Type Three in Recovery
The Achiever—The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type
By Michael Naylor, M.Ed, CCS, LADC, CPCC Copyright 2018
“Be aware of the transformational process, no matter what type you are. The more we allow ourselves to feel the pain of our self-abandonment, the Essential qualities that we have been longing for begin to arise in us. The unfinished business of childhood begins to resolve itself in our psyches and our hearts begin to heal.” (Understanding the Enneagram, Riso-Hudson, p, 365)
The Healthy Three
The healthy Three is a radiant motivator of others, encouraging them with skill and faith to do their best, to see their capacities, to shine as they are capable of shining. Effortlessly, and with grace, they support others, championing them to celebrate the talents they’ve been given; encouraging them to develop them, maximize them, and share them with the world. They inspire others to stand in the true radiance of their personal capacities, to be the best they can be! Not to impress anyone, but to bring forth the gifts one has been given, and to both revel in and experience the joy in manifesting and celebrating them! The mantra of the Three: “Shine your light brightly! Be your best self!” (This is Oprah Winfrey in spades!). Three’s are very clear about this: the gifts one has been given are meant to be utilized, expanded, and brought forth as contributions to the world.
Healthy Threes, magnetic, charming, and articulate, express themselves with heartfelt authenticity and confidence, while possessing the remarkable ability to adapt to circumstances in pursuit of their goals. If one thing doesn’t work, they try another. This ingenious adaptability keeps them open and flexible, endowing them with the intuitive ability to tap into the highest ground of possibility and creativity in the present moment. Under pressure they are poised and graceful, their inherent sense of confidence and natural competency a powerful ally. Three’s feel “I can do whatever it takes to succeed, and so can you!”
Martin, a Type Three, twenty-five years sober, rose to the ranks of his state’s political system. When healthy he could read a crowd, could articulate concepts that landed positively on constituents and friends, could find the positive in a difficult situation, and when necessary, could declare defeat graciously. He was wired with strong self-confidence, abundant energy, and multi-talented ability to reach his goals with drive and efficiency. At his best his capacity to truly listen to the needs of others and to empower them to find ways to meet their needs was undaunted. He became a role model of service and empowerment with everyone he worked. Gracious, humble and grateful to be able to help, his humility called forth genuine humility in others. Right-sized himself (he’s say, “When I’m present, I’ve become a worker among other workers and it feels great.”), he invited others to occupy this common and sacred ground.
A writer, a speaker, and an inspiring and articulate communicator, his capacity to make sense out of complicated subjects allied him with many. He has walked the razor’s edge of Type Three in recovery, balancing his capacity to fall into self-centeredness, compulsive attention-seeking and self-serving acts designed to gain him approval (of which he would simply say, “None of this ever satisfies me or makes me happy—ever!) with his spiritual path of learning to serve the interests of the greater whole. This includes humbling asking for the guidance of his higher power, God, Goddess, the Divine on a daily basis.
Energetic, positive, a go-getter, and motivated to be his best, his attuned-heart has been the radar and guidance system for all his finest actions. This, above all else, is what is most appealing to others, his authentic, truthful and engaging heart. This points to one of his primary spiritual practices. As he says, “Are my actions serving love, or serving my ego, and my ‘image’ of myself? That is always the question I must ask myself, with ruthless honesty. I am ever aware of a part of me that is hardwired for self-promotion and self-seeking—I just seem to be wired this way—and ‘IT’ is always slipping seamlessly and silently into my thoughts and motivations.”). Coupled with this heart-practice, his gentleness and youthful spirit make him approachable and trustable. He is all he says he is, often with little fanfare or self-promotion. A humble, can-do guy (with his inner observer watching for type Three ego activity), wired to be in action and filled with energy and ambition, he became a driving force in his political sphere. Able to see his own flaws with self-effacing modesty, his need to be seen as the “the star,” or the one who had out-performed his competitors, was rarely visible. Yes, he sought to win and rise in the ranks and enjoyed the increased self-esteem it gained him, but he had enough presence and awareness to not play to this single note. As he says,
“One thing is for certain. Success for the promotion of my self-interests alone, to bring glory to ‘me,’ is like trying to fill a bottomless well. There is never enough—money, applause, accolades, publicity—it’s always fleeting moments, maybe, followed by emptiness. As a friend said to me, ‘You can never get enough of what you don’t need.’ No kidding! When I’ve been taken by this impulse, this need and hunger for power and admiration, the destruction that lay in its aftermath is shocking. I’ve had to learn this hard lesson in recovery, eighteen years into recovery: That it is only in doing what truly serves others that I experience true happiness. It has taken me years to see how my self-centeredness and need for admiration constantly ruined my real happiness. Problem is I didn’t see it when it was happening. I was blindly driven. You could not have pointed it out to me because I would not have listened. I’ve learned to see the machinations of my ego the hard way. Caught in these self-promoting desires, I completely overlooked my children for nearly a decade of my recovery. I was totally hypnotized by my need and hunger to get more admiration, status, reputation, and power. I thought if I had these things you couldn’t hurt me, life couldn’t hurt me. My vanity was my addiction—in recovery no less—and the rationalizations I told myself to feed and support my self-interest. I thought this gave me freedom. But it was never enough. I always needed more. It was the words of my son that stunned me. He said, ‘Dad, for most of my childhood I just thought you were this guy who was on TV. You were never here.’ This utterly broke my heart because it was true. Chillingly true! This was and is the cost of my self-aggrandizement, my passion to self-promote myself.”
Add Martin’s spiritual commitment to keep his own self-serving motivations to a minimal to his desire to truly help others, and you have the ingredients for an outstanding human being—a true role model.
The Three in Addiction—Life at Level 6 and 7
At Levels 6 and 7, the best of the Three has turned to its opposite. The Three’s natural modesty has turned to narcissism and self-centeredness; his genuineness and sincerity has turned to fraudulence, dishonesty, manipulation, desperation and callousness; his abundant inspiration to champion others has morphed into unethical, self-serving actions to promote his reputation and status, and often in a manner that is underhanded.
