Thursday, January 31, 2019

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Back Into My Trance!

Psychologists have found strong evidence for the impact of our beliefs and expectations on outcomes, particularly when we are convinced that our predictions will manifest, and even when we don't necessarily consciously know that we hold the expectation. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Psychology: 10 Examples and Definition, emphasis added)
One of my Enneagram style Nine clients wrote to me, "Hi Coach, I don't understand today's 9" (from the Enneagram Institute's Type Nine EnneaThought for January 30th):
"Remember that Nines make a fundamental mistake in believing that to stay connected to others they must not be connected to themselves. Watch for this tendency in yourself today. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 327)."
As I wrote to my client, entranced Nines only feel safe when following someone else's agenda because of the belief, "If I speak up, especially if I disagree, I'll cause conflict and lose that connection." In staying silent, they deny connecting to what they want -- and the constant reinforcement of this belief makes it difficult to even know what they want.

This belief doesn't have to be conscious. The entrancement of Enneagram patterns runs deep, and even when it's your goal to stay present and interrupt old patterns, a saboteur from the unconscious can play the old game right under your nose.

For example, a developing style Nine who has to overcome some inertia to speak up (perhaps having experienced "Nobody hears me!"), may be more blunt than necessary or blurt out in a way that seems offensive to the other person, causing problems in the relationship.

In the first chapter of Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram, Clarence Thomson and I describe the self-fulfilling nature of Enneagram style One's belief in the necessity of striving for perfection:
A flow of energy necessarily follows our narrow focus of attention. This energy supports a particular trance in a self-fulfilling way. Enneagram Ones, for example, will habitually look for something wrong, then receive satisfaction from making a correction. This reinforces their worldview that they must strive for perfection.
The self-fulfilling nature of our Enneagram patterns isn't unique to style Nine or One, of course. We all create occasions that allow us to say to ourselves at some level, "See, I knew it wasn't safe to do that... back into my trance!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

No Escape

Question: How do I determine my level in Riso & Hudson's Levels of Development? Is there a test for this? (Posted in a Facebook Enneagram group.)
I've thought about this anonymous person for weeks. (Perhaps a young adult, someone new to self-awareness practice, who doesn't see the heavy weight of ego dragging the desire to judge and label and fix, the assumption that we can force our development once we know exactly how we show up in the world?)

But upon further reflection I remembered when I was first introduced to The Levels of Development, well into mid-life, and my "fix-it" plan as a coach, a chart of how to move upward through the levels. It's taken me thirty years and engaging with many, many clients to see how my desire to "plan" movement upward was being dragged by my own ego.

Call our personalities patterns, fixations, strategies, beliefs, or addictions, any effort to "improve" or "fix" ourselves only brings more of the same, because ego lurks behind our efforts to be "better." Instead, we only need to be curious, to clearly see what shows up without labeling it, and -- each time -- we are a little bit more free.*

Each time, we can be with it and we can mess with it a bit. This week, for example, I'm observing how my current illness is symbolic grief for many losses over the past year and a half. I feel a little nauseated and I think of escapes -- "I'll go for ice cream, then I'll feel better." "I'll have a martini, then I'll feel better." I stay with the noticing, I don't go for ice cream, I don't pour a martini, and up come deep, racking sobs, my sinuses previously clogged up with a "virus" now loose with tears as I feel the grief.

We could analyze the above in terms of my style Nine patterns, my tendency to experience emotional blows physically and suppress my own needs/ emotions, my "poker face," my "narcotization." We could applaud Mary: "Wow, great that you let yourself cry."

But no. That's not what happened. I'm not a method actor, I can't make myself cry.  I simply noticed my desire to escape the physical pain and nausea and stayed with it, not escaping. The tears arose because for that moment I was free of the patterned behavior. Will I never again "narcotize" my emotions? Of course I will. And I will, again and again, be curious, stay present or notice when I haven't been present, and also be aware of freedom from trying to escape. There is no escape.

Instead of my long and ego-based quest for ways to change ourselves for the better, now I simply suggest this: read any page of any book by Pema Chodron. In the past, when stuck, I've especially benefited from When Things Fall Apart and (a decade later) The Places That Scare You. This week I'm re-reading Comfortable with Uncertainty
The central question... not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort... When the flag goes up, we can stay with our painful emotion instead of spinning out... gently catching ourselves.... we often think that somehow we're going to improve, which is a subtle aggression against who we really are... the ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest... the point is not to try to get rid of thoughts, but rather to see their true nature...

