In Their Own Words (Part 2)

role switchThis is the second in a series of posts based on answers from the nine different types on last year’s Enneagram panel. In the previous post, we learned three words each person would use to describe their type and what they liked and didn’t like about being their type. This time, we’ll find out how they would react to one of four hypothetical situations posed to them.

In all four of the situations something unexpected happens. It’s when things don’t go according to (our) plan that our responses are likely to reveal our type-based automatic reactions.

SITUATION: You arrive at an event involving several dozen people expecting to participate as a guest. Suddenly the hostess rushes over to you exclaiming she has to leave due to an emergency and insists you take over for her. Tell us how you would feel, what you would think, and what you would do and say.

Type 1: I would be mortified. I would be absolutely mortified. I would be put out. I would have a hard time changing my hat from being a participant to being the person in charge, especially because I wasn’t expecting to be in charge. And I would probably call on my Type 7 friend. It’s so nice to know that these people would be the right people to call on. But I would take it over and hand it over to her because she’s out there and extraverted and stands up. Basically I would give it to somebody else to do.

Type 2: First off, I felt flattered that she asked me. And then because it’s me, a little bit of a relief because now I have a role to play. I know exactly what I need to do and what my role is in this matter. I would ask for any information for how she wants it to be done unless she’s on her way out the door already because something horrible has happened. And then I’d just take over and organize everything and do it. So it’s not a big deal for me.

Type 3: I’m so relieved after hearing other people say they would just embrace it, and I finally heard, oh, my god, I’d be pissed. My first reaction is oh, gosh, I would be upset. I’m not prepared. I don’t like to do things I’m not prepared for, and this is that type of situation. I was coming planning on relaxing not having to get involved with it. That would be my first feeling. What I think, if I had no choice then I’d start thinking about OK, what are my options, what can I do, how can I get some help, do some quick planning to make something happen. Realizing there may not be any option, then I’ll tell her OK I’m going to try, with no guarantees, I’m just going to do the best I can because I don’t feel prepared, I don’t feel comfortable, but in the end, I’ll just do a good job.

Type 4: For me, it depends. Do I know the hostess? Do I think it’s really an emergency? Do I know the topic? Do I know what she had planned for the event? Do I know the other people who are coming? If yes to all or most of these questions, I would feel nervous about taking it over, but I would do it. If no, I would feel angry about being put in an uncomfortable position. I would think how thoughtless of her to insist I take over. I would tell the group what has happened and ask for their support and maybe their input if I don’t know the topic well. If I don’t know enough about the topic to carry on and can’t find anyone in the group who knows it, either, I might change the topic to something else. Or I might just cancel the event and reschedule it for another time.

Type 5: This scenario has happened to me many times. I really do like the back row instead of standing up and having to talk. As a 5, I probably did some background research on whatever was going on, so I’ll kind of feel prepared. I would also ask what the hostess wanted to have happen. I’d be fine. I’m mature enough in my “five-ness” to not feel imposed upon.

Type 6: How would I feel? Scared. I’m out. Don’t ask me.

Type 7: Yes, I’ll take it over. Personally, I think this is a normal thing to happen to a 7. We like being in control and we handle last-minute changes really well. It’s no big deal, we do it, and we just move on. End of story.

Type 8: I think my first reaction would be resistance. She’s insisting I take over; she’s not asking. So I’m annoyed. I think the thing I would think about would be could I handle it? Do I know enough about this topic in order to do it. If I felt that I could, I would go ahead and do it and just tell the audience, you know, this a pot luck. It’s not what you came for, but what the heck. And if I didn’t feel competent, I would simply tell her that I wouldn’t do it.

Type 9: I think my first response would be shock and that probably actually translates as the automatic resistance of the 9. I would also feel flattered, I think. And then I would enroll the crowd that something’s happened none of us thought would happen, so we’ll work together and it’ll be fun. That’s what you do. Get them on your side.

How do you think YOU would respond in this situation? Would you be relieved or terrified or would you take it in stride?

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In Their Own Words (Part 1)

people talking

This is the second year I’ve gathered people together to hear from a panel of all nine Enneagram types. I asked the participants on both panels to give us three words to describe their type (from their perspective) and to tell us what they like and don’t like about being their type.

In both cases, I had no idea what any of them would say. And in both cases, they all did a bang-up job of giving us a glimpse into how they perceive themselves and their type. These are the answers from last year’s panel.

Give us three words to describe your type.

Type 1: True to type, I don’t know which words to choose. Even though you said it didn’t have to be “right,” I still couldn’t choose.

