A blog-0-sphere friend and spiritual mentor recently introduced me to the enneagram, a personality-type inventory dating back to the 4th century. Though it is initially off-putting, appearing to resemble some Face-Book contrivance in which you “fit” into some conceptual category, it is a very sophisticated and rich spiritual tool.
As a result of taking a simple test, I have learned that I am “6” with a “5” wing which reveals a lot of things about how this little whirly-gig in my head operates. For example, I am an “observer” in life, standing aloof and detached, making observations about life, including even myself. I think Emily Dickinson was one of these as evidenced in a line of her poetry when she noted, “Life is over there, on a shelf.” Emily was noting her perspective that life was, in a sense, an object on a shelf and she was studying that object as if it was a specimen in a test tube or on a laboratory table.
There is certainly a place in our world for people like this though there is always the risk of carrying the detachment to an extreme with pathological results. But the other extreme…failure to go “meta-cognitive” on life…is also pathological.
Approaching this matter as a clinician, the issue is integration of the two extremes…head and heart, thought and feeling. We are thinking beings and feeling beings but if either function becomes out of balance, problems result. And to further complicate things, when one is on either extreme the recognition that one is on the extreme is very difficult to apprehend without intervention from “out there.” By that I have reference to what Carl Jung called “einfall” (an “intrusion” perceived as from “out there”) and that W. H. Auden had in mind when he wrote, “O blessed be bleak exposure on whose sword we are pricked into coming alive.”