Saturday, August 29, 2009

Greed vs Generosity - Enneagram Inquiry II

Ever since the IEA (International Enneagram Association) meeting in Las Vegas, I’ve been pondering greed vs generosity. David Daniels, Russ Hudson, and Jessica Dibb presented a thought-provoking and heartfelt inquiry into the subject. (See blog entry dated August 6, 2009.)

And I kid you not, I was lost in thought about personal manifestations of greed when I saw this license plate in front of me. 14U24ME. Stunned, I took several photos through the windshield while driving with my other hand.

Now, I’m not pointing fingers at whoever has this license plate; for all I know it’s a family joke or some other such innocuous sentiment. That’s not the point. The point is that greed is so pervasive that we may not even notice its effect on and in our lives.

Greed. We don’t dispute its existence. We believe there is greed in the world and that it globally corrosive. Still it’s always “out there”- somewhere else - objectified. And maybe that is part of the problem.

Wall Street is greedy. The banks are greedy. Shareholders are greedy. Corporations are greedy. Oil companies, big business, developers. These “things” and faceless groups are greedy.

Distancing ourselves in this manner effectively keeps us from examining the roles greed plays in our own lives. And until we become aware of greed working within each of us, there will be no shifts in consciousness on a more global scale.

Through dyad exercises and a panel of all the types, the IEA presentation illuminated the different faces of personal greed vis a vis each of the nine Enneagram styles. David, Russ, and Jessica allowed us to discover the nuances of greed within ourselves. I’ll use myself and one of my personal greed permutations as an example.

When I’m in my Fiveish space, the Security Point for Seven, I might feel very proud of the fact that I don’t need more stuff or to go shopping. But in fact, my greed may show up very differently - in guarding my private time to the exclusion of loved ones, of withholding time and my presence.

How do I know if this is a product of normal healthy boundary setting or greed? By observing. By activating my inner observer, I can discern the difference. There is a grasping quality, even a desperation to greed. The energetic sense is quite different.

If I’m simply in need of a little time, the energy around that sensed desire feels calm, centered, quiet. I sense no body tightening or strictures and can give myself just enough time for self-care. No more, no less.

Driven by greed, I feel myself pull inside and tighten around my perceived need. I hold myself armored against intrusion. It feels like I might lose something. Energy or time or some ineffable something might be taken from me.

Watching greed within myself, without judgment, simply noticing, allows the relaxation of the stricture. I breathe into the here and now, rather than fearing the future intrusion that may never materialize. I can be present fully to myself and others.

The conversation is only beginning on this critical topic. Think about and/or comment on these questions. How does personal greed appear in your life? How is it related to your Enneagram type? How do you work with greed? And how does generosity play out in your life? Let us know your thoughts, feelings, sensations on the subjects of greed and generosity.


Rachel Whalley said...

I think greed for my type (Eight) manifests as feeling that it would always be easier to have more. If I have more money, I can totally be sure of making the situation into what I want. If I have more than enough food, no one at the party could possibly go hungry (including me!). If I have more than enough time, I can feel free to waste some and then get to business.

A lot of the benefit of having MORE seems, to my Eight, to be about being sure of controlling the circumstances or situation ahead of time.

That's just what occurs to me now, anyway.

I would love you to bring this question and more to our Enneagram Lovers community site at !

We are inviting all enneagram lovers, professionals, experts and beginners to join us in conversation. We're starting to build some amazing connections and I so hope you'll decide to be a part of it.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, I am a five, so greed is tricky business. First, it is the vice that seems the most difficult to deal with. Second, it is also tough to find it. That is, it is wrapped up in my main personality defense mechanisms. So, greed feels like survival. You talked about grasping in desperation. Such grasping feels like it is a matter of survival. This reminds me of Eights, as an example. The anger of an Eight is a matter of survival. It's "a dog eat dog world," a matter of seeing the "bullshit" of others and taking the offensive. Otherwise you won't survive.

So, recognizing greed is probably central to my personality type. But this is so difficult. Impossible at times. But it seems that little by little I am recognizing things more and more. And perhaps more importantly, connecting with something deeper with personality helps the process of recognizing when I slip into personality defense mechanisms and identity with personality.

Thanks for opening this topic.

Lynette Sheppard said...

Thanks Jonathan and Rachel for such great insights. I've been really captivated by watching the aspects of greed, generosity, and something in middle - not grasping, not giving, just not offering. So it seems to be a sort of continuum. I'm deeply exploring this and hope to hear more from all types as this inquiry continues. Thanks too, Rachel, for the invite to Enneagram lovers - I will check it out very soon.