The Zen of Type Two Recovery—Journey from the Poverty Streets
The Raw Childhood Imprints of the Type Two
Marianna, a sensitive Type Two, is drowning in the darkness of her hellish childhood—terrified of her father, terrified of her grandfather. When they roam the house she hides in a closet. She feels safe there. Fact is, the more she becomes invisible, an unseen presence, the less she is registered as being present in the house, the less likely to feel the shame of uncaring glances, or the hurt of no one taking her into account. She’s hidden, well, at least her form is. And yet, invisibility is also a silent horror she faces daily. She could out-duel any Type Nine for the invisibility award. She has invisibility cloaks within invisibility cloaks. But when she can help, when it is safe to help, she gives everything she’s got. Her bursting generous heart rarely gets a chance to come forward. Fact: when you realize as a little one that there is no one there for you, no ally to support you, you meet the very real terror of the moment…you are utterly alone. Extinction is so very close by.
As a type Two she hungers for connection and her heart is starved. Desolate. Cut off from her source. Regularly thrown out into the street of her soul and abandoned. There is no love to be found in the emotional atmosphere of her home. It is a desert, a dungeon of disregard. Bars are not needed here on the emotional prison she inhabits because the thick resonance of you-aren’t-wanted coats every breath she takes and the bars that imprison her. So, she does what she must to not make it worse. Besides, she knows the deep hurt of not being treated kindly and it is the last thing she wants, that is, to cause suffering in others. So, she learns quickly. Don’t ask for anything. That’s selfish, she is instantly reminded. You’re ungrateful, she is told, for wanting anything.
Yes, she’s ungrateful (actually heartbroken into infinity) and hurt for being given no nurturance, kindness, encouragement, tenderness, a gentle loving touch. If she was a Type Eight kid she’d probably burn the house down. But she’s a Two, and she takes the spoken and unspoken messages of lovelessness deep into the chamber of her loving heart, and it aches. There must be something wrong with her as she is told frequently. “What’s your problem?’ when she shows anything but a contrite smile. (Her future self will say: Excuse me, but if I seem a little withdraw and timid, it might have to do with the fact that you never speak words of kindness, never encourage me to express myself, never hold me tenderly, and forever let me know that any feeling of anger or hurt is selfish and a sign of being an ungrateful human being. There is no love in this home and each of you should be burnt at the stake of your cold-heartedness. Just saying, in the future that is..)
If she exhibits anything like healthy self-protection she will be annihilated with this shock-stream message that penetrates her viscera—you assert yourself in any way and you will be cast aside as unlovable, left on the streets to fend for yourself. Abandoned. She’s a hostage to the current of terror that has been deeply grooved into her neural pathways by a childhood of pure neglect amongst sleeping and suffering parents—they held hostage by their alcoholism. She prays at night and in the early morning that her mother will return from her bar-hopping excursions—that she will not be abandoned forever—as she is hypnotized into holding on for dear life while a catastrophic movie-reel churns daily through the waters of her attention, she imagining the death of her mother, later her children, later again her husband when he comes home late—the visions of death by a car accident, murder, physical assault…gripping her insides. And yes, she has enough ‘live’ situations to support this image-making, fear-driven, movie machine.
One evening Marianna hears the front door close and the sounds of steps leading upstairs to her mother’s room. She is 8 years old. Curious and concerned, she walks up the stairs and into her mother’s room finding her mom on the bed, naked, a coat the only covering. Horrors! She puts two and two together. Her mom has entered the house only wearing a coat to cover her naked body. She puts two and two together again. Her mom has walked from someone’s car—Who! Who! Who!—naked into their home and passed out on her bed, clothes left somewhere else. Where has her mother been? From what stoop of pure disgust and abhorrence has she fallen. She is horrified, shocked, scared, embarrassed for her mother. Her grandmother enters the room like an angry bull, with bullhorn-raging-presence, and attacks Marianna (what…she’s just standing aghast with shock, sorrow, humiliation witnessing her drunken, lost mother) screaming “You should be grateful for what you have. You shouldn’t judge your mother. She’s a good mother, you’ve got it better than other kids,” she proclaims, as if this event was caused by Marianna, as if Marianna should not be horrified, repulsed, disgusted, ashamed, humiliated to the core of her being. It will take her years to realize that she was raised by crazy people, because this here, this is normal. This totally-messed-up-moment is normal! Here, when a healthy parent might have said, “Honey, are you okay? This must be awful for you to see your mother like this. Your mom is very sick and needs help. This is not your fault. This is your mother’s alcoholism. Come here, let me hold you close.”—Marianna gets the opposite—off-the-wall blamed, striking a deep chord of shame, fear, confusion. She needs a feisty Type Eight brother who says, “Grandma, shut the fuck up. Now! Don’t you dump your emotional shit on Marianna! One more stupid ass remark by you and I will kick your ass. I don’t care if you are ‘grandma.’ You act like a Nazi guard again and I will take you out. Hear me?”
