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.)

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