A lot of psychological tests use questions with blanks. “The world is ———- . This can be helpful.
Every Enneagram habit has an implicit model of the universe. You’ve all had the experience of someone saying, “I can’t tell her that, she can’t heard it.” Your information does not fit into her model.
So fill out the blank above. The world is a __________ place. Or “My goal in life is to _____________.
Now see how well the correlates with your understanding of your Enneagram style.
Then, but this is more complex, you might ask yourself, “the story of my life is_____________. Every Enneagram style has a corresponding narrative. What’s your story and how does it fit you model of the universe?
If you want to understand your enneagram style, an important marker will be the information that you let into your life. We all, to one degree or another, value our inner freedom. But if we keep exposing ourselves to the same genre and quantity of information, that information structures our thinking and our ability to make certain choices.
Aristotle said things were studied best in their extreme forms so I’ll give you a public example. Some nice people listen to the hate/fear messages of Limbaugh, Fox News, Savage etc. and the Tea Party –which holds mostly nice people — holds and promotes remarkably destructive ideas. The head of the senate commission on the environment denies climate change, for example. Bill Maher calls this the Republican bubble. That’s too sweeping, it is only the lunatic fringe. But he has highlighted an important part of all of our neurosis: we keep out and we allow a narrow range of information.
But none of us get off the hook. Whatever information we allow into us influences us. Look at your library, your bookmarked sites and your favorite shows. That becomes an ego-state, especially if your information reinforces your enneagram style. I coach sixes, for example, not to watch the evening carnage called news.
To increase your freedom, carefully monitor and evaluate your information habits and see if they show a remarkable resemblance to your enneagram preferences.
The answers to many personal and political problems is usually clear, simple and wrong. A favorite way for our egos and our communities (local and federal) is to take a complex and frustrating reality and divide it into two mutually dependent polarities. “I am right because you are wrong” works well in groups.
But sometimes the polarity, as in the case of our enneagram style, is within us. Many of our enneagram fixes are like a tree held up by two opposite ropes. If I’m a Four, I can’t get recognized because I would have to sell out to be intelligible to the masses. But my uniqueness needs to be recognized. So I both crave and fear recognition.
If I am an 8, I feel vulnerable inside so I work for justice for the weak and oppressed. I am on the side of the lowly, while at the same time I exercise my own power to the fullness, often making the people around me feel quite oppressed.
All forms of egotism are devoted to simplicity and control. My favorite giveaway line from people who simplify with a vengeance is “well,all I know is,” with which I kindly agree.
Last week President Obama took a small pay cut to show his solidarity with those who suffered from the sequestration (the drastic cuts in government spending as a result of congress not being able to agree on how to pay for stuff).
And Pope Francis wore a wooden crucifix instead of the traditional gold one and moved into more modest quarters.
Immediately, writers deprecated these two acts as “merely” symbolic and called for “substance” and “structure,” and others thought them foolish.
If you can only think literally (science is the only knowledge and fundamentalism is legitimate religious language), that’s the kind of reaction we can expect.
But symbols are powerful, having the ability to change hearts and minds and in the long run bring about lasting change.
When I coach, I do not require some kind of conversion, I don’t exact Spartan discipline. Rather, I employ symbolic change. It is more often possible, unobtrusively effective and clients are willing to do it. In an earlier blog I wrote about the woman who changed her entire way of taking care of her appearance and wardrobe by applying bright red lipstick. The lipstick was symbolic and little by little she made significant change.