Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

November 26, 2012

The Already and the Not Yet: The Paradox of Acceptance and Change

by Elizabeth Eiland, LMSW

 

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice
how we are already found,
already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.

~Anne Lamott

 

Like many of us, I have been known to read Oprah Magazine.  Probably like many of us, I might read an article or two in a doctor’s office waiting room, and promptly forget the article’s contents as soon as I put down the magazine. When I first read this particular passage by author Anne Lamott, however, I got to thinking about the paradox she presents.  For long after my time at the waiting room, I asked myself: How is it that we find ourselves only when we start to notice that we are already found? How is it that we are, at the same time, already exactly where we are meant to be and yet still evolving? How is it that change happens when we accept that we are already—perfectly—who we are, and yet also on our way towards becoming someone new?

My own response to these questions echoes Anne Lamott’s: accepting ourselves as who we already are allows us permission to access who we are not yet but still hope to become. It is precisely when we accept where we already are that change can occur. For me, this is a critical piece of the therapy process.

Many of us might come to therapy hoping to become someone different, looking to shed a familiar burden of pain, or seeking to become free from a place we’ve been stuck for so long.  Perhaps the place that we are starting from is the absolute last fact about ourselves that we would ever want to accept; perhaps the reason we come to therapy is the thing about ourselves that we most wish we could push away.

Paradoxically, it is precisely in the midst of this desolation where the seeds of change lay already planted.  Spiritual teacher Anthony DeMello shares a personal example of his desired changes coming into fruition though acceptance:

I was neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change. I resented them and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Then one day someone said to me, Don’t change. I love you just as you are. Those words were music to my ears: Don’t change, Don’t change. Don’t change. . .I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly, I changed!

However profound his transformation, it is my guess that DeMello’s experience of acceptance and change wasn’t as sudden as his story might suggest. For most of us, this process might be messy, scary, long, uncomfortable, or even (temporarily) painful. But the promise of change makes this journey possible.  We have to bravely face the already in order to get to the not yet!

The First Step

Contrary to this cartoon from The New Yorker, the first step is not to change who you are, but to notice who you already are.  This cartoon pokes fun at the idea that somehow we must change who we are at our core in order to better ourselves; rather, our core selves already offer the capacity for healing and growth.  If we desire transformation, change paradoxically happens when we notice who we already are, and, as monastic nun Macrina Wiederkehr said, “accept the truth about ourselves – no matter how beautiful it is!”

Mental health professionals and spiritual leaders alike suggest the tool of mindfulness as the first step towards acceptance.

One example of a therapeutic modality that asserts this paradox between acceptance and change, and responds with mindfulness, is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  DBT begins with the assumption that two seemingly opposite things can both be true (in fact, this is the root of the word dialectic).  DBT’s central dialectic, then, is that people can both desire acceptance as they are and, at the same time, desire change.  Anne Lamott, Anthony DeMello, and many of us might find DBT’s basic assumptions to be familiar.

Some snapshots from my practice might further illustrate this paradox.  The 60-year old man, recently diagnosed with Early Stage Alzheimer’s disease, learns how to live with his memory loss by making changes to his daily routine. Accepting his disease allowed him to make the accommodations that transformed his life.  An 11-year old girl mourning the loss of her best friend, greets her grief with curiosity and acceptance, and over time learns to live in joy instead of fear (not to mention winning the school spelling bee). A 36-year old woman accepts that her relationship is not where she wants it to be, and gives herself permission to make the necessary changes.  In each of these snapshots, it is precisely when these folks notice where they are – scared for the future, grieving a loss, or unhappy in relationship – that their transformation can begin.

Mindfulness, then, can bring us to acceptance of ourselves as we already are: truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously ourselves.

