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“Our brains are pattern-recognition machines and belief-forming engines. We connect the dots and form beliefs about the patterns we think we find.”
We all have stories about ourselves and the world around us. The patterns and beliefs that Shermer refers to above form the basis for our personal and collective narratives, and those narratives provide a sense of clarity and certainty for each of us. They help us make sense of the world so that we can cope psychologically, and they provide valuable advantages so we can survive physically. (After all, those of our ancestors who could infer a connection between rustling bushes and lurking lions lived to breed another day.)
While this capability serves some very necessary functions, it can also cause us to become stuck in outdated narratives. Since the brain loves patterns, and will create them even when they don’t exist, our Story quickly becomes calcified: We form opinions and beliefs and prejudices about ourselves and our world that, even if they were accurate when first formed, can quickly become obsolete. Behaviors based on our Story quickly become habitual and when the world changes around us we often react to it in inappropriate and ineffective ways.
When working with my clients I help them expose the persistent themes of their Story—the collection of micro- and macro-narratives; tales large and small about themselves, their coworkers, the business climate, or life in general—that may be hampering their growth. Of course, their Ennea-type is at the heart of their Story; it’s the prism through which they see the world and it colors everything, and recognizing their Ennea-type and the role it plays in shaping their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is invaluable in efforts to improve. Once they understand their unconscious and habitual story they can become active dismantlers and rebuilders: challenging their own assumptions and beliefs when they see the influence of Ennea-type and rewriting their Story in adaptive ways rather than continuing along maladaptive paths. Rather than being characters in the story of their lives they learn to become active and deliberate authors of the Story, taking control and re-scripting the narrative with more-adaptive themes.
While most of my clients become interested in the Enneagram, only a few become aficionados. Oddly enough, this light embrace works to their advantage in some ways because they use the Enneagram to recognize its affect on their worldview, make some changes to the way they see their world, and then go back to living their lives. The danger of being an Enneagram aficionado is that our perception of our type and the types of others can become a new, just-as-calcified story. It can become simply another form of habitual, stereotypic thinking that we should be trying to eradicate.
Zen teacher Sunryu Suzuki Roshi once said, “Zen is like soap: use it to clean, but then rinse it off.” The Enneagram should be used the same way; but often the opposite is the case. If you’ve been to a conference or workshop you’ve seen the behavior: People seem to love their type, regaling others with evidence that shows they are a Six or a Nine or a Three, breathlessly pointing out when someone demonstrates type-related behavior, debating the Ennea-types of the people in their lives or on TV. It becomes a badge of honor, almost, and witnessing it I can’t shake the image of people caked in suds.
It’s understandable behavior, of course; the Enneagram is a mesmerizing tool and can make us feel like we are seeing life clearly for the first time. Once we have this clear vision we fear losing it, so we hold on to it. We seem to see a deeper layer to the people around us, and the Enneagram becomes like a decoder ring, helping us to fathom the otherwise strange-seeming behavior of our fellow travelers. We benefit so much that we want to share it with the people we care about and, like most converts, we can become a bit obsessive.
But it’s very easy for the Enneagram to become a central part of a new but similarly calcified Story about our world. We believe a coworker is a Three so we assume all of her actions are driven by a focus on image and surely she couldn’t do charitable work because how could a Three find success in that, and, now that you mention it, I never did trust her because we know Threes are “deceitful.”
Such automated and clichéd characterizations rob us of the opportunity to see the individuals around us as they truly are: complex and contradictory and human. They lead us to make inaccurate assessments about people as we start to believe the Enneagram is some sort of fool-proof predictive model that will tell us everything a person can and will do, rather than seeing it as a descriptive model that helps us to understand past behavior in a deeper context or to be open, responsive, and non-judgmental in the present moment.
A case in point: At a recent conference someone asked me to read an article, prefacing the request with the assurance that it was short and he knew that I was an Eight and that “Eights aren’t readers.” I couldn’t imagine that someone who would say that could write anything I’d be interested in reading and the article in fact remained unread.
Worse still, these characterizations are simply boring. Each time I hear someone say something to the effect of “Oh, I’m such a Seven!” I simply want to scream.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to disaffect the reader from the Enneagram; nor am I saying that our knowledge of the Enneagram should not be used in our daily lives. I love the Enneagram and I doubt an hour goes by when I don’t think about it in one way or another: I’m on the board of directors of the IEA; I’ve co-authored a book about the Enneagram; the Enneagram is central to my work. But we must be careful that the Enneagram does not become another static, repetitive Story for us. We must ensure that we use it to help us see our maladaptive habitual patterns and begin to dismantle them so we can respond to life more openly and appropriately. We should use it to understand the traps that others can sometimes fall into and to ensure that we are more compassionate toward them in our interactions. Each time we feel the nagging dis-ease or frictions brought about by unsatisfying relationships with the people around it, we should pull out the Enneagram and give ourselves a quick scrub, followed by a thorough rinse.
