Each time I travel outside the United States for an intensive Enneagram program, I think about the Enneagram type of that country. Instead of thinking only about more obvious characteristics that an outsider might observe, I ask people who live there. In most countries I have visited, the answers are fairly immediate and consistent. Not so with the Czech Republic! This blog takes you on the journey, then makes a suggestion about the Czech Republic’s enneatype.
I asked a colleague, friend, and very experienced Enneagram teacher the question above; her answer was this: Enneagram Four. Why? She gave the following reasons: the Czech Republic is depressed (psychologically, politically, economically). In addition, they live amidst great beauty (which anyone who has ever been to Prague can confirm!), with a strong sense of valuing their history. These impressions seemed accurate, but I wondered about this, primarily because given the Czech history in the 20th century, there seemed to be abundant reasons for being depressed, but they didn’t “feel” really depressed to me. In addition, my colleague/friend is an enneatype 7, so I wondered if mild depression felt like strong depression to her.
My next conversation was with my friend’s daughter, an Enneagram Four. She said she had never thought of the Czech Republic as a Four, but thinking about it, she could say that there was a great deal of comparing, as is common with Fours. For example, Czechs compare themselves to bigger countries and feel small (not in a positive way). They compare themselves to their next-door neighbors in terms of what their neighbors have (cars, houses, clothing, etc.) and they end up feeling as if they are lacking. Finally, the exteriors of their old buildings are incredibly beautiful, with a lot of attention to keeping them clean and glorious, but inside, it’s a different story. Inside, many of them are in disarray and disrepair: this is a metaphor for Enneagram type Four. As I was hearing this, however, I wondered, because some Fours don’t pay much attention to looking good (looking different matters more), and inside, they may feel confused, but not really in disarray.
One evening, I had the opportunity to do an informal session about how the Enneagram is used in organizations around the world. This group of 12 people included leaders and HR people from a variety of Czech companies, most of whom knew the Enneagram well. After the Q & A, I asked the big question: What type is the Czech Republic? Even after an animated and complex conversation, no one was sure. They didn’t think type Four fit, but thought perhaps type Six fit better. Why? Here’s what they said: Czechs are suspicious of others, often in ways that are not easily perceived, and parents are super-protective of their children. No one really trusts authority figures. Though they thought type Six fit better than type Four, they were not convinced.
But then, as the session was ending, they said some very curious things, not about type but about themselves as a country culture. Here’s what they said:
* We like structure but don’t like rules or anyone telling us what to do or trying to control us.
* If we get told No, we don’t rebel openly; we simply find a way to go around what we are told.
* We can get very creative about how we bend rules or go around declarations of authority.
* We’re not very effective at dealing with conflict; in general, we are not direct about it, but will talk to our friends about a third person when we are upset.
* The older generations are more cautious; the younger generation does what it wants to do without so much caution.
I had already spent two full days with a Senior Leadership Team and the next morning was spending a full day with 80 more leaders from the same Czech-based company. As I sat there, waiting for the program to begin, I had this thought: Perhaps the Czech republic has no clear enneatype, but if it does, I should have enough information to make a good guess. So what would it be? Suddenly, the answer came; Enneagram type Nine. The first four items on the bulleted list above describe enneatype Nines very well. The last bullet point more likely reflects their recent history of being oppressed and going through the throes of liberation.
My conclusion, still tentative, is that it can be very challenging to type a country culture that has gone through decades, if not centuries, of turmoil, just like typing an individual who has suffered greatly can sometimes obscure the real type, at least for a while. Those who have suffered often have overlays of other types on top of their Enneagram type. Often, as a way of surviving, those who have suffered rely on their wings and/or arrow lines in a way that others do not.
When I suggested the possibility of the Czech Republic being a type Nine, many of the people who invited me there and know the Enneagram well said Nine was a really good fit. Were they sure? NO! And neither am I.