Already, We Belong


Poet Mary Oliver affirms that the place where we already are is exactly where we need to be.  She tells us in her poem Wild Geese,

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

Here she asserts that we do not have to do or be anything different than we already are. Later in the poem, even all of nature affirms that we belong – just as we are, already.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

_________________________________________________

Contact Information:

Elizabeth M. Eiland, LMSW

elizabethe@karunacounseling.com

404.215.0577

________________________________________________

Works Cited:

Anne Lamott for Oprah Magazine, November 2009. “Becoming the Person You Were Meant To Be.”  <http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-To-Find-Out-Who-You-Really-Are-by-Anne-Lamott/1&gt;

Anthony DeMello, Song of the Bird (1982). New York: Doubleday.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994). New York: Hyperion.

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October 31, 2010

Limitations

By Claire N. Scott, Ph.D.

One of my father’s favorite sayings was:  “You can do anything if you just put your mind to it.” My father practiced what he preached.  Raised in poverty and having only an eighth grade education, he rose to become a successful businessman, lived in an upscale neighborhood and put his three children through college.  My father’s advice and example has served me well.  It has led me to set my sights high, work hard and not give up easily.

Unfortunately, it’s also fostered some not so admirable traits.  On the negative side I developed perfectionistic expectations of myself and over-inflated ideas about my capabilities.  It also created a drivenness that still makes it hard for me to relax.   I saw failures as catastrophic and shameful – and my fault.   On the one hand I had a lot of self-confidence, but I also had a deep-seated hidden fear that I was either lazy or inadequate, or both.  Early on I began to careen between episodes of obsessive drivenness and exhausted self-indulgent collapse.    This lurching and the shame that went with it ultimately led me into therapy.

In therapy I learned to face the fact that I could NOT do anything I put my mind to, but accepting this did not come easily.  To this day I still have to remind myself that it’s okay to have strengths and weaknesses.  I still struggle with finding the balance between what’s reasonable to expect of myself and what’s not.  I love my can-do attitude and I’ve accomplished much.  But I’ve also failed at things, and I’ve found it’s important to be able to acknowledge and accept when I can’t do something as well – and even more that there’s no shame in that.  I tell my clients (and remind myself) that my brilliance is all tangled up with my mistakes.  What a freedom it is to finally believe that!

I’m certainly not the only one who got some version of the perfectionistic drivenness scripting.  We’re faced with a lot of injunctions in this culture about pushing through our limitations:  sayings like reach for the stars, never say never, difficult things take a long time — impossible things take a little longer, energy and persistence conquer all things.  The idea of giving up or saying I can’t is severely frowned upon in this culture.

THE  OPPOSITE  EXTREME

One can also learn to deal with difficulties from the opposite extreme.  We can err on side of denial or minimization of our limitations – or alternatively we can err on side of wallowing in our limitations, using them to excuse our stuckness or lack of effort.  We all have known someone who lets their problems overwhelm them, who gives up at the first sign of trouble, who blames others for their struggles or can’t see that they are handicapping themselves.  Chances are we’ve even been one of “those people” at some point in our lives.  People who say “yes, but” and then recite the reasons that any effort on their part won’t work.  People who won’t start for fear of failing.  People with good intentions who procrastinate or wait for motivation to fall from the sky.  People who, consciously or unconsciously, set themselves up for failure with their self-defeating, negative attitudes.

One explanation for such self-defeating behaviors is learned helplessness, i.e., learning that one shouldn’t even attempt to gain control over or deal with a challenge because the situation is hopeless and they’re helpless to change it.  A good example is a training technique used to control elephants.  A young elephant is chained to an immovable object by a thick, unbreakable chain.  The young elephant tries and tries to get itself loose, to no avail.  After a while the elephant will quit trying.  Eventually the elephant, even when grown and possessing incredible strength, can be held captive by a thin rope tied around its ankle and anchored to a small stake in the ground.  The elephant was “scripted” to understand that its efforts were futile.

Obviously there is a continuum between these two extremes of “You can do anything if you put your mind to it” and giving up before you even try.  Is there an ideal place to exist on the continuum?  Perhaps theoretically, but in reality most of us probably waffle a bit between the two depending on the circumstances and other variables involved.

