When the pope quoted Jesus and said “Do unto others as you want them to do to you,” he was giving good advice on a socio-political level.
But when you know the Enneagram, you realize it doesn’t work so well in interpersonal relationships. If a Five is talking or planning on talking (more likely) to a Two, he will leave the person with a style Two alone because that’s what he wants. But style Two is eager for conversation and to know all about you and hear your story — at which point the style Five will feel overwhelmned and invaded.
Do unto others as they want you to do to them.
How do we shape our Enneagram style early? We do what gets us the responses we want. A three year old who gets her/his way by crying will cry. If smiling works better, that’s what happens. At an early age we learn quickly. Notice how we learned to make funny sounds and they ended up having grammatical order…We do that to get what we want; we do it for the responses.
But we respond more than we are aware. Here’s a delightful experiment some college students. They had a teacher who paced back and forth as he lectured. So they colluded that when he went to the left side of the room, they would look bored and uninterested. But when he went to the right side of the room, their faces would become a little more animated and their posture a bit more energetic.
By the end of the lecture they had the teacher pinned to the right side. I don’t know if they ever told him what they did. If they did not, he still thinks he just focuses on the lecture, not on the response.
We don’t respond equally to the same stimuli. Our response patterns express our Enneagram style.
I routinely admonish Sixes not to watch the evening news. The news reinforces everything about the low side of Six. First of all, it reports only bad stuff. 1.2 million people in Kansas City went to bed happy. Two people got shot and they are the pictures on the 6 O’clock news. Your worst fears are told and retold if you are a Six: The world is a dangerous place and tragedy strikes when you least expect it. So if you’re a Six, don’t watch the news.
Sixes are difficult for many people to identify because they are a lovely contradiction: they are profoundly pessimistic – the worst that can happen is probably sure to to happen. (I know probably and sure are in conflict but I’ve heard them say stuff like that.)
But Sixes are usually socially aware and pleasant –many Sixes smile and make friends with everyone in order to be safe.
So the Six O’clock news has these beautiful young (blondes, usually on Fox) women, brimming with charm and personality, telling us awful things. The contrast between their camera-ready charm and the carnage they report is jarring. It is the problem of style Six on steroids: the content of their expectations is awful and their personalities are very attractive. That’s why they are often called a bundle of contradictions.
I’m watching the baseball playoff games. I hear the announcers talking about sports as a metaphor for life (teamwork etc), but sports are the opposite of life. In sports, participation is voluntary, life is not. You have to play whether you’re competent or not. Sports are fair: the rules are the same for both sides, officials watch carefully and the teams play only those in your league/caliber of skill. Life: not so much. Life is not fair, there’s never a referee when you need one and the rules are a bit opaque. In sports if you lose 14-2, the next day both sides start at zero. In life if you have a car accident and break a leg, the next day you start with a broken leg. In sports, only the final score counts – not your courage, your sportsmanship, your training. If you lose 3-2 in the 14th inning, you’re a loser. In life, the points are diffuse and varied.
So we love sports. Our Enneagram style has some things in common with them. Our Enneagram style simplifies our life. We know what we’re looking for, we narrow our value system (for sixes, security is paramount, for eights it’s power etc). We have our own set of rules (Twos know to serve, Threes know success is what counts etc). Superego types (1,2 and 6) have a built-in referee. 🙂
What is most important, though, is that sports and an ego-type shrink the world to make it manageable. Sports narrow a world (playing field clearly marked etc). When we are in our Enneagram world, we close down and shrink our world. That’s why we are called “narrow” and “closed” and “rigid” if we are in the grip of our style.
For instance, I am a Seven and when the announcers say sports are like life, I compulsively reframe sports as the opposite of life. Oh well…
One of the first casualties of an acute case of our Enneagram style is a loss of a sense of irony. An Enneagram style that is too narrowly felt makes irony difficult. Here’s an old definition of irony I like:
Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders’ incomprehension.
An Enneagram style has a function of simplifying our world. We can’t pay attention to everything, we can’t understand everything, so we focus on a few things and explain reality by shrinking it down to what we can handle. A parallel is an addict who solves her problem by drinking so that drinking is her only problem. If you are an Eight, you solve everything by fighting because you have reduced reality to a battleground. (I once coached an eight. He liked what I told him about his marriage problems. So when he got up to leave he said, “This is great, this will give me a lot of ammunition.”)
But irony suggests multiple meanings or multiple audiences. To understand irony, you have to understand more than one viewpoint at a time. But being a prisoner of a too-rigid Enneagram style is precisely to have only one view. My friend Michael suggests a moral component. If you don’t have empathy, you can’t see a view or situation that conflicts with yours.
It is my personal unsubstantiated certainty that if all political candidates had a literary background (or substantial literary talent), most political ideologies would dissolve. I base this on my experience that I have a major in psychology but if I had it to do over, I would learn more from literature. When I teach the Enneagram, the nuanced and complex characters in movies and stories are often more powerful than the explanations I offer.