A Model of Soul Development - Growth, Maturity, Traumatic Shock and Regression
by Andrew H. Hahn, Psy.D.
I invite you to pause and shift and center, take three deep breaths and bring your Awareness from up and out to down and in. And as you do this, you can open to the qualities of the Belly Center – to Presence – to being fully here right now; you can open to the qualities of the Head Center – to Awareness - to wisdom, discernment and vision; you can open to the qualities of the Heart Center – to Connection - to compassion, to healing presence, to innate harmony and the peace beyond understanding, to unconditional love.
This paper describes a multidimensional model of Soul Development. It suggests that we evolve along paths in the Seven Directions. It describes the quality of being of each of these directions in a non-hierarchal way; it suggests that these qualities develop from relative immaturity to maturity in ways that are independent, yet interdependent, and that traumatic shock can block development and/or lead to regression. It describes one of many ways that the directions are in relationship with one another. Finally, it shows how the Enneagram of Personality, Center and Subtype can be constructed from these Seven Directions.
Theoretically, each of the lines of development varies independently. But what I believe is that for each of us there is a unique relationship among and between the lines. The interdependency that results informs our rate of growth on each of the lines of development and maps the journeys of our souls in this lifetime. It is a set of “Equations of Life” that we are each born with, that is based on our universal need and “personal” histories as souls to mature to Oneness.
This model has been unbelievably useful to me in understanding how systems – both people, and any self-organizing system, develop and evolve. It suggests that when a system is open in a direction, it matures, and when it is closed in reaction to challenges and/or traumatic shock, it stagnates and/or regresses. It also suggests that there are seven different kinds of soul practices which allow opening to our truer, more beloved Self. Each of the practices develops us along one of the paths. Each of the paths requires that we do an Essence Process on the limitation of that path. Only two of the seven paths have the Essence Process as an explicit practice in their development.
How are the sacred geometries of three (the trinity) and seven (seven directions, Star of David and its middle point) useful to us in understanding our path of maturation? This paper suggests that the trinity opens us to three levels of consciousness, what we might call Matter, Soul and Spirit. Matter is mainly the area of the Belly Center, Soul of the Heart Center, and Spirit of the Head Center. We shall describe how each of these Centers has two directions associated with it: Belly – up and down, Heart – forward and left, Head – backward and right. The last direction, in, inclusively holds the others and is the way home.
A Brief Description of the Trinity
The trinity describes these three levels of consciousness/aspects of being held by a fourth unifying aspect. Nothing exists in this universe without all of these aspects: Matter, Soul and Spirit held by Source/the Consciousness of Life itself.
The element of Matter manifests as being fully embodied and being able to have the Presence and energy to be active. In terms of Eastern Energetic systems, it is represented by the flow of information of the meridians. It manifests when we open the conscious mind in the literal.
The element of Soul manifests as being in relationship to and with another and life itself. It is about the bonds of Centers, whether we call them chakras or Head, Heart and Belly. It is accessible when we open the unconscious mind in the symbolic/metaphoric.
The element of Spirit manifests in the pure Awareness of a system that is whole unto itself and open to other systems. It is represented by field phenomena that hold the relationships and the flow of information between that which is in relationship.
These three aspects in the Enneagram are each represented by one Center and one Subtype. Matter is represented by the Belly Center and the Social Subtype; Soul is represented by the Heart Center and the Sexual Subtype; Spirit is represented by the Head Center and the Self Preserving Subtype. (For a full discussion, see A.H. Hahn manuscripts)
The Seven Directions, (or in this model) the Star of David and its Central Point (see diagram at end of article)
The Upward Facing Triangle
Upward Direction – Presence
The aspect of Soul of the upward facing direction is called Presence. Presence manifests when we have capacity to raise the vibration of the Belly Center so that we have the energy to actively participate in the world. Alternatively, when life is too much, when we are flooded with too much information, too many experiences, too much emotion for us to handle, we become overwhelmed. Practices which raise the vibration include breath/grounding meditations, martial arts, chi gong.
Forward Direction – Connection
The aspect of Soul in the forward direction is called Connection. True Connection manifests when we have the capacity to raise the vibration of the Heart Center so that we have a sense of hope and passion in life. Alternatively, when things are too good so we can’t integrate them, we experience longing and craving. We seek to re-enact the positive experience and in doing so, deny what is present and/or enter into addictive behavior. The classic examples of the former are the high school athlete who has one moment in the sun and talks about it/tries to recapitulate it his whole life, or the person who has a first love and compares all subsequent loves to this, consciously or unconsciously, and finds them lacking. A classic example of the latter is a compulsion to eat chocolate chip cookies because they taste so good. Eventually, as in all addictions, the experience of actually savoring the cookie itself gets lost in the craving for the high that accompanies the experience.
Practices which develop this sense of hope and passion in life include heart meditations – we bring our consciousness to our Heart Center and open to its qualities – 1) Compassion – for ourselves and others with the soft-hearted kindness this suggests, 2) Innate Harmony – feeling the Heart Center as the Center of all Centers through which all other Centers are connected and mediated. Connecting to all hearts, animate and inanimate, so that we are one of the infinite cells in the one Heart of life itself, 3) Healing Presence – Opening to the healing that, while it includes the material level, far transcends this level. We open to the healing of soul itself in the school of experience that is life, 4) Unconditional Love Manifesting – Opening to the love that, while it includes the personal, far transcends the personal. We open to the love of all of life because the Heart Center knows that everything serves life, that everything is Source, even those aspects of ourselves and life itself with which we have the most difficulty and to which we have the greatest aversion.
