Monday, October 29, 2012

Read the Lightest Piece Cindi has Ever Written

I wrote an article for PetsLady. It's called: "Our Dogs, Ourselves: Do Pet Picks Predict Personality?" Mary Beth called it "the lightest piece" I had "ever written." It probably is the lightest piece about personality psychology I have ever written. It concerns the Five Factor Model and choice of dog breed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Enneagram for Youth

Tomorrow night, Mary Beth and I will be doing a presentation on the Enneagram for the youth group at our church. The general plan is that we will have them do a quick test (probably the QUEST), present brief descriptions of the types, do a fun activity like celebrity typing or an Enneagram-themed game, and warp up with just a touch of spirituality. This will be our first time presenting this material to a teenaged audience, so wish us luck!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A 3 Gets a Life

I know that I blog an unduly large amount about 3s. But they make themselves so darn easy to spot, whether it be on television (see this post), in politics (see this post), or in books (see this post).

My latest round of 3-spotting is in a book called Getting a Life. This text is a follow-up to a book called Your Money or Your Life, which is famous within the voluntary simplicity movement. The basic idea here is that you get rid of all your unecessary stuff, figure out how much you really need to live, and then get your activities back in line with your real values, rather than just chasing more and more money. I am reading this stuff beacuse, as a 5, I find the idea of spending as little money as possible very appealing.

Anyway, Getting a Life was written by Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller, a couple who followed the steps prescribed in Your Money or Your Life, and had their lives transformed. There is a section in Getting a Life where Jacqueline and David each answer the question "Who Am I Now?" -- meaning: now that I no longer have a career with which to identify myself, how do I identify myself? This question gets right at the heart of the 3 issue, and Jacqueine's answer is quite telling. Here is some of what she says:

"The issue of identity is one that I've always had trouble with. I've never been sure of who, exactly, I was, or was supposed to be. Early on in life I took cues from the media. I watched television almost every night when I was growing up. We lived close enough to Hollywood to feel its influence and I read Time magazine and the Saturday Evening Post as well as the Los Angeles Times. I began to think of myself through the eyes of these oracles that made the rest of the world real to me. I thought of my life in terms of the accomplishments or behavior that led people to be featured in the pages of a magazine or the front page of a newspaper, not in terms of what I liked to do or how I wanted to spend my life. Because I saw accomplishment from the point of view of a magazine article, my goals were impersonal, and had little to do with me and more to do with what other people might think was good or important. I looked outside myself to answer the question of who I was and what was best for me. Therefore, I believed success or accomplishment had to do with outward acheivements, appearances, and financial rewards, and judged all my efforts by these standards.

As I aspired, as all of us do, to find what is worthwhile in life, I sought answers in a corporate job, in a bigger salary every year, and in material acquisition. I was always trying to make myself into someone who could fit into the world I found myself in -- sales and marketing. I never asked if this world was suited to me, only if I were suited to it. Over and over I heard the message: Get out there and sell yourself and your product, don't take no for an answer, become your client's best friend, be outgoing, aggressive, jump on any and every opportunity, etc., etc., etc. In addition, my job required technical skills and knowledge, another area that I had little interest in and no real aptitude for. I wanted to be a technical consultant because it sounded impressive and, oddly enough, it was so foreign to my essence I wanted it all the more because I didn't trust my own talents or abilities... The problem was I didn't have the makings of a supersalesperson or a technical whiz, but I did want to fit in and keep my job.

This desire to be something in the eyes of the world also drove my academic ambition. If I couldn't be a business tycoon, then maybe I could be a brilliant professor and do important research. This first manifested itself when I began taking MBA classes in 1979, and then appeared full-blown when I went back to school and acquired three more college degrees, ending with a Ph.D. in communications... I was "successful" in all of these endeavors. I was awarded a teaching assistantship, got good grades, published an article in an academic journal, and completed a doctoral degree. What was missing during all of this, however, was a sense that I was doing these things in fulfillment of dreams that I held near and dear, that I was doing the above with a sense of purpose. I had more personal purpose in academic life than I had in business, but, overall, I still couldn't answer the question, 'Who am I?'
During this time I did an exercise in which I thought about what I wanted as an epitaph to my life. I realized that if I were to write about where my current ambitions would lead me, my life would look like this:

Jacque Blix took great vacations, had all good-hair days, wore beautiful clothes, was lean and toned, ate gourmet food, owned exquisite china and crystal, and never missed a sale at Nordstrom. She is sorely missed my the reatailers and credit card companies in the community.