At L6 and L7 the Three is suffering from a broken heart, unbeknownst to himself (as all the types are at L6 & L7). His ability to truly sense what he loves to do, or how to love himself or others, has disappeared into the swamp of his vanity-driven actions. Out of touch with his value, he desperately seeks solace in the approving eyes of others, meaning he’ll do almost anything for admiration. He’s like a hungry dog, starved for attention, and so constricted that he can’t absorb any attention he might receive (As he stays sober, year ten, fifteen, or twenty years, he will more deeply, directly and viscerally experience this heart “hunger,” this deep longing for approval, and just how powerfully it can dictate his behavior. With it will come compassion for himself and what has caused him so much suffering.). When healthy, he will be more able to develop his talents and appreciate his successes, less concerned with whether others approve of him or not. But at L6 and L7, his only source of self-worth comes, fleetingly, when he extracts approval from others. Desperate for approval his addiction has driven him to do whatever it takes to promote an image of success.
While the healthy Three is highly attuned to the hearts of others and how his actions affect them, now caught in his terrible need to be seen as valuable, he no longer senses how his actions harm, or put down others. Instead of championing others, he is now competing with and undermining the success of those he is jealous of. Likewise it is often intolerable to him to appreciate or champion the success of others (his deep gifts). Jealousy burns through him. He has entered the hell realms where the survival strategies he employs to feel better send him down a slippery slide into more shame, despair and embarrassment (as he gets healthier these ‘demons’ will still visit him but with presence and self-awareness, will not run him.). He is driven to project an even more confabulated, contrived self-image of the ‘successful’ one, to cloak himself in success veils, to hide his deepening sense of worthlessness and panic. His holy blessing will be when he no longer strives to ‘be’ someone, and rests in his innate worthiness and value. This is to come.
At L6 and L7, the healthy Three’s gift of authentic attunement to others and heartfelt adaptability to circumstances and people, has morphed into the ability to seamlessly manipulate people with alarming skill, to get what he wants. He becomes a chameleon who shape-shifts into what “you value,” his real nature hidden deeply in a tomb of panic. He is cut off from the very thing that guides him to what he is best in him—his attuned heart. Instead of being inspired to lift others up into the light of their success, he has turned to cold, heart-dead competitiveness. Instead of inhabiting a loving and modest heart, his heart has turned empty and vain, he driven to shameless acts of attention-gathering. If a lie about his successes brings him attention, he will lie. If cutting down an opponent will take the wanted light of success away from his competitors, he will cut them down. Instead of experiencing deep self-worth and value, he is self-prostituting and desperate for affirming attention…while his inner emptiness sits in the center of his chest…a haunting ghost, wraithlike, chilly. Picture the soul-less pursuers of Sam-wise and Frodo, trekking from Mordor, a hiss the hallmark of their empty, frozen souls. This is the psychological space the Three inhabits at Level 6 and 7—all driven by ever growing despair.
The First Twelve Weeks of Residential Treatment
When a Three arrives in recovery at Serenity House a curious dynamic often occurs. In groups he can quickly pick up on all the right “treatment” phrases (he can get treatment savvy very quickly), can demonstrate the right intensity of emotion, and can mirror what a committed- individual-in-recovery looks like. He is instinctively wired to picking up on the expectations of the counselors, and quickly ‘reads’ what’s sought after. Instantly he can put on the ‘shine’—reciting the appropriate recovery phrases and treatment insights that gain the approval of his counselors. (He is a fast learner—instantaneous at times—reading the field of “what is valued” intuitively!) And yet, when he returns to the residential community with other men in recovery, where he is just ‘another client,’ where there is no real status to be gained, he can drop his ‘recovery act,’ acting superior to the less-than-star-like-clients he is surrounded by. At L6 he lives in an inflated world of self-importance, and will often demonstrate behavior that looks down on others (In AA this is “an ego maniac with an inferiority complex.” We all have shades of this!). That is, he will treat others as badly as he feels—as if they have no worth or value. His turnaround begins when he sees this self-defensive behavior—his habit of seeing himself as ‘better than’ the others—and the harm it does to himself, and begins to humbly ask for help. (As in, this pattern is so quick and strong in me, I don’t know how to stop it. It arises and runs through me lightening-quick before I can do anything to disengage from it. It cuts me off from connection with others. Help!) This is his doorway out of the prison of his addiction, and his loneliness. With ruthless honesty and compassion to self, the lock on his prison door—his vanity—will begin to loosen.
Remember, an individual who arrives in addiction recovery is living at Level 6 and 7 (which translates as “I’m-unconscious-can’t-see-
what-the-hell-I’m-up-to-or-what-has-control-of-me”), and is overwhelmed with feelings of shame and self-hatred. In an attempt to
eradicate his pain, he will reflexively impose his suffering on others in less-than-healthy, Three style, i.e., inflicting his self-
importance brazenly and addictively on other clients. But as he begins to relax and trust, at critical soul-opening moments he will radiate gentle authenticity and caring support towards others. You will see his soul shining through the layers of his personality defenses, bright and beautiful. As true radiance begins to come forth, the Three faces a critical discrimination—he must learn to viscerally sense in his body, heart, arms, head, feet, when his real authenticity is arising within him, while humbly noticing his Type Three predilection to convincingly perform his ‘authenticity’ so as to acquire approval. Are his shared insights honest and truly heart and body felt, or the stuff of another mask he is wearing?
