I’ve been thinking about integration and disintegration a lot lately. This was prompted by my introduction to the enneagram a few months ago. For those unaware of the enneagram, it is a personality model that categorizes people into 9 types. Each of the 9 types has a basic desire and fear, as well as specific traits associated with them. The enneagram is represented by a circle with each number around the outside and connected with lines going between each individual number through the middle.
One reason I like the enneagram is that it – to quote a friend – addresses the, “thing behind the thing”. The enneagram doesn’t just look at my actions and say that I’m an extrovert that tends towards melancholy and people-pleasing, the enneagram looks at why I am that way. Do I want people to like me because I’m afraid I’ll never be loved? Or is it because I’m afraid that I’m unworthy outside of my relationships to people?
Now, there are a lot of intricacies to the enneagram that I don’t have the time or the knowledge to expound on here. So, if you’re interested in learning more about yourself and how to relate to other people on a different level, I would totally recommend reading into it more.
Integration and disintegration
But I digress. You’re probably wondering where integration and disintegration come in. Each enneagram number is connected by lines within the circle, and these lines represent movement towards and away from each number when a person is either emotionally healthy or unhealthy. This is called integration and disintegration.
When you’re healthy, you integrate towards a number and its more positive attributes and when you’re unhealthy you disintegrate into the less positive aspects of another number. Every type feels stress and health uniquely and adopt patterns and habits in response to those stimuli.
A textbook definition of disintegration is to break apart, to lose cohesion or strength. My favorite definition is, “the process of coming to pieces.” You can’t disintegrate quickly; it is a daily process where you lose pieces of yourself. Disintegration means that I am living and responding out of a place motivated by fear and therefore, am not completely free or wholly alive.
Personally, I disintegrate into feelings that I can’t escape, like slipping into a cold black pool of water where light and sound don’t penetrate. I find myself living out unhealthy behaviors motivated by my deepest fears of being unloved, unappreciated, and worthless. For me, these feelings manifest in isolation, and I turn away from my loved ones, sure that they cannot understand or help. I feel these low emotions so deeply that I forget other emotions exist; the ground swallows me whole and I wait like a seed planted, unsure if death or harvest is waiting on the other side of winter.
When I think of disintegration, I think of the parts of myself that I don’t like – the needy, overly-sensitive, people-pleasing, self-deprecating, prideful, and hurting parts – and I am ashamed. I propel myself deeper into the dark pool of isolation, hoping to hide these things from everyone, including myself. It never works.
I can’t escape my failure: I’m ashamed that I don’t feel fully alive in Christ and that I’ve failed to do it myself. If He has come to set us free and to raise us to life, why am I still falling to pieces and dying? Why has He not saved me? And if He’s not going to do it, why can’t I seem to do it either?
I’m stuck deep in that mire right now. I’ve found myself suddenly out of my lonely yet familiar pool and am now instead in a dry, dusty grave, trapped more each day by the weight of my sin and suffering and yes, death. Trying to tear myself free only causes me to lose whatever foothold I’ve gained and slip back, frustrated and exhausted, waiting in silence.
I don’t have any wisdom or comfort for that dark place except this: Jesus died. And then Jesus was alive. And now He’s asking us to give Him every single part of us that is weighing us down. Jesus does not want our disintegrated selves. Not because he doesn’t want the parts of us that are hurting and sinning and falling apart, but because He wants every single one of those parts, too.
He wants all of us. He wants every single bad habit, every fear, every anxiety, and every depression. He wants every flawed action that weighs us down and buries us alive. He wants to brush the dirt from your hair and wash it out from under your fingernails where you were clawing at the tombstone.
Jesus doesn’t ask for us to only give Him the good parts of our lives. Jesus doesn’t ask for us to be fixed or to try to live in our perfect, pretend best versions of ourselves. Jesus asks for our disintegrated selves so He can make us whole in Him. And that’s when we begin to be alive.
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (Colossians chapter 3, verses 3-4).
Rebecca constantly strives to practically love people around her; she also loves fuzzy socks, her five sisters, pink and orange alstroemerias, calligraphy, and sour gummy worms.
Rebecca constantly strives to practically love people around her. She also loves fuzzy socks, her five sisters, pink and orange alstroemerias, calligraphy, and sour gummy worms.