Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

August 5, 2007

Is It Sadness or Depression?

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Depression,Former Karuna therapist — karunacounseling @ 4:44 pm
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Andrea J Schrage, MA, LPC, CMT

Why is it that most people feel familiar with Depression? Why is it that if you start talking about taking anti-depressants that people come out of the woodwork to tell you about their experience on meds? One of the pieces in the puzzle is that people do not know how to distinguish sadness from “feeling depressed”

To give you a generalized idea of the succession from sadness to depression, it can often look like this:

  1. You have an emotion
  2. You do not know how to attend to it or choose to not attend to it
  3. The feelings get stuffed down via ignoring it or covering it in a addictive pattern
  4. You feel depressed

This is a simplification to help you see all the steps that happen before the depression sets in. Often what happens in this process is that there is a lot of grief that is not getting tended to. When this happens the world can feel unsafe and people tend to start protecting by shutting down their emotions. The blessing and curse in how our bodies work is that when you shut down one emotion, they all tend to get shut down. The curse is that if you don’t want to feel sad then you limit your ability to feel joy. The blessing is that if you don’t feel joy, it may cause you to look for the problem and then heal it.

To help clarify more we can look at “symptoms” of sadness and of depression.

Sadness can come in the form of:

  • Tears
  • A feeling in the throat, heart, or chest
  • It may come in waves that peak and then lessen
  • It is temporary
  • It is usually related to an event, even if it is an old event

Depression can come in the form of:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Not finding joy in things that you used to find joy in
  • A negative outlook on most things
  • On-going sadness without an obvious cause
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Disconnecting from others
  • Difficulty getting up and going in the morning
  • A lack of emotions
  • A change in sleep patterns
  • Hopelessness

Most of us did not learn to properly attend to emotions, we are taught to analyze, ignore, and cover up any emotions that we have. What is surprising for most of us is that we are just as scared to feel real joy and success as we are of feeling sadness and pain. This fact is usually left unnoticed, but it anchors in our system of wanting to avoid emotions. If you can start separating your feelings out, you can tend to them, which will allow you more power and consciousness about the choices that you make in your life.

Ways to start dealing with emotions are through writing, mindfulness, releasing them through the physical body, or through therapy. As you do this practice over time, you retrain your system to not fall into habitual depressive patterns. You will also learn to tolerate feelings and you will begin to pick up on the early cues that you are heading towards a depressive episode. If feelings are overwhelming for you or if you have a history of trauma, then please seek support through professional help.

For more questions about this process you can reach me at: 404-818-6114 or email me at AndreaSchrage@KarunaCounseling.com



September 4, 2006

The Coming Out Stages

by Micky O’Leary, PhD

The coming out process is best described as the internal and external experiences which accompany a person’s recognition of, or shift in, their sexual orientation.

Researchers who have studied the coming out process have identified stages that most people go through as they recognize, accept and embrace a non-heterosexual identity. While some have described the process as sequential, i.e., one stage must be “completed” before the next stage can begin, many now see coming out as an interactive experience which is connected to the environmental/cultural context.

Most theories of coming out include four important aspects:

An initial awareness of being different, or non-heterosexual;

Labeling oneself as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender; Becoming connected and self-disclosing with other GLBT persons;

Integrating a GLBT identity into their overall self-concept.

These are only guidelines for how some researchers have tried to describe the awareness, acceptance and integration of a non-heterosexual identity. Obviously,
the path is different for each person and there are many small stages within each larger stage. If you are in this process, be patient with yourself. It is an ongoing and deepening experience — one which never completely ends.

Micky O’Leary, Ph.D. is a member of the Georgia Psychological Association’s Division H, Sexual Orientation Issues. She has helped scores of men and women with their concerns about coming out.

The Coming Out Process

Claiming Your True Self

“Coming Out” is an expression that can take several different meanings, depending on the context. At a most fundamental level, it signifies the act of becoming public or known. In some cases, it can mean announcing an unpopular or risky position. (Imagine presenting yourself as a pacifist in a family with several generations of military service — or telling your steak-loving partner that you have become vegan.)

For most people, however, the term “coming out” refers to “coming out of the closet,” i.e., revealing a sexual orientation that is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or  somewhere outside the category of heterosexual or straight. In this case, it involves both becoming known, and an often unpopular or risky position.

No “Right” Way

Coming out is also a process that can take many different forms. There is no “right” time or place, no “right” way. It usually begins when an individual recognizes their attraction to someone of the same sex, or becomes aware of a gender identity that  differs from their own biological sex. It is sometimes linked to a person’s first sexual experience with another person of the same gender. It can also be the occasion of verbalizing same sex attraction to another person.

Awareness can come in childhood – some people say that feeling “different” is one of their first memories or self-recognitions – or any time after that. Many men and women do not recognize and/or claim their sexual orientation or sexual identity until much later – sometimes in the 40s, 50s or beyond.

One reason for the variation in age may stem from the person’s cultural context. Growing up in a family or environment where GLBT persons are accepted, even embraced, can make it much easier to recognize and claim one’s own difference. Conversely, growing up in a climate where GLBT persons are seen as abnormal, or even immoral, can make the process much more difficult and/or protracted.

