Achievers Anon

Cartoon for Psychology Today by E. Wagele

Lee knows she must change her pattern of achieving for her health, but breaking a pattern that is so rewarded in the American culture is one of the hardest things she has ever done.

Hope wonders if there is such a thing as AA, meaning Achiever’s Anonymous. Thirteen years ago she was heavily overloaded but kept steamrolling on from a lifelong habit of “staying on task, staying on task...”

• Her father had lung cancer and would die.

• She was about to graduate from college.

• She knew that within three months her relationship would have to end or result in marriage.

Muldoon tries to do it all: to be a hero and take care of his extremely ill wife even though he is also ill and having trouble taking care of himself.

Hope was trying to juggle and manage an incredibly busy life. Then her father died and she jumped into making funeral plans with all she had, making all the arrangements - flowers, hiring the musicians and officiates, and more. But she couldn’t, wouldn’t grieve this terrible thing that had happened to her. She kept efficiently staying on task, like many Achiever types in the Enneagram system are used to doing.

Later on she had a huge grief breakdown. It catches up with you. Learning the Enneagram helped her become aware of her defenses and look under her behavior to the feelings she had buried. People who lead a relatively healthy life take time out when necessary to feel their feelings, especially to grieve when someone close dies. An addict to achieving can’t do that.

Hope had used the defense mechanism typical of Achievers, excessive doing, to escape the feelings that didn’t fit into her plans. Instead of taking time out of her busy life to grieve her father’s death, she piled on even more to do.

High achiever Lee was a successful sales executive and also focused on tasks and doing until it cost her her health. After an operation, she was forced to slow down. This enabled her to taste life again and enjoy sunsets and the smell of wood fires.

Both Lee and Hope have learned the lessons of overdoing. They have learned to pay attention to what their body tells them in many ways. Now they tune in to how they truly feel emotionally and when their bodies tell them it’s time for a rest.

Lee and Hope tell their stories in their own words in The Enneagram of Death - Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying. The Enneagram is a system of nine types of personalities (ennea means 9 and gram means a drawing). Each chapter has 8 to 10 stories, poems or essays that show differences in how our personality types face and think about the idea and the realities of death.

See Famous Enneagram and MBTI types.

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