Thursday, October 22, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Healthy 8

Note: This was originally published on 1/21/08
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day. MLK is often cited as an example of the type 8 personality, but people often wonder, how can the leader of a nonviolent resistance movement be type 8 -- the overexpresser of the "anger triad"?
The answer lies in level of health. Don Riso of the Enneagram Institute puts it this way:

"The idea of the levels explains how two people of the same personality type can operate very differently—and seem to others to be different character types. For example, Saddam Hussein and Martin Luther King are both eights on the Enneagram. But they are obviously very different. That's because they are operating at different levels of development within the framework of the eight personality type."

(This is from an interview which originally appeared in The San Francisco Gate. You can read the whole thing here.)
Riso continues:

"The levels are a measure of our fixation—and the measure of how asleep we are to ourselves and to reality. A person who is low in the levels is so asleep to themselves, so alienated from the truth of who they are, that they cannot see themselves."

King and Hussein were both leaders. ("The Leader" is sometimes used as a name for type 8.) The ruthless dictator and the inspiring pioneer are two sides of the same coin. The difference is a matter of "waking up" and putting aside the ego. For type 8, the great spiritual question is, "What is the appropriate use of power?" The answer lies in finding a way to put power in the service of love, to act magnanimously on behalf of others, rather than against them.
At their best, 8s are "courageous, willing to put self in serious jeopardy to achieve their vision and have a lasting influence." They "may achieve true heroism and historical greatness." (Personality Types, page 297.) Certainly, that was MLK.
This evening, as Mary Beth mentioned in yesterday's post, we will be hearing Bill Clinton speak on behalf of Hillary at Fisk University. Fisk, being a historically and majority African-American institution, and today, being MLK day, I imagine Clinton will have something to say about civil rights and/or race relations. We'll keep you posted.

No comments: