“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”
Well, I don’t know about all of you, but I have had a week! In our corner of the world, it has been raining and raining so torrentially that my house has flooded twice. Oh, and our contractor quit after yelling at me so much he made me cry (what a freaking GEM!), and a pipe leaked, and my first floor has no walls or carpet or anything. This self-preservation Five has had to let go in a major way and deep breathe into realizing people matter and not things. I’ve learned me some stuff this week, ya’ll!
And in the spirit of education, today we’re learning from an interesting, wise, and very self-actualized Type Two, the Rev Marcy Bain! Welcome, Marcy and thank you so much for being part of the Enneagram Paths interview series, where we discover the intricacy of Type by hearing from each other.
1. Talk to us a little about what it feels like to be intensely attuned to other people’s needs. How does this attunement play out in your everyday life?
This is a gift and a challenge. Among my partner & my immediate family, I have a reputation of being the best gift giver around the holidays. I will remember something that someone said that they wanted in February, and it will show up under their Christmas tree in December. My partner would say that being with me is a little bit like living in a romantic comedy. I can be extremely present to people and dialed into other people’s wants and needs. It’s a profound source of joy for me when I can successfully meet someone’s needs, and that comes from such a genuine place in me. I love grand gestures. I love small things that communicate caring. Whether I’ve given my partner a $5 flower bundle from Trader Joe’s or I’m surprising her with a grand romantic weekend where I’ve painstakingly laid out an itinerary of 72 hours of bliss—I love all of it. I love seeing her light up. I love it when the people in my life feel loved and cared for by me.
The other gift is that I’m something of a human bullshit detector. When someone says they’re fine—I know when they’re lying to me. When someone is engaging in social engineering or manipulating or otherwise presenting a different self externally then what is happening under the surface for them, I’m also going to pick up on that quickly.
On the challenging side, it’s emotionally exhausting for me to be around people who present a different face externally than what is really going on for them internally. I really struggle with that. When I see a dissonance between someone’s “external” and “internal” states, sometimes I will take the initiative to try to help, fix, or love someone when they haven’t invited me to do so. And hanging back and waiting for the invitation to speak into someone’s life can be a struggle for me sometimes.
2. What do you feel like would happen if you took time for self-care, for silence and rest, and/or invested in activities that made just you feel happy and fulfilled?
I’ve gotten so much better at setting boundaries and taking time for my own self-care. I don’t really burn my candle at both ends anymore, I sleep and eat well, and I say “no” to all kinds of things now both personally and professionally.
Initially, Type Two’s are not rewarded for setting these kinds of boundaries. Our friends and families know us as yes people. So, we are often over utilized. We get ourselves into patterns with people where our relationships are one-sided. We give our time/money/emotional labor, and those things are not reciprocated to us. It used to be that I was at my wit’s end before I’d say no. And if people pressed me beyond my natural limits by encouraging me to do something when I’d already said no, I would see that as an unforgivable boundary violation. I would be so angered by that boundary violation that it would automatically end relationships. By that time I got to that point, there were several other things I should have said no to along the way.
The Catch 22 is that as a Type Two, I fully endorsed, consented, and allowed this relational pattern to develop. As Twos, we have to own and take responsibility for changing it. It’s brave work when you start saying no—because a lot of people are going to exit relationships or distance themselves from you when the one-sided giving goes away. You talk to any Two, and a big part of their personal growth will involve sustaining relationship loss as they tighten up their boundaries. For a long time, my thinking was that I will give generously and from my depths to everyone that crosses my path. I will give people more than they ask or expect of me. And subconsciously I was banking favors with them. When I’m healthy—I truly do love giving to others. But my thinking was that when I’m really in need, or I’m in a bad place, and I need support or care, I’m now going to be able to turn to all these different people, and they’re going to give just as much of themselves to me as I gave to them.
And what I’ve had to learn over time is that this isn’t true. If there isn’t a natural give and take pattern established from day one of a relationship onward, that pattern isn’t magically going to appear when you’re in a lot of pain or when you need support from others.
