Human Universals: The Enneagram and The Pandemic with Leslie Flood Hershberger

April 7, 2020 Transformational Coaching

Leslie Flood Hershberger  is a colleague and friend of Transform, Inc. She is a certified Enneagram Trainer, a skilled facilitator and Integral Theory expert.  We asked if we could share her recent message with our community. Luckily, she said, “yes.”

I’ve been asked to write about how Enneagram types deal with the pandemic. This has limited usefulness and I can feel myself resisting this. It’s too prescriptive and reductive like the funny memes going around about how each Enneagram type deals with coronavirus. Regardless of type, fear is a universal. It’s not just for Head types, (5/6/7). Regardless of type, loss of control feels vulnerable and unsettling. It’s not just Body types (8/9/1) who feel vulnerable. Regardless of type, loss of connection can panic our internal systems. It’s not just heart types (2/3/4) who feel this. 

All of these emotions are human emotions. What’s more useful is pressing in more deeply to how these emotions live in us. When we can see how these emotions live in us, something starts to soften. We discover it’s universal to feel afraid if that cough or the headache means we have the virus and we wonder if it will impede our breathing. It’s universal to feel panic at loss of connection if we can’t visit our mother in the senior living community, can’t meet up with our friends for a cuppa or can’t visit our new grandchild. It’s universal to feel as if we have no control over the future. Will my children go back to school anytime soon? Will they be affected by not having time with their friends? Will I go crazy trying to find things for them to do while they are at home? 

When we have the courage to go to these very human places, something else emerges. Humility over the frailty of our lives. Awareness of how we judge others to buoy ourselves up so we can comfort ourselves that we’ve got this under control. Awareness of how close we are to emotions all these extraneous things have been designed to distance ourselves from. 

The other night, I woke in the middle of the night. I went to Instagram to look for new pics of Sam, my newest grandson whom I can’t meet because of the virus. I stumbled across John Legend doing an at home concert for his fans. The first song he played was Stevie Wonder’s song, “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” Yes, love has need of love. My 2-year-old granddaughter, Sophie pats Sam’s head when he fusses, saying, “It’s ok, it’s ok.” In some way, underneath all the not okayness, there’s a deeper OK. The kind Sophie gives to Sam. She’s too little to know what ok means. Her “It’s ok” is a human act of tenderness. 

My friend Jack, the emotion researcher, tells me we don’t just experience fear, panic and anger as go-to emotions. We also have joy, care and play as part of our hardwiring. Sophie is 2. She already knows how to comfort her new brother because she’s experienced her parents comforting her. Please be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with others. When you see their defenses, remember their fear, their panic, their feelings of loss of control. 

We all stand in different places, don’t we? Regardless of your Enneagram type, your inner practices will help you drop underneath the reactive fear, panic, sadness and anger. There you will find the other human universals that will sustain you in hard times: gratitude, forgiveness, joy, care and play. Whatever they are, do them every day for you and for us.