Sunday, January 17, 2010

U.S.A.: Has a Three Culture Moved to Six?

Most Enneagram experts have identified the United States as a Threeish culture. We as a nation believe in success, productivity, and the power of image. Our cosmology could be summed up in two of our more successful ad campaigns: Nike’s “Just Do It” and Canon’s “Image is Everything.” As a whole, we ‘ve traditionally been an upbeat, can-do country, if a little too self-absorbed and self-congratulatory.

These days, however, the USA looks much more Sixish, boomeranging between counterphobic and phobic, fearful of just about everything. We could blame the press (which has always been counterphobic) or the 24-7 “entertain-news” on television.

We could foist responsibility on eight years of a counterphobic Sixish administration advocating certainty as an admirable leadership trait or a distinct “us vs them” philosophy in dealing with other nations, cultures, or religions.

We could point to the shock of 9-11 as the beginning of our move from Three to Six. All of these may indeed be factors. However, it is likely that there is more to it.

Six is not the stress point for Three; that would be Nine. Still we can access the high or low side of any of the points available to us: heart, stress, and wings. And right now the U.S. seems solidly in the low side of Six.

We citizens have become cynical and pessimistic. We don’t believe our government officials are trustworthy. And we look for every opportunity to debunk them as authority. We are similarly disillusioned with our free market and private enterprise given the recent meltdown of our economy.

The government itself suffers from analysis paralysis and very little seems to get done. (Although we may actually get health care reform......)

When I talk with friends and acquaintances of any political leanings, they profess fear of change and fear of the status quo in the same breath. When I ask what we as a nation should do in any given situation, they blink like deer in the headlights or reiterate what is wrong with any idea put forth by government, private enterprise, or pundits.

We are lost in an “us vs them” mentality, both abroad and here at home. It’s the U.S. against jihadists and those who won’t stand with us. It’s naturalized citizens vs illegal (and sometimes legal) immigrants. It’s Republican vs Democrat and liberal vs conservative. And we are not even civil in our debate or certainty.

Does the U.S. need to return to its former Threeness to recover? Perhaps not. We might be able to avail ourselves of the high side of Six for starters. The ability to unite and work tirelessly for a cause, loyalty to a higher purpose, trouble shooting to avoid pitfalls while moving ahead toward an ideal worth manifesting, egalitarian acceptance of others, and a deep understanding of the strength in numbers that can bring us all together.

Has America lost its Three overlay? Are we solidly in the Six worldview? Is there a prescription for what ails us and what might it be? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Charles said...

Hi Lynette,

Thanks very much for a stimulating post. As to your hopeful note, "We might be able to avail ourselves of the high side of Six for starters. The ability to unite and work tirelessly for a cause, etc." I agree, perhaps most profoundly with your use of the word "might."

The challenge will be engaging people in seeing possibilities. We have a lot going for us as a nation, and we can rally around specific events when needed. As a Six, I look for leadership to help us move forward, and I fear the strength of those who would rather go for short term gain or delight in seeing our national leadership fail.

I'll be interested to see what others post.



Anonymous said...

Good morning, Lynette Your comments on the changing US culture are poignant. Seems Obama is trying his best to keep the Three culture grounded in Three with fear being continually infused by the global corporations. In my experience a type can move in either direction in its triangle in stress. Given that premise perhaps the culture is just so stressed out over the global chaos, ampped up by the minute by minute cyber connection, that it has slammed into Six. We living on the planet these days "live in interesting times" that are presenting continually options for evolution of both essence & personality. What will we humans as a collective chose? Thanx! Lynette for the stimulating view. Cathie

Lynette Sheppard said...

Charles and Cathie,
Thanks for your insightful comments on the EE blog. I've been wanting to write about it for some time. I don't watch the 24/7 shows that pass for news - I do watch the Lehrer report which shows a lot more gray.

I can't believe how often I find myself telling people that we don't have to be afraid of health care reform (or immigrants from Mexico or "insert name of prescribed bogey man here".

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolvers latest "Lacuna". Some amazing parallels between the McCarthy era and present time. Perhaps we could also learn from history how damaging fear can be to the psyche of a nation and its individuals. Well worth the read.

CJ said...

Dear Lynette

my recent visit to San Francisco for the IEA board meeting vividly brought home to me what you're writing about here.

I remember David Daniels saying in a workshop that, under superstress, people often move to the low side of their flow point. This might explain much of the fear-based behavior. (Ordinary levels of stress, at Nine, might account for the media feeding people irrelevant stories.)

While moving to the high-side of the Six's behavior provides one route out of the mess, moving to the high-side of the Three - speaking to the best in the US tradition also offers a way to move. Help people to connect with Truthfulness and Hope again.

Warm regards


Lynette Sheppard said...

Yes, CJ,
Thanks for your insights. I think that you are right on. An awakened, high side of Three would be an excellent prescription for what ails us. And I believe that Obama may be trying just that - I am "hopeful" that we might allow ourselves to be inspired rather than frightened; and that we might face the Truth that we might work toward a deeper "development", rather than simply "growth".
All my best,

McDozer said...

Interesting post... Richard Rohr, also an Enneagram author (among other topics) has mentioned something along those lines, that our entire Western culture seems to be drifting toward SIX. There have also been parallels drawn between the last administration and the 3rd Reich - exaggerated perhaps, but the SIX effect is undeniable.
As far as the new Wall Street administration, as some call it, the THREE spirit seems to be back full sway... leaving most folks, however, in the usual gullible state, which, I'm afraid all personality types have in common that simply don't have a big knack for the truth...