Walt Whitman proudly wrote “I contradict myself; I am large, I contain multitudes.” He also understood himself, and a central truth about human nature. We should embrace those same qualities about ourselves.
So, should be meet, don’t tell me your Story, but do tell me about yourself: the unscripted you, not the type-bound cliché. I’ll probably see your Ennea-type, given time, but let me see the multitudes, the real you, the one that contradicts and surprises even yourself.
That’s how I’ll know the Enneagram has really taken root in your life.
(This blog entry was contributed by Dennis Tallon, a partner with Awareness to Action International. Find out more about Dennis at: http://www.awarenesstoaction.com/who.html or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Phil Davis worked with M&E Engineering, Inc. for 40 years. He began at M&E after a brief stint with another engineering firm. When he started at M & E Engineering he knew he had found his dream job. He had worked for bright, experienced and strong engineers before he became the president of the company, some 30 years later. His role models were two men. One man was a brilliant engineer who lived in his head, seemed uncomfortable around people, and spoke only when spoken to. The other man was also a brilliant engineer who was always on the go, critical of others, and a perfectionist. Phil himself was always confident, assertive, and had a reputation, early on, as someone who shot from the hip; Phil often spoke before he thought. They called him “fire, ready, aim Phil”. He was a powerful leader who always seemed to have followers. Phil loved an audience so he could tell everyone what he believed, why he believed it, and why they should believe it too. Phil Davis was the classic narcissistic, boundaryless, one-up leader. Phil was also an Eight in the Enneagram.
I was brought into the company at the request of a fellow management consultant who had been working with Phil Davis and his executive team for about six months. She was making little progress, and as she put it, “he’s an arrogant jerk who always thinks he’s right and doesn’t listen—to me, his people, anyone.” She had had enough and asked me if I would assist her in working with Phil and his team and I welcomed the challenge. Having worked with leaders like him I knew what to expect, but Phil surpassed even my expectations. He was an arrogant man who always thought he was right. Phil didn’t listen; he was patriarchal and a wise guy. There was nothing he didn’t think he could say and do. In my 25+ years in consulting, Phil Davis has been my greatest challenge, and I’m happy to say, one of my greatest successes.
My consultant friend, Kathy Elder, eventually asked me to take over the project. She bowed out leaving me as the lone consultant. Kathy was relieved to not have to deal with Phil any longer. I remember as if it was yesterday our first meeting when he told me, “I think this consulting stuff is BS and I’m only doing it because the board wants me to. I don’t like consultants and I don’t particularly like you either”. The challenge was on. I knew I had to be strong, not make him look bad, assure him that I knew what I was doing, I could make his life easier, and his board happy again. He reluctantly gave me the go ahead to conduct a 360 assessment. He was intrigued when I asked him to pick the people he wanted me to talk with and he proceeded to give me a list of names including subordinates, colleagues in the industry, a close friend, a couple of clients, his two sons (one estranged), and his wife. To make a long story short, the assessment data blew him away because everyone said the same thing, regardless of where it came from, his wife, two sons, clients, best friend, and subordinates. The data of his strengths and weaknesses/challenges included:
Strengths – vision, strong speaker, ability to get people excited about a cause (convincing), ability to lead, willingness to make the tough decisions, likeable when in a good mood, enthusiastic, self-confident, protective (company & family), self-reliant.
Weaknesses – doesn’t listen, tendency to bully and overpower people (aggressive), it has to be his way, asks people for input and then criticizes their comments (insensitive), needs to be right, controlling, and will yell (rage) at people and scare them.
My 360-feedback session with Phil was disturbing, powerful, and life altering for him. He was blown away by the data, especially when he realized everyone said the same thing, and most importantly, his wife and two sons. I asked him if he wanted to work on augmenting his strengths and learning from his weaknesses; he reluctantly said yes.
Phil and I embarked upon a two-year journey meeting monthly and some times twice a month. I’m happy to say that Phil used the same power and self-confidence in facing his demons. He began to realize that being empathetic and vulnerable were not signs of weakness but of strength. He expanded his understanding of what power, leadership and strength were and it translated into a new relationship with his executive team, his board and most significantly – his wife and two sons.
