Tag Archives: 8w7

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.

The Type 3 Culture of est? (Part 3)

In which I finally (sort of) get to the point—or at least a point.

Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard

During my two years of participation in est, I took all of the seminars, some more than once, and many workshops. I also took the later incarnation of the training called the Forum. For 12 months, I was team leader of trainer support for the Berkeley/Oakland Area Center, which meant I enrolled trainer support supervisors for all trainings and workshops and made sure they enrolled teams. Sometimes I ran trainer support for a training or workshop myself.  For six months, I was team leader for seminar logistics (although I had never assisted on a logistics team). As team leader, I enrolled logistics supervisors for all the 10-week seminars, made sure they enrolled teams, and visited each seminar at least once to make sure everything was running smoothly. I also assisted for several months in the office of the San Francisco Area Center.

I thought about going through the guest seminar leader program, but decided against it. While I was still considering it, I was encouraged to spiff up my presentation. Although I had plenty of nicely tailored business suits, I didn’t have a particular style. As an 8, I’ve always been more interested comfort than style. But I was willing to look into it—and it was the 80s—so I followed the suggestion of a couple of my peers and hired a wardrobe consultant. Her name was Rivka, and she wanted me to get my colors done. [There was a book called Color Me Beautiful that was popular at the time. It helped you decide whether you were a spring, summer, winter, or autumn and then gave you a suitable palette of colors for your wardrobe.] I refused to do that, though, which disappointed Rivka. But she said she thought I was an “autumn,” and we went shopping from there: new make-up; new shoes; new clothes—all in colors I would never have thought of for myself. Turned out I am an autumn. In terms of physical presentation, I was transformed.

The Motivator?

It’s hard to escape making a connection between the 3’s preoccupation with having a successful image and the est preoccupation with personal presentation. In Personality Types, Riso and Hudson say:

The United States is fast becoming a dysfunctional “Three” culture: driven, narcissistic, image-oriented, emphasizing style over substance, symbols over reality.

I never felt that est emphasized style over substance or symbols over reality, though. As far as being driven, Werner said:

Your power is a function of velocity, that is to say, your power is a function of the rate at which you translate intention into reality. Most of us disempower ourselves by finding a way to slow, impede, or make more complex than necessary the process of translating intention into reality.

It’s part of my nature as an 8 to be driven, so those words were fuel for me. That’s one of the few quotes I typed up (pre-personal computer) and still have.

3s are called the Motivator, the Achiever, the Succeeder, the Performer, and the Status-Seeker. I could see applying all those names to Werner. He is a very persuasive guy, and many aspects of type 3 fit him. But having said all that, I’m not fully convinced he is a 3.

Or the Maverick?

Here’s how Riso and Hudson describe the healthy version of the 8w7 subtype in The Wisdom of the Enneagram:

Having a quick mind combined with a vision for practical possibilities, people of this subtype are often charismatic and able to attract the support of others to join them in their vision. They are action-oriented, and want to have an impact on their world. They are also good at challenging others to stretch their abilities and to surpass their own expectations so that their lives can be better in some practical way. This is the most independent subtype, often entrepreneurial and interested in creating projects that will ensure their independence.

Based on my experience of him, that description fits Werner perfectly.

Parting Ways

I stopped participating in est after two years because I realized that it was too easy for me. The assisting program, especially, was the perfect place for me to excel at what I was already good at doing. I didn’t have to stretch myself at all. My partner, on the other hand, had a much harder time with assisting, but he ultimately got more out of it than I did. After learning about the Enneagram, I understood that est was Doing-oriented, just like I am, with an emphasis on getting the job done, whatever the job was.

In life you wind up with one of two things – the results or the reason why you don’t have the results. Results don’t have to be explained. They just are.

When we were assisting, we put our personal feelings on the back burner. Feelings were allowed and dealt with in the training, of course, which was a very emotional experience for some people. But although I recall very little specific detail from my own training, I do remember Werner standing on the stage with a box of tissue, pulling them out one-by-one, waving them to the side, and then letting each one flutter to the floor. “Here’s a feeling. Here’s a feeling. Here’s another feeling.” The point was that feelings are fleeting. They come; they go. Don’t get attached to them. I may have interpreted that to mean they could be easily dismissed.

When I decided to get certified as an Enneagram instructor, I chose the training offered by Kathy Hurley and Ted Donson because they seemed to include more of the Feeling Center in their work. That’s the Center I access least effectively, and I realized I needed to stretch myself.

Of course, I went through—and saw—the est training through my own particular filter. The process of the training was not a pleasant experience for me. But the doing involved in assisting was my metier. When I decided to stop participating, my point of view of est—and of assisting—was still colored by the filter through which I viewed the world. I wonder what my experience would have been if I’d been aware of the Enneagram while I was actively involved in est. I’m pretty sure there was a lot more I could have gotten out of it if I hadn’t been so darned good at that particular piece of it.

est and the Enneagram

There are a lot of similarities between est and the Enneagram. Werner talked about the filters through which we look at the world and which distort reality. The Enneagram describes the particularities of those filters. Werner was all about authenticity and authentic self-expression. The Enneagram is a tool to help us move beyond the compulsion of type to experience our true nature, or essence. In the training you get, beyond any doubt, that you are a machine. With the Enneagram you get that you function on autopilot almost 100% of the time.

Making a Difference

These concepts are not unique to either est or the Enneagram, of course. They’re just different approaches to what seem to be universal truths. est focused on making commitments, showing up, and producing a result (doing). The Enneagram is a more intellectual, systematized approach.

What I’m left with from est—what has stayed with me all this time—is this:

You and I want our lives to matter. We want our lives to make a real difference—to be of genuine consequence in the world. We know that there is no satisfaction in merely going through the motions, even if those motions make us successful or even if we have arranged to make those motions pleasant. We want to know we have had some impact on the world. In fact, you and I want to contribute to the quality of life. We want to make the world work.