My Bermuda Spiral (Enneagram Trifix and The Fog of Self-Forgetting)

bermuda enneagram inner fog trifixation Jun 11, 2022

In this post, you will learn the idea of Enneagram Trifixation, and you’ll get a full view into my inner experience as a 3-9-6 “Bermuda Type.” 

I believe that our culture needs to be more interested in the inner world and less squeamish about what we find there. I publish this to expose my own inner world, and to walk my talk. 

 

Context

I recently launched a new coaching business called Myelin Grove.

I had a grand vision. “Myelin Grove will help high impact leaders build a world that is wiser and more sustainable for 7+ generations down the line.”

After I launched it, self-doubt arose. Is this the optimal way to bring my vision to the world? Should I go back to joshlavine.com? Would people be more interested in “me” or in this new “business?”

Let’s unpack. 

 

How It Feels

In my mind, the most salient question is, What do I do?  Underneath it is What will work? What’s my best shot at becoming a famous public intellectual that can shift a national conversation?

In my heart, there is an emptiness, a dullness. A wispy sense of potential that will remain unrealized unless I figure this out. A terror that I won’t, and a hopelessness that “success” is so far away. 

In my body, it feels like there’s nothing in me. An infinite blankness. A neutral, room temperature snow over everything. No inner guidance is available. My body is indistinguishable from the ether. I have no substance. I am the air. I exist but I could be here, or there, or anywhere. What is “I”? I am you, the chair, the universe, radically unlocalized, and not in a spiritually enlightened way. “Where’d I go?” “Who is this person?” Who is me? ME. (Who?) 

 

The Enneagram, Trifix, and The Bermuda Zone

If you know the Enneagram, you probably recognize my 3-ness. The drive to “be somebody,” to fulfill my potential, etc.

But you may not know “trifix.” 

The Enneagram is traditionally taught in terms of the 9 basic types. 3 “body types,” 3 “heart types,” and 3 “head types.” (Read more about that here.)

But it’s more complex than that. Even if you’re a heart type, you still have a body and a mind. Trifix is the idea that you have a “type” in each. 

If your core type is 3 (a heart type), you still have “fixations” in the body and mind. 

The body center fix is about how we resist unwanted influences: 

- 8 fixers become solid and forceful
- 9 fixers become diffuse and dissociated
- 1 fixers become rigid and controlled

The heart center is about how we construct a self-image that is worthy of (self-)love:

- 2 fixers attempt to serve others and fulfill their needs
- 3 fixers attempt to excel and be “admirable”
- 4 fixers attempt to be “true to themselves” and particular in their tastes

The head center is about what we put our faith in to wayfind in this world:

- 5 fixers doubt their capacity to handle the world and put faith only in their own minds to determine what is true
- 6 fixers doubt their inner guidance and put faith only what is proven, reliable, “trustworthy” 
- 7 fixers doubt their satiation and put faith experiences that promise the possibility of nourishment

As an example, if you’re a core 3, your trifix could be 3-8-5 — 3 in the heart, 8 in the body, and 5 in the mind.

My trifix is 3-9-6. 

The Enneagrammer team has given this the horrifyingly accurate name, “The Bermuda Triangle,” because 3, 6, and 9 are all types that “lose themselves.” 

3s anchor their emotional location in external sources of admiration. 
9s anchor their somatic location “out there,” in others or in the collective. 
6s anchor their cognitive location in external sources of certainty.

Because of this habitual external anchoring, my 3-9-6 nervous system is porous and absorptive of the opinions, values, and energies of others. My inner vision for what “I really think” is often blurry. How do I really feel? What do I really think? What do I really want to do? One moment, an answer crystalizes, is available, seems certain. The next, it’s gone, and certainty about anything feels like a distant fantasy. I exist in a constant whirlpool of self-forgetting. 

 

An Example 

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was alone in my NYC apartment. With no one around, and without a consistent self-remembering practice, something amazing happened. 

First, I started rewatching my favorite TV show, Community. I love Dan Harmon’s work (the head writer), and I started researching him. It brought up memories of being a playwriting major in college. Within a couple of days, I became convinced that my entire professional  life had been a distraction from my ONE TRUE PURPOSE, which was to be a screenwriter.

I began writing a screenplay and fantasies arose that it would be a staggering masterpiece. I finished 80% of the first scene and then thought… “Wait, I’m not sure this is going to work.” By “work,” I mean — earn people's gosh-wow admiration and catapult me to heights of fame and success. I doubted whether I actually had the motivation to be a writer. I also doubted if I was any good. So that flamed burned out quickly.

