By Tad Dunne, PhD
From Enneatypes: Method and Spirit
Growing up is so difficult.And the experiments are costly. You pay with emotional pain, anxiety, frustration, and humiliation. If you put on a weird self, others will laugh at you. But then if you put on a self that everyone wants you to be, something inside starts objecting. You don't feel sincere. You feel like a phony. Some teenagers genuinely like doing things that others don't understand like raising pigs or tap dancing. Then they have to hide that part of themselves just to look ordinary.
Why are teenagers so hard on each other? I remember when I was a teenager
One reason is that they are doing a bad job at figuring out for themselves how to be. Bullys push others around because, deep down, Bullys have done a bad job of finding out how to be. So, when they meet someone who is doing a better job with being different, they try to force them to conform to the Bully's rules or else they kick them out of the in-crowd.
Popular kids are no exception. They seem to have all the friends they want. But inside, they doubt that they are really worth something. In their heart of hearts, they know they work hard to be popular, and other kids buy the act. And a lot of it is just an act. The real test of how successful they are as teenagers is how they treat others. Some of those who always take center stage are downright mean to the stagehands the less popular kids. They have figured out that one way to stay popular is to make sure that certain other kids stay unpopular.
What happens between now and then? Is there something to learn that you don't know about? Are teachers and other adults keeping some secret from you?
The answer is yes. And I will tell you what it is. You need to understand two things.
The first thing you need to understand is just why it is so difficult to know how to be. You already know that it's difficult, but you probably are not sure why. If you don't understand why, you will start thinking that there's something wrong with you. Secretly you might think you're going crazy. Or that you are naturally bad or ugly. But you are not. Believe it or not, you are good and beautiful. You don't feel convinced about that because you are facing problems you have never faced before and you don't recognize the resources you have for dealing with them.
The second thing you need to learn is what authenticity is. You need to learn how to recognize it in yourself. To be your real, best self means being authentic. And being authentic will guarantee you more happiness and fulfillment than anything else including popularity or money. By "authenticity" I mean whatever it is that makes for genuine, real living. I mean that attitude that gives us the best chance of being free of our compulsions. I mean those mental and emotional actions that can free us from the false solutions that people usually cling to.
The more authentic people are, the more they are concerned with what happens inside their hearts and minds. Authentic people do not fake their behavior. They are not paying attention to what impresses you. The behavior you see is what results from them paying attention to these invisible, conscious events. Be attentive:That is, pay attention to what people say. Watch what goes on around you. Be intelligent:That is, let yourself ask why and how. By asking these questions, you gradually build up an understanding of the way things work. You catch on to hidden meanings in what people say. You grasp why people act the way they do. You get insight into how to solve problems. If you don't let your intelligence ask questions, you live in a world of chaos. Be reasonable:That is, don't settle for good stories or fanciful dreams. Go for the truth. Face the facts. Be responsible FIREFLY
That is, do what you believe is right. Avoid what you believe is wrong. This means a lot more than obeying rules in school. This means more than not breaking the law. Be in love:That is, stay connected to the people who love you and to the people whom you love. Being in love also means realizing that love between people is the basis of trust, and unless people trust each other, everyone ends up isolated, suspicious, and afraid.
These are the fundamental "be-attitudes"; they are more fundamental and far more effective than such making resolutions to "Be careful" or "Be aggressive" or "Be sensitive," and so on. So, how should you be? If you understand why being fully human is so difficult, and if you understand the five basic ways to be authentic, then you can avoid some of the artificial ways of being that many people trap themselves in.
This takes a long time. You will not change overnight. But set yourself goals now. Inner goals. Decide now that as far as you can you will be attentive, intelligent, reasonable, responsible, and in love.