Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Enneagram and Emotional Maturity

After Patrick O'Leary's talk at the IEA conference, Mary Beth and I attended a session led by Edward Morler. It was called "Integrating the Enneagram of Personality with the Levels of Emotional Maturity." Here's some of Morler's bio:

"Edward E. Morler, M.B.A., Ph.D., is President of Morler International, a management training and development firm specializing in integrity based interpersonal effectiveness. His focus is the custom design and delivery of bottom-line, functional skill enhancement programs that simultaneously integrate the principles and dynamics of integrity, emotional maturity, motivation, leadership, and the Enneagram."

Here is my (admittedly sleepy) account of what he said:

According to Morler, Enneagram theory, particularly Riso and Hudson's Nine Levels of Development, describes healthy and unhealthy levels of emotional health, but does not offer much in terms of how to move from one level to the next.
Morler laid out the following ways of dealing with a problem, arranged here from best to worst:

seeing it as an opportunity
coping with it
being antagonistic toward it
being angry at it
being passive-aggressive
fearing it (Morler defined fear as "considerations of potential loss.")
being anxious about it
sinking into apathy

These, he correlated with the Nine Levels of Development for each type. He talked about how, once you have identified the level someone is working at, you can move them up the scale, but no farther up than where you are. Here's the method he suggested: when someone is in apathy, remind them of a reason to grieve (he gave an example of seeing his mom lying on the bed in apathetic depression and reminding her of a house they once had and lost); when someone is grieving, bring up something anxiety-provoking; and so on, until they are in a much better place than before.
Then, Morler gave us another scale of emotional health:

Leader (one who is emotionally mature; when something isn't right, they respond by doing what they can to make it better)
Manipulator (the most dangerous of people -- a con artist who pretends to be a doer)

(You can find a lot more info on this scale here.)
According to Morler, if you're not proactively creating something, you are dropping down this scale, which he also correlated with the Nine Levels.
Here are Morler's steps to change when dealing with a problem: (1) recognition of the problem, (2) ownership of the problem ("What am I contributing to this?"), (3) forgiving oneself and acknowledging one's positive contributions, and (4) doing something different.

Here are some of my critiques:

In my opinion, the Riso/ Hudson material does offer a method of getting healthier; it's simply usually dismissed in favor of more gimmicky approaches. What it doesn't offer is a way of moving another person between levels, but Riso and Hudson would probably say that that's not the point of the Enneagram anyway.
Also, the technique Morler presented seemed like a quick fix. He admitted that his mom, for instance, stayed stuck in the anxiety state most of the time. It seems like his method could be good for talking someone out of a suicide or even just putting someone in a temporarily better mood, but without the hard work of self-observation (advocated by Riso and Hudson), that person is probably never going to become emotionally healthy.
Another thing Mary Beth and I noticed is that some of the responses to problems did not seem entirely logically arranged from best to worst. For instance, why is anger a better response than anxiety? Perhaps Morler has a good reason, but allow me to advance a theory: the arrangement plays into his type bias.
Let me explain. Morler is an 8, the overexpressor of the gut triad. That means he's got a double-dose of preferring the body center (once, because he's a gut type, and again, because he's an aggressive type.) The aggressives repress the heart center. So, as an 8, Morler's preference goes: body, head, heart. And his levels of appropriate response prioritize anger and passive aggression (body center issues) over fear and anxiety (head center issues), which are in turn, placed above grief (a heart center issue.)
Just a theory.

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