No other type needs to discern this difference so deeply. Surely not an easy thing for the Three to discern as the truth is, he honestly may not be able to tell the difference for some time. He is so good at ‘transforming’ into what others want to see in him, that he has learned to fool himself, that is, he can’t see himself do it. This tendency will be his most challenging stumbling block which he must learn to observe and step through, at deeper and deeper levels of awareness throughout his recovery. As Thomas, fifteen years sober said, “Truthfully, I unconsciously, and not maliciously, begin to speak the words that will impress you, such that sometimes I can’t tell whether what I’ve spoken is my truth, or a something I think you’d like to hear. I still struggle with this lightning-quick habit. It’s a form of deceit but most of the time, I don’t really see or sense it until later. It’s so powerful that I can sometimes really believe my own bullshit.”
His natural inclination as he begins to participate in addiction treatment is to rise to the top of the client pack for admiration (Three mantra: I’m either the best or the worst, no ‘in between’). That means ‘impressing you’ by becoming what he perceives you, his counselor, values in a ‘recovering’ client. He can, if necessary, shape-shift into the exact image that makes whoever he is with, his counselor, AA sponsor, his probation officer, his wife, his mom or dad, feel like ‘he’s getting it’—when the opposite may well be true. He may reflect the joyous appearance of a client who appears to be rising from the destruction of his addiction, exuding humility and gratitude, when his inner life might be inundated with emptiness, shame and narcissistic rage. Not on purpose but because this action of becoming what-the-other-admires is the Three’s instinctive reaction to anxiety until they become courageous and healthy enough to tell their personal truth. It will take much time before he feels he can drop the act of I’ve-got-it-together-no-need-to-talk-about-dark-feelings. So, faster than a speeding bullet he can look like he’s fully embodied the recovery program and is “living” it, and doesn’t really need your help. This is his Achilles heel.
As the Three begins to drop and resist his addiction to abandoning his true self by seeking to gain the approval of others, and sits with the fear of being disapproved up, from the center of his being will arise compassion, self-worth, and internal support. God, Goddess, Presence, grace will arise to meet his sincere efforts to be authentic. Here, in this precious moment, he will receive what he has been so hungrily trying to get from others.
Protective Mechanism of the Three—“I’ll be What You Need Me to Be!”
The Three aims to please you, to show you how good he can be, to attract you to his competencies and skills, to demonstrate that through his talents and achievements that he is valuable, and not worthless. “Please admire me,” he prays from the deep hole in his heart. He wants himself and you to feel that he is a “somebody,” and not “a loser.” This passion to not be a loser places him on stage trying to get your approval, to please you in order to feel pleased within himself, and to sell himself out. He is driven to rid himself of the big hole of emptiness in his soul. It is this hole in the heart that substance abuse placates, relieves, and then adds more torture to.
The last thing he wants to feel is that he is a worthless loser, and ironically this is the very door he must pass through and patiently feel, that will lead him to his real worthiness. His tactic: get into action towards whatever success will eliminate his sense of deficiency—now! In the beginning he will do everything in his power to not let you see or touch this vulnerable core wound (Learning to articulate and feel this wound will be the task of his evolving recovery and journey to well-being.). He does this by appearing to be success-in-action, a shining-in-recovery-star-performer. If tears are appropriate he will show you tears, just enough—such that who-he-truly-is does not show. The adaptable face-of-the-Three has been his shield from suffering, and what he will slowly become aware of.
Because he has learned to protect his wounded heart by rushing towards his next success, driven to do better and better, once his feet have hit “recovery ground” he will be off and running. In fact, at the beginning stages of his recovery he might be vulnerable and shaken enough that he can’t prop up the “successful one” mask, but once he’s got his bearings and has been sober and clean long enough, time to get back to what he really wants—success and admiration. No sooner than he’s actually touched the real stuff of his heart, he may be out the door after what he perceives is the success that he’s always wanted, but which his addiction stopped him from attaining…while the ghost of his emptiness continues to arise and attempts to make contact with his heart.
This will be a fundamental relapse trigger—his inability to sense his heart (and his hurt, shame, and rage) and to dodge it while in pursuit of the approving, external gaze of others. His addiction licks its lips and patiently waits, hidden in the folds of his suppressed suffering, a sniper waiting for the Three’s armor to crack. ‘It’ is very patient
Core Suffering and Relapse Pattern of the Three Throughout Recovery
The driving engine of the Three’s addiction is his core fear of being a loser, of being utterly empty and without value on the inside—like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz—and that others will see this and reject him, end of story, game over. His deepest fear: if you know who I am on the inside, you’ll have nothing to do with me! He is terrified of this. At deeper and deeper levels, the Three, in long-term recovery, will excavate more difficult and hidden aspects of this wound, peeling the onion of his soul as he discovers deeper authenticity. Roger explains it this way:
“When I entered recovery I felt like an utter loser. I’d lost everything, my kids, my job, my relationships. I’d gone to the bottom and I wanted with all my heart to repair my disasters. I grabbed onto AA and NA as my lifeline, which kept me sober, and although it felt good to have people support me, it wasn’t enough, at least so I thought. I knew I was biding my time and that the shame for all my losses would not be resolved until I got into action in the real world. Although in the beginning the sorrow and humiliation was overwhelming and I surrendered to it, as soon as I could bypass it, I did. Once I got back on my feet and was back at what I considered ‘real success,’ I did what I always did—I avoided or skipped over any vulnerable feelings and went into performance role, into being the successful one, shaping this persona as soon as it was in reach. Actually, I did this so automatically and seamlessly that I didn’t even realize I was numbing my heart to avoid hurting, disengaging from my feelings and the feelings of others. And, as always, not attending to what was real inside me (this would mean working the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous) led me to the new addiction of workaholism as a method to outrun these feelings of shame. With abstinence from alcohol, alcohol could no longer stop my workaholism. I never considered working the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Just didn’t’ seem practical or relevant to me, or my self-image.”
