In your head

I seldom watch Dr. Phil, a clear style 8, but last night our family watched him deal with a man who was putting a lot of pressure on his wife to have sex with someone else while he watched.
Dr. Phil scolded and shamed him to the audience’s satisfaction, while the man was quite detached acknowledging his insensitivity while at the same time calmly asserting his love for the wife he was certainly hurting.
Phil articulted the audience’s and his own outrage and the man seemed untouched.
Remember Albert Camus’ book “The Stranger?” A man accused of murder was going to be conviced because he couldn’t express remorse? He, and the fellow on Dr. Phil were both Fives. The flattened affect or lack of emotion sometimes shows up in style Fives. The reason he probably wanted to watch his wife having sex with someone else is that he could stay detached and he could imagine what it would be like — and for Fives, what is going on in their heads can be more real than what is external. He would have a more intense experience in his imagination than he would in his body. Dr. Phil didn’t ask the question, “What is in it for you to watch instead of touch?” When someone is “kinky” that is not an ultimate explanation. Why this form of deviance? Why is this more satisfying than making love to a woman you say you love. This is not simple “lust.” Lust leads to affairs or prostitutes, not watching your wife. One can hope that Dr. Phil will follow up his scolding with an Enneagram therapist or coach.


On vacation in beautiful northern Minnesota my usual appreciation of nature is heightened. The Washington Post had one kind of news: the oceans are decaying and we face ecological disaster. The local paper trumpets their notion of good news that the school will require more math and science.
Our problems, intellectual and global, are not caused by lack of science and math. The Wall Street theives were actually quite good at math (their math servants are called “quants” because they can mathematically quantify everything of interest to Wall Street. The ecological diaster we face has been created and furthered with technological help. A lack of technology is not our problem. Our global and national problems are enneagram-related in the sense that we are in habitual trances. We cannot/will not change our behavior and we refuse to let information into our lives that will prevent these diasters. The Republicans have made it an offical position to reject responsibility for climate disruption. I wrote Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and asked him to take local steps to decrease our pollution and he replied (in a form letter) that he couldn’t do that because the Chinese weren’t doing it. I’ve taught grade school and I thought that argument lost its charm around the sixth grade.
The trances we are in are problematic much of the time, and when they are collective, they can be fatal.
We don’t need more math and science, we need to understand and free ourselves from our trances.


I watched the Republican debates last night and came away with a valuable tool for coaching: insist in antecedents.  When you are talking with a client, listen for conclusions that don’t have any clear references.  When he says “It was the wrong thing to do,” don’t continue the conversation until you know in detail what was wrong about the thing he did.  Was it ethically evil, was it financially a mistake, was the place or time or proportion ill advised?

The more general the conclusion, the more mistaken a coach can be to assume coach and client have the same definition or understanding of a generalization.  “I spent too much,” doesn’t give the coach any information until you learn the reference for “much.”

This is especially slippery if you make the same mistake and  try to give advice without clear references.  “I wouldn’t go too far” is merely maddening until both sides agree where “far” lives.

One bug

Style Ones have to be aware of my one bug theory. Stated abstractly it goes something like this: It’s only good if it is entirely good. It is bad if any part (of an act or person or event) is bad.
Just because you find one bug in your salad doesn’t mean the rest of it is not delicious. But if you are a style One, you may have more trouble than the rest of us eating your salad after delicately removing the intruder!

Danger of focus

Most of the coaching books wax enthusiastic about focus. If you focus on your goals, you will achieve them. That’s their promise. They don’t pay much attention to the threat of that happening. Here’s why it is a threat.
Every Enneagram style has a powerful focus and our biggest problems in life often come from the narrowness of that focus.
If I am too hungry, I can only see food and will miss chances for pleasure, growth and success that are not related to food. Hungry children don’t learn what will be important because they can only think about food. The same is true for inner, metaphorical hungers. If I am a Three, my hunger for applause may urge me to neglect ethics or self-respect.
The same dynamic is true of conscious goals. Exhibit A would be the corporations of America that have as their legal, conscious, socially reinforced goal of maximizing profit. The legal goal is to maximize profit but there are no secondary supporting goals like, for instance, community involvement, ethical excellence, environmental responsibility. Monsanto poisons the environment, brutally punishes any violation of their restrictions and lobbies powerfully for fewer environmental safety rules. They do achieve their goal or profit.
That’s focus gone bad on a macro level that we can all see.
But even our private focus needs to have supporting conditions. I want to make X amount of money, but I will work only this hard, I will spend this time with friends and family, I will take care of my health and I will revisit my inner equilibrium every so often.

One reason we don’t do this is that we are trained in academic disciplines to do experiments that have only ONE criterion for success. The tire does not blow, the stove gets hot, the dog refrains from biting –pick your field. Pharmaceutical testing tests how a drug has ONE effect. Everything else is a “side” effect. And the drugs are tested on people taking ONE drug whereas in reality, the average person older than 65 takes 14. The combinations are never tested, because they focus on ONE goal: lowering blood pressure or relieving headaches.
So I warn you about focusing on one goal especially if it coincides with your Enneagram style.

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” — Mary Kay Ash
This is the computer program that runs inside style Twos. This is good advice as long as Twos also claim their own importance up front. If you are a Two and you feel yourself unappreciated, this is where to look: are you making others feel important and not claiming your own space in the sun?


The metaphor is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him.

Jose Ortega y Gasset

Probably because of the hegemony of science in the US, we use “literal” and “real” interchangeably. One of the finest ways to foster spiritual growth is to learn to think symbolically. Our world has lots of scientists and most of them do good, but we are desperately short of poets and because we have few poets, we lack vision, and as the poet Osee said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”