As intellectually sharp as most Fives are, they often act as though they don’t know the distinction between a conclusion and a decision. When they substitute thinking for acting, as is their trap, they act as though if they got enough information, they could come to a conclusion. More data will surely provide the answer. But a decision is not a conclusion; the word comes from the Latin to cut through, to chop off. It means to push into the future and the future does not contain information. Clues from the past help a lot, but there is an element of risk that accompanies deciding to prune all options save one. It is as much an act of assertion as it is an understanding.
One must acknowledge an insight, even if it comes from a source one doesn’t like. I think David Brooks of the NYTimes is a right wing hack. But he wrote an interesting article on how children fare if they are raised with what Enneagram teachers would recognize as a style 3 value system. In this system, love is earned by achievement. So parents love their children with a clear unrelenting focus on their achievement. The children are attended to with great intensity, but the children know they are to earn that love by success.
Fours assign themselves the task of becoming unique and authentic. How one “tries” to be authentic is where Fours get into trouble. They take authenticity as a task, requiring effort and discipline. When they try, the look to others and compare themselves unfavorably with others. As Shakepeare wrote, “desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, with what I most enjoy contented least.” Fours often feel emotionally alienated and decide they have to be who they are not to be loved. But when they are loved, they know they didn’t put their authentic self out. “They bought the act.”
In my last blog I wrote about style 3 and the belief in being self-made.
USA culture has many of the characteristics of style 3. We are a high-performing, “can do” energetic culture. And we, like a lot of 3’s, are convinced we are self-made. “Whatever we have we are entitled to because we earned it” is the subtext of much political and economic policy. These political postures wouldn’t work unless they were supported by a shared belief system — in this case, the inner world of style 3.
Many of you are coaches, so regardless of the enneagram style of your client, it helps you to realize that a USA citizen will probably have an overlay of style 3 beliefs. One of the myths in the USA is that of the self-made man. I use man because women are not quite as convinced of self-making. Their experience of bearing and raising children weakens that…
Along with the notion that our achievements are our own comes a dreadful suspicion that so are our failures. Threes have a deep fear of failure. In the USA, failure is usually (desperately?) reframed as a “learning experience.” Fear of failure prevents many of your clients from taking action. The emotional punishment of failure is just too high. If one fails at a task, one fails at life – life being one’s assignment to create oneself. Popular culture is quite comfortable with the generalizations “loser” and “failure” as the worst one can be.
Self-made, self-reliant, personally responsible people are frequently not nearly aware enough of their environment, either the dangers or the resources. Self-made works best if you are born a white, male, healthy, (even tall helps!) into a wealthy family with important connections and during prosperous times. Your clients will assume personal responsibility without taking these into consideration and worse, feeling bad (making excuses) if they DO take them into consideration. So when coaching citizens of the US, a nice component is increasing awareness of whatever environment they are in or should try to enter. The more detailed their knowledge of environment and its influences, the more power you release in them. In addition to helping them claim their inner resources, look outward for support, inspiration and resources, both psychological and material.
Style 3 has protective coloration because the USA has so many style 3 characteristics. One of the beliefs cherished by popular culture is the term, “self-made man.” That’s both an achievement (I started poor but now am rich), but it is also an assignment. “I have to make myself every day.” If your task in life is to create yourself, you are apt to work very hard. So in the USA workaholism is just one way to be a success.
The starting point for this endless task is that “I have to work hard to be lovable.” As Twos earn love by service, Threes earn love by achievement. Everybody loves a winner. “We’re #1” means we are loved. The worst thing you can be called is “loser.”
Every Enneagram style is an experience of poverty: I don’t have enough of what I need. Style Two thinks she does not have the ability to meet her own needs so she meets the needs of others with the implicit hope they will return the favor and take care of her. Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics fame raised this to a cosmic level: “Whatever you put out into the universe will come back to you manyfold.” The assumption is that you meet your needs by meeting the needs of others and then they meet yours.
Every Enneagram style has a pattern that if pushed too far or exercised too narrowly pits us against ourself. In this next series, I’ll point out how negative self-talk is a good starting point for understanding the low side of our style.
Style One, often called the critic or perfectionist could also be called, inelegantly, the improver. Because Ones compare reality to what should be, they try to make everything better than it currently is. Where this gets you in trouble, Ones, is when you tell yourself and others of faults. Your starting point is that things are not good enough. I’m not, you’re not, they’re not –until things are perfect, you may feel an obligation to fix yourself, us and them. Ones get in their own way when they can’t be grateful for what they have because they are so upset that they are not even better.