Experience matters. Teaching the Enneagram since 1991
Hi. Thirteen years after founding the Cambridge Enneagram group and after more than 150 workshops I have now closed this group. It has been a delight and inspiration to meet and share with so many different people.
Thank you to all
I continue to be available for personal work with the Enneagram, for groups or organisations. It would be a delight to hear from you and customise with you workshops on this brilliant model of human development.
Since first being introduced to the Enneagram in 1991 I have found it incredibly effective for my own personal development and for my work with others. The Enneagram model is one of my favourite tools for my coaching and counselling work, with young people and older adults; for couple coaching; for parenting coaching, corporate work and for my Men’s work.
The Beauty of You
Exploring the good bits within each Type. The Beauty of You
Sometimes in Enneagram work we can get stuck on the bits of us we don’t care for and would like to get rid of, or at least improve. That’s why in my next workshop I am going to continue unashamedly to get us talking about how brilliant we are, whatever our Enneatype; about our talents; and the gifts we bring to the world; about ourselves as divine beings trying to become human.
I’ll go through each Enneatype in turn and explore with you how we are fundamentally ok even divine.
I’m passionate about the Enneagram; excited and inspired by it; I love it!
BUT sometimes the Enneagram is not a good thing. Sometimes when a person learns about the Enneagram, they can
· trap themselves in a box
· trap others in a box
· judge (too often negatively) themselves and others with statements such as “You’re an Enneatype (whatever), that’s why you speak, think, act like that!
· become incredibly conscious of their weaknesses which can be damaging.
· can get caught up in the “negative” aspects of personality
Sometimes people dislike their Type so much that they ask me if there’s any way they can change it. I feel sad when I hear that.
A few more comments/disclaimers about Enneagram work.
· The Enneagram is helpful for people to understand why we and others are the way we are, but it is not something that should be pushed onto people
· Knowing our different Enneatypes can enhance enormously our communication, but not all conflicts or relationship challenges come from those differences
· We want to be ourselves, and not who our Enneagram type says we should be.
· sometimes people are just so different from us, that we can't understand what could possibly be going through their head.
· The Enneagram is not a solution to all life’s challenges
· But it can help us face them with more clarity, courage and compassion
Enneatype 8 Fixation and Holy Idea
“Oh, you are so controlling!” “You’re a control freak!” "We've always got to do it YOUR way!"
How often do you hear things said like that - about others, about yourself? or think it without daring to say it?
In our own way, each of us tries to control the world within us and outside of us, whatever our Enneatype. To get our own way, some go into a silent resentful huff; others drown any discussion with details and analysis; others by going into victim mode; others by seeing to our every need. And others by banging the table, or kicking the cat!
Enneatype 8, the Boss, is the banging the table type: forceful, powerful, intimidating, with the motto “My way or the highway”. Cats as well as people around them, beware!
And yet, the Boss is also the Protector, the one with a soft heart open to a soft touch, the one who cares for the vulnerable; the person who can be extraordinarily childlike.
The workshop explores in depth this personality whose fixated thinking seeks revenge, and whose liberated thinking (or Holy Idea) inspires innocence and tenderness.
How much do you matter? Do you matter?
Tragically many people, many young people, people from all the social, professional, religious, cultural, and gender groups would answer this question negatively. How do you answer it?
Just check out the figures for suicide: the Samaritans’ website tells me that in 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland, or about 17 per day.
Of course, the reasons for suicide are many and complex and not necessarily, I believe, tragic. Some people have had a good life and because they do think they matter choose to decide the moment to leave – happily; others are in such pain or consider themselves a burden on their family and again, because they and their family do matter decide to move on.
But some of those who choose to end their lives do so because they just don’t reckon they matter, either to themselves or to others. And that, I think, is tragic; as is the number of people with the silly thinking that to matter they have to conform to certain ways of acting; who carry on living but with no sense of their own intrinsic value.
From an Enneagram perspective the Nine, the Peacemaker, when they are caught up in silly thinking, are convinced they do not matter; that keeping the peace, avoiding conflict is worth more than speaking their own mind and being true to themselves. Their fixation, this cognitive error, influences and controls their feelings and behaviour. The other personalities each have their own version of this error. In previous workshops I’ve spoken for instance of the 3, the Achiever, who to matter must perform and achieve; of the 1, the Perfectionist, who to matter has to get everything right and correct; the 5, the Observer, who to matter has to collect the data and know it all.
