Curiously Strong Podcast

For the last several months,
my friends April and Jess have been working on a new project:

Curiously Strong Logo

All ten episodes of season one are available now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  Check out episode descriptions below if you want to pick and choose your way through our conversations about identity in our new and confusing phase of life after leaving a lifetime of evangelicalism.

  1. Introductions (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    Meet your hosts: Jess, April, and Trish as we introduce ourselves in this pilot episode of the podcast. Learn about how we met each other and how we got to the point of starting this project as we talk about growing up evangelical and ultimately what led to severing ourselves from that identity. How do people identify themselves nowadays and what does it say about them? Get ready for lots of questions, lots of (loud) laughs, and lots of fun stories about how we cope with the aftermath of a religious upbringing.

  2. Enneagram (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    In this episode, your hosts discuss everything Enneagram related: how we typed and mis-typed ourselves, how we got into it in the first place, how this relates to our evangelical and post-evangelical selves, and what we like most about our own types. April realizes that there is a type pattern in her friends/family circle, Trish has an ability to move from her type to her wing with ease when the situation necessitates it, and Jess is still working on not apologizing so much. Rather than having this be an explanatory episode about what the Enneagram is, we assume that the listener already has a basic knowledge of this typing system and discuss how it impacts us personally. Find out whether there can be a future for this podcast if two out of the three don’t like engaging in conflict (spoiler: there can) and what Trish said that made April respond with: “I’m going to get that tattooed on me.”

  3. Religious Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    Let’s talk about religion, the reason we are all here. You’ll find out what religious climate/culture everyone grew up in and what we would consider ourselves now. A major discussion point revolves around reasons and catalysts for leaving the faith or making pretty big adjustments if not leaving entirely.  While religion certainly has its positive parts, we have also felt the awkward, isolating, and even hurtful aspects of it that influence our thoughts and behaviours to this day. We have all felt the in-between of not belonging to the Christian group anymore but also not really belonging to the secular community, and that can be a lonely place. We raise a lot of serious (and not so serious) questions such as “What the hell is flag-waving?”, “What is the age of accountability and should it be lower?”, and “What does it mean to have an identity as a changing human?” Prepare to either relate to a lot of the facets of Christian upbringing or be pretty weirded out by the stuff we used to do.

  4. Work Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    On today’s episode your hosts talk about our day jobs, what we love most about them, how they relate to our identity, and whether we find them fulfilling. Work is a big part of everyone’s lives because we spend so much of our time doing it, so it is bound to influence us in a major way. But how much of our life is work, really? Does it consume us entirely or do we find a balance to enjoy it when we do show up?  We should be seeking alignment, not have one thing take over everything. But we also recognize that having these choices is a privilege, an opportunity that we are going to take and run with.  Listen to us answer the daunting question: “If you had to step away from work for a period of time, how would you feel/how would it affect you?” As structure and productivity prove to be essential for a fulfilling life, the idea of not having a work identity would be difficult for us.

  5. Sexual Identity Pt 1 (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    Today April, Trish, and Jess spill the tea about all things sexuality. The episode starts off with us explaining how we currently identify sexually and the complicated journey from childhood until now where we are finally comfortable with who we are. Sexuality is hugely influenced by a religious upbringing and can sometimes be incredibly damaging. They bring up the struggles of sexuality, the harmful purity culture, the idea of casual sex, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and why Jess read Every Young Man’s Battle. We realized that much of our sexual “sin” was pure thought crime (i.e. lusting) and how this ultimately led to dissociation from our bodies. Surprisingly there are also some good things about growing up in a conservative sexual culture that come up. But then the conversation shifts back to the weird, heteronormative concept of virginity and how in actuality sex is nuanced, individual, and personal.

  6. Sexual Identity Pt 2 (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    We now talk about what our sexuality means for our day to day mental space and relationships. Hear why Trish thinks it’s different coming out in Canada versus the US. We also discuss the question: “Is it necessarily our sexuality changing or is our relationship to it changing? What situations am I putting myself in that are going to draw out these sides out of it?” Sexuality is very fluid and weird and nuanced and that is okay, because for every human that exists there is a new way of being. And as language changes, so can labels. We also really get into how sexuality relates to feminism, body positivity, and power.