And other variables there are aplenty, particularly if we mean those variables which act upon us (as opposed to those upon which we act).   Although we are loathe to admit it, the truth is that we are controlled by internal and external forces far more than we can exert control over them.  We prefer to focus on that which we can control and ignore or minimize that which we cannot control.  Pema Chodron talks about the dangers of such denial in her book When Things Fall Apart.  She explains that we are mistaken in our tenaciously held belief that there is any solid ground upon which to stand anywhere.  She points out that we are in fact always building our lives on shifting sands, always in the midst of change, and that we must learn to embrace this impermanence, this lack of security, this “groundlessness” that is the unalterable state of our being.

Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher, is eloquent (if frightening) in his description of all the various aspects of human existence which result in groundlessness.  He speaks of the various limitations and “diminishments” as “little deaths” that assail us from within and without:  “…bits of ill fortune that block our way, hem us in, force us to deviate from our path … an obstacle that breaks us, the invisible microbe that kills the body, the little word that infects the mind, all the incidents and accidents of varying importance and varying kinds, the tragic interferences (upsets, shocks, severances, deaths)” that come between us and what we want. There are “natural failings, physical defects, intellectual or moral weaknesses, as a result of which the field of our activities, of our enjoyment, of our vision, has been pitilessly limited since birth.  Others lie in wait for later on:  as brutally as an accident or as stealthily as an illness.  All of us one day or another will come to realize if we have not already done so, that one or other of these sources of disintegration has lodged itself in the very heart of our lives…  And [when it acts upon us] then we impotently stand by and watch collapse, rebellion and inner tyranny.”  (p.81-82)

BALANCE

Learning how to deal with the reality of limitations in a healthy way is not an easy job.  As we have seen there are dangers in dealing with limitations from either extreme – denial or collapse.  It is difficult to find the balance between the two:  a healthy sense of confidence and a willingness to try balanced by a realistic understanding of the limitations and diminishments we all face.  Rudyard Kipling’s poem If (included in this newsletter) offers some wise words on maintaining one’s balance among all sorts of triumphs and trials.

Pema Chodron also has much to say on how to live happily in the midst of our groundlessness.  She says that things routinely fall apart and that to attempt to escape this is folly.

We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved.  They come together and they fall apart.  Then they come together again and fall apart again.  It’s just like that.  The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen:  room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen.  When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know.  Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.  We try to do what we think is going to help.  But we don’t know.  We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall.  When there’s a big disappointment we don’t know if that’s the end of the story.  It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.  (p. 11-12)

In an interesting article by the Quaker author John Yungblut, he espouses the idea of “hallowing one’s diminishments” – meaning to make holy one’s diminishments.  He was referring to a creative, intentional attitude toward one’s limitations rather than merely a negative resignation to a cruel fate.   The first step to such a hallowing for him was a “deep-going acceptance.”  He said, “I practiced imaging acceptance of the diminishments as if they were the gift of a companion to accompany me on my way to the great diminishment, death.  … In this case, cooperating with the process in terms of maintaining a friendly attitude toward it would be a way of hallowing the diminishments.”  Hallowing can be thought of as the intentional holding of a limitation or diminishment in a sensibility that neither denies the affliction nor abhors it.   It’s a way of letting go of the emphasis on what has been lost and embracing instead the something new that has replaced it.

In one of the Carlos Castaneda books, the shamanic master Don Juan expresses a similar attitude.  He said we should all live as though “Sister Death” stood slightly behind us and to the left, our constant companion as we journey through life.  Rather than avoid or deny her reality, we should consult her about the choices we make throughout our lives.