“Every time this has led me back to relapse, either emotional, or to my drinking. You see, if I can’t feel my heart, then I can’t sense the real danger I am in as I go on “automatic pilot,” nor can I remember the real suffering that comes from picking up a substance. I go into a performance trance and I relapse. I’ve had several years of recovery at a time, but each time I go down it’s because I have lost contact with what is authentic in me. My selfishness blinds me to my heart. You see, slowing down and feeling my feelings always brings me directly in touch with emptiness that seems to be sitting in my heart, waiting for me. It’s taken me much work to finally surrender to this, feel it, and allow it space in my heart. This surrender has allowed my real self-worth to arise through this suffering. It’s been and still is my most difficult challenge, staying present to what is in my heart. Key for my recovery is the simple question: Is what I’m doing a desperate attempt to get attention and praise, or does it contribute to my real well-being, and serve others. Without confronting this real question, I am driven to chase external things to fill my emptiness. Truth is, recovery is an inside job. I seem to need to relearn this lesson over and over again.”
In an instant the Three can ‘turn on’ and go into constant ‘doing’ mode, stalking the external world for the next opening in his success plan, while putting on the face of the “successful one.” This is the automatic personality habit that arises and slips into him unseen. Driven, energized, attention focused outward away from his heart, he is ready for action, hungry to elude the inner ghost of emptiness. He will drown and numb his emptiness with his success pursuits. Until he can inhabit his heart (this being completely counter-intuitive to what he thinks will heal him and bring his happiness), and bring it with him, his external successes will never fill or touch him. In time, he will begin to notice that after each success there is a haunting emptiness that creeps up into his heart, untouched by the success of the moment. And when he gets a whiff of this, he will begin to observe his automatic habit: Emptiness arises in his soul and he is propelled out the door pursuing his next success project, packaging himself, marketing himself, driving himself, adapting himself to what is needed to appear and be successful, being ‘taken by’ the well-grooved habits of his type. And with time and enough observation—opps, there I go again for the 1000th time—he will not jump on this train without taking his authentic heart with him. This is the gold that awaits him.
George described it this way:
“When I first got sober I remember that I had moments when I actually felt good without performing, or achieving, or getting any praise from others. I was, of course, shocked. The 12 Step recovery program says it simply: Recovery is an inside job. Happiness is an inside job. And…you either grow or you go. Meaning, either you are continuing to become authentic and more open hearted and real, doing the steps, developing more intimacy with other men, or you relapse, either with your addictive substance, or emotionally. After I initially got sober in AA, I didn’t do the steps. Why should I, I thought. I’d achieved my goal. I was already sober! Hey, I’m a Three. The goal is everything. Forget about the process. Spiritual practice was for those other weaker types, not someone as smart and talented as I was!
“I didn’t do the work that brings real humility, open-heartedness, and right-sized-ness so before I knew it, I was on the success-train going frenetically after what I’d always wanted. Surprisingly I was able to stay sober and I did succeed, rising up the ranks to an executive status. What I was completely unaware of was I had no contact with my heart. I didn’t do feelings. They didn’t seem practical or expedient. Time wasters, that’s what I called them. Any time a feeling arose, I skipped over it. I could ‘act’ kindly, politely, appropriately, tenderly, compassionately if it got you to give me something, like a financial gift or loan. The key word is ‘act’ because my heart was as silent as a stone. I didn’t know what compassion or empathy felt like. I just knew how to ‘present’ compassion and empathy. I got a wake-up call when my wife divorced me without even warning me—she was done. After years of trying to get my attention, she walked. I’d become addicted to success, to gaining power, status, applause, to rising in the ranks of the success world—this was what got me high. Juiced and blocking out anything disturbing.
“I was trying so hard to redeem my past failures from drinking, and constantly driven to be better and gain more of money, status, sex, that I lost all contact with my wife and my kids. In spite of her pleas to connect with me, the truth is I could not feel the reality of her pleas. I couldn’t hear her hurt. I thought she was being overly sensitive. When she left I was heart-broken and devastated. It was only then, when my heart ached, that I realized I hadn’t really felt my heart for seven years of recovery. The price I paid was a loss of my wife and kids who wanted nothing to do with me. I was utterly blind and moving too fast to see the suffering I was causing them. This drove me back to AA where I faced my grandiosity and self-importance, two dragons that had run me while sober, both defenses for feeling my emptiness and shame, and god forbid, my vanity. My workaholism replaced my alcoholism. I didn’t have an alcoholic relapse, I had an emotional relapse, or what we call “a dry drunk” in recovery. My work today, ten years sober, is to notice when I slip into performance role to avoid my vulnerability and my humanness, and begin to play the role of the I’ve-got-it-together- dude. Instead of feeling the truth of my heart, I’m sipping off delusions of superiority. It’s amazing how blinding this is. I’ve learned that there are deeper and deeper levels to this pattern and that at any moment I can fall asleep to this personality habit. I ask other men in recovery to catch me in the act, to call me on it. They do! Damn them! They do! My sponsor says, “George, you ego is the size of Kilimanjaro. Why don’t you come down off the mountain of self-importance and have a conversation with me.”
Both Roger and George point to the habits of the Three that disconnect them from authenticity at anytime. Their penultimate Lesson: Length of years in sobriety does not bring immunity to one’s personality habits. In a heartbeat, the emotional habit of vanity can cause the Three’s to lose contact with his inner truth and begin to believe in the mask of the “successful one.” The Three, not present to this moment, can instantaneously dodge his heart-emptiness or vulnerability with narcissistic vanity and self-importance. Supporting this emotional habit is the mental habit of deceit in which the Three is constantly thinking about his self-image, checking the environment to see if he is being received appropriately, changing his responses, habits, and ways of communicating to conform to an image in his head that he is trying to create, rather than sensing his authentic self. The deceit is such that the Three is unconsciously lying about what he/she is up to, i.e., “I’m trying to manipulate you, myself and the environment to get the response I need. I’m doing my best to hide any flaws or deficiencies so you think better of me. These type Three habits will be navigated at deeper and more subtle levels throughout the Three’s recovery until the core wound of feeling worthless, and the way in which the Three abandons his own heart, is digested and healed. This will require genuine grieving for the many times the Three has abandoned and rejected his own precious heart, and replaced it with a performance act. The Three will learn to recognize when his personality habits, his Inner Robot, has taken charge, placing him in the grips of a dry drunk. If he slows down for a second he will notice that who he ‘is’ has been left far behind in the dust of the one who is trying to look like he has it together.
