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The Enneagram and Italian Culture

 

Sitting in the airplane after my trip to Milan, I have the answer to my question: What Enneagram type is Italy, according to Italians? However, the process of arriving at the answer was just as interesting as the answer itself.

Prior to my three days of recent work in Italy, I had two full days to get used to the time zone and to ask many savvy Italians who know the Enneagram this very question. In fact, I asked them while in three different settings.

Setting 1: Pistachio Gelato

I was having lunch with three women at the home-cooking style restaurant that has a farm and garden so that almost all their ingredients are home grown. The restaurant makes its own gelato, and I had the best pistachio gelato I have ever tasted in my life, complete with totally natural flavor and chunks of nuts. Oh, my!

Setting 2: Drink, Eat, Shop

Shopping in Milan with 2 lovely women whose job it was to keep me company, keep me awake on my first day in Italy so I did not succumb to jet lag, and show me the good local shops for Italian clothing. And what a job they did – Italian coffee, delicious pizza, and such fun shopping!

Setting 3: Lake Como

Dinner at a restaurant in the hills overlooking Lake Como, with a group of very thoughtful Enneagram professionals (2 women; 5 men), plus wine and local cuisine. Not too bad!  This group discussed the issue of Italy’s Enneagram type for a long time.

And here’s what all of the above groups said, and they all said the same things in the same order:

·       Wow, good question.

·       I don’t know. Let me think. Hmmm.

·       You can’t say so easily because the North of Italy is so different from the South. Really, every part of Italy is different from every other part.

·       We are enthusiastic and exceptionally individualistic, only emphasizing the group when it is our family group. Other groups, town, and cities, we distrust. We are generally quite suspicious of others.

·       But we are also a young country (150 years old), so maybe we are still forming or are in our adolescence.

·       Italy feels warm but not really deeply warm. Italy is warm in a cerebral way, like a Seven.

·       Seven does fit best; energetic, individualistic, lively, and we don’t like so many rules.

·       We are very creative in many ways: cooking, the arts, architecture, design, and clothing. This fits with Seven.

And then, all three groups separately came to the same tentative conclusion: Italy as a whole is most likely an Enneagram type Seven culture with a Six wing, but the Southern part of Italy could be more like an Enneagram Two.

Italy may actually be a social subtype Seven culture, where the passion of gluttony is held back – at least to a degree – in service of the group. These counter-subtypes for each type – and the social subtype is the countertype for Seven – make it harder to see type right way, but it does seem that Italians sacrifice the immediate gratification of what they want as individuals for the sake of the family, the church, etc. Interestingly, individuals who are social subtype Sevens sometimes confuse themselves with Twos because of their sacrifice for others. However, social Sevens only sacrifice momentarily, then turn around and pursue their own need for gratification!

That Italy is likely an enneatype Seven was also evident during the first of my three programs, during which I had type groups discuss, then create a demonstration, of their type-based communication style. As many people know, Italians normally talk with an overlapping conversational style, during which people talk on top of one another before waiting until the speaker has finished a complete thought. This is also how Sevens talk, but I hadn’t perceived the Italian conversation mode as a Seven until I observed how the individuals of different types communicate when they are with others of their own type. In the demonstrations, no other type except the Sevens engaged in overlapping conversations. So there it was right in front of me!

Am I sure Italy is a Seven culture? No, and neither are they, but it is a good guess!

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