Where do you go in stress?
So this is a bit of a random question, but as I’ve studied the enneagram a bit this year and paid attention to how I react when things get stressful, I’ve appreciated being a little more self-aware about my natural tendencies, so I could better choose my actions.
I was raised in a family that was very suspicious of navel gazing, but I am “surrounded” by church leaders and philosophers, like Aristotle, St Augustine, and John Calvin who believed that knowing oneself was akin to, if not a prerequisite to knowing God.
Even without try to wade through the writings of some of these deep thinkers, we have all encountered people who do not know themselves well. We know those people who do not know when they hurt people, who do not realize they keep repeating the same patterns, or merely cannot relate to others struggles because they don’t recognize their own struggles. I don’t think we are ever tempted to say, “Boy, that is such a great person, she has no idea who she is,” because that thoughtless person is most like either hurting others or being hurt by others.
In my personal experience, related to this question about how I react to stress, I have noticed that as stress builds, I retreat. I am a runner, not a fighter. “Fighting” or standing up for something I believe in, is really my healthy place. My instinct in stress is to run and hide, but I do not have the ability to walk away from a work commitment. I’ve never quit anything, but I do hide. I stop answering texts. I try to spend as much time at home as possible. I retreat and conserve.
For enneagram people, my healthy 8, goes into total stress 5 mode, and I become obsessed with conserving limited social, emotional, and mental energy.
Knowing this about myself helps me in two ways. It helps me notice when stress is starting to get the better of me, and it helps me choose my reaction to that stress. Sometimes that means directly addressing or even changing whatever is causing the stress. Other times, it means cancelling a few activities and leaving the phone in another room as soon as work is over, and enjoying the quiet, rather than pushing on and getting annoyed at everyone who tries to talk to me.
Knowing this about myself also helps me realize that other people are not all wired the same way. Some people respond to stress by becoming hyper-vigilant. Those are the ones that check their bank balance 10 times a day when they are worried about money, rather than those who can’t stand to look at their accounts when they are at all worried about money. Other people respond to stress by becoming ultra-social. They reach out to everyone in their contact list to talk, and try to fill the silence with words. Some people become more confrontational. They become much less likely to let the small things go. Other people seek distraction. They may clean, or they may plan a vacation, or they may listen to music, or they may watch TV.
I’m curious, not only how other people respond to stress, but also what other people think about the importance of self-knowledge. How has knowing yourself, helped you? Or how has knowing yourself, helped you not hurt others? Or how has knowing yourself, helped you not be hurt by others? Or how has knowing yourself, helped you realize you were hurting others?
For me, now, this is how I’m trying to use this knowledge of self:
I am a person with limited mental and emotional resources, in the middle of a hard week, possibly a hard month. First, I need to recognize that God has and will provide enough of whatever it is I need, to do all I am called to do this week. Second, if I’m going to give 100% at work and 100% to Zoya, everything else may need to take a break for a week or two. Part of recognizing that this withdraw and conservation mentality was part of my stress reaction, meant realizing that it isn’t my normal. I don’t have to push myself in fear of becoming a permanent hermit, a bad friend, or missing out on life. My normal self loves to talk to people, go places, and do things. My grief stress self wants to take a week to plant flowers and burn sticks in the back yard with all the notifications off my phone.