Friday, August 22, 2008

Enneagram Personality Types of the Candidates

We Enneagram enthusiasts cannot resist the temptation to type public figures. And while we know that we are really only guessing at type by observing external cues rather than apprehending the inner terrain that the Enneagram truly describes, we can’t seem to help ourselves. That’s okay, just as long as we don’t take ourselves to seriously. I like Tom Condon’s take on typing when you don’t know the person: he seems Oneish or Niney, rather than claiming he knows definitively a public person’s Enneagram type.

With that disclaimer, let’s take a look at the way the current presidential political candidates present themselves.

Eight years ago, John McCain exemplified type Eight. He was the maverick with a temper known for his Straight Talk. Watching him during a debate with George Bush was like watching a cat toy with a mouse. He provoked counterphobic Six Bush until W. finally lashed back at him. McCain smiled at him and said something akin to “Very good, George.” Eights want to know where you stand and respect having their considerable energy met.

But today, we see a very different John McCain. He stammers out answers to questions or defers to his staff. What’s happening here? Has the Straight Talk Express derailed? Is he really too old to be President? Has he slowed mentally?

I don’t know the answers to any of the questions, but the Enneagram and its movement might shed a little light on this seeming sea change. Remember that Eightishness did not prevail in the election of 2000 - George Bush won the nomination. It’s enough to shake the confidence of any candidate, even an Eight.

Watching John McCain in 2008, I don’t necessarily perceive a man whose “lost it” but rather an Eight in the stress point of Five. His hesitancy to answer questions with the bluntness of the past and his constant replies that he “needs to check on that” are Fiveish. Fives don’t shoot from the hip too often, but most often will want more information before they commit themselves to a definitive statement or course of action. Right now, McCain looks tentative in comparison to the McCain of old.

Barack Obama is the great orator; the man with the gift of language and inspiration. His social Threeishness has people comparing him with another great Three candidate of the past: John F. Kennedy. Obama, if indeed he is a Three, is solidly on point. He’s charming and captivating with a positive message - hope. (A higher virtue for Three interestingly enough.)

There are hints of his heart or security point of Six in his desire for social justice, equality in health care access, and other issues he places priority on, but it may also be a Three take on public service. What we have not seen publicly thus far is a move to the Stress Point of Nine. But then he’s been either tied or leading in the polls thus far - what happens if that changes remains to be seen.

Of course, the potential downside of Three is a tendency to be more performance and image than substance and there are certainly those who question whether Obama has real plans or the experience to govern. In other words, is there substance as well as show?

Regardless of your political leanings or persuasion, it is interesting to apply the Enneagram map to what we see in our candidates. Would that they all were conversant with the Enneagram and their own types, how better might they serve? If a candidate knew his or her Enneagram style and understood the gifts and pitfalls of type, stress and security points, how might each be able to predict and handle themselves in difficult situations?

Those of us who use the Enneagram in our own daily lives can attest to the power of stepping back from our default mode, making sure we are running the personality and not the converse. It’s important to know your strengths, but maybe even more important to know what trips you up so you aren’t caught by surprise or entrenched in a habitual worldview when the situation calls for a different way of perceiving and acting. As Dirty Harry quipped, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Only then can we rise above them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Traveling To Other Cultures - Enneagram Style

Meeting another who inhabits an Enneagram type different from our own is indeed like traveling to another land or culture. Here are a few more hints to aid us in understanding and honoring one another.

Travelers Hint # 2: When in Rome, Do As the Romans Do

Honor the culture that you are visiting. Learn enough of the customs, language, and energetics of emotional intelligence for the land that you are visiting. This is easier than we initially think. Remember that we all had the potential of all nine types in us at the beginning, so shifting our worldview takes paying attention and being fully present. At some level, it is not a completely unknown territory. We can learn by immersing ourselves in another culture, another worldview. We will only be richer for it. Here’s an example:

My friend Bronwyn Cooke was on assignment for National Geographic photographing a group of women who live high in the Himalayan peaks in Hunza, Pakistan. Bronwyn spoke not a word of their language, nor did these women speak any English. Very little information was available about their culture, customs, etc. (That’s why the Geographic sent Bronwyn there.) Bronwyn wondered anxiously how she would communicate, much less take any photographs. Then she “forgot” what she knew and responded in the moment. She saw a woman come out of a hut, pour water into a bowl and begin to wash carefully. Bronwyn went over to the woman and gazed at her when the woman locked eyes with her and smiled. Quite naturally, Bronwyn simply began to bathe with her. They smiled and shared a common experience. When Bronwyn finally raised her camera as the woman was braiding her hair, she smiled her consent to the photographs. Through openness and a willingness to explore, following the lead of the cultural expert, Bronwyn had no trouble communicating and building a relationship.

Meeting someone where s/he lives involves letting go momentarily of what we “know” and exploring the world s/he inhabits. We can immerse ourselves in the culture of another by entering their worldview and experiencing it from within.

Travelers Hint # 3: Leave Your Own Country Behind

Travel lightly. Your own baggage will only cloud things, so leave as much of it behind as you can. If you do take your own history and worldview into a communication of cultures, do so from a learning perspective, as an invitation to open inquiry. “I see it like ... How is this for you?” “Is this a Three thing?” “A Nine thing?” “It looks like x is happening, is that true?” “What is your experience of this?” We can communicate even in another culture that we are very unfamiliar with by openness and presence, and leaving behind for a moment our Enneagram “country” or culture.
Cultural misunderstandings can occur from seemingly small gestures or communications, such as pointing your toes at a Thai person. It’s no different when different Enneagram cultures meet in relationship. Nowhere is this more important than in intimate relationship. It often seems that the little things are what may make or break a relationship. Misunderstanding can result from tiny details of everyday life, if we only view reality from our own perspective and miss the view from our intimate’s perspective. Scores of little misunderstandings result in cultural conflict and standoffs. We often act like the stereotypical “ugly American” visiting another culture, believing that repeating our viewpoint or speaking our language more loudly will make us understood. These little misunderstandings can expand into major difficulties in relationship. Our best bet is to drop our automatic reference point and open to that of our intimate’s. We can enlist our partner’s help in learning and seeing reality from their view, and a mutual expansion of “reality” can result. Let me illustrate with two “little things” from my relationship.

I am a Seven and my husband is an Three. It is important to him to present the right image, especially in his work, speaking to corporations. Often he will come to me bearing three wonderful ties, all of which match his current outfit. “Which one should I wear?” From my own viewpoint of Seven, they all look good, so it doesn’t matter. Yet, if I were to answer from this, it would completely dishonor his viewpoint. I try to see for a moment from the Three perspective - and tie selection seems critically important from that viewpoint.
He is having an image crisis, this tie selection is a survival issue. In order to truly honor him, I must realize this, take a deep breath, and really turn my complete attention to choosing one. And surprisingly, I find that it takes no more time to honor his viewpoint than to substantiate mine. (Notice that I turned my attention to choosing the tie - we are back to noticing and directing attention as we did in our self-development work.)