Another well known author who echoes this sentiment is Ram Dass in his book Still Here.  You may remember Ram Dass because of his famous (and infamous) departure from the Harvard faculty, with his colleague Timothy Leary, in the 1960’s.  He wrote a book, Be Here Now, which was immensely popular at the time.  His more recent book Still Here was written in 2002 after he had suffered a stroke.  He became a semi-invalid after his stroke, confined to a wheelchair.  He could no longer walk or drive his sports car or play golf or surf.  He acknowledges going through an initial stage of self-pity about being the victim of such a horrible debilitating occurrence.  Ultimately, however, he grew to feel he had been blessed by his stroke.  He referred to it as having been “stroked by God.” He said, “… Now I’m learning to take my healing into my own hands.  Healing is not the same as curing, after all; healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather allowing what is now to move us closer to God.” (p.5)   Although limited in ways he used to value so highly, he has learned to value the person he is now and value life as it presents itself today.

It isn’t always easy to recognize when one needs to slow down and let go or when one needs to step up and try harder.  If we are going to find a good balance and enjoy our lives as much as possible, we need to both accept limitations and reach for the stars.  We have to honor our “can’t do” attitude as well as our “can do” attitude.  Perhaps the most famous and often used words to express this sentiment are found in the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

The courage to change the things I can;

And the wisdom to know the difference.

There are no easy answers to the question of limitations.  I wonder what your experiences with limitations have been like.  When was it healthy for you to push past your limitations and go after your goals?  When was it better to acknowledge your limitations, quit beating your head against a brick wall and learn to accept?  If you’d like to respond to this article and share your own story, please send me an email.  Perhaps we can explore this issue more and publish some of your stories (anonymously of course) in a future article.   ClaireScott@KarunaCounseling.com.

Bibliography

Castaneda, Carlos.  The Teachings of Don Juan:  A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.  Berkeley, CA:  University of California Press, 1968.

Chodron, Pema.  When Things Fall Apart.  Boston:  Shambala, 2002.

Dass, Ram.  Still Here:  Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying.  New York:  Buckley Publishling Group, 2000.

De Chardin, Teilhard.  The Divine Milieu.  English translation London:  William Collins Sons & Do., LTD, 1960. Originally published in French as Le Milieu Divin.  Paris:  Editions du Seuil, 1957.

Peterson, Christopher; Maier, Steven; and Seligman, Martin.  Learned Helplessness.  New York:  Knopf, 1995.

The Serenity Prayer is the common name for an originally untitled prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.  This prayer has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs.

Yungblut, John.  On Hallowing One’s Diminishments.  Wallingford,PA :  Pendle Hill Publications.  1990.

April 22, 2010

Transitions

Filed under: 2010 Articles,Career Planning & Life Direction,Lisa's Articles — karunacounseling @ 2:22 pm
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by Lisa Anyan Smith, Ph. D.

“I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same”

~ David Bowie, “Changes”

Change is an inevitable part of life.  Transitions are all around us – births, deaths, graduations, anniversaries, moving to a new residence, marriage, divorce.  Beginnings and endings are occurring constantly.  Some are small and mundane:  the ringing of the alarm clock to signal the start of a new day, or the finishing of a good book.  Some are major and catastrophic:  the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings, or the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

Some changes are initiated by us, while others are imposed upon us by outside forces, or seemingly fall from the sky out of the blue.  Some transitions feel more welcome and comfortable than others.  Some feel downright unpleasant.

What can we learn from change?  Perhaps the answer, in part, lies in chaos theory.  While musing about various changes I have experienced over the past year, I came across a book entitled “Seven Life Lessons of Chaos:  Timeless Wisdom from the Science of Change,” by John Briggs and F. David Peat  (New York:  HarperCollins, 1999).  The scientific term “chaos” refers to an underlying interconnectedness that exists in apparently random events.  Briggs and Peat deftly relate some of the complexities of chaos theory to everyday life, and I would like to share some of their lessons with you.

Lesson One:  Being Creative In each moment, we have the opportunity to let go of prejudices and automatic habits.  This letting go frees us to be open to the power of uncertainty, and thus creativity.

Lesson Two: Using Butterfly Power Chaos theory suggests that each one of us possesses the power of “subtle influence,” much like the idea of a butterfly flapping its wings on one continent that leads to hundreds of thousands of tiny interconnected events that culminate in a hurricane on another continent.

