Enneagram, Black Sheep, and Scapegoats, Oh My!

Enneagram, Black Sheep, and Scapegoats, Oh My!

I remember the conversation that pushed me into a deep dive with the Enneagram. I was speaking with a life coach, who asked me if I knew my type.

I said, "I think so ... I'm a 3?"

She immediately said, "Uh no. You're an 8."

After the conversation, I looked up the type.

"Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.
"At their Best: self- mastering, they use their strength to improve others' lives, becoming heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring.
"Basic Fear: Of being harmed or controlled by others
"Basic Desire: To protect themselves (to be in control of their own life
and destiny)
"Key Motivations: Want to be self-reliant, to prove their strength and resist weakness, to be important in their world, to dominate the environment, and to stay in control of their situation."

Relief washed over me.

I'm not the only one. There are other people like me.

I was newly sober at this point and had been digging deeper into personal development. I had always felt like a bad person. Defective if you will. Subtle and overt messages were prevalent in my life: I was selfish, insensitive, stupid, disorganized, irresponsible.

With my drinking habit removed, I recognized that I had completely disconnected from parts of myself. Any hobbies I once found pleasure in had been replaced by drinking. I had stopped listening to music because it evoked difficult feelings in me that I didn't want to face.

Slowly, my real self began to reveal itself.

I referred to myself as "insensitive" in another conversation with that life coach. She said, "What? Chrissie, you're one of the most sensitive people I know."

It did not compute.

I had always heard that I was insensitive and I had - in many situations - behaved as though I was insensitive. As it turns out, I am extremely sensitive, but, to me, sensitivity was weak (See: Enneagram 8 description) and I couldn't be weak.

To be weak was to lose control (See: Enneagram 8 description).

To lose control was to be attacked, bullied, victimized.

I wasn't about to do any of that.

Growth and Recognition

I've been engaged in healing since I started counseling at 25 years old, but I started to see significant progress after I quit drinking 10 years later.

Here are some of the things I've learned in the almost-six years of healing:

  1. I needed to throw a tantrum. I needed to be angry. I needed to blame. I had stuffed my feelings for three decades, which meant anyone who hinted at an insult threw me into an irrational tailspin. I was triggered at every turn. When I drank, I would get really angry. I had so much justified anger that had been buried in order to survive that I was constantly on edge, lashing out with every slight trigger.

  2. I had to learn basic interpersonal skills. Longterm trauma messes with our development. As a black sheep, fault was almost always laid at my feet, so I built up a massive defensiveness. That atrophied my ability to discern what I should and should not hold myself accountable for.

  3. I've had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When I say I've been through some humiliating, painful experiences on my path to healing, believe me. It has not been fun. But it's been essential and I wouldn't trade it.

  4. I had to teach myself self-love. I remember Googling, "How to love myself." I truly didn't know how. I was 100% cut off from a relationship with me. I hated myself, was ashamed of myself. I couldn't have told you my likes and dislikes. I didn't know my own personality. Internal Family Systems and journaling has helped tremendously.

  5. The way I'm wired dictated how I was treated. Sensitive, kind-hearted, empathetic people make good victims because of their willingness to shoulder blame. But when you add in attributes like questioning authority, justice-seeking, and emotional reactivity, you have all the makings of a perfect black sheep.

Being the Black Sheep

The black sheep, or scapegoat, is the disgrace of the family. The one who has "created and caused all the problems."

The origin of the phrase comes from the rare presence in a flock of white sheep of a sheep with black fleece. Rather than being a delightful surprise, these black sheep were a disappointment, since their wool couldn't be dyed.

They are advocates, justice-seekers, protectors. It is natural for them to stand up for others and be a voice for those who need one. Think Martin Luther King, Jr., Serena Williams, Pink, Dr. Phil McGraw, Leah Remini.

Embracing the Black Sheep

When I was younger, the way I embraced being the black sheep was by engaging in destructive behavior. If others were going to label me "the problem" then, fine, I'd be the problem.

Now, I recognize that embracing the black sheep is owning the reason I was "selected" to be one.

I can embrace my rebellious nature while learning how to honor systems and processes. I can know that my sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness. I can learn how to temper my emotional reactivity. I can protect those who warrant protection while setting healthy boundaries for those who haven't earned it.

I came up with one phrase within my Phoenix Rising brand that I believe sums up the healing process:

Be responsible for your future, awake in your present, and accountable for your past.

  • We can't change what was done to us and around us, but we can recognize what we should be accountable for.
  • We can't fast forward our healing, but we can choose to be present each and every day to continue to grow.
  • We can't change how we got to where we are, but we can be responsible for our path forward

Owning Ourselves

The most empowering part of my healing journey has been getting to know me and finding so much to be proud of. My Phoenix Rising and Black Sheep brands are a part of that and I'm looking forward to building upon them so they are more than just merchandise. I want to be a speaker, conduct workshops, be on podcasts.

I also want to know ... were you (or are you) a Black Sheep? Can you relate to my story?

Tell me in the comments.

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