Coming out typically begins internally, with the individual recognizing and/or admitting to themselves that their sexual orientation or identity differs from the majority. This awareness may occur when the person becomes attracted to another person of the same sex or gender, meets someone who is openly GLBT or “out,” or identifies with a GLBT role model.

These feelings may remain unverbalized, and sometimes disowned, for an indefinite period of time. In fact, many people may never fully acknowledge this part of themselves. However, most GLBT persons eventually disclose their feelings to another
person, often in the context of a same sex relationship with that person.

An Act of Self-Affirmation

Choosing to come out is undoubtedly one of the most important and self-affirming decisions that any gay man, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person can make.

The decision usually occurs when the pain/discomfort of concealing one’s true self outweighs the pain of potential rejection that coming out can bring.

Making the decision to come out is best accomplished with support. As you begin to tell family, friends, or others who are unaware of your sexual orientation or identity, it is important to have people in your life who can encourage, reassure, validate and listen. If you are coming out to family members, you may choose to first tell the family member whom you believe will be the most supportive and accepting.

It is also important to know that when you come out to others, reactions may vary widely. People you thought may be the most understanding may, in fact, be the most judgmental. Conversely, some of those you assume will react negatively, may instead be supportive. Family members, especially parents, often react negatively at first but eventually grow to accept their son or daughter’s coming out. In other words, do your best to minimize expectations and focus on your own reasons for coming out.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation ( www.hrc.org ) is sponsoring the 18 th  annual National Coming Out Day on October 11. This year’s theme, “Talk about it,” reminds us that equal rights for GLBT persons will come only if we (both the GLBT community and its straight allies) are open and honest about whom we are.

An Ongoing Process

Coming out is not a one time decision or action. Because we live in a culture that assumes heterosexuality for its members, coming out occurs many times over a lifespan. It is best viewed as a process. An individual is neither “in” nor “out” of the
closet, but is constantly moving from situation to situation, each of which can call for a decision regarding passage through the closet door. We may consider ourselves “out” when our friends know. Or we may consider the act of telling our family as our true coming out. Regardless, we are usually faced with the decision to tell or not to tell in almost every new life situation.

For instance, our family and friends may know of our sexual orientation or identity, but each time we change jobs, join a club, move to a new neighborhood or introduce ourselves to a new service professional (physician, accountant, attorney, etc.), we
have the choice to disclose our sexual orientation or to “pass.”

Each of these situations requires a (frequently split-second) decision. Do you tell the sales clerk that the person standing next to you is your partner, or girlfriend, or lover? Or do you keep quiet when the clerk refers to her as your “friend”? Do you inquire whether the job for which you are interviewing has “domestic partner benefits” or do you just ask nothing and hope for the best? Or what about when your well-intentioned mother asks, “Son, have you met any nice girls yet?” Do you say,
“I’m still looking for the right girl, Mom,” or, “No, but I have met the man of my dreams”?

There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to these questions. In fact, the level of homophobia in certain parts of our community and our world makes coming out
dangerous in some situations. For instance, coming out in the military can result in harassment and/or discharge. Furthermore, there is no federal law that protects against discrimination in the workplace. Some employers and governmental bodies have laws or policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. The majority do not. It is important to be aware of laws, policies, and the workplace atmosphere before making a decision that could impact your livelihood.

However, there are many situations in which the GLBT community can speak up. Often, these opportunities are as simple as coming out to a health care provider.
The HRC reports that although many GLBT persons consider themselves “out,” they often refrain from speaking to others about GLBT issues. In fact, in an HRC poll, only three percent of those responding had come out to their doctors.

There are also many coming out opportunities for supportive members of the straight community. Speaking or writing to legislators for equal rights legislation is one way. Another is speaking out against anti-gay jokes or slurs. Joining a gay-straight alliance is yet another way.

If you are contemplating coming out, or wondering how to support your GLBT family and friends in their own process, Charis Books ( www.charisbooksandmore.com ) carries a number of books related to this issue. PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) – www.pflag.org — is a wonderful organization that works to help support and advocate for GLBT persons and their families/friends.

Micky O’Leary, Ph.D. is a member of the Georgia Psychological Association’s Division H, Sexual Orientation Issues. She has helped scores of men and women with their concerns about coming out.

Can We Talk?

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Claire's Articles,Relationships & Intimacy — karunacounseling @ 11:46 pm

A Primer on Effective Communication

by Claire Scott, PhD

Hopefully by now you’ve memorized my earlier article on communication. That article covered the basics of listening and speaking and can be found in the article archives on this website if you missed it.

Before presenting additional information on communication, it bears repeating that LISTENING remains the key to good communication. Good listening skills create an open, respectful atmosphere between people. Attentive listening conveys acceptance, caring, and an effort to understand another’s perspective and feelings.

This article will provide additional information on other aspects of communication, specifically (1) developing a climate for good communication, (2) intent vs. impact problems, and (3) no-lose problem solving.


Take a look at the following model about the impact of various behaviors on communication. This information can help you select the ways you want to behave in order to create the kind of climate you want.

