The Type Seven in Recovery
Copyright 2018 by Michael Naylor, CCPC, LADC, CCS, M.Ed/Version 2.0
The ENTHUSIAST—The Excitable, Variety-Seeking Type
“Happiness comes from Inner Peace…nowhere else!” Dalai Lama
The Healthy Seven
I watch Peter, a true type Seven, walk into the basement of St. Jude’s Church where other members of AA are arriving, sitting, talking, being. Effervescence and exuberance radiate from his face, his wiry-thin body embracing the moment as if it were a delicious drink. Eyes lit with enthusiasm, he takes in several deep breaths as if absorbing the contents in the room. Wherever he casts his eyes, whatever he gazes upon, lights him up with curiosity, with improvisational possibility, with lightning-quick delight. The moment is a living entity that speaks to him, touches him, moves through him, and infuses him. His ‘aliveness’ dial set on high, like a six-year-old boy who has entered a toy store, he is brimming with anticipatory excitement. Simply watching him enter and walk around the room lifts me up; I feel lighter, sit easier in the chair, as a wave of kid-like joy touches me.
Peter spills over with spontaneous generosity, the soul-stuff of goodwill erupting deep within him. He is contagious, a living conduit for the flow of generous, what-will-happen next, ecstatic ‘hereness.’ You see it in his eyes: limitless possibility streaming like a universe from his being. He’s right on the edge of it, wide-eyed to the splendor and unpredictable awe and potential of the moment. Totally, completely here, drinking it in, touching it, tasting it, and glowing like a 4th of July sparkler.
As he saunters through the room greeting his tribe, glad-to-be-here flowing through him, he is radiant with inquisitive presence, as if discovering each of his friends for the first time. “Hey Frank, great to see you,” he delights, taking Frank in like a scoop of ice cream. “Love your scarf Marsha! You are a flowing rainbow!” a generous ‘welcome’ dancing in his eyes. “Hi Tom, you are looking good, bro! How about those Giants!” he chimes, as he swings an imaginary bat and watches the ball sail over the fence in the distance.
Every encounter is an animated, expressive exchange. And…everyone is included, including the down-and-out-street-drunk, eyes and shoulders downcast, he carrying a huge boulder of despair the size of Kilimanjaro. Peter, taking the man’s hands, looks directly into his eyes, and says, “Welcome, my friend. Glad you are here!” And he means it. With effort the man, his clothes torn and dirty, poverty and the horror of homelessness etched deep into the sad crevices of his face, replies, “Thanks, man.” With kind eyes, Peter nods and squeezes the man’s shoulders. There is tenderness here. Peter has walked this road, has lived it for 25 years, knows street-poverty in every cell of his body. And knows the desolation that awaits this man, the walking the streets day after day with no home or money or family, the waiting in line for food at the Food Pantry, the savage need to find a place to sleep at night before the cold sets in.
With hummingbird attention he scans the rest of the room, looking for more connections. Spontaneously people call out his name, “Hey Peter,” instinctively drawn to him, wanting that moment when eye-to-eye with him, his intoxicating joy infuses them. Spotting Mary he declares, “What an amazing, wonderful day it is! And so-o-o good to see you!” as his arms stretch toward the ceiling, his gaze to the heavens, and eyes aglow. Chuckling at the awesome delight Peter brings to the smallest encounter, she grins back at him. Then, spotting an empty chair next to Tommy, he pauses, looks at it, looks at Tommy, and says, “Is this seat taken?” Tommy replies, “No.” He stoops closer, checksunderneath the seat and says, “Well, you know, sometimes the ‘little people’ are here. Got to watch out for them!” And then laughs at himself, and says, “You know how I am, crazy sometimes,” holding his childlike playfulness with a gentle kindness. This is so true of Peter. He is endearing, sweetly endearing, and because he is a healthy Seven, able to enter each moment with creative freshness, his kid-quirkiness arises effortlessly, nothing held back. At his best Peter is a joyous Tigger, a radiant meteor shower of gratitude and awe, a dash of radiant splendor, an uncontainable pulsing light orb from another galaxy, an emissary of great good will, and E.T with limitless love and spunk. Oh-so-spontaneous-in-spades, he can reinvent himself in the gap of each unfolding moment.
And then, there is his amazing recovery journey. Four years ago this precious, childlike, wise-in-such-an-innocent-way, beautiful man, was living homeless on the streets of Seattle, Washington, eating out of dumpsters, sleeping under bridges, living in homeless shelters, ragged with anxiety. On the edge of death, heroin and alcohol addiction, the vampire, possessing him. And he…thieving, cheating, jive-and-shuck-artist-deceiving, selling you the watch he just stole from you, hating you as he enticed you into a deal. He would come into AA, heartbroken, no light in his eyes, only sadness and grief, would stay sober for a few days and relapse again—hundreds of times! On numerous occasions in the middle of an AA meeting, he would fall to the floor flailing and flopping wildly, eyes rolled back into his head, a grand mal seizure possessing him as he detoxed from alcohol. Friends say that his first year clean he wept most of the time. Rivers of tears. Daily. Heartbroken to shreds, the memory of his wife dying in the arms of her heroin addiction a razor to his heart, he aching from the core of his being, and often unable to bear it. And yet this shooting star of a guy got sober. And one day, his soul came over the horizon, like the morning sun. He awoke. He arose. He stepped out of his soul-stunning grief into life. And he did it in the wild fashion of the beloved Type Seven—as if waking from the dead in a full sprint. From dark to light in a nano-second.
