This post was supposed to be the final post in a 4 part series; however, there was too much to say about the Enneagram and practice of Welcoming prayer! So…this series will actually be a 5 part series. Enjoy!
Last week’s post discussed the need for self-emptying and the action of letting go to grow and integrate toward a healthier version of ourselves. Contemplative practices were identified as helpful in this process because they foster waking up to the present moment, listening deeply, surrendering, letting go, and trusting. More specifically, the Welcoming prayer is a contemplative prayer practice that is particularly helpful due to the way it engages the three core emotions within the Enneagram – anger, shame, and fear.
You may remember that the three triads or centers of the Enneagram are paired with a core emotion. The Gut triad (Types 8,9,1) has anger as its core emotion. The core emotion of the Heart triad (Types 2,3,4) is shame, and for the Head triad (Types 5,6,7) the core emotion is fear. Experts and authors, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, suggest these three core emotions tell us what individuals of each Type most sought in childhood and, I would argue, often still seek as adults (myself included!). The angry types in the Gut triad want autonomy – independence, the ability to assert their own will and direct their own life. The ashamed types in the Heart triad want attention – to be seen and validated by parents/authority figures. The fearful types in the Head triad want security – to know their environment is safe and stable.
If you are anything like me, I can think of experiences that cause me to resonate with all three desires and emotions. This is common because no matter our Type, our personality contains all three components. Although we may experience one of the three emotions – anger, shame, or fear – more often than others, due to our particular personality type, we definitely experience all three at different times and within different circumstances. This means our emotions are interactive and we cannot work on one without affecting the other.
So, how does this knowledge of triads and core emotions relate to the Welcoming Prayer?
It is true there are suggested Type-specific spiritual practices that have been identified as particularly helpful in cultivating growth and integration. However, I have found the Welcoming prayer to be a practice that fits in every category and is universally helpful to all personality types. This practice is so helpful because is directly engages our emotions, which are agents of change and transformation. Within my practice of spiritual direction, directees are provided the opportunity to trust and explore their experiences of God, along with their emotions, which ultimately leads to a kind of unity and wholeness of self. James and Evelyn Whitehead’s book, Transforming Our Painful Emotions: Spiritual Resources in Anger, Shame, Grief, Fear, and Loneliness, reminds us that emotions are the raw energy that enlivens and heals human hearts, a symbol of God’s radical love. We are moved as we experience our emotions. Our positive and negative emotions are agents of change and transformation. So, if we have all core emotions – anger, shame, and fear – within us and we cannot work on one without affecting the other, then we must have a practice that engages all three. The Welcoming Prayer does just that; it invites us to notice, feel, welcome our emotions, and let go of our desire for security, affection and control.
Do you believe our emotions are agents of change and transformation?
Do you invite God into your emotions? What is it like for you?
Stay tuned for more next week on the relationship between the Enneagram and Welcoming prayer as well as the how to engage in the practice. Click HERE to subscribe if you haven’t already!