Saturday, November 18, 2017

Three Quick Views of the Enneagram

Question: I'm new to the Enneagram, which I find challenging and fascinating. Becoming aware of one's style feels like a Hero's Journey and I'd like to learn more, but find it a bit overwhelming. Do you have something basic? 
When I was first learning the Enneagram, I created this overview of the most basic Enneagram self-images (click graphic for larger view):

This one is a snapshot of each personality style's key blind spot, or as Helen Palmer puts it, "focus of attention" (click graphic for larger view):

And here are typical responses when each of the nine is "in the grip" (click graphic for larger view):

 *     *     *

For further depth, this graphic has labels my non-Enneagram clients can relate to, summarizing the blind spots and development path for each personality style (click graphic for larger view):

And this one (from Margaret Frings Keyes, The Enneagram Relationship Workbook) I've always found to be an easy and quick snapshot of each of the nine (click graphic for larger view):

Friday, October 6, 2017

Whistling in the Dark: Enneagram Sixes Only Look Like Eights

Question: In your article about a work team led by an Enneagram Five, Matt (Six) sounds to me like an Eight, or more specifically, he sounds like me: "Straight from gut to mouth," "danger out there." But Six has no connection with Eight on the Enneagram. Any insights here?
Counterphobic Sixes can look like Eights in their external behavior. They may act tough, but their internal motivations are quite different from style Eights'. The "danger out there" is danger to be feared as opposed to Eights' "I'm King of the jungle."

Style Sixes can give their power away by focusing on (and accusing/criticizing) those they believe to be in power. Their aggressiveness is like whistling in the dark, their fear an avoidance of fear ("I'm not afraid. I'm NOT afraid!").

Enneagram Eights simply aren't afraid (they don't give themselves permission to be weak). They may whistle in the dark but it's because they're excited by danger. It's a manifestation of their passion for excess.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

When is Personality "Set"?

Question: I recently began learning about the Enneagram through coworkers. I strongly identify with my 2 mentor, and test as a 2 myself, although I am under the age of 25. Therefore, I understand my personality to not be quite “set” yet. Either way, it leads me to consider the popular nature vs nurture question. My mother is a strong, religious, 1 and my dad is a 2. I feel like my childhood gave me lots of messages about people serving, and as a female, I get this message culturally anyway.
As I continue to consciously grow, how can I practice growing that both honors the things that have influenced me, as well as define my Self? It seems like a bigger question for a 2, or a 9, for example, who may tend to take on many aspects of the people they are surrounded by. Can I utilize the Enneagram before my personality has stabilized? Will I be left with my truest self regardless of these aspects?
I think you've misunderstood when the personality is "set." That happens quite young. David Daniels and Daniel Siegel have quoted studies from Harvard that infants are born with one of three energies that can be correlated with three Enneagram personality patterns each. It's possible the environment (nurture) then fine-tunes the infant toward one of those three patterns. Of course no one can know, for sure, but many of my clients see evidence of Enneagram style in their children quite young, and most are really clear by the teen years. In fact there are Enneagram programs (and at least one book) for teens. 

In 2013, Ginger Lapid-Bogda wrote on The Enneagram in Business blog:

Even 10 years ago, the prevailing “wisdom” (really, more urban legend!) was that you could not use the Enneagram with people under 40 because they did not have sufficient life experience to “know who they are.” In fact, people often thought the lower age range should be 50. Even more, it was thought to be unethical to use the Enneagram with children; this included 10-year-olds, adolescents, and even young adults. The thought was that helping younger people use the Enneagram to understand themselves would harm them in deep ways such as having them stereotype themselves, or something like that.

All this seems silly in the year 2013, just 10 years later. At the 2003 IEA conference, we did a children’s panel led by David Daniels, which was extremely controversial among Enneagrammers and, after the fact, a huge success. This event shocked many people, but changed the urban legend. But I was fully aware that my then 10 year-old son was using the Enneagram really well. It helped him understand himself as a type 3 and he was using it in several ways. With his friends who were interested, he would help them type themselves and learn how to develop and understand themselves and others. At other times, he used the Enneagram behind the scenes. For example, he would analyze his elementary school basketball team and how to make it more successful. “Mom,” he would say, “the team has four 8s, three 5s, and two 3s. The 8s are ball-hogs, the 5s are just waiting for someone to pass them the ball, and the two 3s can’t get them to work together. What can we do?”