But there is no fierce Type Eight guardian/protector in her life. Nada. And no one knows that she eats, sleeps, breathes in a grief-stricken, shame-filled, love-dead home. It is horrific. On all counts. Can’t be sugar-coated or spiritual-bypassed with it’s all meant for something good! All of this leaves a deep impression on her soul. Never mind that she cannot and never invites kids over to her house. The risk of them finding out about her reality, far beyond her capacity to endure. Her mom is not interested in her or any social life that she needs for her emotional development. Because Marianne is an accidental object. Objects don’t have needs. Just feed them. Silence them. Keep them out of the way. Send them to school.
Her home environment is akin to something from a Stephen King movie. The monsters are the ghosts of indifference who suck her spirit dry like a dementor by their inattention, and the constant, often unseen, silently humming message of we-don’t-really-want-you, and you-should-be-grateful, you-have-it-better-than-others, don’t-ask-for-anything wailing like a non-stop, silently-blaring mantra through the chilly emotional current of the home. The message is truly deafening and heart-stabbing. Which confounds and confuses her to such a degree that in the face of the full-fledged, face-on lies and acts of hatred, she becomes confused and yes, indoctrinated. She adopts the crazy-ass opinions of her captors. Throw me scraps, all I need and deserve is scraps. I won’t make a fuss. I’ll be good and loving. My life is great. There’s nothing wrong here. Nothing…wrong…here. This is a good home. Never mind the dead bodies creeping up the basement, lining the walls, weeping in the closet.
Never mind that!
It’s enough to make you vomit. But she doesn’t vomit. She starves herself into profound skinniness and anorexia becomes her lifeline to temporary self-esteem. It’s the age of Twiggy and anorexic girls are praised. Here she has control. Here she can feel good. And running, running kills the pain, hours of running burn the weight off, numbs her, tires her so she can’t feel, and…hours of running destroy the cartilage in her knees so running is off the docket by age twenty-one. Fucking twenty-one.
Added to this oppression is the dirt floor basement, the smell of cigarette smoke and mold filling the air, the walls spectacles of creative death, beauty nowhere to be found. Torn furniture. Surviving on food stamps and food pantry deliveries, hunger is real. Poverty is real. Old used clothes are real. And the poverty of lovelessness is the most bitter pill. She walks to school with her head down. Always. It is the saddest sight, this little girl wired with a tender and loving heart, wanting the best for everyone, forced to bury her spirit to survive utter madness. Head down to insure less visibility. She learns to smile when she is broken. And it is so perverted and wrong—this quiet, hurt kid becomes a target for vultures. Regularly bullies feast on her sorrow and despair and slug her in the stomach. Push her down. Muddy her clothes. An unimaginable insult and intrusion. (If a kid slugged me in the stomach I would thrash them into infinity, the Type 8 kid murmurs, fire in his eyes. I would end the motherfucker!)
She wishes for death. She thinks of suicide. She picks her drunk mother off the floor at ages 5, 6, 7, 8. She makes herself breakfast before leaving for school at age 7. Her dad, a raging drunk, abandons the family, and her at age 5, walks the streets of her hometown, homeless. She sees him there…and he can’t acknowledge her. When he visits he has nothing to do with her. No attention. Nada. Zero. Zip. What daughter? And her fear and shame drive her to her closet, literally. She does what all kids do with trauma: It must be my fault, all of this. Her mother, also an alcoholic, appeases herself through risky sex while killing her motherly instincts, what’s left of them, and channels her life’s resentment and suffering into Marianna. She was an accident, she thinks, why should I give her any extra time. She’s already a burden. I owe her nothing. She should be grateful for what she has. So it goes. It’s hard to be grateful for nothing, but Marianna tries hard to do so. Here, fill yourself on this emptiness. Call it evidence that you are loved. Turn your sanity upside down. Yes, you should feel full, not hungry; joyful, not heartbroken.
