Back in the day, my grandma touted the wonders of the book, Pycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S. (1960). It stuck in my mind but I never got around to reading it. Maybe the timing wasn’t right. I know it shaped the way my grandma thought and how she led her life.
Grandma taught me to “never say can’t,” to sing while I walk, the value of simple things in life, that nutrition as your medicine cabinet, imbued in me her love and appreciation for nature, and that as a woman, I could be successful in business–she was.
I can still hear her giggle and feel her tenderly holding my face in her hands.
Grandma Frieda was ahead of her time in so many ways and she had a profound influence on the woman I have become. She made me believe anything was possible. My eyes well up with tears of gratitude for the many gifts she gave me.
Today, I was reminded of Grandma and Cybernetics by this BBC article Why Your Brain Loves to Get Feedback and it prompted me to finally order the book. She reached from the beyond and tapped me on the shoulder, and this time I wasn’t going to let Psycho-Cybernetics pass me by.
My curiosity and I went exploring and here’s what we found.
Cybernetics is a network of constant interactions and communications. Norbert Wiener (1894–1964) coined the term in 1948 from the Greek word for steersman. The term describes feedback — communication and control in systems—where a system obtains information on its progress, assesses the feedback, corrects its course and receives further feedback on the success of the transmission.
I followed up by doing a wee bit of research on the origins of Cybernetics (Macy Conferences). I sat in reverie and awe. Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, two giants in the field Anthropology (my post grad degree) were key players in these conferences and the founding of cross-disciplinary field of cybernetics.
I then went to the source and read the introduction to Psycho-Cybernetics on Amazon, where it seems that Maltz applies cybernetics to human systems. From what I could tell, Maltz made a case for uncovering and reshaping our beliefs that undergird self-perception.
To simplify, we can act into new habits and patterns, using feedback to adjust our new behaviors. This sent chills down my spine. He published this book in 1960 and likely was writing it the year of my birth. In 2012 I published my own book and the premise was the same. We are not doomed to repeat the same patterns, over and over.
The final paragraph in the BBC article stirred me:
Feedback loops, on the other hand, beginning with the senses but extending out across time and many individuals, allow us to self-construct, letting us travel to places we don’t have the instructions for beforehand, and letting us build on the history of our actions. In this way humanity pulls itself up by its own bootstraps.
It was a powerful reminder of my commitment to be a mirror (feedback) for my clients for them to see they are much bigger than their self-definition, the roles they play and their stories; to help them deconstruct the beliefs that underlie their self-perception so they can step into their largess and intentionally create the life of their choosing.
We each have the power and possibility to re-craft our self-image, to become the full expression of who we are meant to be. Are you willing?
After I read Psycho-Cybernetics, I’ll write a follow-up post to share more about what I uncover.
Family, community, and culture exert a significant influence on and help shape the expression of our personality and consequently our Enneagram Type. The following is a personal account that sheds light on how this works.
After Stephan (not his real name) purchased my book and read it, he contacted me. I thought our exchange would be valuable for many of you. Travel with him as his story unfolds and you may see yourself in his tale, “A Case of Mistaken Identity.”
Question from Stephan: How much of Type is “from birth” and how much might be survival adaptations from early childhood? By the way, it is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Reply from Wendy: It’s both nature and nurture. Type is shaped by family, community, school, religion and culture. These influences can reinforce Type, stifle it, cause one to adapt to fit in or some combination thereof. The early childhood experiences I write about in each Type’s story, reflect how each Type experiences the world through their Type lens and filter.
Another Type could be exposed to the same treatment, events, etc., and have a different story to tell. This is why different children respond to the same family environment or caregivers in their own unique way. And this is why, we are not our stories and are much bigger than our stories.
At birth, each Type seems to emerge with a set of beliefs about the world. Now this is all theory, but it seems to fit with what I have experienced in my work, in my own personal life and reflects a lot of the literature.
I think we’ll learn more as our understanding of human nature evolves.
Reply from Stephan: When I first looked at the Enneagram a few years ago, Type 5 – the Detached Observer (“Researcher” according to that particular resource) appeared just about right.
This seemed obvious for the Ph.D in me. But yet, it didn’t. I’ve always known that my intellectual side was a limiting compensation and has never been the real me. The official story from me and those I inherited it from (like college professors) was that I was “the intellectual.”
I bought that story, but in truth was never happy with it. In high school and early college, I was an art major and had been offered a free ride to an art school. I was that good. I loved art, especially drawing, from as early an age as 4 or 5.
My earliest memories are being a quiet kid who just loved to draw. But then, in college every professor started telling me, “Anything less than a Ph.D is a serious waste of talent.” So I dropped the art major and went into the humanities, riding that adopted story all the way to a Ph.D. Yet even in the Ph.D program, I switched from historical studies to literary studies because I could talk about the art of the text.
Being a “unique” intellectual was always my calling card.
I was bored if it didn’t have an artistic slant. I knew then and there it was my old art major telling me he wouldn’t be happy unless he had a place in my evolving intellectual life. I was ready to drop the Ph.D until I could find a way to do something intellectual and at least a bit artsy.
Flash forward to present time. Lately, I’ve been doing speaker training and my coach put me through some brain tests. I always assumed I was left brain dominant.
But I was wrong – I’m right brain dominant and left-handed! (The same as Einstein, believe it or not.) It then all began to make sense!
My coach put it out there, “You are right brain dominant Stephan – make no mistake. Your left brain seeming dominance was probably some sort of survival adaptation.” Then more lights went on. She was right. It all was.
It was at that point that Kara (a friend who is familiar with the Enneagram) and I had a talk.
We agreed; I’m a 4 and my 5 is a “wing,” but a very strong wing that dominated the landscape for years because I had to escape my feelings and run to my mind to manage a Borderline mother. She could crush a 4 and his feelings, but never a 5 and his mind. It was definitely a survival strategy.
When I realized that, and I subsequently read your book, it all made sense. The cosmic tumblers began to click and I saw the gestalt of my life and the map of my deep inner experience with life.
I can see that I was born a Type 4 and yet, that 5 wing is a very strong survival adaptation that has often eclipsed my inner 4 essence (official stories can do that, unfortunately). I even know the event at age 5 that precipitated this whole shift – a very deep imprint.