In fact, most Enneagram tests suggest you consider how you were in your early twenties when answering the questions, because we all loosen some of our programming as we mature and might be less of a fit for the typical patterns of one point or another.

You're right, of course, that we can have an overlay of parents' Enneagram styles even if different from our own. Tom Condon teaches this, and doesn't limit the possibility to styles Two and Ninealthough I think it could be true that Twos and Nines adopt those external qualities more readily.

Also remember the tests are necessarily based on conscious awareness and observable behaviors, whereas much of our personality's drive is unconscious. So explore more deeply to confirm your primary Enneagram style.

It's definitely not too early for your own work, and I suggest
observing your urges toward service (which can show up in any Enneagram style). Each time pay close attention to what triggered the urge, what you say to yourself, how you feel both physically and emotionally, and how the service plays out. You'll begin to see what's your truest self and what's an automatic, programmed response of style Two, or Nine, or perhaps another point.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Deepening Character Descriptions in Fiction and Memoir

Question: I'm a big reader and wonder if you have new insights on Enneagram characters in literature?
There are many print and online resources already available that show the nine personality patterns in both writers and their works. Some teach the Enneagram using literature as a tool; others teach writing or playwriting using the Enneagram as a tool. 

For the past year or so I've been exploring through my own reading how good writers demonstrate characters in depth . As far as I know, I'm the only one who explores the nine styles in both fiction and autobiography. Below is the introductory post from my blog for writers, "Deepening Written Characters with the Enneagram."

In Iris Murdoch’s novel The Green Knight, Clement considers the qualities of Louise Anderson, whom he’s loved from afar:

“. . . she instinctively made all things better, speaking no evil, disarming hostility, turning ill away, making peace: her gentleness, which made her seem, sometimes, to some people, weak, insipid, dull. ‘She’s not exactly a strong drink!’ someone said.”

What a beautifully condensed metaphor: “She’s not exactly a strong drink.” Murdoch’s deep insight extends far beyond the usual guidelines for deepening character descriptions. In contrast, you’ve perhaps been asked to critique a beginning writer’s work, where characters seem flat and their voices similar, making it hard to distinguish among them.

The Enneagram — long a favorite guide for transformation among therapists, coaches, and spiritual directors — is now being used by writers and screenwriters as a powerful tool to develop original and dimensional characters. Gloria Kempton, for example, offers a ten-week online workshop, Create Story Characters Using the Enneagram.

According to Judith Searle, author of The Literary Enneagram: Characters from the Inside Out, knowledge of this model can help writers create “credible character arcs and character-driven plot twists that seem both inevitable and surprising.” Familiarity with the nine Enneagram personality patterns “can help us sharpen conflicts between characters to make dramatic situations more compelling.”

As a writer and Enneagram coach, I’ll share some ideas to stimulate your thinking about character development. Whether writing about people you know in memoir or using family members, friends, and acquaintances as models for fiction, you’ll benefit from deeper understanding of characteristic motivations, personality patterns, and growth potential.

First, a quick overview, then in future posts I’ll delve into each of the nine with examples from published work.

Here in a nutshell are the Enneagram personality styles when stuck in their habitual behaviors. As in personal growth, a character arc would show an increase in self-awareness, but we’re first drawn to imperfect, flawed goodness:

Personality Style One (“Reformer”): Their gift is the ability to see and work toward perfection. They often see only what’s wrong, what needs fixing; their perfectionism is driven by a fix-it kind of anger, a rejection of something less than the ideal of what should be (Isabelle Goodrow in Elizabeth Strout's Amy & Isabelle; Ralph Nader, An Unreasonable Man).

Personality Style Two (“Helper”): Their gift is the ability to anticipate and tend to someone else’s needs; they may lose themselves because they’re so intent on taking care of others. It’s difficult for them to admit their own needs and they can be manipulative (Dennis Lynch in Alice McDermott's Charming Billy, Annie Wilkes in Stephen King's Misery, Marge Piercy's memoir Sleeping with Cats).

Personality Style Three (“Achiever”): Their gift is the drive to succeed in attaining a goal. This can become competitive striving that robs them of their souls. Success is measured in the eyes of others, and they may be ruthless in search of it (Lennox Lewis in his memoir Lennox, Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley).