Lesson Three:  Going with the Flow Consensus decision-making models involve much deliberation and discussion before an agreement is reached.  The process can feel chaotic.  However, when a decision is reached, all parties claim ownership and are committed to the decision.

Lesson Four:  Exploring What’s Between Chaos theory holds that life is both simple and complex.  When life seems most complicated, a simple solution may be just around the bend.  Conversely, what appears simple on the surface may be incredibly complicated.

Lesson Five:  Seeing the Art of the World Chaos is as much about art as it is about science.  William Blake urged us to …”see the world in a grain of sand, and an eternity in an hour…”  While observing birds, squirrels, and chipmunks at your backyard feeder, you may notice that although there are repeating patterns, something unexpected and random occurs that keeps you engrossed.

Lesson Six:  Living Within Time Rather than thinking of time as a one-dimensional line running from past to future, chaos theory allows for elasticity in time.  I especially enjoyed the story of monk who stops to listen to the beautiful singing of a bird in the woods.  Upon returning to the monastery, he discovers new faces.  While he was listening, all his friends died and an entire century passed.

Lesson Seven:  Rejoining the Whole To live deeply and fully, we seek awareness.  Yet as soon as we sense that we are seeking, awareness escapes our grasp.  Chaos theory, as applied to change, requires that questions remain unanswered.  Perhaps we learn more from the journey, than when we reach the destination.

So how can chaos theory impact our everyday life, and what does it have to do with change?   Well-known to those participating in recovery programs is the Serenity Prayer, which asks  “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.“   While we strive to effect positive changes from within, and struggle to adapt to changes that appear from without, we can remind ourselves that chaos does not necessarily need to be tamed.  Sometimes the path of least resistance is the way we are meant to follow.  Yet “least resistant” is not synonymous with “easy.”  Although we may not be able to make order of chaos, we can find calm within the storm.

“When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

~ Victor Frankl

November 3, 2008

Questions for Reflection at the End of the Year

by

Claire N. Scott, Ph.D. 

As 2008 is nearing its end, it is a good opportunity to take time out to reflect on the year just past, remembering and considering all the things it held for us.  The questions that follow are offered as a way to facilitate that reflection — and perhaps to stimulate your own thinking about questions you want to ask yourself.  An article similar to this was first published in our Karuna Newsletter several years ago, and it seemed a good time to revise and repeat it as we come to the end of such an eventful year.  In the previous version all the questions had a personal, psychological flavor.  That is mostly true again this year, but I’ve also added a few questions related to how external world happenings may have impacted you personally.  The world seems to get smaller every year.  We are more aware than ever of how events and decisions on the other side of this island home can impact the air we breathe, the food we eat, the cost of gas, and our sense of security. 

Some of the following questions are designed to help you recall good memories, interesting events and people.  Some are just for fun.  Some might put things into a different perspective for you.  Some questions might trigger insights or help you learn some interesting things about yourself.  And some are designed to be thought-provoking and even challenging.  In the last regard, I feel compelled to add a small caution:  if you find yourself feeling unduly distressed or overwhelmed by your answers to any of these questions, it might be best to put the questions aside and talk about your thoughts and feelings with a friend or family member who can give you support. If you feel you need to talk with a professional, you are welcome to contact one of the therapists here at Karuna (404) 321-4307, or you may prefer to talk with a clergy person.  If you don’t have other resources, you could also contact your local county mental health center. 

Mostly I hope you enjoy this process, and find it useful.  I’ve been doing it for several years and I enjoy going back and seeing what was going on in my life and in myself in previous years.  You may not get through all these questions in one sitting.  Take you time.  Notice the questions you want to skip or the ones that stop you.  Hold it all in compassion – no judgments.  It’s good to take time out to reflect on your life, no matter what the answers.

 

                          

 

What was my greatest accomplishment(s) this year?

What was my biggest blunder of the year?

What gave me the greatest joy this year?

What was the biggest disappointment?

What was the best surprise?

What are the moments I wouldn’t want to have missed?

