Mary BastThis second life story from the forthcoming book co-authored by C.J. Fitzsimons, is condensed from an interview with a Two. In the book there will be eighteen life stories, two for each Enneagram style

Style Two: Staying Awake

“To me transformation is becoming anew, changing from where you are or have been to a new place.

“A transforming experience for me has been my wife’s mental illness. She’s a multiple personality, and being with her has changed me. Part of this comes from reading. Books about multiple personality include personality development in general, which gives me more insight into what makes us who we are. I’ve also read Scott Peck and others who focus on how we become who we are.

“Many of my emotional and social needs are unmet through the marriage. It’s as though her sexuality has been obliterated.  Emotional intimacy is also difficult for her. She has strong alters who block anything that seems to threaten them. We’ve taken her to a specialty center, adding people to her therapy team, doing googobs of therapy. That has also served to support wishful thinking about what might be, and as time passes it’s more and more difficult to support that kind of hope. Then it comes down to, What needs do I have that can never be met in this relationship? Do I look at meeting my own needs and leaving the relationship?

“This is also very frustrating for my wife because she’d like to meet my needs but is just unable to. At times we’ve come close to agreeing both of us might be better off if we were separated. Some aspects in our relationship probably promote her remaining ill instead of getting better. She’s not had to go in the hospital for several years and she’s been functional day-to-day, keeping house, cooking, taking care of the kids, and other things she likes. I’ve learned to not make demands she can’t meet. This all creates a protective environment that allows her to be disintegrated as an individual, yet maintain what to most people from the outside looks like a normal life.

“We were coming to some kind of resolution, but that was at the most difficult time in my life, when I was dealing with the stresses of my last job and making the transition to this one. It was too much change in too little time, more than I could deal with. The guy I used to work for did unspeakable things to me a couple of times. He belittled me at the beginning of a meeting in front of the whole leadership team. My staff was appalled. He didn’t have an appreciation for the people side of the business.

“With this job change, I love what I’m doing, it feels right, and I’ve paid close attention to positioning myself where I really want to be. I feel anxious, however, knowing I’m down to the conflict between staying and leaving my marriage. There are obviously financial issues to leaving. Then there’s worrying What will people think? Hardly anyone identifies her as being as ill as she is. People might say, “He must be some liar, making all this stuff up.”

“Through coaching I’ve realized what intimacy is for me and what potentials may not be realized in this marriage. A lot of that has come from greater awareness of my own needs and at least an idea of how my needs could be met. I’ve expanded my capacity for other emotionally intimate, nonsexual relationships where at least I can get some of my intimacy needs met. I’ve allowed myself to experience affection with other women, and some intimate relationships with men. So even though sexual intimacy needs can’t be met, I’ve identified two things – I am capable of close relationships and it can happen with other people.

“One relationship was with a nurse I worked with, who revealed she’d grown up in a home with emotional abuse. And I told her some of my past, particularly the difficulties in my relationship with my wife. Then my father had a stroke. I was afraid he’d die and I wouldn’t be there, and this nurse came over and put her hands on my back. The sensation was different than anything I’d ever felt before – a very caring and loving touch – and I broke down and cried, which I’d rarely done in any circumstance. It was very genuine and meant a lot to me.

“With 360 feedback two years ago, the response came out that I was willing to help others but didn’t allow others to help me. I’d been the big Daddy on the team, making sure everybody got along, helping to resolve all the conflicts. That was the first time I was exposed to the negative aspects of caretaking, how I’d used it as a means of controlling others. That triggered a lot of self-exploration for me, and led to much of the reading and subsequent work I’ve done. I still have that summary report, and every once in a while I pull it out and re-read it, to remind myself where I’ve been and where I am now.

“I recognize now I was attracted to and stayed with my wife in the early part of our marriage because I had a need to avoid intimacy at that point. It made me feel good to be able to be a caregiver, to have someone in need to take care of and provide for.

“My reading on Western modes of meditation helps me conceptualize my connectedness to God, listening to the God within us. That voice is always there, the message and the wisdom, so it’s learning how to be quiet enough to listen. A few times I’ve gotten wisdom from that voice, and those times have been marked by an incredible sense of peace and well-being and knowledge of what to do. It’s very clear. You just know. I’ve had a very clear message from my inner voice, a series of four occasions spread out over several years, the last one about a year ago: It’s time to go, I have other work for you to do. I struggled with actually following through on that and the follow-up message was, Trust me. It was that simple and plain

“But I get discouraged, feel depressed, a sense of hopelessness, and recognize what I call circling the drain events, the same things all over again, same feelings, same things going on in my life and getting nowhere, like when you pull the plug and the water’s circling the drain. At times things are cruising along, meals are on the table, and reasonably pleasant conversations. Then, wham, one of these bizarre things multiples are capable of will come out of the blue. That sometimes pulls me back into being the caretaker, I can’t help it. For her as for many people, all her alters are small, whimpering children in a great deal of pain. I’d feel cruel to not reach out. I want to hug her. But coincidental with that is the circling the drain feeling and I think, Here I am again!  Is this ever going to end or change in a substantial way?

“My woodworking continues to be a way of sorting things out. While I’m doing the work, things are processing. A lot of it I do without conscious thinking, but it’s also extremely tactile, so it’s a combination of being tactile and visual. Pretty soon I’m shaping more than an object and it’s become a live metaphor for what I’m doing. Recently it’s been very helpful for me to make things for other people: I think of that person and that relationship while I’m shaping what I’m working on. When I left my last job I took the four senior managers out to dinner and gave each of them a shaker box made of cherry wood, saying how I thought of them as I shaped and sanded and made this beautiful thing for each of them. It was very powerful for all of us. 

“I use the metaphor of a journey for all these changes. I used to think the journey was destination-specific, but now I realize it’s life-long, a quest for understanding, deepening the spiritual ties, improving all kinds of relationships: with God, with myself, with others around me. And the purpose of life is to continue on the journey, not to get to some end point. I’ve had some real ups and downs, but I’m on an upswing. And if my wife and I continue to go through a good process, including lengthy introspection, I would accept it as a full possibility that she could be better because she is away from me and that could be the best thing for both of us. We’re still making progress on that part of the journey.”


Mary Bast, PhD, coach and coach mentor, is co-author of the first Enneagram coaching book – Out of the Box: Coaching with the Enneagram – and author of several coaching workbooks. More information at