Personality Style Four (“Individualist”): Their gift is a passion for creativity, emotional depth, and a profound desire for authenticity, accompanied by a fear of being ordinary. They may be stuck in melancholy, feeling different or flawed (Diane Arbus in Arthur Lebow's biography Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, Sarah Woodruff in John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman).

Personality Style Five (“Investigator”): Their gift is the ability to conceptualize/master knowledge and they tend to value intellect more than the physical side of life. They may be emotionally remote or socially awkward (Robert Hendricks in Sebastian Faulks' Where My Heart Used to Beat, Jane Goodall in Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey and Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man).

Personality Style Six (“Loyalist”): Their gift is loyalty, which causes them to question their own inner power and to anxiously anticipate anything that could go wrong. They look to the group for security, rules, and norms, yet paradoxically are often the ones to challenge authority (Isabel Moore in Mary Gordon’s Final Payments, Rudy Baylor in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker).

Personality Style Seven (“Enthusiast”): Their gift is positive, energetic, upbeat energy, which can cause frustration when things slow down. They’re gluttons for pleasure, variety, and novelty to the point of having little tolerance for boredom or discomfort of any kind (Randle Patrick McMurphy in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Holly Golightly in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s).

Personality Style Eight (“Challenger”): Their gift is a natural confidence and ability to take charge, and they’ll claim power whether others like it or not. They’re driven to excess — more is better. The thrill is in the hunt, so they tend to stir things up to add spice to a situation (V. I. Warshawski in Sara Paretsky’s Blood Shot, Don Vito Corleone in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather).

Personality Style Nine (“Peacemaker”): Their gift is in being calm, easy-going, and capable of understanding divergent opinions. They may avoid anything that could upset their sense of inner peace. They may be passive or passive-aggressive. (Bob Slocum in Joseph Heller’s Something Happened, Louise Anderson in Iris Murdoch’s The Green Knight).

This last description of Enneagram personality style Nine brings us back to the beginning quote describing Murdoch’s character Louise Anderson. Her calmness, gentleness, avoidance of conflict, speaking no evil, and disarming all hostility made her seem “weak, insipid, dull” to some people. But how interesting she is as a character.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sell From Your High Side

In her workshop "Building Your Business Using the Enneagram," Valerie Atkin of Wells Street Consulting pointed out that selling has gotten a bad rap, as reflected in such clich├ęs as "being sold down the river" or "selling out." Actually, effective selling is improving things, helping people, accomplishing goals, creatively addressing what's missing, sharing and synthesizing knowledge, anticipating what might go wrong, inspiring clients to satisfy their vision, helping them stay on course, and collaborating to meet their needs. 

In case you didn't detect an Enneagram thread in the above, re-read the "Actusally, effective selling" sentence and you'll see how Val encourages all personality styles to acknowledge and use their strengths when marketing their services. And, given her many years of experience with companies of all sizes as a consultant, trainer, and coach, Valan Enneagram style Threeknows her territory.

In one of Val's IEA conference workshops, I discovered another stroke of marketing luck for me as style Nine and for other introverted personalities, the subtle strength of passive marketing: writing articles or books that attract clients and, especially, a web site that sells itself. I say it was a stroke of luck because when I started my web site in 1998, I thought of it only as educational, showing others how to use the Enneagram in business, and as a venue for me to write online articles and case studies. But some of what I wrote there ended up in my coaching book and, as I gradually moved into phone coaching, the site began to attract clients.

A few years ago I hired someone with expertise in coaching, Internet technology, and marketing to help me fine-tune my web offering. He helped me see myself, what distinguishes me from other coaches, and how to make the most of my strengths. He had published three highly successful books focused on pure technology for techies, and took the same “keep it simple" approach to show small business owners how to leverage today's Internet to better market and sell themselves. 

As an Enneagram style Six, he was the ultimate partner. I felt absolutely safe in his hands because even though I’m confident he knows a hundred times more than I’ll ever know in his areas of expertise, he gave me practical information I could act on without feeling bogged down in technical details. Among the many ways his coaching helped me refresh my site, I learned how to search competitor's pages for their "metatags;" where to get free or low-cost, high quality photos and graphics; how to use key words; and how to upgrade with my server so I have instant site statistics at my fingertips. I was able to keep track of number of daily visitors, how long they typical stayed, and on what pages, so I could make sure those pages attracted browsers to explore in more depth.