Type 2: helpful, sentimental, and people-pleasing

Type 3: organized, efficient, and productive

Type 4: sensitive, curious, and open-minded

Type 5: observant, reflective, and isolated

Type 6: concerned, aware, and loyal

Type 7: spontaneous, accomplished, and multi-talented

Type 8: independent, competent, and untrusting

Type 9: compassion, time alone, resistance

Tell us what you like and don’t like about being your type.

Type 1: I like that I’m not a pure 1. I have a 9 wing. That also means that my closet isn’t perfectly organized. Nor is my house perfectly organized. I don’t like the highly critical nature because I think everyone should do things perfectly. I think they should plan better. They should execute better. They should speak with proper grammar.

Type 2: One of the things I like is 2s are often friendly. My husband used to say I could start a conversation with a stone. The grocery store clerk does not need to know your life history. So I go on vacation by myself and have a lovely time and meet lots of people and come home with addresses and phone numbers. Something I don’t like is when helping slips into martyrdom. I catch myself sliding into that on occasion, so this has helped me not to slide.

Type 3: I like being competent and getting things done. I thrive on being organized. It’s just what I am and what I do. It comes very naturally. Something I don’t particularly like is that the busyness and the productivity don’t always serve me. I’ve always had this analogy about life being like spinning plates. Spinning plates have absolutely no purpose; they just keep you busy to keep from crashing.

Type 4: I like having a strong 5 wing, and I think that makes a big difference. I’m open to new ideas and different kinds of people. What I don’t like is being overly sensitive to things people say and do, taking them personally, and then brooding about them.

Type 5: I love research! I could do it endlessly. I love being curious and exploring and always learning something new. What I don’t like is that it’s very easy for me to detach from what’s going on around me. However, I’m a great crisis manager because 5s are very good at detaching and dealing with whatever is driving everyone else crazy.

Type 6: I like that I’m responsible and hardworking. What I don’t like is that I overthink everything. That’s why I’m overwhelmed all the time. And when I make a decision, I doubt myself. Then I go out and ask everybody else. What do you think? Should I do this? Should I go there?

Type 7: I like that 7s are fun-loving, controlling—we can be bossy—but we’re very dependable and responsible. We can also be self-deprecating and have a great sense of humor. What I don’t like about being a 7 is I have an 8 wing, which means I can anger quickly and become confrontational and threatening. I also don’t like being somewhat scattered and trying to do too many things at once—but only sometimes.

Type 8: I like being capable and self-sufficient. I really feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. I don’t like the knee-jerk reactions. Being opinionated. And I think the more I get to know myself as I get older, it’s nice to know where that comes from and to be able to soften it a little bit so people don’t always think we bite.

Type 9: I like the compassion. I like the ability I’ve always had since I was little to be connected with almost anybody in any set of circumstances. I like being able to recognize something in them and feel connected. I don’t like the automatic resistance. It’s not just resistance to you but it’s resistance from within as well. It’s still there, but I see it now. Oh, that’s just me resisting.

The highlight of both Enneagram panels was the responses of the different types to a series of hypothetical situations I presented them with. I’ll be featuring the situations and responses of last year’s panel in upcoming posts.

Creating True-to-Life Characters with the Enneagram

fictional charactersWhether or not you write fiction, you may be interested in this recent post from my creativity blog about using the Enneagram for character development.

It includes some basic type descriptions along with characterizations of nine different types of knitters. (And in case you didn’t know, there is actually a genre of writing called “knit lit.”)

Can the Enneagram Make You a Better Writer?

At a SouthWest Writers meeting several years ago, a fiction writer at my table mentioned she didn’t always know what choice her character would make when faced with a decision, an obstacle, or a fork in the road. I had no opportunity to pursue the conversation with her, but I wanted to tell her about the Enneagram and how it could help her solve that problem.

I admire her for being honest about an issue many writers struggle with. Anyone who writes character-driven stories, real or fictional, must have a basic understanding of human nature. While some aspects of being human are common to all of us, we do differ from each other, sometimes in significant ways. The ways we’re different aren’t random, however. A writer can’t just throw together a hodgepodge of attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics and hope to come up with a believable character. Discerning readers recognize poorly drawn characters, whether they are two-dimensional or too multi-dimensional. Continue reading…

Mom, Me, and the Enneagram

no-one-wayI’ve written about my relationship with my mother on Nine Paths before. And yesterday I posted a portrait of her on Facebook, along with these comments:

This is a portrait of my mother as a young woman. It was taken before she married my father, so late 1930s or early 1940s. She was born 12/19/17 and died 11/05/99. We were about as opposite, temperamentally, as a mother and daughter could be. But she had a great sense of humor, so although we argued–a lot!–we also laughed a lot, which is probably what carried us through.

