Instincts

Social versus Sexual

I love comedy, and College Humour is one of my favorite Youtube channels for a laugh.  If you had to take a big marker and divide their history into two big chapters, it would be 1) Before the 2008 recession, and 2) After the 2008 recession.  The first chapter was pure Social genius.  There were tons of actors on staff, and the vast majority of them were social.  The energy was bubbly, improvisational and refracted. 

Getting Back to Meditation

 Zen meditators

Zen meditators

Last night I did a phone survey with a woman I met at an Enneagram workshop in 2014.  She's doing her certification to be an Enneagram instructor, and has to do a research paper on her own topic.  She's doing dreams and our instinct stack- how our instinct stack affects how we solve problems in our dreams.  Pretty interesting, and I'll definitely pay closer attention now... and incidentally I did have a dream last night that confirms her thesis.

We ended up having a lengthy conversation and I'll take some gems away from it, but the biggest thing I took away was a kick in the pants to get back to meditation.  I just moved, and I'm recovering from that, running around getting everything settled, and I keep saying, "when I'm settled, I'll meditate.  When I'm settled I'll meditate."  And you know that's just backwards, but you keep feeding yourself that line.  Eventually it has to stop. 

One thing she mentioned about it that I liked was this idea that meditation is time spent with yourself, reaffirming your purpose on this earth.  I liked that line.  After how many decades on earth, I finally know my purpose- to teach the Enneagram- that, I'm 100% sure of, but how am I actually advancing on that purpose?

Anyway, you just know meditation is the right thing to do.  My job is super stressful, and when you're driving to work in the morning and your anxiety has already got your pulse up and your muscles clenched, you know you have stuff to process, and the more you put it off, the more it builds and becomes a monster.

Plus the coaching school that she attended (New Ventures West)- I think one of the best coaching schools in North America, if not the best- asks their students to commit to 30 min a day. 

'Nuff reasons.  Must get started today.

Orphaning the Sexual Instinct

Few ideas have had more of an impact in the last couple months on my way of thinking than Robert A. Johnson's first chapter in Inner Gold.  I don't even think I finished the chapter- it was the first two pages that hit me between the eyes and then I returned the book to the library, having needed time to digest what I just read.  If you were a psychology student, you might have studied him already in school, Johnson being one of the best-known Jungian writers on earth today, but having just found him, I am so excited to read every single one of his books.  I love Carl Jung and this guy now.

His first chapter is on projection.  You know how we develop crushes on people and we absolutely have to have that person in our lives.  It's embarassing to need or want someone that bad, especially if you know you don't have a chance.  At least I find it something to be embarassed about.  Well Johnson lays it out in the most compassionate of terms- basically we all have inner gold- our sense of value and worth, and sometimes, he says, that gold is too heavy for us to carry and we need someone else to carry it for us.  If that person is willing, ie. if they have the "psychic container" for the gold we can't carry, they'll smile and carry it for us until we demand it back.  Crushes on your teacher are like this- you have a crush on your grade three teacher and then you outgrow it.  The teacher knows you will, but she makes a fuss over your Valentine's Day flowers anyway and put them in some water. On the other hand, they might not have the psychic container for it, and it might make them feel really uncomfortable.

That's a phrase I keep coming back to- container.  Johnson says, "All psychic energy needs a container".  Just those six words- I've been seeing how they can apply on so many levels. 

If you know about the three instincts in the Enneagram, you know the Sexual instinct (the need for intensity, the preference for one-on-one interactions over group interactions, and the enjoyment of increasing the intensity in a group, like cracking a joke instead of keeping the pace and tenor of the conversation on a regular "beat".  You know Seinfeld's low talkers?  Well close talkers- there's a good chance they stand close to you to feel the intensity.  But I mean, that's just an example.  Not everyone with the Sexual instinct stands close to you when they talk to you, but it is a thing.)  I've written about this before- you can google it for more examples.

