The enneagram, tool for change
Continuing cultural changes are inevitable, and the ongoing one is neither more nor less powerful than many that have occurred.
Culture is what unifies people and is made up of relationships, each one understandable in relation to the others. All affective, parental, sexual, neighbourhood, commercial, political relationships define culture. It is about art, morality, customs and shared laws that make us feel part of a society. The way we dress, wash, cook, sleep, have monogamous relationships, seems natural to us, but it is not the case.
Even those of us who have the pride of individualism most of the time follow a pattern that is not of our making. This means that we cannot ignore relationships and that our autonomy is in fact very conditioned, under penalty of social non-existence. Culture is learned from generation to generation and it adapts to changing environmental conditions. In this process, our difference from other animals is evident. The animal naturally follows the instinct that allows survival. While humans must control the instinct, through the culture lead.
tool for change
In cultural anthropology, identity depends above all on our relationship to otherness. The term otherness defines what is considered belonging to the other, which does not belong to our own system. The other is the alien, which is far, but it can also be what is near and different. A single diversity can be very exclusive. It can concern gender, skin color, religion, economic level, education, regional or geographic origin. It can also be otherness for parts of oneself.
Mutual recognition of diversity / similarity between human groups underpins the process of mutual inclusion or exclusion in our species. For this reason, relativism is fundamental in anthropology. Strange actions for our culture are normal in another. Each culture must be understood within the symbolic framework of the society producing it.
I believe Enneagram follows the same concept. Joy, sadness, fatigue, excitement, intuitions are considered and managed very differently by different Enneagram types. Each one according to his/her own internal geography and to his/her level of awareness. The type, the interior pattern that defines our recognition system does not change. While the awareness and attitude towards these patterns may change.
Blaming the loved ones
Over the past 12 months, the sense of self and otherness has profoundly changed and continues to change. When the change is accelerated or abrupt as it is now, in addition to the shock there is also the possibility of an acceleration of consciousness. Being quickly thrown into a system that doesn’t fit within our comfort zone of doing, is a huge opportunity to recognise how comfortable we are with being with ourselves. But also, how much we carry a feeling of otherness within us despite everything. How much sense of otherness we have with ourselves. How much foreign we are to ourselves. By remaining on this unknown ground, we are prisoners of ourselves and we blame the loved ones, the social system, the leaders, the neighbour, the dangerous individual who walks alone without a mask.
tool for change
What if what I feel was up to me?
What if I no longer have someone to blame for my inner state?
The activation of internal defences during a change that undermines our usual way of seeing ourselves is physiological. The questions is: How much of this defence is really helpful for maintaining a healthy and fluid inner emotional balance and how is instead an obstacle to allow the inevitable transition to a new equilibrium and a new identity?
In the Enneagram map, one aspect of the diagram of each type, specifically part of the emotional sphere, the Heart Center, is that of the Defence System.
I believe that understanding the Defence system of each type is essential to live the transitions as painlessly as possible. Both as individual in order to not suffer more than necessary, as part of a network of relationships in order to not cause invasion suffering to our beloved. And socially in order to not foster separation and conflict when support is needed instead.
In the Enneagram map, one aspect of the diagram of each type, particularly the part of the emotional sphere, the Heart Center, is that of the defensive system.
tool for change
The three components of the Defence system – self-image, avoidance and defence mechanism – are part of an unconscious emotional strategy used by humans to cope with uncomfortable and difficult situations. The Defence system is activated automatically in times of crisis like the one we are going through. It works to reduce anxiety, sadness or anger and to maintain the static inner pattern of one’s identity. All Enneagram types use all Defence mechanisms, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes at different times. However each type is associated with a particular System which becomes more evident when it comes to difficult problems.
When working with the Enneagram, understanding each type’s primary Defence system is an important key to unlocking the hold of emotional reactivity. The stronger the unconscious defence is, the more we suffer, while we are convinced that we are doing what is necessary to suffer less. When we explore our Defences, we can understand that they are not always necessary. We discover that below them there is a treasure trove of unexplored possibilities and real resources.
Knowing the Defence system allows a more precise typing by defining the differences between types and a direction of outreach work. By observing when they are activated and how they act in us or in the person we support if we are working in helping and supportive relationships
tool for change
Less and less foreign to ourselves.
The Enneagram is extraordinary for becoming less and less alien to ourselves. To recognise that we manage some of our aspects and inner experiences as otherness.
To establish a loving friendship with parts of ourselves we experience as dangerous without realising it, as something to be eliminated from the system. The relationship with ourselves is the foundation of all relationships. The first process of exclusion / inclusion is within us and knowing that it is very important to relieve unnecessary and prolonged suffering.
And if we really want to understand ourselves through the Enneagram, we have to embrace it all. When we truly recognise our type, the story of who we are which we normally tell ourselves breaks down. If this does not happen, if our way of being with ourselves and with people does not change, it is not the Enneagram that has failed, but us.
tool for change
The way to manage enneagram
I have often repeated to my students that the way we treat the Enneagram is the way we treat ourselves. This is what happens when objectifying ourselves, we also objectify the systems of knowledge.
If we believe we well know Enneagram and that a continuous deepening work is not necessary, we have the same superficiality towards ourselves.
And if we believe it’s just a game, the same is our life to us.
If we use it to classify people, we also classify ourselves as objects.
If we use it to believe that our way of thinking, feeling, and acting is better than others, we also reject many parts of ourselves.
And if we use it as a tool of power or manipulation, we manipulate ourselves, we are not masters of ourselves and even less free.
If we treat it superficially, then we treat ourselves and our life in the same way.
If we sell it as a product, then we sell ourselves
And if we believe that it is a magic tool that solves everything without commitment, we have the same illusion about the problems in our life.
If we believe this is only a useful source of information, we treat ourselves with the same coldness and denying our emotions and impulses.
tool for change
As I see it, it is as I am
These are all ways of maintaining a fossil, limited and deceptively secure identity in order to defend ourselves from the realisation that nothing is outside of us. Not even the Enneagram map. As I see it, it is as I am.
The Enneagram, Tool for Change by Maura Amelia Bonanno (Phd)