Temperamentally speaking, my mother and I were kind of a match made in hell. She was a 9 with a very strong 1 wing, which we both learned when she agreed to explore the Enneagram a couple of years before she died. I’m an 8 with a very strong 7 wing. To top it off, on the Riso-Hudson (RHETI) test, her lowest score was for 8 and my lowest score was for 9.

This is typically how things went between us:

Mom: Follow the rules.
Me: Well, I will if I agree with them.

Mom: What will the neighbors think?
Me: Who cares what the freaking neighbors think?

Mom: Do what I tell you to do.
Me: Why?

Mom: Why can’t you kids stop fighting? (I have two younger brothers.)
Me: Because we don’t get along–obviously!

Mom: You need to do (fill in the blank) exactly this way.
Me: Well, that makes no sense. If you want me to do it, I’ll do it my way. Otherwise, feel free to do it your way.

To say the least, I was a challenge for my mother to raise–much more so than either of my brothers. And my mother was a challenge for me to deal with. I knew nothing about the Enneagram when I was growing up, but I did pretty much figure out how to get around her. Although I didn’t know she was a 9, I was aware that she really didn’t want to know about all the stuff I was doing that I wasn’t supposed to be doing, so I just told her what she wanted to hear. When anything questionable came to her attention, her 1 wing compelled her to take action, which she did–or tried to do. But as an 8, I was willing to accept the consequences, and I knew she would eventually get over it.

I learned a lot about the upside of type 9 many years later from my friend, Donna, when we co-facilitated groups at the substance clinic where we both worked. I like to think that growing up I would have been more sympathetic to my mother and less of a pain in the ass if I’d known then what I know now.

The practical benefits of learning the basics of the Enneagram can be enormous. For one thing, they can give us a fighting chance of understanding each other, which is something the world could really use right now. That’s one reason why I support making the Enneagram accessible to a much bigger and broader audience.

Reset Your Mindset

I wrote about mindsets on my website Farther to Go! last month, but as with many of the topics I write about there, this seems relevant in terms of Enneagram types. I suspect it is easier for some types to develop–or to already have–a Get Better mindset, while other types find it more difficult to break out of the Be Good mindset. Full article here.

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What Drives Us?

Memory

(Photo credit: Our Hero)

One of the things I like about the type profiles in Don Riso and Russ Hudson’s Personality Types is the succinct “Key Motivations” they describe for each type. Since my score on their Enneagram test (way back when) had only a one-point difference between 8 and 7, reading the Key Motivations helped make it abundantly clear to me that I’m an 8w7, not a 7w8.

Recently, I incorporated these Key Motivations and some of Jerome Wagner’s information on the shadow into descriptions of what drives each type. This was for a group I’ve been working with in which everyone knows their type. During the group discussion, it became clear that some people think these are conscious motivations. As conscious motivations, they seem somewhat objectionable or at least unflattering. But they’re not conscious, they’re unconscious. Enneagram behavior is automatic, or autopilot, behavior. It’s the opposite of conscious behavior.

1s, for example, don’t wake up in the morning and tell themselves nothing is more important to them that day than being right. I don’t get up in the morning and tell myself I’m off to assert myself and prevail over my environment.

Our unconscious motivations are like hidden—at least to us—agendas. They’re more obvious to others because other people see only what we do and say and how we react. They see us from the outside. They don’t have access to our inner experience or personal history. More importantly, they don’t have access to the stories and explanations we’re constantly spinning that tend to obscure our agendas and keep them hidden from us.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t uncover our unconscious motivation by looking inward. If we want to understand what drives us, we have to look not at what we think or feel or want to do, but at what we actually do.

Socrates was only partly wrong that the “unexamined life is not worth living.” The key is the kind of self-examination people perform, and the extent to which people attempt to know themselves solely by looking inward, versus looking outward at their own behavior and how others react to them.

–Timothy D. Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves

Paying attention to what we do is a great focus for self-observation. And paying attention to what we do pays off, too, because as long as our agendas are hidden from us, we’re stuck being at the effect of them.

Unconscious Motivation for the Nine Types

[Note: Key Motivations from Personality Types are in italics.]

