Day 2: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – Getting Out of the “Doom Loop”

Type 4 Doom Loop

Most of us have some kind of bête noire that seems hang over us during at least some point in our lives. Enneagram Type 4’s tend towards what I call “The Doom Loop of Longing for  Love but Never Good Enough to Have It.”

I’m exaggerating my language a little to keep this light. When I talk about shortcomings I can get heavy very quickly.

Call Me “Eeyore”

Eeyore is the donkey in Winnie the Pooh. He wants to be noticed and appreciated but doesn’t think he will be. In the Disney movies, one of his catch phrases is “Thanks for noticin’ me.” Eeyore is always unhappy and feeling sorry for himself not matter how kindly he’s treated by the other characters.

As an Enneagram Type 4, I have have a knack for original thinking and creativity. I have a deep desire for other people to notice these gifts and acknowledge them. But I don’t believe there are very many people who value these things. I especially feel it’s this way in the business world.

Now intellectually, I know this isn’t true. If a least a few business types didn’t care about creativity and aesthetics, Apple would never have become the success it is today because Apple has always played the space where design and technology intersect.

But somehow I’ve attached a big chunk of my identity to believing what I offer isn’t of value.

How the Doom Loop Gets Me in Trouble

So here I am looking for approval and recognition and hooray someone seems to be offering just that!

In a business context this could be a client or employer or potential partner and I jump in with both feet. At first things seem awesome and I have a tendency to see only what’s wonderful because, gosh darn it, they like me!

Inevitably, of course, I begin to see that I’m working with a human being, just like myself, with idiosyncrasies and blind spots, and I get disappointed. Quite often, it’s because someone disagrees with me or criticizes me. Sometimes there really is a deeper issue such as a conflict of values.

I then tend to take these (common) problems personally. Ultimately, I blame it on the fact that I’m somehow “wrong” and undeserving and “they finally figured it out.”

If I didn’t take things personally, I would be able to either work things out so the relationship could continue or I would be able to exit in a way that feels “clean.”

One other thing I want to mention: during the “honeymoon” period where things are feeling really good, when I receive those compliments and the appreciation for which I’ve been yearning, I don’t allow myself to fully receive those compliments.

This sounds utterly bizarre, I know, and yet, I actually feel myself internally cringing when I’m praised. I believe this is because getting what I want brings up feelings of vulnerability. I won’t let myself enjoy having the appreciation because I find it easier adopt the attitude of “this is a temporary respite.” I may smile and say “thank you” politely after receiving a compliment because it’s expected behavior but I know what’s coming.

If I’m later rebuked or criticized, it’s easier to fall from a place “wariness” than from full-hearted joy. At some point in my life I decided, this was the best way to handle things.

I know this probably sounds horribly depressing but there’s a true bright spot here. I do much better in my personal relationships. I’ve been married for 20+ years and I have a great relationship with my teenage son. I also have people I’ve been friends with for years.

So what I’ve learned is when someone shows commitment over time so that I know they accept me fully as I am, I can escape the doom loop.

The challenges I see for myself moving forward are:

  1. Have the willingness to deal with the discomfort of displeasing people I don’t know as well and not make their disapproval personal.
  2. Use mindfulness, radical forgiveness, and other tools to get to a place of peace (or at least emotional neutrality).

If I can disengage and find a measure of peace, I’m in a much better place to assess what’s really going on and how to move forward in a way that is in integrity with what I value.

The “Doom Loop” is the underlying issue that fuels a lot of the problems I experience. I’m going to talk more about specific issues in future posts.


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