When he talks about his recovery he is dead-on serious, these are the facts, end of story. “That last breath I just took, was simultaneously the last breath a dying alcoholic or junkie just took. They die as we speak. This is real, folks. King alcohol wants you dead, right now! While you’re here at a meeting, he’s out in the parking lot loading his guns, doing pushups, getting smarter and meaner.” Truth like knives glisten from his eyes. His intensity brings dying junkies, meth heads, coke addicts, alcoholics into the room in real time, gasping for breath. No spiritual bypass here. Death, like a dementor, hisses. You could hear a pin drop. Here, in these rooms, he worships at a sacred temple, and only Zen-like rigor will suffice. From the core of his gutsy soul he declares, “No one has to drink today, or ever again. No one! Remember that!” Half rising out of his seat as he shares, a steely look illuminates him. In these moments nothing is loose and free-flowing. It is truth, the hard, take-no-prisoners, rock-solid, bottom-line truth he tells.
“There is simply no logical reason I am here today. I overdosed dozens of times. My heart stopped, I was taken as dead. Only on the wings of miracle did I wake up in a hospital, still alive. And somehow sobriety took. I don’t know how. It was given to me.” The room is utterly still as he continues. “The key to my sobriety is discipline, one-pointed discipline. I get up each morning, 4 AM, and begin my two hour meditation practice (never mind he only needs five to six hours sleep per night). I start with gratitude. I say, Thank you, God, for my left hand, my left forearm, my left elbow, my left upper arm, my left shoulder, my right shoulder, my right upper arm, my right elbow”—he touching each body part as he speaks, rattling off this litany at a breathtaking, errorless clip. “My tongue, my teeth, my throat, my blood stream, my eyes…my toothpaste, my food, my apartment, my deodorant, my bed, my sheets, my pillow. I then say, at least two-hundred times, I love you God.” Everyone is immersed in the pool of Peter’s gratitude, and appreciating the very real, taken-for-granted abundance in their lives. This is no light, life is easy, gratitude list. This is solid-granite-thankfulness etched into his soul; this is retrieved-from-the-swamps-of-death, gratitude. It is gratitude that is emblazoned on bone and in muscle, like tempered steel honed in the ovens of addiction horror. It is stunning, weighty and oh-so-very-real
For Peter every moment is a gift. This moment of eye contact with another, this moment of smelling the coffee, feeling the warmth in the room, recognizing that you have food for breakfast and that millions are starving right now. This moment always is the holy moment. This moment. This moment. This moment. It is so crystal clear to Peter. This moment…I am eating pizza and millions are ravenous for food…I’m brushing my teeth and millions go without a toothbrush…I’m lying on my bed while so many wander homeless and have no shelter or home to speak of…this moment. I have yet to witness someone who so inhabits the four corners of ‘now’ with all four cylinders burning so brightly, and with such gratitude.
He continues, articulating another mind-boggling miracle. In his forays into dumpsters to retrieve food, lit up on drugs, hunger-starved and blinded by despair, he discovered that cardboard boxes were being thrown away by restaurants. In the midst of garbage, rotting food, stink, filthy papers, aching belly…cardboard boxes! Several months sober something inside him stirs, and he gets an urge to paint on these surfaces. These surfaces! Who would have thought! Back to the dumpsters he goes, collecting cardboard. Two years later he’s a real time artist (with no lessons—stand next to this guy and you get that he is channeling beauty full time with every breath), his art—beautiful, hopeful, lift-your-soul-to-the-ceiling art; outrageous, flowing, ethereal, hopeful mermaids dancing in waves of gorgeous color—hang in shops all over downtown, Seattle. His work is an expression of the mercy that has saved him and the amazing Seven spirit that resides within him. He says, “Patricia, my deceased wife—she is my muse. She is my inspiration,” his eyes becoming shimmering pools of sadness.
Frequently he enters the morning AA meeting with colors embedded in his hands, in his finger nails, on his clothes, on his shoes, on his face. He stops suddenly in front of Bill D. and starts right in, “What a beautiful day! There’s beauty and freedom everywhere. This room, these people, beauty! We’re all channels for this beauty. I just do it with chalk, on the floor, painting my visions. They come to me. But we’re in God’s painting right now, here in this room; it’s happening all around us. We are the artwork. We are God’s painting!” He is smiling ear to ear, sunrise bursting in his eyes, the clarity and conviction of his words a Zen gong to Bill’s soul, who smiles back at him. He is wired on ready, now, here. His body, his face, his eyes say it: I am ready to embrace this moment of beauty, ready to be touched and moved and changed, wide-open, full of gusto, bring it! I am full in!
Put simply: the dude just makes you feel good! He is a conduit for causeless joy!
At the same time, he is utterly unselfconscious, not caught in an image of himself as an artist or improvisational channel, just being, being, being, and so gracious in his wired-to-be-alive-soaking-in-the-moment, self. Suddenly, with that lightning-quick-receptor-apparatus that is his presence, he will see something in a friend’s face and say, “Becky, are you okay? You seem down. Anything I can do for you? Well, it’s good to see you. Let me know if I can help out.” And then walks on to his next encounter with an AA compatriot, streams of joy lying in his wake. Breathtaking, truly breathtaking to witness. His spacious contact with reality is the Seven at his finest. And reminiscent of Riso/Hudson’s Level 1 name for the Type Seven: the ‘Ecstatic Appreciator.’