During a meeting Phil and I had, some months later (which
turned out to be a defining moment for him), was when I asked him if he could
remember a time when he was vulnerable. There was a time not that long ago when
Phil would have interpreted the word vulnerable as weak and sissy like but my
gut told me, based on our work together, he was ready to answer the question.
He thought about the question for a few minutes and started talking about his
cattle ranch. Phil grew up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming
The point of the story is to illustrate that when we are willing to be open, to be creative and not be reactive, we can learn things about our self – what motivates us, what are our fears, how we affect other people, how can we be more responsible, and accountable to ourselves and others. Phil’s life changed when he got in touch with his fears and his blind spots. Phil is still a very strong and powerful man, he is also a more aware, present, and more in-touch leader.
Phil has since retired. He became the best and most well respected President & CEO that M & E Engineering has ever had. He now works part time as a consultant to the company. Whenever I see him he gives me a big hug, and at times will acknowledge that he never thought he would ever hug a guy in public.
This post was contributed by Bob Tallon, co-author of "Awareness to Action: The Enneagram, Emotional Intelligence and Change."
Imagine if you never changed your
communication or decision-making style, that it was always the same, regardless
of circumstances. You’d be similar to Star
Trek’s Mr. Spock, who was always predictable, always logical, unemotional,
and factual. He frustrated his opposite: the passionate, emotional, and
intuitive Captain Kirk. Kirk was just as predictable as Spock, but in a
different way. I was fascinated by the contrast between these two characters.
They both had “strong” personalities: determined, willful, and consistent. I
could always rely on their reactions. Neither Spock nor Kirk seemed very
adaptable, and that was part of the fun of watching them. Week after week I’d
anticipate how their responses to situations got them in or out of trouble. How
similar is your life? How predictable or adaptable are you?
Part of maturing is learning how to adjust your attitudes and behaviors. That’s a good thing. It’s evolution. The survivors are the ones who adjust most effectively.
The approach called Situational Leadership states that effective leaders change their leadership style depending on the situation. Less effective leaders are pretty much stuck with one style. They fall into the “One Trick Pony” category and believe in the “I gotta be me” approach. On the other hand, more effective, situational leaders evaluate the circumstances and the people involved, weigh the options, and adjust their style accordingly. For example, let’s say you have a very simple task that needs to get done, and you have very experienced people to work with. You could chose, according to Dr. Paul Hersey, the author of Situational Leadership, one of four leadership styles: (1) Tell—provide specific instructions and closely supervise performance, (2) Sell—explain your decisions and provide opportunities for clarification, (3) Consult—share ideas and facilitate in making decisions, or (4) Delegate—turn over responsibility for decisions and implementation.
The most effective style for this situation is number four—Delegate—because the workers know what they’re doing, they don’t need your input, and may feel insulted if you try to train them or micro-manage them. Life presents itself situationally as well. If you believe you have options, you can adjust how you behave based on the different situations. But you have to see—and believe—you have options.
The problem is that a lot of people don’t think they have options. They believe that they have one specific style and one consistent, personality strategy for life. This belief shows itself in many forms, such as, “This is my story and I’m sticking to it,” “It’s my way or the highway,” “Accept me for who am,” and the ever present, “That’s just the way I am.” Most people believe that there’s one permanent “I” that doesn’t change—that can’t change—regardless of the situation. A client of mine, let’s call him George, felt that it was important to present the same face to everyone. He supervised eight people and thought that treating everyone “equally” was the best way to manage them. “I gotta be me,” was his mantra, and he wore it like a badge of honor.
“I’m consistent,” he once told me. “I don’t flip-flop, and I don’t change my values for anyone.” He was under the misguided impression that never adapting his behavior was a sign of discipline, honor, and virtue. But of late it wasn’t working and he came to me for help. “You’re lazy,” I told him one day, to his surprise.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You’re lazy, first, because you expect everyone else to change instead of you, and second, because you haven’t learned to adapt to the people around you. Having only one style just isn’t effective.”
George was a big sports fan. “For example,” I said, “a basketball player who can only dunk the ball, who has no jump shot or three pointer, is easy to guard against because he’s so predictable. One the other hand, in baseball, a player who’s learned to be a switch hitter is more effective because he can change his stance and adjust his swing depending on whether the pitcher is right or left handed.”