...this moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted, and shaky -- that's called liberation... We become familiar with the strategies and beliefs we use to fortify our cocoon [and] they begin to wear themselves out. Wearing out is not exactly the same as going away. Instead a wider, more generous, more enlightened perspective arises... Curiosity encourages cheering up. So does simply remembering to do something different... Anything out of the ordinary will help... you can sing in the shower, you can go jogging -- anything that's against your usual pattern.
* Note, from The Enneagram Institute: "... the movement toward health, up the Levels, is simultaneous with being more present and awake in our minds, hearts, and bodies. As we become more present, we become less fixated...."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Gift of Fear

Question: Are Sixes more fearful than other Enneagram styles in the face of real danger?
It's true that people with Enneagram style Six can be too focused on potential risks, but when they develop the courage to trust themselves, their sharply-focused antennae are equally attuned to potential opportunities. They're both appropriately cautious and highly intuitive.

While I won't presume Gavin de Becker's Enneagram style, his brilliant book, The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence, could be a manual for healthy Sixes, as well as for the rest of us.

After a childhood where his ability to sniff out the moods of his suicidal mother and her several physically abusive husbands quite literally meant survival, de Becker parlayed his hypervigilance into a world-renowned business -- serving victims of domestic abuse and stalking, evaluating threats to political and media figures, working with the CIA and others to prevent and manage violence:
"When the U.S. attorney general and the director of the FBI gave me an award for designing MOSAIC(TM), the assessment system now used for screening threats to justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, I am certain neither realized it was actually invented by a ten-year-old boy, but it was. The way I broke down the individual elements of violence as a child became the way the most sophisticated artificial intuition systems predict violence today. My ghosts had become my teachers.

"I have gotten great benefits from taking the voice of skepticism that I used to apply to my intuition and applying it instead to the dreaded outcomes I imagined were coming. Worry will almost always buckle under a vigorous interrogation.

"If you bring yourself to apply your imagination to finding the possible favorable outcomes of undesired developments, even if only as an exercise, you'll see that it fosters creativity. Worry is a choice, and the creative genius we apply to it can be used differently, also by choice."
Recently, a client and I explored her anxieties about a potential family member's unusually close attention to her two young children, playing with them and their toys for longer periods of time than most adults would enjoy.

Her worrying was triggered by having been sexually abused by a family member as a child. She wondered, though, if her worries were unfounded. A wrong guess could unnecessarily destroy a cherished family connection.

To help her assess this person without making unwarranted assumptions, we reviewed de Becker's summary of a potential abuser/violent person's typical escalating behaviors. This helped calm the spinning of her mind by focusing on a few observations about language and behavior:
  1. Forced Teaming ("we" language with you or the children).
  2. Charm and niceness that may be even slightly excessive given the situation.
  3. Too many details when responding to a question or setting the stage (it's characteristic of lying to say more than you would if telling the truth).
  4. Typecasting such as "You probably don't trust anyone else with your child" (which tends to engage a "No, I'm not like that" response).
  5. Loan sharking -- doing you or a child a favor (then you "owe" him something).
  6. Unsolicited promise such as "Don't worry, Mommy, we'll just go for an ice cream cone and be right back."
  7. Discounting a clear "No" from you or your child.
To increase the objectivity of her observations and bring more logic to her emotional whiplash, she also took a look at de Becker's elements of accurate predictions as they relate to her situation. The first two (different order than presented in the book) spoke to her confusion about trusting her intuition that something was "off" in this man's behavior:
  1. Investment:  With your strong investment to know if there's danger, your fear/anxiety will color whatever you pick up unless you have objective and reliable data.
  2. Experience:  On the plus side, your own experience with abuse can help your intuition pick up signs that might not be obvious to others. 
  3. KnowledgeWhat do you know about him, his background, his relationships with others, especially children?
  4. Vantage:  Are you in close enough proximity to see his behavior with children in general, not just yours? Can you get accurate information from others who might observe him in other situations, with or without children?
  5. Context:  How does the way he acts in other situations compare to his behavior with children; what exactly is different?
  6. Comparable Outcomes:  Is there anyone else who behaves in a comparable way with the children? In what context? How is he different?"
  7. Measurable Outcomes:  For example, how long does he play with the children? Does the length of time change? How many times has he repeated certain phrases with them or you about them?
  8. Replicability:  Can you observe the same or similar behavior with other children? Is his behavior the same repeatedly with your children? Does he behave in similar ways in other contexts?
  9. Imminence:  Do you see any signs of imminent danger?
From Chapter 15 "The Gift of Fear"(pg. 303):
"The relationship between real fear and worry is analogous to the relationship between pain and suffering. Pain and fear are necessary and valuable components of life. Suffering and worry are destructive and unnecessary components of life... there are three goals to strive for. They aren't easy to reach, but it's worth trying:
  1. When you feel fear, listen.
  2. When you don't feel fear, don't manufacture it.
  3. If you find yourself creating worry, explore and discover why."