Anyway, I've been noticing amongst my friends a lot of Social couples having children who have the Sexual instinct.  (I seriously think we have children to balance us out, because Mr. M is the opposite- he's a Sexual 8 with a Social daughter.)  But yeah, I can name quite a few couples with a laid-back Social instinct with crazy intense children, the container for which the parents just don't have.  If the parents don't realize this and the intensity annoys them, they tend to "orphan" it.  Like cringe and be like, "Ooohhh, XXX, just settle down, PLEASE!"  It can happen between spouses too- I know a couple where the husband can get really intense- like either mad or excited and he'll raise his voice and his wife will bristle and say, "Just lower your voice- why do you have to get so angry?"  And he'll be like, "I'm not angry", and she'll roll her eyes really slowly and dramatically.  I guess I would call that orphaning the sexual instinct, like not holding it, not honoring it because the wife just doesn't have the Sexual instinct (ie. Not to say she doesn't have sex!- big difference- the Instincts are technical terms- it just means she doesn't have the instinct to instensify the energy in a conversation- she's fine with her Social instinct, where the energy is a lot more spread out and democratic amongst the group).

We have some families at school where only one kid in the family has the Sexual instinct and it's sad to watch because they have no container for it- neither of their parents knows how to "hold" it and they end up condemning it, or to borrow this phrase from a recent post of Fred Wilson's, "orphaning it", and it takes quite a few years- decades even- for you to figure out how to handle all that instensity in a graceful way if you don't have someone to emulate how they handle that energy. The Sexual instinct can be a curse that way, but I mean, once you create your own container for it, you're sailing.

Anyway, this is just what's been brewing in my head lately.  Looking forward to finding more applications. 

Your Nervous System and Your Socializing Style

 A reaction you might get by a social/self-pres or a self-pres/social friend to some unexpected intensity. 

A reaction you might get by a social/self-pres or a self-pres/social friend to some unexpected intensity. 

The other day, I wrote about the woes of growing up sexual in a self-preservation or social family, where the need to concentrate the energy in the room into an argument, or drama, or a party is met with a look that says, "Whoa".  And sometimes, "Why?"

In Enneagram language, "sexual" is the name of one of three instincts that tells how we relate to social situations.  People can either prefer sexual, social, or self-preservation instinctual approaches to their membership in the global tribe.

People who prioritize the sexual instinct prefer one-on-one interactions because it's easier to contract the energy between two people, and they don't have to take too many dynamics into consideration, (which just gets complicated)The caveat here is that this isn't always about sex- it can be, because we all know that sex is the consummation of directed energy- but it can also simply be excitement about travel plans, a project, a cause, or an otherwise interesting discussion. 

Then there are those who prefer interacting with a group where the energy is a lot more spread out.  They're actually really good at reading the dynamics between everyone in the group-- they have an intelligence for it-- so for them, numbers aren't a problem, in fact, it's being alone that's the problem.  There's an itch to go find people to hang out with to get some relief from the suffocation after long stretches of solitude.  Nobody likes being alone too much, these guys just have a lower tolerance for it.  These are the people who prioritize the social instinct.  

Thirdly, there's a more subdued version of the other two.  They still have a preference for either the sexual or the social scenarios, but even more important than that to them, is their self-preservation.  How this manifests depends on the personality type, but there's generally a concern for preserving their energy so as not to run out of it.  Things that "cost" them their energy can be physical discomfort, or just simply being out of their element or away from home .  It can also mean financially- are their bills paid?  Is there food in the fridge?  Anything that is essential to what it means to feel "safe" for them.  Don't get me wrong- they also like socializing or being one-on-one with someone, they would just rather do it at home or where they're comfortable. 

(I'm not sure if that was the best description of self-preservation people.  Go here to read from the masters.)

Anyway, yesterday I found a study linking the instincts of the Enneagram to how our particular nervous system operates.  It's the digest version of findings by a therapist in Colorado, Elan BenAmi for Nine Points Magazine.  I just love the connection to brain science here.

We can think of the three instinctual subtypes (self-preservation, social, and sexual) as drives originating in the reptilian brain that revolve around survival.  The passion (emotional habit) of each Enneatype is lodged in the limbic center (Ohlson, 2013).  I think of the passion like the parable of the monkey whose fist is caught clasping food in the jar… If only he would release the food in his hand, he would be free!  Unfortunately, he’s mistakenly convinced that this food is what he needs for nourishment and so he keeps his hand clenched tightly.

