Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On Fear (Thoughts on Being an Enneagram Six)

Fear sounds like scurrying,
like the scritch-scratch of the mouse within the wall,
franticly working, 
burning the midnight oil unseen.

Fear sounds like the crackling of the dying fire, 
like leaves and twigs and ash, 
smoldering together with a sizzle sizzle, 
waning but never going out because

Not even when the baby dozes and the man you love holds you in bed with his arms wrapped around you and his legs intertwined with yours.

Even then fear is curled up in the corner with a flashlight, making the swoosh peck sound of pen against paper.*


In the Enneagram, a centuries old system of personality typing, each of the nine types has its own "vice" and virtue. The vice of type Six is fear. 

Funny how I never would have called it that. Even reading the type description, in which every other word fit me like a glove, the word "fear" felt distinctly unfarmiliar. "Easily stressed," I might have said, or maybe "prone to worry." I wouldn't have even called it an anxiety problem, because I know people with those and I handle my worst case scenarios quite calmly, thankyouverymuch. 

No matter that I daydream regularly about what I would do if my husband died or I got cancer or had a miscarriage or lost my mother or crashed the car or on and on and on. "A vivid imagination" is what I would have called it, not a life spent waiting for the other shoe to drop. "A realist" is what I would have called myself, not a woman driven by fear. 


Three rabbits by dicktay2000, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by  dicktay2000 
"Here I am, a rabbit hearted girl
Frozen in the headlights...
I must become a lion hearted girl
Ready for a fight"

-Florence and the Machine 


Sixes, I soon learned, come in two types: phobic and counter-phobic. Some Sixes are clearly one or the other, but many alternate between both. 

Funny how I knew this about myself but could never explain it. I would have told you I was just a paradox, the classic good girl, with a rebellious streak. 80% "Like me, affirm me, approve of me," 20% "Screw you, I do what I want." 

But it turns out that I am really just terribly afraid, and my "goodness" and "rebelliousness" are nothing more than two sides of one security blanket.  


Lately I find myself dreaming about moving to Alaska, a thought that fills me with both dread and excitement. The idea was triggered by a casual mention to my husband about a Creative Nonfiction program in Fairbanks, which he refused to forget and now I can't seem to either.

I go back and forth between thinking life there would be adventurous or insane. It would be a hard life, for sure, with a much higher cost of living, and months of near constant darkness, and unimaginable cold.

Aurora 15 October 2010 by mmmavocado, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by  mmmavocado 
And I can't help but wonder why it is that I, a self-proclaimed beach lover, find myself so fixated on Alaska of all places. Why not Hawaii or Oregon or even Maine?

I could talk a big talk about the natural beauty, about the forests and moose and aurora borealis.

But the truth is that the challenge of Alaska calls to me, even comforts me. The truth is I like my dreams with a side of adversity. Safety is the most dangerous thing of all. There is far too much to lose.

*This section was inspired by a prompt in the Story Sessions community.


  1. Oy vey! It's like reading all about myself. Here's to choosing a whole and unfettered life! Its hard, but we are with it!

    1. Aw thanks for the solidarity Marvia! I agree, it is hard but sooo worth it, to really see yourself. Let me know if you ever write about being a Six! I'd love to hear what it's like for you. <3

  2. I have a lot of fear - it sure can be paralyzingly. Fear about conflict is the worst - I'm a 9 :)

    1. Thanks for reading Miah! I think you're right that we all deal with fear on some level. I love that you're a 9, so are a lot of my favorite people. :)

  3. I love this post Liss. I so connect with your last insightful and brave. I am learning to live a life of not playing it so safe. I read last sentence over 6 times...lots of layers in it. Love you