Our Enneagram style simplifies and organizes our perceptions. We find what we look for and we learn what we already are disposed to learn. Did you also know that we tell ourselves lies? Psy Blog has an interesting article on the fine art of self-deception. We invent reasons for doing what we do: we either lie or are mistaken about our motives. This is important because so much of our Enneagram style is about motives.
One of the more common ways that Eights get in their own way is their method of searching for truth. Truth for 8s is often a posture – either for or against. They see the world as a battlefield and so they seek to clarify whether friends or employees or family are with or against them. The way they find out is by putting pressure – often by attack!- on people to “see what they’re made of.” Truth can be reduced to allegiance. The way I coach eights who have this approach is to have them listen. Listening doesn’t come easily, but when I can convince them that if they know another’s position better than she does, then you are more powerful. Eights love power, so they see a reason to listen without having to compromise their own position.
After I described the Enneagram as a skill, Mike sent me a link to a man who demonstrates a particular vivid example of how hard it is unlearn a mental/physical habit. It is a fine example of how hard it is to change habits.
A way to look at our Enneagram style is as a skill. Like playing a musical instrument, riding a bicycle or speaking another language, we do it without noticing. You can ride a bicycle without paying any attention and if you get good enough, the same is true of playing the piano or speaking a second language. (I just went back and added typing. I am a touch (two-fisted, automatic) typist and do it while thinking of the content). I have a terrible time typing with my thumbs on my phone –it violates a skill that has served me well in the past.
A college did this experiment. They put a pipe into cement with the open end of the pipe sticking up. Then they dropped a ping-pong ball down into the pipe. They brought five engineers into the experiment area, just a normal room. They gave the engineers an hour to get the ball out of the pipe without destroying the pipe or the cement. After an hour the engineers gave up. The experimenters then brought in three 5th grade boys and gave them the same assignment. The boys just took the water that had been politely made available, poured it into the pipe and the ball floated to the top.
The engineers “knew” this was an engineering problem. The water was for drinking, not working the problem. Their training made them very good at what they did. But their skill as engineers also preventing them from seeing a different resource area.
Our Enneagram style makes us good at certain things and prevents us from seeing obvious resources. What a coach does is recognize where our skills work well and where those real talents prevent us from getting what we want.
Style Sevens are fear-based, but their fear is disguised by their high activity often. That’s because a significant source of fear for Sevens is boredom. Generally Sevens fear any kind of confinement and boredom is experienced that way. But in the latest issue of Wired (April ’15) researchers at Texas A&M found that “boredom” is a seeking state and their research shows that boredom increases creativity. So when Sevens seek distraction in the omnipresent electronic devices, they inadvertently tamp down their creativity. Researcher Sandi Mann from the University of Central Lancaster opined that “noodling with your phone is like eating junk food.”
When Sevens get in their own way is when they expect things to be easier than they turn out to be. Sevens frequently start strong: their energy and optimism assures them they can accomplish something. But if it gets difficult, especially if that difficulty is teamed with boredom, we have a tendency to either look for an easier way to do things or we might bail on the project. Sometimes this leads to creativity, other times it leads to incomplete projects, plans and dreams.
When Sixes get in their own way, it is when they frighten themselves. They give away their power, usually to authorities, but often to groups (family, state, church, a tradition — pick a group). Sixes don’t acknowledge their own power, they project it onto others and then obey that entity. One of their common ways to see reality as frightening and more than they can deal with is a little habit they call “what ifing.” What if this happens, what if that doesn’t? Because no one can protect themselves against all possible eventualities, they feel helpless and powerless.