Type Seven in Addiction—Life at Level 6 & 7
When the Type Seven is caught in addiction, mired in the prison of Level 6 and 7 of the Levels, he is like an adrenaline-drugged humming bird, darting from experience to experience, trying to fill up his horrific emptiness and despair with pleasure, or any intense over-the-frigging-top- stimulation-experience that can destroy his sensation of suffering, anxiety, or despair. He is vibrating and moving at such a fast rate that he barely touches down, and every sensation-experience he attempts to land needs to be bigger, stronger, more intense than the sensation before, so as to blast him out of his numbing anxiety and bone-cracking loneliness. Because the truth of the matter is, his body, heart and mind have become so shut down and hardened that nothing can touch him, nothing can reach through the anxiety-driven, chaotic intensity of his mind. It’s like he’s got to put a torch under himself to feel anything. And believe me he’s willing to go to any length to feel something, an excitement, a pleasure, stimulation. Either stimulate himself or die of despair, those are the options. And he, unlike the Four, is not one to sit around for very long in despair. He will stimulate himself until he drops from exhaustion.
His natural optimism and enthusiasm has turned to cynical, screw-you-get-out-of-my-way, coldness. He is utterly on empty and running as fast as he can to find something, anything that can break through the hummingbird cage of ceaseless anxiety that has entirely captured his attention and his will. He cannot slow down unless he drives the leaden force of heroin or alcohol into his being. Or for some, cocaine becomes the tranquilizer, not hyping him up as it does many, but slowing him down. Truth is, he will collapse from all of this and temporarily become a heavy stone that is no longer flying helter-shelter in the prison cage of his agonized mind and soul, and he a trapped hummingbird. And so a cycle ensues: manic activity followed by burn out. Back and forth. Until he gets recovery or dies in a flame of exhausting suffering. Prison might be his saving grace.
He attempts to feed whatever desire arises on the screen of his consciousness quickly, adamantly, mainlining whatever possibility of pleasure and escape within his grasp, as if thrusting the experience like a needle into his veins, be it promiscuity, overeating, participating in dangerous activities, thieving, indulging in any sensual activity that might create a blip on the screen of his suffering until grace delivers a slam dunk, dragging him down from the high wire of his excitement-driven impulses, forcing him to detox, be it in jail (which saves many) or a rehab center. His ultimate fear: if I slow down and sense what is trailing me, I’ll be eaten by sorrow and disappointment. I must run until I drop. And with grace, drop they do, into the arms of recovery.
The First Twelve Weeks for the Type Seven in Recovery
Scotty entered our residential treatment facility several years ago. Here was a young man who on the spot, could contrive, create, and channel a one-man improvisational celebration of pure, unadulterated, wide-eyed, you’ll-never-believe-this-coming-at-you, humor. Out of nowhere he could create a story, one that had rhythm, energy, intensity, and wild-eyed turns. This is the funniest human being I have ever met, I thought, funny like the sweetheart of them all, Robin Williams (also a wonderful Type Seven). In fact, after he’d only slightly opened the door on humor, perhaps with a funny off-hand remark, within an instant it was as if the whole door to universal humor had been blown open and was now blasting through this young man, he a vessel for lightning-fast, side-splitting wit. And always, it was invention, unedited invention and spontaneity that would fly through, he a master improviser of words and thoughts, they arriving in immediate, never-seen-before fashion. There were never repeat performances! And the men loved him. Unanimously. In a flash he could lift everyone’s spirit from the darkest trenches. This was his gift. In these moments, fleeting like fast wind, he felt good. You could see his heart lighten, his blue eyes becoming bluer than blue, a brimming smile that said “I’m okay. I’m really okay. I’m loved here.” And the other men, in their own way, were deeply thankful for moments of respite from their suffering. In the many dark hours at Serenity House, Scottie was a beacon of hope. In those precious moments he was the pure force of spontaneous humor, as if all of his life was conduit for boundless humor and joy. There was nothing he cast his attention upon that didn’t hold a nugget of outlandish, can-you-believe-it, gut-busting humor. I have never laughed so much. And in the midst of these pure reveries a real light of total joy and happiness flickered in this sweet soul’s dancing eyes—flashing ocean-blue orbs, glowing transparencies of magic and gratitude. It’s as if the light of his soul, for a few moments, shift-shaped and moved through the darkness he was mired in. We all were bathed in this happiness when he was ‘on,’ when he was feeling good about himself. But later, outside of the radiance of his one-man-improvisational-performance, came a dark and insidious cloud. His soul was weeping, but rarely could he let you see it. In my office he would sit, head in his hands, weeping, heart-broken, a trail of devastation in his wake, outlandish pleasure hunts that turned into self-destructive forays into dangerous sex, dangerous relationships, thievery, self-prostitution, drug addiction, and the inability to quiet himself, slow himself down, to realize and contribute his gifts. He was a starving hound, forever hungry, never satisfied, desperately licking his lips on anything…anything…looking for the fix of happiness. Agitated, impatient, insatiable, cold-hearted, a stimulation junkie.
Over weeks in treatment, his entertainment reveries would dissipate. Undigested suffering would reach up into his heart chamber and close him down. Trunk loads of sorrow, grief, fear, and disappointment held him hostage. This delightful, open-hearted, so-funny-God-laughs, young man struggled mightily with addiction, such that he would again end up in dark alleys smoking crack, or in sodden bars looking to trade sex for drugs or food, his humor turned cynical and provocative, his every breath a degradation of his pure and essential soul. Only when he landed long enough to feel his grief, to feel his broken heart, did his journey finally home begin. And return he did.
In recovery groups his singular difficulty, and the difficulty that all Sevens struggle with, whether in their first year sober, or twentieth year sober, is allowing themselves to feel and inhabit their broken heart (not that other types don’t struggle with this, but they are often at the top of the list). It’s as if they have signed a pact with themselves: “Excuse me, I don’t do sadness. I do fun. I do funny. I do instigations-of-improbable-moments. I make you laugh. I say outlandish things you would never say. I do things that would embarrass you. I keep you and myself avoiding the heart.”
