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Giving Thanks for the Narrative Enneagram

The Narrative Enneagram, a school started by Helen Palmer and David Daniels, celebrated its 30th anniversary on November 19, 2018. Vibrant to this day, the Narrative Enneagram has continued to train thousands of people who want to learn the Enneagram accurately and deeply.

Over the years, they have held true to quality in both teaching and content. The Narrative Enneagram has also held true to their core principles: let people tell – and learn from – their own stories and those of others; allow people to discover their own type with professional guidance; self-observation is one of the most powerful tools for discovering type.

At their online 30th anniversary celebration, guided by Terry Saracino and Peter O’Hanrahan, over 30 Narrative trained teachers from all over the world spoke about the impact of their Narrative Enneagram training and how this has impacted their own work moving the Enneagram out into the world. Particularly moving and fun was the group from Nantes who appeared as a group, complete with a celebratory cake and candles, and were in party mode! Of course, Helen and David were both honored at this virtual celebration, as were the teaching and administrative staff.

I wanted to share what I said because I was inspired to share these two stories as soon as I received the invitation to speak.

Story 1 | Helen Palmer
It’s Esalen – a beautiful growth center in Big Sur, California – in the early 1990s. I’ve signed up for a 5-day workshop I know nothing about except it is called the Enneagram, led by Helen Palmer. I have no idea who Helen Palmer is; I’ve signed up only because all other programs in this time frame were on topics I already knew. I get to the meeting room early, the Round House which is where Fritz Perls had historically held his sessions. Why early? I came to cram-read the recommended book. Sitting on the floor next to the wall, with a pillow behind my back – and I have thus far been the only person in the room – I see a woman who walks over to me, puts out her right hand to shake mine, and says “ I don’t know you, but I like you.” I shook her hand and thought, “ Well, this is going to be an interesting 5 days.”

Once the program started, I learned that this person was Helen Palmer. I believe that, in that initial moment, she actually infused me with something that led to an experience I had at the program’s end, once I stepped outside. A blimp appeared in my mind’s eye, one with a message on its tail: “Your job is to bring the Enneagram out more into the world.” I said out loud, “That’s not my plan!” The blimp reappeared – still in my mind’s eye – with this message: “It doesn’t matter what your plan is.” Again, I responded: “So what am I supposed to be doing?” Once again, the blimp appeared, with the message, “Just be patient; it will become clear.”

Story 2 | David Daniels
In the early 2000s, Judith Searle and I served on the IEA (International Enneagram Association) Board of Directors and volunteered to co-chair the IEA conference to be held in Santa Monica, California. Because we had secured Claudio Naranjo to be our keynote speaker – first time ever for him at an IEA conference – Judith and I wanted an enticing endnote so that conference attendees would be motivated to stay for the entire conference. We decided on a children’s panel, with one child of each type between the ages of 10-13 interviewed on stage by someone. We had the children because I live in Santa Monica, and my then 10 year-old son had many friends who knew their types; Peter and Pat O’Hanrahan also had two children in that age group. But who would facilitate the panel? David Daniels was our obvious choice. Would David do it? I called him to ask, and his first response was what was commonly thought in the Enneagram community: “No. You can’t type children that young because they don’t know themselves well enough, plus typing them can do potential damage to their not-fully-formed ego structure.” I responded, “OK, that’s too bad because we thought you’d be the best person to do it, but we’ll have to ask someone else.” David then exclaimed, “OK, I’ll do it!” And the rest is Enneagram history! The children’s panel was a huge success; David was wonderful in it. And people no longer believe it is not OK to teach the Enneagram to children. David was a risk-taking pioneer.

Thanks to the Narrative Enneagram
Without the insight and risk taking of Helen, David and the Narrative Enneagram, the Enneagram worldwide would not be as evolved as it is. Even more, for Helen and David, the Enneagram was never about them. It was always about the Enneagram, it’s contribution to reducing suffering and elevating consciousness. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit: TheEnneagramInBusiness.comginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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5 years ago

Nice tribute Ginger – and so well merited. So many, including myself, owe so much to self-awareness that the Enneagram brought into our lives. Happy birthday and thanks to the Narrative E. Long may it thrive in the work of those who carry the flame.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda
5 years ago
Reply to  Martin

Yes, long live the Narrative!

William Reed
5 years ago

What a great tribute to Helen and David! Thank you for sharing your stories.

I think most people, who have encountered both of them, have a story as well. Those of us who had the privilege of being taught and inspired by Helen and David were forever changed.

On this Thanksgiving Day 30 years later, we all are grateful for the Narrative Enneagram.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda
5 years ago
Reply to  William Reed

Thank you – perhaps you’d like to share a short story here for others to read!

Mary Bast
5 years ago

I can’t seem to read this without weeping. Thanks, Ginger, for the stories, especially about your psychic connection with Helen Palmer. I’m grateful to be reminded of our larger purpose.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda
5 years ago
Reply to  Mary Bast

So sweet of you to say this, Mary. I am also reminded of our larger purpose.


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