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Typing children | ode to David Daniels


When David Daniels, a pillar of the contemporary enneagram, died this past May, so many memories of him passed through my mind. I had known him for many years, as one of the early teachers, as a friend and colleague and more. One experience with him repeated itself over and over in my memory – his facilitating of a children’s panel at the 2003 International Enneagram Association (IEA) conference. It is this story – and the back-story behind it – that I think illuminates so much of his character. I know the back story because I was an integral part of it, and so here it is:

Background to the children’s panel
As IEA board members, Judith Searle and I offered to be co-chairs of the 2003 conference, but we did so only with the 100% agreement that the Board of Directors would allow the two of us to make all conference decisions. With a yes, we began. Because we both lived in Santa Monica, we’d meet over lunch, brainstorm outrageous ideas, and almost always say to each other “Why not?”

Our 1st “why not” was to invite Claudio Naranjo to be our keynote speaker. The main “why not” was that most people in the IEA enneagram community believed that he would not come. The story we’d heard 2nd hand was that he’d been asked previously and always declined. Judith knew him and I did not, so she sent an email, and we expected a no. Instead, we got a yes.

Next lunch, we were concerned about who would be an endnoter, someone who could attract an audience sufficient to have people stay throughout the entire conference rather than leave early either after Claudio on day 1, or before Sunday, day 3. We came up with the “radical” idea of a children’s panel, a set of 9 children representing the 9 types who could be interviewed in front of a large audience. Because I lived in Santa Monica, I knew the types of several of my son’s friends; Tres, my son, was 11. Peter and Pat O’Hanrahan had two children in the right age group (11-14), and Judith and I decided we’d worry about the rest later. But who would lead this panel. Without hesitation, David Daniels was our 1st choice. The big blockage, however, was a prevailing belief among almost everyone we knew: (1) you couldn’t type children so young; (2) it was unethical to do so, even if you could; and (3) children could never be effective on a panel because they would not be self-reflective enough at this young age. Judith and I disagreed with these beliefs and said, “Why not?”

The offer to David
I was tasked with calling David because I knew him best, and so I asked. He said a big “NO” for all the reasons described above. I said OK but that we already had most of the panelists committed and although we’d like him to be the facilitator, we’d have to find someone else. Immediately, David said, “I’ll do it.”

What the above might say about David
In this small example, it shows the cautious and courageous David. An enneagram 6, he was careful and deliberate and had his convictions. The more phobic aspect of him was not about to challenge existing norms and thoughts. But the counterpohobic David, a not as often seen part of him, said “Why not!” David also had a 7 wing, and this would show up at various time. The children’s panel also sounded like fun to him; he told me so.

The children’s panel itself
We gathered the children, all of whom had typed themselves along with some parental support, so we knew the children had their types right. All of the panelists wanted to do this. Peter and Pat’s daughters were the 4 and 9; my son was the 3; two of my son’s friends were the 5 and 7; a woman I’d trained had her twins at type 1 and 2; and we recruited the 8 panelist from within the enneagram community. David smartly insisted on meeting the children prior to the panel, to make them feel more comfortable, but also for his own ease.

Although the children knew some of the question beforehand, their responses were spontaneous, as were David’s responses as well as many of his questions. In the video of the event, which you can view yourself by clicking the link at the bottom of this blog, you will see why Judith and I thought that David was the one to lead this panel.

What the above might say about David
To me, the children’s panel shows so much of what were David’s great qualities: patient, in-the-moment, compassionate but not at all patronizing, genuine, curious, and very loving. And for whatever his initial reluctance in taking on this challenge, he threw himself into it with his whole heart, just as he did with almost everything he did.

The aftermath of the children’s panel
Oh, my, were there ever consequences!
The children
The children on the panel thoroughly enjoyed their experience; we checked with each one afterward. Their parents of course, were deservedly so proud of them. Daniel, the 5 on the panel, met Claudio Naranjo. By this point, I knew Claudio, so I introduced Daniel to him. Claudio, also a 5, was so gracious and for Daniel, Claudio was a role model for him. My son Tres, a social 3, was also thrilled to meet Claudio (a famous person after all!), and being in front of such a large audience showed up for at least 5 years on every school timeline of his significant life events.

The enneagram community
The children’s panel was a “shock point” for the enneagram community. The panel moved the community’s thinking from (1) perceiving that typing children was immoral or couldn’t be done to (2) showing that the enneagram can be accurate and useful at any age. After this event, we heard not even a murmur that you shouldn’t type children. Occasionally, I hear someone newer to the enneagram say something like this, but there is always somebody to counterbalance this idea by making reference to the children’s panel.

Claudio Naranjo and Dan Siegel
Claudio stayed to listen to the children’s panel and told me that he enjoyed it. Dan Siegel also enjoyed it. Dan, a renowned psychiatrist, had been enlisted by Judith and me on the recommendation of our friend, colleague, and enneagram professional David Rapkin, who taught at UCLA with Dan. Dan was taught the enneagram by Judith at one of Judith’s wonderful dinner soirees just prior to the conference, even though his session was to be simply on childhood develop and personality. Judith and I thought it would just be better if Dan knew something of the Enneagram. Dan had planned to only attend the opening session with Claudio, do his own session, and then leave. But Dan got hooked on the enneagram and sat cross-legged on the floor during the children’s panel itself, sitting in rapt attention.

David Daniels
David would soon post the video of the children’s panel for people to purchase, and he was so very proud of this event. He would talk and write about this for several years. Without David, I doubt that the panel would have been as effective or had such an important impact on the enneagram community. A year or so after the conference, David went to a speech by Dan Siegel, introduced himself to Dan, and invited Dan to attend a Palmer-Daniel’s intensive enneagram training as David’s guest. And thus began Dan’s direct involvement with the enneagram, where he would later develop research along with David’s daughter Denise as well as Jack Killen.

The enneagram children’s panel
Thanks to Pat O’Hanrahan for posting this on her Facebook page. You can enjoy it by clicking here.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of four best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for 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 her website: The Enneagram in Business.com. ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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