The home page message to potential clients, I learned, needs to be short, clear, and simple: “What is it, why do I want it, and where do I get it?” Like many of you, it wasn’t easy for me to state concisely what I do and how that’s different from other coaches (part of the “why do I want it?” message). He provided the mirror. And he knew how to gently guide me when I was leaping off in the wrong direction. 

Many people still use their sites as “place holders,” glorified business cards where people can look them up and get contact information. Or their home page consists of a treatise about everything they've ever known, with no quick highlights or easy-to-scan information. Research on eye movement when reading web pages shows consistently that people don't read text thoroughly and they scan for subheadings that stand out. So if browsers don't know you already, you have only seconds to get their attention. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What's the Point? Enneagram Nine? Or Five?

Question: I'm trying to decide if I'm Enneagram style Nine or Five. I've read that the Five's talk style is "dissertations" and the Nine's is "epic tales." How are these different?
"Dissertations" from style Fives are well-organized and logical (and intended to directly influence one's thinking about a concept). This reflects the way their minds work: they'll collect a mountain of information and synthesize it, cull it down (they can even be too reductionist). This style shows up in their language and the metaphors they use as well. 

In contrast, style Nines will wander in their "epic tales." They can be distracted by one thought, then another, go off on tangents, perhaps even forgetting what point they were trying to make. I'm style Nine, and over the years I've learned to stay focused, especially in writing, but when I first started my web site in 1999, you could start reading one of hundreds of articles and eventually link to most of the others, without a trail back to the home page. My computer-whiz daughter pointed out the lack of identifying information on the linked pages (how to contact me, or how to return to the home page), and the links were full-frame instead new windows. So, for example, you could go from my Home Page to Articles, from there link to an article on Anger, then to an outside link, and thus have left my site completely! My whole web site was an epic tale.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Enneagram: A Compelling Vision

Susan Olesek's TED talk on behalf of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), Both Sides of the Bars, is the most compelling Enneagram presentation I've ever seen, for her own transparency, for her clarity and vision, for her compelling examples, for her intelligent presentation, and most of all for the power of her presence. This is the finest example of how life-changing the Enneagram can be in the hands of someone on an authentic spiritual journey.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Living From the Heart: Enneagram Five

I'm an Enneagram Five. Having spent the majority of my life devouring intellect alone, I'm interested in how one goes about being able to feel. It seems although I can make sense of anything, I sense nothing. While I did have some hearty laughs from the Five poems and undoubtedly related to them, I was surprised by my reaction to the first four lines of "Not Waving But Drowning." This poem aimed at Sevens nearly brought tears. Is there a correlation between these two styles? I believe my mother is a Seven. Would her style affect my responses? Any suggestions on learning how to feel would be appreciated.
We tend to carry an overlay of our parents' Enneagram styles, so it's useful to uncover their patterns, particularly how their styles typically interact with our own. People sometimes misplace themselves on the Enneagram at first because their outward behaviors are conditioned imitations of their parents'. It's important to discover the key underlying passion and fixation, because outward behaviors can be similar among styles, though stemming from very different motivations. 

Further, we have two general ways of relating to others: similarity ("like is drawn to like") and complementarity ("opposites attract"). Because Fives and Sevens are part of the same triad (the "head" triad) it's quite likely a Five would have some similarities with a Seven mother, including gifts as well as down sides of the Seven. There would also be complementarities: a Seven is more likely to be outgoing, for example, while a Five is more likely to be withdrawing.

