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.)