A lot of people view their personality in the same way they view their name: inherited, beyond their control, and with them for life. Then there are others who have no problem changing their name. My wife Robyn, wanted to be different, so she changed the spelling of her name from “Robin” to “Robyn.” A small change? Perhaps. But to her it spoke volumes: she wasn’t a victim of circumstance; she believed she had options and had control over her life. “I’m this not that,” she told the world. How about “Sting,” “Madonna,” “Slash,” and “Prince?” How about all the authors with pen names and actors with stage names? The most effective and successful actors are the ones who adjust their actions to fit the situation. In a recent interview on the Today Show, Brian Williams answered Matt Lauer’s question about who would win Best Actor at the Academy Awards: “I think Sean Penn in Milk will win because he moved in and occupied the role. He became Harvey Milk.”
Aren’t you an actor playing a part? Aren’t you adapting, like an actor, to your life script? You do it unconsciously 99% of the time. Imagine if you could do it consciously all the time. When an actor fails to adjust his acting style to the demands of the script he turns in an ineffective performance. He’s a victim of his limited range and lack of options. He’s responding to himself—usually to his fears and anxieties—rather than the script. You do the same thing when you limit your actions to your preferred strategy. Then your performance seems inauthentic, inappropriate, and ineffective.
The Enneagram teaches how you limit your options and over-rely on one preferred strategy to the neglect of the other eight. It teaches that to live effective, creative lives means to be adaptable: when you know that you have options, and can freely, consciously create the best action for the situation. You allow each situation to determine your behavior, not your preferred strategy. You’re no longer a victim of circumstance; you’re a creator of your own life.
(This is the third part of my interview with Italian Enneagram teacher Claudio Garibaldi. Parts 1and 2 appeared February 8 and 19.)
Claudio: It is my
opinion that in the Enneagram world many things are taken for granted, for
example the theory about the subtypes. Moreover, it seems there is not research
on the subject. Might you summarize your point of view about the subtypes?
Mario: I agree with you, there is Enneagram dogma that gets taken for granted,
as there is with any system of thought or teaching. People fail to see that
something that might apply in one environment or circumstance may not apply in
another, or they may become so awed by how the majority of a teaching is so
profound that they overlook the part that doesn’t ring true. We all have a
tendency toward confirmation bias and disregard contradictory evidence when it
threatens what we want to believe. We are also cowed by authority, even
benevolent authority, and many are unwilling to question the “gurus.” Finally, since
many students of the Enneagram are spiritual seekers who want to believe fantastic things, they are prone to do so even when
those fantastic things contradict the evidence.
Some years back I became troubled by what was being taught about the subtypes, initially because I was encountering so many people who were so confused on the topic, either in regard to their subtype or the theory in general. The fundamental concepts of the subtypes (which some people refer to as “instinctual variants”) were inspired by the teachings of Gurdjieff, who taught that there were three instinctive drives—self-preservation, social, and sexual—that influenced our unconscious behavior. Later, Enneagram teachers such as Naranjo and Oscar Ichazo talked about the combination of Ennea-type and instinct and came up with the idea of “subtypes.”
The immediate problem with the theory is that humans, like other mammals, do not have three instincts, they have many instincts, though there is a tendency of many of them to be related in three broad areas.
The second problem is that, when I first learned about them at least, the instincts were discussed as psychological phenomena. However, instincts are by definition rooted in biological phenomena; they are evolved and inherited responses to complex situations, rather than responses that develop because of psychological responses to early life circumstances. This is not to say that our psychology does not shape the way our instincts manifest, but they are clearly rooted in our biology. A squirrel has instincts, but a squirrel does not have psychological processes. Humans are more complicated than squirrels of course, but instincts are part of our animal selves, part of our biology.
This tendency to see the instincts as psychological phenomena causes people to look for psychological reasons for biological behavior, and it is natural for the mind to confabulate in that situation. Therefore, people come up with all kinds of reasons for a behavior that is not rooted in reason. For example, I have listened to people who are clearly “self-preserving” subtype argue that they are a sexual subtype and rationalize it with excuses such as they prefer to eat dinner with one other person than eat alone or with a large group. When we start trying to use psychological explanations for biological phenomena we can convince ourselves of anything.
For this reason, I disregard people’s explanations and watch their non-conscious behavior when working with the subtypes (or what I usually refer to as “instinctual biases”). I watch what they do when they are not doing some consciously directed activity; I listen to what they talk about when they have no specific topic to address; I pay attention to what attracts their attention. These are the things that point to the instinct while post hoc explanations typically lead one astray.
Here is another excerpt from my interview with Claudio Garibaldi (the previous excerpt appeared February 8).
Claudio: You don’t talk about the wings in your work. Why?