The  connecting line from Five to Seven reflects developmental issues for a Five (even if there weren't a Seven parent). Theoretically, Seven is a "stress point" for Five. That is, under stress Fives demonstrate some of the down sides of Sevens, such as skating away from reality, getting into more and more activity to avoid facing discomfort or going into emotional depths. From that perspective, a tearful response to the first four lines of Smith's poem could be seen as representative of the stresses a Five may be undergoing:
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
An emotional response to these lines could even reflect a fear of engaging yourself fully in reaching your emotions. From Mark Epstein (Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness):
"Many of us come to therapy -- and to psychological self-improvement in general... having trouble letting ourselves go... blocked creatively or emotionally, we have trouble falling asleep or having satisfying sex, or we suffer from feelings of isolation or alienation. Often we are afraid of falling apart, but the problem is that we have not learned how to give up control of ourselves… we do not realize that to feel more real we have to push ourselves further into the unknown…."
Epstein, a psychotherapist, describes being haunted as a youth with a feeling of emptiness, "an impossible longing in my heart." After an unsatisfactory experience with a traditional therapist, he started a meditation practice:
"In meditation, I had stumbled upon a new way to be with myself… I did not have to run away from my emptiness, or cure it, or eradicate it. I had only to see what was actually there… I discovered that emptiness was the canvas, or background, of my being. I did not understand it, but I was much less afraid. My condition had no name, but I could reach down into it… Western psychotherapists are trained to understand a report of emptiness as indicative of a deficiency in someone's emotional upbringing, a defect in character… (but) emptiness can never be eliminated, although the experience of it can be transformed… Only when we stop fighting with our personal emptiness can we begin to appreciate the transformation that is possible."
I asked this reader to notice how he is able to feel. His first e-mail comment to me was the single word, "Fascinating." I suggested he take himself back to the moment when he experienced what he was reading as "fascinating," to stay with the bodily sensations that evoke that word, and to recognize these sensations as how he expresses feelings or – at the very least – clues to what he's feeling.

With a dear friend (a Five), I experience a deep joy in intellectual interchange. My response is, I believe, similar to a Five's experience, as if one's feelings are being expressed through the intellect. Sometimes, for example, Fives will express anger or frustration through the passion of their opinions. 

I worked with a Five who said to his secretary as we ended a meeting in May, "Please make sure to schedule Mary ahead through the summer, because I'll be away several weeks at our summer cottage, and I want to make sure there's room on my schedule when I'm here." At our next meeting I said, "Last time when you asked your secretary to schedule ahead with me, that was a way of saying you like me and find our meetings useful, wasn't it?" He looked down shyly and said, "Yes." I asked him to look up at me as I said, "I know you find it difficult to say that to me directly, and I won't ask you to do it, but I will say to you I know we like each other and appreciate our time together." His eyes clouded up and he looked down again, saying, "Why is that so difficult for me?"

Why, indeed… Difficult, but not impossible. This reader said Smith's poem "nearly brought tears." Those are feelings, and he's discovered at least one way to get to them. I particularly recommend reading/writing poetry, listening to/playing music, art, journaling. You could write a poem, for example, and ask "What feelings do these words represent and/or evoke?" 

When I asked my Five friend how he reaches his emotions, he said Puran Bair's Living From the Heart had opened his heart. Bair uses the metaphor of swimming for learning to meditate. Bair writes:
"This book is about the heart, both the poetic heart that is the instrument of deep feeling and the physical heart that synchronizes all the cells of your body to a common beat. The development of the heart is the great goal of life, both a practical goal and a spiritual goal... This is not a book of philosophy; it's an instruction workbook that teaches a method, called "Heart Rhythm Practice," to bring about a more heart-centered life... Learning Heart Rhythm Practice is about as hard as learning how to swim, and at least as enjoyable. Some people do learn to 'swim' without any instruction and without following any method. They are the ones with the hearts we admire whenever we meet them. For the rest of us, living from the heart is something to be learned…"

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Independent Style - Enneagram Five

Question: My boss (Nine) and I (Eight) have become interested in using the Enneagram for team development. At your suggestion we bought copies of Goldberg's The 9 Ways of Working, but the third member of our team still hasn't read it. He said he wasn't uncomfortable with the idea, but his body language said otherwise. I think he's probably a Five.
If your colleague is an Enneagram style Five as you've guessed, his is the most private of all nine styles. Theoretically, style Five's driving force is avarice, which doesn't translate into greed as we usually think of it – more a withholding of personal information, a stinginess of emotions

This is also the most independent Enneagram style. The connection to style Eight is attached to unconscious fears of vulnerability, and the connection to Seven is attached to avoidance of pain (or diving deeply into oneself). These are fears we all have, and could be true of your team-mate regardless of his personality style, but would be somewhat exaggerated or perhaps less known to him (more a part of his Shadow) if he is indeed a "Five."