These kinds of behaviors:

Produce this kind of climate:

Which results in these kinds of feelings and responses:








Guilt Inducing

Name calling


















Showing interest

Good eye contact










Pretended compliance














Closing down



Emotional intimacy



Open sharing







Willingness to engage

It seems, given the above, that it should be relatively easy to produce a climate of acceptance and open communication. And yet, the reason most often cited for coming to therapy is problems in interpersonal relationships. And communication is the medium by which most problems in interpersonal relationships are created, and hopefully, solved.

It is important to remember that is it inevitable that any two people will have differences in their needs, wants, values, moods, priorities, and preferences. If you’ve ever lived or worked with others, you know how hard it can be just to arrive at a thermostat setting that suits everyone.


So what can one do to cut down on the amount of strife that is often generated when people clash over those differences? One important caveat is to remember that the INTENT you have when you say something can be very different from the IMPACT it has on the receiver of the message. Why is this so? All of us have an internal communication mechanism that works like a filter. Through this filter all messages must pass, whether we are sending or receiving the message. This filter is comprised of our background, our values, our beliefs, our sense of self-esteem, how it was done in our family, our hopes, etc., etc.

If you sense a message you sent was misunderstood, stop and check it out with the other person. If, for example, the other got hurt by something you said, when that was not what you intended, don’t assume he or she is just being difficult. Stop the process and ask: “It seems like what I just said hurt you, and I really didn’t mean to hurt you. What did you hear in what I said?” Slowing down the communication process, and taking time for clarification helps to open the channels of communication. Learning about your own and another person’s filters will help you to understand each other at a deeper level.

The next section is devoted to a problem-solving model that also might be helpful.


The most common approach to handling conflict is a power struggle in which each person feels he or she must WIN the argument. Each person strives to prove his or her point and convince the other that “I am right about this and you should see it my way.” In such a strategy, someone must be the “loser” of the argument – if one is right, then the other must be wrong. And since no one likes to be wrong or lose, each person tends to argue louder and harder, which only serves to escalate an argument into a fight. No one really wins in this kind of fight, because if you win and leave your partner feeling like the loser, what have you really gained? As the old saying goes, you may win the battle, but chances are you will lose the war.

There is another way! In “no-lose” problem solving (also called “win-win” problem solving), the underlying principle is that each person’s needs, wants, perspective, and opinion, etc., are equally valid. In a mutually respectful relationship, the goal is to resolve differences in a way that leaves each person feeling valued, satisfied, and a “winner”.

There are two main commitments that must be made to accomplish ”no-lose” problem solving:

(a) Both parties agree to participate together in a search for a solution acceptable to both, and

(b) Both parties agree to stay in the problem-solving process until the matter is resolved, regardless of how long it may take (no getting angry and leaving in a huff — if a break seems appropriate, set up another specific time to continue).

Once those two assumptions are met, the method is as follows:

Make sure you have a clear definition of the problem, to which both parties agree. Try to make the problem statement as concrete and specific and non-blaming as possible. E.g., as opposed to ‘the problem is you never help out with household chores’, use language like ‘the problem is getting these specific household chores done.’

Generate possible solutions. Brainstorm about possibilities that might solve the problem — even ones that seem a little crazy!No evaluating or ruling out options allowed at this point. You may want to make a list of these options.

Once brainstorming is over, then evaluate the possible solutions that were generated. Important: Each person involved can rule out any option just by saying “that option doesn’t work for me.” He or she doesn’t have to give a “good-enough” reason or explain why it won’t work – they need only say it won’t work and that option gets crossed off the list. (If all options are ruled out, start over — generate more options, or possibly redefine the problem.)

Pick one of the remaining options that you can both agree to try for a while.

Set a time for a follow-up evaluation to see how the solution is working. If it is not working well, you can go through the process again and try something else.

Implement the option you have selected.

Obviously this approach is not a cure-all, but it can go a long way toward helping relationships get on a good track.

One last closing comment: Good communication is a skill. Any skill takes practice. You will probably feel awkward and stilted while you are getting used to it. But good communication is a skill very much worth working toward, one that pays huge dividends in terms of the quality of your relationships.

August 20, 2006


by Molly Keaton, PhD

What is a boundary?
All life forms have boundaries and each part of our bodies has physical limits, from the skin to the membranes covering nerves and muscles. When our physical boundaries are invaded (when we are cut or scratched) we are vulnerable to infection. Therefore, our physical boundaries promote health and safety. My physical boundaries are defined by how close I let people get to me. My emotional boundaries are defined by how I allow others to interact with me – whether I tolerate abuse and hostility or whether I demand respect.

To learn more about your boundaries, think about the amount of personal space that you prefer. You can probably recall the creepy feeling that arises when someone (especially someone you don’t know well) invades your comfort zone. Also, notice that this zone is very different with strangers than with acquaintances. We allow those that we love and trust to get much closer, but still there is a difference in what is acceptable for a friend vs. a lover. This illustrates an important point about boundaries – they are flowing and adaptable. It is our right to choose where to set the boundary of how close another can get to us physically or emotionally. This limit will change not only based on the relationship but also based on the situation. For example, in a relationship, there are times when partners feel like being sexual and times where they do not. Just because you are sometimes physically intimate with a partner does not mean that you owe this to your partner at all times. It is your right to set boundaries, to change your mind about those boundaries, and to have those decisions respected.

