This existential question borders on cliché.
However overplayed it may be, it's still a question we are always wrestling to answer. Enneagram Nines have something to teach us about this struggle.
I'm a Nine, so I'll take a stab at explaining.
A few years ago, our family of five adult children, their partners and one grandchild gathered for a family vacation near Grand Teton National Park. We spent the week exploring the park, hiking and poking around Jackson Hole.
The highpoint of our gathering was family time in our VRBO. Meals, morning coffee on the deck and board games created space for deep conversation and laughter.
About day five into our stay, I began sensing some internal unrest. I felt my energy drain and some vague sadness.
This made no sense to me. To this day, this vacation ranks at the top of peak experiences of my life.
Why these feelings?
Shortly after returning home, I came across an observation concerning Enneagram Nines: "When I'm with you I cannot know me. I only know you."
This speaks to the Nine propensity to merge into the lives of others. Nines often identify so much with what others think and want, they lose sight of their own thoughts and desires.
Something clicked for me.
When with those I love and care for most, I notice I struggle to know myself. There's an ongoing, internal tension between laying claim to myself all the while swimming against a strong current of merging with them--automatically wanting what they want, deferring my opinions to theirs and the continuous struggle to find my own voice.
This tension speaks to two fundamental ongoing drives and needs that operate simultaneously: the need to be a distinct self; and the need to maintain closeness with others.
Nines teach us that the challenge of striking the optimal level of tension between these factors can siphon off needed energy and leave us depleted.
This task of holding both drives together in real time, what Murray Bowen called "Differentiation of Self," is universal. Each Enneagram Type approaches this undertaking in their unique patterns. The mechanisms employed go a long way in defining the nine personality structures that make up the Enneagram.
Who am I?
The Enneagram provides a path for us to answer with integrity. Its wisdom guides us to develop capacity to live from essence that allows to maintain a clear sense of self and develop close relationships.
At the same time.