Ongoing Shocks of Recovery: Embracing the Shadow
As the Three sobers up from chemicals, he will shocked when he realizes the roles he has been playing as an imposter. This are not light-hearted glimpses, but sizzing-hot flashes of realization. As if someone has torn the cover off his face. He see that while he was imaging himself as acting in ways that were sensitive to the needs of others, doing things for their benefit, in reality he was acting out of self-interest and self-promotion, and actually didn’t really care about how he was affecting people. Couldn’t feel it, didn’t care to feel it, too painful to feel. His concern: did he win them over with his act. If the Three is to succeed in recovery he must have the courage, support and guidance to weather this shocks as he, like all the types, sees his well-woven personality habits at deeper and more humbling levels. This opens the gates to his freedom.
With enough presence and mindfulness accumulating in his continued recovery, he will see the many times that he has acted selfishly and arrogantly, while at his very worst sometimes heartlessly cutting down the reputations of others to bolster his reputation. From his depths will come raw humiliation and grief. If he can keep his inner critic out of the mix (who, if given free reign will be chanting to him, non-stop: “Loser, loser, loser!”) he will experience remorse—the genuine suffering of the heart—rather than self-hatred (succumbing to self-hatred will guarantee that his inner inquiry is stopped dead in its tracks, destroying all possibility of gaining the necessary insights to stay clean and sober.). This will be his first of many initiations into seeing clearly the qualities and damage caused by his fixated personality type. I say ‘first’ because his hope is that after getting a glimpse of his habits of arrogance, self-centeredness, and narcissism and the real suffering these defensive habits have caused him and others, that he will no longer be caught in the web of vanity and deceit, no longer promoting an image of himself that is untrue. The difficult news is that this pattern does not vanish simply because one has seen it once or twice or ten times. It is a slow-motion journey of ever growing humility that opens the flood gates of love and self-worth. Patience is required.
The good news is that as he gets glimpses of his personality in action, he will gain more freedom to not be taken in by its robotic script. As he learns over time to disengage from his identification from his ego structure, his personality patterns (his ego) will re-double its efforts and take on more subtle manifestations. Before he can proclaim “My ego is gone, good riddance!” he will see that IT has slide back into the driver’s seat. But recovery is about slowly developing eyes to see it (his ego), and the better his vision gets, the less likely he will abandon his heart and his awareness, and unwittingly ‘forget’ where he came from.
As he gains time in sobriety and begins to sense his heart and his true feelings, simultaneously he will get deeper looks at how vanity and deceit are continually taking his attention and putting him in the ‘performer’ role, the one seeking to beat out the competition, the one hungry to be seen as the shining one, the best above the rest. He will see his many disguises and how quickly they adorn him under pressure. This mechanism of become-the-shining-star-of-the-moment-the-cherished-one-who-is-admired is so ‘freakin’ swift, as in blink-and-it’s-there-and-real-‘you’-lost-in-the-blur-of-its-machinery, that IT arrives and takes charge often unseen. If he can maintain compassion for what he sees, develops radical acceptance of what drives this personality machine—the despair of feeling unworthy, as opposed to reciting the mantra, “I am a selfish alcoholic, a bad person”—he will have more choices and be less taken by the great vampires of vanity and deceit. He will continue to grow in his recovery, staying sober through the many difficult encounters he will face on the spiritual path.
Suggestions for Type Three
1. Notice when you disregard or step over your heartfelt feelings. Dear Three, you have arrived in addiction recovery beaten and outwitted by your addiction. Whether you know it or not, this is a great opportunity and blessing for you. There is one thing that keeps your addiction alive and well and untouchable, and this is your denial of your own heart. What does that mean? First, if your heart desires something that is out of keeping with the “success image” you’ve been trying to promote, notice when you dismiss it and turn away from this true heart desire. Notice how you box off your feelings to look good or appropriate. Guess what happens to boxed off, denied feelings of the heart…they shape-shift invisibly inside you into cravings for your substance of use. Shutting your heart off keeps you unconscious and unhappy, and keeps your addiction habits alive and potent. Doubt this not. You, dear Three, who’ve struggled with addiction for long enough, face some terrible truths. You can no longer take your heart lightly because avoiding sad or angry feelings, or feelings of unhappiness, shame or unworthiness—is the mainline to your addiction, in fact, is the food for your addiction. If you want to stay clean and sober, you must begin to allow your heart to break open, to speak and be heard. Learn to lean into the emotions that arise in you, gently, but persistently.
2. Notice your judgments about feelings of sadness, vulnerability, unworthiness or unhappiness. Not listening to your heart means that when you feel anything emotional you dismiss it as unimportant or trivial, or a waste of time. Your Inner Critic gets in on this, saying “You’re a loser if you take time for your feelings. Winner’s don’t let feelings get in the way of their success.” Without even thinking about it, you place them on the back burner of your awareness. When you feel sorrow, this becomes a foreign object in your being that you habitually and unconsciously try to override. You believe that if you let sadness touch you, that it will distract your efforts to shine. What you don’t understand is that your feelings, your sorrow, are trying to reach you with important information. And the first lesson might be something like this: you’ve been captured by the idea that you only have value if you appear to be successful at all costs. Feeling sadness, vulnerability, or anything other than ‘together’ spells “you’re a loser.” This morphs into the belief that if you feel your emotions and people see you don’t have it together, that you will lose their approval. But real and substantial approval only occurs when you truly sense how you abandon your own heart, and feel the ensuing suffering this causes you.
