Spirit Strengthening and Conditioning:
You Might First Need a Mirror, Language, and Map

Wisdom traditions, psychology, and not-so-common sense all have something to say about spiritual health. Theories on Temperament and Type, for instance, suggest that evolutionarily speaking, we all have specific gifts (as well as specific needs) we bring to the table. Without shame or judgment, we can speak to those needs using techniques found in Compassionate Communication. Of course, it would help to discern whether our voice is indeed coming from our more essential self or from our ego self. The Enneagram of Personality Types can help illuminate the difference between the two.

Temperament and Type

Philosophers through the ages have repeatedly grouped innate dispositions into just a handful of categories. From as far back as two thousand years ago, excesses of blood, black bile, yellow bile, or phlegm were thought to lead to cheerfulness, somberness, enthusiasm, or calmness. While more contemporary psychologists like David Keirsey moved past the emphasis on body fluids, they seemed to all speak categorically about different but still respectable styles of being human.

Keirsey was inspired by the work of Isabel Myers and Katheryn Briggs whose personality-typing instrument measured an individual's preferences for Carl Jung's four cognitive functions: the perceiving functions of Sensing (S) and Intuition (N), and the decision-making or judging functions of Feeling (F) and Thinking (T). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator provided Keirsey with a field of attributes with which to differentiate four broader categories of motivating temperaments: the SP Artisan, SJ Guardian, NF Idealist, and NT Rationalist. As we all have access to each of Jung's four functions, the word preference is key.

Whether we're born with preferences or acquire them sometime in our youth, the fact is, we wind up more adept with some functions than others. While we may not be the best at handling details, for instance, we may be great at seeing the bigger picture. We can allow these differences to feed frustration and miscommunication with people having other preferences, or we can choose to instead focus on how we might compliment one another.

Additional information can be found on the Wikipedia page on Temperament and Type.

"Suppose it is so that people differ in temperament and that therefore their behavior is just as inborn as their body build. Then we do violence to others when we assume such differences to be flaws and afflictions."

Non-Violent Communication

All human beings have fundamental requirements. These universal needs have been documented and organized for decades, if not longer, by philosophers, psychologists, and social scientists. Not only do we have basic physiological needs for water, food, and shelter, we have more psycho-spiritual needs for safety, love and belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. Recognition of all of these is foundational if we are to practice Compassionate Communication, a process exemplified by Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication (NVC).

Rosenberg reminds us that life-alienating communication contributes to our behaving violently toward others and ourselves. This happens when we make moralistic judgments of people and behaviors that fail to support our values, when we use comparisons, and when we deny responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Rosenberg suggests that we have an alternative in NVC, in communicating from the heart. He recommends that we instead consider four steps in our communication around sensitive issues:

  1. Recognize concrete factors perceived to be impacting our well being.
  2. Acknowledge our feelings in relation to those observations.
  3. Recognize the needs, values, and desires connected to those feelings.
  4. Request concrete actions in order to improve our well-being.

Additional information can be found on the Wikipedia page on Compassionate Communication.

"When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion."

The Enneagram of Personality Types

Patterns of behavior, feeling, and thought have been observed and documented over the centuries and around the world. Among the resulting syntheses is one describing nine distinct personality types. Since the prefix "ennea" means "nine," it is used to name the figure called the Enneagram, a framework that helps us more easily remember the nine types, their descriptions, and the possibilities for character growth and decay. It illuminates our strengths as well as our weaknesses and is a symbolic reminder of the whole of human potential.

Each Enneatype can be regarded in terms of essence and personality. As the theory goes, personality suggests some lost aspect of our original essence. Over the course of defending our younger, innocent, and more vulnerable selves, strategies once deemed useful unfortunately turned into plain old bad habits that grew to get in the way of our effectively being present in the moment. Personality developed as we lost trust, as we tried to compensate for what we were missing, as we put our innate qualities in service not for the building of character but for the construction of ego agendas.

But circumstances often actually call for - and benefit from - strategies other than those we've come to habitually use. The Enneagram can challenge and inspire us to move outside our comfort zones and grow from our most defended selves into our most effective selves.

Additional information can be found on the Wikipedia page on Enneagram of Personality.

"It is your birthright and natural state to be wise and noble, loving and generous, to esteem yourself and others, to be creative and constantly renewing yourself, to be engaged in the world in awe and in depth, to have courage and to rely on yourself, to be joyous and effortlessly accomplished, to be strong and effective, to enjoy peace of mind and to be present to the unfolding mystery of your life."
"The wholesomeness of individual consciousness could be achieved in the span of a single generation, if only the world community understood the political relevance of a massive and radical educational reform, so that instead of using public education for patriarchal indoctrination, governments decided to use it for human growth and social evolution."
- Claudio Naranjo, Healing Civilization