  7. Relational Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    How has the experience of leaving evangelicalism affected the relationships we have with the people around us? We need to be shifting away from an “us” versus “them” mentality because so much of conervsative Christianity is defining yourself by whether you are in the in group or out group. Whether you are bad or good, right or wrong, saved or lost. Christianity had taught us that everyone is our responsibility because we put them on a path to either heaven or hell purely based on our interactions, which creates an impossible burden. But now we can say: “I can remember someone’s humanity but I don’t have to interact with it. Not everyone is my responsibility.” We also tackle topics like forced vulnerability in small/community groups causing psychological harm and how much we dislike it when people tell us they are going to pray for us. Some questions we consider are: How do we balance real vulnerability and sharing experiences while not having to justify and defend our life choices? How do we say no without having to explain ourselves and how are our boundaries with other people now that god is out of the picture?

  8. Privilege Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    A Canadian, an American, and a German talk about what privilege means to us and where we source it from. Whether it’s the colour of our skin, our respective home countries, or the religion we grew up with, we all had immense privilege in our lives despite our individual seasons of pain. We try to be as honest as we can be with ourselves in this episode and acknowledge the things that have paved the way for us to succeed in this life. We also talk about the rarely discussed idea that growing up Christian gives you the unique privilege of being trusted within your community. There is an assumption of good character as a Christian that influences someone else’s decision to hire you since you share the same values, as we all have experienced.

  9. Online Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    From AOL chatrooms to Myspace to Instagram, we have evolved in how we communicate with and to the world. Embarrassing posts and status updates were a part of all our online lives, but we were lucky that it all happened when no one was really paying attention. We discuss how, because of the compulsive need to share, it makes it hard to “be in the moment” without thinking of the different lenses for this situation. Are we just living for the end product? Or is it possible to actually achieve a balance of being present in a moment as well as capturing it for future memories? Context matters, so we also talk about how we recognize that we may not be entirely the same person online as we are in “real life”. We answer the question: Since becoming an exvangelical, how has your online presence changed? It turns out we all have very different answers.

  10. Religious Identity (the Good Stuff) (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    We have talked a lot about the ways that our religious upbringing has hurt us, but we wanted to dedicate an entire episode to the good things we are taking away from evangelicalism. 
    What did we learn from church? What opportunities were presented to us? Community always has been an important one and one we hear from lots of other exvangelicals and ex-religious people as well. Another facet is the charitable spirit of Christianity (when done right) and how it often changes lives for the better. Trish loves the Bible as wisdom literature and likes thinking about the good things we can get out of it. Jess has been taught that everyone has inherent value and no one is beyond redemption. April values the importance of not seeing people as objects but rather as full human beings. Listen to find out all the other positive things we’re taking for evangelicalism as this season of identity comes to a close. 

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Join the conversation!
Reach out to us on Instagram, Twitter, or email us at curiouslystrongpod@gmail.com.

Expressing Enneagram Four Emotions with Fiction

Sometimes when I tell people I’m an Enneagram Four who has a lot of emotions, I can see them silently doubting me.  And it’s true, in daily life (especially work life) I’m fairly even-keeled and logical.  But one day I was listening to the Prince of Egypt episode of the Good Christian Fun podcast, and I burst into tears when they played a ten-second clip of the song “Deliver Us.”

Everything became clear:  I express my emotions through fiction.

It is in books and movies and television shows that I feel comfortable feeling the anger, longing, and joy that lives inside me.  This is probably why the only time I made progress in therapy was when my therapist finally asked me, “If you had to choose one book to symbolize your life, which would it be?” and I immediately said, “WELL.”

This is also why I can be embarrassingly possessive of my favorite stories.  Here is an actual text conversation with my brother from a couple days ago illustrating how well he knows my neurotic mind:

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I infamously got pissed at my mom when we were watching the season 3 finale of LOST and I realized she hadn’t been keeping up with the show while I was at college.  “I just want to enjoy the thing you enjoy with you!” she said (as an Enneagram Two).  I made her leave, because I didn’t want someone who wasn’t emotionally invested ruining my experience.  When I recently told a friend about this, she said, “You’re awful,” and while I see that, I…would do the same thing again.

I see now that as an Enneagram Four, I very often conflate my emotions with my identity.  I’m therefore very protective of them.  I will not show someone The Fall (my favorite movie of all time) unless I am sure they will like it, because my heart cannot handle someone looking at my soul for two hours and then saying, “Eh.”

Now that I think about it a little more, I think that emotionalism is definitely present in me all the time.  But I don’t trust many people to accept, let alone enjoy, the intensity of my feelings, so I keep them inside.  It’s in stories, which are spaces inherently designed for emotion, that I feel safe enough to let everything out.  So if someone doesn’t know the nerd side of me, they will probably be surprised to hear that I’m an Enneagram Four.

