Patterns, Habits and Finally Taking Action

Spoiler alert: I just sent the email.

I need to email Barry back.

A few months ago, I met Barry at an enneagram workshop. We got to talking about how cool it would be to have a discussion group just for Sixes, because as he said, we certainly need it. We exchanged emails for a while, then met for coffee and laid out some plans. I offered to come up with some content that we could start with. He agreed to create a description and some group expectations we could share. I send him my ideas to look over.

And then things stopped.

Not, to be clear, because he didn’t do his part. He sent me an email with his ideas and feedback on mine. It’s still sitting there in my inbox. As is his follow-up email.

Since sending my email to him I have been second guessing myself in ways that are far too familiar. Did I overstep my bounds? Was the material I came up with good enough? Am I being to assertive? Not assertive enough?

And so I did nothing.

Like most Sixes, I tend to freeze when I am stressed. Well, it looks like freezing, and for all practical purposed it is freezing. But that’s not what it feels like. It feels like ricocheting back and forth between possible actions. I should just answer the email. I should tweak my plan, so that if he didn’t like it I can immediately send a revision. I should prepare a defense of what I was thinking when I created the material. I should think about it one more time before I do anything. As a fellow Six once said, we are like those squirrels who run out in front of your car: this way, then that, then the first way again – chattering and twitching the whole time but never actually going anywhere.

And then, it got even harder to answer. I’ve waited too long to answer. Barry is mad. It’s better to just let it go.

As I said, this is a familiar pattern. But this time I tried to be aware of it.

There is amazing power in simply noticing something. So I noticed not just that I as avoiding getting back to Barry, but that I was falling into an old pattern. Noticing takes me a step out of the pattern. The fears aren’t reality, they are a pattern of my own creation. They are a habit of my mind.

But the noticing the pattern isn’t enough. I have to be okay with what I notice. Noticing is just seeing, not seeing and then judging. These things are things I do because I am a Six. I developed them decades ago to keep me safe and secure. They did a good job, but sometimes they get in the way of me doing what I really want to do.

Then I get curious. What am I afraid of here? What am I really avoiding? Am I just avoiding sending an email or am I afraid I am not “expert” enough to co-lead a group? Will someone – maybe Barry, maybe someone in the group – figure out that I am making it up as I go? Am I making it up as I go?

There we have it – again. Still reluctant to step out. Still hung up on being and “expert.”

It took me a while to go through this process. A couple months to be exact. The longest part of the process was noticing. It took me a while to admit to myself this was my pattern and not reality. Once I noticed the pattern, it still took me a while to be able to look at it without a sense of shame and anxiety.

And then I finally got serious about my mediation practice. That gave me the space to really see it kindly and lovingly and gently. Instead of “OH MY GOD I’M DOING IT AGAIN!” it became “Well, look at that. I’m doing it again. Huh. I wonder what’s going on.”

When I realized what I was doing (as in, earlier today) my first thought was: I need to spend some time thinking about what it means to be an expert. Maybe I should list what traits a good expert has and then to reassure myself I have those traits. Or should I look up those old text books …

You’re doing it again. What’s up with that?

This time the process was a lot quicker.

And so I will read Barry’s email and then email him back. The pattern didn’t go away. It probably never will. But I can ignore it. It’s just a pattern, just a habit. I can let it hum away in the back ground while I pick and direction and take some action.

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