THE WAY IT IS
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
The central idea of this poem by William Stafford — holding onto a consistent ‘thread’ in life despite external changes — aligns well with several scientific and philosophical concepts related to happiness and fulfillment:
- Psychological Consistency and Authenticity: Psychologists emphasize the importance of authenticity and being true to one’s values and beliefs for mental health and well-being. The ‘thread’ in the poem can be seen as a metaphor for this authentic self or core values that, when adhered to, contribute to a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
- Resilience and Coping: The poem suggests a form of resilience in the face of life’s challenges. This is in line with psychological research that shows how a strong sense of purpose or meaning can help individuals cope with adversity, a key aspect of long-term happiness and fulfillment.
- Existentialist Philosophy: Philosophically, the poem echoes existentialist ideas, particularly the notion of creating one’s own meaning in life. Existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Viktor Frankl have argued that life’s meaning is not given but created by individuals through their commitments and actions. The ‘thread’ represents this self-created meaning.
- Stoicism and Acceptance: The poem also resonates with Stoic philosophy, which emphasizes focusing on what one can control and accepting what one cannot. The idea of not letting go of the thread, even as life unfolds with its inherent tragedies, aligns with the Stoic practice of focusing on personal virtue and inner life as sources of fulfillment.
- Mindfulness and Presence: The concept of the thread can also be linked to mindfulness and the importance of being present. By focusing on this constant ‘thread’, individuals might be more engaged in the present moment, a key aspect of mindfulness practice known to enhance well-being.
Not everyone has the same kind of threads. Threads (our core values, aligned most closely with our “life force”) are often ego-syntonic, which is to say that they are consistent with different personality styles.
Have a look at the Core Threads of different types below. Which resonate most for you?
Enneagram Type 1: The Reformer
– Scenario: A Type One deciding whether to join a community clean-up event.
– Idealism and Improvement: Will this event contribute to my desire to make a positive change?
– Responsibility and Integrity: Does this align with my values and sense of right action?
– Serenity: Will this activity help me find peace in doing good, rather than fueling my critical nature?
– Action: If the activity aligns with these threads, it’s a fulfilling choice. Otherwise, a Type One might consider activities that better reflect their inner ideals and sense of morality.
Enneagram Type 2: The Helper
– Scenario: A Type Two considering volunteering at a local shelter.
– Empathy and Care: Will I be able to provide meaningful support and care here?
– Connection and Affection: Does this opportunity allow for building genuine connections?
– Humility: Am I doing this for recognition or out of a genuine desire to help?
– Action: If the volunteering resonates with these aspects, it’s a good choice. If not, a Type Two might seek opportunities that allow for deeper connections and selfless service.
Enneagram Type 3: The Achiever
– Scenario: A Type Three evaluating a job promotion.
– Success and Achievement: Will this promotion advance my career and recognition?
– Adaptability and Image: Can I adapt to this new role while maintaining my authenticity?
– Authenticity: Is this role in line with my true self, beyond just success?
– Action: If the promotion aligns with these threads, it’s a suitable choice. If not, a Type Three should consider roles that fulfill both their ambitions and authentic self.
Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist
– Scenario: As a Type Four watching a popular show on Netflix.
– Uniqueness and Authenticity: Is this show resonating with my unique taste, or am I watching it just because it’s popular?
– Creative Expression: Am I feeling creatively fulfilled or inspired by this show?
– Equanimity: Is this bringing me emotional balance or is it just a distraction?
– Action: If none of the threads are present, consider switching to an activity that aligns more with your type. For a Type Four, watching a Tarkovsky film might be more fulfilling as it aligns with their need for depth, authenticity, and creative stimulation.
Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator
– Scenario: A Type Five deciding whether to attend a social gathering.
– Knowledge and Understanding: Will this event offer opportunities for learning or insightful conversation?
– Independence and Autonomy: Can I maintain my sense of self and boundaries in this social setting?
– Non-Attachment: Am I able to engage without over-analyzing or detaching emotionally?
– Action: If the event aligns with these aspects, it’s beneficial. Otherwise, a Type Five might prefer a setting that caters more to their intellectual and personal space needs.
Enneagram Type 6: The Loyalist
– Scenario: A Type Six contemplating a significant life change, like moving to a new city.
– Security and Safety: Will this move provide a sense of stability and safety?
– Loyalty and Trust: Can I maintain my important relationships and build new trustworthy connections?
– Courage: Does this decision require me to face my fears and demonstrate bravery?