I on the other hand, am driven by fear. (Remember Sevens are the fear type who “forgot” they were afraid.) We were driving in a torrential downpour one late Florida night. My goal-directed spouse was passing all the obstacles on the highway, determined to reach our airport destination. The other cars were simply in the way. I succumbed to fear, seeing crumpled steel and our broken bodies in my imagination. Finally I could stand it no longer. “Could you slow down a little?” I asked shakily. Dewitt looked over at me and in a rapid shift of perspectives declared, “Oh my god, you’re scared, aren’t you?” I nodded as he took his foot off the gas and coasted in behind a truck in the slow lane. “It would never occur to me to be scared, I feel in complete control of the situation. Still it is never my intention to frighten you. I simply don’t operate from fear. I only want to get there. But hey, we aren’t really late, and it doesn’t matter that much to me.” Before knowing the Enneagram and the difference in our “cultures”, Dewitt felt that he might have just said “Oh that’s stupid. There’s nothing to be afraid of, I’m in complete control. Don’t worry.” and just kept passing the obstacles. It would have been the perfect set-up for a major blow-up - all from a tiny misunderstanding of worldviews.

Stay tuned for more traveler’s hints in the next blog entry.
(Material partially adapted from "The Everyday Enneagram" by Lynette Sheppard.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Viva la Difference - An Enneagram Guidebook

I just returned from a working vacation in France. As always, when I travel to an unfamiliar land, I tried to learn as much as I could to honor the culture I was visiting. That wasn’t too difficult in the case of France, since I am an avid Francophile. It’s a little harder when I travel to a place that I have little in common with or know little about.

Relating to another personality type is much like visiting another culture or country. The Points on the Enneagram are like Nine different countries, each with its own worldview, values, and belief systems. In order to communicate with or visit one of these “countries,” we need to learn a little about the language, customs, and cosmology. We must discover and enter the prevailing culture of each type. Only then can we begin to honor one another’s unique differences and celebrate our human diversity.

Suppose you are to visit Thailand. You’ve never been there and you’d like to experience the culture. You begin by obtaining and studying a detailed map: a guidebook. You learn a little about the geography and beauty of the land. You might learn a little of the language and some of the customs and taboos. You discover that you must never point your foot at a Thai person, or touch them on the head, as these gestures are considered rude and insulting in the extreme. As a visitor to the culture, you want to be sure to honor the Thai people.

Yet even if you were to read every Thailand guidebook in existence, you would still know only a very little bit about any individual Thai person. The rest of your experience of this unfamiliar culture would best be served by attentive exploration with an open heart and mind.

If we approach our interactions with others as a journey to a new culture, with much to offer and teach us, we truly find a path with heart. The Enneagram map acts as a travel guide to assist us in our exploration.

Let us start our guidebook with some generic “Travelers Hints” to prepare our minds and hearts for open exploration. These hints may help us to leave behind the cultural bias of our own Enneagram type long enough to truly appreciate another worldview. We’ve learned through work in self-development with the Inner Observer how to recognize and stand back from our automatic mode. This creates an “open space” in our internal landscape where learning and appreciating another culture can take place. Our first step is to let go of what we know.

“Travelers Hint # 1: There is no such thing as “Objective Reality”

Each of us is so used to living in our own culture, our own personality that we have come to believe this is reality. All nine worldviews are equally entrenched in believing they know the truth of objective reality. A Six “knows” that the world is an inherently dangerous place, and that vigilance and plans are your best chance of attaining security. A Nine “knows” that good things come to those who wait; most things work out for the best anyway, so why worry and rush around when it feels so much better to be peaceful. An Eight “knows” that only the strong survive in this jungle we call life and that the truth will out in a good fight. A Four “knows” that authenticity is only to be found in deep feeling and intense emotional connection. Reality is colored and created by our perceptual bias. In fact, we actually sort information to support our worldview, ignoring or filtering out contradictory evidence.

When solidly fixed in our own Enneagram point of view it can be difficult to remember that a person inhabiting another type has a separate but equal “objective reality.” For this reason, it is important that we continue to step back from our default mode, and question our own perspective. We attribute feelings and thoughts to our others based on the cues we observe from them. Yet these cues are nearly always filtered through our habitual personality or worldview. As we endeavor to communicate with and honor others, we can enlist their aid in corroborating or correcting the assumptions of our worldview. We can notice how often we are off the mark, and begin a process of inquiry to learn another’s “objective reality.” More Traveler’s Hints will be offered in the next blog entry. (material partially adapted from “The Everyday Enneagram” by Lynette Sheppard.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Enneagram: A Dynamic Way to Cope With Stress

It is my intention to post blog entries every week to week and a half, but I’m definitely behind the curve this time. There’s a good reason for this, however. Stress. And refusing to give into the automatic habit that is the default of moving to my stress point.

Every six months or so, my husband and I pull up stakes and move. Now all of us know that moving is a stressful business. Of course, we two are moving from home to home so it isn’t quite the magnitude of moving all your worldly possessions to a new locale. Still, we are moving two businesses and all our personal electronic crap not duplicated in both homes. In addition, we are closing up the home we are leaving, arranging care for cars, gardens, appliances, and physical plant. No matter how organized and prepared we are to relocate, we still find it stressful.

The Enneagram can be inordinately helpful under conditions of stress. How? Understanding movement on the Enneagram diagram, we can predict how we will act, perceive, and feel differently when we are overwhelmed.

The Enneagram map is a dynamic one and describes not only our basic personality, but how we seem to change under conditions of stress or conditions of security and ease. We actually seem to “move” on the Enneagram diagram and take on aspects of another point or type. (See photo - the arrows are in the direction of stress.)

Our initial reaction to stressors is to exaggerate our normal behavior. We become almost archetypally our points. Our usual way of perceiving and being has helped us cope in the past, and we call on our default mode to help us deal with the stress. If our default mode is unsuccessful in alleviating the stress, we then “move” on the Enneagram diagram to access the energies and traits of another point. While we do not become this point or truly change our internal worldview, we can look and feel like our “stress point.”

For example, my usual Optimist Seven worldview undergoes a profound change to a more Oneish paradigm when I am stressed. Like a real One, I can fall prey to overdoing and resentment, to black-and-white thinking, and to judging myself as well as others.

Luckily, I know the Enneagram (and I have the benefit of experiencing all those times past when I exhibited the less desirable characteristics of the One point.) I can observe my feelings and behavior and CHOOSE the best attributes or “high side” of One.

The high side of the Perfectionist type helps me plan, organize, and complete my extensive to-do list with an eye to detail and precision. Knowing the “low side” of One includes overwork and an excess of feeling responsible to do everything with a concomitant blaming of those who aren’t doing as much, as well, I can interrupt this pattern before it has a chance to take hold.

When I find myself overdoing or feeling resentful, I stop and take a break. I breathe and slow down. I read or take a walk for 30-60 minutes and come back a new woman. I prioritize and let go of those things that can be put off without causing a shift in the Earth’s gravitational field or my sanity. Things like putting out another blog entry within my self-imposed time constraints. And if I’m really lucky, I’ll be relaxed enough to see that the moving preparation process is already perfect in its imperfection. What gets done is enough - and it will be GOOD enough. Just like me. Just like all of us.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sharing the Enneagram: Enthusiasm vs Evangelism

Many of us are so excited and enthused about the Enneagram when we first learn it that we can hardly wait to share it with family, friends, acquaintances, even random passersby. We just KNOW it will change everyone’s life for the better and contribute to personal self actualization and more harmonious relationships and become a stepping stone to world peace AND, AND, AND! And we are genuinely stunned when the recipients of our excitement are underwhelmed.