Some personal reflections
I’ve been asking people, myself first, a particular question recently: I’ve been asking do you love yourself?
You might imagine the reactions I’ve received – blank stares; mocking eyes; “I’ve never thought about it” or “that’s selfish” type answers; and often that look which says “Oh don’t be silly”.
And there’s the real silliness because in fact most of us don’t love ourselves; not really; we don’t accept or like ourselves just as we are – just because we are. To be acceptable, we think, we’ve got to be perfect, or we have to be a success, or we have to look good, or we have to have loads of Facebook “likes”. We judge ourselves, insist on improving ourselves, finding our faults, trying out what the ads sell us because we believe the message that fundamentally we are not good enough just as we are.
It’s the sort of thing we’ll talk about in the workshop this coming Monday. In Enneagram terms we’ll talk about the Fixations, what the great thinker Naranjo calls Cognitive Mistakes, or in plain language silly thinking.
Silly, yes, and understandable. They are thoughts we have grown up with, used as defence mechanisms, developed over time, and that our experience has “proven” to be right.
The workshop on Monday will
· explore how this thinking is incorrect
· identify how it influences our everyday behaviour.
· invite us to look on ourselves with empathy, compassion, and affection
· examine strategies for changing our thinking, in particular through the antidote of the Holy Ideas, a healing, creative path to healthy thinking and action.
Last month I talked about the mistake of the Nine who is governed by the thought of “I don’t matter”; of the Six who thinks “I can’t trust myself or the world”; and of the Three who tell themselves “I am what I do. Image is all”.
How wholly are you?
The word Holy dates back to at least the 11th Century, comes from the Old English word halig, and is related to the Scottish word hale.
Halig means whole, uninjured, sound, healthy, entire, complete. Hale means health, happiness and wholeness.
So, when we talk about Holy Ideas in the Enneagram, sorry folks, it’s nothing about shining up your halo, even less about people who’ve been thought holy and then turn out to be abusers of the innocent. It’s not a search for a lost paradise nor the infantile nakedness of Eden: that went with our infancy and our growing awareness of ourselves and the broken world around us.
In our workshops about Fixations and the Holy Ideas we want to talk about everything life offers us; every joy, pain, pleasure, despair and beauty we encounter there; to experience our whol-i-ness we have to experience our brokenness; knowing deep down, really deep down, that in all of it we are fine.
We want to be practical, exploring strategies for leading us towards wholeness; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Wholeness/ whol-i-ness is less about arriving untouched, unscathed, at some illusory set of pristine clean pearly gates; more about wading through the pain of our fixations and our hang-ups, through the mud in our wound and brokenness, crying, laughing, and eating ice cream on a hot summer’s day with those we love; arriving exhausted at our point of departure, knowing that all is well, and that all will always be well.
If you’d like to respond to these reflections I look forward to hearing from you, and if you’d like to join the workshop this coming Monday I look forward to seeing you. Welcome.
The Enneagram is a remarkably effective guide to psychological and spiritual growth. Throughout the world it is being used as an instrument for increasing the wellbeing and development of individuals, families and teams.
In my own personal development and in my work as Counsellor and Life Coach I value enormously the insights the Enneagram offers. I am also regularly invited to present it on BBC Radio, in business teams and community groups.
I founded Cambridge Enneagram in early 2002 and continue to facilitate a monthly workshop at my home near Cambridge. Several hundred people from a wide selection of professional backgrounds, ethnic groups, and ages have enjoyed these workshops.
Below you’ll find details of upcoming workshops and notes from some past ones.
For further information on individual one-to-one sessions and customised workshops for businesses interested in developing their skills and talents using the Enneagram model please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org i look forward to hearing from you.
Fixations in Enneagram terms can be described most simply as habits of mind –ways of looking at the world and everything in it which become habitual and increasingly fixed and unchallenged.
Each of the nine Enneatypes has a particular “lens” through which everything is filtered. It’s like looking through one window of a building not realising that there are eight others and that if we looked through them too we’d get a much more rounded view of what’s going on in our world!
There are some common features to these fixations. They
Holy Ideas can be thought of as what happens when our busy mind quietens, we are at peace and we see the world as it really is, clearly, as if through crystal clear class.
