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The Oscar Pistorius trial | an enneagram perspective

A year ago on Valentine’s Day, Oscar Pistorius – aka the Blade Runner due to his track accomplishments on metal legs at both the Olympics and Para-Olympics – killed his then girlfriend of three months, Reeva Steenkamp in the early morning hours. Reeva, a model and reality show star, was also a lawyer and had been dating Pistorius for three months.

I was in South Africa when this occurred, conducting a Train-the-Trainer program in Johannesburg, and the news took over the country like an avalanche. It was everywhere on TV news, and it was all everyone was talking about. What really caught my attention was the way the murder was perceived. Pistorius claimed to have shot her four times while she was behind a closed bathroom door, claiming he thought she was an intruder.

What struck me most as the facts rolled out over the next few days was the reaction of people in Johannesburg. As some may know, South Africa has a highly complex system of labeling groups: “Black,” “Coloured,” “White,” and then there are groups within groups. Within “Black,” there is a wide array of tribal groups (not to mention people who are not actually from South Africa); the group “Coloured” has more meanings than I can compute with as much subjectivity. Within “White,” there are Afrikaans (Dutch descent) and whites from English, Ireland, and other places. In addition to color-groups, there is also a great deal of status differentiation within each group (also between each group).

The reaction about the Pistorius situation among everyone I encountered – participants, people staying or working at the hotel, people in cafes or stores – was universally this; they were all sure Pistorius had murdered Reeva in a cold-hearted and cold-blooded way. I would watch the TV coverage in the halls while participants were in small groups, and the hotel staff was spellbound and so sure he had committed this crime, that it was not an accidental shooting of an intruder. How, I wondered, could Pistorius turn from a national hero to a national villain overnight?

It turns out it was not overnight. Known as a gun-lover, a hothead, and a narcissistic celebrity, his murder of an innocent, talented, and beautiful woman did not surprise them. Nor was anyone surprised that he would get the best defense possible (he comes from a wealthy Afrikaans family, whereas Reeva comes from a poor Afrikaans farming family). And everyone thought he would take no real responsibility for his actions, and they have all been 100% correct.

The trial is in recess now. In South Africa, there is no jury system like in the US. A judge with two lay advisors hears all testimony and determines the outcome. She, the judge, is an intent, well-respected Black jurist who was previously a journalist as well as a social worker who advocated against domestic violence. She will not miss the subtleties, I am sure.

But what about the Enneagram? By all accounts, Pistorius is an Enneagram type Three. I will defer to Leonard Carr, a psychologist and Enneagram teacher, although I fully agree. In Rebecca Davis’ article titled, “Analysis: Will the real Oscar Pistorius please stand up?” in the South African Daily Maverick, she quotes many of Leonard’s type-based insights:

“Clinical psychologist Leonard Carr … described Pistorius as ‘quite a performer – his whole life has been centered around performance’, and suggested that Pistorius’ WhatsApp exchange with Steenkamp revealed that some of the tensions within their relationship may have stemmed from Steenkamp not being a sufficiently appreciative audience.”

“Based on what Carr described as an ‘extensive analysis’ of the WhatsApp exchanges between Pistorius and Steenkamp, Carr said also that he believed that Pistorius was ‘exceptionally emotionally superficial’.”

“Carr … describe[s] Pistorius as vain and image-driven. There does seem to be a fair amount of evidence suggesting the latter – or at least that Pistorius was concerned with maintaining a certain image in order to maintain his lucrative endorsements.”

“Carr highlighted Pistorius’ relationship with God as also noteworthy because of its apparent focus on ‘what God can do for him’.”

What I want to comment on is the theatrics Pistorius displays in the courtroom. Entering it, he greets his fans. Once inside, Pistorius is either staring straight ahead, crying with what appears to be excessive emotionality, or vomiting into a bright green bucket which he brings with him. This emotional excess may be fake or it may be real; either way, his innocence is not proven by it. But I will say that I have seen many Threes become strangely emotional in the same way when they are caught and in deep trouble, when their image of themselves and to others is tarnished beyond repair, and when they just do not know what to do.

Just as an example, when I left my first husband, also a Three, after being repeatedly physically abused by him, he went into deep despair (or so he seemed to be to himself), got himself an apartment and did all decor in black as if in mourning. He also did everything he could think of to get me back, as if this would somehow undo all the bad things he had done. He contacted my family and all my friends to try to convince them to convince me to take him back, all with high drama and lots of psychological noise. I am still not sure what he actually felt for me as he was doing this. I am sure he was feeling pretty badly for himself, which isn’t really the point of the problem.

Every time I see that bright green bucket on TV, I wonder why Pistorius chose such a bright color. Why not silver or brown, something less obtrusive? My answer is the same. He wants people to see how upset he is. Maybe they’ll feel sorry for him and not think he is such a bad guy. Maybe they won’t wonder why he shot four times instead of just once if he thought Reeva was an intruder. Maybe they won’t wonder why he called his family and the estate manager hours before an ambulance or the police were called.

I don’t think so! If you want to follow the trial from the point of view of those who support Reeva and her family, you can go to the Facebook page here.

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