This lukewarm response may become downright antipathy if we should be so bold as to share our initial observations about another’s type with them. Yea, though we have been cautioned again and again that the inner landscape of someone’s type is just that: INNER; and we can’t type them from the outside, our enthusiasm has a tendency to get out of control. Small wonder that none of our intimates wants to hear the word Enneagram EVER AGAIN.

The Enneagram is a map of self-discovery. And okay, it is a map of other discovery too, inasmuch as we find there are eight perfectly clear worldviews in addition to our own. Learning the other Enneagram personality types helps us in our response and honoring of others. It also helps us not to take everything so very personally.

However, the self-discovery aspect of the Enneagram gets circumvented or worse, sabotaged, if we share too much too soon. Especially since we are just as likely to be wrong as right in determining someone else’s type. My teacher, Helen Palmer, was fond of saying that if she were to “guess” someone’s type, she’d be wrong at least 50% of the time. And Helen is a practicing intuitive !

I guarantee you that no one wants to be told they are a “One” or such a “Two”. Although you may be sharing what you’ve divined about them from the purest of motives, it FEELS demeaning and confining to be told by another who you are. I still meet people who tell me horror stories about those who bludgeoned them with their type, who NEVER want to hear the word Enneagram again.

Okay, great. How then DO we share the Enneagram? How do we communicate our enthusiasm without becoming the most annoying of evangelists? Well, I would have to say: gently. Let’s examine what we really do KNOW that we can share. We know our own type. We know how much the Enneagram has helped us. We know that left to their own devices, people prefer to discover their inner landscapes. We know that the Enneagram is compelling, rich, and life-changing.

With this in mind, we can share the Enneagram most productively. I tell my students and clients to give their friends and loved ones a book on the Enneagram suitable for beginners. When they give the book, they may say “This map taught me so much about myself. I’m a Type _______ on the Enneagram. This may help you in understanding me more and make it easier to deal with me.” Enough said.

Right after they read about you, they will be devouring the pages looking for their own type. Let them discover it and tell you who they are. (They may surprise you.) Regardless, this may be the beginning of an illuminating conversation about internal worldviews. Equally important, you will now share a common language in which to discuss feelings, thoughts, similarities and differences. And when their enthusiasm for the Enneagram threatens to accelerate into evangelism? Show them this kinder, gentler way to share our favorite personality map.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Enneagram Signposts - Avoid Your Personality Hazards Part II

In this latest blog entry, we continue our look at the personality hazard warnings: those signposts that signal the possibility that our personality vis a vis our Enneagram type is running us rather than the converse. The specific alerts for Types Five through Nine that herald the personality’s unconscious habit is in control follow.

Type Five - The Observer: Sign #1: Detach And Rest Stop, Exit Now

Detaching and dissociating from the circumstances around him or a feeling of wishing to withdraw is the main signpost to alert the Five that his personality is on autopilot. Self - talk may include asking yourself how much others are going to want from you or wondering how you can give them what they want so you can leave.

Sign #2: Holding Back Caves .5 Mile

Withholding information and hoarding knowledge serves as another alert for the Five that the habit is in control again. Minimizing her own needs can be another form of withholding and serves as a reminder to the Observer that the personality may be in the default mode again.

Type Six - The Loyal Skeptic: Sign #1: DANGER! Worst Case Overlook Dead Ahead

Whenever worst case scenario “movies” begin playing for the Six, it is a call to notice that the “doubting mind” may be in control once more. Self talk may include a series of “what if ___ happens” and “what will I do if ____ happens.” When the what ifs start spinning out, it is a sure sign that the habit is working to support the worldview.

Sign #2: Hypothetical Substation This Exit

When the Six notices everything is falling into place to substantiate a hypothesis, there’s a good chance that all evidence that would refute the hypothesis have been filtered from consciousness. Self talk may reinforce the hypothesis by claiming “I knew it all along. I knew this would happen.” This should alert you to proceed carefully - it’s a better than even chance that the personality is running its habitual gambit.
Type Seven - The Optimist: Sign #1: New Fun Adventures Ahead, Unlimited Exits

When the desire to experience something new, interesting, exciting comes out of nowhere for the Seven, it is a clear signal that the personality is on automatic. Anxiety or difficult emotions can trigger the “escape” into experience mode for Sevens Even an erudite escape into new knowledge is often the habit running the Optimist.

Sign #2: Reframe City Next 7 Exits

A tendency to miss the dark cloud for the focus on the silver lining signifies the Seven automatic mode of reframing. It’s almost alchemical - the Seven converts painful, difficult situations into occasions for celebration. Self talk often presents as “I know ___ happened, but what was good about it was...” Loss is often converted to a new opportunity or challenge with no down time for grieving. This giddy positivism is a sure sign that the personality is running the show.

Type Eight - The Boss: Sign #1: Power Void Next 8 Miles, Shift Into Control

A sensing and compulsion to step into “power voids” where no one is taking control or making decisions (or even taking up energetic space) are hallmarks of the Eight personality on autopilot. Self talk may include “someone’s got to do it or nothing will ever get done.” “I don’t want to be in control necessarily, but I don’t want to be controlled.”

Sign #2: Boredom Gulch and Excess Alley

The rising of feelings of vulnerability can set off Eight’s habitual mode faster than anything else. These feelings are translated as boredom by the Boss and the classic antidote preferred is excess, whether it be in work, food, drink, partying, exercise, etc. The Eight feels vital and invulnerable engaging his large energy so strongly. It’s a sure bet that when excess is involved, the personality is really in control.

Type Nine - The Mediator: Sign #1: Do It Later Detour, Stop Here

Procrastination is the default mode for the Nine. Difficulty with prioritizing often has the Nine putting off important tasks and issues in favor of non-essential substitutes. Self talk often includes “Oh I’ve got plenty of time, no problem.” “ Another frequent internal phrase that pops up throughout the day is “I’ll do that later.” The Nine inevitably ends up feeling behind or pushed. These phrases should sound an alarm for Nines that the personality is pushing them, where they may not wish to go.

Sign #2: Entering “Whatever” Wilderness Area Merge, Right?

It doesn’t matter,” is also common self talk for a self-forgetter. “Whatever” is an easy way for Nines to get along with others, go with the flow, and allow the personality in its default mode to avoid the Mediator’s true desires, preferences and priorities.

The Signs
Though somewhat tongue-in-cheek, these signposts are critical internal alerts for us to break the stranglehold of personality. This is not about personality suppression, what my friend C. used to call “being a Not Four” (or Five or One etc.). This is about conscious awareness and choice. There will be times that indeed the options and gifts that are inherent in our Enneagram types are perfect for the situation in which we find ourselves. These signposts are merely meant to help us awaken, to choose when to flow with our natural bent and when to deviate to a new direction. They are meant to keep us from exiting or drifting mindlessly in habitual ways that keep us from getting where we truly want to go.