It was helpful to me to identify that the specific place in my life where I have time/energy/emotional labor to offer unconditionally is in my professional role as a Rev. That is the place that I elect to give to others and caretake for others. When I revert to an interpersonal relationship—my preference is a more even-keel give & take relationship. And because of that, I’m much more disciplined and discerning now about where and in what roles I give my energies to people, how much I give to people, and I make that output proportional to the dynamic that exists in my personal relationships.
3. Talk to us about being a Two in the military? You mentioned you are often read as a Type Eight? Why do you think this is?
Working for the military has taught me to function in a Type Eight mode as a skill set rather than as a move to stress. My day job is to monitor financial compliance issues with corporations and to enforce penalties when they are not compliant. So basically, all day every day if I’m calling your company, you have gone astray. I handle minor violation to things that may have risen to the level of fraud, and I get all manner of resistance and bullshit nonsense or excuses from corporations as I interact in my job. My day job is to engage in conflict. And the end result is that I had to learn to function as a Type Eight initially for survival, but later it became a primary mode of who I am. I really value being able to be assertive, and direct, and forthright with people and companies.
Some people enjoy conflict. Some people stir up conflict on purpose. I am not that person. I don’t thrive on conflict, and I don’t particularly enjoy it. But I definitely am not afraid of it. In my interpersonal relationships, I also have seen the benefit of working through conflict and coming to an understanding with people. That is so positive and so powerful for growth. Some of my best and most creative relationships are ones that have overcome an initial conflict. The people that pose the most challenges to us also have the potential to be great friends and the people who spur us on in our deepest growth. But both people have to have that mindset. And both people have to want to come to the table in humility and learn from each other for that to be true.
As a leader, I welcome and invite people to directly name conflict with me. I want to know what stumbling blocks exist for me as a leader, and I want to have an honest conversation about what’s going well or where I might have growing edges to overcome. Again, if two people genuinely care about each other and are committed to each other’s flourishing, the growth that sits on the other side of conflict is so powerful.
4. Do you know your wing? How does your wing number enhance or contribute two aspects of being a Type Two?
I have a Three Wing. And at its best, the interplay between the Type Two and Three Wing makes me extremely passionate in the pursuit of my own goals, and also deeply compassionate to others along the way. In other words, I don’t want to succeed at someone else’s expense. I want all boats around me to rise. That’s a personal core value. I want to succeed in a manner that I bring a lot of others along with me. I want everyone who crosses my path to have gained something positive from their time with me—whether they’re in my life for only a season or whether they go the distance of a lifetime. I want to have drawn out their deepest gifts and harnessed and released them to their full potential.
5. Do you feel like in your formative years you somewhere picked up the message that to be loved, you had to put your own needs aside? That meeting others needs were the path to love and security?
Yes, I absolutely did learn this in my formative years. Chronic health issues existed in my immediate family, and a few individuals in my extended family had dealt with substance abuse issues. And my role in my immediate and extended family was always to be the one who had it together so as not to add additional stress on the system. And my second role was to be a caretaker to others. I was praised for not having too many needs. At my healthiest, I do love giving to others. I am a deep well. And it’s incredibly rewarding for me when I can offer something that empowers or inspires someone else to be the best version of themselves.
But the truth is that the older I get, the more I prefer to relegate my giving activities to my professional role as a Rev. And when I move into interpersonal relationships, I expect a more reciprocal or mutual relationship of give & take.
6. What would make you feel truly safe and secure in yourself? In a relationship?
To be truly known by others. I process most events in my life verbally. So, people who become present to me, and engage in active listening. Mutual vulnerability and shared risk in the relationship. I like to joke that I’m an hour-long coffee chat in a world geared toward 240 characters of Twitter. And I say that as a joke, but I’m really not joking. There are so many complex parts and pieces to me. I can’t be known in a series of tweets, and actually, no one can. Social media is a powerful tool that can bring people together. You can meet like-minded souls. You can network. You can make real friends on social media. But virtual realities are not the same things as reality. We don’t live inside our computers or our Facebook pages.