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Enneagram Four: Marrying Shame

The personality we most often associate with drama, Enneagram style Four, lends itself beautifully to creative writing, and we learn about depth of character from good writing.

Though the label "Individualist" is sometimes used, this character type is also referred to as "Tragic Romantic" or some combination of terms that convey longing, moodiness, discontent, anguish, and/or artistic temperament. Their highest development need is authenticity, a spaciousness of heart where emotions are felt as a natural truth, without rejecting or drowning in them.

Passionate creativity, emotional depth, and profound desire for authenticity can be gifts. Focusing attention too narrowly on these qualities, however, can also create the fear of being ordinary. Because the mundane is anathema to them, people (and characters) with this personality style habitually seek new ways to perceive the world. Paradoxically, seeing the everyday world as banal means always feeling like an outsider, so there's constant tension between wanting to belong and wanting to be different, between feeling special or feeling flawed.

For example, as a young art student, photographer Diane Arbus would look at a model and draw what none of the other students saw. She later said, "I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them." Though famous for her photos of marginal people (transvestites, nudists, circus performers -- anyone whose normality seemed surreal), she thought anything she did easily could not be good. "I didn't want to be told I was terrific. I had the sense that if I was so terrific at it, it wasn't worth doing."

Arthur Lubow, in his 2016 biography Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, describes an affinity for symbols that's characteristic of the individualist: "She was drawn to the things that would be true in any time and place, the customs and rituals that notwithstanding their individuality, were emblematic, oneiric."

Note Lubow's description of an honors humanities seminar paper Arbus wrote during her senior year:
"She reconfigured the assigned reading into patterns as personal as the whorls of her thumbprints. Through her eyes the Western classics were transformed into personal meditations -- on the differences between men and women, the ways in which people succumb to their fates, and the allure of death to those who are unable to inhabit their lives. The light she cast on these works of literature was idiosyncratic, but more than just reflection of her own complex personality, it was, like a flare in a dim room, eccentrically and unevenly illuminating" (p. 24).
Arbus committed suicide in 1971, when she was only 48 years old. Though somewhat a surprise and certainly a shock to those who cared for her, she had suffered depressive periods throughout her life, this anguish due in part to self-doubt. During a relatively happy year in Europe with her husband Allan Arbus, for example, "she had been felled by recurring spells of despair, of feeling 'gloomy and haunted with guilty echoes of what I should be doing and why I am not.'"

Biographies, memoirs, and other forms of creative nonfiction are more engaging to read when self-descriptions, others' observations, characteristic dialogue, and internal thoughts expand our understanding of the subject's personality. The same is perhaps even more true when writing fiction, because writers want readers to connect in some way with the characters in the story.

Certainly that's true of Sarah Woodruff in John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman. A psychological study as much as a romance, this novel highlights Sarah's individualist character, her basic isolation and belief in herself as someone who can't be defined by conventional roles. Fowles creates an unforgettable image of Sarah, dressed all in black, standing on the edge of a cliff:
"We knew she was alive a fortnight after this incident, and therefore she did not jump. Nor were hers the sobbing, hysterical sort of tears that presage violent action; but those produced by a profound conditional, rather than emotional, misery -- slow-welling, unstoppable, creeping like blood through a bandage" (page 103).
Charles Smithson's initial impression of Sarah further paints her isolation and mournfulness:
"Standing at the center of the road, Charles watched her black back recede. All he was left with was the after-image of those eyes -- they were abnormally large, as if able to see more and suffer more. And their directness of look -- he did not know it, but it was the tract-delivery look he had received -- contained a most peculiar element of rebuffal. Do not come near me, they said. Noli me tangere" (page 96).
Sarah's own thoughts show her struggle between feeling special and feeling flawed:
"I did it so that I should never be the same again. I did it so that people should point at me, should say, there walks the French Lieutenant's Whore -- oh yes, let the word be said. So that they should know I have suffered, and suffer, as others suffer in every town and village in this land. I could not marry that man. So I married shame... I knew no other way to break out of what I was... What has kept me alive is my shame, my knowing that I am truly not like other women... sometimes I almost pity them. I think I have a freedom they cannot understand" (page 185).
Neither Arthur Lubow nor John Fowles is likely to have knowingly used the Enneagram to inform their work. But its application is popular among filmmakers, playwrights, novelists, and memoirists because the nine personality descriptions capture in depth what the best writers depict through their own genius for understanding what makes people tick.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

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. Note that the Talk Style of style 7 is incorrectly listed as "temperance," which is their development path. Their talk style is "Enthusiasm" or "Talking in Pictures" (future oriented). (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. See also this Forbes article about Olesek's work.

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."