While reading your book, I also uncovered my 3 wing. And I definitely run to the 2 people pleaser when under stress and when I’m in my native mode. I take the highway to Type 1 who runs seamlessly on ‘perfection’. I LOVE that mode.
It all began to make sense, like a puzzle falling into place.
So, as I read your book, I could not help but see how BOTH nature and childhood experience created how my Type evolved. And, of course, working with my clients tells me that imprints certainly can adjust the course of such things as a Type.
I am reclaiming that Type 4 in me these days, and I am using my 5 wing more as a tool, and less as a statement of who I am.
I am so much happier and your book helped clarify the growth process of rediscovering the ‘road map of me’ these past 6 years.
It put some things together for me in a most providential manner. Let’s just say, it was no mistake that the Universe lead me to your book at this time through my friend Kara. And for that, Wendy, I’m profoundly grateful.
I just wanted your answer since from my experience, it takes both nature and nurture/imprints to explain my experience with the Types.
I was never sold before on this stuff. I am now.
Kent (Type 1 Perfectionist) was focused on putting some order to, and structure around our project as we ended our team meeting. Happy that we had someone who had a natural ability to take stuff and structure it, I commented, “Every team needs a Type 1.”
Kent reminded me that in my book I write that the Enneagram journey involves letting go of the roles we play, and in his case that meant he didn’t want to continue to be known as a perfectionist and take responsibility for being the one to put things in order. In jest, I told Kent to stop reading my book.
I’m writing about this episode because it’s important to remember not to confuse dropping your role with expressing your gift.
What do I mean by this?
NOT because you believe it’s expected of you.
NOT because you believe you’ll lose relationships if you don’t follow through on the unspoken expectations people may have of you.
As long as it’s something that you enjoy and it’s a conscious choice, then continue doing it, because it’s one of your gifts.
Remember, the roles we play are not who we are at essence. We often over-identify with our roles and think that’s who we are, yet we are far greater than the roles we play.
Don’t confuse your need to be the responsible, organized, orderly, structured, perfect one with the joyful expression of your gift.
When you let go of who you think you are (or aren’t), you open up the possibility of who you can become.
In a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, author Robin Rosenberg offers, “As a clinical psychologist who has written books about the psychology of superheroes, I think origin stories show us not how to become super but how to be heroes, choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power.” Rosenberg suggests that perhaps the best super power of all is empathy. I’d like to take it a few steps farther.
Perhaps it’s time to be your own hero.
“In his study of the “myth of the hero,” Joseph Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces he outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero’s journey.” (excerpt from the author page on Amazon)
Campbell saw the Hero’s Journey as a journey to becoming our authentic selves.
The hero’s journey is often described in literature and film, from Odysseus in the Iliad to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Siddhartha, Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy, and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
(I explore this and describe the steps in my book InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders)
As I came to discover on my own journey, The Enneagram is an invaluable map for our self-exploration. Many people arrive at the Enneagram, discover their Type and then take it no further. They have found a system that accurately describes their habitual behaviors and worldviews and a way to better understand their families, colleagues, friends.
Others take it further. They want to develop a broader range of strategies to relate to themselves and others; they want to play to their strengths and to stop repeating the same mistakes; to lessen the hold of compulsions and patterns.
But there is more.
Notice, the Enneagram symbol exists within a circle. All Types are subtly distinct from one another and are aspects of a whole, like facets of a sparkling diamond. The Enneagram can provide a map for the process of individuation as described by Carl Jung and depicted by the Hero’s Journey, to integrate all of the nine Enneagram Types within us.
We don’t need to look to others to fulfill our need for heroes. What if each of us were brave enough to take off our defensive armor and go exploring like the hero of myth and story.
The hero lies within.
As for those in leadership positions, we know that what gets us there isn’t necessarily what we need to excel at leading others. What is essential for effective leadership is how we show up. We have an opportunity and I suggest, a responsibility to take on our personal development; to bring unconscious habits and patterns to the light of day, drop what no longer serves us, try on new ways of being and responding and act from our authentic selves.
Joseph Campbell wrote:
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
The big question is, will you say “yes” to your adventure?”
Today I’m pleased to share a guest post from Dr. Roxanne Howe-Murphy of Deep Living Institute.
While it’s not something talked openly about in “polite” conversation, there’s one thing that everyone in the world has in common—the inner critic. It is found in every hard-held opinion and judgment, in every comparison, in the loud inner voice or the nearly inaudible buzz that fills up our inner space.
When you feel stuck or find yourself procrastinating on something really important, the Inner Critic is active. It’s also at the core of many interpersonal conflicts and unresolved racial, ethnic and religious/secular relations.
There is no question, the way we experience ourselves is intimately related to the amount of internal space we give to the inner critic! Whether you work hard to bolster your sense of worth, or carry a certain resignation that simply being enough will forever evade you, you know the Inner Critic is active.
It can’t help but affect your relationship to yourself and to others, to the decisions that shape your life, how you do life, and how you lead.
Left to operate on its own, it exacts a heavy price that’s ultimately paid by a scarred and deadened soul.
With such profound consequences, our Inner Critic presents perhaps some of our most significant opportunities to open our eyes to the truth of who we really are.
Here’s the kicker, while it can show up under any and all circumstances in life, the Inner Critic becomes particularly activated and accelerated when an individual is on the path of real change and growth.
If you ask, “What can I do to make a positive difference in my own life and in my interactions with others?” one of the most tangible and potent places to focus your energy is in changing your relationship to the Inner Critic.
You can begin by learning to decrease the amount of power you give to it. As you do so, you make room for your more authentic inner guidance and authority.
Not surprisingly, the Enneagram offers enormous insight into the Inner Critic and its relationship to the experience of inner authority that is possible for each Type. When your relationship to the Inner Critic shifts, you have more energy and momentum for your life purpose and more room for what your soul and heart are destined to express.
On Wednesday, Jan 23, I’m presenting a two-hour tele-conference workshop, From Inner Critic to Inner Authority: Healing Your Relationship to the Inner Critic Shifts Your Relationship to Yourself based on a chapter from my new book, Deep Living: Transforming Your Relationship to Everything That Matters Through the Enneagram. The teleconference is hosted by Enneagram expert, Wendy Appel. Click here to register.