In groups they are capable of moments of crystalline clarity, truth-telling, instant wisdom that is quick and inspiring, that pours through them at light-speed, grasping many streams of understanding and articulating them into one flash of palpable wisdom. But their faster-than-lightening personality habits can streak back through the stratosphere of their psyche, and seconds after beginning to open their heart, will transform them into the funniest human being alive. Able to slip-slide past any wave of grief, or sadness, the genuine depth they were stepping into…gone, swoosh, disappeared. Helping the Seven to begin to detach from their mechanism of avoidance through too much humor, helping them to stay ‘in the rooms of recovery’ long enough to outwit their enormous restlessness and crazy-fast mind, is the ultimate challenge.
And really, really, noticing, that beneath the immense joy/joke-making machinery of their personality sits a soul who is lonely, whose heart is broken, who is afraid that if he is anything other than funny, he will fall into a pit of such misery he will never escape. Your job is to invite him to drop his persona from time to time (not give it up) so that another side of him starts to see the light of day.
Protective Mechanism of the Seven in Early Recovery—You Will Not See My Sorrow
The Seven’s protective mechanism is to focus his/her attention away from pain, suffering, or feelings of lack or deprivation. If the Seven lands too long in one place, takes a deep breath and relaxes, he often has the sense that a tidal wave of anxiety is erupting from his depths or beginning to crest over him like a huge wave—oh-my-god-impending-suffering—so it’s time to rev things up, shift the focus quickly, tell a joke, chase the latest impulse, buy, eat, get something, go somewhere, think about something positive, quickly materialize an alternative to suffering. Action, Jackson. Don’t look back because something could be trailing you, said Satchel Paige, the gangly fireball pitcher, a possible Seven.
This protective mechanism, avoiding suffering at all costs, is a back-breaker for those in addiction recovery. Phil, a Type Seven, said it clearly when asked why he’d never done an inventory of his life, and really looked at the cost of his addiction (In Alcoholics Anonymous this is called the 4th Step, taking a personal inventory, and is critical to helping individuals in becoming conscious of what addiction does to them and those they love.). He’d been in and out of treatment facilities for the past ten years, and although instructed dozens of times that he must look at his life and how his addiction is affecting him, without fail he would forget to do it. It would vanish in the wake of his current impulses. When asked why he failed to do the inventory, he replied: “Well, that would make me feel bad. What good would that do me? I’m convinced it wouldn’t help. I choose to focus on the positive. It makes no sense to me to focus on sadness as a way of healing. That seems utterly ridiculous. ” As if he could choose! How tricky and sly the personality can be. Yes, I’m choosing the positive over the negative. Never mind the serpent of sadness that is coursing its way through my heart, through my bowels, up my spine, scaring the beloved daylights of me, feeding my addiction. Never mind about that? I think myself, you choose to be positive? Really? Really? And how the heck is that working for you? Wouldn’t it be fairer to say that you run-like-hell-death-at-your-door-despair-choking-your-heart, away from the negative, while it sits inside your soul like an immovable monolith, laughing at your attempt to morph it into ‘the positive.’
Why does the Seven do this? Because his ego-ideal, which he tries like a son-of-gun to believe in and portray (like all the Types) is ‘I’m a happy, positive person’ (the mantra of the Type Seven). Never mind that everything inside him is programmed to rigorously avoid suffering at all costs…which disallows him from healing his suffering. While he thinks to himself, “I choose to look at the positive,” the rock-bottom truth prevails: He is driven to look at the positive. It’s his only option. Particularly in early recovery. And notice this Inner Critic message, designed to keep you drunk and addicted: If you’re honest and tell the truth of your suffering, you will be stuck in grief, the tar of sadness leaking into every cell of your body, for the rest of your life! Doesn’t take much to understand his strategy for surviving life sober: focus on the positive, be upbeat, don’t complain about the past, don’t dwell on the negative, be funny and entertain others, don’t ask for help—keep moving, shucking and jiving.
I sit with Mara, eight years sober. She is sobbing as I describe how the Seven seems to have an anti-sadness clause, and she responds:
“I tried for so long to always be happy. That was my job. That’s what got good reviews from others. Until I realized how much I stuffed my sorrow. When I finally let go, let the tears come, I thought I’d cry forever. People around me where disarmed. They actually tried to get me to stop crying. They want me to be the funny gal, to bring them up. I had to avoid people for a while and give myself time to heal. Today I don’t use my humor to avoid the truth of my suffering.”
Core Wound Relapse Pattern: I Will Never Be Satisfied
The core fear of the Seven is the fear of being deprived of happiness, or of being held captive in emotional pain and suffering, of being cut off from the happiness the Seven yearns for. It’s like the Seven carries in their deep memory a sense of being cut off from a deep connection with mom way too soon, when they had all of their needs met, and left to fend for oneself, and fend they do. They’ve made a deep instinctual vow to never be cut off from what pleases them or brings them joy. This vow translates into a terror of feeling any kind of emotional suffering (because they associate emotional suffering with being trapped with no way out—remember, this wound is deep). When the Seven senses emotional pain or any hint of deprivation, a red light explodes inside them: Avoid this. Get too close to this and guess what, you’ll stay hooked to this emotional pain and unhappiness for the rest of your life. It will stick to you like Velcro. Once you touched by it, it will infect you permanently. So get your ass out of here, now. Don’t linger. Get moving. Stay in motion. The sadness can’t catch you if you are on the move. Think of the next happy adventure or experience you could have and go for it. Bring in the positive energy, get the party started, turn the lights up bright and energize yourself. This is an emergency. Their growth edge is in discovering that the door to happiness must be entered through their engagement with their suffering.