The disruptive grace and the gift that I bring into any space is that as a bisexual spiritually progressive Rev from an Evangelical faith background who fell in love with a disabled unitarian female partner—and as a woman who works for the military during the day but advocates for peace and non-violence in the evening—I have a lot going on. I have many pieces of self to integrate and bring together. I have an incredible ability to be a cultural translator across any number of divides. In a world that strives to reduce things to their simplest parts or present one-dimensional realities, which social media often does, it’s hard for me to function sometimes. I feel like a disembodied self. Or like I’m being asked to split into selves to fit this niche or that group. So, I do the opposite, trying to draw out the complexity in people. My preference is for long-form exchanges and conversations. I always say that I can break bread and find something amazing about anyone. My interest is to move toward deep knowledge of people.
7. Type Two’s are in the Heart Triad, which means you experience the world through emotion/relationship. How does this lens of heart impact your actions and thoughts? Are you aware of thoughts and do you feel your body much?
Experiencing the world through emotion means that I spend a great deal of time thinking about my various relationships with people and the state of those relationships. I’m not someone who compartmentalizes well. If I have a conflict with someone or a trouble spot in the relationship—I will struggle with runaway thoughts about the conflict that are hard for me to reign in and can’t move about my day.
I’ve had to learn coping skills that allow me to prioritize my emotional energy/labor. For example, a conflict with a relative I see once every ten years needs to be assigned a different level of priority in my life than a conflict with an immediate family member or my partner or others who are part of my day-to-day life. And it took a few years of therapy for me to recognize that. Everybody shouldn’t be assigned equal priority. In a Type Two’s bid to love everyone, we can lose sight of this. Everyone isn’t my family. Everybody doesn’t deserve the same amount of my time/energy/attention as my partner. Everybody isn’t my best friend of thirty-plus years. And this lesson has been hard to take hold.
Regarding my body—I feel extremely connected to my body when I am in states of pleasure. I would say that I don’t notice my body all that much in the humdrum normal moments of life, and as a coping mechanism, I actively disconnect from my body and bodily sensations when I’m in extreme stress. So, other people are more likely to see the physical manifestations of stress in me before I am able to see it in myself.
8. What do the words true-self, rage, and voice mean for you today?
True Self. Getting to know my true self is a lifelong quest. For me personally, the true self isn’t a fixed point. I am the me that I am today at age forty, and she is different than the me I was at ten, twenty, and thirty—but all of those versions of self have had a hand in shaping this version of self. True self is an ongoing project and an evolutionary state. I find the quest of making space for a self to learn and grow and change a deeply rewarding quest. I hope to spend my whole life living into all of my questions and inviting others to join me on the journey. My main mediums for exploring the self are: art & creative disciplines, spirituality, and psychology.
Rage. Rage is a tricky one. I am often not in touch with my own sense of anger. And I usually have to be in a state something close to rage for me to recognize that I’m angry at all. So, the way this can sometimes manifest itself in a relationship is that something that’s bothering me will stew for a very long time, and if I make bids for this conflict to be addressed—and other people blow me off or diminish the seriousness of my request—I’ll try to push it back down instead of advocating for myself. Eventually, if I can’t deny it or push something down anymore, I’ll erupt. My partner has quickly learned that I don’t get angry often, but when I do get genuinely angry, I stay in that state for a long time. I’m slow to be moved to the point of anger but also slow to return to a steady state and calm back down as well.
Voice. For me, voice is another exciting aspect of self that changes over time. And my goal in all settings is to offer people my authentic voice. My mediums for communicating my voice are: art, spirituality, and public and performance-oriented settings. For me, there is a decisively public aspect to voice. It’s not enough for me to just know my own voice, there’s an impulse in me to share my voice as a gift to and for others. And one of the things I find most rewarding is if my voice can encourage, inspire, or empower someone else to develop and share their own voice too.
Rev Marcy Bain is an ordained Presbyterian Minister, a Govt civil servant, and owner/founder of Holy Shift LLC a consulting business that serves faith organizations, companies, and individuals. Holy Shift is about harnessing the spiritual and creative potential intrinsically flowing through all of us and living into our fullness in every sphere of our personal, professional, or organizational lives.