Dr. Roxanne Howe-Murphy is a pioneer and global leader integrating the Enneagram and coaching. She founded the Deep Coaching Institute, a leading Enneagram coaching school that serves an international student body, and the Deep Living Institute for spiritual and life practice. She is the author of Deep Coaching: Using the Enneagram as a Catalyst for Profound Change, which has provided guidance to thousands of coaches around the world. For information on Roxanne’s work, go to www.deeplivinginstitute.com.
If I squint my eyes and look sideways, just so, I can make those words fit. But there’s another that brings coherence to these other words: Transcendence. I’m always looking for a way to make an enterprise get up and dance, to find the third rail that plugs right into the source. That’s why I’m so bloody impossible sometimes.
It’s why you want me, an Enneagram Type 5, on your team.
“This business of maintaining both the “I” and the “we” – and not losing either when the going gets rough – is the largest of all human challenges.” –Harriet Lerner, Marriage Rules
When the pressure to turn “I” and “we” into “I” versus “we” escalates, I won’t. Why settle for choosing one over the other when committing to both “I” and “we” transcends the limits of either? This is why you want some 5 on your team.
I strengthen the “we” by walking the path of “I” and inviting others to join me. Wildly divergent views don’t bother me. I’m unlikely to settle for “living with it” when I can see a way for us to be fully committed without cutting off anyone. Groupthink is repugnant to me. But, if you want to walk out of the room knowing you’ve just made magic together, you might want a little 5 in the mix.
- I’ll see things differently and say so.
- I’ll say what’s unspoken.
- I’ll see connections between wildly different viewpoints.
- I’ll ignore details you think important in favor of the picture forming – and reforming – in my head.
- I can get the team all the way to a real yes.
Is there a downside? You betcha.
I’m the person most likely to be doodling when you think I should be giving my full attention to the speaker or task at hand. (The accompanying doodle is what I did when I was “supposed” to be writing this article.) I won’t think to tell you about a recent study linking doodling with a 29% increase in retention. I’m full of these irritating little factoids and practices, always geeking out about something.
A room full of 5s is likely to yield pristine, beautiful, and perfect ideas that need just a little more tweaking before their utter genius lights up the world. If you don’t shove the occasional pizza under the door, we can waste away in there. A deadline – a real deadline – is critical. Insisting on shopping the idea around is enormously irritating to us 5s, and enormously helpful, especially if we are free to ignore the feedback (we won’t). As much as we’d like to outdo Einstein and turn everything into a breakthrough that transforms the world, planning the company Christmas party probably doesn’t warrant that level of attention. Please stop us.
But when the situation is complex or thorny and can only be solved by refusing to choose for “I” versus “we?” Get some 5 on it.
Liz Williams owns Collaboration Zone, a consultancy that helps people do their best work ever and enjoy each other in the process. She blogs about collaboration, works with clients primarily in healthcare, teaches at Alliant University in the California School of Professional Psychology, and doodles.
Even in a business context, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “What would be a compatible Enneagram Type for my Type?” Love relationships confound the best of us and no one seems to have the secret sauce to produce that ideal relationship.
People are willing to spend quantities of money on therapy, books, dating sites that sort compatibility, workshops that promise to help you better understand and untangle relationships to find the perfect mate.
Relationships occupy a huge part of our time, focus and attention. They remain one of life’s great mysteries.
Can the Enneagram help? “Is there a most compatible Type for me?” you ask.
Yes, the Enneagram can help, and “no” in my experience there is no perfect match for each Type. If you go by Harville Hendrix’s theory, we unconsciously choose mates to help us heal childhood wounds with one or both of our parents (or caregivers).
We choose mates for other reasons as well …
- We choose them because they are easy and familiar.
- We choose them because we have something to learn from the other Type.
- We choose them because we have an underdeveloped part of us that is crying out to grow and evolve.
- We choose our complement.
Another factor that affects who we choose and attract may have something to do with our stage of development in life. One woman I know (Type 6, Loyal Skeptic) was married to a Type 9, Peacemaker. Her second husband was a Type 8, Boss. I also know a Type 8 whose third marriage was to aType 8.
I find people often choose Types that are one of their Enneagram Type’s connection points. For instance, I see many 6/9, 7/1, 2/8 Type pairings. There is something we need to learn from our two connecting points.
Additionally, the more outwardly confident, assertive Types (3,7,8) and the more socially withdrawn Types 4/5/9 (The Hornevian Types ala Karen Horney) magnetize one another.
Let’s look at an example of a Type pairing that does not fall under any of the aforementioned qualifiers, yet I have encountered several of these pairs in love and business relationships (excerpt from the section Dynamics and Distinctions in my book InsideOut Enneagram):
Type 6 The Loyal Skeptic and and Type 8 The Boss
Type 6s like to be protected and feel safe, and Type 8s like to protect. Type 6 can be very loyal, and Type 8 demands loyalty. Both Types are very active and busy. Type 8s have a more focused and intentional way of being active, while Type 6s keep busy trying to allay their own anxiety. Both can accomplish a great deal when they work in tandem.
As long as Type 6s are willing to follow Type 8s’ lead, the two can make a great team. Type 8s are big risk takers, and Type 6s will do what it takes to help Type 8s in their endeavors, all the while warning about what could go wrong. Type 6s have ideas but fear taking the necessary risks to make them a reality. When Type 6s know that Type 8s are standing there, ready to catch them if they fall, Type 6s feel safe taking risks.
Type 8s are impulsive and act before fully thinking things through and weighing the potential consequences. Type 6s can be very helpful to Type 8s by looking at worst-case scenarios and potential pitfalls, as well as creating back-up plans. Type 8s are full steam ahead, and Type 6s pay attention to the dangerous creatures lurking below that can trip up the best-laid plans of Type 8s. Type 6s are skilled at preparing for eventualities that may come. Because Type 8s are very direct and clear about who they are, where they stand, and what they want, they tend to build trust with Type 6s quickly.
Type 8s can learn to pay more attention to the potential downsides of their actions and plans, and to manage to them. Type 6s are gifted at making plans, preparation, and research, and bring intellectual rigor. If Type 8s don’t choose to develop those abilities, they will value Type 6s’ contribution to their endeavors.