The Seven’s fear of being trapped in pain and deprivation translates into a more conscious fear of being trapped by anything (person, place or thing) that could put him in any kind of rut or stricture, limiting his freedom. It’s as if he thinks, “If I get trapped in any circumstance without a back door out—if I commit myself to anything—I will become an easy target for suffering to nail me. I will be mired in darkness.” Commitment to anything other than being ‘committed to being uncommitted’ evokes the fear that he will lose the ability to be spontaneous, stripped of his choices and options, and locked into suffering. His lack of commitment creates the very suffering, the very emptiness and unhappiness he wishes to avoid. Unconsciously he thinks, “If I commit myself to anything, I will be locked in a prison of pain and boredom. I will no longer be searching for my happiness and I will be stuck in the moment, and devoured by boredom, anxiety and sorrow. Commitment equals suffering! I will find happiness by chasing after it!” The ‘chase’ becomes his delusionary ‘stimulation’ source of happiness and the true source of his unhappiness. The avoidance of boredom and stagnation creates the illusion that he’s moving in the right direction.
Of course his Inner Critic whispers: “You better keep moving, you better keep all your options open, you better have back up plans for your back up plans, you better continue anticipating all the possibilities available to you. This is where happiness is found, in looking for it. Not in actually experiencing it here and now. Keep searching elsewhere, any place but here, because at any moment pain or limitation could arise and stop you in your tracks…forever. Can you imagine how horrible this would be?” To the Seven, hell is losing his freedom to be spontaneous, of not having enough choices or resources, of getting caught in situations in which he is experiences boredom, his life becoming repetitious or too predictable and known. These are the swamplands he is vigilant to avoid.
Transformation in Recovery—Seeing My Addiction to Anticipation The Seven arrives in recovery filled with adrenalized, fidgeting, high-strung anxiety. He’s ready to burst out of his skin, brain on fire with non-stop chatter, flitting like an adrenaline-crazed monkey from exciting thought to thought. He sits fidgeting at the AA meeting, barely able to sit still, eyes darting, even after being pulverized by his drug of choice, be it crack cocaine, the fierce and deadly illusion artist, inspiring tastes of false, delusionary freedom and spontaneity in the Seven, while caging and owning, soul and all, the very life of the Seven. Or be it by the magician jailer—alcohol—w herein the playful Seven is given moments of fake-happiness-experiences—the distorted comedienne and prankster unleashed—and then is hammered by the dark and heavy chains of addiction grief. The flying bird now lay crushed and soul-spilled on the floor, and yet…the Seven brain is tireless and frenetic. Make no mistake, the tired body of the beaten Seven has a mind-current that burns like a fire-storm. As soon as they are able to muster energy to speak, here comes a flash flood of wit, stories cross-referencing and making sense when they shouldn’t, the panorama of a kaleidoscopic mind unleashed like David’s multi-color dream coat. Not to mention, hidden in the folds of his colorful humor, a biting, cynical, cut-you-to-the-core, rage masked as humor.
Either way, the Seven is only moments away from energizing from his tomb, from trying to resurrect the best of his ability to slip into that familiar crazy-funny personality that can soar out of the room, flee the damaged carcass they inhabit, escape the razor-sharp memories of soul dissolution, and escape the sadness breaking like a huge wave in the center of his chest. A booming voice looms in the head of the Seven, his Inner Critic melded to his thoughts, shouting, “Just get the fuck out of this room of recovering addicts. These boring pain-freaks! These limited uninteresting sods. I’ll bet they’ve never had the fun you’ve had. They have nothing to offer you, only bondage. Get the hell out of here and back to freedom.”
Never mind that the freedom he seeks ‘out there’ is actually a fast-moving prison-cage of repetitious high-pitched anticipations—his suffering disguised by “freedom and opportunity” delusions. He thinks he’s “going somewhere” when in fact he’s simply whirling around the walls of a psychic prison watching an imagination video that tells him he is ‘going somewhere.’ Yet in those vivid moments of being stopped in his tracks, he experiences the shock of awakening, and sees with crystalline perception: he’s only ‘pacing the cage’ of his mind, as singer Bruce Cockburn writes. He’s hypnotized and watching a movie about freedom, of imagining freedom, of thinking that freedom is just-around- the-damn-corner, all of which inhabits the brain of the Seven, newly clean and sober. The present moment isn’t real; it’s the possibilities “over there” that are real. It’s the pleasure-visioning, anticipating mind of the Seven in action, doing its thing, fueled by an anxiety-driven-impulsivity that wants him at all costs to impetuously chase the fantasy-hope-of-the-moment where instant freedom from pain appears to exist. Hurry and get over ‘there.’ The Seven thinks, “It could happen…if I just follow this impulse I might feel satisfied. What have I got to lose—let’s gamble! There is no way in hell I am going to be able to stand the slow pace of this recovery process. It’s too depressing.”
So away they go, frequently, quickly, hastily, rushing out the door, out-running the anxiety that is tracking them by drinking in the addictive energy of “anticipation.” The Seven is locked into a psychic pattern that “imitates” or “fills in” for their true boundlessness and spaciousness, for their innate spontaneity and boundless curiosity, and has turned to the very opposite: Impatience, impulsivity, a lightning-quick mind thinking too many things at once; a log jam of conflicting thought-streams confusing the hell out of the Seven; fast synaptic impulses to go here or there, say this or that—which impulse should he follow and act on?