(Material adapted from "The Everyday Enneagram" by Lynette Sheppard)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Enneagram Signposts - Avoid Your Personality Hazards

As we travel the journey of self discovery, using our Enneagram map we find different obstacles for each of the nine types. How do we know when our personality is running us? If we are on autopilot, how do we make sure we notice it? A signpost would be helpful, sort of an alert on the map of potential obstacles ahead, a call to slow down so we can choose a response. These signposts are different for each of the types. They show up on our personal journey as a thought or a feeling or a sense inside us. They are like a form of inner self-talk. The signposts serve as alerts for each of the types that our personality in its default or automatic mode. As we learn the alerts most commonly associated to our Enneagram type, we can ask ourselves the following questions. As I notice these signposts along my personal journey, can I slow down and check the map? Can I then make the choice to continue along the same path consciously or perhaps choose another more suitable roadway - a detour around the automatic habit?

Type One - The Perfectionist: Sign #1: Caution, Resentment Ditch Ahead

An alert that the personality is in automatic mode occurs when the One finds himself feeling resentful or doing a slow burn. Key internal dialogue might include critical thoughts of others: that no one else is pulling their weight; no one else can do it as well as I, if I don’t do it it won’t get done, etc. Self talk may also revolve around the inner critic run amok. Notice if you are continually comparing yourself with others - they are doing it better/worse than you.

Sign #2: Completely Wrong Way

While it is natural for the One to “sort” the environment by noticing what is wrong, there is a tendency to see a relationship, project, house etc. as all wrong if a small part of it is flawed. The One may want to scrap the whole project or relationship and begin again, rather than salvaging what is still “right”. This philosophy of “throwing out the baby with the bath water” is a sure sign that the habitual mode of the personality is running things.

Type Two - The Giver: Sign #1 Lack Of Appreciation Hazard

“No one appreciates me.” “I just give and give, and for what?” Feeling unappreciated for all you’ve given or done is the main signpost for the Two. When it seems that you are continually giving, but no gratitude is shown or no one is giving anything in return, then you know that the default mode is running.

Sign #2 Adaptation Junction Coming Up

When you find that you are interested in a subject, hobby, music that you’ve never been interested in before, because someone you want to know better likes it, it is time to question whether you really want to pursue it. The Two wonders “Who should I be to guarantee your approval?” If you change your spots to match what you think another wants from you, you can be sure the habit is in full swing. Be wary if self-talk revolves around this person “bringing out another side” of you.

Type Three - The Performer: Sign #1 Spin Doctor Next Exit, Basic and Emergency Image Control

When you find yourself wondering “How can I put the spin on this to make me/project/team look good?” you know that the automatic mode is running. Looking outward for how others are perceiving you and how to turn your endeavor into a success pulls you away from asking yourself important questions: “Do I even want to do this project, be on this team, etc.”

Sign #2 Slow Role Play Ground Ahead

A tendency to “allow” others to think that you have accomplished more than you have is a warning sign for Threes. When you find yourself adapting to your surroundings in order to appear successful to others or feel that you are “playing a role” signals that self-deceit is operating to convince you that you are your role or your image.

Type Four - The Romantic: Sign #1 Important Part Of Life Missing Here and Now

The feeling that something is missing from life is a signpost for the Four. Finding yourself focusing on the ONE person, detail, thing that would make this moment perfect is a clue that the personality is indeed operating in its automatic mode. It is possible to miss what is happening here and now when you are longing for what is missing.

Sign #2 Unique Viewpoint Next Left

Another sign that the personality is operating in its habitual way is when the Four finds herself feeling different than others or feeling misunderstood. The focus on being unique and “apart from” results from the Romantic’s worldview and is a portent that the habit is in control.

A Call To Inaction
All of these signposts are a call to inaction, to stop and get your bearings, to stop driving on autopilot and assess the next direction. We slow down and look within. Where am I? Where is my attention? Is this my automatic mode running me? What is the appropriate course? This is more difficult than it appears, because the habit of the personality is very strong. It had to be to ensure our survival and functioning in the world. We sure don’t want to lose it or its gifts. We just don’t want it to be the only game in town, robbing us of conscious, informed choice.
Perhaps there is a way to elicit the help of our personality in breaking its stranglehold on our emotions, thoughts, sensations, and perceptions. What if we were to engage the habitual mode of our Enneagram type to break the automatic pattern that runs us? Each of the nine types has a unique way to trick our personality into helping us become more conscious of the default mode and our ability to choose our path. We’ll explore the signposts for types 5 through 9 next blog entry. (Adapted from “The Everyday Enneagram” by Lynette Sheppard.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Typing Our Pets

A mildly embarrassing little secret of the Enneagram enthusiasts I know is that we type our pets. Or more accurately, our pets display for us their Enneagram style.

“Oh come on,” you chide. “That’s taking anthropomorphism too far. Animals don’t have Enneagram types.” Certainly, we pet typers have tried to tell ourselves the same thing time and again. But that doesn’t change the fact that animals have distinct personalities that seem to mimic the nine Enneagram worldviews.

When I first typed my cat Muffin more than 15 years ago, I made a solemn vow to myself never to let anyone outside my immediate family know. That vow lasted until I happened to visit a fellow Enneagram teacher/consultant a few months later. She introduced me to her cat and warned me that her pet was a Four and likely to want my attention and admiration.

“Muffin’s a Six,” I blurted. “Hey, does everybody type their animals?” She blushed then, saying she didn’t know; that she didn’t share that information with many people. After that, it seemed that all the Enneagram teachers I knew typed their pets, but kept it under wraps. After all, who would take us (and more importantly, the Enneagram) seriously if we openly advocated typing our pets? So we kept silent.

The Enneagram is much more mainstream now than it was then. Time was when I’d get on a plane, someone would ask what I did and I’d say that I taught a personality system called the Enneagram. “Any uh what?” they’d invariably say.

Then five to ten years ago, I’d get responses like “I’ve heard of that” or “We had a training at my job in that.” Now, it’s more likely that I just say I’m an Enneagram consultant and my seatmate will volunteer his/her type and how they came to know it. My point is this. The Enneagram is well known and respected enough now that I can tell about typing our pets without endangering the reputation of this wonderful tool one darn bit. So I’m coming clean and telling our secret.

Muffin is no longer with us; old age having claimed him. We now have two cats: A Four named Princess and a phobic Six named Pomaika`i (Lucky in Hawaiian); just Po for short. Princess is beautiful, dramatic, moody, wants attention but on her own terms, alternates between intense affection and overt disdain (but always in view so she is noticed). She is extremely sensitive to our moods and very caring if we are sick or upset. She thinks we built the new addition just for her. My husband says that she has more emotions on her face (covered with fur, no less) thank most people he knows. We just love her.

Po is afraid of almost anything and anybody, except us. We found her starved, hypothermic, near death and nursed her back to health. She is sweet, and tries to charm whatever scares her. Failing that, she runs away and hides. She purrs if someone so much as looks at her. She stays out of Princess’s way. She panics if the dry food bowl isn’t piled high. We just leave the stale food and pile fresh on top for her to eat, or she gets very anxious and cries. She has two main expressions that we can decipher: I’m terrified and I love you. We love her, too.