Where do boundaries come from? Why do I need them?
Boundaries define who we are and how we are connected and separate from others. Boundaries give us a sense of order and control over our lives. Healthy boundaries are empowering in that they set limits on what we will and will not tolerate from others. They allow us to bounce back from situations in which our limits are violated through awareness of our own needs and how to defend those needs. Empowerment comes not only from knowing how to protect ourselves but also from knowing that we will protect ourselves.

Boundaries develop throughout the course of our lives, beginning with our earliest interactions with the world. Our caretakers can promote healthy boundaries through encouraging individuation, which is the process of developing a clear identity that is separate from the identity of the caretaker. Conversely, a caretaker can also encourage non-existent or unhealthy boundaries. Unhealthy boundaries come in a variety of forms – boundaries can be set both too close, resulting in enmeshed boundaries. Enmeshment occurs when our uniqueness and individuality are not respected. Enmeshed families demand that all members exist for one another and sacrifice themselves in the interest of sharing the same beliefs, values, and opinions. However, boundaries can also be set too far away, resulting in little connection with the outside world. In order to determine where are boundaries are, we have to get close enough to others to feel their presence. We learn about our limits by testing them.

Childhood experiences, most significantly from caregivers, teach us where our boundaries lie and how to treat those boundaries. Enmeshed families promote the idea that boundaries do not exist and that to develop personal boundaries is to betray the family. Distant families teach their children that they are alone, isolated beings with nothing to lean on for support in this huge world. While we learn about our boundaries from our caretakers, we educate others about our boundaries through the way that we allow ourselves to be treated.

Healthy emotional boundaries lead to greater emotional health. Boundaries allow us to take care of ourselves and to defend our own beliefs, values, and needs. Boundaries allow us to say “No” to others and to act in our own best interest. Boundaries allow us to give to others without sacrificing too much of ourselves. Boundaries are highly individualized – they can be firm or flexible, close, or distant. They also vary by country and culture. Good boundaries necessitate attention and maintenance.

How do you know where your boundaries are?
When our physical boundary is violated our emotional boundaries are also transgressed. Our physical and emotional boundaries work like a system of checks and balances. Without each, we are vulnerable to violations. Our responses and emotions provide feedback about our comfort in a situation. This feedback allows us to take an inventory and as a result, to gain greater self-understanding. The combination of feedback and self-awareness facilitates boundary development. If we receive feedback but do not listen or respond to it, we are violating our own boundaries. If we do not react to our emotions, we send the message to ourselves that our feelings and gut responses are not important or reliable. In doing this, we risk losing our best tool for judgment by disconnecting from our feelings and relying on others to define our limits.

Boundaries promote connection.
Not only do good boundaries limit harm, they also increase intimacy. The ideal relationship (be it romantic or friendly) promotes a strong sense of “us” while allowing each partner to be distinct enough to maintain her/his own identity. Healthy romantic relationships involve a commitment where two people choose to make a life together. This choice is not based on dependence or enmeshment – both partners could survive without the other. While enmeshment or infatuation may resemble intimacy, they are not. Enmeshment occurs when there is no boundary or individual identity in place. Enmeshment is loving the idea or image of another rather than that other’s true self. Intimacy occurs when two people know each other deeply, accepting both strengths and limitations. Intimacy means being able to accept that your partner is distinct and has her/his own ideas, values, beliefs, and goals. Intimacy comes from having faith that you are known, accepted, and valued for who you truly are.

In sum, the goal is “to form boundaries that have some flexibility and some definite limits, boundaries that move appropriately in response to situations – out for strangers, in for intimates. Boundaries should be distinct enough to preserve our individuality yet open enough to admit new ideas and perspectives. They should be firm enough to keep our values and priorities clear, open enough to communicate our priorities to the right people, yet closed enough to withstand assault from the thoughtless and the mean” (Katherine, 1991, p. 81).

The information in this article came from a book entitled Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin (Anne Katherine, 1991).

Personality Drive Pointers through Exploring the Enneagram – Part 2

by Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW, MAT

Note: This is the second of a series of articles on the Enneagram. I recommend you read my first article on this subject in order to get the most out of this one.

What was your initial response to the note at the beginning of the article (recommending you read the first article before proceeding)? Chances are that your initial reaction and then action is probably indicative of your personality drive:

  • 1’s would be sure to follow the note exactly in order to “do the right thing”;
  • 2’s would do so to “give” the writer what they asked for in order to “help them out”;
  • 3’s would either read the first one to be able to feel they “got it all done” or just jump into this one to “check it off their to do list”; >
  • 4’s would follow the recommendation in order to give themselves the best chance of finding what they are looking for in their individuality/uniqueness;
  • 5’s would read it because they wouldn’t want to miss out on any knowledge source;
  • 6’s would read it in fear that they wouldn’t be able to safely proceed and, besides, they’d want to feel a part of group;
  • 7’s (if they even read the introductory note) would not read the first article—opting for the adventure of just jumping in;
  • 8’s would just read this article believing that they can rely on themselves to get what they need out of this one;
  • and 9’s would probably elect to start here as well because they wouldn’t think it really mattered if they got it anyway.

