Dude, I Had Anxiety! pt. 2

I wrote the first part of this story here. In it, I described having the whole pounding heart/tight chest thing before a music gig that was different than most of the gigs that I play (video cameras and all eyes on us as opposed to background music at a restaurant or bar). The main point was that you can experience anything in life, such as anxiety, with a clean mind or not. In one case, the voice in your head is freaking out (to some degree, at least), and in the other it is not. That’s the clean way to do it. The mole hill does not become a mountain. And mole hills by themselves are usually not a big deal.

I also mentioned how I like to use an old tool or “technology” called the enneagram to figure out what makes me tick underneath everything on the surface. Why would I feel stressed in a certain situation when another person would not? And why would that person feel stressed in a different situation when I would not? We’re all different, and the enneagram is a way to expose our patterns so we can be aware of them and take the personal totally out of it. Because it’s a pattern that literally hundreds of millions of people have on earth at this very second. And that’s just not very personal if you ask me.

I said I’d write a general post on the enneagram first and then apply it to this story. I’m not an expert on the enneagram by any stretch of the imagination, though, and I’d like a bit more time on that one. It’ll be pretty basic anyway, but I can go at least a bit deeper with some more time. I thought it might me interesting to go ahead with the application to that gig, though, maybe to whet your appetite. As I said in part 1, you can always search “enneagram” on the internet and find plenty of information, as well as free tests to help determine which number you are. And a book that I love is called From Fixation to Freedom: The Enneagram of Liberation by Eli Jaxon-Bear.

The super quick version is that there are nine points, numbered 1-9. They describe nine different “character fixations,” the patterns that hold our ego-selves intact. And the ego self is your body with whatever name it has. It’s what you see in the mirror. Remember that the mystics have always said we’re one, and then the quantum physicists discovered the same thing. I think that was way back in the 1920’s, and it freaked them out. Science is still trying to figure that one out completely. So if we’re really all one when all is said and done, then “ego” just refers to separation. It’s the very deep part of you that really thinks it’s a totally separate being. And this is in disagreement with the mystics throughout time and now modern science. Uh-oh…

Three of the points of the enneagram are physical, three are emotional, and three are mental. Each of those has a core point as well as an introverted version and an extroverted version. I’m clearly mental (heavy on the thinking), and I’m not introverted. That narrows it down to the core mental and the exteriorized version, which are 6 and 7. After looking at each of these, I’m clearly a 7. Take my word for it. Remember, this is a rush job. You can look on your own if you’re interested, or wait for my post on the enneagram. It’ll still be pretty basic, though.

There’s movement among the points, too, and this is where the gig comes in. Each point moves to another point in stress and to a different point in relaxation. In stress, the 7 moves to the 1. And what does that mean? Perfectionistic and critical. Bingo! Readers know that the perfectionist has been a strong pattern of mine since I was born (and thankfully these are all just patterns). So I’m at this gig and the fact is that I’ve practiced and learned my parts, but I don’t really know the material as well as I’d like to. I could’ve used one more practice session in which I called to mind the reality that there would be cameras, everyone silent and listening to our every note, etc. It would be totally different than all of the gigs I routinely play. I hadn’t even thought about this until it was right in my face as we were setting up. That’s when the heart started beating faster along with the thought, “I need to go over a few of those melodies again!”

If I’m under stress and slide to the 1, then that amps up the perfectionist/critical thing. And if I feel like I could use some more practice, but there’s really no time for that, then can you see how it’s a perfect setup for some serious nerves? The enneagram is just a way to explain everything. Sometimes that understanding eases the reaction right away (anxiety, nerves, anger, sadness, etc.), and sometimes it does not. Either way, though, it takes the personal out of it. And in the long run, I think that suffering is at least minimized. So we’re headed in the right direction.

So what did I do? As I said in part 1, I just noticed it! No story, no problem. No excess thinking, no problem. Stay calm and do what you have to do. After all, it’s just a heart beat. There was still some time, so after I made the necessary cheat sheets (posted on the Facebook page for A Clean Mind for those interested in a “behind the scenes” look), I went into the large and luxurious broom closet (it really was big and nice) and went over those melodies. And that’s all I could do. As it turned out, that’s all that was needed anyway. The gig literally went as well as we could’ve hoped for, and the melodies sounded great. Mistakes were minimal, and it’s hard not to have a couple/few mistakes anyway. And usually the audience has no idea.

So that’s the story, folks. The invitation is yours to take a look at the enneagram if you’d like to expose the inner workings that keep your ego intact. Else you can wait for a future post here about it. You have the gist of it already, though, just from reading this. It simply explains why I’m having a bigger reaction than I’d expect. That means there’s nothing wrong with this reaction; it’s just science. And most importantly, it’s just a pattern. And exposing a pattern, turning the lights on and seeing it clearly, is the first step. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice for a gig…