Are we pet typers projecting? Are we assigning human feelings and traits to our beloved animals? Is this whole idea just completely silly? Possibly. But essentially, it doesn’t matter. If the process of typing causes us to pay attention to each being, human or animal, more carefully with an eye to honoring them and their view of the world, it can’t be trivial or a misuse. At any rate, the Enneagram is nothing more than a map. It is not the territory. Not for humans nor pets. It’s simply a starting place, a starting place for understanding. That’s some of the best work we can do.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Enneagram of Place

People are not the only demonstration of the nine types of the Enneagram. Countries and cultures have distinct personalities that overlay and occasionally even overshadow individual type. When we travel to another region, ideally we wish to be sensitive to the prevailing customs, mores, and worldview. Such an understanding allows us to honor the culture we are visiting. While the Enneagram in no way offers a comprehensive view of a particular place, its map provides us with a good first step to navigating our way skillfully within another culture.

Case in point:
I live on Moloka`i a small island in the Hawai`ian chain. On paper, this rural paradise`i is part of the United States. In reality and Enneagramically, it could not be farther from the prevailing culture and mindset of America.

The United States is a Three culture, through and through. Two of the most popular ad campaigns highlight our worldview: “Image is Everything” (Canon) and “Just Do It” (Nike). In the U.S., we strive, produce, and succeed. We set goals and work hard to get ahead. We are what we do and the image we present to the outside world. Even those of us who are not genuine Threes fall prey to the overlay of our culture. As a result, Americans work longer and have less leisure time than the majority of their contemporaries in other industrialized nations. We may be stressed out, but we sure can get things done.

Fifteen years ago, I immigrated to Moloka`i. I say “immigrated” because I might as well be an expatriate in a totally different country. I left a competitive Three world and found myself in a social Nine milieu. Hard work is certainly valued here, especially when it is in service to a group gathering. I’ve seen men and women labor long, prodigiously, and cooperatively to put on a lu`au or party. But the end goal is to “hang out” together and relax. Just being and enjoying life is of the highest value. No one tries to shine or outdo another. Calling attention to oneself or one’s accomplishments is frowned upon. (Which can be tough for Hawai`ian Threes, who naturally stand out from the crowd. Just as the U.S. Three culture does not highly value a Nine’s “being”, Hawai`i does not support a Three’s goal-oriented “doing”).

This contrast in styles was brought home to us in a most striking way one Christmas Day a few years back. We were invited to a Hawai`ian home for lunch, a typical gathering of a couple hundred people. Music was playing, kids were running around, and tables were loaded with food. We sat at picnic tables set up in the yard outside. After the requisite kissing and hugging (a ritual which can literally take 30 minutes to an hour) everyone filled their plates and we quietly sat together and ate. Few words are exchanged save murmurs of appreciation or offers of more food. After a couple of hours, we kissed and hugged everyone again, bidding Merry Christmas and aloha.

We were invited to another friend’s home for dinner. 12 people in all attended, most visiting from the mainland. When we arrived (still stuffed from our Hawai`ian lunch), we were greeted effusively by all our friends. “What have you been doing?” was the most frequent opening question. The energy was high and upbeat, information was being exchanged at lightspeed, laughter and chatter filled the air. After a fabulous meal and catching up on everyone’s busy lives, we took our leave. As we left, my husband remarked, “Americans are exhausting. I love our mainland friends, but they’re exhausting. Hawai`ians are relaxing.”

As we blend more into our adopted culture, we are much more aware of the “Three-ness” of the U.S. And we can’t help that we’ve become more Niney, adapting to the worldview that bathes and surrounds us. There’s no judgment here. Both cultures have much to offer, both have their strengths and weaknesses, as do we all. Still, making the “switch” requires keen observation, listening, and awareness so that we may honor the Enneagram overlay and worldview, wherever we are.

Note: I am a Seven and my husband is a Three. We joke that since moving to Moloka`i, he’s been more like a Nine and I’ve been more like a Five, as we adapt to our chosen homeland.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Losing the “I” of Personality - Enneagram as Path to Essence

The previous blog entry explored losing the “I” as a path to illuninating Essence. for Enneagram Types One Through Four. We now will examine the particular identities or “I”’s that must be relinquished for Types Five Through Nine.

The Five - “I” am a Wise Person
The Five’s thirst for knowledge drives him. Avarice or greed for knowing compels the Five to grasp for information as for a life preserver, protecting him from the reckless seas of human emotion and desire. The Five practices detachment as a protective defense, to shield him from others demands or overwhelming stimuli. This detachment is a mimic for the lost Essential quality of non-attachment, where to be connected or disconnected are equal. Detached Fives are very attached to privacy, minimization of needs, personal space, conservation of time and energy.
Reconnecting with Essence, the Five finds unlimited energy and potential. Through this Essential experience the Five awakens to omniscience, where he realizes that he has always known all that there is to know. Divine Omniscience fills him with pure safety and peace with no need to learn or grasp. His quest for knowledge ends when he discovers that the wisdom he seeks has always been an essential part of him.

The Six - “I” am a Loyal Person
Fear and doubt drive the Six to search for a person or cause in which she can place her trust. When the Six envisions the worst case (abandonment, death, etc.) and decides that it is worth risking, she will commit with a fierce, incontestable loyalty. Though doubt and fear still exist, the Six is able to mobilize herself through certainty and bravado. Yet certainty and bravado are distortions of the Six’s lost Essential qualities of Faith and Courage. Certainty masks doubt and bravado is a mustering up to “overcome” fear.
However, when the Six accesses true Faith, there is an innate ability to live comfortably with uncertainty, knowing deeply that everything turns out for the best. Everything will be all right, no matter what the outcome. Certainty is rigid and brittle, while Faith is open and peaceful. In Faith, the Six is comfortable with not-knowing. The Six can use bravado as a way to jump in to danger with both feet, to put everything on the line. When engaged in action, fear falls away. Yet, bravado can put the Six in real danger or foolhardy situations. Real Courage comes into play when the action simply must be engaged in. Fear may still exist, yet right action deems the exercise of activity fueled by Courage, where clear understanding of risks exists, and action is still appropriate. Risks and fear are simply part of the equation, and unlike bravado, Courage is quiet and purposeful. Bravado is exhilarating and exciting, placing it all on the line, letting action overwhelm fear, proving yourself bigger than the fear. When informed by Faith and Essential Courage, you KNOW that you are not fear, and have nothing to prove to yourself or anyone else. You are simply acting as you must.

The Seven - “I” am a Happy Person
The Seven’s giddy exuberance and “happiness” serve as a mimic for the lost Essential quality of Joy. Real joy is a calm, quiet experience, a fullness and gratitude for whatever life offers. The Seven senses that Joy was lost and frantically works to recapture it through sampling all that life has to offer, while avoiding what feels like Joy’s polar opposite of pain. Sadness and difficulty are circumvented whenever possible, and reframed into positives when they cannot be sidestepped.
If the Seven is lucky, she will eventually confront the darker side of life. She will come up against a pain too immense to reframe or avoid, or find ennui in chasing yet another rainbow of sensation, asking herself “Is this all there is?” Then the whole of life can begin to be accepted, and true Joy can be seen as a combination of the dark and the light of human experience. An acceptance of “what is” can allow the Seven to float in the peacefulness and completeness of essential Joy. No longer needing multiple options or escape routes, the Seven finds herself able to focus singlepointedly on Work, on dedication to completion as well as process. In this, she may find herself committing to Work that is a vocation or calling, infused with essential Joy.