Mario: This, too, is an issue of pragmatism. I believe that it is helpful to look at how all of the strategies manifest in our lives, to understand how each one may cause us to think or act maladaptively, to become more effective at using strategies that we under-use to our detriment. So, I am not opposed to exploring our wings (how the types or strategies on either side of us shape our personality type), but I find that it can cause confusion and, for my audience at least, the confusion outweighed the value.
When I first started teaching the Enneagram to clients, they would spend
a lot of time worrying about what their wing was and what the wings of their
coworkers are. It seemed to produce debate rather than understanding and
clarity. Applying the Pareto Principle, that 80 % of one’s received benefit
tends to come from 20% of one’s investments and that the other 80% of the
investments provide a relatively low benefit, I simply felt that it was more
valuable to focus on other issues rather than the wings.
I also think that the wings are not as fixed as many people believe. In my experience, many people demonstrate flexibility and use both wings or have no discernible wing. In addition, the variation within type is much better explained by subtype, or which instinct is dominant in a person. As I’m sure you’ll recall, one of the things that initially drew us into conversation a couple of years ago was our independent conclusions that there is a correlation between subtype and wing identification. We independently discovered that there were patterns that could be tracked, and thus a redundancy of sorts with wing and subtype. For all of these reasons I simply find it easier to disregard the wings and focus on more beneficial elements of the model.
Claudio: Tell us about how
you view the inner lines of the Enneagram.
Mario: I think there is great value and significance to the inner lines of the
Enneagram, but my emphasis is a little different and I use different labels for
the dynamics of the connecting points. First, I believe that we access both
connecting points in adaptive and maladaptive ways. Other authors say the same
things, but the connecting points are typically referred to as “directions of
integration and disintegration” or “stress” and “security” points, which gives
the impression of one direction being “good” and one being “bad.”
When I first learned the Enneagram, the implication was it was maladaptive if I as an Eight demonstrated behaviors commonly associated with Type Five. Being somewhat of an introvert by nature who was interested in philosophy, art, literature, etc., this simply was not my experience of myself. I placed value on my ability to step back and be objective and thoughtful rather than seeing it as a sign of dysfunction. Likewise, I also noticed that I could demonstrate some maladaptive traits associated with Type Two, which really wasn’t accounted for in the literature at the time (though Sandra Maitri went on to describe this dynamic well in her first book). I could be jealous and needy and emotional in ways that Eights weren’t supposed to be. The common wisdom of the time, that one direction represented positive growth and the other represented dysfunction, simply didn’t ring true for me.
As far as one’s growth and development are concerned, I think there is value in looking at the connecting points. Again, using the Pareto Principal, there is a hierarchy of dynamics to pay attention to with the Enneagram, a pattern of descending return on investment on one’s inner work. I, as an Eight, gain the most value from the Enneagram by looking at ways in which I maladaptively overdo striving to be powerful, the strategy found at point Eight. Next, I gain by looking at ways that I under-do or even resist the strategy found at point Two, striving to be connected. (Bob and I used the term “neglected” strategy for what is commonly called the “security point” or direction of integration in our book because it is helpful in our growth to pay attention to how we “neglect” the use of this strategy.) Third, I gain from observing how I maladaptively rely on the strategy of striving to be detached found at point Five to “support” my striving to be powerful. (We referred to this as the “support strategy.”)
There is still value in looking at the other six points and your relationship to those strategies, but you get the greatest benefit from observing your preferred strategy and the two you are connected to by the inner lines.
(This post was written by my business partner and co-author, Robert Tallon)
My client, Leonard, owns a medium sized-distribution company. I’ve been coaching him for about six months. He’s had a bad temper as long as he can remember, which he blames on others. “Some people just tick me off,” he told me recently, “especially when they don’t deliver.” He’s not been aware, until recently, that he has no clear expectations or work agreements with his employees. His people are always doomed to disappoint him because they can only guess at what he wants. Leonard is angry and agitated a lot.
His realization that he doesn’t communicate clearly sparked a huge shift in his life. He became aware of how unaware he has been, both at work and at home. “You talk a lot about awareness,” he said to me as we walked through his warehouse one afternoon. “I’m seeing more and more that I act automatically, that I react to things the same way all the time. My wife tells me I’m a broken record, that I’m completely predictable. What’s behind the unawareness and my predictable, bad behavior?” he asked. “Why am I so unaware?”
I was happy; Leonard was finally getting it. I explained to him that there are different levels of awareness, and different levels and qualities of being on “autopilot.” Sometimes we go on autopilot out of habit, boredom, or even efficiency—say, when we need to multitask—to walk, chew gum, and think about what we’re going to say to the boss at the budget meeting. But there’s another autopilot that we fall into, the one that’s caused by fear. Here’s what I told Leonard: Practice being aware of how often you think about fear. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What am I afraid of?”
