When we react to the world in the same, fear-based, ego-driven ways, over and over and over again, the same things tend to happen.
We go in and out of feeling mad, ashamed, anxious, lonely, hurt, victimized, powerless, controlling, distant, arrogant or self-righteous.
However, quitting our reactions so we can feel better, so we can feel things like freedom, peace, joy, love, acceptance, connection, compassion, generosity, intuition and worthiness is one of the hardest things a human being can do. Two reasons for that:
1. Quitting our reactive habits is like letting our armor drop down around our ankles. The armor we believe we need to survive. Tough to convince our Will to Live or our Will to Remain Socially Acceptable that that’s a good idea.
2. We can’t see our habits very well, so even if we are the bravest of the brave, it’s hard to know what to quit.
Quitting smoking is as simple (didn’t say easy) as not picking up a cigarette. We know what a cigarette looks like and where we can get some. We don’t suddenly find ourselves popping out smoke rings from our mouths wondering how the hell we got there again. People don’t get struck smoking. If we’re smoking again, it’s because we picked one up, put one end in our mouths, lit the other, and breathed in deeply.
Quitting our habits of reacting to life isn’t so simple. We have to know what we’re quitting.
Which brings me to the letter ‘R’.
Red Flags get our attention, and when it comes to breaking habits, our attention needs getting,
The map of the Enneagram becomes like a cheat sheet for figuring out what red flags we might see in our emotions, our thoughts and our bodily sensations that let us know we’re headed in the wrong direction.
Here are some of the Red Flags (common for Sevens) that I’ve trained myself to be on the lookout for within myself:
I get antsy in my body, I want to get up and move or escape. My thoughts start bouncing around. I think about future activities. I get angry at other people for standing in my way of getting what I want. I’m thinking about anything but what’s happening around and in front of me.
I use those Red Flags to my advantage. Every time they flap loud enough to get my attention, I pause, take a breath and observe what’s going on.
I am with a group of people and having a hard time focusing on the conversation I’m in. My abdomen is sort of fluttery. My body wants to run. I’m preoccupied and wishing I were somewhere else. Instead of listening to the person in front of me, I’m trying to hear what the people nearby are talking about.
I’m conversation-surfing. Again.
All Red flags.
I ask myself what’s going on that I’m not present to the person in front of me.
I realize I’m irritated with and judgmental toward this person.
Another red flag.
Because if I listen to them, I might miss a more entertaining conversation somewhere else.
Ah-hah. I see myself in action. Even though I feel these feelings quite strongly in that moment, I’ve learned enough to know that if I do this all night, I will leave this party feeling unsatisfied and empty, not to mention that I’ll probably convince the people I’m talking to that I’m either rude or vapid.
If, on the other hand, I keep questioning the Red Flags, they will eventually lead me back to the truth.
If I’m going to quit my habit of conversation-surfing and avoid leaving the party having missed out on what I was so desperately looking for the whole time I was there, I need to ground myself in the moment and tune in to the person I’m with.
I might find that there is something I’m enjoying about this conversation with this person. If I stay with it, it ends up not mattering what else is happening in the room.
If I’m not enjoying anything there, from a place of presence, I can find some socially acceptable way to move on.
If I do this out of a grounded and conscious choice rather than a desperate need to free myself from the bondage of a boring conversation, I won’t be bouncing from one conversation to another in hopes of finding the most entertaining people in the room. I will, instead, get to experience each conversation for what it is, so the good ones will really sink in.
Red Flags are our friends. They say: Pay attention! You’re doing it again. What can you do instead that is more likely to get you what you’re really looking for?
So tell me, what are the red flags you’ve already learned to watch for? Does this blog post make you think of any you hadn’t seen before?