Type 6s’ areas for growth include self-confidence, the courage to take action on their ideas, and being less risk adverse—all qualities that Type 8s have in spades. Type 8s trust their gut instincts, and while Type 6s may be aware of their instincts, the voices of self-doubt and “should” usually win. Type 8s have something to teach Type 6s about listening to, trusting, and acting on their instincts. Type 6s can teach Type 8s about humility, to slow down and look at the potential consequences of their actions.
In order to individuate, as Carl Jung called it we begin to develop these underdeveloped parts of ourselves rather than believe we can get safety, protection, acceptance, focus, discipline, containment, vitality, loyalty, trust, etc., from someone else. Ultimately, we can provide these things for ourselves and become more whole.
The bottom line: we can partner with any Type. Critical in all of this is to remember your reactions are 100% about you. Your partner is a wonderful mirror for you to see yourself more clearly, if you are willing to look.
I was gratified to hear the president of the American Management Association say, “We expect leader-like behavior from many many more people in today’s organizations.”And It turns out that the American military has begun to train leaders to lead by intent rather than lead by being prescriptive.
In psychological theory, Carl Jung called this process of getting to know ourselves; of bringing our unconscious material to light, the process of individuation. It is the journey of human evolution.
Individuation means that we embrace all that we are, (individually and collectively) and become brave enough to take off our defensive armor and go exploring like the hero of myth and story.
Individuation builds our capacity to see ourselves and each other for all our attributes, complexities and creative gifts as well as our messier, perhaps less preferred character traits.
This process of individuation also applies to the development of teams–to create leader-full teams. More on that shortly.
The most well known team development model is: forming / storming / norming / performing
Many teams get stuck and never move beyond the forming / storming phase. Why? A key contributor is that most of us walk around with an unconscious assumption that people see what we see, perceive what we perceive, hear what we hear, and think like we think. If they don’t, they damn well should.
We have to get beyond this to tap into the team’s creativity and unlock the doors to innovation.
The most effective way I have found to address the “be like me” syndrome is to use the Enneagram system with teams.
When people discover their Type and learn each other’s Types, it opens the windows of perception. People begin to see the value of differences.
I love seeing flashes of insight when team members “get” that people are different from them and perceive the world differently. In these precious moments, we learn to listen differently, “see” through a wide angle lens, and begin to appreciate differing world views and individual attributes.
In these moments we begin to understand one another and to better understand ourselves.
Then the real work begins. The team needs to develop its muscle to integrate the differences and leverage them for performance. Differences can tear us apart if we judge them or we can harness their strengths.
Individuation (the process of differentiation and integration) needs to take place at both the individual and team level.
Our self-awareness and self-management can strengthen group effectiveness.
The brain is an open loop system; in other words, it is not just an organ that resides in our heads. We activate each other’s triggers and moods catch like the flu.
Think of a time you entered a group and were feeling positive and upbeat. After awhile, you noticed that people were complaining and their energy was lack luster and disengaged. How long did it take before you started feeling the same?
Less aware individuals contribute to an unhealthy team environment. An unhealthy team environment can take down some of the healthiest individual players–or they leave.
Individual development aids team development and vice-versa. They feed each other.
The beauty of working with the Enneagram for team development is that it brings to light key underlying drivers for our habitual patterns of interacting, thinking, feeling and acting. It uncovers team strengths to be harnessed and liabilities to be managed. We get to know ourselves and each other in ways we never imagined.
If you can’t see it and acknowledge it,
you can’t manage it
Once we surface some of our patterns, we can begin to unravel them and develop new ways of interacting and acting. We can take concrete steps to develop new ways of being–individually and as a team.
Now we’ve entered Norming / Performing–until the new team members join, and then we start again … Teams are a bit amoeba-like, constantly forming and reforming; reintegrating and differentiating. And so are we, if we are committed to learn, grow and evolve.
Leader-full teams are teams made up of people who take responsibility for their work, their words and their actions. They are committed to grow and evolve. The person in authority (read, Boss), needs to create an environment where people can learn and grow and make a difference that matters; where each person can contribute their unique gifts and talents.
I just heard Robert Tobias, American University speak about leadership development. He said:
There is a necessity for leaders to develop their inner life—to challenge themselves to become who they are and be relationally transparent—that is, to become authentic and to care.
I’d love to hear how you help grow leader-full teams. Please weigh in and join the conversation!
I’m pleased to share a guest post from Janet Crawford today. Janet and I will be co-hosting a workshop October 17th. I hope after reading this post you’ll understand why I’m so excited to hear more from her.
It happened again just last week. My brother and I were out to dinner with friends from college when I decided to tell a family story. Mid sentence, he interjected with a correction, “No, no….that’s not exactly right….what really happened was….”
I politely conceded that it was possible that I’d gotten it wrong and continued the story, but barely a few lines later, he grinned and rolled his eyes for comic effect, “Here, let me tell it…”
I wondered, “Were we describing the same event? Was my memory really that bad? Was his? Oh dear! Had I inherited my mother’s charming, but often exasperating tendency to rewrite history so as to be able to tell a more entertaining story?”
About 15 years ago, I became fascinated with studying the brain and how, from a biological standpoint, we make sense of reality. That study has helped me better understand these episodes.
It should come as no surprise to anyone with siblings, that disagreement over the content of shared family experiences isn’t unique to my brother and me. Likewise, in my role as an executive coach, I can tell you there are often as many interpretations of a tense meeting as there are people in the room. But why is this a universal phenomenon and what does it have to do with the Enneagram
The Memory Myth
For a very long time, our understanding of memory resembled a kind of internal video/audio recording system. Perhaps part of the tape would get lost or erased, but our “equipment’ recorded a shared sensory “reality” and the tapes remained static over time.
Neuroscientists will now tell you definitively that it doesn’t work that way. Even during the original experience, we are all encoding different information based on sets of deeply held patterns through which we filter reality.
Over time, those original memories constantly shift based on new information that impacts how we view what happened way back then. Immediately after an event, reports from two individuals won’t be the same.
Our internal filters have us notice different things and interpret them through different stories. After twenty or forty years of constant re-filtering, the memories often have very little in common.
What are these deeply held patterns and where do they come from?
Infants enter into the world hungry for sensory experience. While they delight in their explorations, they are not equipped to make sense of them. They have no roadmaps for how to respond emotionally or intellectually to all that surrounds them.