1s are compliant to their idealistic obligations, moving toward what will help them earn righteousness and resisting the inner impulses that might lead them astray. To keep their angry impulses out of their awareness, they do the opposite of what they are inclined to do (instead of confronting someone, being nice to him or her; instead of being sexual, becoming puritanical). They tend to be concerned with what is right in front of them (subject, as are the other two Compliant types, to what has been called “the tyranny of the immediate moment”). They tend to play by the rules and expect others to do so, too. They want to be right, to have integrity and balance, to strive higher and improve others, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone. Type 1 is called The Good Person, The Achiever, The Reformer, and The Perfectionist.
Keyword: Principle

2s are compliant to their need to be seen as friendly and helpful by others, so they move toward what will help them earn attention and approval. They tend to be concerned with what is right in front of them (subject, as are the other two Compliant types, to what has been called “the tyranny of the immediate moment”). They tend to recognize the needs of others and are happy to roll up their sleeves to tackle others’ problems while pushing their own into the background. Because their own needs make them anxious, they keep them out of their awareness by repressing them. They project their needs onto others (so other people are needy, but they aren’t). They want to be loved, to express their feelings for others, to be needed and appreciated, to get others to respond to them, to vindicate their claims about themselves. Type 2 is called The Helper, The Giver, The People Pleaser, and The Partner.
Keyword: Persuasion

3s aggressively attempt to maintain both an inner and an outer image of success, moving against anything that prevents them from attaining their goals. To keep failure out of their awareness, they identify with whatever successful mask or role they are playing at the time. They identify with their roles instead of with themselves. Like the other Aggressive types, they tend to hurry through the present and not give much thought to the past. They will play by the rules if that works for them, but they’re willing to bend the rules in order to meet their goals or objectives. They want to feel valuable and worthwhile, to be affirmed, to distinguish themselves, to have attention, to be admired, and to impress others. Type 3 is called The Performer, The Succeeder, The Motivator, and the Status Seeker.
Keyword: Performance

4s withdraw in order to nurture an internal image of uniqueness, moving away from anything that triggers a sense of something lacking. In order to avoid experiencing the common and ordinary, whenever anything seems bland they turn it into something extraordinary or dramatic. Like the other Withdrawing types, they tend to focus on the past, often feeling victimized by it. They tend to feel like they’re on the outside to begin with and are very sensitive to slights and perceived slights (lack of support). They are easily hurt. They want to be themselves, to express themselves in something beautiful, to find the ideal partner, to withdraw to protect their feelings, to take care of emotional needs before attending to anything else. Type 4 is called The Individualist, The Tragic Romantic, The Artist, and The Sensitive Person.
Keyword: Passion

5s doubt their ability to deal effectively with the external world, so they withdraw into their own minds to avoid coming in contact with anything that might make them feel inadequate. To avoid feeling empty, they isolate themselves in their heads away from their feelings and other people. They focus on their thoughts in order to make themselves feel full and comfortable. They also isolate or compartmentalize one time period—or aspect—of life from another. Like the other Withdrawing types, they tend to focus on the past and often reflect on their prior experiences. They aren’t interested in following rules. They don’t like being a part of the system, so they prefer to do things their own way. They want to be capable and competent, to master a body of knowledge and skill, to explore reality, to remain undisturbed by others, to reduce their needs. Type 5 is called The Observer, The Investigator, The Knowledge-Seeker, and The Thinker.
Keyword: Privacy

Because they are anxious about their inner worlds and the external world, 6s move toward whatever—and whomever—they believe will make them feel safe and secure. 6s are the most anxious of the three Thinking center types. They project onto others their own sense of disobedience and rebellion. Other people are trying to get away with things, and 6s need to monitor their activities and bring them in line with their authority’s principles. Or others are trying to trip them up and trap them. They tend to be concerned with what is right in front of them (subject, as are the other two Compliant types, to what has been called “the tyranny of the immediate moment”). They want to be seen as strong and reliable, but at the same time they want to feel supported by others. They can get defensive. They want to have security, to feel supported, to have the approval of others, to test the attitudes of others toward them, to defend their beliefs. Type 6 is called The Loyalist, The Questioner, The Guardian, and The Devil’s Advocate.
Keyword: Participation

7s want to avoid experiencing the pain that could result from their own thoughts and feelings, so they aggressively move against whatever gets in the way of their happiness and contentment by focusing on external events and activities. To keep pain out of their awareness, they sublimate it and turn it into something interesting or good. They automatically look for the good in everything. So they might celebrate the new life of a deceased loved one rather than mourn their loss. Like the other Aggressive types, they tend to hurry through the present as they make plans for the future. They tend to be more focused on their own needs and often fail to notice the needs (and problems) of others. They want to be happy and satisfied, to have a wide variety of experiences, to keep their options open, to enjoy life and amuse themselves, to escape anxiety. Type 7 is called The Adventurer, The Epicure, The Generalist, and The Enthusiast.
Keyword: Pleasure

