More than a few people have mentioned that they like reading my travel-related newsletters and blogs because, as one recently said, “I feel I am getting to ‘see’ the world through your words.” So with that in mind, I decided to write a 3-part blog series on my experience going to Brazil in April to be part of Claudio Naranjo’s International Symposium on the Psychology of Ennea-types. Part 1 covers my pre-journey experience; Part 2 will be written while I’m in Brasilia where the conference is being held; and Part 3 will be a summation of the journey: reflections on homecoming. Rather than just reporting the chronology of events, I will give the context and texture of what the experience is really like in as candid a way possible.
How I got invited
Last August (2011), while I was at the IEA conference in Fort Lauderdale, a totally unexpected email appeared from Camile at ennea-sat: “I´m coordinating the organization of “III Simposium of Enneatypes Psychology” with Naranjo in Brasil – april 2012 – and I would like to have Ginger’s contact to invite her as a Naranjo’s indication.”
All I knew was that I was being invited to something and that I was going, although I had no idea when, where exactly, or what I was being asked to do. And I didn’t care. My heart was racing with excitement; Claudio wanted me there, and I was stunned by my own reaction. It was as if I had always wanted this, had no idea I had wanted it, and didn’t quite know why or how it had happened. Although my normal reaction to most everything is typically more tempered and measured, the thrill I felt took me over.
Because I was in the hotel lobby when this happened, I ended up running into a few people I know fairly well and told them. Their reaction was more shocking than the email: “Oh” was all they said.
I also ran into some people I knew slightly who said, “You look really happy.” When I told them why, a different reaction emerged: “That’s so wonderful. You must feel so honored. I hope to hear all about it!”
I am still processing this differentiated response. Do my “quasi-friends” not wish me this level of something (happiness, honor, etc.), IEA old-timers most of them? Was I telling the tale in a different way to people who I knew less well, telling it with more feeling? I am still pondering this. My closest friends, however, really did wish me well on this and were very excited for the Enneagram and for me.
My history with Claudio
Some people think I’ve “trained” with Claudio, and this is not true. I did participate in his IEA-based programs in 2003 and 2004, then went to his 7-day Enneagram Subtypes program in Germany in 2010 (along with 180 other people). That, to me, is not having been (technically-speaking) trained by him. I was trained by Helen Palmer and David Daniels, then influenced by several others, Claudio especially.
I do have a special feeling for Claudio. I liked him a lot the first time I met him (2003) and still do; we have a very warm and truthful relationship (when we talk, which is rare); and he did endorse my first book, which shocked me about as much as the invitation to his symposium (Claudio doesn’t endorse Enneagram books in general and isn’t a big fan of business, which I do understand, since some – perhaps too many – businesses are not conscious places).
There’s just something about him that I deeply respect, both as a person and for what he has contributed to the world of the Enneagram. Some people who have been to my programs and have trained with Claudio assume that I have trained with him because I do some exercises that he also does; they also say I explain things similar to the way he does. But I didn’t get the activities from him, so all I can conjecture is that because I’m trained as a Gestalt therapist (hardly of the same stature as Claudio), I have this as a framework from which I work.
But, he seems to like me and respect my work (I assume this from his friendliness and the invitation); this, however, is speculation on my part.
Content preparation for Brazil
So what am I going to do there? After a series of emails with Camile, it appears that Claudio wants me to do something on “Enneagram in business: methods and results.” So that is what I will do, using the 2011 EIBN Benchmark Study (created by a team from the Enneagram in Business Network) as the basis. In addition, I’m doing an interactive session on the Enneagram and conflict using the pinch-crunch model as an ode to Claudio (this was his favorite part of my first book).
But then the challenge began: 380 participants, the majority of whom speak Portuguese (the conference is in Brazil), then Spanish, then Italian. And I am the only English-speaking presenter; I may be the only native English person there. How to present in these multiple languages? And, of course, I am an outsider (a non-SAT person), and an American at that. Some people from some countries don’t like Americans very much, and I understand this (I think). But I am an American, so some may not like me very much because of my nationality. And some may not even like the idea of business applications of the Enneagram! And some may not like an outsider being invited inside. What is a Two like me to do about this? Nothing, except see it, laugh about it if I can, and do my own internal work so I don’t get in the way.
My design decision was to create a Benchmark powerpoint and a handout for everyone in 4 languages. There will be a translator (several), but what good is an English powerpoint if only I understand what’s on it? And even though the Benchmark Study is translated into Portuguese and Spanish (but not Italian), I can’t bring enough copies for everyone. The group is large, I don’t know how many people speak which languages, and the reports are in color, not black and white. They are too expensive to produce in color, and I’d never get through Brazilian customs with such a heavy suitcase. The way of resolving this: powerpoints in 4 languages and a 4-page summary handout that has all 4 languages on it, plus information that shows them where to get the full report (as a pdf) from my website.
To do the powerpoints and this 4-page creation, I had the opportunity to have my Twoness challenged once again. In general, I do not feel comfortable asking people to do things for me, but I had to ask people to translate. I usually only ask people I really like; otherwise, I feel really uncomfortable. Still, I hate to be disappointed by a “no” or by a “yes” that is not fulfilled. But, everyone I asked said yes, and they delivered excellent products on very short notice. Gema de la Rosa did Spanish translations; Nicolai Cursino translated into Portuguese. Nicoletta Colombo did an enormous amount of Italian translation. Andres Agudelo provided some graphics and tools in Spanish; likewise Uranio Paes in Portuguese because they carry my training tools in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively.