Often (though certainly not always) a dominant self-preservation strategy presents as a parasympathetic response in the nervous system.  This is characterized by a low energy approach, and an over-reliance on the auto-regulation (as opposed to dyadically or in a group setting) of distress.  Those who over-rely on the sexual/one-to-one subtype tend to be sympathetically dominant, experiencing high arousal and increased emotional reactivity (especially in the context of love attachments). The social subtype generally appears more energetically split between hyper and hypo arousal.  If unchecked, the social subtype can end up feeling as though they have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brakes (Ohlson, 2013), (Ogden, 2006, p. 28-32).  [Source]

I don't understand the thing about socials with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brakes, though.  If someone wants to explain that to me, please do.

Black Sheep: Show us How You Really Feel

  My guess is there is at least one sexual kid and one self-preservation kid in this picture.  The rest could very well be social, although there's a lot more going on than simply an instinct stack mismatch in this family.   Image from memes.com

My guess is there is at least one sexual kid and one self-preservation kid in this picture.  The rest could very well be social, although there's a lot more going on than simply an instinct stack mismatch in this family.  Image from memes.com

There are different reasons kids are singled out from the rest of their family as being the black sheep.  One way they can be black sheep is by having different a instinct stack than the rest of their family.  

Your instinct stack is the prioritization of instinctual responses you have to social situations.  Self-preservation kids appear low-energy, like they're trying to preserve their energy.  Social kids obviously have an easy time in social situations and diffuse intensity, while sexual kids emit intensity (nothing to do with sex in this context- that's just the name of the instinct.  Sex comes into play later when they become adults.  At this age, the kids are just experiencing a need to show a lot of exuberation or other intense feeling). 

The word "stack" just means that while each of us has all three of the instincts, we have them stacked on top of one another in order of preference.  The first two, we can access fairly well, while the third, way at the bottom, we tend to leave underdevelopped.

In these cases, the black sheep of the family would be the kids whose energy doesn't fit into the tempo and intensity level of the rest of their families.  Black sheep kids can be found in every combination of instinct stack-dominant family, but I have a special heart for sexual kids who are born into self-preservation families, because that's the biggest gap in energy levels.  Self-preservation parents with sexual kids are often just beside themselves trying to understand their alien kid.  Those kids are told that their intensity is too much, too loud, and embarassing. 

I was raised in a self-pres/social dominant family, so there was pressure to keep the intensity low, laid-back and the tempo diffused, although we did break into crazy-intense debates or dance-offs every once in a while.

As adults, the black sheep has to consciously figure out their true expression for themselves, and learn how to be comfortable with how they express their own emotions.

The other day I bought an ipad with some birthday money and I was so excited, I took a picture of myself. It turned out like this. 

I looked at the picture I just took, and I was like WTF, that's not how I feel, so I took another picture. 

That's how I really felt. 

Teamwork and the instincts

 The wink is a good example of a microcosm of the sexual instinct- a contracting of energy. 

The wink is a good example of a microcosm of the sexual instinct- a contracting of energy. 

I've been thinking a lot about the instincts for the last few days, and I had a conversation with a friend last night about them.  I'm working with some people on a project with different instinct stacks (the instincts being self-preservation, social, and sexual), and although it's doable, it takes intention and awareness- preferably on both parties' part.  If we take self-preservation out of the picture for a second and just look at social and sexual- social energy difuses the energy of the team and spreads it out, kind of like you would imagine a Chinese fan spreading out from one point.  It's an expression of enjoyment of the connections between the members of the group.  Historically, being part of a group has represented security and comfort because there is strength in numbers, and when you have a lot of friends, you have any number of people to lift you out of your slumps and help you keep going.

Sexual energy (we're not talking literal sex in this case- it's more the need for intensity, although yes, sex is a part of it) is always trying to focusing the energy towards a point by  contracting it.  So this energy is an expression of enjoyment of the bonds between two people.  Concentrating the energy in a conversation makes sexuals feel more alive.  Instead of a fan, their energy in a conversation is reaching for something- a point at the end. 

Obviously, then, working on a team with people of varying instincts requires sensitivity and personal awareness because the energy can be contracting and expanding at the same time.  When the situation is intense, a social might break the intensity with a joke.  When things are flatlining, a panicking sexual might say something ridiculous and unexpected to tighten the energy back up again. 

