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.)