Friday, November 30, 2007

Self-Typing Advice from Cindi

When people ask me how they can determine their Enneagram type, I almost always give the same advice: go out and get a really good book on the Enneagram, one with really detailed type descriptions, read it cover to cover, and pick out the type that seems most like you. Pretty simple, huh?

Well, almost everyone rejects this advice in favor of either: (a) taking every Enneagram test they can find and getting conflicting results [this way lies madness], (b) attempting to apply whatever out-of-context remark they happen to hear about a person of any of the types to themselves (i.e., "If that guy's a 7, then I'm not one! He's a Republican!"), or (c) some combination of a and b. It can go on for years.

I recognized my type (5 - the Observer) upon reading Helen Palmer's book The Enneagram in Love and Work; a friend of mine recognized his type from Riso and Hudson's Understanding the Enneagram. You could also use Palmer's The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life or Riso and Hudson's Personality Types. These are all serious, detailed works that do a good job of capturing the gestalts of the types.

Here's how it works: You read various type descriptions, you might even recognize some of the people you know in them, and you think, "Oh, how horrible! Why, if I thought like that, everything would be all screwed up! I mean, behaving that way is just gonna make it impossible for you, or anyone else, to win." And then, you come upon something different -- a perspective that doesn't seem so bad. In fact, it just seems true.

Everyone IS always interrupting you, just as you're about to discover something really important! (type 5) Those bastards ARE always taking from you and never giving back! (type 2) The world IS falling apart because no one ever cleans out the lint tray! (type 1)

But strangely enough, this perfectly reasonable way of looking at the world is written out here, along with eight other worldviews that suck. And you don't see what sucks about it, at least not at first, until it hits you. That's your type, and it's just as bad as all the others. And you've been doing it relentlessly for a long, long time. The sinking feeling in the stomach. The sick feeling. The ringing bell.

These epiphanies can also occur while you are listening to a teacher describe your type. I am happy to report that, when last we taught, Mary Beth and I were able to induce the sick feeling of recognition in several of our students.

These approaches work because they are holistic -- they give you more or less the whole thing all at once, the sum as well as the parts. A good description is thorough, nuanced, and anecdotal. Recognizing yourself in it is like identifying with a character in a book or a movie. You might be of a different age, sex, race, life situation, and political affiliation than that character, but somehow you just know that, at an archetypal level, that person is like you.

Enneagram tests often fail because they are too analytical and too straightforward "I am an avaricious person. Strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, or strongly disagree?" How's a person supposed to respond to that? Plus, there's no guaranteeing that the test-taker will believe his or her results, since, if the question is faulty, he or she might not even fully believe the data he or she fed the test. Garbage in, garbage out.

I am interested in developing more holistic approaches to typing. I am sure I will be blogging about them, at length, soon enough. In the meantime, you might try the method shown above. If the spinner lands on zero, you have to promise to go away and amuse yourself with Myers-Briggs typology exclusively for at least one year. Then, you can spin again.

Ocean Moonshine

I've come across an Enneagram website, Ocean Moonshine, that's new to me (though it's obviously not new, as it features an active message board.) I recommend his type descriptions, and I especially enjoyed reading his lists of exemplars of each type. As is usual with those lists, though, there were some people whose given types either surprised me or just struck me as wrong:

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld: I've heard somewhere that they are 6s and have just accepted that; Ocean Moonshine calls them 8s. I guess I don't have an opinion. You?

Socrates: 8? He seems like an iconic 6 to me -- the Questioner. "I am the wisest man alive, for I know that I know nothing." The gadfly role is a 6 energy.

Jon Stewart: 7. I think he's got to be 6w7. Everybody else exactly like that is! David Letterman and Steven Colbert, for example. I'm not sure they let anyone but 6s host the Oscars.

Paula Abdul: 9. I think 2. You?

I was pleased to see Dr. Phil typed as an 8 because that's what I think, too.