What, if anything, do I wish I had done differently?

Who was the most interesting new person in my life?

What was the most difficult thing I had to do this year?

What was the worst experience of the year?

What was the most unusual experience?

What book or movie had a big impact on me? Why?

What was my coolest new purchase of the year?

What was the biggest waste of money?

What newsworthy event(s) had the biggest impact on me personally (e.g., the presidential race, global warming, Iraqi war, Olympics, gasoline crunch, plight of refugees, green issues, etc.), and why?

Do I experience the world differently than I did a year or two ago?  In what ways? 

What do those differences mean for me personally?  Have they or will they change how I live and the choices I make?

Who were the people who were most important to me this year?

What was the area of greatest personal growth for me?

What area(s) need the most growth/development in the future?

What am I most thankful for?

What kindness was extended to me that meant a lot to me?

What was a kindness I extended to someone else that meant a lot to me?

What do I want to invite into my life in the upcoming year? (See exercise below.)

Consider trying this exercise as an alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions.  Ask yourself the above question and use your answers to create a collage of some sort.  It can include pictures, drawings, photographs, words – anything that represents what you want to invite into your life during the upcoming year. 

What you create can then be displayed where you will see it occasionally to remind yourself what it is you really want.  I once heard that given as a definition of self-discipline.  I’ll make it big so you can use it in your collage if you like.

SELF-DISCIPLINE IS REMEMBERING WHAT YOU

 REALLY WANT!

P.S.  I was supposed to have a book to go with this article, and there probably are some good ones, but the truth is some friends and I came up with this idea at a party one night and it has gone through several revisions and variations since then.  

September 4, 2007

Choosing A Career That’s Right For You

by
Molly Keeton, PhD

When making a career choice, you must have knowledge of both yourself and the world of work. When you allow for exploration of both of these areas, you will be more likely to make an informed choice, select a career that is a good fit for you, and have greater work and life satisfaction.

In learning about yourself and the world of work, consider each of the following areas. The ideal career will be a match for these important aspects of your life and identity. You would be fortunate to find a career that is compatible with who you are as a person and allows you to express yourself through the work you do everyday.

You World of Work

Interests Job characteristics

Skills Working conditions

Values Training/Educational Requirements

Personality Necessary skills and abilities

Goals Work environment

Ideal lifestyle Job outlook and opportunity

1. Interests

When considering your career interests, think back on all of the things you have experienced in your life. Which work experiences have been the most rewarding to you (include part-time jobs and volunteer work)? What hobbies do you enjoy the most? Which classes did you like or dislike in school? What do you like to do with your free time? What activities make you feel the best or bring out the most in you? What do you do where you don’t even notice that time is passing? Allow yourself to think freely when considering your interests. There are over 26,000 jobs in the world and there are probably several that could combine your favorite activities and/or hobbies.

According to a psychologist named John Holland, career interests can be classified into six basic types. You can learn about this classification system in a more formal way through a career inventory, but this will provide you with an overview of the basics. Try to determine your type by choosing three of the six categories and place them in order of importance to you. Once you determine this, you can do more research on careers for your type at http://www.careersmarts.com/holland.htm.

Realistic

  • Generally likes working with their hands and producing something tangible
  • Enjoys nature and working outdoors
  • Prefers independence and working alone or in a small group
  • Prefers facts to feelings
  • Examples: mechanic, construction work, wildlife management, laboratory technician, agriculture, some military jobs, engineering

Investigative

  • Always asks “why”; is intrigued by how things work
  • Enjoys solving problems and examining the underlying cause of things
  • Communicates factually rather than focusing on feelings
  • Prefers independence and privacy
  • Examples: design engineer, biologist, social scientist, research laboratory worker, technical writer, physicist, or meteorologist

Artistic

  • Values creativity; express selves through work or artistic medium
  • Prefers work setting that allows for individual expression and creativity
  • Views self as independent, unconventional, expressive, and unique
  • Examples: painter, sculptor, writer, composer, cartoonist, singer