The paradox, like a Zen Koan, is heart-breaking: it is his fever-pitch-pursuing that makes it impossible for him to be touched by this moment, to be filled with gratitude and satisfaction in this moment. It is only by surrendering to his sorrow, stopping his full-out sprint, bearing his impulsivity with warrior-like discipline that real happiness emerges. He sits in a recovery meeting, or in an addiction group, or a counselor’s office, his attention going every which way but ‘here.’ ‘Here’ is a trap door to suffering, to imaginary limitation, and so his defense mechanisms take him away, possessing him like a flickering disco ball, splattering his attention every which way. To bear this inner activity, and to navigate it successfully, is no easy matter. More than anything he needs to talk, needs to say out loud what is coursing through him so needs to put a name to the continuing flood of impulses that beckon to him to go, to leave this moment. “Chase me” they call, or “You will die.” And…he needs to stay put.
You must name these internal dynamics for the Seven because the Seven’s internal psychodynamics ride so close to his perception, slither into his thought-stream like a vast moving, shape-shifting ghost that one only gets glimpses of, making it difficult for him to perceive the trance he is addicted to. Encourage him to sit with all of this, spill it, talk it through, report it, until by reporting it, the anticipating-what’s-next mechanism begins to be less captivating, less hypnotizing, and he more able to digest and observe what is pulling his attention away. And more particularly, he will get a glimpse of what lies underneath this mechanism of his fast changing attention—fear—a heart that is starved for love—he like a hungry dog looking for a bone. He is not someone who needs to follow the dictates of a curmudgeon alcoholics anonymous, or narcotics anonymous, super-hero sponsor who declares, “Take the cotton from your ears and put it in your mouth.” Ah yes, that’s compassion in action, is it not? No, that’s some fixated recovering alcoholic who’s not landed in their essence, and is unable to savor joy, their value, their preciousness, or their well-being, who plays one-note-sobriety.
This is not to say that a word-feast is what helps the Seven. Truth is, many Sevens have a difficult time with silence, and express their raging anxiety by talking impulsively. In the beginning they need compassionate observers able to bear with their need to talk. The Seven will not arrive at inner quiet in early recovery by being told to shut up and put the cotton in his mouth (in fact, this can be the worst advice to give a newcomer!). Give him space to talk and he will quiet down naturally. Give him room to say what is occurring, and slowly he will begin to sort out what is important. Listen with full attention to his hummingbird mind, help him hold a focus in his conversation, listen with compassion and kindness, and he will sense his safety and begin to shift his conversational flow to feelings of the heart. As Russ Hudson and Don Riso say, “Listen with all three centers.” That is, be a field of receptivity and listening, be a witness for his current of mad-hatter-thinking, give him space to begin to sense his precious heart. Your presence will be infectious and supportive. And this is for certain, listening without judgment will call forth his sincere heart and his real wish to be sober and clean. Judging him will drive him away. Practice immaculate patience for his process and the Zen Door to his Soul will creak open.
Suggestions to the Type Seven
1. Become aware of your emotional habit—gluttony—and begin to disidentify with it. Gluttony is the drive to fill up your emptiness—the hungry heart of the Seven—with stuff, like the stuff of food, or material objects, or sex, or whatever appears as the object of pleasure. It could be spiritual experiences, adventures, travel, shopping, gambling, ceaselessly, sexual and sensual titillation, pursuing what’s next. Gluttony says “I’m not getting enough. I need more, I need more, it’s not quite enough, it could be better, bigger, larger, more pleasurable; it doesn’t quite satisfy, just a little more, a little more. Damn, that’s not quite it. I felt good for a second, but the emptiness is back, the void is back, better throw something else down the harrowing gullet of searching-for-something-out-there to fill this insatiable hunger. I must stuff, fill, and avoid this hungry “hole” with anything but being-present-with-it.” As my friend Tom says, “You can never get enough of what you really don’t need.” That’s gluttony. Your practice: begin to sense you gluttony, invite it in, and resist taking action on it. Slow down and be with it. Dare to see what lay underneath it. Philip Seymour Hoffman (type Four) describes gluttony in these words: “I think I kill pleasure. I take too much of it and make it unpleasurable…There is no pleasure that I have not made myself sick on…pleasure is not happiness.” For the Seven (and the Four, fellows in massive self-indulgence)—pleasure is not happiness. Is not satisfaction. Is not fulfillment.
2. Begin to notice your addictive habit of mind—anticipating the future—while missing the moment you are actually living in. This is the challenge: how do you learn to be “here” with the experience you are having. Your monkey-mind, under stress, is driven to contemplate several future events or possibilities at once, while entirely missing your “lived” experience. Instead, you become addicted to living in your thought-patterns. Wonder why you aren’t satisfied, grateful, overflowing with joy, while restless, running in place, wanting something more? You’re not landing in your “lived life” so nothing reaches you deeply, fills you, penetrates you, and you stay ‘empty’ while lost in your hummingbird-futurizing-mental activity. In other words, you are not home. People love you and it doesn’t touch you, because you are thinking of the experience you’d like to have—over there!—with another person, or another state, or in a another country, or in another event. Brain-buzz makes you a fast-moving emptiness. And who wouldn’t get impatient with the pace of things—it’s not happening fast enough, hurry up and arrive, you declare!—because nothing of life and all that could feed your heart, your senses, your well-being, is touching or reaching you. Thus, you play your go-to card: turn up the dial and move faster, quicker, hurrying nowhere…nowhere.