3. Notice the suffering your Inner Critic causes you. Your Inner Critic has a full time job reminding you that in one form or another, that you are loser if you fail, or fall below its standards. In which case it will annihilate you with criticism andreprimand, all in the service of getting you to try harder, work harder, work longer, be more competitive, defeat your opponents, and above all look successful in the eyes of valued others. Of course, you carry those valued others as images in your mind too, and the Inner Critic becomes a part of this team of valued individuals who you must appease or disappoint. The problem is, once you reach one level of success, the Inner Critic raises the bar and you must once again “jump over bar” or return to failure. You can’t win at this game, you can’t rest, and the game is never over. You either are the best, or the worst. Which spells stress and more stress. If you get lost enough in this battle for success, what sneaks up behind you and eats you alive is your addiction. Gulp!
4. Learn to observe your vanity and deceit. When you begin to notice your habit of vanity, like all the passions, it will be hard to bear. Shame will zap you, will slide up inside your heart like a hissing snake, as you notice the way you separate yourself from others by inflating your self-importance in your imagination, feeling that ‘hit’ of superiority that temporarily gives you that pseudo feel-good-rush of I’m-better-than-you! Learn to watch this Type Three without shame or blame to yourself—how you compare and often rate yourself above others, thinking that your qualities make you a cut above the rest (or below them!). Or, hating someone who is holding a higher position than you, or has received awards that you wanted. This feeds your ego—your false self—and also is a compensation for the actual emptiness you feel.
Notice when you are caught in your vanity, that you don’t give attention to those you consider less than you. You disregard their presence, or you only attend to them when it looks good in the eyes of individuals you wish to impress. This is both vanity and deceit in action. If you slow down and witness this without beating yourself up as a bad person (because you’re not!), if you can see what you are up to when your vanity prevails (your heart feels empty), you will witness the judgment you’ve already delivered to yourself: that you are worthless regardless of your external victories, and you’re just doing your best to stay one step ahead of these devastating feelings. Noticing your empty heart and your personality reaction to it, opens the door to your liberation. Filled with remorse, compassion and tenderness will arise in your heart.
In order to operate under the influence of vanity and deceit, you must be fully shut off from your heart so that you can’t feel the real effects of your ego project, either on yourself or on those that you unwittingly look down upon. You unconsciously believe that if you allow yourself to be impacted by these lesser individuals, if you become friends with them, if you really sense their innate worthiness, that the crowd you are trying to impress will abandon you. Instead of trusting your heart and knowing that if you follow it, that you will arrive where you need to be, you distance yourself from others, and shut down emotionally. Unwittingly you abandon your heart in the process—and create deep dissatisfaction for yourself in everything you do. Then, the dungeon door of your addiction swings open and the Minotaur of addiction steps forward licking his lips…hot on the trail of your unhappiness.
5. Notice your tendency to believe you’re finished with inner work and can now move into full-throttle, success pursuit. When you enter recovery a doorway opens. Stopped in your tracks by your addiction and unable to follow the impulse to keep moving, drive harder, try harder, you come face to face with your interior—the soul of you! In these moments what arises is often a genuineness that has been hidden, held in constraint by your addiction and fixated personality habits. In early sobriety you can experience an openness and sincerity that is deeply moving. Your heart opens and it feels good, like you’re returning home, at long last (actually you are returning to ‘you,’ where you’ve always wanted to be). Perhaps you cry deeply and sense remorse for actions taken under great confusion, and the tears and remorse feel cleansing and freeing. You like what your soul is saying. You sense your innocence and feel the radiance of your genuine, true nature shining through. For a period of time you soften your survival “act” as the competitor and succeeding one, and share things you’ve never told another human being. You see and feel your authentic heart, and it feels good. In fact, it’s deeply satisfying. The question of “Am I the best?” disappears. You feel your ‘realness’ and you know your value. But, the second you walk out the door of the treatment center and re-enter your life, your personality ‘turns on again’ (It’s like they say in AA and NA: While you’re in a AA meeting your addiction—and your personality—are outside in the parking lot doing pushups together while waiting for you.) No sooner than you’ve felt the sweetest experience of yourself, felt the depth and tenderness of your caring heart, the dark veil of your learned habits descends quickly. That is, your automatic functioning habits of your personality return—as if they’ve never gone—ready for action. And a perilous, lightening quick, amnesia sets in, such that you forget how good it felt to open up, to share, to tell the truth of your life, to feel emotional intimacy with others. (In AA and NA, this is called one’s ‘instant forgetter’ mechanism.)
Warning: You will forget the relief, the joy, the moments of intimacy you initially experience in early recovery. The memories and impressions will disappear like wind through the trees. What replaces these impressions of authentic moments is the “striving machine of your personality,” the Inner Critic whipping you into action, saying, “Now, you must succeed. You’ve done enough inner work. Let’s get back to what is really important—your success or failure. Back to the real work!” Unless you prepare for this and stay close to people who can let you know when you’ve disappeared into the folds of your personality, you will return to addiction hell. Unless you get the support of others to assist you in waging battle with these finely tuned, tenacious habits of vanity and deceit which can put you to sleep at a moment’s notice, you don’t stand a chance. But if you begin to learn the skills that help you stay connected to your authentic heart, you will navigate these back-and-forth dynamics successfully. You will notice when you’ve become disconnected from your soul and make the efforts necessary to reconnect.
6. Notice your hard-to-see habit of promoting and packaging yourself for others. This is a huge piece of study for the Three. If you can begin to notice when you start shape-shifting to the expectations of the person in front of you to gain their praise and admiration, inflating your accomplishments or spin-controlling a story to make yourself look better, you will compassionately realize how much of your attention is spent monitoring the response patterns of others, and just how painful and ‘constant’ this activity is. With enough loving awareness, the hypnotic power of the pattern will begin to drop. This will return you to reality, taking in what is here and now, able to savor this moment without the intense pressure on yourself to be the admired one.
