In France, a terrorist attack at the beginning of January 2015 (Charlie Hebdo) created a major emotional shock overtaking France itself, a situation leading to confusion between terrorists and the Muslim part of the population.
If the reaction of many people has been exemplary, and that in many countries where the slogan “I am Charlie” was brandished and became a symbol of freedom of expression, stigmatizations also appeared by Amalgam against the French or against Muslims.
What is Amalgam?
Amalgam is a mental operation by which a person will aggregate and mix a number of perceived characteristics to create an abusive representation of reality that align with that person’s beliefs or worldview. Amalgams may concern ideas or people, usually aggregates of people.
This mind – the Amalgam mind – tends to strengthen, while also giving birth to stereotypes and real prejudices that last over time. We all have biases – positives or negative ones – that help us to maintain a certain kind of coherence in our social life, in our community or in our business, but they must not prevent us from dealing with a fuller and more accurate reality, developing our awareness and understanding of events and living beings.
Each Enneagram type has its own sensitivity to Amalgam, which you can read below:
Enneagram Ones | For Ones, Amalgam makes opinions arise more readily and makes decisions easier, by comparing social categories to categories created by the existing standards, regulations and laws. In addition, Ones create an Amalgam from a review of what is correct and what is not consistent with their set of rules.
Enneagram Twos | The Amalgam is used as a way to better understand (they think) how to relate to others and events. This sets a distance in relation to others, but also tells the Two how to approach the other person, based, just as an example, on the social class (or other demographic grouping) to which the the Two belongs. This positioning vis-à-vis another is perceived by the Two as bringing more to the relational environment.
Enneagram Threes | Threes work from an Amalgam based on his or her own image and perceptions of the expectations others or the social group(s) of others to which the Three wants to be accepted or perceived as competent and able. Convinced that this is the right way to improve their image and sense of self as a effective person, Threes runs the risk of being confronted with confusion if contradictory parts of another person or group are present simultaneously – that is, the Amalgam created does not hold true or is inconsistent with real experience in some way.
Enneagram Fours | The Amalgam is not the Four’s favorite mode because an Amalgam locks others into categories that do not seem to respect the authenticity and individuality of human beings, a concept to which Fours are highly attached. In fact, an Amalgam created by others about a Four makes him or her uneasy, and they often react strongly in protest of being categorized or boxed by another’s assumptions.
Enneagram Fives | Fives create categories in the Cartesian way as a method to create a logical model for understanding a situation or a person. However, for Fives, personal information or data based on the Five’s own experience will always be given more weight than social bias. Fives do not spontaneously prone to shake up what exists in their own minds.
Enneagram Sixes | This is the Enneagram type that raises the most questions about the preconceptions and prejudices. They deal with complexity well, preferring it to simplicity or over-simplification. This is why, paradoxically, Sixes prefer to come to their own conclusions, although they may submit to the prevailing prejudices of authority figures if they must. Or, when moved to support justice, they may martial their energy in protest.
Enneagram Sevens | The practice of Amalgam is not typical for this Enneagram type, unless they perceive as a victim of the situation, thus reducing their freedom of action and thought. In this case, an Amalgam would, potentially, offer a victimized Seven someone to blame. Egocentric in their pleasures as in their choices, Sevens are wary of social control, perceiving socially created Amalgams as overly formalized categories and constraints on freedom.
Enneagram Eights | Eights live in a robust binary world where people are often divided into categories, but it is the action that guides the development of other category: those who agree to act towards greater justice and those who do not. The Amalgam as such does not exist for the Eights as it refers to those who do not have a clear position. In fact, Eights often challenge Amalgams without hesitating to ask those who have an interest in maintaining the Amalgam to take a firm position and justify it.
Enneagram Nines | The Nine’s desire for fusion with the opinion of others is an attitude of acceptance that can lead to not oppose Amalgams, unless, of course, the Nine has done a great deal of inner work, found his or her voice, and is willing to express their own opinions. The risk of conflict caused by challenging another’s Amalgam, from the Nine’s perspective, is not worth the potential tension and disharmony that is likely to ensue.
The Amalgam we create ourselves or absorb from our environment is an unconscious, yet, voluntary act with deep roots based in our instinctive fear of others. It is the fear of others that causes this false representation of reality that then serves as a pretext to which we cling when we – or the community with which we identify – feels threatened. The world is then divided into two camps in a primitive way: those who express and defend the Amalgam and those who refute it. The Amalgam is then applied to all members of a community designated as responsible or guilty without any differentiation between individuals. These generalizations require no proof … they are based on a particular trait that then serves as an absolute truth: skin color, nose shape, body hair, conspicuous religious symbols, social status, profession, and more defines everyone in that grouping.
Amalgam is at the heart of all social life and any community differentiation. It is a process of identity rooted in our most basic survival instincts. Every war is based on it – for both sides – this process allows us to consider the other community as the enemy, one that must be overcome by our domination. Domination usually involves violence in a variety of forms and justifies the use of further violence.
Education, dialogue, and learning to know each other beyond our “groupings” by certain characteristics are effective means for the poison of the Amalgam does spread in the mind of a person or a community. The Enneagram, giving a reading of 9 basic types characteristic of people is a very good tool to combat Amalgams full of stereotypes and prejudice through better recognition of individual differences. In addition, using the Enneagram for awareness, growth, and transformation makes it increasingly hard for people to fall back into unconscious attitudes and behaviors.
However, knowledge of Enneagram types is not enough: setting new higher targets for oneself. We need benevolence and universalism and to do both, courage is required. Universalism is based on the concept that “what unites us is stronger than what divides us. In other words, we are all part of the same humanity before being members of a particular community. Benevolence involves both the acceptance of differences (tolerance) and the respect for beliefs (religious or ancestral) while, at the same time not denying one’s own values.
How can the Enneagram help us here? Universalism (the holy arena of Enneagram 9), benevolence (the holy arena of Enneagram 2), and courage (the holy arena of Enneagram 6) allow to resist and oppose Amalgams that go against our deepest human values.
So with constant practice of these higher values of courage, universalism and benevolence, we open ourselves to a better discernment – made of clarity and firmness – and to a radiant and joyful compassion.
Pierre Debeine is an organization development and quality consultant, business manager, author and Senior Member of the Enneagram in Business Network who originally studied the Enneagram with Oscar Icahzo in the 1970s. He currently oversees TQM programs in France for more than 2000 industrial firms. You can reach him at email@example.com