Discovering the Sun of Self and Eclipsing Your Inner Critic’s Discomfort

orange sunBy Metta Sweet Edge, LCSW, MAT

Driving home at sunset from the beach this summer, my two-and-a-half year old son pointed West and shouted excitedly “Orange Sun! Orange Sun! Orange Sun!” over and over in delight.  Clearly amazed and thrilled by its size and glow, the sun did seem especially big and bright, indeed like a ripe juicy orange.  But then it dipped below the tree line along the highway, temporarily obscured.  To my two year old, it may as well have set altogether—delight turned into desperate demand for its return.

In a few (long) miles, the sun reappeared as we crossed over a bridge.  Again, he squealed in delight like encore applause.  Too fast, though, the tree line returned and soon thereafter the horizon enveloped the sun for another night.  My son, confused and angry, cried out loud and strong for its return.  He was livid at its abandonment.  He finally calmed somewhat when he spotted the moon and then car lights, but neither seemed to be quite adequate replacement.  He was still mumbling “Orange Sun” as he sniffled and with stuttered breath drifted finally to sleep.

Witnessing the progression of my son’s emotions moved me deeply: his burst of delight in his discovery, shock at its sudden disappearance, desperate demand to regain it, and then despair at having lost it (albeit temporary as we adults know but alas he does not). This experience reminded me of the palpable power of that which makes each of us connect with life—that sense of “all is well” and “I belong” when [fill in the blank with your particular “Orange Sun” such as “when all is peaceful,” “when I am loved,” “when I am safe,” or “when I’m enjoying myself”].

But when those “Orange Suns” are obscured or have “set” for a time—when peace is replaced with conflict, love with betrayal, safety with danger, and enjoyment with boredom—our “Inner Critic” takes over.  It criticizes us for losing our particular Sun and orchestrates maladaptive strategies for us to attempt to regain it.  But the pain of failing at doing so furthers the cycle and can indeed lead to not only discomfort with self and life but with further disintegration—into despair.

But you can choose another way.

Begin with being aware that when you feel discomfort (lack of wellbeing) and disconnection (lack of belonging).  Start there. Admitting and being kind to yourself by simply acknowledging, “I am uncomfortable right now.” Just experience that discomfort with compassionate curiosity.  Allowing yourself to wonder (not worry!) why.

Looking to your Enneagram personality drive is a rich place to find some answers to “Why?” Knowing your drive’s particular “Orange Sun” can help you to stop following your Inner Critic’s futile demand of your “Sun’s” return.  Instead, you can begin to accept your “Orange Sun” has, in fact, never truly left—it is simply out of your personal view or experience at the moment (i.e., “the sun is obscured by the trees or has set”) and the integrated transformation of self will indeed return to you (with “dawning of the new day” in your self).

In their Inner Critic/Psychic Structures workshop, The Enneagram Institute explains that each of the nine personality drives has a different Essential Quality (“Orange Sun”) that they have lost connection with due to the rigors of life.  Our Inner Critic demands us to re-create or manufacture that “Orange Sun” by perfect adherence to a personality drive fixated strategy.  Alas, we cannot, though, manufacture the sun.  We can’t even get too close without getting burned as Icarus taught us.  Not because we are no good or not enough, though, but because it was never destroyed in the first place.  It’s been there all along.  It never left—we did—through listening to our Inner Critics’ interpretations of what life means when it falls short of an ideal.  Through believing that sense of separateness that feels so real and is quite uncomfortable in the moment.  We can return, though, by surrendering our sense of separateness with acceptance using  our adult abstract understanding instead of concrete understandings and toddler tantrums.

I offer the following table combining this article’s “Orange Sun” metaphor and The Enneagram Institute’s Inner Critic workshop information to help you identify:

  1. Your personality drive’s “Orange Sun” (Essential Qualities)
  2. Your superego’s specific demand of you to regain your “sun” when you feel discomfort at it being obscured or has set (Inner Critic Message)
  3. Ways to “seek the rising sun/new dawn within yourself as a new way of being (Path of Transformation).

If you do not know your drive, you may find this table to be a helpful way to determine and/or clarify your drive.  Or you can take one of the Enneagram Institute’s tests.

Personality Drive

Essential Qualities
(“Orange Sun”)

Inner Critic Message
(Superego demands to regain obscured or set Sun)

Path of Transformation
(“Sunrise/Dawn of a new way of being”)

You are good and ok if you are good and do what is right
  • Accept all parts of self without judgment
  • Let go of belief to judge anyone/anything objectively
You are good and ok if if you are loving and close to others
  • Learn to nurture self and look after own needs
  • Let go of belief that there is anything you can do to earn, create, or get love
You are good and ok if you are successful and others think well of you
  • Follow your heart’s desire
  • Let go of belief that your value is dependent on the positive regard of others
You are good and ok if you feel something and are true to yourself
  • Realize there is nothing wrong with you
  • Let go of your belief that you are more inherently flawed than others
You are good and ok if you know and have mastered something
  • Become engaged with reality
  • Let go of belief that you are separate from the environment
Loyal Skeptic
You are good and ok if you are responsible and do what is expected of you
  • Discover your inner authority
  • Let go of your belief that you must rely on something/one outside of yourself for security
You are good and ok if you are happy and getting what you need
  • Stay in contact with present reality (including pain)
  • Let go of belief that you require specific objects and experiences to be fulfilled
You are good and ok if you are strong and in control of the situation
  • Allow vulnerability to surface
  • Let go of self-image of always needing to be strong and in control
  • Use power in service of love
  • Temper energy
You are good and ok if you are at peace and those around you are ok
  • Reconnect to instinct/anger (feel, know, speak to it)
  • Let go of belief that my participation is not important


By knowing your “Orange Sun,” hearing but not believing your inner critic messages and strategies catered to demanding it, and applying liberating transformative resolutions, you can return to that place of wellbeing and belonging with more elegance and ease.

And, by the way, this is indeed a continual lifelong process as sure as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  But I share the hope offered in this blessing I saw posted on a loved one’s refrigerator: “May every sunrise hold more promise, and every sunset hold more peace.”


Recommended Reading:

Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, pp 352-366.
The Gift of Imperfection, by Brene Brown



This entry was posted in 2014 Articles, Anxiety, Depression, Meditation & Mindfulness, Metta's Articles, Mind-body-spirit Integration and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.