If you know your drive but had a different response than I predicted, it may be because you have already developed the ability to not allow your drive to drive you! Congratulations! But remember, I asked about the initial response. Even when we get to a place of consciousness, it usually means that we have learned to be aware of our knee-jerk reactions, acknowledge them and weigh their impact, and choose from there—sometimes to follow them, sometimes to stretch and try something “against our nature.”

And that’s the real benefit of discovering your drive—becoming aware of the “defaults” in your way of being and giving yourself the opportunity to CHOOSE your response in certain situations or to create a “custom” response that usually involves some motivation, momentum, and decision-making.

So What Do I Do Once I Discover My Drive?

Discovering one’s personality drive can be a fun and enlightening process. It can help us with our understanding of who we are and what has been the unconscious motivation of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. The discovery of your Enneagram drive is only the first step, though, as I mentioned in my first article on this subject.

After delving into a deeper understanding of yourself as mentioned in the first article, one of the most powerful aspects of the Enneagram is to find out where you are in the Levels of Development. From there you can begin elevating using your Path of Integration. First, let’s talk about Levels of Development and then discuss how to move to higher levels of development once you discover your current level.

Levels of Development

Just as with physical health and development, your psychological/spiritual health and development can fluxuate throughout your life for many reasons. As you live and grow and change, you may experience periods of good health, average health, and poor health. Each personality drive has nine levels of development ranging from healthy to unhealthy. At any given time in our lives (and at any given time during a single day for that matter), we are at a certain place of psycho-spiritual health and level of development along this spectrum.

The following is the spectrum of these levels of development and their descriptors. Notice that when people move between healthy and average levels, a “wake up call” experience is usually a part of it. And, in less healthy times—moving between average and unhealthy levels—it typically takes a “red flag” in that person’s life to alert them that serious change and help is needed. Oftentimes, it is at these “wake up call” and “red flag” transitions that people seek help—including seeking help from a psychotherapist.


  • Level of Liberation
  • Level of Psychological Capacity
  • Level of Social Value



  • Level of Imbalance/Social Role
  • Level of Interpersonal Control
  • Level of Overcompensation



  • Level of Violation
  • Level of Obsession and Compulsion
  • Level of Pathological Destructiveness

Each drive has distinct experiences, thoughts, feelings, and actions for each of these levels. For example, a level 5 for the 3 Achiever type will be different from a level 5 for a 7 Enthusiast type, even though they both involve Interpersonal Control themes. Reading through the levels of development for your drive will provide an important additional layer of insight into where you are now, where you’ve been at different times in your life, and—most importantly—where you’d like to be or your potential. Looking at the healthy levels can be very inspiring and directive to people, giving them hope for better living and a clear goal to have in mind in their efforts to do so.

So, how to get to the higher/healthier levels? The road is different for each drive and it’s called the Path of Integration, Path of Elevation, or the Response to Challenge.

Elevating To Healthier Levels Of Living

Moving up in the levels of development is the goal and purpose of discovering your drive in the first place. Each drive has a path of Integration (toward healthy) and a path of disintegration (toward unhealthy). The keys to how to move toward health lie in your drive’s Path of Integration. If you look at the Enneagram geometric figure, you will notice that in addition to being connected to other drives by being on a circle, each drive “point” has two straight lines that connect it to two different drives (either as part of the triangle 3-6-9 or as part of the hexad (1-7-5-8-2-4). These two lines indicate the different paths.

For example: if a 1 wants to get healthier, they need to focus on the healthy aspects of a 7 in order to be lifted out of their perfectionism and move toward health. When Perfectionist 1’s shift their attention to the fun/adventure/enthusiasm (7 drive qualities) of a given project/person/event instead of how it’s not quite right, their enjoyment of life increases and the way which they interact with and experience themselves and others moves up in the levels of development.
The following are the Paths of Integration for each drive:

1 to 7: Be Right focuses on Having Fun

2 to 4: Be Loved focuses on Being Special

3 to 6: Achiever focuses on Being Safe, and Loyal to Others

4 to 1: Be Special focuses on Drive 1: Reformer/Be Right/Perfectionist

5 to 8: Thinker focuses on Self-Reliance and Rising to Challenges

6 to 9: Safety-Security focuses on Being at Peace

7 to 5: Have Fun focuses on Investigating and Thinking

8 to 2: Self-Reliant focuses on Being Loved and Loving

9 to 3: Peacemaker focuses on Achieving and Doing

Integrating by focusing on and moving toward another drive is not becoming that drive or changing your drive. Your drive does not change throughout your life. However, reaching toward the healthy aspects of the drive that is your own on your path of integration while still being rooted in the trueness of your drive creates a powerful positive synergy that can catapult you to living a healthier, happier life.