Days later, I started listening to the music of Childish Gambino. I loved it, and felt a kindred spirit with him because he also wrote for the screen. I noticed that this rap thing “worked” for him. So I thought — and I swear this happened — “Ohh… THIS is my one true path. I’m going to be a rapper. This has been my one true path all along, and I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.”

I want you to understand that there was ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY about this, and utter belief in myself. “33 year old discovers rap late in life, takes the world by storm.” Sold out stadiums, people cheering. 

A few days later I started writing rap lyrics, and when I did, I ran into a block. “What am I going to write about?” 

The fog again. I searched for something to land on. All vapor. I drew blanks. Nothing. I tried a few word associations, wrote a few dumb rhymes in an iPhone note. Then had to admit…. this probably isn’t it. 

In my life, I’ve notice a pattern of accidentally idolizing someone successful and fantasizing my future as “my version” of that person. 

- Become a (famous) writer (Dan Harmon)
- Become a (famous) rapper (Childish Gambino)
- Become a (famous) founder (any of my college friends)
- Become a (famous) coach (Tony Robbins)
- Become a (famous) musical artist (Bruno Mars)
- Become a (famous) musical theater actor (Norbert Leo Butz)
- Become President of the United States (Bill Clinton / Barack Obama)

Notice, too — all of this is about ME. As a core 3, my own value, and the possibility of it, is never fully out of sight. The primary unconscious drive is to “be someone.” 

Other types don’t get dealt this inner world. I’m just giving you access to mine. 

 

What Helps? 

In general, the answer is “Practices of Self-Remembering.” I’ve tried a LOT of stuff, but I haven’t settled on a regimen that 100% works for me. If I do, I’ll write about it.

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far. 

In the short term, walking or exercising helps me locate myself in my body. At least I have this: my sweat, my breathing. The endorphins also bring resilience. Speaking with a coach, therapist, or friend who is an exceptional listener helps clear my mental fog temporarily and lifts my mood. Consistent meditation helps too. 

The ongoing “practice” of catching myself in the act is important. The act being: trying to discern a path that is certain to lead to success rather than sensing what I “actually want to do.” Noting that that’s “what I’m doing” is one way of getting outside of the thought loop. “Oh yeah, that thing again.” 

The most radical thing I’ve done is recently spend 3 months alone in a remote cabin in the woods, with the intention of removing external influences so I could “listen for the inner whisper." That helped a lot. It helped me realize that while I don’t know the specifics, at least I’m in the right lane. Coaching and working with the human inner world. 

Yet even after that, the humbling truth is that something in me has a compulsive need for certainty that the thing I’m about to do WILL BE SUCCESSFUL. I have wasted hours, days, likely years mentally framing how something will look and convincing (read: deceiving) myself that it is "bound to be a success" before I start it. This thing in me does not grok that it is impossible to know how something will be in totality before it exists.

An acorn can’t see the tree it will become. 

 

Where I Go From Here

My task, should I choose to accept it, is to be this plant. I’ve tried being just about every plant but the one I am. 

How many times have I said, “Eureka! I finally get it! I’m THIS kind of person! (Just like that guy!)” Turns out, that doesn’t work for me. Surprise. 

To be honest, I can’t confidently say that “I’m never doing that again.” The pattern is so strong, it might grab me again tomorrow. 

I also can’t say exactly what kind of plant I am. “Who I am” is beyond words. The obsession to define it is itself part of the pattern.

Part of me wants to “give up,” to embrace the truth that I have no idea who I am and rest in the mystery. I’ve glimpsed this state, but stabilizing there is a step beyond me at the moment.

 

Final Thought For You

It would behoove me as a coach to end with “And, ladies and gentlemen, after a lifetime of suffering this pattern, I’ve finally found the solution, and HERE IT IS!”

But I don’t play that game. I’m still “figuring it out,” and I’m interested in inviting you into a similar inner exploration to the one I’ve done.

You might relate, or you might have a totally different inner geography. The point is that developing a rich, textured awareness of our inner landscape — including our suffering — is one of the most important steps we must take in order to reduce our suffering.

I’m interested in building a culture in which the habitual response to the above is not, “Oh gosh, what a troubled person, I hope he figures that out!” That response is a symptom of a society out of touch with its authentic emotional life. (Meaning... yes, if that was your response, you might want to have a look at yours.) I’m interested in building a culture of wisdom, in which the inner world is embraced, not resisted, and conversations like this are as common as ones about money. 

So there you go. Welcome to my inner world. 

What’s in yours? 

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