For that, they rely on copying their caregivers’ physiological response to conditions in the environment. Our crude biological logic informs us that our best bet would be to behave as our parents do. After all, they survived long enough to produce us!
If they tense up under certain conditions, so do we. If they remain relaxed, our infant bodies do the same. From those physiological expressions, we know to feel fear, anxiety, excitement, openness, guardedness, etc. Little by little, we form a set of fundamental emotional perspectives on the world that will likely endure throughout our lives.
Almost all of these basic emotional filters are acquired before the age of 18 months, a critical point in brain development marking the beginning of explicit autobiographical memory.
Because our emotional patterns were formed in response to events that preceded our ability to remember them, we don’t “see” our patterns. Our emotional interpretations and responses just seem like “the way it is.” They are transparent.
It appears that the deepest emotional filters seem to boil down to a handful of patterns, things like our sensitivity to vulnerability, deprivation, abandonment and exclusion.
The Enneagram, I believe, may be a very elegant system based on centuries of observational data, for naming and working with those fundamental patterns. As central to our identity as our emotional programming is, it is possible to rise above it and choose when, how and if to be under its sway.
The world is populated with people who carry differing perspectives, stories and filters on reality. The lesson learned from interactions like the one with my brother is something I carry into all parts of my life.
When someone vehemently disagrees with me or misunderstandings crop up, I’m less quick to judge and more likely to ask, “How might my lens be creating a distorted (or partial) view?”
My brother and I were both there, we both have a memory and we both have at best only part of the “truth.” Fortunately, we get that and over the years we’ve gained an appreciation for the unique perspective we each bring to the here and now. All of us have important relationships where perspectives differ. Whose lens could you understand better and what tools and practices do you need to get there?
“Applying neuroscience to leadership matters. Science is revolutionizing our understanding of what it is to be human. An explosion of advances in human neuroscience is giving us a window into why people behave as they do and how we can manage our environments and behaviors with others to maximize results. These new scientific findings challenge old assumptions of what it means to lead.” – Janet Crawford
Janet Crawford, expert in the application of neuroscience research to coaching and leadership, will explain what’s happening at a biological level when you play out Enneagram habits in our upcoming Insight to Action tele-workshop on October 17. She’ll facilitate practical explorations of ways to recognize our patterns and relax their grip. For more on this workshop, click here.
Today, I’m pleased to share a guest post written by Margy Stoner. Margy works part-time for Weaving Influence and part-time for her brother’s consumer electronics company, JacobsParts Inc. She enjoys collecting wild herbs, writing poetry, drinking vegetable juice, and hiking with her dog Tesla.
When I was a junior in high school, I took a class called “Relationships.” My friends and I assumed this would be an “easy-A” class about treating others well, serving the less privileged, and other principles that were repeatedly stressed in our Jesuit Education. Little did I know, however, that much of the study of “relationships” deals with our relationships with ourselves.
It was in this class where I was first introduced to the Enneagram. We were given a self-assessment, which asked us various questions to help us determine our types. Then, the teacher told us that no matter what the assessment said, it’s ultimately up to each person to determine his or her type. For a few weeks, my friends and I discussed our types, but once the class ended, I forgot about the Enneagram for a while.
Fast forward a few years. I am studying abroad in Jerusalem. I’m spending the Sabbath at a friends apartment—a few of us are eating chips and playing guitar late into the night. Somehow, the Enneagram comes up. For the next few days, my friends and I excitedly take a variety of personality tests. The Enneagram, of course, but also the Belbin test, Meyers-Briggs, and others. We laugh about our “compatibility” with our friends and family, and dream about how our test results can help us become rich—become scholars—become the kind of people that overcome their own flaws and rise above everything they though they could be.
And though it was fun learning so much about our compatibility with others, I think that what intrigued us so much about those tests is something quite universal: the desire to know ourselves.
Yes, we spend every moment of our lives with ourselves. We live inside our bodies, our heads. And yet, so much time is spent interacting with the external world to the extent that sometimes, we forget who we are. We become blind to our strengths and our weaknesses, we measure ourselves against those around us.
Understanding our personalities from a (somewhat) objective perspective allows us, in effect, to step outside of ourselves, to recognize, without judgment, the patterns by which we live our lives. This, I believe, is the power of The Enneagram, or for that manner, any person or tool that helps us to better understand ourselves.
Two of the friends I was with that night in Jerusalem, Nomi and Ilan, are now married. I visited them last year and found, on their coffee table, a book about The Enneagram. Nomi is Israeli—she has lived in Jerusalem her whole life. Ilan is from Chicago—he moved to Israel when he was 24 years old. Though they certainly connect on many levels, “we struggled with some cultural differences,” Nomi explained, “but reading about the Enneagram really helped!” Ilan agreed. “It helped us see our differences in a less personal way…and helped us bond spiritually too,” he said.
I often hear people say “I don’t want to be labeled,” or “I refuse to put myself in a category.” I understand this sentiment—no one wants to be told that they are just this or just that. But I don’t think assessing yourself has to be limiting. In fact, I think that for any of us to undergo real change, perhaps the greatest struggle in this life, we must recognize our strengths and flaws, and we must be gentle and patient with ourselves.
It’s been seven years since I sat down in that high school class, thinking I knew everything I needed to about relationships. Obviously, I didn’t. In fact, I feel like I know a lot less now than I did then. Now, when I struggle to relate to someone else, I try to look at myself—at my reactions to others, and to determine what tangible steps can be taken to remedy the situation. Sometimes this is really hard, because so often I don’t really want to look at myself, to see my actions for what they really are.
We’ve got our whole lives to look out into the world, but we must remember to also look inside ourselves, and, to look at ourselves. The Enneagram is one tool that helps us do this, and there are many others. Most importantly, though, is a sincere desire to, as Socrates so passionately declared, “Know Thyself.”
What helps you get to know yourself?
How does knowing yourself help you to better relate to others?
When people describe or think of Enneagram Type 2 The People Pleaser, you often hear about a selfless person, Mother Teresa, self-sacrifice for the benefit of others … The moon to the sun … Someone who may not take care of his or her appearance while preoccupied with taking care of and pleasing others … Someone who is worn down and worn out … A doormat.
The stereotype: The nurse, the social work, the volunteer at the homeless shelter, the doctor, the nurturer …
Let’s bust this myth. Type 2s can be hedonistic–pleasure seekers–something oft attributed to Type 7 The Enthusiast or Type 8 The Boss.