You'll find W.H. Auden's poem instructive:
Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes,
And all the untilled air between
Is private
pagus or demesne.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.
Many style Fives love the Enneagram as a basis for knowledge. And when they initiate exploration of this model, they like to use it at work. My guess is your team mate doesn't want to be ranked or classified by someone else. It may help, if you haven't already done this, to place the emphasis on you and your boss, who are already willing to go public as an "Eight" and a "Nine." Ask him to read about those two styles and to give the two of you feedback. 

If he is style Five, he may be attracted by the opportunity to learn something. Stay away from words that convey emotions, even positive ones, such as how excited you feel about being able to change yourself. Style Fives tend to place their energy into their intellect, and would disdain emotional responses until they feel safe. 

Note: A style Five reader added the following:
"About your recalcitrant Five, I think the key is to find someone who can get into his internal worldview and find out what the block is. He may have some construct like 'psychology is bunk,' in which case winning him over may only be possible via someone who can show him in an objective fashion that the Enneagram is an elegant system for understanding human motivational patterns. I've recently come to the conclusion that someone I've been close to for a long time is style Five. He's not interested in the Enneagram. He has an active mental life and I think he sees the Enneagram as a competing philosophy. Since he processes things more slowly than I, he may have a valid point with regard to the precious resource of time, but I strongly believe the Enneagram can beautifully integrate with nearly any philosophy or worldview."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death!

Question: In your article on Sevens were you implying our fear of pain is fear of physical pain? My fear is not nearly so much of pain as of confinement. The enthusiasm you so accurately describe is a type of inner expansion. I bear my arthritis pain quite nicely, but the confinement of it really gets me down. We Sevens fear we'll be bored, have no options, and if I had to face life imprisonment or death, I'm with Patrick Henry ("Give me liberty or give me death").
This reader is referring to an article about Enneagram style Seven where I wrote, "Their determined cheerfulness manifests a coping strategy developed as children to blunt or cover up any pain. Because they've avoided pain all their lives, their pain threshold is low and they feel pain very deeply... we can all identify with the urge to escape pain by doing something pleasurable." I agree that style Seven's issues are not necessarily with physical pain.  

It's been true of those I've coached that pain refers to whatever brings discomfort for that person, and being confined is uncomfortable for those with Enneagram style Seven. Their avoidance of pain is really more accurately understood as a passion for pleasure, a compulsion to seek variety because reality itself is not satisfying, and that's the real burden of pain that unexamined Sevens bear.

One of my style Seven clients was also an ENTP on the Myers-Briggs, which substantially exaggerated his Seven-ness. Go to this ENTP link and you'll see what I mean. Neither Enneagram Sevens nor Myer-Briggs Type ENTPs like to bother with detail; both are future-oriented, like to leave things open, crave activity and variety. 

That same client (also described in my book Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram) said the worst possible thing he could imagine was being jailed. And he'd felt almost unbearably trapped in his job because the newness had worn off and he was stuck dealing with corporate politics. He'd been fantasizing about people he could connect with in the hierarchy to get him out of there. Instead, I suggested he use his discomfort as a clue that his habitual patterns were kicking into gear; that he was, in fact, feeling imprisoned right then and there and feeling compelled to be released. To his credit he did stick with it, felt less constrained by his own compulsive wish for escape, and ended up succeeding his boss as division manager (I'm not sure that was a happy ending).

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Do You Have Any Feet Left to Shoot?

Question: I was wondering if you have any advice to give an Enneagram Six who's having a hard time getting out of a rut.
One of the characters in a Nelson Demille novel asked another who recklessly exposed himself to gangsters if he had "any feet left to shoot." So I'm not being literal in the title to this response, although the metaphorical shot in the foot can be painful for style Sixes, and it's easy to forget the wound was self-imposed. The positive side of this phenomenon is a willingness to challenge that I call the Patrick Henry Syndrome: "Give me liberty or give me death!" (It's interesting, given style Sixes' focus on hidden agendas, that Patrick Henry also said "Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.") 

People with this Enneagram style typically hold high standards for leadership, their own and others, and want to be helpful to their bosses. In personal relationships they may even seek partners who need help, and then keep the cycle alive by criticizing their partners for their failings. On the up side they're giving potentially useful feedback (and they're good observers about what makes relationships work). At the same time, constantly reminding your boss or your life partner how s/he could be a better person has its obvious pitfalls.

