Maribeth’s Story, NN4
Maribeth Goodman values the journey. She has always taken the time to notice where she is, where she has come from, and how the path in between those moments has become a part of who she is now. This process of reflection cannot be rushed, yet modern life always seemed to demand an uncomfortable speed of existence. And so for most of her life, Maribeth tried to keep pace, enjoying the journey when she could, and wondering why she couldn’t seem to move quite so fast as everyone else. “I thought I was wrong, or broken, or something was amiss because I didn’t function at a high speed, and if I did, I paid a price,” she remembers. However, through her journey, Maribeth would learn that her measured pace was not a weakness—in fact, it was a gift.
As a perpetual seeker, Maribeth had always been interested in new teachings and ideas that explore humankind. Thirty years ago, she was introduced to the Enneagram by a spiritual director in the Catholic tradition; as she learned, the Jesuits and Catholics had adopted the personality type-test along with psychologists, using it to understand how different people might interact and access the world around them, and by ultimate extension, the divine. Maribeth found that the Enneagram offered more tools for compassion that any other path she’d studied up to that point—it helped her identify the coping mechanisms and psychodynamic survival skills she had learned to exist within her family, her community, and her culture, and to realize that some of those defense mechanisms had outlived their usefulness. More than that, it helped her realize that her experience of the world was only one window, one view, of reality among nine.
As such, when she encountered a system that spoke of nine human physiologies—Body of 9—in 2015, she was intrigued, and curious to see whether the systems were connected. Susan identified Maribeth as a Natural Number 4, the physiology that helps people to slow down and connect to the world around and within them, bringing them into alignment. 4s often describe their pace as meandering and circular, taking the time to process and metabolize before making decisions, “feeling into themselves” for answers. Their focus is primarily inward.
The insights were deeply resonant for Maribeth. “They’re things you know about yourself, but you don’t say consciously to yourself,” she explains, a description she’s heard many share since.
Her identification was a profound step into a level of self-acceptance that had eluded her for her entire life, and she was able to re-contextualize every experience she’d had up to that point. “I held my self comparatively to other Natural Numbers that move faster, think differently, and have more of a rationalizing brain versus an emotional, felt sense,” she recalls. She now knew she wasn’t broken; she was necessary in a rapidly paced world that sometimes forgot to stop and reflect inward. It was validating to know that she too had a gift to bring to the table. “I was 60 when I learned this,” she says, “and I wished I had known 55 years earlier. When you know your Natural Number, and the things you’ve taken for granted about yourself are revealed to you consciously, it’s a real gift.”
She still loves seeing children identified by Susan and Martin, knowing that they will understand their own value, and that they don’t need to have the same strengths as their peers. She hopes they can find self-acceptance sooner than she did. “We all have the inner critic and judge; that doesn’t go away. But I’m not as hard on myself, and I don’t compare myself in the same way,” she attests. “When I find myself going down that path, I can recognize people are coming from a different place and bringing different gifts, and feel lucky to work with them and have that strength.”
Indeed, another important element of Maribeth’s study of the Natural Numbers has been learning where each excels and how they connect with others. For instance, Natural Numbers 1 through 4 use eye contact to connect with others, but 5 through 9 do not. It was a small but revealing detail for her, knowing that people who looked away from her weren’t bored or eager to leave the conversation—it just didn’t occur to them to hold eye contact. She has also practiced engaging Natural Numbers that are not her primary physiology to better understand their sensations and perspectives. “Holding the other Natural Numbers regions active in my body is truly alien,” she acknowledges. “Some of them were really hard for me to do, and a couple of them actually made me physically nauseous to hold.” Though she sometimes feels incredulous that people function at such completely different levels, the experiences have helped her empathize with the people in her life.
Maribeth continues to learn more about the Body of 9, and has found her studies to be more fun than work; she’s training to become a facilitator who can identify the Natural Numbers of others, and hopes to discover additional methods to ease the process. She enjoys diving deep—“that’s a Natural Number 4’s happy place!”—by taking her own meandering paths to her conclusions, and adding her understanding to Susan and Martin’s. She also enjoys comparing notes with people who share her physiology.
Having since studied the Natural Numbers, she believes the correlation with the Enneagram is present and valuable. “The Body of 9 has enriched it and complimented it, quite frankly,” she says. Where her Enneatype helped reveal her nurture, Body of 9 helped reveal her nature: the physical, mental, and spiritual ways in which she was strong. She has further noted that her Natural Number feels more specific and fundamental than the Enneagram or the Meyer’s Briggs Personality Test, which can have wings or gradients—she attributes this to Body of 9 describing our nature, while the Enneagram focuses on the nurture of how a person adapts to experiences and traumas. The pieces together are worth more than they are apart.
Maribeth respects that not everyone is a seeker, or looking for the same answers on their personal journey. Her husband, for instance, has no interest in being identified with the Body of 9. For those who are looking to go deeper, however, this is a path she can recommend, and there is perhaps no better time.
As a Natural Number 4, Maribeth knows that to truly connect with others, you must also connect with yourself. Self-awareness and self-acceptance improve relationships—with self, with others, and the even the planet. She believes this is also true for humanity as a whole, and currently necessary in the United States. Right now, society has been given a clear view of the flaws of the system. “Education, healthcare, prison, elections—none of it has worked for everyone,” she says. “Our democracy really hasn’t worked for everybody. There’s a lot that’s been glossed over.”
But within the darkness, Maribeth also sees hope: hope that as the broken pieces fall away, we can be rebuild better than before; hope that with this opportunity for a “collective self-reflection,” the new systems we build together can serve the greater good.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people only change when things fall apart. Right now it’s bumpy because people like their old ways,” Maribeth says, describing it like an old pair of shoes: too tight, perhaps, or rife with holes, wear, and tear, but familiar and easy to fall back on. “(Change) will be challenged by a lot of people who liked the old ways because it worked for them. But I think once we realize there’s something better, and we’re all part of that, every Natural Number will need to show up with their gift to be part of what we are now envisioning to be the next step.
“A lot of people are suffering—and that breaks my heart—there has been suffering for many, many years, and there was no change in sight. Now we’re shining the light; we’re finding the dark places that we didn’t want to see before.”
Collective self-reflection will bring awareness of our collective diagnosis, which becomes a responsibility to decide how we will live from here. The journey awaits.