3. Develop Quiet Mind. This, for the Seven, can be daunting. One put it this way, “If I’m busy sitting ‘doing nothing’ I might miss something really important. I might miss that one opportunity that brings me happiness for the rest of my life. Just sitting here is challenging. If I’m not in motion then sadness, boredom, anxiety can touch me. How could this ever help me?” What a great and important question. Well, here’s the gift of developing quiet mind. When you develop quiet mind, you begin to nurture the faculty of intuitive knowing. What, you might ask, is important about this? Well, for the Seven, predisposed to noticing all the possible great experiences available to them, without quiet mind operating can only discover what really satisfies them by trying everything, all-at-once if possible. As the Seven develops intuitive clarity, he begins to more easily sense which potential experiences will really nurture him. Choosing becomes simple, straight-forward, instead of being blurred by impulsive grasping. This brings sanity, precision, and grounding. Sitting and observing your thoughts without judgment and without taking action, will hone a critical survival skill that opens you to heart-felt peace and satisfaction…and to inner guidance. You begin to sense what you can rely upon within yourself.
4. Become aware of your impulsivity. This is your Achilles heel. You see something you want, and quick as a wink, without considering resources, or right timing, or checking in with your heart or intuition, you go for it. That is, without any ‘presence’ or ‘mindfulness’ you fly helter-skelter towards the stimulation or the pleasure or possibility of the moment. Instead of “Ready, Aim, Fire!” you “Fire, Aim, and What Readiness?” Here’s the deal. You notice that the excitement of just leaping forward is so titillating and stimulating—you get ‘high’ on it!—that any anxiety or boredom or god forbid, sadness, that might be lurking about in the cave of your soul, gets completely eradicated. As in—presto!—it’s gone. The juice of chasing experiences works magic, and can and will lead you directly into experiences you don’t need, that don’t feed you, that unwittingly set you up for addiction relapse. Hey, have enough not-satisfying experiences and your addiction will drink you for breakfast, lunch, and supper. That is, you’ll get careless with choices. With just a little bit of ‘presence’, or ‘hereness,’ you will begin to experience a moment of mindfulness—a gap in your impulsivity—and begin to develop the ability to attune to your decisions, such that your inner wisdom guides you, rather than your habit of leaping willy-nilly towards the next better, greater, more fun, more pleasure-filled experience. Remember, bigger, more…is not better.
5. Develop disciplined focus. Nothing will be more likely to save you in recovery, than this! Make a commitment to learn to do one thing at a time, fully, completely. Peter explains it this way: “I made a decision early on in my recovery that each morning I will devote one hour to my spirituality. I meditate for 15 minutes. I journal for 10 minutes. I practice conscious gratitude for 30 minutes. Every day, without fail. Also, I paint for two hours because this is my passion. I attend an AA meeting every morning. This has taught me to anchor my attention on one-thing-at-a-time. Without this, I would be lost in every passing impulse. Before I make major decisions, I run it past my sponsor. As I learn to curb my impulsivity, my clarity about what truly serves me, increases. I relax and become more grounded and settled. I like this!”
6. Finish the 4th Step. Your natural inclination is to fly spontaneously by the by seat of your pants, whether flying into soulful escapades, or flying into the mouth of your addiction. Because you are a fast learner, with lightning-quick mental reflexes, comprehending things at the speed of light, your tendency is to assume that your quick intellectual comprehension of “anything” equates with understanding or the deep digestion of your experience. So, starting with the 12 Steps of AA (or NA/GA/SA/OA) notice your tendency to touch lightly, the heavy steps. That would be step Four, the dungeon dwelling inquiry—making a thorough inventory of your addictive past. That means standing mud-deep in your mistakes, delusions, moments of callous disregard for another and self, absorbing the moments in which you escaped responsibility and free-loaded. Not much here that would delight your soul. Only a rare few would build a cathedral at this funeral site (hello brother Fours). But here’s the deal: unless you let the mistakes of the past pierce that hungry-for-happiness heart of yours, unless you feel-it-in-your-bones—the horror and real suffering of your addiction—unless you slow-the-f-down to embrace what you’ve danced around, unless you grieve it deeply and let it knock you to your knees with kind and generous humility, you will not awaken your soul passion to be sober. You cannot skip over this step. Cannot! C.A.N.N.O.T.! The same goes with Step Five, wherein you share your global romp through addiction hell with another sober alcohol. Do not skip this step! DO NOT!
7. Start small in the realm of sadness. Make a commitment to experience your emotional discomfort just a little longer than your habit. Now we’re talking about commitments to do-able steps. For you, beloved Seven, that means noticing when the twang of sorrow touches your heart strings, and breathing into it for just a moment longer than you’re inclined to. “Inclined” as in leaving-the-moment-immediately when sorrow arises. Stop. Breathe. Notice the sensations in the heart, in the chest, in your body. Count one…two…three. What do you notice? You did not burst into flames! You did not die! And, you really can escape the pain if necessary. It’s all do-able. Notice too, your ego script that reads something like this: “I am somebody that excites, stirs up, entertains, and gets the juice flowing for others. That’s me.” To experience your heart’s suffering you must disengage from your ego story, if only for a few moments. Notice it. Gently bring your attention back to the sensations of your heart. All is well.
8. Become mindful of what spurs you into motion. This is a great inquiry—what is the source of your forward movement? You are somebody who is infused with visionary inquisitiveness and prone to adventurist-reveries, and when healthy, this is your wild card, your gift to the world. You are a fast responder to any in-flowing stimulus (unlike the Nine, who can resist responding with historic slowness). However, your job is to begin to discern when you are being soul-inspired, or whether you are being avoid-emotional-pain, inspired. They are qualitatively different phenomena. Soul-inspired adventures will fill you, and actually quiet you down. You will taste satisfaction and joy in the core of your being. But avoid-emotional-pain-or-boredom inspired adventures will leave you empty, restless, unfulfilled, a hungry dog. You cannot fill yourself on these avoid-my-sadness-emptiness-boredom-maneuvers.