A style Six client, for example, took great pride in his ability to pull projects together across functions, and couldn't understand why he received so little recognition and wasn't being promoted. Yet every time he and I met he had another complaint he'd raised with his boss (style Five): "He's got to see that holing himself up in his office won't help him. He needs to wander around and let people get to know him. He never gives me or the others any praise," etc., etc., etc. Another client, also style Six, bounced from job to job because she'd eventually get into an argument with her boss over some injustice and quit in anger (and without another job waiting on the side). 

In Beginning Your Enneagram Journey, Loretta Brady outlines a process for self-observation that gently reminds us of the joys and difficulties of all nine styles. She says Sixes "offer trust and reliability in their friendships. And they seem able to be committed to others through all the ups and downs of relating..." However, "Because safety is tied to friendship, any change in affection is very threatening....

Sixes tend to conclude "I'm somehow lacking and may be abandoned," but instead of staying with their feelings and embracing their fear, they create a cover that makes it seem as if they know what's going on. This cover is associated with a psychological mechanism known as projection, observing and reacting to something in others we fail to see in ourselves. 

Enneagram Sixes certainly aren't the only ones to use projection, but they sometimes seem to have a corner on the market. As pointed out by William Miller in Chapter 7 of Meeting the Shadow, projections can be positive as well as negative. So the fact that Sixes make heroes of certain people, for example, may be a projection of their own positive traits held in their unconscious. More often than not, however, our projections are negative. Some aspects of projections truly fit the other person (e.g., the Five boss mentioned above was indeed a little stingy with praise). You're probably projecting when your feelings about others are unusually strong and persistent. If you can't let go of focusing on how stingy with praise your boss is, for example, chances are you carry the same trait to some degree. 

Style Sixes may not face the fact that their criticisms are held toward people they desperately want to like them. Nor do they typically realize the degree to which they give away their power, by placing all that energy outside themselves instead of learning to love and trust themselves. It takes real courage to look inside, because to get there you've also got to face what you don't like about yourself. 

Of many excellent self-empowerment strategies, here are two of the best for Enneagram Sixes:
  1. Get feedback from others about how they see you, and listen to it. Don't explain or defend yourself. Just try it on for size for a few days, giving yourself permission to see some things about yourself you may not like, as well as some strengths you find it hard to believe about yourself. (People with this Enneagram style do a lot of self-doubting.)

  2. Notice when you get really hooked by someone's behavior, assume that your reaction is partly projection of some unknown part of your unconscious, and bring it home. For example, if you think your wife or girlfriend is too critical, accept that as partly true but also try it on yourself. Notice the ways you're critical (of her, for example). If you think your boss is too stingy with praise, accept that as partly true but try it on yourself. Notice when you're stingy with praise. (We know already you're stingy with praise for your boss.)
Over time you'll develop the capability to know what fits you and what doesn't. When you catch on to a projection, the strength of your emotion toward the other person will lessen and you'll begin to see aspects of the unwanted trait in yourself. That's O.K. This doesn't make you a bad person; it just makes you more fully human. And the more you accept yourself as you are, the less those unwanted behaviors will own you.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Nailed: Enneagram Styles as Addiction

Question: I've heard our attachment to an Enneagram style described as "addiction." In what sense is that true? 
The word attachment, I was intrigued to learn, comes from attache, a traditional French word meaning "nailed to." 

According to Gerald May in Addiction and Grace, attachment nails our will and desire in addiction -- a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation. Such addictions include "work, performance, responsibility, intimacy, being liked, helping others, and an almost endless list of other behaviors." 

Doesn't that sound like Enneagram compulsions? ("I must have order/control, please everyone, be the star of the show, nurse my emotional upheavals, understand completely, submit to/rebel against authority, pursue life madly, tell others what to do, bliss out.")

Years ago, I came home from a writer's workshop quite disappointed. The instructors were great, I admitted to myself, I loved my roommate, the setting was breathtaking, but more than half the writers come year after year, and they've formed cliques that don't include me. My reaction was to keep myself separate. I did not try to connect with people in those groups and spent most of my time with my roommate or alone, deciding I wouldn't return to this splendid workshop the following year because I didn't feel sufficiently welcome.