It will take her many, many years to get a gut-full of fiery-fuck-you! Back off Motherfucker! Get the hell out of my face! That distant Type Eight energy is years from her grasp. The Type Four sharp-as-a-razor emotional honesty, also a far away, yet-to-rise star. But through the thick haze, they do arise.
She is starkly alone. And somehow, because she has acquired a fierce will to survive from God only knows where she does what she must to stay alive until one day a seeming door of liberation opens up. In this haze of emotional awfulness, she does what many do. She marries a man who embodies each and every aspect of her childhood. She enters another dungeon. But, after her son of age 4, and her daughter of age 1, begin to suffer in the cage she was raised in, at the hands of a look-alike-drunken-soul-dead-father, she leaves her abusive, alcoholic husband, the commitment to never expose and repeat the suffering she endured upon her children the Type Two dragon-fire in her terrified soul. And she does it, heroically. She attends to their needs, to their feelings, to their creativity, to getting them the help they need. Goes to any length. She becomes a fierce and committed mother, an awesome mother by any standards you might apply, always extending unconditional love to her kids, going beyond the call of duty to create a safe and loving home for her kids, assuring that they are seen, held, affirmed, loved beyond measure. Where she draws this capacity from when none of it has been given to her, is the stuff of the miraculous. This brave-hearted, won’t-die Two at her core has a heart that is strong as steel and cannot be killed. Cannot…be…killed. Scared? Yes. Shamed? Yes. Killed? Fucking-A No!
As a little one, age 8, she finds a church, attends on her own, the passion to know and feel God a mysterious and overriding drive countering her despair. She is imbued with a mysterious faith. She, in addition, fixes her own meals and trundles off to school unsupported, hoping that no bullies in need of discharging their suffering through violence on her, will be on her path. At school, she is ‘the good kid’ and works hard and gets good grades, is cooperative with the teachers who love her, and helps those who need help. She is gentle, kind, humble. School becomes more of a home than the gulag she is raised in. Christian summer camp is a lifesaver for her. She is loved, appreciated for her kind nature, and her kindness towards other kids. She works part-time in high school and pays her way into college. No over-lighting adult is there to help her financially. Poverty of spirit, poverty of emotional support, poverty of financial backing, poverty at every turn…this is her start-point on planet earth. Quietly she does everything herself. And at her core is that potent, undying, soul-craving to feel and sense love at the depth that she cannot yet rest in, a distant star within her—nor can she put it to sleep. It is a flame that cannot be extinguished. The depth will wait for her, will not leave her, and will first awaken when her children are born. And as she does long, slow, inner work, the work of crawling on her hands and knees to redemption, to healing, her soul begins to arise and show itself in her interior. The shield of her Type Two self-protection begins to weaken. Those who have extended small kindnesses will never know the potency of their actions and how they became the force to melt the prison bars of her sorrow and shame.
Tony, her husband, has had the great privilege of watching Marianna unfold, arising out of the cement-like inner prison she hid in to survive, as she slowly endures the beatings of her Inner Critic while saying more truly what she is feeling, experiencing, wanting, and being able to let go of the survival pattern of habitual kindness so that her true heart of deep kindness, which has always been there, emerges. Because no one mirrored her precious heart, or her unconditional kindness towards others, or her natural compassion and wish to help—her Type Two defense mechanism of being habitually kind to stave off attack has muddled the clarity and strength of her true heart. She doesn’t give to get as is so often inaccurately reported in the Enneagram world, but she gives from a much more complex arena. She gives to survive, she gives to not be shamed, she gives because her true heart wants an inherent connection with others, she gives to help you feel better. All of these threads of expression can happen at the same time. And when she is most scared it can look like flattery, or over-giving, or doing too much for others—but if there is anything she’s trying to achieve, or get—it boils down to safety. Period. (And this notion of giving to get needs reframing big time because it’s also described as manipulating to get—as if there is even a thread of conscious choice in those moments. If the Type Two had language to express herself she would say, “I’m feeling unloved and unwanted. Would you please give me an affirmation and let me know I’m cared for?’ But reaching this simple and direct knowing will take a deep excavation of all the emotional-garbage-distortions she has been buried and hidden in.)
