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The EQUINE ENNEAGRAM…it’s not about the HORSE

A Guest Blog by Jane Strong

Part 2: Enneagram Head Center Style Six

Last year, I was at a ranch in Montana with two other Equine Experiential Learning Coaches.  We were doing a workshop with six senior executives from New York, one of whom was a stern-looking man named Adler who was about 6’3” and had a very strong German accent.  He told me that he had trouble getting his employees to open up and often felt uncomfortable in large groups.  He described himself as shy and chose the image of a shrinking violet to portray how he felt on the inside.  Hmmmm… I began to sense that he was a counter-phobic SIX because his own sense of himself was about 180-degrees apart from what he conveyed to us.   After several rounds of discussion around the topic of his demeanor and what he might be “putting out there” to his teams, we asked him to choose a horse to work with in the round pen.  He picked Crackers, a retired champion who still had plenty of athletic ability.

Adler had no prior experience with horses, so I offered to accompany him into the round pen – a sixty-foot diameter pen where both horses and humans are free to move.  He wanted to go in alone with the horse, so we asked him to stand in the center and get the horse to move forward.  After giving us an uncertain look, Adler proceeded to make himself as big as he could, raised his arms and shouted, “MOVE!”.  Crackers immediately took off in a panicky gallop around the perimeter of the pen…trying as best he could to get away.  This was clearly the tactic of a counter-phobic SIX – compensating for his fear with frightening aggression.

When we suggested he ask Crackers to slow down, he yelled, “SLOW DOWN!!” in his booming voice, which only made matters worse.  Crackers instantly went into fifth gear.  I thought to myself, “No wonder he can’t gain the trust of his team or engage people in group…. nothing like fear coupled with aggression to make everyone want to run.”

Adler was at a total loss, and willing to listen to anyone, so I coached him to drop his shoulders, take some deep breaths into his whole body and feel the ground under his feet.  To his amazement, every time he took a breath and lowered the “volume” of energy he was putting out to Crackers, the horse slowed down a bit and even turned his head to look at Adler, indicating that he was beginning to relax and wanted to make a connection.   And every time he saw this, Adler gained more real experience of (and reward for) softening his energy and diminishing his aggression.

Then, I asked him to rock back on his heels, soften his chest and let out a sigh.  The moment he did this, it looked like his whole body was filling in with color and Crackers slowed to a trot, then a walk.  Finally, he turned his sleek body into the center and rested his head on Adler’s shoulder.  Needless to say, this powerful man was both astonished and deeply moved.   He told me later in a very soft voice, “I had no idea how I was coming across…and you could never have told me how to change what I didn’t know I was doing.  This is a very big thing for me.”

When I coached him using the Enneagram, Adler began to understand much more about why he was behaving this way and was able to integrate his experience with Crackers a deep insight into the underlying motivations of counter-phobic behavior.  Seven months later in New York, he said he was still amazed by his experience with Crackers and how well it fit with the Enneagram.  He told me that his team members come in and sit on his desk now, because he asks how they feel about issues at hand (and in their own lives) before getting into what they think or what they might do about a situation.  He uses his keen mind and perception to find out what’s going on directly, rather than making assumptions based on expecting the worst all the time.  “I’m still aware of the fear in me, but because I feel it more directly in my own self, I’m not so inclined to assume it’s coming from something outside”.

Obviously, when change occurs through the body, mind and heart, we don’t easily forget.

This is the second of four blogs on The Equine Enneagram by Jane Strong. An Enneagram teacher, business consultant, coach, and Senior Member of the Enneagram in Business Network, Jane is the pioneer in the field of the “Equine Enneagram.” An Equine Learning Instructor since the early 2000s, Jane combines her Enneagram expertise and her work with horses to accelerate her client’s growth, transformation, presence, and leadership skills. Jane can be reached at jane@equineenneagram.com.

The next Equine Enneagram blog explains how to work with Enneagram Heart Center style Three.

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