest lesson for me through this journey so far has been how to listen and pay attention to those parts of myself that want to be heard and how to integrate the childhood strategy of “going along to get along” with the newly emerging desire to be present fully to all of me!
In December, I stumbled upon the book, Transitions, by William Bridges, that put into context what had been going on for me throughout the year. In the book, Bridges describes three phases to a transition: Ending, Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings. He says that before any new beginning can emerge, we must go through a letting-go process of all that will no longer support our new beginning. He warns that if we don’t do this letting go, we can never fully embrace the new beginning. The Neutral Zone is that time when nothing seems to work as it used to and the letting go doesn’t immediately lead you to what is beginning. This time has been called many things—Dark Night of the Soul, the Messy Middle, or I am calling it my temper tantrum! What I learned is if you can stay steady and listen during these uncomfortable, unpredictable inner times, gradually, and sometimes, very gradually, little signs of what is to come—the new beginning—start to emerge.
The new beginning being revealed to me is a healthier, more loving relationship to myself. I took time in 2018 to really get to know myself, and that has proven to be fruitful as I enter 2019. I woke up New Year’s Day with a knowing that the temper tantrum part of me is now ready to grow up and join in the journey to come. How awesome is that!
Our lives are always changing, but there are sometimes when a significant transition is brewing, and we may not notice it until it catches us by surprise. Being able to name it for what it is and recognize the signs, sooner rather than later, makes the journey a little easier. So, I ask you, “As you enter into 2019, are there any places in your life where you might be in transition?” If so, I’m happy to walk this journey with you. Just give me a call!