The goal of personal work is to use everything as your teacher.  The teacher here is that both instincts can be intimidating to people if they don't have it high up in their stack.  So socials without the sexual instinct high in their stack feel excluded (and therefore offended many times) by the sexual instinct, because a conversation between two sexuals is really meant for two.  Being alone is tough for these guys, and there's an itch to get out and be with another person, preferably more. 

When I'm with someone who feels uncomfortable with my energy, I'm reminded to just be present to them, breathe... detach myself from the virtue of my own instinct stack...  We have all instincts within us, but one will be our top priority, another will be our second priority, and the third one we kind of ignore.  When we start paying attention to and nurturing the bottom, underdevelopped one, we become whole people.

You can see the differences in the two approaches in so many areas of life. 

You can tell a salesperson is sexual because they can move straight towards a close without difficulty, and sometimes it's more like a gallop; the customer barely has a chance!  This product is just so exciting!  You can tell a salesperson is social because they will focus more on the chitchat with the client, feeling out their energy, the people accompanying them, and where they fit into the politics of the group.

On a dating site, socials might initiate a conversation with a match by saying simply, "Hey."  Sexuals, worried that won't go anywhere, might ask a question of their match.

On the playground, sexuals will play in small groups with a precious couple friends.  On a bad day, they may even play alone, although no one really likes that.  Socials will be playing with groups, but the trap there is fighting when someone threatens their position in the group.  Socials put up with a lot more, though, to keep those bonds intact.  Sexuals need to make more of an effort to keep the bond intact.

Whereas sexuals without a high priority for social feel excluded in social situations (and not because people are actively excluding them, although over time, it might become that way) and just don't know where to look or how to behave at a party.  Being with a group is tough for them, and there is a pull to go be alone.

Parties and networking events just make sense to socials.  Sexuals want to peel their skin off it's so uncomfortable.

 

Friends don't let friends stay in one intelligence centre (unless they insist?)

I was looking at a car the other day, and some friends met me at the lot. They arrived just in time for the test drive, so the sales guy was like, "are you guys coming along?"  My one friend, an intellectual type 5, started to decline, "oh I'm okay, I don't need to come...." I started to see what was happening, and I said, "Just get in the car."  I said to the sales guy, "He's coming."  And he got in the car without complaint. It was a Honda Civic, so it was a good ride.

Type 5's are head types, which means they "experience" life by observing it from the sidelines and processing it intellectually (hoping to someday have enough knowledge to be prepared enough to live), so if we'd gone without him and told him about the ride after, he'd be able to feel like he was totally there, because he got the "explanation" with all the attendant information. Information processing is their way of connecting to reality, or Source.

Which is an unconscious cop-out to living life in the body- an absolutely addictive and succulent ego lie- but a lie nonetheless.  When you think about it, there is no real substitute for in-the-body experience- our heart can't conjure up experience if there's nothing to connect to, and our mind can't conjure up experience if there's nothing solid to reason with.  If the body- or one of the other centres- isn't involved in a present-moment experience, we're in dangerous territory of dealing with fantasies, abuse, excessive fear or worry, hedonism, or other fancy curlicues of the ego. 

  Ancient Egypt knew about the three intelligence centres too.  That will be the topic of an upcoming post.   Image from sofiatopia.org. 

Ancient Egypt knew about the three intelligence centres too.  That will be the topic of an upcoming post.  Image from sofiatopia.org. 

We have three intelligence centres: the head, the heart, and the gut. Each of us relies primarily on one centre, partially rely on the second, and needs major intention and attention cultivating the third one. When all three are in balance, we can live a full life of knowing, loving, and action. Of course, the West has deified the head, and that's why so much stock was put in IQ tests when they were first invented. Now thanks to Daniel Goleman, we know about emotional intelligence (EQ), and lately I saw in a newsletter someone was talking about body intelligence (BQ). We need all three for a full-bodied life, but our ego structure clings to one in particular as the only necessary way to knowing, and our life ends up rather flat as a result.

I caught my own lying-ass ego in the act today. Another friend across the country is on Maternity leave, and she must be bored because she texted me last night asking if I thought you could speak in French with a British accent. I said I didn't see why not. She texted back and asked me if I'd tried it. My first impulse was to say, "I don't need to- my thinking it is is enough to satisfy me", but I stopped myself.  I realized this was my head asserting itself as the reigning intelligence centre, and when I got in the car to go to lunch I tried singing the national anthem in French with a British accent. It didn't reveal much because I'm not super strong on accents, but it made me giggle anyway.

