Sharon Ball, a Senior Member of The Enneagram in Business Network, has written a beautiful, insightful, theory and practice-based new book on trauma and the Enneagram. So many people in the Enneagram community are talking about how the Enneagram can help with trauma, but the Enneagram is not enough. And trauma-therapists are just discovering the potency of the Enneagram when they combine it with their trauma work. This book does just that and, I believe, will be a classic in the field. Here’s my interview with Sharon to get her backstory.
Ginger: You’ve written and wonderful new book, Reclaiming You: Using the Enneagram to Move from Trauma to Resilience. In it, you interweave your knowledge and experience with both trauma and with the Enneagram. You’ve worked with trauma caused by large-scale, horrific events. Which one of these had the biggest impact on you as a therapist helping others?
Sharon: The first one is the Tsunami in Sri Lanka and India. I was traveling with the Red Cross five days after the event. What I came prepared to do, I had to throw out. When in the midst of a catastrophic disaster, you can’t do classic therapeutic interventions. You can’t do the psychological work without supporting people through the physical aspects first. I also learned how much culture plays a role in response to these kinds of traumas, and how it impacts not just individuals but also communities and families. Also, there is a difference in cultural responses to grief, in Eastern versus Western. In Sri Lanka, grief is body-based and guttural, not just an emotional experience. It is physically emotive in ways it is not as common in Western cultures. I had to learn to hold space for this. I also experienced mutism. Many of the children were mute, so I had to work with them in non-verbal ways, through “play” to create a safe space to talk. I had to reassure parents that “your child will speak when they feel safe.”
Ginger: And moving from the macro to the micro, what specific work with an individual moved you the most?
Sharon: One of my first clients was a 10-year-old boy whose parents were going through a divorce. The boy asked for therapy and the father brought him to see me. We were doing sand and art therapy. He drew sketches. The more he drew, it became clear what was happening in his mother’s home. She would beat him, then put him in a suitcase in a closet. His 12-year-old sister heard him the next morning. His mother would leave him in a hot car for hours, with windows shut and no food or water. He was told not to tell his father or the same thing would happen again. The mental abuse was as horrific as the physical. In divorce court, he gave testimony in court about this. The prosecutor showed pictures of the bruises and welts on the boy’s back. The dad got permanent custody. As his female therapist for the next year, I became a surrogate female figure, helping him find himself separate from the abuse. The mother was creating self-hate in him, but trauma therapy helped him understand this was about her, not him.
Ginger: What are the 3 most important concepts or practices you want people to take away from Reclaiming You?
Sharon: If trauma isn’t recognized, you can’t work toward recovery: awareness is the #1 most important factor. Second, knowing your Enneagram type and how you are differently impacted by the trauma can help you narrow down your specific needs in order to heal. Finally, you need to hold space for the recovery process. Healing from trauma can’t be rushed or you might go two steps backward.
Ginger: You mention in the book that you’ve been through trauma yourself. Is this what motivated you to write Reclaiming You or was it something else?
Sharon: It did come from my own trauma and discovering how the Enneagram and my type helped me find my resilience and also see how my type was holding me back. It also came from my work with clients. I can remember when I worked with child protective services as a social worker in case management and investigations. I had planned to go to law school, but then I realized the law wasn’t enough of a help, not nearly as much as good trauma-informed therapy. In one of my early cases as a social worker, a 3-month-old baby had been severely abused. The foster parents knew they could help if they stood by the baby with love, patience and therapeutic help.
Ginger: How are you feeling now that the book is done and out there for the public to read and learn from?
Sharon: I’m really excited to see the good that will come from this. Of course, I hope therapists who work with trauma will find it illuminating. In addition, many people have trauma or have family members or friends with trauma, but don’t have access to mental health services. And many people don’t know what trauma-informed care looks like. This is a book people can use at home.
You can purchase Reclaiming You by Sharon Ball and co-author, Renee Siegel, on amazon.com here.
Sharon K. Ball, LPC-MHSP is a licensed counselor, a National Board Certified Counselor and International Enneagram Association accredited teacher who brings more than twenty-five years of experience in therapeutic trauma-informed care. She also has certifications in EMDR, TIC, ACT, CBT, DBT and TBRI. Sharon works with individuals, but also with state and local municipalities providing mental health aid during international disasters such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Haiti Earthquake, mass shootings, post 9/11 and pandemic first responders. Click here for Sharon’s website.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, author of nine Enneagram books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications. TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | firstname.lastname@example.org