The Eight - “I” am a Strong Person
To the strong, decisive, full-steam-ahead Eight, it seems to him that he knows the truth. Truth is important, and it will come out in a fight or confrontation. You’ll find out what people are really made of. The difficulty is that the black-and-white thinking Eight believes that his truth is everyone’s truth, and that everyone should see it his way. This absolute belief that he knows the truth of matters dissolves when he finds Essential Truth. Essential Truth is expansive and has room for holding all truths, including paradox. The Eight finds out that he doesn’t have the “only” truth or the “real” truth. In fact, his truth is only part of the larger Truth that holds all individual versions of truth. The Eight finds himself awed by a vast and Essential Truth, that contains and transcends all the small truths we hold so dear. He feels a direct connection to Truth and it becomes a pathway to Essence.
Eight’s insistence on having his way is a mimic of another lost quality of Essence - that of Innocence. An innocent child does not impose his way on others, yet is pure and clear in his desires. When a child pursues his wants and needs, there is no thought of win or lose. He knows what he wants and moves toward it with clarity, curiosity, and wonder. Getting what he desires does not mean someone else loses nor that he must control the situation. When in touch with Essence, the Eight can regain this lost Innocence. Rather than controlling or needing to push his agenda, he encounters the world with the appealing freshness and innocence of a youngster.

The Nine - “I” am a Peaceful Person
The Nine’s boundariless nature leads to indiscriminate merging - a type of unenlightened “Oneness” with everything. As the Nine evolves and develops a boundaried, separate self, she finds that she may choose when and when not to merge. As she connects with her individual Essence, she regains the lost quality of Essence: Love.
As the Nine regains a boundaried Love, she learns to listen to her own heart’s priorities as well as those of others. When Love includes the Nine in it’s embrace, she is able to act on her own behalf as easily as for others. She is able to differentiate and perform Right Action, rather than drown her own priorities to keep peace at any costs. Even conflict may be appropriate and lead to Right Action. True peace is found through reclaiming and remembering the qualities of Essence.

(Adapted from “The Everyday Enneagram” by Lynette Sheppard. Visit our main website at

Friday, March 28, 2008

Remembering Essence Through The Enneagram Part II

Step Two Losing the “I” - You’re Not Who You Think You Are

If indeed our Enneagram Point is who we are not, then how can it act as a map for rediscovering and remembering Essence? Each of us, depending on our Enneagram type, lost specific qualities or aspects of Essence. Our personality contains the “clue” to our search to regain these lost qualities. Each Enneagram Point or type contains a distortion of the lost qualities of Essence within the personality’s inherent worldview. Because we feel the loss of Essence so keenly, we cling to the distortion of the lost qualities strongly. We identify ourselves by these distortions of Essence within our personality. We believe we are as we describe ourselves. We must lose the “I”, surrender our small identity, ego, or personality to reclaim these Essential qualities again. Each Enneagram type has a different pathway back to Essence, and it is “mapped” out in the personality itself.

The qualities of Essence for each type are listed below:
Type One Perfection and Serenity
Type Two Humility and Will
Type Three Veracity and Hope
Type Four Equanimity and Origin
Type Five: Non-attachment and Omniscience
Type Six: Faith and Courage
Type Seven: Joy and Work
Type Eight: Innocence and Truth
Type Nine: Love and Right Action

Each of us lives out a “mimic” of the lost qualities of Essence associated with our Enneagram type. This “mimic” is encoded into our personality and shows itself whenever we say “I” am a certain kind of person. If we pay close attention to our belief of “I” am, we can uncover and remember our Essential nature. Let’s look at Types One through Four to see how our personality can begin to show us the way home to Essence and who we truly are.

Type One - “I” am a Good Person
The path back to Essence is a path of remembering. We begin to remember our essential self. Our personality gives us a vital clue to finding our way, to an individual experience of Essence. For the One, striving to correct error, to continually improve is a mimic of a forgotten quality of Essence: Perfection. In essential Perfection, we glimpse the inherent perfection in imperfection. Perfection simply IS - it exists with out our needing to correct or judge it. In fact, when we “remember” Perfection, we realize that it has always been so. Imperfection was merely a construct. Our striving to correct, to reform was an echo of our true search - for the wholeness of Perfection.
Many Ones tell me that they experience moments of this Perfection in Nature. Nature is non-judging and inherently perfect as is. It has no need to be groomed or changed. It radiates the Is-ness of holy Perfection. This recognition finds the One experiencing Serenity, a pure non-judging state of peace. No need to correct, improve, or reform. Perfection already exists and it has always been here. These moments of Perfection and Serenity are sacred openings to Essence for the One. The key to integrating this feeling is to carry the remembrance of this essential Perfection into daily life, even when you are not dissolved in the Essence experience.

Type Two - “I” am a Loving Person
For the Two, Essence manifests through Humility as she discovers that it is not her personal will that brings her love when she works to ensure others’ dependence on her. Rather, she finds that a higher Will works through her as she serves. The Two learns to stay at home to herself, rather than allowing her energy to escape through her heart center to others. She establishes her center within herself. Initially, this can be a terrifying experience where keeping her attention focused on her own heart can find her with a gaping maw of emptiness. If she stays focused, however, she will find the emptiness is no longer terrifying, but spacious. She discovers the “cave of the Heart” where there is room to cradle all of humanity and more, endless potential to love and serve as a conduit for Will acting through her.

Type Three - “I” am a Successful Person
The productive Three focuses on doing whatever it takes to ensure that they are successful in others’ eyes. It is very clear that they have to “make things happen”. Often it is a failure that cannot be converted to a success that causes the Three to question his chameleon-like deceit and emphasis on doing and appearing successful. Doubt opens the way to true Veracity where the Three examines his authentic desires, beliefs, and preoccupations. “What do I truly wish to do?” the Three asks himself, rather than “What will I be successful doing?” or “How can I spin this to make me look good?” Often, a period of not-doing or just “being” allows the Three to realize that he is intrinsically lovable and will survive without adapting or “making it happen.” He regains the lost Essential quality of Hope. Things work whether the Three does them or not. He doesn’t have to make everything happen, to ensure he is worthy in others view. He finds essential worth inside. Then supported by Hope and tempered with Veracity, he can put his talent for producing and selling in service of a chosen higher purpose or calling.