8s aggressively assert themselves against others and the environment, moving against what gets in the way of their pursuit of their agendas. To prevent weakness from showing up in their awareness or persona, they deny any presence of it (the real kings and queens of denial). Like the other Aggressive types, they tend to hurry through the present and not give much thought to the past. They are comfortable in the supportive role, but they don’t want to need other people, so they keep their guard up to prevent others from getting too close. They are easily angered. They want to be self-reliant, to resist their weakness, to have an impact on the environment, to assert themselves, to stay in control, to prevail over others, to be invincible. Type 8 is called The Challenger, The Confronter, The Leader, the Asserter (and a few other things that are unprintable).
Keyword: Power

9s withdraw so others won’t disturb their inner peacefulness, moving away from anything that triggers a sense of distress and discomfort, whether it’s internal or external. To avoid conflict, they numb their feelings, wants, and preferences. They make everything the same and highlight nothing. They make molehills out of mountains. Like the other Withdrawing types, they are focused on the past and tend to ruminate about what happened, both good and bad. They try to pay attention to others’ needs as well as their own; as a result, they often become overwhelmed so they tune out instead of responding to either. They want to have serenity and peace of mind, to create harmony in their environment, to preserve things as they are, to avoid conflicts and tension, to escape upsetting problems and demands on them. Type 9 is called The Peacemaker, The Preservationist, The Mediator, and the Universalist.
Keyword: Peace

Peace out. 🙂

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Be Yourself?

Fear of being who you are

Fear of being who you are (Photo credit: Skye Suicide)

What does it mean to “be yourself”? Do you know who that is? When someone goes on a journey to find him or herself, what—or who—do they find? And what are they actually looking for? Does a self even exist?

That last question may seem a little out there, but I think these are all good questions to ask. People end relationships because they weren’t able to be themselves. They like to have friends with whom they can just be themselves. And sometimes, for one reason or another, people are afraid to be themselves.

This train of thought was inspired by the post of another blogger, Donald Fulmer at Museical Garden. It begins:

Be  yourself!

Whoa—not me. I didn’t want the attention, the humiliation, people making fun of me. I wanted people to smile and leave me alone. Which they did.

I couldn’t just be myself. Or wouldn’t, I mean.

Don is a 9, as he makes pretty clear right off the bat (and as he’s told me). He goes on to talk about a tattoo he just got:

A large tattoo—of flowers. Lotuses to be exact. Beautiful, rich red lotuses.

And here it is:

He took a chance on doing something a bit outrageous—and, hey, it turned out OK. To me, Don’s post was like a celebration: a coming out party for a 9. The title, “It Hurts to Be Yourself,” is a double entendre. It hurts to get a tattoo, of course; and sometimes, maybe, it hurts to be yourself. While I was thinking about what he’d written, I realized that as an 8, my experience is pretty much the opposite of his. I’d say that for me, it hurts to not be myself.

OUR SELVES R US

But again, what or who the heck is that? The truth is that we’re probably composed of many different selves. In Stumbling on Happiness, for example, Daniel Gilbert says we have at least three: our past self, our present self, and our future self. Our past self has set in motion much of what our present self now wants nothing to do with. And our present self is quite confident it knows exactly what will make our future self happy. His premise is that our present self is really clueless about our future self. It’s one of the problems with the way our brains work: we equate confidence with validity when the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

But returning to the question of selves, I suspect that what we think of as our true self is really the particular set of compulsions, automatic responses, and (as David Eagleman calls them) zombie subroutines we have developed since birth. I doubt we were born in some perfect state and have been corrupted by our subsequent experiences—otherwise known as life. I think the development of our particular compulsions and autopilot behaviors is just a natural response and reaction to the joys and exigencies of life. Our unique dance with life, if you will.

The desire to locate some essential, authentic, uncorrupted self underneath all the compulsions and automatic responses seems literally wrongheaded. As Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine always said, what you see is what you get. And that’s amazing enough! We are marvelous, amusing, innovative, and fascinating creatures with astonishing possibility, not in spite of our compulsions and idiosyncrasies but because of them. We just need to shake loose from our concepts about who we are or who we think we’re supposed to be.

Don wrote that the lotuses in his tattoo symbolize enlightenment: seeing things as they really are. Right on, Don!

So, yes, by all means be yourselves. There are no other selves you can be.

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