The emptiniess of such a life prompted me to evaluate what I was doing, shedding activities and pursuits that seemed inauthentic along the way. Reading Your Money or Your Life gave a direction to this process. I haven't yet come up with some grand purpose for my life, althouh I have eliminated many aspects of my life that don't fit. (The idea of having a 'career,' dressing for success, pampered traveling, dining in trendy restaurants, and earning the income necessary to support these have all fallen by the wayside.) Even though I haven't discovered exactly what I am supposed to be doing in life, I seem to be having more 'success' just being myself. I have uncovered an interest and devotion to making my own life more simple and meaningful. In the process I have made new friends, achieved more piece of mind than I've ever had before, become more creative, and enjoyed everyday life more than I thought possible.The final irony is that in becoming more true to myself I have turned up in the pages of a national magazine and now have the opportunity to write a book, another long-held dream. I take this turn of events to prove what philosophers have been saying over the centuries about 'going with the flow' and 'not pushing the river.' As long as I was trying to be someone else, life was difficult. As soon as I let go and accepted myself, my life began to unfold in unexpected ways." (Emphases mine.)

As you can see, there are 3-ish themes throughout Jacqueline's story. First, there is the central quest for self-identity, and the common type 3 mistake of looking outside oneself, to oters and even to television and movies, to find it. This leads to image-consciousness, workaholism, and careerism. Jacqueline, like many 3s, abandoned her own true interests to pursue the goals that she thought would impress others. Emptiness and inauathenticity were the results.

In their book Personality Types, Don Riso and Russ Hudson describe personality type 3 thusly:

The personality type Three exemplifies the search for the validation of the self, and so Threes look to esteemed others to determine who they must be, what they must do, in order to feel valuable and worthwhile as human beings. With this particular focus, Threes frequently become successful in the eyes of their society because they make it their business to acheive those things which their peers find valuable... Threes stand to gain the most attention and success from the society, but also end up among its greatest victims -- estranged from their own heart's desire, empty, and emotionally isolated, while never knowing what has gone wrong."

Bravo to Jacqueline for having the self-awareness and the courage to reverse this pattern and make a better life for herself! May we all take a lesson from her.

As for Jacqueline's husband David, I think he is probably a 9. More about that in a later post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grey Eminence and the Sacrifice of the Personality

Following last Sunday's talk, yet another person recommended that I read Aldus Huxley's Grey Eminence. According to Alan, the recommender:

"It is a study of Father Joseph who was a monk, a mystic, and an advisor to Cardinal Richelieu during the Thirty Years war in France and persecution of miscellaneous protestants and heretics. Huxley was clearly intrigued by how a deeply religious man could have gone so far off track. He rejected the quick answer that Joseph could have just been using religion as a facade for manipulation, but looks deeper."

I read some excerpts and the material here does, indeed, resonate with the Enneagram. For instance:

"religion consists in the exact opposite of self-reliance and self-esteem -- in total self-surrender to a God... suffering himself to be experienced by those who are prepared to accept the conditions upon which that experience may be had: the sacrifice of all elements of their personality..."


"the real Satan is the element in every individual being which hinders that being from dying to its selfhood and becoming united with the reality from which it has been separated."

Compare these ideas to the following excerpt from the opening chapter of The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery, by Maria Beesing, Robert Nogosek, and Patrick J. O'Leary:

"According to the Enneagram system, there are nine... types of human personality. Each personality type is is identified in a negative way though it also has positive characteristics. The identifying negativity stems from a specific compulsion ingrained in one's self-concept and having a great influence on one's behavior...

The journey into self offered by the Enneagram is not easy. To many it will turn out to be extremely threatening. It is unpleasant to think of one's basic personality as a 'sin type'. The compulsion serves to protect oneself and offers personal security. To seek to unveil it will be experienced as a kind of 'death' to oneself...

Through the discovery of one's Enneagram type there can be awakened a whole new sense of self-criticism. It will always give one something to repent, something to confess as sin... This self-criticism will in itself already be a basic step to that new freedom promised by the Enneagram, a freedom from being secretly led by the dark side of one's inner self.

The discovery of one's type will also point out a lack of faith on a deep level. Underlying the compulsion of each tye is a strategy for defending the self... As a strategy for self-protection it is a chosen way of 'self-salvation.' The personality has simply chosen a way to acheive security and fulfillment by its own efforts. This is, of course, a mistake. Through the discovery of one Enneagram type there can be awakened a whole new sense of needing salvation..."

Beesing, Nogosek, and O'Leary also offer this gem of insight:

"Although people are not generally proud of what they call their sins, they do tend to be proud of the compulsion characterizing their personality type. They think it makes them superior to those who do not have this compulsion."

In other words, that which we think of as our best trait is also our worst trait.

Let us return to the question of how a deeply religious Christian such as Father Joseph could be such a warmonger. (Check out this article that compares Father Joseph to Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad.)

