Denial of what we don’t focus on is one of the most destructive of our Enneagram habits. Here’s a painful example of how denial works collectively.
Three Republicans have made powerful and strange pronouncements about abortion. Catholic bishops have surrendered their loft post as spiritual leaders and have largely been Republican shills. The media is shrill on all sides about abortion. The presidential debate was heated about abortion. Abortion is a matter of life and death.
At the same time, we had three debates in which climate change was carefully eschewed. Oil dependence, job creation, national sovereignty based on energy –these were the rewards of getting your man into the office.
On election day, while climate change is unmentioned, we have a 70% change of a billion dollar storm that may interfere mightily with the election. What does a climate change have to do to get some media coverage? It is being called a “perfect storm,” an antiseptic label meaning all hell is going to break loose.
Reality is that which, if ignored, does not go away. Denial is only a temporary solution. This is true both individually and collectively.
I write this from Kansas on the 137th day of the drought that ruined our crops, dried our ponds, and set interesting new climate statistics.
Joe Biden was quick, flashy and funny, displaying the high side of his style Seven. There were more important reasons for his TV romp over Paul Ryan, but his Enneagram style was a factor, just as Obama’s Nine style –slow, deliberate, laid-back– was a factor in his lackluster performance.
Ads a Seven myself, like Biden, I resonated with his assertion that he meant what he said even when he is noted for making rash statements. I have what I like to tell myself is a strong vivid command of the language and what is cruelly called by others a penchant for caustic remarks or at best a tendency to be just a bit flip. Like Biden and some other Sevens I know, we speak impulsively but we do mean what we say.
But I thought for several seconds now before I wrote that I think both Romney and Ryan seem to be sociopaths. Romney is a clear Three and called out frequently for inveterate lying. Ryan, called variously “Lyin Ryan” or “Lyin King” is not as clear. He may be a sociopathic Three, but his allegiance to the publicly proudly ruthless Ayn Rand may reveal him to be an extremely loyal Six. I’m not sure yet and would welcome comments.
William James gives this advice on forming a new habit. An enneagram coach can focus this for maximum effect. Our Enneagram style is a bundle of habits of perceptions and responses. So to weaken those that cause us problems, we suggest habits that will interfere, probably not directly contradict but obliquely interfere with the neurological pathways that underlie our habits.
The acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible. Accumulate all the possible circumstances which shall reenforce the right motives; put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way; make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know. This will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of its not occurring at all.
Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up; a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again. Continuity of training is the great means of making the nervous system act infallibly right … It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never fed.
Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you
aspire to gain. It is not in the moment of their forming, but in the moment of their producing motor effects, that resolves and aspirations communicate the new ‘set’ to
Here is a quote from William James and it seems that our Enneagram style could be partially compared to a habit –actually a set of habits. Because that is true, forming new habits is crucial to growing within our style.
What is so clearly true of the nervous apparatus of animal life can scarcely be otherwise than true of that which ministers to the automatic activity of the mind … Any sequence of mental action which has been frequently repeated tends to perpetuate itself; so that we find ourselves automatically prompted to think, feel, or do what we have been before accustomed to think, feel, or do, under like circumstances, without any consciously formed purpose, or anticipation of results.
The neurological component is important here. That is why simple will power is inadequate to break the Enneagram habits, especially of perception, but also of response.
It is an unwritten law among coaches that our clients are told to focus. But focus without balance can be the problem. Let’s take a public and then a private example.
Corporations have a legal mandate (focus) on maximizing profit. They are evaluated exclusively by the shareholders on the amount of profit they make. Legally they have no other focus. They have no legal obligations (no required focus) to the community (outsourcing is fine), no specified obligation to the environment (“deregulation” is the goal), they have no assigned obligation to their employees (“flexibility” is the weasel-word for union busting). So their exclusive focus on profits gives us sinister results like Monsanto, poisoning the world, one grain at a time or BPand Halliburton puking oil in the Gulf trying to save money.
Individually, focus will get us what we focus on. But if we have an unconscious focus – a good starting point to understand our Enneagram style – it might be too tight and we have no balance in our lives. If our focus is on success making money (the American dream), we might neglect personal relationships (style 3), or if our focus is on security (style 6), we might conform to the group and lose our originality or creativity. If we focus on comfort (style 9), we might devolve into a couch potato.
So focus is like light. If it is too tightly focused, you miss context, variety and even consequence.