Shortly after my return, I met with a style Nine client who said, "I realized I've been separating myself from people who could help me. I've said to myself, I don't fit in. The mirror of his self-awareness shone my reflection back to me. I'd blamed others at the writer's workshop for my story that I'm invisible, for my own decision to hold myself apart. We all reinforce our stories this way. Then we can say, "See? I told you [insert your story here]!" 

More than a year prior to that I'd coached this client and his team, but efforts to reschedule over a period of months never led to a committed date. When we did connect, he admitted he'd separated himself from me, thinking, Maybe she doesn't care about me. When I asked what would have let him know I cared, he said, "If you'd sent an email saying you hadn't heard from me and hoped I was doing well." 

What had I been doing instead? Carrying out a parallel attachment, thinking Maybe he hasn't committed to a date because he didn't like my work with his team.

Each of us could have made contact (and faced potential conflict) instead of keeping ourselves separate. Just as I could have reached out to some writers at the workshop who already knew each other. But my client and I were both nailed to a style Nine pattern, acting as if someone else was supposed to bring forth our creativity and they had dropped the ball. We both made sure our story was reinforced: "See, no one cares what I have to say!"  

Style Nines don't own this generic pattern, by the way. All Enneagram styles, when acting habitually, are reinforcing an old, old story that sustains their compulsive patterns. 

I've often coached style Nines to see potential conflict as a way to draw closer to someone. When my client and I took the risk of telling the truth, we opened our hearts and truly engaged with each other. I felt full of love. He told me later, his wife was so caught up in his emotions that she wept when he described our renewed connection. 

Which brings me to the grace part of Addiction and Grace. Gerald May defined grace as a dynamic outpouring "that flows into and through creation in an endless self-offering of healing, love, illumination, and reconciliation." We can't force those moments of blissful awareness and unity, can't control grace, but "we can seek it and try to be open to it." 

A friend tells me the Siddha Yoga path is sometimes depicted as a bird whose wings are self-effort and grace. Through our own steady effort, through our intention to seek the truth, we can help ourselves stay open to grace.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Consensus-Builder

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style Nine?
I once read an article quoting the Dalai Lama as saying he had work-out equipment in his office, then adding with a laugh, "But I don't like to sweat." This is a perfect metaphor for style Nines and characteristic of Dale Rogers, who said she forced herself to work out to keep her weight under control, but took pride in completing her routine "without breaking into a sweat."

She often went to the company gym at lunch with her colleague, Al, who took equal pride in "sweating like a horse" and jokingly described Dale as "a wimp." More seriously, he continued: "She always seems up to date with what's going on in our company, and could probably sit in the Vice President's chair, but she needs to show more visible leadership. 'Passion' is not a word you'd associate with Dale. She's conservative, doesn't inspire excitement, and sometimes people need to know you can't be pushed around."

Comments from other colleagues: "Dale's much better informed about the new technology than anyone else in headquarters, and she's really good at getting people together for input. She works by consensus, and I've seen her handle some tough personnel situations very well. But I'm not sure she'd be decisive enough in her boss's job." "I often wonder why Dale doesn't take a stronger position. She's a nice person, maybe a little too nice. I've seen her say her piece if she feels strongly, but she needs a better ability to sell herself and to fight for what the department needs."

"She's easy to be around and wears well over time," said Dale's boss, "but she has a kind of 'vanilla' quality."

A laissez-faire manager, Dale had hired people over the years who were competent and worked without much direction. She was kind and considerate, genuinely concerned with the common good. But she'd risen in the organization as it grew in its industry, and was now in a position where more personal decisiveness was required, particularly if she was to be considered as a back-up to the Vice President.

Her vanilla quality was hard for others to articulate. "She's a great manager and competent executive, but -- I don't know how to describe it -- she's not feisty enough."

In her self-assessment Dale described her childhood: "I was praised for being well-behaved, so there was no need for a whole lot of rules. My parents left me pretty much to my own devices. They never came to school events. As a teenager I took up golf so I could play with my father, but he was so engrossed in his own game he never noticed how I was playing." When asked how she felt about that lack of attention as a child, she pondered a moment, then answered, "I just realized that's how things were and figured there was no use getting upset about it."