Huxley, in his examination of Father Joseph, discusses how nominally positive traits -- loyalty, passion, zeal, willingness to do God's will -- served evil purposes. He writes:

"Father Joseph... was intensely a patriot and a royalist. Born and brought up during the civil wars, he had conceived a veritable passion for national unity, for order and for what was then the sole guarantee of these two goods, the monarchy. This passion had been rationalized into a religious principle by means of the old crusading faith in the divine mission of France and the newly popularized doctrine of the divine right of kings... Hanotaux, the historian of Cardinal Richelieu, writes of [Father Joseph] that, 'he gave himself to two high causes, which absorbed his life, God and France, always ready to work and fight for either cause, but never separating one from the other, always responding to the call of an inner conviction, namely that France is the instrument of Providence and French greatness a providential thing.' Granted the validity of these doctrines - doctrines which he held with a burning intensity fo conviction - it was obviously Father Joseph's duty to undertake political work for king and country, when called upon to do so. It was his duty because, ex hypothesi, such political work was as truly the will of God as the work of teaching, preaching, and contemplation.

Father Josseph believed that the cause of God and the cause of France were inseparable. We must now inquire why he chose to harbor this belief... [One reason] is that the circumstances of his upbringing had created habits of thought and feeling which, in spite of his long-drawn effort to kill out the Old Adam in him, he had found it impossible to eliminate." (emphsis mine)

I diagnose a terminal case of 6-ishness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Church Chat

Here is the post of the talk I delivered at church on Sunday:

Good morning. My name is Cindi Brown, and I’m a member of this congregation. In this church, we often say, “Our spiritual paths vary…” My own spiritual path involves working with a model of personality psychology called the Enneagram.

One of the pieces of wisdom the Enneagram imparts is that, as Gail has so eloquently phrased it, “Our best trait is also our worst trait.”

In the Enneagram world, my own personality style is often referred to as the “Observer” personality type. My habit of standing back, watching, and observing life from a distance, has led to what I have always considered to be some of my best qualities. First of all, as Yogi Berra famously said, “you can observe a lot just by watching.” And you can learn a lot just by observing.

My ego loves to hear about how smart, knowledgeable, and objective I am. Chances are, there are some themes your ego loves to hear about, too. Maybe your story is the story of being fun-loving, idealistic, and enthusiastic. Maybe it’s the story of being strong, protective, and heroic. Maybe it’s something else entirely.

Whatever it is, there is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating your strengths. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to do. But at other times, real growth comes from looking at your flaws.

For example, every instance of me standing back is not, shockingly enough, an instance of Buddha-like nonattachment. At times, my reluctance to get involved is not at all high-minded; sometimes, it’s just the stinginess of not wanting to spend my time and energy on someone else. In those times, my habit of pulling back is a symptom of having forgotten that we are all interconnected, and that that which is given, is not simply lost.

Working with this type of knowledge can be transformative. Let me give an example:

Years ago, I was part of an Enneagram discussion group. In this group, we would basically eat pizza and talk about personality psychology. After we had been meeting for a while and were comfortable with one another, the conversation turned to revealing some of the qualities we did not like in the various personality types. A friend of mine said that those with the “Observer” personality style were “just not generous.” She went on to share an illustrative story about a man with whom she had been romantically involved. Even though her story was not about me specifically, I could see myself reflected in that story, and I didn’t like what I saw.

I began to consider how to translate my desire to not be “not generous” into action. My first small act was to pick up the pizza for the next discussion group meeting. I didn’t pick up the tab for the pizza, mind you; I simply spent a little of my time and energy physically going to get the pizza. I realize I will probably not be canonized as a saint for this act, but for me, it was a step in the right direction.

And I do continue to take steps. I ask myself, what can I bring to this gathering? How can I not show up empty-handed? Finding, and acting upon, the answers to those questions, whether that answer is as tangible as a large pizza, or as intangible as my energy and attention, is a spiritual practice, and my experiences and relationships are better for it.

I have learned to recognize, at least sometimes, that the habit of pulling back masks the need to step forward. For some people, the rush of enthusiasm over a new prospect can be a reminder that old ventures are crying out for completion, that living one’s ideals requires sticking with them even when the going gets rough. For still others, the heady feeling of raw power may really be a calling for the gentleness with which power must be tempered in order to become enduring strength.

These words are from the Tao Te Ching:

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Let us each consider the ugly and the beautiful, the evil and the good, within ourselves, as we enter into a moment of silent meditation.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Doing the Enneagram -- in Church

My, oh my, it has been a long time since we posted anything on this blog. There is, however, some Enneagram news to report.

This Sunday, October 18, I will be talking about the Enneagram in church. Our minister, the Reverend Gail Seavey, will be giving a sermon entitled "Working with What You Got," which will draw on the Enneagram. Then, I'm going to give a little talk leading into a meditation. The talk with be specifically Enneagramatic and will deal with the passion and virtue of my own type.

If you are in the Middle Tennessee area and want to hear this, the church I am speaking of is The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville. It is located at 1808 Woodmont Blvd. Services start at 9 and 11.