I never had a treehouse as a child, but I always thought it would be cool to have one. When I was probably 3-4 years old, my sister and I were cared for by an older couple for a while, and they had a small loft-like space above their garage just big enough for the two of us along with a couple of tiny chairs, a table, and an easy-bake oven. She and I would crawl up the rickety wooden ladder into that space and play for hours! I sometimes imagined living there all the time. It was cozy and dry, and I felt safe – out of reach of danger. When I was a bit older, we moved to a house that had a huge sycamore tree in the back, and I often imagined building a cool treehouse in it – maybe something like the picture above – but I was not allowed to try.

Imagine with me, if you will, that I had been allowed to construct my own treehouse, as a 6-10 year old boy. What sort of structure would that have been? Imagine if I decided I wanted to live in that treehouse. Moved my meager belongings out to it, slept there, ate there, everything. Permanently.

When I was a young kid, I did build a sort of structure – not out in a tree, though. It was the boards and nails that provided me emotional and, even to some degree, physical safety. This structure became the framework through which I experienced life. It was just big enough for me, cozy enough, and protective enough. This structure consisted of my adaptive behaviors and mindset I utilized to live in the world around me – a world that was often unpredictable, scary or painful.

Over time, my treehouse became a little cramped. Inadequate. Unsafe. Dilapidated. What was adaptive became maladaptive for me. But I kept climbing into it, expecting comfort and security.

A few years ago, someone mentioned the Enneagram to me in passing. And I started looking into it. I took a test. It told me my number. I didn’t like that! I took another test. Same number, dammit! So I read a few books, and yeah…same number.

The number doesn’t matter for the context of this blog. I might write more on that some other time. But when I chose to accept it, and began to look into what that meant about me, I finally realized that I’d outgrown my tiny, poorly constructed treehouse. Not that the treehouse didn’t serve a purpose along the way. It did! But learning my number and what that meant about me was the beginning of a season of rebuilding, in which I’m still in the middle. I’ve learned a lot about my core motivations, which pointed me toward my specific desires and fears, and even the negative messages that dominate my headspace. And that led me to do further work – seeking a therapist to help me disassemble the old treehouse further, but also to rebuild a more sound structure.

My favorite teacher of the Enneagram is Ian Morgan Cron. His books, The Road Back to You and The Story of You are great resources that helped me understand a lot more about people and their different motivations – including me and mine. I also have enjoyed his Typology podcast through the years. He’s well-known and loved, and doesn’t need my “pitch”, here. I am just grateful for him – and greatly encouraged by his teaching, so I wanted to share.

I imagine many people have looked into the Enneagram at least somewhat. And I know there’s other types of systems/tests that help people understand themselves and others better. I’ve studied some of them, too. How about you? What’s your treehouse like? Were you like me, maybe trying to live in it well past its actual functional usefulness? Or were you able to recognize and reassemble along the way?

10 thoughts on “treehouse

  1. Endless Weekend

    I first came across The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a relatively young child, so for me it was more about the stepping through closet doors to magical lands… A few years back a friend showed us that a closet in his house opened to a large attic and I’m thinking that would make a fabulous “tree house”/doorway to magical lands…

    Liked by 3 people

      1. David Post author

        Yes! I’ve read two so far, and I’m partway through the third of four books. They are very engaging, and include some very deep “IRL” insights and concepts.


  2. Ellie Thompson

    David, I can really connect to this post a lot. I’m sorry that you had to experience whatever you did in your early life that made you feel like you needed protection from something unpleasant back then. I’m glad that, with the aid of your therapist, you have managed to build a safer structure for yourself. I hadn’t heard of Enneagram before, so out of interest, I Googled it and took the personality test online. I came out as the Loyalist, which I can truly identify with. It’s much more accurate than Myers-Briggs. I don’t think I had a treehouse, but I wish I had done so. I felt like I had nowhere to escape the abuse I was going through. I suppose I could count being in my bedroom, under my blankets and eiderdown with my bear, a torch and a book, hiding from the world. These days, I still, as an adult, have a bear to hug at night (he’s nearly 30 years old!), but I no longer need the torch to read under the covers! I’m so glad I discovered your blog. I think we both have quite a few things in common (forgive me if I’m wrong.) Take care of yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emily Yvonne

    I didn’t need an emotional treehouse when I was a young child, but I’ve realized I built one at some point in my late teens. Thick boards of unrealistic optimism spackled with anger. Keeps me “safe” (but not really.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David Post author

      Unrealistic optimism is a familiar foe. Though there could be worse companions, I recognize how it often kept me from actually experiencing life, but rather pretending.

      I was just reading this week with my wife about anger, in Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart. This was hugely instructive to me! Anger is a big, big emotion, and often the secondary emotion or “indicator” of other feelings. She writes:

      “Over the past two decades, when research participants talked about being angry, the story never stopped there. Their narratives of anger unfolded into stories of betrayal, fear, grief, injustice, shame, vulnerability, and other emotions.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emily Yvonne

        I pulled out the feelings wheel last night after a startling encounter with anger and narrowed it down as angry > bitter > violated. Which helped me know how to pray and seek scripture for wisdom. I get extremely defensive when I feel unsafe and threatened. “Threatened” is located on the feelings wheel after fearful. That makes sense too.

        I’ve had the image of my father’s tendency to anger all my adult life. Thankfully not as a child, or I’m sure I would be far worse off. But it’s still difficult to navigate my own tendencies and accept how he has influenced me as an adult.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. David Post author

        I’m sad you feel those tough emotions, and that they are related to your father’s anger. This is something I’ve experienced as well. I know how painful that can be to navigate on my own. In addition to scriptural wisdom, I’ve sought (am currently seeking) help from the wisdom of trained counselors and it has been very beneficial in my recovery. We are not meant to do this on our own.

        Liked by 1 person

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