Above all, Lauren Cullen in my office somehow is doing the powerpoints and the handout. Lauren and I laugh now; if we had realized how hard it is to do these in 4 languages (especially when Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian are so similar looking), we might have taken a different path. Or would we? Right in the middle of the language challenge – too far along to turn back but far enough along to still be mired in the difficulties, an email came from Claudio via Camile saying, “…it is wonderful that she has prepared a multi-lingual power-point.” At that moment, I realized how important it was that I am doing the presentation in this way. Time consuming to prepare? Yes! Difficult to format so it looks good? Absolutely! Worth doing? In the end, it just seems fundamentally respectful.
Self-preparation for Brazil
Challenge 1 | the session(s)
Now that the materials are ready, I am refining the actual session structure (even though I don’t know when I am presenting or for how long). Claudio wants me to present in the evening, but he likes things fluid, so I don’t know which night or even if, when I get there, he might change his mind and not find time for this business-Enneagram session. Can I be OK with that? With all the time getting prepared, being excited, and the time getting there (16+ hours from LA) and the cost of travel, what if the session never happens?!
Challenge 2 | going it alone
Although I travel alone all the time, I often know people at the destination point. For this trip to Brazil, I don’t think I will know anyone other than Claudio. 5-days there, knowing no one, and most people will not be speaking English at all. Some likely speak some English, but I won’t know who right away. When I went to Germany for the Subtypes workshop, there were only 4-7 people who were native English speakers out of 180. Although there were others who spoke English as a 2nd or 3rd language, it was not obvious who they were until the last few days, and most who did speak English didn’t really want to be bothered speaking it. It is tiring to not speak in your own language; they get resentful that English speakers rarely speak another language fluently (especially Americans), so that they are always the ones who have to speak English.
In my worst-case scenario, I spend almost all of the 5 days talking to myself, have no one to pair off with for exercises, stick out like a sore thumb (no matter how I dress, I always look American), and feel very awkward internally. Then I remember that in Germany, people did talk to me after a while and were willing to make the effort. In addition, being so obviously alone in a big crowd generated a lot of growth in me. I could be in a large group for an extended number of days in comfort and without having to go back to my room hide from it all. I have to remember this: I can be alone in a crowd or group of people I don’t know and who want no engagement and do this with comfort, not anxiety.
In my best-case scenario, I get there, am still in some degree of solitude, but…there are some others who either speak English or are willing to speak with me (if need be, I can pull out my rusty Italian and Spanish). I run into some of the people I met at either the 2004 IEA conference (where he brought 27 assistants and I particularly liked several of the Italians) or at the German Subtypes workshop. And maybe I’ll meet some interesting new people.
Challenge 3 | what to wear
For years, I have rarely felt anxious or excited about presenting or doing a session, but I actually do at some level. Most typically, I focus on what to wear. What do I wear for the climate? What are the cultural norms about what to wear? Casual, formal, or in between? Dark colors or light; color or neutrals? In China, everyone seems to wear dark colors, no matter the season, and nice slacks are fine for women; in Colombia, dresses, skirts and high heels are the dress for women, and color is good.
I really dislike bringing the wrong clothes when presenting, sticking out like an alien in a strange land. This is very Two of me; I don’t want my clothing to offend, distract, or push people away. So what to do? I’ve done a weather check on my iPhone for Brasilia. I say to myself: Forget about what to wear! It’s not worth the energy! It is very clear to me that this attention to clothing is deeply connected to my Enneagram style Two: wanting to look pleasing enough; not wanting to draw too much or negative attention to myself based on my clothing; but also being comfortable enough in terms of temperature, dress code, and more so I’m not thinking about what I’m wearing.
What doesn’t help is that when I go outside the US, I often get unsolicited comments from people on what I wear. For example, in China I was told, “Your clothes are very nice, but they are not formal enough.” In Korea I was told, “Your clothes are nice, but why don’t you wear designer labels?” Before I went to Italy I was told, “I hope you’re going to look well-dressed: American women always look like they’re wearing pajamas!” In South Africa, no one said anything about my clothing (most likely because Cape Town is very much like Santa Monica – semi-stylish beach communities – and while in Johannesburg, the location was outside the city and no one cared). In Mexico, no one said anything, but I’ve been to Mexico so many times that I know what to bring. Other than Italy, no one in Europe comments on my clothing (to me at least), so I am either doing it right or they think something but don’t say it.
Long ago, I realized that I put anxiety I might be feeling into focusing on what to wear. The more I focus on what to wear, the more I realize I am anxious/excited about something. Fortunately, I know what to bring to Brazil (I think), but I never know for sure until I pack. If it takes me more than 20 minutes, I sit down and ask myself this: OK, what are you really anxious about?
Next 2 blogs
While in Brasilia, I will be writing daily about my actual, real-time experience there. These will then be put into the 2nd blog of this series and posted directly upon my return to the US. The 3rd and final blog will follow a week later, giving me time to really reflect on my experience there, what I learned about self, the Enneagram, Claudio, his programs and people, and more.