We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are

Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”

Given that, how can we identify our inherent filters that create and distort our worldview? Years ago I discovered a valuable tool for doing just that called the Enneagram. More than a personality typology, the Enneagram is a deep map of the ego that recognizes and describes nine patterns or “Types” of habitual thinking, feeling and acting.

Our type originates from a specific core belief, or filter, that is related to our personal survival and satisfaction.
The nine types and their associated core beliefs are:

  Type 1: The Perfectionist believes that the world judges and punishes “bad” behavior, so he must gain worthiness and love by being as good and perfect as possible.
■  Type 2: The Giver believes that he must give fully to others in order to be loved.
■  Type 3: The Performer believes that he must accomplish and succeed in order to be loved.
■  Type 4: The Romantic believes that something vitally important is missing from his life and must be regained in order to relieve the pain of deficiency and loss of connection.
■  Type 5: The Observer believes that he must protect himself from a world that demands too much and gives too little.
■  Type 6: The Loyal Skeptic believes that he must gain protection and security in a hazardous world that can’t be trusted.
■  Type 7: The Epicure believes that the world limits and frustrates, causing pain from which no one can escape.
■  Type 8: The Protector believes that this is a hard and unjust world in which the powerful take advantage of the innocent and impose their personal beliefs.
■  Type 9: The Mediator believes that in order to be loved and valued he must blend in to get along.

Our core belief distorts our view of the world by magnifying certain aspects of our experiences and blinding us to others. This combination of magnification and blinding determines where we focus our attention and energy, which, in turn, drives our behavior.

For example, those who are The Protector, which is my type, focus their attention on anything that they perceive as being unfair and on disarming any ill-intentioned individuals. Feeling of vulnerability, weakness or powerlessness are avoided.

Their drive to be strong and in control distorts their worldview and prevents them from experiencing the softer side of life.

Consciously shifting their attention and looking for the good intentions of others creates a different filter: people who want to help and support them, not hurt them.

The majority of our thinking, feeling and behaving happens automatically and unconsciously. In order to affect real change in our lives by alternating the way we see the world, we need to make our unconscious patterns conscious. The Enneagram is a useful tool to help accomplish this.

Cheryl B. McMillan is Chair, Northeast Ohio, at Vistage International.