The Enneagram derives some of its power from its accuracy, and even more from its depth. To illustrate the necessity of depth, I’m going to excerpt several passages from a rather typical “self-help” and perhaps “inspirational” book, Debbie Ford’s The Best Year of Your life.
She begins with an emphasis on intention. I’ve written elsewhere agreeing that intention has power. Here’s her take:
Like all great accomplishments, this life changing journey must begin with a single step. You must create a conscious intent for this to be the best year of your life. (Her emphasis) An intent is a commitment to yourself to bring into existence a particular result. It is the driving force, the hidden compass, that directs your daily behaviors.
Enneagram commentary. Note the contradiction. Your intent is both conscious and hidden. The problem with her important starting point is that she thinks conscious intent has the power to transform our life. I wonder if she ever wonders why people don’t keep their commitments (cf.January 1st).
Later on she sort of gets it:
Make no mistake about it. There is a hidden intent directing your life right now. The intent you are using right now was probably created early in life before you can began making conscious decisions. The good news is that for you to create a conscious intent it is not important that you even know the the current intent that is guiding you.”
Shall we tell her about the RAS? (Reticular Activation System), the neurological pathways that are set early in life and heavily influence and often even control what information and what responses will be dominant in our lives. That early set of intentions is so powerful it is NOT easily overcome by conscious intent.
A good way to think about the enneagram is as a partially conscious partially unconscious intent based on previous experience, especially young experiences. Unless your conscious intent integrates your Enneagram intent, we usually don’t keep our conscious intentional commitments. The belief in will power to enable the conscious intent to overpower the Enneagram intent is not supported by neurological research or your own experience. How many New Year’s Resolutions, how many beginning of the school year intentions have you kept?
And she is wrong. It is a help to know that (Enneagram) unconscious set (it’s not just one) of intentions. When you know them, you can –with a little help at times perhaps –transform, not overpower our unconscious intentions.