As part of my Enneagram studies, I attended some sessions with Andrea Isaacs at a workshop a few months ago. Our class was given a chance to develop a repertoire of mantras and mudras for each of the nine Enneagram types. Each of us is a cosmology of all of the nine types, but because we have one that we focus on to the detriment of the others, it's important to develop access to the other eight so we have a bigger repertoire of responses when we're under strain. Andrea explained that as we access those types, we're building new neurotransmitters to those new beliefs and behaviors, and if we practice them every day, they'll "stick".
So starting with 8, we went around the circle to 9, then 1, 2, 3, all the way around to 8 again, moving our bodies into different shapes and saying our mantras in time with our movements. (Eight is the starting point because it's the beginning of the anger/body types at the top of the circle).
For our graduation, we all did the full cycle for the rest of the class. My type Eight mantra is "Back off!" so that's how I started out, and some people in the group had a good laugh when I opened my arms and demonstrated how far back my invisible invader needed to stand. Mr. M is a type Eight, and he had been known to invade my boundaries often enough without meaning to, and what I wanted was to practice was setting my boundaries with meaning and intention. When people demand work of me that they could do, or give me excessive advice, or talk for too long, I get exhausted, but I usually don't say anything, and then my "giving" or "polite listening" becomes a really bitter experience. I wanted to avoid being taken advantage of, and I thought a powerful phrase like "back off!" would be the best possible way to convey that.
Since that class, I've had to use the phrase a couple times, both with type Eights. It was said in the friendliest of intentions, although I don't know how friendly they took it. I haven't heard from either of them since. Actually, the first one said he appreciated knowing where I stood. Then a couple weeks ago, I told another type Eight to "back off" because he was pushing his advice on me. He did back off immediately, because Eights understand and respond to forceful gut energy more than heart or head energy, but I wonder if there's a more gentle way to make someone stand back and give you the space you need without completely dissapearing.
I know I don't want to be taken advantage of. Eights have tended to be my best friends, though, and though they may need strong assertive energy to get points across to them, can I convey powerfully from the gut without scaring them away?
I went out for coffee with my dad yesterday, which I don't often do, but he was saying that because I've communicated in no uncertain terms over the years that I want him to "back off" with his excessive advice, he has all but completely withdrawn from my life. It looks like I'm going to need to revisit my Type Eight mantra and mudra to something gentler yet just as strong. I don't know how I'm going to find the middle ground, but it looks like I must.