Film, literature and stories passed down via oral traditions are rife with examples of the reluctant hero. The fact that we love these tales about ordinary people called to do extraordinary things that they don’t feel they’re qualified to tackle highlights the appeal of this archetype. Perhaps it’s because we all hope there’s some unlikely hero hidden within us who will rise to the occasion as soon as we’re called upon to do so.
A few years back, I found myself rooting through cupboards in a familiar, desperate search for chocolate. Fortunately, we didn’t have any and this threw me back upon the suffering I was experiencing and gave me the opportunity to wonder what was driving this. For the first time in my life, I experienced a terrifyingly bottomless well of yearning without a story attached to it. The absolute rawness of this emotion was so consuming that I dropped right back into unconsciousness only to awaken a moment later as I was about to tear into some unsweetened baking chocolate. I was that desperate to not feel this.
The terms Ego and Essence are a big part of the Riso-Hudson Enneagram and they are integral to understanding the spiritual aspects of the teaching.
Don Riso’s Levels of Development are usually presented in a downward-bound fashion with the implicit message that dropping down the Levels is a mistake brought about by a series of cognitive errors. While it gives us a powerful and insightful birds-eye view of exactly how each type makes its characteristic logical but misguided conclusions that lead them to bring about their own Basic Fear, perhaps dropping down the Levels is something we’re supposed to do.
It’s difficult to move through suffering and come out the other side with a scarred but open heart. But this is where we discover the power in our brokenness.
Among spiritual seekers, there’s an idea that many see as a good reason for not using the Enneagram in their practice. That is that we each have a “story,” or narrative, that continuously tells us who we are, what the world is and how we should be in it. The Enneagram of personality is often seen as adding to this story, giving us more content to support our opinions, pre-conceived notions and limiting beliefs about ourselves and others. However, the Enneagram gives us a wealth of insight and without it, an awful lot of our egoic behavior would potentially remain invisible because it is the nature of Ego to be hidden so it can masquerade as our true nature.
Many spiritual teachers say there are two paths to awakening: the spontaneous awakening and the awakening that happens as a result of intense suffering. They also say that while the path of suffering isn’t necessary, that’s the one most people end up taking.