Social

  • Gains satisfaction from helping others and making positive impact
  • Enjoys solving problems through interaction and discussion of feelings
  • Works well others
  • Examples: teacher, counselor, speech therapist, clergy, playground director, social worker

Enterprising

  • Enjoys debating and persuading others; has way with words; is influential
  • Natural sales people (may sell may either a product or an idea)
  • Values leadership, prestige, and status
  • Examples: business executive, attorney, politician, hotel manager, television producer, sports promoter, realtor

Conventional

  • Enjoys activities that require attention to detail
  • Values accuracy and consistency
  • Prefers highly structured work environments and clear expectations
  • Examples: bank teller, bookkeeper, computer operator, tax expert, statistician, traffic manager, librarian

2. Skills and Abilities

Skills are learned while abilities are natural to us (learning to play golf well would be a skill, while being good with numbers is typically an ability). Generally speaking, we enjoy the things we are good at and are good at the things we enjoy. So, reflecting on your favorite activities will provide important information about your skills and abilities. Again, think back on classes, activities, hobbies, and jobs from the past. Is there any overlap between the ones you liked and how natural those abilities came to you? You can certainly choose a career that does not utilize your natural abilities, but you may find that it is more of a challenge to do that type of work.

3. Values

A third area to consider when making a career choice is your value system. Values include: prestige, status, autonomy or independence, flexibility, variety, security, high salary, creativity, challenge, advancement, physical activity, or contribution to society. It is important to be honest with yourself about your values and recognize that no value is “right” or “wrong”. We all have a different combination of values that make us unique. How we express these values is also very individualized. One person may give back to society by working with the homeless while another may contribute through volunteer work or making a regular donation to a charitable organization. Take this list of 12 values and prioritize it. You will probably find that you want almost all of these things in your life. To get more information about your priorities, pick your top 3 values. These will be the ones that you feel you cannot compromise.

4. Personality

This is another very important area to consider when making a career choice. You will often find that personality traits will overlap with interests or values, but they can be separate too. The most well known personality inventory is called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and it has been researched over several decades. This inventory looks at four personality factors:

Extroversion vs. Introversion

(Where you get and prefer to direct your energy)

Sensing vs. Intuition

(How you take in information)

Thinking vs. Feeling

(How you make decisions)

Perceiving vs. Judging

(How you relate to time, structure, and organization)

These qualities exist on a continuum, meaning that you will fall somewhere in the middle of each set of traits. Very few people are complete extroverts or introverts. Most of us prefer one to the other but can do both when necessary. When you step outside of your natural preference, it may be more challenging and you may feel tired or strained. Finding a work environment that matches your personality type will lead to greater work satisfaction. Consider the following: Would you rather work alone or with a team? Do you prefer clear answers or to find new solutions? Do you want structure and predictability in your workday or do you enjoy the unexpected?

For a free Myers Briggs personality inventory, visit www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp. Once you have this information, you can do research online about how this relates career. Begin by visiting www.personalitypage.com and searching the personality and career link for your Myers Briggs Type.

* For additional information, check your library or the Web for more career resources:

http://online.onetcenter.org (Dictionary of Occupational Titles)

http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ (Occupational Outlook Handbook)

March 6, 2006

The Enneagram: What It Means to Me and How I Use It In My Practice

Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW, MAT

I believe that 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.

This is key: YOU are not your personality drive. Your drive is simply a force that drives YOU (your thoughts, feelings, and ways of relating to yourself and others) if left unnoticed and unattended. I work to help people notice it and attend to it with the purpose of getting back in the driver’s seat, if you will, in their life. Not to get out of “the car” entirely, but to harness the power of that moving vehicle (your drive) to take them in directions that they want to go in life instead of just being “along for the ride.”

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 let me know which drive seems to “fit” with their experience of themselves. I use this in work with individuals and couples.

There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com), Daniels & Price, and Concept Synergy.

Contact: Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW

Email: MettaSweet@KarunaCounseling.com

Phone: 404.221.3238

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