Type Four - “I” am a Sensitive Person
The Four feels deeply, profoundly. From the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair, the Four explores the intensities of the emotional realm. Her antipathy for that which is ordinary and mundane color her existence with flair and uniqueness, as she longs for the missing element in her life. Yet, she paradoxically finds Essence through the cultivation of the ordinary, through the “flatness” of simplicity. The lost quality of Equanimity gentles and smooths out the emotional ups and downs. The Four discovers the extraordinary contained within the ordinary. Cultivating the balanced energy of Equanimity leads Four to the recovery of her Essence where she finds that the missing piece that she has searched for throughout her life has always been with her. She finds the Source, Divine Origin within herself illuminating the realization that there has never been anything missing. She is and has always been fully complete. That which she has longed for has always been with her. And whenever she touches Essence, she remembers her wholeness and completeness.

We’ll look closely at personality and Essence for Types Five through Nine in the next blog entry. (Adapted from The Everyday Enneagram by Lynette Sheppard.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Remembering Our Essential Self Through The Enneagram

We have all had glimpses of Essence, when personality falls away and we act or feel from a place that is more than our small self. These are often referred to as peak or mystical experiences. When boundaries blur and awareness expands and we know who we really are. We feel connected with everything, open and expansive. Pure peace and joy exist and we know without knowing how we know, that this is our true nature - our Self. This is our unchanging Essence.

Few of us live in Essence, however. In fact, most of us cannot even return there when we wish. We spend hours on the cushion meditating or alone in nature, hoping those moments or glimpses will grace us again.

These pursuits are worthwhile and increase our chances of experiencing Essence. But what is truly important is how the experiences of Essence inform our everyday lives. How do we make sense or meaning of our “peak” experiences? How do we integrate the large Self we encounter through moments of Essential connection with the small self that must live in the temporal world everyday? How do we wear our personality lightly, so that Essence can shine through in every moment?

In the Everyday Enneagram book, I describe four simple (not easy) steps to make Essence part and parcel of our everyday life. They are:

Step One - Remembering
Step Two Losing the “I” - You’re Not Who You Think You Are
Step Three - Cultivating Essence
Step Four - Integration - Live As If

When we diligently and joyfully practice these steps, Essence becomes as natural as breathing. Which of course, it is! And of course, we will backslide, forget, and fumble. I do and I WROTE the steps! And when this happens, we just dust our spirits off and practice again. Each time, it is easier and we believe it more.

Step One - Remembering
The first step to incorporating Essence as part of everyday life is remembering that Essence is always here, within us. This sounds deceptively simple - to remember. Yet it requires clear intention, focused attention, and profound commitment. We continually forget our true nature, even if we have experienced it more than once. We get caught up in the hectic pace of daily life. In fact, the last thing we feel we need is yet another thing to remember! We can barely keep track of the absolutely necessary aspects of running our lives
And yet, when we lose the memory of our Essential being, our life is less fulfilling. Something is missing. We lose touch with our deeper Self, our soul. Remembering our Essence infuses our ordinary existence with meaning and purpose. We feel our soul’s connection to the Infinite.

So how can we remember Essence? It might help us think of Essence as being like the sun. The sun is always shining even though clouds may obscure its light. It is there even when we cannot see it. Similarly, Essence is always with us. Even when we have forgotten our true nature, even when our personality blocks it from our view, Essence continues to shine through us. We are so much more than our small self, the self defined by our personality, the “I” we think we are. Remembering takes only a moment of awareness, of being awake to our infinite, unbounded Self. It only requires bringing our attention and focus to this remembering to infuse daily life with a sense of Essence.

We’ll talk about Step Two in the next blog entries - each of the types has a different, cherished “I” or identity that can block our reunion with our Essential selves. We’ll explore each in depth.
(some material adapted from “The Everyday Enneagram” by Lynette Sheppard)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Enlighten Up - The Enneagram and Spiritual Growth

In the beginning of learning the Enneagram we explore the psychology of personality. We discover that we are a specific Enneagram type or point. We learn who we are and how to expand ourselves from the confinement of our default mode of seeing, believing, acting.

However, when we incorporate the Enneagram as an adjunct to our spiritual practice, we find a paradoxical truth. Your Enneagram type is who you are not! Or more accurately, it describes only a very small part of you. You are so much more than a Seven, Four, etc. More even than the unique attributes that are yours alone. Your personality is like a pair of glasses through which you perceive life, others, even yourself. The glasses have a particular tint depending on your Enneagram type - a Seven tint, a Three tint, a Five tint etc. Mine also contain a Lynette filter - with my unique view of the world. Your glasses have your individual filters as well. These personality “glasses” color who we think we are. But who are we really? Who was I before I formed a “self”? Who were you?

The use of the Enneagram as a map for higher consciousness or spiritual growth is a natural outgrowth of Self-Development work. As we begin to loosen the grip of the habitual personality, and see that it is not all that we are, we wonder “who am I beyond this personality?” Who am I without this protective covering or these filters? We naturally want to make meaning of our existence - what is our place in the scheme of things? What is the meaning of life? How can I find union with the Divine? Whatever our religious leanings or beliefs, the Enneagram map helps us use the personality as a pathway back Home to Essence, God, Goddess, Oneness, Universal Light, Atman, Nirvana, etc.

Enneagram theory espouses that we all came from Essence. In the beginning, each of us contained the potential of all nine points equally within. We were all One. Then we differentiated or had a fall from grace (we took birth.) We lost Essence. We chose one of the nine ways of being in response to this loss. The drive or cardinal tendency became a substitute for a lost quality of Essence. In this way, the personality contains the key to our specific dilemma - the map to our particular way Home to Essence. The keys to the kingdom are within us. Like our own little guidebook to heaven - right inside us.

We’ll explore using the Enneagram for spiritual seeking, growth, and conversion further in the next several blog entries. (Material adapted from The Everyday Enneagram authored by Lynette Sheppard)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Enneagram as a Form of Listening

When I first learned the nine Enneagram types a couple decades ago, I was enthralled with trying to figure out who others were vis a vis the Enneagram map. (Thanks to my teachers, Helen Palmer and David Daniels, I was smart enough not to share my observations when they were not requested.) I listened raptly for clues in people’s speech and mannerisms that would illuminate their type for me. And a funny thing happened.

I REALLY listened. I actually HEARD what another was saying without formulating my reply or jumping ahead to guess what they might say. Did I have a hidden agenda? Well, yeah, I wanted to know what made them tick. Or at least the little bit of information about an individual that the Enneagram type provides. I wanted to understand from the best of intentions: so that I could honor him/her. And as is so often the case, I was generally unable to figure out anyone’s Enneagram type that quickly.

But here’s the truly great news. People began to say to me, “Wow, you really understand me,” or “I’ve never felt so heard.” And I realized that it didn’t matter a whit if I figured out someone’s type or not. What mattered was fully-present-in-the-moment listening. Genuinely caring about another’s story is a true gift. If we never get anything else from learning the Enneagram, this capacity to listen would be so much more than enough. Learning type is overrated - caring enough to hear another’s words is a profound lesson that will enrich our lives.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Enneagram Technique for Change: Pause and Effect

In my last blog entry, I claimed that we don’t need any more Enneagram books, classes, or information. Of course, my tongue was only slightly nudged against my cheek. I have nothing against learning or new ideas. In point of fact, I revel in them. Yet all too often, I find seekers (myself included) becoming seduced by “ahas” and new discoveries rather than making solid use of the insights we’ve gained. When we learn our Enneagram type and understand our personality’s bias, we have the potential for liberation from our “default” mode. .