For Type 2, physical attractiveness is important. Type 2s are the great seducers of the Enneagram and appearance is an important part of that. Type 2s are Image Types (along with Types 3 The Achiever and 4 The Individualist).
This means they are attentive to the image they project to others by what they say, how they look and what they do. They care about what others think often more than the other Types, and are more likely to take things personally.
Type 2s and Type 3s: Type 2s can be well groomed, well coiffed and dressed to suit the situation. Type 3s are often described as the chameleons of the Enneagram, however Type 2s can share this same ability by becoming what others need them to be. They tend to be quite empathic and are able shapeshift to endear themselves to important others. Type 3s are also considered “sparkly” yet many Type 2s also fit that description. Like Type 3s, they can be social climbers–they just go about it differently and for different reasons.
Type 2s are not always behind the scenes–the power behind the throne or the moon to the sun. While this can be true, what is also true is that many Type 2s are ambitious.
Type 2s I know lead organizations, start their own for-profit and non-profit organizations, are VPs of Human Resources, sales directors, run customer service departments, manage medical staff, own and operate social media organizations and yoga studios … they perform, sing, act, paint.
Type 2s are happy to go after their dreams and make them a reality.
Type 7 The Enthusiast and Type 3 The Achiever are often described as charming and to some extent, so is Type 8 The Boss. However, Type 2s are also known to be quite charming in order to achieve their ends. They can be competitive, organized, and perfectionistic.
They take strong stands, are willful, make demands and fully assert themselves.
In other words, people don’t just walk all over them. They are not doormats. But they can be.
At this point, you may be wondering, “What’s the difference then, between Type 2 and Type 3 or some of the other Types if they share common behaviors?”
IMPORTANT: What distinguishes one Type from another is not so much the behaviors we see, but why the different Types do what they do. In other words, what are their underlying motivations–what needs are they trying to get met and what are they trying to avoid?
Type 2s’ strategy is to please others in order to garner appreciation and make themselves indispensable. Much of their self-worth is based upon feeling valued, needed, and appreciated by others. On a deeper level, Type 2s’ self-perception is that they are unloveable. When they feel appreciated, desired, indispensable and valued, they temporarily feel lovable.
None of the Enneagram Type strategies work over time, but they give us the sense that our needs are being met, much like eating provides a temporary sensation that we are full and satisfied.
For this reason, Type 2 wants to avoid loss of connection–loss of love and their source of appreciation–and will go to great lengths to maintain those connections, often at risk of harm to themselves, and to others. This is when some of the more stereotypical behavior can show up.
Another reason Type 2 can share common behaviors with Type 3 The Achiever and Type 1 The Perfectionist is that these Types are the Wings of Type 2. The theory I find most useful and the one that maps to my observations, is that Type is a blend of the two Wings. From my book, InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders:
Wings: The points on both sides of your Type are called your Wings, and they influence the ways you express the characteristics of your Type. Some people relate more to one Wing than another. Others feel that they share qualities with both Wings. You’ll hear people say, “I’m a 2 with a 3 wing.” In other words, Type 2 blends Type 1 and Type 3, and displays characteristics of all three Types. When we don’t relate to one of our Wings, it is probably because it lives outside of our conscious awareness.
Points of connection: Look at the Enneagram symbol and you’ll see that Type 2 is connected to Types 8 and 4. Under certain circumstances, Type 2 has access to many of the characteristic behaviors of these two Types.
At their best, Type 2s are warm, reliable, able to receive help graciously … They give without expectation, build powerful and durable alliances, are brilliant at making connections and building relationships and know who they are, what they stand for and that they are lovable for who they are and not what they do.
I hope this post offers a more well-rounded picture of Type 2 than the one you may have had. Remember, there is a Type 2 People Pleaser in all of us!
Please comment and let us know your own experience with Type 2s or from the perspective of Type 2. We would all benefit from your stories.
Postscript: A couple of years ago, in a conversation with Bea Chestnut, PhD Psychologist, Coach, Enneagram teacher and Type 2 … she noted that most people don’t get the hedonistic side of Type 2. I thought, “she’s right!” We over-focus on other aspects. It is in the spirit of illustrating a much broader picture of Type 2, that I wrote this blog. Thank you, Bea!
Check out these links for more information:
- Q & A About the Enneagram
- The Three Instincts
- It’s The Journey, Not the Destination
- Misunderstood: Type 4 The Individualist
- A Story of Team Dynamics
- Case Study: Type 8 & 9 (Boss and direct report)
- Use of Typing Cards for Your Relationship
- Coaching Type 2 The People Pleaser
- Enneagram Typing Using a Narrative Approach
Alex was a successful executive at an international bank in San Francisco, when disaster struck. In a singular and unpredictable moment, his life changed forever. A massive fire tore through his hillside community near San Francisco and engulfed and destroyed a multitude of homes. Alex’s was one of them.
At that time I was working in San Francisco’s financial district. On the day of the fire I bumped into Alex who happened to be my client at the time.
We were in the elevator in his office building and he was heading up to his office. I knew he lived in the area of the fire and so I asked whether his home was one of those affected. He looked at me with calm and nodded in the affirmative. “My home was completely destroyed. There’s nothing left.” I imagined how he must have been feeling and wondered what I would do if my feet were in his shoes.
Tight in the chest with worry, I looked him in the eyes asked “what are you going to do now?” Without missing a beat he replied, “I’m going to buy a toothbrush.”
That wasn’t the answer I expected.
Then I thought to myself, “I guess so.” What would I do?
Back to the necessities, back to the basics.
What would you do if you lost all of your worldly possessions and your home?
Alex and I reconnected not long after and as it turned out he used this fire as an alchemical fire for his life. It burned away everything, including his sense of self-identity.
He took this as an opportunity to reconsider how he wanted to live his life moving forward. Rather than immediately rebuild and reconstruct in order to keep going “as is,” Alex stopped in his tracks. He took time to reflect and reconsider.
This “disaster” gave him a chance to start anew. Scary, yes, but he saw opportunity in the disaster. Like the Phoenix, he rose from the ashes.
At a much later time in my life, I found myself in a similar position under very different circumstances. How Alex handled his tragedy informed and inspired my approach and resolve to move forward.