Now I'm just going to throw out a few names without telling you what Ocean Moonshine said: William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare, and Soren Kierkegaard. What do you think?

He typed George W. Bush as a 9. To me, Bush's type is not very clear. Cindi argues that he's a 7; so does Tom Condon.

Now I'm all for typing fictional characters, but I was a little taken aback when he said that Santa Claus is a 9, not a 2, despite the gift-giving, with Mrs. Claus exemplifying more the 2 energy! And of course, no reason given. But after sitting with it for a few beats I was like... yeah, I can see what he's saying.

How to determine your Enneagram type: some recommendations

Because I am such an Enneagram enthusiast, I often find myself emailing back and forth with new acquaintances, old friends, etc., to try to help them determine their type.

First, I send them the link to the Eclectic Energies Enneagram Tests. There are two tests there, and I recommend you take them both. The format of the questions is different, and I find them equally illuminating. Results are provided in the form of a list of potential types in their order of likelihood.

After the person sends me copies of their results and we discuss them (usually via email), I send them Riso and Hudson's QUEST. This one's good because it's quick to take, and it doesn't even try to pick out your type: it ranks the nine types into a top three, middle three, and bottom three in terms of likelihood. The prediction is that one of the top three has an 80% likelihood of being your type. This is a good check on the Eclectic Energies results; if, say, Eclectic Energies suggests a type but it's in the bottom tier of the QUEST, it's probably not the one.

After that, I recommend they read my favorite Enneagram book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson. Other good introductions are Personality Types by Riso and Hudson and The Enneagram by Helen Palmer.

The subtext of what I've been saying is that determining your Enneagram type isn't always easy. Some people are able to figure theirs out immediately upon picking up The Wisdom of the Enneagram, but others have a harder time, and there are several people in our Enneagram discussion group whose types are still mysteries to the group.

You'd think it'd be easy to figure out -- you'd just take a test, like with the Myers-Briggs. But it's not that easy -- the Enneagram is not really a science. (Ignore for the moment that there are those who say the same thing about the Myers-Briggs!) In my experience, the MBTI will tell you your type, it'll be correct and it will stay stable over time. But the Myers-Briggs schema consists of continua between four poles. It's obviously much easier to write a test in the forced-choice format for four pairs of opposites than it is for nine types based on 7 deadly sins plus 2! This is why I've never been very impressed with the RHETI (Riso and Hudson's other test), which uses the forced-choice format.

Here's my story of figuring out my own type. It spans the decades:

In 1987, I saw Riso and Hudson's original Personality Types and just had to have the book. (I've always been very interested in both personality and testing.) I read it, and sort of enjoyed it, but didn't much understand it. The types didn't remind me of the people I knew, and I certainly couldn't pick myself out. I wanted to be a 5, cause that seemed like the smart one, but I didn't relate at all to the idea of the withdrawn observer. (My self-image at that time was of someone who was both talkative and needy.) I thought maybe a 4, because it seemed pretty interesting to be the artistic one, but that one was a withdrawn type, too, plus it just didn't feel right. Of all of them, I thought the 7 might be closest, even though I knew that wasn't right either, really, because I was the opposite of a compulsive do-er -- I was more of a compulsive non-doer. I just didn't see any of these patterns in myself or others I knew.

So 12 years pass -- 12 years in which I read every Enneagram book and take every Enneagram test I come across, and get a little better at seeing the patterns in others, and still I don't know my type, although I suspect 7w6. (The RHETI said I was either 7 or 2.) I have a friend named Jeff who likes the Enneagram too, and one day his sister Suzy and I are both hanging out with him on the same day, and we talk about the Enneagram. I told her I didn't know my type, and she says "Oh, you're a 6." I asked how she knew, and she said I just was, and she'd been to an Enneagram conference, and I reminded her of the other 6s, and she'd heard that 6s never knew they were 6s anyway, so if you don't know, it's a good guess. (Pretty good advice, by the way -- if you can't tell, consider 6 or 9.)