Self observation is the primary key to stepping back from our habitual ways of perceiving, feeling, and acting in the world. Easy enough to do when we are meditating or when things are going well. But how do we interrupt our old patterns when events or people trigger us in unexpected or uncomfortable ways?

My favorite technique for breaking my personality’s habit is the “PAUSE”. Our initial reaction at any given time will most likely result directly from our personality’s default setting. As long as no actual emergency exists or life-threatening situation, we have nothing to lose by stopping for a moment or three.

The next time you feel a reaction rise, stop and wait to see if something more true, something more authentic might be residing beneath your initial feeling, thought, or desire to act. If you are with another person or persons, simply say “I’m trying to see how I feel about that” or “I’m trying to figure out how to respond here.” That will buy you time and won’t make you feel like a moron who can’t answer a question. (Our Western culture sets us up to answer or act quickly in every situation; often to our detriment, so this may seem awkward at first.)

Allow a few moments to pass and look for what more might arise from inside you. A quick hint: unlike the initial reaction, thought, or feeling, there is usually very little “juice” or “energy” to this new layer. It simply is. Voice this new revelation as it comes and notice how a situation unfolds differently than in the past. Communication may open into a new expansiveness; indeed you may feel expanded as well. Continue observing yourself and the interaction(s). I think you’ll be surprised and gratified by what unfolds.

Here’s a simple everyday story of the Pause working for me. I was walking in a Hawaiian rainforest with a group of people who were filming a TV segment with my photographer husband and a supermodel. (Why is not important - it’s a long story.) The husband of the supermodel was walking behind me and my spouse in front of me on a steep, slippery trail. Keeping my head down, I never noticed the branch at head level spanning the path. Bam! I banged right into it with my forehead, nearly knocking myself out. I stopped, waved away the daytime stars swirling around my brain, and rubbed my forehead gingerly. “Are you okay?” yelled Dewitt? “Yes, I’m deeply embarrassed and I’m going to have a good-sized goose egg, but I’m fine,” I confessed.
“Wow,” breathed Greg, the supermodel’s athlete husband. “You handled that really well for a woman.” Personality jumped up with several retorts and a fair amount of energy, ready for a comeback. I PAUSED for a few moments, found a quiet truth underneath my first reaction, and replied, “I have no idea how to respond to what you just said, Greg.” “Well, it has always been my experience that whenever I’ve gone camping or hiking with a woman, everything that goes wrong is my fault. Insect bites, turned ankles, rain, you name it. But you didn’t blame anybody and that was so amazing to me.” We went on to have a long discussion about personal responsibility and woundings in his past relationships (present marriage excepted, he affirmed.) We connected and communicated in a more open, spacious way - thanks to a small pause.

So give it a try. You have nothing to lose except the constraints of your own personality. I promise you that this simple (not always easy) technique really is ALL you need to know to free yourself from your Enneagram type’s default mode. Oh sure, you’ll forget sometimes. I do. But more and more, you’ll find a wonderful Pause And Effect.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No More Enneagram Books

Lately students and friends have been asking me, “Are you going to write another Enneagram book?” My answer is always an immediate “Nope.” Initially I couldn’t articulate why, but upon reflection I believe I’ve finally figured out the reason for my reluctance.

And it’s this. There is a wealth of Enneagram material out there in the world. Books, seminars, forums, newsletters, and professional groups; everything you ever wanted to learn about this map we call the Enneagram. We could read and study forever. At some point, however, we need to do the Work. Not to denigrate insights or ahas or breakthroughs, but at some point mere knowledge is not enough to loosen the constriction of our personality or “default mode”. (Although I’ll admit, it’s a great first step.)

Once we’ve discovered our type or point, we need to focus on expanding our horizons to include other ways of perceiving, being, and acting. The most important practice for beginning and continuing this is self-observation. Watching our patterns emerge, noticing our personality running us rather than the converse, and finally choosing how we will see, feel, and act. That’s it. The Enneagram “Work” in a nutshell. Mundane, ordinary, often boring and plodding, and yet the only true path to uncovering who we really are and who we might joyfully become.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Discovering Your Subtype or Instinctual Type

Just when we may be getting a handle on watching ourselves vis a vis our Enneagram point, we find an additional wrinkle to complicate and enrich our journey.. Each of us in addition to our Enneagram type manifests three “Subtypes”, more accurately designated the “Instinctual Types”. These instinctual types reflect the basic human instincts of self-preservation, social standing in relation to the herd or group relating, and the drive for one-to-one relating (also referred to as sexual subtype or instinct by some Enneagram authors.) Each of us has all three instincts programmed into us. The Enneagram “subtype” is the main instinctual arena (or arenas) where the underlying drive is channeled or played out. The underlying drive for each type (lust for the Eight, Sloth for the Nine, Anger for the One, Fear for the Six, etc.) might be likened to a river of energy. This current branches off into three separate areas that represent the instincts of self-preservation, social, and one-to-one relating. The strength of each instinct, that is where attention habitually goes, will determine the amount of flow down each branch of current. It is completely individual and varies person to person. Often one instinct or branch is very large, with less flow down the other two. Occasionally there are two large flows, with a mere trickle flowing down the third. Rarely, an individual is automatically balanced among all three.
To use myself as an example, I have habitually focused very strongly on the one-to-one relating instinct. Much of my attention focused on my intimate relationship. I have focused some energy on self-preservation, ( eg. I never travel without my own coffee and portable coffeemaker.) I generally spent very little attention on my social standing within a group; although I participate in groups. So my river of attention would have had a large flow down the one to one tributary, a moderate flow down the self-preservation tributary, and a trickle down the social tributary.
Ideally, we would like have three fairly balanced tributaries. We would like to attend equally to our natural human instincts. Yet, when we are unconscious of them, we are often driven by one to the detriment of others.

Exercise: Discovering Your Subtype

Reflect where your attention seems to be directed. Are you most concerned with survival issues - food, shelter, safety, taking care of yourself and family self-preservation issues?
Are you most concerned with social issues - with attention to group activities? (It may not necessarily be that you are drawn to be in a group - some social subtypes have strong antipathies against being part of a group. However, their attention is still drawn to groups.) They can focus on several people at a time. People with a common cause or who share common interests.
Are you most concerned with one-to-one relating? Do you prefer a small number of very close friends or your significant other to relate to? Do you feel like going deeply into conversation with one person when in a group or party?
Often we have blind spots regarding which instinct our attention is most concentrated. Ask your spouse or a close friend where s/he feels you focus your attention most often.

Why might it be important to know our instinctual type? Certainly this knowledge can help us improve our functioning in the least exercised arenaa, in order that we may be more balanced human beings. An even stronger reason to know your unconscious instinctual bias surfaces in the realm of intimate relationship. I see far more couples encountering clashes related to differences in subtype or instinctual type than related to Enneagram type. Stay tuned for more about instinctual types and relationshp in the next blog entry.
(Adapted from “The Everyday Enneagram, A Personality Map for Enhancing Your Work, Love, and Life...Everyday”. by Lynette Sheppard.)