Within short order, Alex left his executive position at the bank and started his own business venture renovating homes. No small change. He had a new lease on life and was elated about his new career. This was an idea Alex toyed with over the years, but didn’t have the will, the faith or the courage to make this change earlier.
In Section V of Little Gidding from the Four Quartets, TS Eliot offers:
What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
Life is filled with continual endings and beginnings. Everything is impermanent. Circumstances can change in a blink and suddenly the life we thought we had is no more. When we hold on with a tight grip to what has been, we are doomed to suffer.
How gracefully can we let go of our attachments; to the way things are, to our things and to our self-identity? With each letting go there is an opening for something new to come in.
If you accept that change is inevitable, wouldn’t you rather seek out those changes and create your life rather than waiting for the unexpected to force a change?
Be intentional and deliberate about what you want to do, how you want to be, what you want to create. Reflect on what gives juice and meaning to your work and life.
Where will you focus your time and energy?
This is your one precious life …
Just ask yourself, “what would Alex do?”
One of the reasons I love working with the Enneagram is that it helps us see the role and identity we’ve trapped ourselves inside of … and we have the opportunity to create ourselves anew.
The following is an edited excerpt of an article by Mario Sikora, president of the International Enneagram Association and executive coach. Learn about a little understood area of the Enneagram – The Instincts – powerful forces that drive where we focus our attention and how they shape our resulting behaviors. Mario is my co-host for the upcoming Insight to Action tele-workshop on August 15.
Actionable. Experiential. Interactive. For a workshop description, click here.
Many of you may be familiar with the concept of Subtypes—the three variations of each Ennea-Type rooted in instinctive drives commonly called “Self-Preservation,” “Social” and “Sexual” Instincts.
For example, a person can be:
Self-Preservation Type 1
Social Type 1
Transmitting (sexual) Type 1
for a total of 27 variations of combined Type and Instinct.
Instincts are reactions to complex stimuli that do not involve thinking.
However, people will often try to use reason to explain instinctive behavior.
The following offers insight into the three primary instincts. Perhaps you can identify yours?
“Nesting and nurturing” and conservation of resources seem to be at the head of what is commonly called the “self-preservation Instinct,” but different SPs will focus on different behaviors within this domain.
Some may focus on their home (nesting) more than others, some may focus on stockpiling resources more than others, some may focus on their physical well-being more than others, etc. These topics will be important to all SPs, but they will be variably expressed from person-to-person within the domain.
Their strengths tend to include good organizational skills, attention to detail, a focus on process and procedure, and they tend to be more cautious and conservative (a strength in many jobs). They typically spot a plan’s problems and pitfalls more clearly than others. On the downside, this same cautiousness can hold them back, and SPs often need coaching around how to become more risk-taking without ignoring their need for security.
Transmitting (common names – sexual or 1:1)
At the heart of this Instinct domain is the display of reproductive fitness and an impulse to transmit something of ourselves to others, be it our genes, our ideas, or our creations.
People with this instinctual bias will tend to be outgoing and charming, and combine a flattering and seductive quality with a tendency to tell stories about themselves (i.e., to “transmit”). They like intensity in their relationships, but emphasizing a comfort with one-on-one conversations and engagements often causes self-preservation types (who also have this “one-to-one” focus) to label themselves “one-to-one” and misses the more important elements of the domain.
Transmitting Types are generally good at the sizzle that SPs are not good at. They are often charismatic and extroverted. They can be inspiring and excite people around a common cause. They are often good sales people (formally or informally) and can influence others at the individual or group level. They can focus their attention on a person in short but intense bursts, finding just the right thing to say and making the person feel like he or she is the only person in the room.
On the downside, they can dominate conversations and relationships. After the initial charm and flattery, Transmitting Types can turn the focus on themselves and keep it there. Further, they tend not to be attuned to the subtle interpersonal dynamics that the Socials are so good at, and they often are not aware of how they are truly perceived by others.
They are typically not good listeners, even though they may disagree with that assessment. They often need coaching on making space for others, on not dominating interactions with others, and on “receiving” messages as well as they “transmit” them.
Transmitters may often demonstrate a shadow scarcity mentality, believing that they never have enough of the things that are important to them. They may want more money, more prestige, more attention. This desire for more can start to seem like self-centeredness to others in the organization, and Transmitters often need coaching on how to express their desires without coming across as having an undue sense of entitlement.
Social Types are typically good at the social connection and interpersonal dynamics required for life in organizations. They are not necessarily extraverted, but often like to be around people and want to know more about them. This makes them attuned to organizational politics and they generally build good social networks.
On the downside, they can become too interested in gossip and the political intrigue of the organization. They can be status or hierarchy conscious and fall into the trap of unnecessarily comparing themselves to others. Further, they typically exhibit poor attention to detail, and they tend to be uninterested in process and procedures.
Socials can also be ambivalent about self-promotion. They don’t neglect it in the way that many SPs do, but they are conflicted. They may feel that self-promote awkwardly, and therefore fall into a pattern of mostly avoiding it or conversely, overcompensate and overdo.
They often need guidance to understand that it is okay (in fact, it is necessary) to promote themselves and go with their impulse to be seen. Socials can learn to consciously do this effectively and instead of bouncing back and forth between over-doing it or under-doing it.
Mario Sikora is an executive coach and consultant who advises leaders in large organizations across the globe. He has worked with senior leaders in numerous multinational corporations, including Motorola, TE Connectivity, Dow Chemicals, Panasonic, and Johnson & Johnson.
Mario is 2011-2012 president of the board of directors of the International Enneagram Association, which has affiliates and chapters in 17 countries. Visit his website or find him on twitter @mariosikora
There is much more to say on this topic, of course, but I hope this spurs some thought and reflection.
Combining the instincts and the Ennea-Types creates a far more robust coaching framework than focusing on Ennea-Types alone.
Were you able to identify your dominant instinct? How has that shaped the way you “show up,” in work and in life? Please join the conversation.
To register for this tele-workshop on August 15th, click here.
I don’t know how it happened. Somewhere along the way, many have come to believe that if you are an artist or performer, you are likely Type 4 –The Individualist.
Or, if you are not artistic or a performer, then you can’t be a Type 4. Often clients come to me with one of these two myths. This blog is an attempt to debunk these myths.
