The Enneagram and the Fear of Not Doing
As a solopreneur with a day job, I never have nothing to do. I’ve perennially got more tasks and projects to do than are possible to accomplish. I mentioned in an earlier post that I took a week off between finishing my Enneagram certification program and starting the pre-launch planning for my first book. And I mentioned how weird it felt initially. I felt guilty and unproductive.
If you know the Enneagram, you might get the idea from the above paragraph that I’m a Three. But no – I’m a Seven. Some types look alike on the outside, and any type can suffer from my condition: the Fear of Not Doing. Or, as I’m fond of calling it, FOND.
As God would have it, three articles floated across my busy path in rapid succession regarding this topic. The first was in an exercise magazine. The author described how she sets an alarm to get up at a prescribed hour on the weekends and has an obsession with time. Unless she’s too sick to move, she writes, “I have to be doing something.”
She quotes an MD who says that “people who lead very meaning-driven lives tend to struggle with the idea of wasting time.” That’s me to a T.
The article encouraged me; at least I’m not alone. I’m also not as obsessed with productivity as the gal above. I refuse to set an alarm on Saturday. I do find time here and there to rest and relax. Still, there’s always the nagging feeling that I will have to eventually get back to all the doing I need to do.
“There will always be an endless list of chores to complete and work to do, and a culture of relentless productivity tells us to get to it right away and feel terribly guilty about any time wasted.” That’s the opening of the second article that found me, “The psychological importance of wasting time.”
This article was more focused on people being unable to stop working, which is not really my issue. Not right now, anyway. But when I was a freelance journalist, I’d often put in 10- or 12-hour days. The best line from this article reminds us, “Even Victorian factories had some kind of rest breaks.”
The third article discussed how we have turned our lives into “24 potentially monetizable hours … that we can no longer justify spending on ‘nothing’. It …is simply too expensive.” The writer mentions several serious books coming out on topics that come naturally to children: how to rest, how to do nothing, how to find solace in nature.
I’m not working my side hustle for money, per se. I make a good salary, though it’s not my destiny and so it’s not my plan to retire from this job. However, if I could finally make money doing what I love, I wouldn’t have to put in so many hours outside of the standard work day. Or so the theory goes.
But is that true? Not in my life, if I’m honest. As a kid, I’d make lists of things to accomplish during the summer. When I was a teenager, I felt an acute sense of time and its passage and my duty to fill it with meaning. Before I discovered the Enneagram, I wrote screenplays during off-hours.
I’ve never NOT been busy.
And I’m only now discovering that it’s about fear. It’s a complex combination of fears, really. It’s the Seven fear of slowing down, lest I have to face the terror of this world and the pain it causes me. It’s also the Seven FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – expressed, for me as a person who wants meaning, as FOND. It’s fear of missing out on my destiny, I realized a couple weeks ago as I drove to work. That’s about the biggest FOMO you can have.
And this is fueled by our productivity culture, which is then ingrained into and reinforced by our Inner Critics. When will the madness stop?
Well, it won’t stop on its own. This is a huge problem in our culture, no matter what your personality type. It not only steals our joy; it also hinders our relationship with God. After all, who has time for more than a few minutes of prayer requests and the reading of one or two Bible verses? Who has time for actual stillness and intimacy? What’s worse, productivity and time obsessions feed the machine of works-oriented faith and a quid pro quo faith dynamic.
I could write multiple blog posts on those repercussions, but not today. Right now, what will help us overcome FOND and embrace JOND (the Joy of Not Doing) is to be intentional about discovering its roots in our lives. One of the best ways to do this is to look at our own Basic Fear, that thing we’re most afraid of in the core of our being. If you’re not familiar with your Basic Fear, check out the type descriptions at EnneagramInstitute.com.
My Basic Fear, for example, is of being trapped in deprivation or pain. The Seven strategy to avoid this fear is to stay “up” all the time, excited by and involved in many activities, ideas and options. Busy-ness. For Threes, it’s the fear that if they aren’t being excellent achievers, they are worthless. For Twos, it’s the fear that if they aren’t helping other people, they aren’t worthy of love. And so on.
Not always, but often, our Basic Fear sends us into habitual patterns of fear avoidance that keep us busy creating businesses or taking care of those in need or ___________ [you fill in the blank]. So, to combat this, I remind you again of Riso & Hudson’s three steps of spiritual growth:
- Be present and aware as much as possible.
- Observe your personality in action.
- As much as possible, don’t act on your personality’s impulses.
My last blog post discussed the incredible value of stillness and silence – the opposites of time obsession and hyper-productivity. Learning to be still is an essential aid to becoming present and aware. As you can tell from this blog, I’ve a long way to go in overcoming the fear that drives me. But I know that I’m afraid, and I also know that I’m getting less afraid as I stop everything for 20 minutes a day and sit still, resting in the love embrace of God.
Do you struggle with FOND? Have you found ways to overcome it? How does your personality type “drive” you? Please share your experiences in the comments section.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.