Become aware of your thoughts about fear and your life will change. The fears may seem small at first, and you may not even consider them fears; like worrying about being embarrassed, or not being listened to, or appearing boring, or offending someone. There are bigger fears: losing your job, not making payroll, not being a good provider, or parent, or husband, or wife.
Leonard began to see how his fears started with his thoughts. He thought it was lazy employees, or the economy, or competitors that caused his fear and angry reactions. But it’s never something “outside” that triggers fear. Life events are neutral. They have no meaning except the meaning we give them—what we think about them. It’s our thoughts that generate feelings. It’s our thoughts that cause fear.
How do you react to fear? You create stories. You do it unconsciously. When you react to situations out of fear you’re like an animal—like a reptile, really—and you’re caught in a life of reaction: fight or flight. And just to make things clear, fight might mean being super pleasing as well as super powerful. The point is you’re reacting out of habit. Automatic pilot. Completely reactive. Awareness need not apply.
As long as your thoughts about fear remain unconscious, you’ll be unaware of how they fuel your stories. The strategy approach to the Enneagram teaches that there are nine strategies connected to nine fears. You have a fear, say of being unlovable, and you create a strategy, an unconscious way of overcoming the fear and feeling safe. Perhaps your strategy involves being close and connected to people, being helpful and nurturing to make people love you. You create stories to support the use of your strategy—why you must always be this way. Habits form, spontaneity and creativity disappear, and you’re living a life of unawareness and inertia. Nothing seems to change.
Most people are unaware that the same old thoughts cause the same old fears, which create the same old stories. Leonard’s primary fear was around being dominated, hurt, or controlled. His strategy was to be powerful, to express his will, and to avoid weakness. The stories he created were about losing control, being dominated by others, and about his need to be powerful. His stories made his strategy make perfect sense, and his strategy seemed to make his fear go away, at least for a while.
about Leonard’s main competitor, Tri State Distribution, always sent a chill up
his spine. The facts were:
Fear makes you behave in a limited, habitual way. But without fear you’re free to be curious, creative, and spontaneous. This is the way you were as a child, like a jazz musician: improvising, creating and playing, beat-by-beat, moment-by-moment. Remember when you played cops and robbers, or “house,” or “hospital?” You were the scriptwriter, director, actor, and audience. You didn’t worry about the opinions of the critics, or having a flawless performance, or having a degree from the Actor’s Studio. You weren’t controlled by an old, static “story.” You were fearless. You were all action.
Remember when the crayons came out? You weren’t afraid to create pictures with red grass or purple elephants. You weren’t concerned about an art degree from the Sorbonne. And sand castles? No degree in architecture required. No story needed. You were curious, industrious, absorbed, and lost in your creation. You would miss lunch if Dad didn’t drag you to it.
Leonard’s work is about becoming aware of how his thoughts trigger the same old fears of losing control and being taken advantage of—how he unconsciously relies on being powerful as a strategy—and how he is trapped in the same stories: “Only the strong survive,” “It’s a jungle out there,” “You can’t trust anybody,” or one of a thousand other variations.
What would your life be without fear? It would be a life of curiosity, creativity, joy, and love. You’d be free, and you’d be fearless. And you wouldn’t need all your stories.
by Robert Tallon
This is an entry that's a bit off topic, perhaps, but I can't resist.
As you probably already know, 19th century, Abraham Lincoln and . It is a wonderful coincidence that these men were born on the same day since they each changed the world in significant ways and their shared birthday gives us a moment to reflect on them together. marks the 200th anniversary of the births of two giants of the
They were born into very different circumstances—Lincoln famously in a Kentucky log cabin to a poor family; Darwin into a wealthy family on an English country estate—but they shared some significant characteristics.
First: They fought to end slavery. Lincoln, of course, signed the , freeing slaves in the United States. Despite the later misappropriation of his ideas by some racists and eugenicists, Darwin was an ardent abolitionist and came from a long line of anti-slavery activists. Lincoln fought for the idea that all men were created equal; Darwin proved that all men were indeed brothers.
Second: They were men of ideas. Lincoln fought—and died—for the idea that a nation of people with disparate interests could work together toward a common good. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was recently referred to by Scientific American magazine as the most important idea in all of science.