This may sound super trivial. Who cares that my friend may not have joined me on my test drive, or that I hadn't tried singing with a particular accent?  But consider how much our life experience can be incredibly one-sided when we spend all our lives neglecting our heart.  Or how much trouble would we be in to not pay any attention to what the head said.  And what a waste to spend your whole life not putting any of your perceptions into action (gut)!

 Image from a  youtube video.   Click on link to see the girl being thrown in, although consider how watching it isn't like being there no matter how good your imagination is.

Image from a youtube video.  Click on link to see the girl being thrown in, although consider how watching it isn't like being there no matter how good your imagination is.

Hopefully this story will help clarify what I mean.  When I was on vacation in Mexico two Christmases ago, I was walking along the shore with Mr. M and his kids to go swimming, and contrary to how I would get in, he picked me up and threw me into the ocean.  Now if I had been there by myself, I would have totally been fine intellectualizing the experience- noticing the water, being like, "ok what a big ocean" and maybe forcing myself to stick my feet in the water for the full effect.  When I got thrown in, I was out of the comfort zone of my two other intelligence centres, and I suddenly didn't know what to do, say, or think- I was speechless.  Of course it ended up being fun- I just had to let go of the control and trust Mr. M, who is a body (gut) type, that I was physically going to be ok, and I didn't need to process it through my first two centres to have fun.  It haunts me to think of what my Mexican holiday would have been like had I not gotten in the water.

Neuroscience of Social: Attunement

My mom read me some advice out of a magazine once, that if you're going to lose weight, you need to get yourself a full-length mirror.  What you can't see, you can't heal. 

Something similar was said at a music workshop; if you want to become a better musician, record and listen to yourself repeatedly.  What you can't hear, you can't improve.

This very same principle applies if you're lonely or feel awkward around people.  Learn how to observe yourself through mindfulness.  If you can't attune to yourself through your highs and lows, you're going to find it hard to find a lover or a group of friends who are willing or able to attune to you in compassion and love.

Attunement is the result of feeling connected to someone, like your emotional state has been "felt" by them, or as Dan Siegel defines it, "how one person... focuses attention on the internal world of another".  Since pre-civilization, our brains have come with a circuitry that allows us to understand others' minds. He describes it as being able to come up with maps of other peoples' attention and intentions.  As the most fundamental example, when parents are in the present moment with their children, "the child's internal world is seen with clarity by the parent, and the parent comes to resonate with the child's state.  This is attunement."  Attunement has as its foundation an approach of curiosity, openness, acceptance and love (COAL), which contributes to healthier intimate relationships, resilience and overall health for the child.

Lily Aldrige and Taylor Swift are best buds.

As adults, having friends (and a spouse) is important to our mental, emotional, and physical health, and has been scienticially shown to affect how long we live.  Single people die from every disease at a higher rate than married people, and several studies have shown that people with only a few social ties and memberships in groups are between two and four times more likely to die sooner than people with many social ties, all other factors taken into consideration.  Loneliness is even a factor in developping cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers, and cancer.  "It is deeply human to have a strong need to belong, to feel a part of something larger than oneself, to be in relationship with others in meaningful and supportive ways" (Kabat-Zinn, pg. 264)

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the most famous neuroscientists because he's the one who first paired mindfulness with neuroscience at UMass in the 1970's.  In recent times, a Stanford team took his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program that he designed and applied it to people with social anxiety disorder.  Those subjects showed improvements in anxiety and depression and an increase in self-esteem. Furthermore,

when asked to practice awareness of breathing in the scanner, the MBSR group also showed what the researchers describe as decreased negative emotion experience, as well as marked reduction of activity in the amygdala, and increased activity in brain regions involved in regulating where one's attention goes. 

When others reject us or skim over us, it makes it hard for us to look at ourselves.  Majorly embarassing yourself in front of a crush usually makes you want to peel your skin off and get a giant eraser to remove the episode from your brain.  That self-aversion is not being able to "see" yourself.  When you can sit with yourself through compassionate awareness in your neediness and pain, you're developping your "inner observer", which Siegel says is like becoming your own best friend.

So if you're wanting to develop better or more relationships, start by cultivating a mindfulness practice.  You need to see yourself in all your stressful, lovely, delightful, and varied states before you can be "seen" by others in all your states.  In other words, you need to love yourself before you can be loved by others.