While a fixated mind keeps the individual trapped in a limited, self-centred sense of the idea the holy idea expands the concept to a universal context.
In relation to the personality types, the holy ideas can be understood as an antidote to the struggle of each type - a means of freeing ourselves from the trap of our fixation.
Loss of trust and ego development
My notes and reflections on the Fixations and Holy Ideas are based on my experience, the experience of clients and on the superb works of Almaas “Facets of Unity. The Enneagram of Holy ideas” and Maitri “The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram. Nine Faces of the Soul”.
What do you think? Is the world a friendly place? Is it safe? Benevolent? Trustworthy?
It’s the question that Einstein said is the most important we humans can ask.
Because the way we look at the world influences our personality, our way of thinking, feeling and acting towards ourselves and others. I am writing this just before going to vote in the local elections. Which of the politicians, for example, do I trust? Which of my friends? Colleagues? Family? And crucially how much do I trust myself?
Do I trust life? Death? Are they friendly?
Each of the nine Enneatypes has distinctive flavours in their response to these questions.
And I’d like to ask them as an introduction to a series of workshops on the Fixations and the Holy Ideas, planned for the coming months.
Basic trust is spiritual; it is in the DNA of our souls; we feel in our bones that we are and will be okay. It is in our essential nature.
Loss of trust
Trust is part of our essential nature. Our essential nature is who we are when we experience ourselves free from the influence of the past. It is who we are before we take form, who we are in the moment before our conception.
In the process of our taking form, in the womb, in infancy and in childhood we lose contact with our essential nature; we no longer feel held by the world; we build defences; our ego develops and becomes stronger, more rigid, until we lose access to the very soul our ego is trying to defend.
We lose access to the Holy Ideas
Holy Will, Holy Origin, Holy Wisdom, Holy Love, Holy Perfection, Holy Omniscience, Holy Strength, Holy Truth, Holy Harmony
And ego replaces them with Fixations mental habits, compulsions, fakes:
Flattery, Melancholy, Planning, Indolence, Resentment, Stinginess, Cowardice, Vengeance, Vanity
Helping a friend
In this workshop I propose as theme ‘how to help a friend in their growth using the experience of the Enneagram’. This will allow us to bring in ideas explored over the last months and our own experience of helping a friend grow in their personal development.
Beginning with ourselves! Because our own best friend is indeed our self. And yet how often we think of our selves negatively, looking more at what we get wrong and less at where we shine.
As part of the workshop therefore I’ll invite us to look at our talents and the gifts we offer to the world. (Check out your reaction to that one!)
The Arrows on the Enneagram
What happens when we are in stress?
What can we do to get to our place of healthy development?
Discover how people of different Enneagram tendencies act
All of us, whatever our Enneatype know that we can seem like different people at different times of our life or even over the course of a single day. Our moods can change, and with them our thoughts, feelings and behaviour depending on circumstances, people we come into contact with, things that are said or done.
Through the lines, or arrows, connecting each Enneatype to others, the Enneagram model gives us a map for identifying this movement and for strategies we can take for choosing to react differently, and in a way which we find more empowering and fulfilling.
An example of a person in stress and in growth
The Perfectionist Enneatype 1
The Perfectionist has an over riding need to get things right, to do the right thing, and to get everyone else to do it. I am of this Enneatype myself and I often refer to us as the "right-ists".
At our worst we can be a real pain both to ourselves and others in our striving to get things totally perfect - an impossible dream.
At our best we can see that the imperfect is an integral part of the beauty of all that is, and enjoy life just as it is.
When we follow the arrow to the Four, the Tragic Romantic, we can
- negatively get terribly depressed believing that no one understands us and there's no hope for any of us
- or more positively become more creative and in touch with deeper feelings
When we follow the arrow to the Seven, the Fun Lover, we can
- negatively, begin to self destruct through excess
- or positively, chill out, become more spontaneous, and do things just because they're fun
Each of us, whatever our Enneatype, know that we can seem like different people at different times of our life or even over the course of a single day. Our moods can change, and with them our thoughts, feelings and behaviour depending on circumstances, people we meet, things that are said or done.
Through the lines connecting each Enneatype to others, the Enneagram model gives us
· an incredibly accurate map for identifying the movement between stress and security
· strategies we can take for choosing to react differently
· options for more empowering and fulfilling ways of living