Marianna, by necessity, having never been told of her loveliness, her beautiful caring heart, never been seen and witnessed and beheld, has honed her Type Two protective shield. She is better off if she can’t feel what she wants—it hurts too much—so this part of her heart is cut-off—but she can feel what you want and need and this is where she puts her attention—until she learns better. Al-Anon will help. Adult Children of Alcoholics will help, Food Addicts Anonymous will help, The Enneagram will help. Understanding her Type Two patterns will help. Years of counseling will help. Loving-kindness, tons of it, will help. Spirit will help. Her children will help. Slowly, she will emerge as the beautiful jewel that she inherently is. And this is very good news. A resurrection from a tomb of sorrow and darkness is a sight to behold. And Tony knows this. Then he witnesses the clean, intuitive, generous heart of Marianne, abundantly aware that she is a channel for something greater, something that already inhabits the soul of the person she seeks to help. She can rest in this wisdom. And on good days she can feel it, be guided by it, and shine this light on others. (And on bad days, well, there’s her patterns, immortal in their own right, scratching at the back door to enter again, entering from the basement…and from time to time, they do.)
All of this will be channeled into her work as a children’s teacher. The darkness she has lived and grown in has transformed into the brilliant essence-light of radiance she shines on the individual children she touches. She is both a magnet and a beacon, a lighthouse and a sun, as children immediately are drawn to her loving radiance, called to snuggle close to the safety, care, appreciation, gentleness she is. With kids, her light is luminous and bright. They feel held, celebrated in their individuality, championed, tenderly, and joyfully considered, and this they love most of all. At the day’s end, they carry the light that she has ignited and reflected in them. Joy, ease of spirit, happiness, curiosity, gentleness, space to be…all of this radiates from them. Here she is a miracle worker.
She is hyper-aware of the suffering of children. She peers from the basement dungeon of her childhood, knows the signs of abandonment and disregard, the nuances of fear and shame, the smiles of children masking their hurt, and is a healer and miracle worker. Surviving her own Auschwitz, from the void of beyond-reconcilable-suffering has come her greatest light. This…is the stuff of miracles. (It makes no sense to the rational mind. Nothing in her childhood experience predicts this resurrection. Others of similar experiences will die on this very same vine.) Parents will tell her their children speak of her often. Parents’ hearts gladden at the spacious openness their children have received. And these words, which touch her the deepest, come from her grown-up, beautifully awake daughter. “There is no one as kind as mom.” All of this, she will say, is a blessing from on high, a stroke of kindness from God who she’s sought and felt in the darkest hours when her wish was for death.
Watching another child suffer unnecessarily immediately pulls her forward like a gravitational force. The soul of the Type Two is activated. Inner work has helped her to navigate this deep pull within her. Maybe I can help. Is this my place to help? Is my help disempowering them and their will to navigate their suffering? Am I truly called to help at this moment? Can I sense the difference between my need and wish to help, and what is truly called for? Is my help generous or needy, attaching myself to the other or creating space for their soul to grow? Am I over-identified with the suffering of that child, unwittingly taking her hostage with my desire to help? What will really help at this moment? As she sorts through these Type Two challenges, as she relaxes into her Being, slowly but surely her capacity to help, and her generous loving-kindness becomes more skillful and more mountainous. Then we see the likes of Reverend Desmond Tutu, a glowing fountain of generosity, hope, and bountiful love. A radiance.
At her best and most present, this is Marianna. Having sharpened the sword of love on the hard stone of abandonment, her loving kindness penetrates those she cares for. Her need to fill the hole of her suffering through the addiction of sugar, starvation, shopping, eating, and people-pleasing has quieted.
(Dedicated to the brave and heroic Type Two)