When people scream at sporting events and feel either shattered or exhilarated after the game, we are witnessing a process of identification. “We” won. Then, if we are athletes, we wear jerseys with the numbers of the players we’d most like to identify with.
We can do the same thing with our Enneagram style, our church, our political party or race.
It’s one thing to love a team, a party, a town, but when we identify too strongly, we can become narrow, or in the case of Donald Sterling (owner of the L A Clippers basketball team), he identified so strongly with his pale complexion, he became a bigot.
So don’t identify with your Enneagram style. Exercise it, exploit it if you will, deny it on occasion, but don’t think it is you. You are more. Much more.
One of the most destructive of our Enneagram habits is denial. In order to keep our world orderly and predict what will happen (Will I be safe? Will I succeed? Will I be accepted? etc), we delete information that interferes with that.
Sometimes the denial is black and white. “I don’t belief the information you gave me.” Other times we deflect the information obliquely: “I don’t have time to act or accept that information now, I’ll think about it” Sometimes it is more violent–the “Uriah brief.” (David sent Uriah to the general with a closed message that said to put Uriah where he would get killed.” AKA shoot the messenger. Discrediting the information by virtue of its origin, “can’t trust the mainline media,” and hearing the information but saying it isn’t important are all ways of denial.
It can be done collectively, too. Eg. climate change. Here is a new show on climate change. Most of it is data, but some of it is about denial.
Sometimes at Enneagram gatherings people suggest that we put our Enneagram type along side our name.
I always object,usually politely, because our Enneagram habits are not our identity. It is not who we are, it is a series of interconnected habits that we use to get thru life –like the series of driving habits we navigate traffic. We are just barely conscious of our driving as we plan for our destination.
I have to credit Tom Condon for teaching me that, as he integrated NLP dynamics into the process of modifying habits using interventions. If you want to hear how it is done along with an explanation of why and how it works, go to Condon’s website: His new audio program really rocks. (Who says I’m not hip?)
The Enneagram is a superb diagnostic tool –detailed and profound. The only thing achingly missing for many is some kind of instruction on how to stop certain of our Enneagram habits and nurture some more desirable ones.
Most of you know Tom Condon. He has been teaching the Enneagram and NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) since the mid 80s. He has a new audio program (a download) that lays out a five step sequence for making personal changes in your own life or those of your clients.
NLP is a particularly good fit for the Enneagram because it specifies HOW we do our styles: what sequence of images or words or feelings we run through as we “do” our style. Condon clearly lays out the methods and then demonstrates them vividly with several of the attendees at the workshop. Five stars. You can get the workshop at the link below.
Nagging and being nagged is a great resource if you understand how it works.
I take it as axiomatic that we are nagged about those things our Enneagram style does not want to perceive. Therefore it contains important information if we wish to change. Nagging is unwelcome light shined into habitual darkness.
On the part of those inclined to or feel an inner call to do the nagging, we must recognize an important component of major nagging.
Serious nagging consists of telling important truths in the form in which they are most likely to be ignored. Volume, pitch, tone, and frequency are all adjusted to express and cause maximum discomfort.
The secret to lasting friendships, carnal or not, is learning how to give and take nagging. That is what “give and take” really means.
Every Enneagram style has an addiction, that is, it has a self-rewarding pattern that is in conflict with our self-interest. We eat and drink and copulate for pleasure unrelated to the purposes of those activities. Pleasure is wonderful and healing, but we can use it as a barometer for our addictions. In the beginning, pleasure is paramount. As the price of our addictions ascends, our pleasure descends. At the end, the pleasure is negligible and the price (often pain in some form or other) ascends.
Let’s not overlook non-sensual addictions like security (6) or praise (3) or simple comfort (9). They may cost ever as much as alcohol or heroin. Hint: notice with what currency we pay.
An eager student came to the master and said he wished to reach enlightenment. He especially wanted to know how long it would take. The teacher considered that it might take three years. The eager student rejoined, “But I will work really hard. I will devote myself entirely to this effort.” In that case, the teacher said, “it will take seven years.”
Our usual attempts to rid ourselves of some of the less attractive features of our Enneagram habits results in using the energy of our Enneagram feature to rid ourselves. Threes make it a project, Sevens start over with great gusto, Sixes find out how the authorities think they ought to do it. And so it goes. My favorite therapist friend notes wisely that it is more important to accept yourself than to change yourself. And paradoxically, you can only change when you DO accept who you and what your situation is.
Reality is usually a good starting point.
The new book by Errol Morris on Donald Rumsfeld (The Unknown Unknown) is only partially helpful to a student of the Enneagram. Rumsfeld is a clear style One. But he is not a typical One. He is a sociopath, dismissing the death of tens of thousands by just saying that some things work and others don’t. Really fixated people like Rumsfeld offer some insight –Aristotle says things are studied best in their extremes– but the lack of moral sensitivity is not usual. Ones frequently prefer systematic smoothness to emotional considerations. They may seem callous. But the moral compass is an important elements of Ones, and Rumsfeld has none.
Real experiment: Two groups were given the same task: A two inch (diameter) pipe about 3 feet long had one end in concrete and the top open. Then the experimenters put a ping-pong ball down the pipe and gave three engineers and three 5th grade boys the same task: to get the ball out of the pipe (without just breaking the pipe or the cement).
The engineers spent an hour trying to figure out what to do. The 5th grade boys saw that the polite experimenters had left a pitcher of water and some glasses for them on a nearby table, so they just poured the water in the pipe. The ball floated to the top. The engineers gave up after an hour.
Water in a pitcher is for drinking if you’re an engineer. Their training, excellent though it was, prevented them from seeing the water.
They are specialists and that’s a good thing. But all specialities carry a collateral narrowness.
And our Enneagram style is just such a perception/response speciality. We were trained by our early environment to see and respond in a specific set of ways. My friend says his children saw and talked to angels until they were five. I’ve read that there is no biological reason we can’t see microwaves (it is within our visual frequency spectrum). We see things that we see and don’t see what we don’t see. And because that’s obvious, we get used to it. And when we learn that we don’t see, by learning the Enneagram, a whole new world can open up to us.
Being present is precisely the opposite of being trapped in our Enneagram style. When we act out of our Enneagram style, we are controlled by a younger part of ourselves. We act out of the past in a reflex manner.
When we habitually act out of our past experiences instead of being present to the current experience, our judgments are flawed and our actions inappropriate.
When masters dwell on the importance of being present, they know full well how difficult it is. It is a spiritual accomplishment and a crucial element of a full life.