Or notice when your ego inflates and unwittingly you begin advertising to all who are in ear shot your great ability to do recovery work (or your great achievements as a result of your recovery work), drawing attention to how quickly you’ve become the ideal AA member (patting yourself on the back), or how you are achieving the best of recovery life (a Type Three coined this AA/NA phrase: “I have a life second to none! I’ve got a new car, a wife, a great job!” Who’s comparing and competing? The Three!). Begin to see that promoting yourself is the mask and the protective barrier to hide your hurt and shame, the survival habit created to keep your suffering away, and the mechanism that keeps your heart truly empty. Tenderness is called for. Noticing when you are hungry for attention, feeling like a starved dog. This is a red-flag that you need to ask for help, for affirmation, for a reminder of what is truly wonderful about you.
It will only be through many precious moments of kindly and compassionately seeing these patterns that you will relax and feel safe enough to move out of performance mode into being authentic, i.e., just being here without wearing a mantle of success. Condemning your narcissism (or your self-will run riot) is not a solution. It only reinforces the narcissism. Remember, whatever you beat up in yourself, strengthens the habit you are attacking. What heals you is the clarity that you are valuable and precious whether you succeed or not. You are not your success or failure! Hang with people who are authentic, who demonstrate the power of authenticity, who become role models of truthfulness. As the AA saying goes, “You will only be as healthy as the company you keep.” Choose wisely. And if you must beat yourself, do as my friend Eric says, “Beat yourself with a feather.”
7. Practice sensing your heart by using creative imagination to put yourself in the place of others. This is an “empathy” practice, that if learned, will call forth one of your greatest gifts and satisfactions—attunement with your kind and generous heart. It’s a win-win practice. So, sitting with your wife, the practice goes like this: you imagine what it is like to live in her skin, to see the world through her eyes, to feel the feelings she experiences, to picture how her thoughts about herself affect her ability to relax and be herself, to imagine how the difficult circumstances of her life have touched her. Your effort is to try and feel what she feels, so that your heart begins to open and be with her heart. As you listen to her, notice what her heart is saying as it shows up in her voice, her body language, the way in which she walks, dresses, the tone of her voice, in her facial expression. Drink her energy in. Become a field of receptivity and awakeness, taking her in undistracted, sensing her experience from the inside out, her joy, sadness, fear, strength, shame, and self-confidence.
8. Slow down! Stop action! Simply sit and be! Observe what arises in you. You must learn to relax and be, without doing anything. A friend once joked about what Gurdjieff might say to the Three, i.e., “For the next three days sit still and simply look out the window, and see what arises.” Good luck! But it’s a bit easier than that. Take time every day to stop, sit, breathe, sense your body, your heart, and engage in just taking in the impressions of the moment. This activity alone will begin to open your heart. Notice also, that as you sit and observe yourself and the impressions that are touching you (be they sound, things you see, feelings, sensations in your body) that your Inner Critic will step in and begin to say, “You are wasting your time. Look at you, setting yourself up for defeat.” You will notice your thoughts going to plans and goals, and your body wanting to lift out of the seat and go into action. For fifteen minutes, only nine-hundred seconds, notice with compassion all the manifestations of your personality without trying to change them. Observe and tolerate your impatience and restlessness. Relax into and resist acting on them. This will begin to give you the ‘presence’ to not be taken by your impulses. With time, stillness will arise along with the wisdom of your intuitive heart. You begin to realize that you are smarter, work more effectively, when you slow your pace—and you feel better!
9. Notice how deceit operates such that you see yourself inflating accomplishments, or spinning things more positively than they really are. Begin to notice when unwittingly you set about the task of making yourself into a shinier object for a hoped for admirer. You shine yourself by inflating your successes, spinning them more successful and important than they really were, or deleting that which does not shine, or does not reflect the image of the successful one. It takes ‘time’ to notice this, and great compassion to keep looking. Notice when afraid, your need to take credit for your successes, pointing out subtly or specifically for others, the details that would let them know that this was your success. As you ‘see’ these patterns more often, learn to resist them, i.e., don’t act on the impulses to shine yourself up. You may discover that people do care more about you than your successes!
10. Take time to play (not compete as in golf, tennis, alligator wrestling, or other competitive sports, or being the best recovering person in the room) for the sheer, goal-less fun of it. When you truly play for the pleasure of it, you let go of your self-consciousness and concern that others are watching you, and your continual monitoring of others and their reaction to your performance. Instead, you inhabit this moment only, and like a child, let yourself savor the moment and all that is good, fun, wonderful, hilarious and great. What is play for you? Is it putting on high energy music and dancing cathartically? Is it hanging out with children and joining in their fun? Is it drawing or writing with the intention of simply enjoying the process and showing it to no one for their reaction (well, show your wife or partner at least!). Is it playing the blues harmonica—not worried about getting it right? Find something and do it.
11. Humbly and kindly notice how often the desire to be admired shows up inside you. Make friends with it. This is called “staying awake.” Your passion to be admired and celebrated is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s human, it’s necessary, it feels good, and when healthy, simply reflects a need for true mirroring. Hey, each of wants to be seen for who we are. And, we all want to be seen in our radiance. This is not a problem. The problem begins when you make your identity out of being admired such that it becomes your full time job and causes you unnecessary suffering, stress, and self-rejection. As long as you are “trying” to get everyone to admire you, you are participating in an exercise called “self-rejection.” That is, you cannot celebrate yourself, your talents, your very real radiance unless you are approved of first. If some valued other doesn’t approve of you, the light goes out inside you. You feel worthless and empty.
