Rachel Dolezal: Personality Goes Deeper Than Race

"Rachel Dolezal chairs the May 5 meeting of the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission."  Image from cdapress.com.

"Rachel Dolezal chairs the May 5 meeting of the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission."  Image from cdapress.com.

On Thursday last week, a newspaper article questioned if Rachel Dolezal, the president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was really African American, as she portrayed herself to be, and it's been getting tons of national and international coverage since then.

Mr. M said no one can prove she's Black or White because there exist no legally-defined categories for race.  After all, if it's true that we all descended from Africa, anyway, whose business is it to criticize her for embracing the black culture as her own?

I responded by saying "I appreciate your generous view on race, but would it change anything to know she was a type 4?"  (I don't know for sure that she's a Type 4.  I've spent a few hours this morning watching her interviews and catching up on her backstory, and out of the nine types, Type Four seems to fit the best with the complexity of what's going on.)

My heart goes out to Ms. Dozelal.  I know how easy it is for her personality type (if she is a Type 4) to confound suffering with authenticity.  The equating of the two leads some to feel like colored people's lives are more "real" and genuine than white people's.  Moreover, people with this personality type can't imagine how anyone could accuse them of lying when they've dedicated their entire lives to being as "real" as they can, often at a cost, and at the most profound, unconscious level, they're doing this "appropriation of suffering" for those who made them suffer in the first place- their parents.  In my opinion, it's the most backwards, and therefore misunderstood expression of love in the family unit, and in the West today.

The personality I'm talking about is Type 4 in the Enneagram system of personality types, where there are nine universal archetypes.  According to this system, we each have one of the nine types that permeates our way of thinking, emoting, and behaving down into our unconcious motivations.  The Type 4 has been called The Individualist, The Artist, The Romantic, all reflections of their characteristic emotional sensitivity, withdrawing and standing apart, and desire to be seen as unique and deep.

Two images of Rachel, one as a young blonde growing up in Montana; the other taken after she had taken on the identity of an African-American artist, educator, and activist.  Image from People.com.

Two images of Rachel, one as a young blonde growing up in Montana; the other taken after she had taken on the identity of an African-American artist, educator, and activist.  Image from People.com.

I understand her parents are not without their own issues, but I write this in hopes that Dolezal might read this and determine for herself if she is someone with a lot of empathy for the underdog, who feels she didn't receive enough validation from her parents, and who needs the depths of her creative and sensitive soul validated before she can be her "true" self. 

Moreover, we all have moments in our lives where we feel like we don't quite fit in with everyone else, but Fours feel the distinction of "them versus me" at a most fundamental level where they seem to be missing something that everyone instinctively picked up on in life, or that was passed down from their parents.  Whatever the missing ingredient is that causes their sense of deficiency-- it's elusive to Fours-- they go through life with a two-pronged approach to social situations-- believing they're either inferior or superior to others.  On the one hand, they are dragged down by a sense of inferiority because their social impairment (or however they define that missing ingredient) causes them an overwhelming amount of shame.   On the other hand, by virtue of their uniqueness and resulting separateness, from their vantage point, they see everyone else as "the pack", not as unique or different as they are, and therefore less refined and less profound. 

When Rachel says she's "not white, but human", she's definitely evading the questioner's intent of what race she is, but there is a way in which she's pointing directly at the underlying issue beneath race- it's that personality and its ruses go deeper than our color.  Personality is what arises out of our essence- who we are beyond our culture and DNA; race is just clothing. 

Regardless of what color we are, we have all fallen into a trap laid out by our ego, the ego being that essential ingredient which separates us from animals.  We all have false constructs- fears, fantasies, addictions in our thinking and emotional patterns that have no basis in reality.  They're usually benign enough that the people in our lives put up with us and love us anyway.  Unconsciously, what our ego is doing is re-creating a connection to a perfect state we "knew" before we were born by copying it in our personality.  For Fours, that perfect pre-natal state was depth, authenticity, the capacity to "be with" suffering in its most terrible moments without turning away. 

This isn't the greatest personality to have, you might think- who would want to identify with suffering when there are so many other great things to celebrate about life?  Fours see a very valuable aspect of reality, that suffering is the kernel out of which transformation can bloom, and needs to be "sat with" to be processed, but in a bid to get back to that connection to essence, they over-identify with it, and thus see suffering as the only thing that's real and genuine in life. 

Sometimes, out of great emotional need, they may go so overboard in their identification with that quality of essence, that they actually- consciously or not- recreate the stressful conditions necessary for that same resiliency to shine.  This might explain why Rachel has made a string of allegations of hate crimes directed at her as president of the NAACP that have turned up for the most part unsubstantiated.  If you read this list of her allegations of hate crimes, you wonder if she unconsciously needed that hate directed toward her in order for her to continue functioning normally in the world.  Indeed, when Fours don't have something to be frustrated about, they become unmoored and start looking for a bare bone to gnaw on in order to reinforce their identity. (We all do this in different ways.  That's how a Four does it).

Big Think, a American futurist think tank posted an interview with writer and poet  Clint Smith entitled "If Being Black Gets Too Inconvenient, Rachel Dolezal Can Opt Out".  The response to which, in my opinion, is that the inconvenience is exactly why Rachel opted in. 

If indeed she is a Type Four, Ms. Dolezal's identifying with another race could just be another layer of the defence mechanism called introjection where the world's suffering gets introjected onto herself so that by suffering, she can finally feel approved by her parents for being good enough (The dominant characteristic of the relationship between Fours and their parents is that Fours feel misunderstood by their parents).  Mr. and Mrs. Dolezal, for whatever reason, couldn't validate something about her rich and emotional inner life, which usually, when ignored or debased, elicits a subterranean rage at not having your identity supported by your own parents.  Therefore, in pretense of being black, she is asking the black community to take care of her emotional needs in their place.  Again, not consciously, but yes, it got out of control.

Taking the mask off and saying, "I'm white today, officer" would require an emotional intelligence she can only develop if she can let go of the fantasy that she is mirroring true depth by identifying with suffering.  When she can allow herself to feel like the insider that she is, and humbly, mundanely breathe into the existence she disdains (possibly for good reason), the possibility exists for her to have the transcendental and transformative effect on the lives of "outsiders" that she's trying to effect.

The vast majority of us need to run into the big brick wall of reality in order to face the darker aspects of our personality that we don't want to see, and the hope is that once we do, we'll get on a healing path.  Type Fours need to learn how to love the mundane, despicably un-deep, boring parts of their identities first before they can really champion the identity of others. 

It appears that if Rachel lets go of the act and admits to being White, her world will crumble and there will not be much, identity-wise, left for her to operate out of in the world, but the truth is a very good, healthy place to start.  The wisdom and profundity of the Enneagram, which understands us better than our parents do, can help her wind out of this mess and help her start putting her life back together.