Type 4s I know are lawyers, accountants, pediatricians, administrative assistants, social workers, psychologists / therapists, coaches, consultants, full-time moms, and yes–artists and performers.
In other words, your Type does not define your profession. It will shape your approach to your profession, however. Type 4s take a creative approach to whatever they do–never to be mundane or boring, they will put their own unique stamp on their work and bring sensitivity to their chosen profession.
Any of you who know Type 4s or are Type 4s, please remember, you don’t have to be talented in the arts.
What distinguishes one Type from another is not one’s profession or behaviors, but the underlying motivations that drive these behaviors.
One of the core compulsions that drive Type 4 behavior is Envy. More often than not, when I conduct a Typing interview with Type 4s, they don’t immediately relate to Envy. When we talk about how Envy manifests as a keen focus of attention on “what’s missing,” or “what’s wrong with X (something I have) and better about Y (something I don’t have and others do).” Type 4s can see this in themselves much more easily.
If you were observing Type 4, what might you hear him or her say?
On a perfectly gorgeous day, “Yes, but it’s too hot. The humidity makes me sweat. My back hurts. I prefer the weather in Switzerland and would rather live there,” OR upon visiting one of two similar underground caves, “I enjoyed this one, but the other one had that underground lake …” OR “Why do you seem to have so many friends and I don’t,” OR “John just got a promotion, what’s wrong with me?” OR “Maybe I should move to Hawaii. Jerry is there and he seems happy.” “If only … then I would be …”
Experiences and people often don’t measure up. Type 4 longs for an ideal: day, place to live, job, career, mate, etc.
Type 4s long for what they perceive others have and they don’t–which often translates to happiness. They have a hard time appreciating what they do have because their focus is elsewhere. This accounts for the longing Type 4s experience and for much of the suffering they create for themselves.
There lives in each of us a Type 4, so for the Type 4 in all of us, be present–here and now. Notice the amazing world right in front of you–the extraordinary in the ordinary–and remember, suffering is optional (even if it is familiar and comfortable).
Are you Type 4 or do you work with Type 4s? Please join the conversation and enrich the conversation.
Newly included in my posts is artwork by David Templeton–an amazing artist and musician living in Deia, Mallorca. To learn more about David and his art, click here.
Recently, Lolly Daskal honored me with an invitation to co-host her Tweet Chat, #leadfromwithin. If you’ve never participated in one before, I encourage you to try it out. You’ll meet great people and be able to cull out pearls.
I decided to give it a whirl and it didn’t disappoint. The leadfromwithin tweet chat was one wild and thrilling ride–what we used to refer to as an E-Ticket. We all shared and learned from one another about the Enneagram. While some folks had never heard of the Enneagram, others had depth of experience.
In case you missed the Tweet Chat, you can still benefit from my responses to the questions. Below, you can read the tweets (sentences or fragments of 140 characters or less) I shared from the series of questions we explored. These are just mine, but there were many participants all responding to the same questions that created a white water rapids cascade of tweets scrolling down my computer screen. It was an adventure! The engagement and positive response was overwhelmingly positive.
Enjoy and may you find value.
What is the Enneagram?
- Holistic and dynamic system. Horizontal and Vertical movement – nine-pointed symbol
- Describes nine worldviews and associated patterns of thinking, feeling & acting
- Archetypes seen throughout history and across cultures
- A constellation of defenses / coping strategies and the best of who we are
- Points to our fears, desires, beliefs and focus of attention-what drives our life story
How is the Enneagram useful?
- Self-awareness, self-management. Better understanding of self & others
- See yourself more clearly. Uncover blind spots. Loosen the grip of ur gremlins. Grow strengths
- Helps bring your centers of intelligence into balance
- Become less reactive and more responsive when you know your triggers
- Helps us see that we are often the source of our own suffering
What are the advantages of working with the Enneagram?
- Happier. Clarity. More balanced, centered. More available to self and others
- More agile. Larger range of behaviors available. Respond to context rather than react habitually
- Most holistic system I have come across
- Helps ID compulsions so you can catch yourself before acting on them
- It is liberating. Rather than being fixed and rigid, we become free
- Taking the Enneagram journey is akin to taking the Hero’s Journey
Can the Enneagram offer self-insight? If yes, how?
- Gives us a window into our subconscious
- Our subconscious drives our behavior and directs the course of our lives
- It’s a navigation system for your journey through your inner landscape
- It’s a journey to reclaim unknown or unacknowledged parts of self
- Points to our fears, desires, beliefs and where we focus our attention
Can you be more than one Enneagram Type?
- It’s like a diamond. Each Type represents a different facet and shares aspects with the whole
- You share aspects of the two Types alongside your Type—these are your wings
- You have access to aspects of your two connecting points-the lines that connect your Type with two others
- Theory: we are just one Type, but each Type shares aspects of several other Types
- The journey is to to develop all of the other Types within you
How does the Enneagram relate to InsideOut?
- Be the change you want to lead. Change starts with me first
- Helps us stop taking things personally. We become more objective
- When I shift, my relationships with others shift
- Greater ability to engender trust and inspire by how you show up
- You invest in yourself and no one can take those golden nuggets of wisdom and insight away from you
Can the Enneagram help you be a better coach, consultant, leader, manager? If yes, how?
- Gives you the possibility to transform the way you show up as a leader
- As a leader, you’ll increase your ability to influence others and to move an organization forward
- As a coach / consultant, you’ll become a much more effective instrument for change
- Fabulous tool for work with clients – teams and individuals
- Lead change: Great insight into the people you work with – motivations, strengths, and challenges. What makes them tick
Does the Enneagram give us insight to our teams, clients, customers? if yes, how?
- Understand key drivers of others. What makes them tick
- More insight and compassion for others
- Understand how to work more effectively with others
- Understand how to better support and motivate others
- Points to key levers of change for self and others
How does the Enneagram help us leadfromwithin?
- When we shift, we can shift the world
- Change starts with each of us
- What we enact in our outer world affects us and vice-versa
- Improved relationship with self = improved relationship with others
- Connect to your source of power, move from your center, lead with agility
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself ~ Rumi
I invite you to add to these nuggets of information. Please join the conversation.
Newly included in my posts is artwork by David Templeton–an amazing artist and musician living in Deia, Mallorca. To learn more about David and his art, click here.