Total bummer! What if you resist the urge to seek out approval for a week? What does that feel like? Can you begin to notice how impulsive this drive is? Or, in seeing how dependent you are on the approval of others, can you feel compassion for yourself and the suffering you go through to simply feel ok? Do this enough times, sensing the suffering you experience, and the self-rejection that ensues, and Presence will arise in you, touch you, and give you the support you need to stop incessantly trying for approval. Then, with this suffering lessoned, the desire to drink will fade to nothing. But first you must see and sense the habituated pattern without self-judgment. With great kindness you sense yourself ‘wanting’ to say something differently, pretend you like something you don’t, act interested when you’re not, to get approval or something from the other. And you resist.
Parting Words for the Three: Instant Amnesia
This is true of all the types. When they enter recovery, in the aftermath of terrible suffering and loss, a doorway opens. Many individuals are shaken out of their ordinary personality habits, and in these moments what arises can be a “genuineness” that has been hidden and held in constraint by their addictions and personality habits.
I’ve witnessed this hundreds of times. The newly sober individual often reflects an openness and sincerity that is utterly moving. If fortunate enough to be at a treatment center where they have the time to safety focus on their recovery, their personality ‘act’ goes on hold and their innocence shines through. They open up emotionally and share things they’ve never told another human being. Their genuine sweetness, vulnerability and goodness arise. But, the second they walk out of the treatment door and re-enter their lives, their personality turns on again. Flash! Being! Bang!—that old familiar “I” returns. The iron veil of self-protection descends quickly. That is, their survival mechanisms, their remote-control, automatic-functioning-habits (this is the stuff of their personality, their ego in action) are in the driver’s seat, ready for a roar.
As is often the case, within a very short period of time, a sort of amnesia sets in where the Three (and other types too) forget how good it felt to open up, to share, to tell the truth of their lives, to feel some emotional intimacy and vulnerability with others. They forget the relief, the joy, the wonderful feelings of connection, the moments of safety they experienced. These memories disappear like wind through the trees. Quickly, unseen, undetected, where they ever there? Did I ever feel good? Or did I just imagine it?
For the Three, having opened up and felt his heart for the first time in years, the return to his everyday life is super challenging. If a job is waiting that the Three cares about, and the Three, now sober, begins it and actually begins to succeed at it, a very real danger exists. Here’s the problem with early recovery: the Three gets sober, chills out, opens up, feels healthier than ever, gets back to work and now functions better than before, and quicker than you can say “Forget everything you’ve just learned” the Three personality kicks on. Eyes gleaming with the possibility of now ‘really’ succeeding, he throws himself passionately into success mode, full throttle, all engines charged. His Inner Critic/Addiction-prone personality is saying, “Okay, you got the help you needed. You’re better now. You don’t need what other people need. You’re a fast learner (here comes the vanity and deceit). And yes, wasn’t it embarrassing to actually need help, disgusting in fact. Beneath you, for sure! But now you’re back!Now you can really succeed. Better go for it and make up for lost time.”
Which is exactly what many Threes do. They throw themselves back into workaholism, success-ism, self-promotion, achievement mode. Some get a stretch of a year or more of recovery, others a month or so of success, some even run for years, and then, crash! You see, the personality (with all its habits), is only temporarily put on hold by recovery actions, and is patiently waiting for its chance to re-enter the action. And moments of real presence, in which genuineness arises and is felt, are delicate. Unless you continue to nurture them, unless you continue to move in the direction of more openness, this heartfelt awakeness can close down quickly. Blink…the light is off. And here the Three must be vigilant: he must notice that there is a part of him that wants to be done with help, wants to be done with listening to his heart, doesn’t really believe it matters, and is hoping that in the long run, that he can return to his normal, unconscious functioning, even though it hasn’t worked. If the Three wants to stay clean and sober, he must dedicate his life to knowing his heart and ever honing his honesty.
Dear Three, this idea needs to be contemplated: if you wish to grow in recovery, and succeed in recovery, you must surround yourself with individuals who can lead to you to deeper and more satisfying experiences of open-heartedness and presence. That means you need guides to assist you in noticing how your personality habits are wired to subtly cutting you off from your heart, and sending you back into non-authenticity, vanity and deceit. You think that if you feel your heart open up ‘once’ that ‘now it’s open.’ As if it will simply stay open. Sorry, it’s not that simple. It opens, then it closes. Opens, then closes. And your practice is to continue doing things that assist you in re-opening your heart and keeping it open. That’s how you outwit your addiction, and how you move in the direction of your happiness.
That means you begin to sense ways in which you can help others simply because you have the skills needed to help them. You help them not because you look good doing it or because others are praising you for your good works, but because your heart calls you to helping them, with no rewards attached, no self-promotion attached. You are giving from the heart, because it feels right and good. And you learn—here is the satisfaction I’ve been so desperately pursuing, right at the fingertips of my heart. Since you can feel your heart, you feel the desire to give and to support others, to connect with them. Slowly the trance of your personality that is so wired to overtaking you and putting you to sleep, that wants you to go into overdrive, into performance, into shining as “the best,” will begin to dissolve. You gradually gain eyes to see when this ego-engine has turned on (which it will over and over again—until it doesn’t) and with this ‘seeing’ you learn to not play to its beat! The angels will cheer and so will you.
As you develop deep compassion for yourself and the learned habits that have driven you, each time you ego—your Inner Robot comprised of your ego-personality habits—jumps up and attempts to run, kindly and gently notice him, and say something like, “My word, you were able to take over my entire soul so fast and quick. I want to thank you for helping me survive as a kid, but now you can
rest. Sit down, ease back, and I will take over from here.”
And now you edge closer to what you love, to why you got sober, to deep satisfaction in simply being here, alive, able to savor this moment, connected with those you journey with. Full heart, clear eyes, can’t lose, as they say in Friday Night Lights.
Introduction to Utilizing the Enneagram in Addiction and Transformation by Michael Naylor, M.ED Copyright 2018