Learning the Enneagram RESOURCES

Books

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  • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

    This book is a perfect primer for people new to the Enneagram.  It is simple, relatable, and the lists at the beginning of each chapter, “What It’s Like to be a Four,” go a long way toward helping you identify your type.

  • The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

    A step up in complexity, Rohr’s book brought the Enneagram into cultural, and personal, awareness.  It includes the same sort of descriptions of each type, but with a bit more depth than The Road Back to You.

  • Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling

    Once you’re sure of your type and asking, “Okay, now what?” this is the book for you.  Fryling’s focus is personal transformation and using the Enneagram to identify your God-given gifts, how your false self twists them, and how to reclaim your true self.  Really excellent.

  • The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut, PhD

    If you want the equivalent of an Enneagram textbook, Chestnut’s book is what you’re looking for.  Whereas other books devote sixteen pages to a type, this book offers forty-two.  It also delves into the three subtypes (self-preservation, social, and sexual) found in each type, which can help you narrow in even further on who you are.

Podcasts

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  • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

    Much like their book by the same name, this podcast is an introduction to the Enneagram.  Each episode interviews someone famous-ish from the Christian world, highlighting their type and how it affects their life.  Quite good for hearing practical examples of what it looks like to be aware of your Enneagram type.

  • Typology by Ian Morgan Cron

    After their book was released, Cron continued similar work with his own podcast.  This one goes a bit deeper, though, offering a variety of interviews (so far there has been a panel of Nines and of Sixes) sharing personal experiences AND educational episodes by authors Richard Rohr and Beatrice Chestnut.


Are there other Enneagram resources that have helped you?
Comment and share them with us!

Why Do So Many Enneagram Fours Want to Be Nines?

I still get comments on the blog post in which I discovered that I was not an Enneagram Nine, but a Four, and went through an emotional meltdown of sorts (I’ve since come to terms with being a Four, and now I love it…mostly).  There are apparently many people out there who misidentified themselves as Nines and were super disappointed when they found out they were, in fact, Fours.

It got me thinking: why do Fours want to be Nines so badly?  I can’t answer for everyone, but when I think about my upbringing, the answer seems pretty obvious for myself.

My family was very uncomfortable with emotions when I was a kid.  We were Polite Nice People who didn’t get angry or sad.  When a huge family tragedy/mystery happened my sophomore year of high school, we talked about it for the week in which it happened and then literally never again.  We avoid conversations in which disagreements might arise, and there is very much an unspoken attitude of wanting to maintain the status quo.

Added to this is the fact that my childhood was very much influenced by growing up going to a (white) Southern Baptist Church.  In my faith upbringing, there was a huge emphasis on a salvation that separated the sinful past (which implicitly included “bad” emotions like anger and depression) from the saved present.  There was an implicit, and often explicit, rule that being at church meant being happy.  But also not, like, too happy.  White Baptists don’t raise their hands while worshipping.  Everything in my childhood encouraged me to be even-handed and only mildly emotional.

It’s no real surprise, then, that I would learn to play the role of a Nine who is a peacemaker, who is detached from emotions, who sees all sides of a conflict and can navigate a resolution quickly.  More than learning to play the role, of course I would WANT to be a Nine, because that is the sort of personality that everyone I knew valued.

Not a FOUR, ugh.  It’s funny to think that I thought I was a Nine when looking back, everything I felt internally as a child was very Four.  I constantly felt like an outsider looking in, never special in friendships or achievements.  The things that did make me stand out (my passionate nerd interests) were things to be squashed into appropriate outlets if I wanted to avoid ridicule.  Ah, the number of hours I spent looking up Harry Potter fan theories or creating Lord of the Rings scrapbooks.  Alone.

On top of that, I was full of doubt and sadness.  I’ve talked many times before about the depression I went through in middle school and how I would pray that God would kill me.  It strikes me now that it needn’t have been so bad – the feelings I had weren’t all that strange.  If I’d had safe people who allowed me to be angry and irreverent, maybe I wouldn’t have turned those feelings inward as a toxic self-hatred.

But all the while, I had perfected the Peaceable Nine Mask.  I performed a Normal Happy Person very well, so well that eventually I believed that’s what I was.

I think for Fours, who are so often ruled by their emotions and can feel like we’re drowning in the worst ones, there’s something so appealing about being a Nine who seems to be above all of that chaos.  For those of us trained in the art of suppressing our emotions (I genuinely didn’t think I ever experienced anger until I went to counseling as a 23-year-old), it eventually seems possible to be our “Best Selves.”