There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com) and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Daniels & Price’s The Essential Enneagram, and Concept Synergy’s Harnessing Your Personality Drive Through Exploring the Enneagram

Personality Drive Pointers through Exploring the Enneagram – Part 1

by Metta Sweet Johnson, LMSW, MAT

You may have heard a lot of talk lately about personality type tests and how they’re used to help people with career choices, relationship issues, and personal growth. They’re also used by businesses to screen candidates for positions and contribute to team building and organizational health. One that has received increased attention in recent years, including at Karuna, is the Enneagram.


Enneagram simply means “nine pointed figure”: ennea> = “nine” in Latin, and gram = geometric figure. This figure/symbol is ancient in origin and its exact birth date is debated among scholars (some dating it to 500BC). The Enneagram is the matrix upon which the nine basic personality drives in human nature flow. These nine core drives are also influenced by subtypes and variations. In addition, these drives are interrelated as shown by the three shapes that make up the Enneagram: the circle (oneness/divinity), triangle (trinity/tree of life), and hexad (law of seven/evolution). The 4th century A.D. introduced personality types and the Enneagram symbol and personality types came together under Gurdjeff’s 1875 work, thus, combining ancient wisdom with modern insights as well as bringing eastern and western philosophies together.

Know Your Type, Know Yourself–Not Exactly!

Well, not exactly. Knowing your drive can help you know what drives you—your core Self is more than that. This is key: You are not your personality drive. Your personality drive is simply a force that drives you (your thoughts, feelings, and ways of relating to yourself and others) if left unnoticed and unattended. You can discover it, though, and by discovering it, harness its power and get into the driver’s seat of your life instead of it driving you. Not to get out of “the car” entirely, but to harness the power of that moving vehicle (your drive) to go in directions you want to go in life instead of just being “along for the ride.”

Every person is a unique, complex being with reactions and responses that are impacted by many forces both internal and external. It may seem strange, then, that I would find such interest in a personality typing tool that, to some, can be used to place people in confined boxes or “types.” Instead of viewing the Enneagram as a static grid for typing and labeling people, though, I view it as a living matrix of energy that flows through human consciousness. Each person is born with a strong connection and certain rapport with one specific part of this living matrix—their personality drive.

Discovering your drive can provide awareness and insight into the following:

External behaviors

Underlying attitudes

Sense of self

Conscious and unconscious motivations

Emotional reactions

Defense mechanisms

Object relations

What we pay attention to

Spiritual potential

Before Getting Started, Keep in Mind

Aside from remembering that your drive is not who you are—it is what drives your personality (Drive vs. Type), consider the following as well:

You are born with a drive and keep it throughout your life

No drive is better than another (all have healthy, average, & unhealthy “Levels of Development”)

Take time to discover your drive (only YOU can know)

Don’t use your drive as an excuse

Don’t type others

You have aspects of all types in you to some degree

This is a test…This is only a test…

Sorting Tests are a popular and effective way to narrow down the drives to a few that may be more likely than the others. Don’t take these tests as the determining truth, though. Treat them as, say, taste tests—for only YOU can know your drive! You—yes you—are your own authority (being honest with yourself is pivotal to the reliability and validity of that authorship, however!). After taking a test, study more about that drive, checking in with yourself and your authentic experiences as you do so. There are many online resources and printed materials about the Enneagram (referenced at the bottom of this article).

The Drives and Their Descriptors

The following are each of the drives and some of the names associated with each. For further descriptions as well as basic fears and desires, visit http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/descript.asp:

Drive 1: Reformer/Be Right/Perfectionist

Drive 2: Helper/Giver/Be Loved

Drive 3: Achiever/Performer

Drive 4: Individualist/Be Special

Drive 5: Investigator/Thinker

Drive 6: Loyalist/Safety-Security

Drive 7: Enthusiast/Adventurer/Have Fun

Drive 8: Challenger/Self-Reliant

Drive 9: Peacemaker/Mediator

Discovering your Drive: A Beginning, not an End

It’s only the beginning! Sadly, many stop at this point, though, satisfied at simply finding a type or label to simply explain or justify much of how they are in the world. This short cut, though, cuts them off. Cuts them off from the movement and growth and healing that can happen when one deeply works to not only discover but to harness and direct the powerful energy of their drive toward “integration” and more healthy living and relating. This is a misuse of this valuable, living, matrix that invites us to look deeply into the mystery of our true identity.

Since our perceptions are often what’s reality to us and since our personality drive plays a key role in determining those perceptions, discovering one’s drive is an invaluable tool for changing one’s reality —that is, changing one’s life. And that’s why people come to therapy in the first place: to change something about their life through healing and growth. Therapy’s purpose of providing a space and relationship for healing and growth, therefore, provides a powerful setting to work with the Ennegram.

Because I don’t believe that any healing or growth path—including psychotherapy—is “one size fits all,” awareness of a client’s personality drive is helpful to both client and therapist. Some clients choose to use the Enneagram as integral to their work and others don’t. I simply introduce it in the initial sessions and ask clients to take a short sorting test and work with me briefly to discover which drive seems to “fit” with their experience of themselves. I use this in work with individuals and couples and also lead a weekly group called Beside Our Selves.