You must learn this in the fabric of your being: any attempt to outrun your particular emotional suffering or discomfort calls your addiction to you like a slathering vampire. In the midst of a full scale sprint towards a futuristic fix, your addiction will rise up and snap your spine. You know this to be dead true. Welcome Godzilla. Welcome Voldemort and his team of Dementors. Welcome the Creature from the Black Lagoon (a good friend of the Type Four).
9. Become aware that your full-flight, hyper-kinetic, communication and information processing genius can overwhelm people.Freddy, the chef, faces me as I walk into the kitchen at Mercy House. He lights up, excited by his next contact with a human being. Yeah, baby, someone to vibrate with, his psyche says. “Welcome, Michael, the Zen Master. Oooommmm!” he hums, the thumbs and forefingers on each hand connecting meditatively. “Today…” he says, eyes filled with electric-gleam-streamers, energized internal circuits instantly turning on in him…click, hiss, boom, swoosh…his excitability-dials amping up. “…we have world class hotdogs! And world class hotdog buns! And world class ketchup!” His toothy grin shines like an Irish Setter, ready for a chase. And zoom—off he goes, his story-making propensity a fast moving meteor, connecting dots from past, to future, to present, to past, as if downloading and synthesizing five thought-streams at once. In full flight, like an adrenaline-crazed-bird, comes the story. ”Marilyn, my wife, she’s my first love”…and moves seamlessly to “I was so desperate, I found a hooker in Idaho…” his eyes widening with the thrill of the chase, he imitating the way she walked in her boots as if it were just yesterday, he grinning ear to ear, my too-much-information barometer going haywire. To… “And my new girlfriend, she wears a surgical mask in public…ah, my friend, she is quite a catch,” as he explains the dynamics of kissing a woman who is wearing a surgical mask, tricky business and so very strange, he adds. He pauses to take the fastest breath on earth and then says to me, “I’m going to the grocery store. Want to come?” Another lightening-speed pause, and then, “Road trip, baby, Road trip!” As if we might actually climb the Himalayas on the way to the Shop N’ Save. Or discover ancient Inca artifacts sprinkled between contact with gypsies and trolls. This is followed by an avalanche of weird and strange past and current encounters in grocery stores with the weirdest of the weird, stories about strange vegetable-encounters-with-wanderers-and-misfits around the grocery stores of Seattle, as only a type Seven explorer could conjure, attract, encounter…anywhere! All of this spoken in one seamless, free association, sentence!
I find myself first energized by this encounter, and now feeling as though I am being sucked freakin’ dry as a bone. I try to interrupt but now the story-stream—it’s like a wild, magnetic, entity storming through the room—has fully taken his attention, each scintillating word filling him like an elixir, with myself a captured, locked-and-transfixed-in-his-story, prisoner caught in the energy beam of his story. I can feel it: he’s woven an energetic web around me, and is holding me in the magnetic force-field of his excitement. I bear with this and then slowly edge towards the hall door, slip out of the gravitational forceful he’s conjured and begin to leave the kitchen and walk down the hall. Yet his story continues, he still ablaze with excitable, enthusiastic zeal. Wow, once that pattern gets turned on, it’s very hard to interrupt. Which leads to the moral of the story…
10. Become aware whether the individual you are talking to is actually listening, or whether their eyes have glazed over and are praying for escape. This is how the Seven goes unconscious with people, so that what is so precious in them, their blazing, euphoric, so-funny-god-laughs, story-telling capacity, is turned to an impulsive, no-holds-barred, download. The Seven gauntlet: you, dear Seven, must keep contact with whoever you are speaking to, pausing, taking a breath, noticing that there is a real, live, human being in front of you, who needs real contact with you. Are their eyes glazed over? (Bad sign!) Are they engaging you or hoping that you finally pause so they can speak, or trying to escape from you? (Check the eyes, notice the body language, are they leaning away from you? Are they sending you mayday messages, their eyes pleading with you to please stop talking?) You must slow down and recognize their signs, pause to listen to them, otherwise you are engaging in masturbatory storytelling, and unwittingly pushing away real contact with others. You can unintentionally become a freak of entertainment whom will later be discarded, rather than kept as a friend. It seems like you have tons of friends until you don’t.
Note to the Seven
Beloved Seven, you are the joy-makers of the galaxy, the hope-bringers, the ones who lift spirits like no other. This is your gift, your default, and where you go even when it is your turn to grieve and be cheered up. Including yourself in the equation of soul-support, allowing your heart to open to its suffering, is what empowers your capacity to bring more joy to others, and to experience something you seek more than anything: true contentment. To do this you must learn to slow down, come to a screeching halt on a daily basis, be here now in the grace of stillness, endure the squirm-factor that initially can make you feel like you will burst into flames if you sit still for one second longer. Resist the temptation to soar at the slightest provocation. Develop deeper ‘intuitive knowing’ through your practice of ‘being-with-yourself’ in meditation. Begin to trust inner stillness and inner peace, rest in it, nurture it, and a single-minded ‘clarity will begin to settle in your consciousness. Then, the wisdom to know what to act on, and what to pass on, will arise and inform you. Intuitive guidance—the jewel you seek, will direct you clearly to your heart’s satisfaction.