What I love about the Enneagram is that it has taught me that my Best Self is not pretending to be a Nine.  It is leaning into my Fourness, admitting and celebrating the fact that I feel emotions far more deeply and quickly than many others.  My love is obsessive, my sadness is total, my anger is furious.  I’m still learning when it is appropriate to share those feelings and when to keep them inside.  But exploring the heights and depths and sidewaynesses of emotions has given me a level of self-awareness that many others don’t have.  And with that self-awareness, I’ve learned about showing grace to myself.  And when I learned to have grace for myself, it became so much more natural to give grace to others.  We’re all crazy beings with desires and fears that contradict, hinder, and inspire us, and I love being with people at their most confused.  My Fourness helps me appreciate people for the things they’re often ashamed of, and that is a gift I could never give if I continued to pretend I was Nine.

 

Podcast Recommendation List | PART 4

It’s been almost a year since I last recommended podcasts that I love, so let’s do this again!

FathomsDeep-Logo1| Fathoms Deep

As reported elsewhere, I am currently obsessed with the absolutely amazing (four seasons and finished) television show Black Sails.  Run by two women who understand how important it is to overanalyze every character, line, and scene, this podcast became so popular with its episode reviews that the hosts were able to interview actors and actresses from the show!  If you love Black Sails, this is the podcast for you.  If you don’t love Black Sails, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  Go watch it immediately!

170x170bb2| The Kind Rewind

A husband and wife duo rewatch awesome 90s and 00s television shows, and since their tastes align with mine, I’m recommending it!  Each 45-minute(ish) podcast episode covers three television episodes, so the pace is fast and mostly designed to make you say, “Yeah, that WAS awesome!”  So far they’ve covered season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season one of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and they just started watching Firefly!

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 9.22.54 PM3| Slate’s Dear Prudence

Mallory Ortberg won me over with The Toast, so when I heard she had an advice podcast, I was in.  With rotating guests, she answers written-in questions about all sorts of topics while regularly reminding her listeners that we’re nosy for wanting to listen in on other peoples’ dirt.  Which is very true, so keep the episodes coming!

uploads_2F1489438262024-854z1cbidexe1unj-67d64498cb7e5c5ca56e495c53d040ea_2FBytheBook_FINAL4| By the Book

I am about equal parts intrigued by and skeptical of self-help books, and this podcast indulges both impulses with two hosts with very different approaches to the self-help books they read, test, and report on for two weeks.  So far I’ve mostly been interested in how they report on the books they didn’t like, though I did fall hard for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up after they described the joy of a gigantic material purge.

typology_1600px5| Typology

For anyone who is mourning the end of The Road Back to You, never fear!  Ian Morgan Cron continues its same format, interviewing someone with a different enneagram type each episode, helping us to learn more about ourselves and others via personality types.

 


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Enneagram 4 Life Hack

  1. Accept that you need to feel special.
  2. Realize that you can determine what “special” is.

For example, I have spent the last four months living in a world in which I lost most of the things that I thought made me special.  While waiting for visa paperwork to come through so that I can return to Greece, I am 1) living with my parents, 2) attending my childhood church, 3) working where I did five years ago 4) at a lower position for less money.

BUT.  When I consider all of that and think, “Wow, it would take a pretty special person to endure all of this and still find meaning and joy,” everything feels better.  I’m not even kidding, it is so easy to trick myself into feeling fulfilled.

Life HACKED!

IRL vs. Online Persona

Recently, a person who mostly knows me through the Internet called me an Enneagram 7. For those not well-versed in the Enneagram, a 7 is a personality that is FUN and ENERGETIC and ALWAYS MOVING.  I (virtually) laughed in this person’s face and said I am a 4, the personality that is MOODY and EMOTIONAL and DEEP.  This person was shocked and argued with me, and I realized…my internet persona IS a 7.

On Facebook, I intentionally try to keep things positive.  There is some internet pressure there, to show the best of your life, but I do try to keep things real with silly selfies or self-deprecating jokes.  But even the “realness” is framed optimistically.  I rarely complain on Facebook, or get into arguments, or share the deep things I’m thinking about.  I’ll occasionally get into those things here on my blog, but on Facebook?  It’s curated to be a safe, fun place for people to mentally and emotionally check out.

I am fine with this, and people who know me well know that this is not every part of me.  It’s not even the most important part of me!  But then there are the people who met me once or twice and then only keep up with me via Facebook.  I don’t really mind that they don’t know me, so long as our relationship stays online.  But when we meet in person?  I’m suddenly all “Let’s stay in and watch five hours of TV and then discuss what emotional themes struck us especially hard and why” and they’re like, “Um, jokes?”