Two years later, I met Cindi. We started talking about the Enneagram, and she, too, said "Oh, you're a 6." I asked how she could tell. She said "friendly, funny, nervous." And she's right; I am 6w7.

My reading of profiles of The Loyalist hadn't really evoked "friendly, funny, nervous." That said, the 6 is a particularly hard one to grasp compared to, say, the 1 or the 2. But there's something to the idea that the types can sometimes be easier to identify from the outside. Not only are Enneagram tests just hard to write, but also, you need to see yourself fairly clearly in order to answer the questions correctly. And seeing yourself clearly is why you need the Enneagram in the first place!

Think about it: if you're in the "trance" of your style, and you saw yourself clearly, you wouldn't like what you saw, and you probably wouldn't be choosing those particular strategies. People at the unhealthy levels usually have justifications for their behavior, sometimes elaborate ones, that skew their perspective. [Example from the current news: Lori Drew (the 47-year old woman who pretended to be a 16-year old boy, had an internet flirtation with her 13-year old neighbor that ended in the 13-year old's suicide) thinks: I am a good person, good people don't do bad things, therefore I didn't do anything wrong, therefore why did you attack my Foozball table with an ax? I'm going to the police!]

That's all for right now.

Anyone near Palo Alto?

I thought I would pass along the news that Enneagram teacher and researcher Katherine Chernick Fauvre is starting a new weekly study group on January 9th. Mary Beth and I participated in an online conference with Katherine and her husband David Fauvre a while back. We were impressed with their insights and the patience they displayed as we tried to determine a friend's type with their help. I participated in another of their online conferences and heard some stuff about instinctual subtypes that seemed to make sense -- quite a feat, but this area is actually one of Katherine's research specialties.
The new study group will meet on Wednesday evenings in Palo Alto, California. There are 6 sessions and the cost is $240. You can learn more about it by visiting the Enneagram Explorations site and clicking on "workshops".
Even if the location and/or cost of this workshop is prohibitive, there are still plenty of reasons to visit Enneagram Explorations. Free content includes slide shows on the types and subtypes, the Enneacards Sampler (This is the short version of Katherine and David's typing test. It got me right and Mary Beth wrong, which is par for the course. Stay tuned for more thoughts on how to actually go about determining your Enneagram type), and an interesting discussion board.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's Comin' on Christmas

They're cuttin' down trees, they're puttin' up reindeer, and... starting online stores. Check out ours. It's Just think how surprised your family members will be to see that you have bought them all Enneagram Agency t-shirts for Christmas! I wish I had a river that I could skate away on.

This is why we HAVE judgment

Fascinating internet love mystery here.

Cindi and I suspect Janna is an unhealthy 2.

What do you look for in a political candidate?

Post #3 from my other blog, The Half-Assed Game.

Mainly about presidential politics, but somewhat about the Enneagram.

A Tank Full of Friendly Turtles

In a series of posts from my other blog, The Half-Assed Game.

Mainly about turtles, a little about the Enneagram.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

With Apologies to Douglas Adams

Mary Beth asked me to tell everyone what this blog will be about, so here are some of my predictions:
  • using the Enneagram to, as Dirk Gently would say, "find the whole person"
  • attempting to synthesize the views of various Enneagram teachers and authors
  • understanding the Enneagram through board-gaming and cookie-eating
  • rehashing the Lewinsky scandal
  • running up a big expense account or otherwise making money (if it is somehow possible)
  • fending off Enneagram skeptics
  • embracing our own skepticism
  • reading spiritual texts in light of the Enneagram
  • surveying psychological research in light of the Enneagram
  • gushing about Russ Hudson's cuteness
  • considering the fundamental interconnectedness of things
  • conducting holistic Enneagram research

That is what I think this blog is going to be about, but then again, I really don't know yet. Sometimes you just have to follow the car to see where it goes, you know?