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Developping Social

I've been writing about the Social blindspot.  We all have a blindspot, but when we have the Social instinct as the lowest end of the Social/Self-preservation/Sexual totem pole, it comes with its unique challenges in life.  Of course, the challenges that come from having Self-Preservation or Sexual at the bottom also present an equal set of challenges, but they're for a later blog post.

People with a social blind spot are - you guessed it- more likely to stay at home, and more likely to decline invitations out with groups.  They're the homebodies of the world, and enjoy luxuriating in the space they've created for themselves and lapping up the sights, sounds, and sensations of their family around them.  Or they just simply like knowing that the temperature, energy, and noise level is going to suit them in their own home, thank-you very much, and they'd prefer those comforts than the strangeness and hullaballoo of being in someone else's home who doesn't make coffee the way they like it, or who doesn't vaccuum their carpet enough, and they predict the cat hair is going to be clinging to their feet when they get home. 

However much we derive comfort from our own systems, however, we can't escape situations that call for the social instinct.  We're going to need to attend funerals and volunteer meetings; at work, we may need to network, or at least attend Christmas parties, and attending workshops means socializing during the coffee breaks.  Even in a monastery where men and women have taken vows of silence, there is an energy that a person carries around with them that people pick up on- does this person feel comfortable with us all being in the same room as her, or would she like us to leave?  People can tell without even knowing how they know. 

Therefore, if you don't have it, you're going to need to develop it.  But how?

This is not to say that people with the social blindspot don't want to be with people- we all want to be with others, and we all love spending time with others- it's just that we tend to have preferences for different social setting configurations.  We may crave an intensity with one other special person, or perhaps a more family-oriented activity.  For a social blindspot person, it's partly going to depend on which instinct falls into the second spot on the totem pole: sexual or self-preservation.

As awkward as group situations may feel to the Social blindspot person, it may be comforting to know that our brains have been wired to be social since before civilization.  Daniel Siegal calls our brains the social organs of the body.  We actually all have the wiring in place to become socially adept- it's already part of our biological make-up of being a human being.

According to Siegel, a thread that's been running through neuroscience literature since the 1920s is an injunction to use the social circuitry in our brain for the purposes of becoming "social" with ourselves (ie. having a self-reflective life), and when we can be social with ourselves-- and this is simply my extrapolation of the principle-- we can be more comfortable in situations where the social instinct is called for.

So what does it mean to be social with ourselves?  That sounds a little weird and perhaps narcissistic.  But Siegel makes the point that developping a mindfulness practice is about learning to have compassion and empathy toward ourselves, even lovingkindness.  And of course, we've all heard that in order to love others, we have to first love ourselves. 

Let me give an example from my work.  I work in an elementary school, so I see little kids interacting all the time.  Once, I saw three girls at the fountain.  Two girls were talking and the third girl was trying to make a contribution to the conversation.  At one point, she leaned in and, with her face lit up, inserted a comment, speaking more in the direction of the "leader" of the group, but the "leader"- who was in the middle of her sentence, looked in her direction for a split second, but - not out of spite, but just simply wanting to continue the momentum of her sentence- finished what she was saying to the other girl, and no sooner than she finished her sentence than the other girl interjected, and the gap was closed in the conversation.  The "outside" girl's shoulder's hunched, she exhaled, and the three of them walked back to class together.  The "outside girl" didn't try to pick up the thread again. 

Now, I've also observed that a kid with higher social, on the other hand, will try repeating what they've said, or will drop the idea altogether to respond to something else that someone else said.  I believe that these socials know that their contribution is important, because they've been attuned to before in a group, and this time should be no different.

But now I'm straying from Dan Siegel.  We should get back to science, and I'm going to pick up on the neurobiology of attunement next post.  Attunement being this ability to connect, to not only physically see a person and hear their words and understand that there's another person in front of us, but to also make them feel seen, heard and understood.  Siegel says, "Attunement is how one person focuses attention on the internal world of another.  This focus on the mind of another person harnesses neural circuitry that enables two people to feel felt by each other."

And this is the missing piece when we feel we don't belong in a group- that ability to "come back to ourselves" after a contribution we've made to a conversation doesn't come across as well as we intended, lick our wounds, so to speak (or have loving compassion on ourselves) and go back and make another go of it.

