Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oh Canada! Can We Change A Country’s Type?



Countries have an overlay of Enneagram type; a cultural bias that informs the worldview of its citizens. The United States is a Three culture (although lately we seem solidly stuck in the low side of Six: us vs them, analysis paralysis so that nothing gets done, suspicion and paranoia, etc.)

In a Three culture, image is important and doing is highly valued. The first question a new acquaintance will ask is “What do you do?” Americans are big on success, productivity, and looking good. This is fine unless, like an unconscious Three, we lose sight of our authentic self in the quest for success.

Threes do well in a Three culture. As do other high energy types. Some types, however, can feel like strangers in a strange land. Fives can feel overwhelmed and unsafe. Nines can feel undervalued for their significant gifts. Twos, particularly male twos, may overdevelop a wing point to keep from being seen as weak when exercising their gifts of empathy and helping. (We’re pretty much okay with women being empathetic givers.)

We recently visited friends in Canada. My Eight girlfriend asked me what I thought Canada was as a country and I replied Five. “Absolutely!” she declared.

“And if you think it is hard being a female Eight - try being a female Eight in a Five culture. It’s a relief to me to travel to the US to work because I can let more of my energy out. Particularly working in a male dominated world.”

Stories like this illustrate why it is important to look at type within countries and professions, as well as on an individual level. As self-observing leads to more conscious behavior and choice on and individual level, so might knowing the pitfalls and gifts of a country or workplace worldview lead to similar awakening and possible change.

When we break the trance of habitual perceiving, acting, and being, only then is transformation possible. Small sacred steps might be the answer. When we open ourselves to other types, other worldviews, we have the possibility of true understanding.

When we further allow the instincts of self-preservation, one-to-one connection, and social to be illuminated and thereby loosened in their grip upon us, we open a space for another way of being in the world.

How do we do this? Change the worldview of a country? A profession or workplace? Maybe what we really wish to do is simply increase awareness; the same thing the Enneagram teaches each of us. I sure would welcome a little more awareness here in the U.S.A.

A dear friend of mine, musician Christine Covington, wrote these song lyrics:
“I can’t change the world
Until I first change me.
I can't change the world til I change me.”

Self-observation and self-disclosure along with a huge helping of compassion might just be a good recipe to start. The ripples might move outward in ways we can only imagine. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we might dream this big.


6 comments:

Serenity said...

First of all, welcome back! I've missed your posts. Secondly, as a Canadian, I never thought to type Canada as a 5. 9 maybe due its peace-making role in various countries and due to its 'socialist' bent in terms of policy -- universal health care etc. I'm curious as to what makes Canada seem more a 5. Besides the restraint demeanor of citizens, what else...

Lynette Sheppard said...

Hi Serenity,
Glad to be back! Been a busy summer.

Hmmmm 5 vs 9. Definitely the restraint demeanor plays in to my feeling - also, not to be too vague, but the "energy" feels more like strong personal boundaries rather than the more boundariless sense one feels in Niney cultures.

I live in a Nine culture most of the year - on Molokai Hawaii where most of the people are native Hawaiians. Like many Nines I know, they are more likely to merge with others' agendas rather than their own, truly a hallmark characteristic of Nine. That's how they lost much of the culture to the missionaries and land ultimately to the United States. (Actually, the US just unlawfully took it, but that's another longer story.)

Peacemaking isn't necessarily just the purview of the Nine - all types can be peacemakers given the situation - more important is Why they are peacemaking. Is it because they are more connected to other agendas than their own? (Nine) Is it because they want to be seen as peacemakers (Two or Three) Is it because they are driven by Fear (Six) or are afraid someone will rain on their parade (Seven) or because it is the right thing to do (One) or concern re: intrusion, conflict requiring time, energy, strong emotions (Five) etc.

It seems to me that within the boundaries of Canada, the Native Americans might be more a Niney culture and provide some contrast to the overarching culture.

As for the socialist bent, that can be any type as well. France is a Four country - and socialist.

I think you bring up a really great point, though. I'd be really curious as to how others feel the Canadian culture shows type. I'd love to hear more of why it feels like a Nine culture to you.

And is there a difference between Western Canada and EAstern?

What's most intriguing is to have the discussion - how best to honor a culture - is it a type or an amalgam? Has it changed like the US has? (Three to Six)

Serenity said...

Wow, Lynette. Thank you for this analysis. You've certainly given me even more to think about. The Western Canada vs Eastern question certainly made me think more deeply of the contrast in behaviour and boundary issues for sure.
I truly love your insights. Please keep-a-posting! There are so few enneagram blogs out there.

Amy Lapisardi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jules said...

Hi there, it's long after your article has been written, but I just wanted to thank you for it from Australia! quite compelling.

My mother & I often discuss the way countries have a particular enneagram skew. I haven't visited Canada, but from here I would definitely say its 'personality' differs greatly from the US(definitely type 3!!).

In Australia we are a Type 6 culture through and through. Fear, fear and more fear and getting stuck in inaction permeates everything. Bureaucracy abounds and signs with rules are everywhere. Want to camp some place pretty? Forget it - too dangerous, must follow RULES! We should take a leaf out of Italy's book. I think they're type 4. Nevermind financial woes :-)

The Canadians I've met have been super friendly but not enough to make any opinion on a possible national type.

My mother is a fairly extreme example of type five. ie. her compulsions run deep! She says her default reaction to any demand or request is 'how can I get out of this?' and that the fear is immobilising.

To me Canada doesn't have that feel to it, more the opposite 'how can I get you into this for some fun/support?' Very open, liberal and embracing. My more negative close hand (1 on 1) experiences with type Five are a sort of mega control over environement and others, an almost sociapathic or apathetic disconnection from others and a sense of avarice (often seeming selfish but are 'self protecting) that literally can put chills up ones spine. Mum's main catch phrase growing up was that she was 'drained' and exhausted. It was hard for her to be engaged with the world. Really, really hard. Still is but she does much better thanks to enneagram & so does our relationship that has been healed through the learning. Always ongoing.

I must visit Canada and see what the vibe is.. Thank you again. Jules

Jack Butler said...

Dear all,

Really interesting to see this discussion.

I am curious about Jules' comments reference Australia being a type 6 culture, as, I think, the Brit perception of Ozzies is that they are can do, get on with it, don't complain kind of characters. My brother has talked about wanting to emigrate to Oz because they are less uptight and have fewer rules. Perhaps generally though larger places can feel less rule-bound than congested places like the UK.

I like Russ Hudson's description of Britain. Upper class type one (strict adherence to etiquette), working class type six (dutiful work ethic), and we all meet round the back of the pub in our eccentric 5-ness! (our strange hobbies) Hopefully the class divisions don't run so deep here as they once did, but there's probably still merit in noticing the different strands to a culture.

If such sub or multiple strands existed in Canada, US or Oz, what would they look like?

Be well,
Jack