– Action: If the decision aligns with these threads, it’s worth pursuing. If not, a Type Six might seek options that offer greater security and trustworthiness.
Enneagram Type 7: The Enthusiast
– Scenario: A Type Seven planning their weekend.
– Adventure and Experience: Will these activities provide new and exciting experiences?
– Optimism and Future Planning: Am I maintaining a positive outlook and avoiding escapism?
-Sobriety: Is my choice balanced and mindful, or am I seeking to avoid deeper issues?
– Action: If the plan is more about escapism than genuine enjoyment, the Type Seven might seek out activities that are both enjoyable and grounding, allowing for a more balanced experience.
Enneagram Type 8: The Challenger
– Scenario: A Type Eight deciding how to handle a team conflict at work.
– Control and Power: Am I trying to dominate the situation or seeking a fair resolution?
– Protection and Justice: How can I advocate for a just solution that respects all parties?
– Innocence: Can I approach this conflict with openness and vulnerability, instead of aggression?
– Action: If their approach is overly confrontational, the Type Eight might shift towards a more collaborative and empathetic resolution method, aligning better with their core threads.
Enneagram Type 9: The Peacemaker
– Scenario: A Type Nine deciding whether to voice their opinion in a group setting.
– Harmony and Peace: Am I withholding my opinion just to maintain superficial harmony?
– Inclusivity and Acceptance: How can I express my views while still valuing others’ perspectives?
– Action: Is my silence a form of passive resistance, and would speaking up lead to more genuine peace?
– Action: If they’re suppressing their own voice, the Type Nine might find it more fulfilling to express their opinion, balancing their need for peace with self-expression.
SIGNS OF BEING MISALIGNED WITH YOUR THREAD:
Here’s a list of indicators for each Enneagram type that might suggest they are misaligned with their own thread or are following someone else’s:
- Enneagram Type 1 (The Reformer)
– Feeling overly critical or resentful.
– Becoming obsessed with minor imperfections.
– Neglecting self-compassion and personal needs.
- Enneagram Type 2 (The Helper)
– Experiencing burnout from overextending themselves.
– Feeling unappreciated or resentful when help isn’t acknowledged.
– Neglecting their own needs or desires in favour of others.
- Enneagram Type 3 (The Achiever)
– Pursuing goals for external validation rather than personal fulfilment.
– Feeling fraudulent or like an imposter.
– Losing touch with their true feelings and desires.
- Enneagram Type 4 (The Individualist)
– Over-identifying with emotions or feeling perpetually misunderstood.
– Struggling with envy or feeling that something is missing in their life.
– Rejecting the ordinary in pursuit of the unique, to their detriment.
- Enneagram Type 5 (The Investigator)
– Withdrawing excessively into their inner world.
– Feeling overwhelmed by practical demands or social interactions.
– Hoarding knowledge without applying it practically.
- Enneagram Type 6 (The Loyalist)
– Becoming overly anxious or suspicious.
– Seeking constant reassurance or security from external sources.
– Focusing too much on worst-case scenarios.
- Enneagram Type 7 (The Enthusiast)
– Escaping into planning and fantasising to avoid discomfort.
– Jumping from one experience to another without finding satisfaction.
– Neglecting commitments or responsibilities in pursuit of pleasure.
- Enneagram Type 8 (The Challenger)
– Being confrontational or controlling.
– Struggling to show vulnerability or admit weaknesses.
– Dominating others or disregarding their input.
- Enneagram Type 9 (The Peacemaker)
– Prioritising external peace over inner needs and desires.
– Being complacent or avoiding necessary confrontations.
– Losing personal identity by merging with others’ preferences and opinions.
NAVIGATING TOWARDS YOUR THREADS
Three important factors for navigating towards your threads, if you feel like you don’t have good access to them yet,or if threads are conceptual (based in thoughts, narratives) rather than aligned with deeper, more embodied/somatic + heart-felt desires:
Self-Awareness: Deeply understanding your own Enneagram type, recognizing your core values, beliefs, and motivations. This involves introspection and honesty about your strengths, weaknesses, and the unique aspects of your personality that guide your actions and decisions.
Alignment with Core Values: Actively aligning your choices and actions with the core threads of your Enneagram type(s) (whichever resonate). This means making decisions that resonate with your intrinsic values and principles, leading to a more authentic and fulfilling life.
Continuous Growth and Adaptation: Embracing the journey of self-discovery as an ongoing process. This involves being open to learning, adapting, and growing as you gain deeper insights into yourself. It’s about recognizing misalignments as opportunities for growth and continually adjusting your path to stay true to your core threads.