In this direction we also open to practices of celebration. We dance, we sing, we write/read poetry, we surrender to the grace which opens us in praise and gratitude to all of life.
Backward Direction – Awareness
The aspect of Soul in the backward direction is called Awareness. Awareness manifests when we have the capacity to raise the vibration of the Head Center so that we have enhanced wisdom. Alternatively, when life and our experiences are too bad, we enter into a state of fear and aversion. This is the classic case of all versions of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Practices which develop enhanced wisdom include mindfulness meditations and visualization to open the third eye.
The Downward Facing Triangle
If the upward facing triangle represents the Three Centers – Belly, Heart, and Head, the downward facing triangle represents the Three Subtypes - Social, Sexual and Self-Preserving.
Downward Direction – Willingness – Social Subtype
The aspect of Soul in the downward direction is called Willingness. Willingness manifests when we allow all of who we are, even those aspects of Self that are most truly our shadow. The downward direction is indicative of a journey into the underworld, where we remember and regather all of our parts. When we have the Willingness to allow all of our parts, we have all aspects of ourselves participating in the dance of life; when some aspects of ourselves seem too different from our self-perception, whether they are beliefs, feelings, sensations, archetypes, we deny them, and, in so doing, deny and kill off parts of our self. This results in the death mimicking experience that is called depression. Practices which develop this capacity include shadow work and the Essence Process described in the earlier paper.
Left Direction (as experienced from within) – Communion – Sexual Subtype The aspect of Soul in the left direction is called Communion. Communion manifests when we honor that we are in service to and stewarding something greater than ourselves that is worthy of surrender because it serves/enhances life itself. When we surrender from love, Communion is life-enhancing for it gives us a sense of purpose, meaning, destiny. When we surrender from fear because of the anxiety of feeling too limited, we simply lose ourselves and co-dependently become enmeshed in some seemingly larger system (i.e. “My country, right or wrong”, “I am my relationship” etc.). Practices which enhance true Communion are selfless service, altruistic giving, prostration to Source.
Right Direction (as experienced from within) – Autonomy – Self-Preserving Subtype The aspect of Soul in the right direction is called Autonomy. Autonomy manifests when we develop our capacity to matter, to make a difference, to make our unique contribution. When we are unable to develop and share our gifts, we become too frustrated. This leads to a sense of isolation. Practices which enhance Autonomy center around mastery and discipline. We discover what life-enhancing qualities we possess, what we do well and what we love, and we practice our art and the art of living until it is finely honed.
Inner Direction – Acceptance
The aspect of Soul in the inner direction is a radical Acceptance. Acceptance manifests when we come to the enlightened realization that who we are is everything and everything is who we are. To be and do this, we must develop an Acceptance that the self with which we identify is not truly who we are; it is only one aspect. While this self will die, who we truly are can never die – this is the knowing and teaching of the Enlightened Ones. When we are too identified with the “self”, we are unable to realize we are the all, because if we are the all, the “self” as separate ceases to exist, resulting in an existential anxiety that the self is not resourced to handle.
There are two kinds of practices which enhance our capacity to experience the most essential, beloved Self. The first type asks us to experience the contraction that accompanies the universe shrinking into one point and that we are this one point, the grain of sand which holographically holds everything. The second practice is to expand in all directions from the point of the Witness – forward and back, left and right, up and down, and in until we are the everything, and it is who we are.
One Example of Directions in Relationships – The Right Direction of Autonomy and the Left Direction of Communion
We can see that Autonomy and Communion are not on one line as they would appear to be in the two dimensional, Star of David collapsing of the model, but are two vectors that vary independently and interdependently. If we have a high degree of Autonomy and Communion, we could call this differentiated and mature. If we have a high degree of Autonomy with a low degree and a shock to Communion, we move to isolation. If we have a high degree of Communion with an immature or shocked vector of Autonomy, we move to enmeshment. Or if we have a low degree or a shocked version of both, we move towards profound immaturity and/or, from a clinical point of view, psychosis. The particular nature of this immaturity will differ depending on the foundations upon which it is constructed.
An Integrative Theory of Traumatic Shock
We can see from our model that there are Seven Lines of Development and therefore seven different kinds of traumatic shock which we may not be able to integrate. In only one of these something happens to us that is too bad and therefore fear-inducing. We could have experiences, feelings and/or beliefs which are too good and therefore longing-inducing; too much and therefore overwhelm-inducing; too frustrating and therefore isolation-inducing; too limiting and therefore enmeshment-inducing; too different and therefore depression-inducing and finally too identifying and therefore emptiness-inducing.
Now let us discuss the consequences of overwhelm, longing and fear, depression, enmeshment and isolation. If we are overwhelmed because we lack Presence, we lose our true capacity for Connection. In other words, when we are too overwhelmed, we can’t truly be in Connection with other because we are disembodied and can’t know our hearts deepest desires. If we are in longing because we lack Connection, we lose our true capacity for Awareness. In other words, when we are in longing, we truly lose our heads. If we are in fear because we lack Awareness, we lose our true capacity to experience Presence. In other words, when we are in such fear, we experience ourselves as no-body.
If we are depressed because we lack the Willingness to open to all of who we are, we are incapable of being fully autonomous or in communion. If we are isolated, we cannot fully experience Communion, and if we are enmeshed we cannot fully experience Autonomy. These, in turn, make it difficult to metabolize experiences that are too different, leading to depression. We can sense the reciprocal relationships between these lines of development.
For our development to occur, it is required of us that we experience deeply the traumatic form of each of these directions, experiencing all the beliefs, feelings and sensations associated with each. As we develop our capacity to witness in each