Some folk absolutely relish, and may even seek out, situations which may look like upheaval and disarray to others. From an outsiders perspective it may look like they, or their lives, are totally out of control. This apparent seeking out for something other than what some would deem peace, stability and ease may or may not be a conscious act. It is possible this is a habit or pattern that was formed at a very young age when the individual learned coping and survival strategies for living amidst chaos, mayhem and drama.

Why continue to stay out of control?

Firstly because what looks like disarray and mayhem to you and I may just be the safe space that helps the individual feel as though they are alive and surviving in their world. So it’s not really a choice anyone is consciously making. Here’s the second point – it’s a pattern. A pattern laid down in the formative years which sent a message confirming this was an OK way to exist. Perhaps even the only way to get by in their family &/or their culture. Third, and an important point to remember or even know about, is that the human condition is such that we strive for completeness, for balance, equilibrium or as it can be referred to in the Gestalt texts – homeostasis – this is their version of stability and balance. Until of course it doesn’t work any more!

Equilibrium, balance & homeostasis will vary greatly from one person to the next. Even though we are brought up in the same family we will respond to our environments very differently. We are not “independent entities” from our environments. We co-create our situations with the humans we come in contact with and our environments. Yet each of us responds, and in some instances reacts, as we see the need to gain love & attention from our close early carers. Perhaps this helps, in a small way, explain why you and your sibling[s] seem so different or even your children are polar opposites and also why your views on growing up are so vastly different.

The ongoing exposure and experiences we develop from our interpretation of our environment will depend on how we respond. Will we respond with fear? With the need to remain in control by aggression? Will be try and be the caretaker of the family or others in our lives? Will we be the achiever? Will we be the one who isolates or the one who wants to bring everyone together in peace and harmony? Will we be the comedian or the one who has to be perfect survive? Or will we be the one who feels so different & unique we feel as though we’re an alien born into the wrong family?

Yes I’ve pretty much covered off on the 9 personality adaptations within the enneagram system. Gestalt calls these creative adjustments or adaptations. The  enneagram institute calls these psychic structures. Basically they are the patterns we become stuck in, from our childhood, so that we can hope to be seen, heard, loved, praised, not beaten, abused or neglected. Of course this is a simplification of our extremely complex developmental system and by no means do I believe this is the only story in our narrative.

We hang on to these adjustments and at our core they can become adhered into our ego patterns so strongly that we don’t even recognise we are repeat offenders in our own lives! So back to the start – – – these creative adaptations/patterns of behaviour/psychic structures (call them what you will) are our very own way of feeling in control of our lives in some small way. It’s only when life goes pear shaped that we get to possibly realise that these patterns are no longer serving us. As we move into adulthood our childhood longings are less appropriate and they can most certainly offer up unhealthy outcomes in our adult years.

Our first step is recognising what’s serving us and what isn’t. Are we playing into drama, victim mentality, obsession, or anything else, in order to feel as though we are in control? What will it take to recognise we are no longer serving our own best interests for growth, fulfilment and a meaning filled life? We can’t “do” anything about any of this until we recognise that something isn’t working for us any more in our lives. We most certainly can’t change anything if we cannot see what it is that is keeping us stuck in our holding patterns. And above all we will never be able to shift, given we want to, if we abdicate responsibility to other people.

As long as we continue to hand responsibility to someone else we are giving ourselves, and others, the message that it’s OK for our lives to be out of control. By handing over our choice to take control we are giving away our permission to be in control of our own lives and thus our own destiny.  We are being reactive – just as we have always been and you can bet the outcomes won’t be any different than before.

However if we choose to be responsive to the challenges life tosses at us we are then beginning to make choices in each and every moment which may just see different outcomes. When we take an active part in our own lives we become more engaged with who we are and the contributions we make. We cease to be victims in our own lives and begin take ownership and accountability for ourselves and what happens in our lives. Gradually we begin to shift the pattern from automated reactivity to considered responsiveness. What goes on around us and gets thrown at us may not change one little bit BUT the way we view it what happens just might change the way we respond.


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