Ginger’s recent experience with people who asked why one should work with organisations on the basis that they were intrinsically “evil” surprised me. It raises the question about the fundamental premise that guides us: are we operating from the stance that there are specific categories of good and evil or that the world is fundamentally benevolent and when things go wrong, it’s because of mankind’s misalignment with essential goodness?
One could present lengthy coherent arguments for both sides. However, that would need more time and space and perhaps a different platform. In this case, I favour the latter approach. In my experience, categorising things into good and bad creates more divisions and ultimately polarises people. One only has to look at the current state of US politics to see this in play.
So what are we doing using the Enneagram with people in the first place? Terms like cultivating “awareness” and developing “emotional intelligence” are used. Does this imply that when we begin to become more conscious of the patterns of our personality types, then relax them and let them go, that good will follow? If so, what is the nature of this goodness? It could be argued that those of us who don’t see beyond the limiting patterns of our personality styles are turning away from an essential goodness or benevolence that pervades life as we know it, and in doing so we cause ourselves and others to suffer and, in extreme cases, evil can arise.
When this happens, we don’t like it, and we are inclined to project our dislike or frustration on to others and the world in general. “Others are the cause of my suffering,” becomes that stance we live by. What we believe about the world can strike terror into us, and this terror becomes a projection that we live by. However, if we don’t question the truth of the views we believe in, the suffering continues and we become disempowered.
Recently I attended an Amnesty International celebratory concert during which Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world’s most heroic campaigners for human rights, was presented with the Amnesty Ambassador of Conscience Award. It was a wonderful evening that featured musicians and performers as well as input from human rights activists who had been persecuted in their own countries.
When her party won 81% of the seats in the 1990 parliamentary election in Burma, she was placed under house arrest where she remained for 15 of the following 21 years; these years were interspersed with periods of imprisonment. Aung San Suu Kyi refused to leave her country and felt it was her duty to remain with her own people.
One of her most famous speeches was “Freedom from Fear,” which began: “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
What people like Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King teach us is that if we are to bring about change, we must engage with those who are perceived as the “enemy.”
One could argue that most of our interpretations of the world are nothing other than projections. One only has to work through a “Communicating Effectively with the Enneagram” module to see this. One of the gifts of the Enneagram is its accurate illustration of how we each project a worldview to justify how we think, feel and behave. The core drive of the type that gives rise to this develops as the child’s natural response of frustration at being deprived of the vital energy or goodness that supports life.
How the Nine types defend and project a biased worldview
Living in the world can be a painful experience, so as children we develop a strategy for handling pain. This strategy continues into adult life as an unconscious protective habit that masks the perception of pain from awareness. Each type has its own primary defense mechanism and each of these protective habits creates a projection. We see the world in terms of partial information, largely created by the defense mechanism of our type.
What follows illustrates the way this plays out for each of the nine types:
Ones see a potentially critical world. When reaction formationis in operation, the perception of natural impulses is blocked from awareness by an inner critical voice. The Ones continue to suffer from anger, guilt and severe super-ego attacks, in which their own minds ruthlessly judge and condemn them. This inner environment reinforces the projection of a world that judges imperfection and rewards only perfect people.
Recognising this and relaxing into the present moment reminds that One that s/he participates in the perfection of the moment and where serenity can be found.
Twos see a world filled with needs. By repressing needs from awareness and stretching their antennae toward people who can satisfy those forgotten needs feeds the projection, a world in which Twos are the indispensable source of help.
Recognising these patterns and surrendering your will to the moment opens the heart and allows a receptivity to a world where you are supported unconditionally and are free.
Threes see roles that need to be filled successfully. By identifying with the successful and desirable attributes of an image you believe others want you to be, you promote a self-image that replaces authentic feelings. However, this performance orientation also enhances the projection of a world that values winners and rejects anything less.
Recognising this image making by participating in the present moment will remind you that you are part of a continuously evolving universe and all you need to do is show up as you truly are.
Fours see what’s missing: others have what they lack. By introjecting the idealised impression of a connection with what is seen as significant, Fours protect themselves against the pain of separation and loss thus feeding the projection of a world that seems alternately desirable and repulsive. And by introjecting only negative information about themselves and ejecting anything positive, Fours are left with a reservoir of pain.
Recognising this dynamic opens a receptive state wherein you are connected to the intrinsic wholeness of yourself and the world and find equanimity.
Fives see a world that’s intrusive. By isolating all affect, you candetach from your own feelings and connections to people and the environment. The resulting absence of emotion creates a private safety zone, but also stimulates the projection that life demands too much, and gives too little in return.
Recognising these patterns and relaxing into the physical and emotional sensations of the moment allows for non-attachment and a receptivity to true wisdom which is everywhere.
Sixes see danger and the doubtfulness of relying on one’s own impulses. Projecting one’s own inner beliefs, disowned aggression and imagined fears on to the environment and other people serves the protective function of making a Six’s fears and doubts manageable.
Recognising and relaxing these projections creates a receptivity wherein you can trust yourself and have a trust in your own impulses.
Sevens see wonderful possibilities. By rationalising and reframing experiences and events by applying a positive spin to negative or painful experiences, Sevens reduce their feelings of being controlled or limited and can reinterpret experiences in ways that reinforce the projection of a world filled with opportunities and positive future possibilities.
Recognising these reframing patterns and relaxing the planning mind allows you the freedom to experience the totality of the moment with all its ups and downs.
Eights see a world that’s controlling and that therefore must be controlled. By denying the experience of danger, fear, or your own vulnerability, obstacles simply don’t seem to exist; your perception of vulnerability is minimised to the point of non-existence. This projection effectively reduces the possibility of being dominated or controlled by other people’s emotions or opinions.
Recognising the patterns and allowing oneself to surrender to the universal truth of reality as it is opens the heart to the innocence that is intrinsically present in all things.
Nines see other people’s agendas and forget their own. By narcotising or numbing out on your own genuine priorities and replacing them with comfortable substitutes, the Nine jettisons their personal agenda in favour of environmental concerns. This serves as a defense against knowing yourself and your own position.
Recognising the pattern of falling asleep to oneself opens a space where the inseparability of all beings can be experienced.
Barry Ahern lives in Ireland and loves using the Enneagram with businesses and community organisations. He also contributes modules on the Enneagram to educational institutes up to and including post-graduate level. www.enneagram.ie