This is why I am very skeptical of online relationships and why, for me, online dating is IMPOSSIBLE.  I cannot meet someone as a 7 and then reveal myself to be a 4.  Especially because, as a 4, it hurts SO MUCH to see someone start to like a version of myself that isn’t actually me.

But I have to say,  I like my online persona, and I’m not going to change it.  I want Facebook to be feel good and entertaining.  I’m comfortable with the knowledge that the people who matter to me know me beyond the Happy Fun Times version available online.


What about you?  Do you have a split personality?  How do you feel about it?

A Brief Description of the Enneagram

I have long been a fan of Myers-Briggs, and I talk frequently about being an INFJ on this blog, but I am totally having an affair with the Enneagram personality type system.

The Enneagram “teaches that there are nine different personality styles, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type has a distinct worldview and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves. Unlike other personality typing systems, the Enneagram shows us who we are at both our best and worst and suggests ways we can relax our grip on the self-defeating behaviors that prevent us from becoming our best, most authentic selves” (found here).

I’ll describe the basic characteristics of the nine types based upon information found here and here, and if this is at all interesting to you, I encourage you to take the test online and find out your type!


Type Ones are The Reformers, part of the instinctive center, and they are principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.  Their worldview is: “The world is an imperfect place.  I work toward improvement.”  Their basic desire is to be right and their basic fear is of being condemned.

Type Twos are The Helpers, part of the feeling center, and they are generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.  Their worldview is: “People depend on my help.  I am needed.”  Their basic desire is to be loved, and their basic fear is of being unloved. Continue reading

Coming to Terms with Being Type Four in the Enneagram

If you don’t know what the Enneagram is, this post won’t make much sense to you.  Check out The Enneagram Institute for more information, and take one of their tests to find your personality type.


Several days ago, I wrote a blog post about my identity crisis when I realized I was not an Enneagram Type Nine, but was instead a Type Four.  I hated being a Four, partly because my brain was wrong that I’d been misidentifying myself, and partly because Fours just kind of seem awful!  But over the last couple days, I’m coming around to being a Four.

For one thing, Lindsay wrote me a letter about how our friendship is compatible based on our personality types (she’s a Two).  It was helpful to see that me being a Four brings something useful to our friendship.  It helped me see that Fours aren’t ALWAYS self-absorbed and moody, but can use their emotionality to draw others into deeper and more intimate relationships.

For another thing, I read Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? which is a memoir that is about as self-absorbed and emotional as you can get–and it was great!  She unapologetically admits her faults, finds humor in them, and offers her life as an example to be followed (or not).  I’m pretty sure she’s a Four, and it felt so good to see someone with my personality doing something awesome.

Because the thing is, when I found out I was a Four, I still desperately wanted to be a Nine.  All the emotional chaos that comes with being a Four is absent in Nines, and I liked thinking of myself as someone whose negative quality was retreating (instead of what it is: mulling over everything ad nauseum).  So when I found out I was actually a Four, everything inside me wanted to be Someone Else.  What traits could I learn that would make me more like a Nine?  Anything to not be a Four!!

But.  That’s awful!   Continue reading

My Life is a Lie: I’m an Enneagram Type Four, Not a Nine

I’m going through a bit of an identity crisis.  The enneagram is a personality test, and for years I thought I was Type Nine: the Peacemaker with a Need to Avoid.  I even wrote up a long blog post about how much I fit that Type.  But then I got curious and wondered if INFJs are often Type Nines….only to find out they’re generally Type Fours.  So I did a little research and was horrified to discover that I feel a lot like a Four.  Naturally I then took two online tests, and it turns out….I’m a Four, with strong Nine tendencies.

What sucks is….Nines are awesome.  They’re inclusive, good at adapting, and calm under pressure.  Fours, on the other hand, are the WORST.  Everything I read about them was just reading all the things I dislike about myself.  They’re impetuous and moody, dreamy and unsatisfied.  It turns out, I am a Four who desperately wants to be a Nine and has therefore cultivated Nine qualities in her life.  But I’m a Four, the Individual with a Need to be Special.

FOURs draw their vital energy from others.  Their life question is: “What do you think of me?  Do you notice me? Do I catch your eye?”

Reading Richard Rohr’s chapter on Fours in The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective had me underlining everything and then burrowing my face into the couch.  Being a Four is being so needy!  And…I am!  And I hate it!  Unfortunately, I later learned that Fours are super hard on themselves, so my reaction to hating being a Four just means I am even more of a Four than I thought! Continue reading