The following is a blog written by Type 1: Perfectionist about his wife, Type 7: Enthusiast. People don’t often associate Type 1s with having a great sense of humor. Yet, this man is an award-winning copywriter and has been in the ad business for more years than he wishes to count. He and his wife are both in their mid-70s.
You can see Type 1 fully in his telling of the following tale. Backing Up Is Hard To Do.
My wife has a thorny problem with relations. The spatial ones. When she’s backing up a car, you never stand near it. Because wherever you’re standing, you’re in mortal danger. In the past few years, backing out of our garage, she has collided with four cars parked in our driveway and one innocently parked across from our house on the other side of the street.
It’s as if she were backing up an articulated big-rig vehicle. To go left, you turn the steering wheel right, right? My wife does this in our Honda CRV. In all of these accidents, we have been very fortunate that all she hit was metal. Metal can be repaired or replaced. I shudder to think of what else she could have hit. Like children or animals.
Her lack of spatial-relation skills may be hereditary. Because her sister just backed through a closed garage door. I can picture the medical profession recognizing this as a unique genetic condition: the “backing lacking syndrome.” But maybe it’s not hereditary. I mean, these accidents do require a willful disregard of the obvious.
So to be more empathetic – to see it from her point of view – I mentally reproduce the scene. I open the kitchen door leading to the garage. I press the remotely operated garage door. I walk towards the street between our two garaged cars.
Now I am outside the garage, facing the other car or cars hypothetically parked in the driveway. Next I turn and go to the left side of the CRV, open the driver’s door and get in. Obvious conclusion: My wife had to see any car parked in the driveway. And then in the next second forget about it (please don’t tell me it’s Alzheimer’s!) and swerve, backing into it! This could be the first case of Spatial Confusion complicated by Alzheimer’s? What will doctors call it? Dyslexic Dementia?
You see, Marina was diagnosed with stage four cancer six months ago. Within a week of her diagnosis, she went through intensive chemotherapy treatments only to find out much later that it was a shot in the dark … an experiment to see if it would work to slow down or stop the growth of her cancer.
Results came in like a punch in the stomach — the cancer had progressed in spite of the chemo.
As I understand it, there are three main determinants of disease; the first is a genetic predisposition, the next is environmental factors (what you eat, drink, what you’re exposed to) and the last is your beliefs, psychology, emotional state, stress.
We can have a genetic predisposition, but these other factors are what influence whether our genes are activated.
While attacking the disease with Western Medical protocols and change of diet, Marina chose to confront her cancer and face herself squarely. She decided to look within at how she may have contributed to bringing on her disease and what she could do to help herself heal.
Marina recounted her process with me, “I was faced with this question:”
‘What is the payoff for me? What do I get out of being ill?’
“I was so angry that the workshop leader suggested I (we) may actually benefit from being ill. When I felt my strong resistance, I knew there was something for me to explore so I went for it.”
As Marina began to write in her journal the pen swept over the paper with increasing velocity. Without effort, Marina managed to write two full pages dedicated to the various ways she derived benefit from being ill.
Key things from her list. Permission to say “no” to:
- request for help
- receiving help
- sign on for a project
- join a board
- extract herself from boards and other activities
- take leave from family and friends when she wants time alone
- take time for herself
- take time away from her computer and let emails sit in her inbox
- slow down and reduce her activity level (which has always been quite high)
In essence, to consider herself first. Marina smiled, “I have an excuse to take care of myself; to be fully ‘me’ without apology.”
“I’m the good person. My role is to give and to help. Therefore I don’t receive or ask for help. I pretend I don’t have needs, but secretly I hope you’ll see that I do. I take care of people. I can anticipate your needs. You need me. I expect to be appreciated. I must earn love and appreciation.”
This comes at the expense of their own self-regard and self-care. The belief is that:
If I please others; take care of others, if I am a giving and loving person I will be worthy of love.
As she started to take care of herself and to allow others to give to her, Marina’s true self began to shine through. She was surprised and delighted to share, “People are drawn to me. They want to be around me. They appreciate my authenticity.”
Opportunities for self-care and to receive help and support from others is ongoing. She laughs every time she realizes she’s stepped into her old ways, and then course corrects. Marina continues to notice how her pattern as the giver has played out throughout her life.
Despite her initial reluctance, friends have set up a bank account to receive donations for Marina to get care through a well-respected complementary medical clinic. She continues to courageously face her challenges to heal on all fronts: physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually.
Healing can take place when Type 2 is able to give freely without expectation, to receive from others (pride is not in the way) and to source self-love; when Type 2 declares “I am worthy of love because of who I be.”
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?”
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.