"This state [of attunement] is crucial if people in relationships are to feel vibrant and alive, understood and at peace.  Research has shown that such attuned relationships promote resilience and longevity."

To be continued...

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Developping the social instinct

I was saying yesterday how developping the social instinct, whether it's in the middle (second) position, or bottom (third) position is kind of hard if you've neglected it for so long that you don't have anyone to practice it with.  There really is an epidemic of aloneness in the Western world today.  People get left alone after a divorce, or after the children leave home for university, or maybe they just never got married in the first place.  For most people being alone is a terrible feeling, leads to depression, and has been shown to lead to earlier death.  People stay in marriages to avoid being alone, or they cling to their adult children by going to visit them as often as possible.  People avoid growing up so they can stay out late and party, and don't have to face being alone.  Like seriously very few people want to be alone forever.  Even Type Fives, with the archetypal battery that needs to be alone to recharge, want people to come knock on their doors every so often and engage them.

Now, some people just gravitate towards social situations, and that's their preferred way of human interaction.  They maybe make up a third of the population.  They find it easy to be around others, and it feels wonderful.  I'll eventually write about those guys, but this blog post is for those people who find it hard to be with others, either because they have trouble reading social cues at school or at the office, or they feel like they don't fit in at parties, they never know who to talk to at business events, or how to make networking feel natural, or it simply exhausts them too much to be in a group of people.

This image is from anotherjennifer.com

Let's first take a look at what Social people look and feel like from the outside.  To those with a Social blind spot, the energy of the group feels like everyone's all gently swinging in a hammock together, and they've all figured out the rhythm of the swaying back and forth, and they want it to keep going, so awkward pauses get filled with extra verbiage- maybe a platitude here and there- that may not mean a hell of a whole lot, but it keeps the rhythm going, and allows the other people to figure out a thread to pick up on and start on that. 

The point is the rhythm and the delicious and alive feeling of giving and taking.  There's a buzz in being able to connect, to support and feel supported, engage in a back-and-forth conversation that isn't necessarily going anywhere, but they're knitting something- and that's a big fuzzy sweater, and when the sweater's done, they're going to all get in the sweater and wear it together.  

This is actual art, so of course I'm going to say where I got it.  It's called "Group Sweater" by Sydney Chastain-Chapman, and who wouldn't want to get into this sweater?  Knowing where you fit into the group, and feeling connected to a bunch of friends is part of the deliciousness of the human experience.

Someone with Social as their lowest instinct is going to be like "What the fuck people.  What color of yarn are you using? [because Socials aren't knitting an actual sweater- it's a metaphor]  What pattern are you knitting?  Who's in charge here?  Whose lead do I follow?  Where am I supposed to sit?  Is anyone going to lend me a pair of needles?  Oh.  I was supposed to bring my own?  Dammit.  They're in my room.  Maybe I'll go knit the sweater from there.  See ya!"

For those with a Social blind spot, it's going to feel like they're a big old dog that just ruined the swaying of the hammock, and they just took their sharp energy and ruined everything, and now the Socials have to get the momentum going again. 

OK, so if this is you, there is help.

I was listening to a talk with Russ Hudson and Jessica Dibb the other day, and they were talking about intimacy, how you don't necessarily have to be around other people to experience it- you can be intimate with the night sky, or with the forest, Russ was saying.  Now intimacy is the domain of the Self-Preservation and Sexual instincts, and the area that Socials may struggle with.

So if that was true, I thought, the opposite must also be true- that you don't necessarily have to be around others to develop your social instinct.  I thought that was an interesting idea, and it's something you can breathe into at home or at work as you notice your connection to the potted plant and the connection to the kitchen sink and the walls on either side of you as you go up the stairs.  Just noticing the energy of what's physically around you, and how it feels to be amongst the objects in your environment is going to wake you up to a different energy.

Dr. Dan Siegel provides another lens.  He says that our brains were initially wired to be social, and we can improve our social connections just by being social with ourselves.  That may sound weird but it's actually the neurobiological starting point for the practice of mindfulness where we become our own observer.

But unfortunately, I now have to say "To be continued..." because it's getting late, but I will talk about the neurobiology of Social tomorrow.

 

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