Third: They were both remarkable writers who understood the importance of clear, rational thought and the ability of finely crafted words to reshape society. Lincoln ’s prose was both compact and soaring; deeply informed by Shakespeare, the Bible, and the writings of the Greek and Roman philosophers. At the same time, it was often marked by humor and the direct sensibility of his humble origins. Darwin wrote in a high Victorian style with meticulous attention to clarity and the steady, gentle unfolding of what he referred to as his “one long argument.”
Anyone with an appreciation for language will find much to marvel at in their writings.
To mark this day I would like to share a short piece by each of them.
The scant 275 words of the are so precise and fluid that it is easy to take their implications for granted. It is best read with the understanding that, while these ideas are part of our national identity today, they were in much in doubt at the time. (I greatly recommend reading these words as they appear carved in marble at the Lincoln Memorial to truly appreciate them.)
The final paragraph of Darwin’s “ ” beautifully summarizes the book and the final sentence, I believe, is the most significant single sentence ever written (excepting, of course, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution).
I hope you’ll take a few moments to read and reflect on the passages below, and I hope you find even a portion of the delight in them that I do.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Final Paragraph of “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. [italics added], entailing Divergence of Character and the
I was recently interviewed by Italian Enneagram teacher Claudio Garibaldi. Claudio is arranging for me to do a workshop in Milan early this summer, and this interview will be translated into Italian and used to promote that program. This is the first part of the interview.
Claudio: Mario, I am
asking you this interview for many different reasons. First of all you have written a very interesting book "Awareness to Action: The Enneagram , Emotional Intelligence, and Change: A
Guide to Improving Performance," where you and Bob Tallon connect the
Enneagram and Emotional Intelligence, which is going to be published in Italy in the
near future. Next June you will hold a workshop in our Country, and I think this
is going to be a great opportunity for all of us. Then you also have published
many articles on Enneagram Monthly,
where you show an original approach to instincts and strategies of the
Enneagram. Moreover, you are a long time business consultant, and so, your
contributions arise by working on the field with the Enneagram. Finally, you
are at present a member of the IEA Board. Given these assumptions, I think you
can have a wide perspective about the Enneagram world. Please, tell us
something about you, and about the way you did get interested in the Enneagram
Mario: Bob Tallon introduced me to the Enneagram in the early 1990s. He had been a member of the Diamond Heart work with A H Almaas and was doing some work with Don Riso and Russ Hudson at the time. I was a writer and editor, and eventually moved into the field of corporate communications, and despite an interest in spirituality in general and Zen Buddhism in particular, I wasn’t very interested in personality models. The ones I had come across seemed too general to me and to be of little value. But I had known Bob for 20 years at the time and respected him, and his enthusiasm for the Enneagram persuaded me to read the first edition of Don Riso’s book “Personality Types.” Riso’s book impressed me; I immediately saw myself as a Type Eight and could recognize the people in my life in Riso’s pages, which gave the Enneagram immediate face validity with me.
I went on to read every other book on the Enneagram that I could find—Helen Palmer’s, Claudio Naranjo’s, Hurley and Donson’s, etc.—and despite the small differences in their ideas I was struck not only by the accuracy of the Enneagram but by its usefulness. I was able to put what I learned from these authors to work immediately in my own growth and in improving my relationships. When I went into the consulting world in 1997 it was obvious to me that the Enneagram would be an invaluable tool in my work as a coach and conducting team-building and leadership-development programs.
Claudio: What makes your approach to the Enneagram theory of personality different from the others?
Mario: There are two critical differences to my approach: the emphasis on the inner triangle of the Enneagram and the concept of “the strategies.” To give a better understanding of these ideas, let me explain how they came to be.
One of the wonderful things about the Enneagram is that it is not a proprietary model such as the Myers-Briggs system. No one created an “official” model of the Enneagram or controls interpretation. People are free to interpret the Enneagram in the context of their environment and experience, to apply it to different areas in whatever creative ways they can imagine. This has led to the development of a variety of models and areas of emphasis. The downside to this, of course, is that there are some interpretations that lack rigor.
I always tell my clients to exercise caution and critical thinking when reading about the Enneagram, to see if what they are reading makes sense and holds to be true in their lives. I especially encourage them to exercise critical thinking when they read my book and to challenge anything I say to them. This is a good habit for them to develop and it helps me to learn. Because my clients are business people, who are naturally rigorous, critical, and challenging, they are only too happy to let me know when they disagree!
I never set out to become an “Enneagram theorist.” When I started using the Enneagram in my work I would give my clients one of the popular Enneagram books as a guide. While people generally responded well, it soon became clear that the existing literature was inadequate for the environment I was working in. Most of it was too psychological or too spiritual or too convoluted for the people I was trying to reach. So I started to develop new material, to write articles, and—with Bob—start working on what would eventually become “Awareness to Action” out of necessity. It was an attempt to provide my clients with material that fit their needs.