There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com) and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Daniels & Price’s The Essential Enneagram, and Concept Synergy’s Harnessing Your Personality Drive Through Exploring the Enneagram.

May 27, 2006

Write From The Heart

Dr. Micky O’Leary

The Christmas that I was 10 years old, I received my first diary. It was white leather, with gold lettering and its very own lock and key. I remember looking at its lined pages, one for each day of the coming year, with a combination of excitement and dread. I was excited at the possibilities that could fill it. And I dreaded the work involved.


For me, the “work” was a painstaking record of each day, carefully reported in my best penmanship and spelling. I was careful to detail the most mundane aspects of my life: my school assignments and grades; visits from friends and family members; TV shows and books that interested me; the clothes I wore to school.  As I look back on it, it isn’t surprising that I found the whole experience a little tedious.


So, when my uncle the practical joker came to visit, found my diary and read it aloud to my mother, I felt strongly justified in giving up on that project and finding a better and less revealing hobby, like stamp collecting.



A Different Experience


It was some time later before I again tried my hand at personal reflection on paper. I was in graduate school and several of my instructors required some form of journal keeping as a class assignment. I can remember the resistance I initially felt to sharing my thoughts with another person. I wasn’t sure I could be completely honest when I knew my instructor was evaluating me. However, this time the experience was different in a very significant way: I was to share my feelings about the things that happened.


After a few awkward attempts at saying the “right” thing, I started to give myself permission to say what I really thought and felt about the topic at hand. I found myself writing things in my journal that I never would have said out loud. Later, as I handed in my completed journals, I reviewed them and felt surprised at the depth of my experiences. Until I took the time to record them, I really didn’t know their impact on me.


It has been many years and many journals since then. While I don’t journal every day (and I admire those who do), I often find times in my life when journaling is particularly useful. Two of those times have occurred during major losses in my life. In the first, I kept a dream journal. After some months of recording what seemed to be dream after disturbing dream, the images began to show a pattern that helped me understand what this loss meant to me. Even now, when I review some of those dreams, I am startled by the clarity that my unconscious was trying to bring to my life. Another time I kept a journal of letters to a person in my life that had died. Those letters helped me express and move through some significant grief.  


Journaling in Psychotherapy


Not surprisingly, I often suggest journaling to clients. I have found it to be a particularly effective way of acquiring self-awareness and knowledge. Since I recognize my own initial resistance to writing, I am prepared for the many reasons that people have for not journaling, e.g., not enough time, not being “good” at writing, afraid of someone reading what they write, believing that if they think things through it is just as effective as writing about them. What I have found is that those who do overcome their reluctance to journaling often find that it is an incredibly helpful tool in their own growth and healing.


When journaling is most effective, it brings together a number of different elements. Tristine Rainer, in her book, The New Diary, writes about the process of beginning a diary: “Write fast, write everything, include everything, write from your feelings, write from your body, accept whatever comes. It doesn’t matter whether you have kept a diary in any form before. If you keep one long enough, all the important memories of the past will find their way into the story when it is appropriate for them to do so. You simply begin your diary now, in the middle of the ongoing action of your life.”


Natalie Goldberg, whose books include Writing Down the Bones and The Essential Writer’s Notebook, advises her students to begin their journaling by setting a timer and writing for period of time without stopping, without ever taking their hand from the paper. The idea is to allow what is inside to find its expression without interference from our “internal censor” or “internal critic.” (Our internal censor is that voice inside of us who likes to say things like, “Oh, I shouldn’t say that, it’s not ‘nice’” or “If my friend knew that’s what I really think about her she would never speak to me again.” Our internal critic tells us things like, “Oh, that’s not very interesting or original” or “Gee, I sound really ‘whiny’ here” or “I never was very good at this sort of thing.”) 



Forms of Creative Expression


There are many ways to journal or record feelings and experiences. Writing is the form most often used. However, there are other creative ways to access our internal processes. One way is to keep a journal of drawings – noting the themes, colors, feelings evoked. Creating personal mandalas is another way to access our inner life. Some individuals have made collages of different materials as a way to express themselves. Another way to keep a journal or record could involve creating lists such as the things that scare us, the people we love, the choices that we are making in our lives, the times and the places in which we contact our inner strength.


There is no end to the ways in which we can use our creativity to bring us more in touch with our soul’s journey. Keeping a journal can give us a place to release strong feelings and tensions. It can provide us with a powerful adjunct to psychotherapy, increasing self-awareness and self-knowledge. It can help identify patterns and themes in our lives and allow us to live more consciously and intentionally. It can help us be more intimate with ourselves and with others. These are only a few of the ways that journaling and other forms of creativity can enrich our life.


As this year draws to a close and a new one is about to begin, journaling is an especially appropriate way to reflect on the lessons and gifts we have been given, as well as the struggles we have experienced. By taking the time for this reflection, we will be able to greet the New Year with a more intentional and focused approach to our lives.




Journaling books recommended:


The New Diary by Tristine Rainer

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

The Essential Writer’s Notebook by Natalie Goldberg


May 10, 2006

Stress and Relaxation: Common Stress Triggers

Filed under: 2007 and earlier — karunacounseling @ 4:37 pm
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Dr. Andrew Weil

Stress can be linked to both external and internal factors, though it is the internal – or the way we react to external situations – that actually causes stress. If you experience stress, consider the following – each can increase or prolong stress. Try eliminating one at a time for a period of time to see how the change affects your stress levels.