This environment has shaped my approach to the Enneagram. Despite many of the stereotypes one hears about business people (especially in the spiritual circles often associated with the Enneagram), I have found my business clients to be among the smartest people I have met. I find them to also be interested in anything that can help them be better people and improve their relationships, so they embrace the Enneagram eagerly. But it has to be clear, simple and precise or they will lose attention.
Clear, simple, and precise does not mean “simplistic” or diluted, however. The goal that Bob and I set out in writing our book, back in about 2000-2001, was to make it simple but to capture the essence of the system. We were frustrated with many of the descriptions of the types because we felt that they relied on lists of traits rather than what was at the core. I had been reading Naranjo’s “Character and Neurosis” and was struck by a passing reference he made to the types as “adaptive strategies.” This seemed fundamental to me and we adopted the term. We decided that, for us, the core of type is what a person is “striving to be” as a means of addressing the circumstances of everyday life. Eights, for example, are “striving to be powerful” as their strategy for taking on life’s challenges; Fours, on the other hand, use the strategy of “striving to be unique.”
The strategy is rooted in an emotional tone, the non-conscious mind’s way of feeling safe; this tone influences our thoughts, which in turn influence our actions. As an Eight, the deep part of my mind needs to feel powerful; therefore I think in patterns that help me feel that way, and then I behave in ways that are consistent with the way I think. The result of this interaction of emotion, thought, and behavior is what is referred to as Ennea-type.
Our use of the inner triangle is unique as well. We use it as a metaphor for both the main psycho-spiritual challenge we face and the solution to that challenge. Other authors, such as Sandra Maitri and Naranjo, had used the inner triangle to describe the process of “going to sleep to ourselves.” We looked at it slightly differently and used the triangle as a metaphor for how we create a “story” about our world that becomes the confining and restrictive perspective we have on reality (we can address this idea further in a moment).
Finally, we also turned the inner triangle into a model for how we can overcome or rewrite this story and open up to a broader, more-accurate view of reality, and to change our behavior accordingly so that we act in more healthy, adaptive ways. We call this the Awareness to Action Process, and I really view this process as the cornerstone of my work. The creation of the story is a fundamental obstacle to clear vision, adaptability, efficacy, and contentment and the Awareness to Action Process is how we overcome that obstacle. The Enneagram of personality represents the various versions of the story and the “grist for the mill” for work on oneself.
Due to travel, work commitments, and just needing a moment or two of downtime, I've fallen behind on my blog schedule. I was supposed to be writing about the Support Strategies, which I will do very soon, but today I wanted to say a few words about the International Enneagram Association (IEA).
I've recently been asked to serve on the boards of directors of the IEA and the IEA's newly forming USA affiliate. My first board meeting for the IEA was about two weeks ago in Las Vegas and I left very impressed with the intelligence and commitment of the board members (all of whom are volunteers) and with the direction the IEA is heading.
People are drawn to the Enneagram for a variety of reasons: as part of a spiritual practice, from a desire for psychological growth, or for simple self-awareness that will benefit their work lives or relationships. People representing all of these interests are found within the IEA and sometimes these interests can be in tension with each other. The board did a great job of balancing these interests and ensuring that the IEA remain a "Big Tent" where people of different interests can come together to find common ground and purpose.
I am also excited about the new accreditation program the IEA has initiated; though I'll admit that I was a little skeptical at first. My skepticism was based on my sense that accreditation held little value for me; I have never been "certified" by anyone to teach the Enneagram but I've felt that more than a decade of experience doing so in the corporate world and public arena are all the certification or accreditation I needed.
However, I've come to the conclusion that, for the good of all who use the Enneagram in their work, some sort of self-policing mechanism is necessary for the Enneagram community and the IEA's accreditation process is a good start. Fortunately, the IEA will not try to police content--no pole of the "Big Tent" will be given prominence. Instead, the IEA will focus on ethics and professionalism. This will increase the benefit that people receive from studying the Enneagram by reducing the chances that they will fall victim to unethical practitioners.
Further, I am excited about the steps the IEA is taking to becoming a truly global hub for knowledge about the Enneagram. It's emphasis on building international affiliates will bring together insights and wisdom from across the globe, and it's growing emphasis on being an aggregator of intellectual property is a step to becoming a world-class organization.
If you are not currently a member of the IEA, I encourage you to go to www.internationalenneagram.org and become one today. If you use the Enneagram in your work, I greatly encourage you to become accredited.