  • Caffeine and other stimulant drugs.

These activate the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares us for emergencies, for "flight or fight" responses. Often these make us more jumpy, anxious and fearful, and interfere with relaxation, rest and sleep. Caffeine is in more than just coffee and colas – it is an ingredient of many over-the-counter and prescription drugs. If you want to lower your level of internal stress and develop your ability to relax and let go of external annoyances, a good place to begin is to eliminate caffeine and its relatives from your life. Because of their action on the sympathetic nervous system, all stimulants, whether natural or synthetic, or in the form of teas or pills, are obstacles to relaxation.

  • Sound.

With a profound influence on the nervous system, it is no surprise that some kinds of sound increase our level of arousal and make us tense and anxious. Music has special power to affect consciousness – it is easy to listen unconsciously to sounds that directly and powerfully push the nervous system away from calmness and centeredness. In a way, choosing which sounds to let into your consciousness and which to exclude is like making choices about your mental nutrition. If you want to be excited, stimulated, sexually aroused or prepared for physical violence, by all means listen to the readily available sounds that move you toward those states. If you want to relax and dissipate the tension resulting from external stress, do not make it harder for yourself by receiving those influences.

  • News.

News reports can also profoundly affect your mental state. They can increase anxiety, give you new possibilities for worry and play on your desire for emotional stimulation. Notice the effect that news has on your mental equilibrium. Like caffeine addiction, news addiction is a major roadblock to learning to relax. Experiment with breaking the news habit, then use your power of choice to tune into news selectively and consciously.

  • Agitated minds.

Others who are agitated will affect your level of agitation. A kind of resonance takes place in the realm of consciousness. If you are in the presence of calm, centered persons, your internal tension diminishes and you let go of some of your stress without making any effort to do so. If you are in the presence of people who are excited, angry or anxious, you will naturally move toward those states. Pay attention to your internal responses to the people you associate with. As much as possible, avoid the company of agitated minds.

For more information from Dr. Weil, visit


Copyright © 2006 Weil Lifestyle, LLC

March 9, 2006

A Guide to Mindful Living: Part III

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Mind-body-spirit Integration — karunacounseling @ 5:35 pm
Tags: ,

by Andrea Schrage, MA, LPC, CMT

This section will be dedicated to an ongoing look at simple ways to incorporate mindfulness in your everyday life. Over the course of several newsletters you will have a set of tools to pull out to create a healthier environment within you. One way to facilitate use of the exercises will be to focus on one for the next 2 months and really become fluent in it. Then you can move on in the succession of exercises that can build on each other.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness in simplified terms is learning to be present in the current moment. Why would one want to do this? The list of benefits is very long but here are a few:

  • Decreasing Anxiety
  • Ability to make conscious choices
  • Helps to reduce addictive patterns
  • Changes your relationship with negative thoughts
  • Allows you tune into answers from within
  • Increases your sense of peace in the world

If you missed the first exercise on Mindful Eating, please feel free to go back and look at
our article on A Guide To Mindful Living

Exercise Three:

Mindful Listening

Benefits may include:

  • Becoming more conscious of your senses.
  • Feeling more connected to what is around you.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Increased ability to stay in the present moment.
  • Stillness and peace.

Suggested Use:

  • Upon waking or before sleeping.
  • During a stressful time.
  • Short breaks during the day

“I can’t meditate!”

Many people get frustrated at meditating because they think that they are only succeeding when they are in complete silence and feeling peace. That assumption is the opposite of mindfulness because it is trying to force a result verses relaxing into what is. We have a constant barrage of voices in our heads that are always judging the world and ourselves. They are usually being critical and can keep us in a state of worry.

In the beginning it is your job to keep moving from these voices back to your focus. The more you practice this, the longer the stretches will be between your focus and the voices. What you will find in that space will very from day-to-day; some days it will be still and peaceful and some days it will be sadness or anger. Whatever is there is exactly what is supposed to be there, so just notice it. Every time you find yourself in the thoughts, be thankful that you realized it and come back to your focus. We are constantly following the voices in our heads, so every time you even notice yourself in them, you are growing.

Basic Instruction for Mindful Listening

Part One:

  • Began by sitting in an upright position with your feet on the ground and your spine straight.
  • Take 2-3 breathes and relax into your body as best as you can.
  • Bring your attention the sounds around you.
  • Open your ears and keep a focused attention on what you hear. You may notice stillness, ringing, traffic, the sounds of your house, air blowing, people talking etc. judgement.
  • Open up to the most subtle of sounds and notice them without judging them. Let go of your assumptions about what is a pleasant sound and what might be irritating and listen to them as if it is the first time.
  • When your mind wanders to thoughts, gently bring it back to listening.

That is it!

You may also want to try this while listening to people when they are talking to you. Really focus on what they are saying without your mind working on an instant reply. Notice what happens in your relationships when you really listen.

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