Articles about the Enneagram|
In the World, But Not of It
Using the Enneagram for Inner Work
Learning to be "in the world, but not of it" is a goal of many ancient wisdom
traditions. It implies that humans are spiritual beings incarnated in the
material world and must learn to navigate this essentially and fundamentally
foreign territory without getting lost or losing themselves in the process. It
also implies a very great nobility of purpose for us human beings—to be
actively engaged in the life of the world, to throw our hearts and souls into
it and to enrich the world without ever forgetting who we are and what our
true home is. "To be in the world, but not of it" is a difficult and
constantly challenging invitation to "hold the tension" between forgetting
ourselves in our worldly affairs versus imagining that we are somehow beyond
the world in some kind of transcendent way that leaves the world and others
behind. The tension of "being in the world, but not of it" is only resolved by
learning to be present in the moment.
However, if we learn to be present, we inevitably run into the primary barrier
to our ability to do so—our personality, with all of its illusions, defenses,
and hidden features. In fact, our personality is the primary barrier to our
waking up because one of the main features of the personality is to make its
features invisible. In simple terms, we do not see ourselves as we really
are. We see our selves as an idealized version of our actual self. We need
help to really see ourselves—usually from an authentic teacher or a source of
objective knowledge and wisdom about ourselves. This is where the Enneagram
comes in as one of the greatest resources for our Inner Work and the journey
of the soul to find its way back to its true home.
Our understanding of the Enneagram personality system—which is actually far
more than a personality typology—is that there are nine fundamental types of
human nature—nine ways of being in the world. Each type is an archetype of an
aspect of human consciousness with a full range of positive and negative
qualities. We have all nine types in each of us, but one type has formed in
response to the primal catastrophe of our childhoods—forgetting our connection
to the living Divine in us. In Christian terms, the primal catastrophe is the
"original sin" of separate consciousness that we were born into—and with it, a
forgetting of our true selves and our birthright as children of God.
The result of forgetting ourselves led to a shutting down of our perception of
the light of divine love in our own consciousness—and, as a result, our
plunging into the darkness of apparent separateness, defectiveness, lack of
love, feeling that we have no realness in ourselves, that we do not know who
we are—and more. In fact, these reactions are what, in our interpretation of
the Enneagram, we call the "Basic Fear" which unconsciously deeply affects
each type. (The nine Basic Fears are related to the traditional "passions"
given to us both by Christian tradition dating to the fourth century as the
"Seven Capital Sins" and by Oscar Ichazo, the father of the modern Enneagram.)
If our primal sense of union and orientation with reality has been disrupted,
we need a time of healing and re-orientation before we can feel whole and well
enough to allow ourselves to surrender back into Being, to let go consciously
of the individual sense of self that has arisen. We need to get back to
being aware of the Oneness, and time to yield ourselves to the
Oneness. The development of a healthy ego-self buys us time and
experience to do that. But, in the end, we need to learn how to surrender
ourselves to grace and to allow ourselves to be worked on by higher
If, however, we continue to "forget the Oneness," we will continue to identify
with the ego-self and the sense of separateness and alienation that it
creates. To counter the terror of this fear, the mind creates a "Basic Desire"
which is the mistaken conviction that the ego-self can be fixed by something
it can do in the world, or what it can get from other people, or by its own
As a result of the Basic Desire, we take a "wrong turn" by identifying with
what seems to be the main strength that will help us achieve our ego-ideal and
unconscious goal: rationality and order (type One), love and intimacy (type
Two), affirmation of value and desirability (type Three), identity and
self-definition (type Four), knowledge and mastery (type Five) vigilance and
safety (type Six), happiness and freedom (type Seven), self-defense and
strength (type Eight), and effortlessness and unselfconsciousness (type Nine).
But, by going after these limited goods, our personality starts to create a
more limited ego-identity and inevitably creates increasing inner conflict,
dislocation from the real self, pain and suffering.
Inevitably, at various points in everyone’s life, more painful, threatening,
disruptive things happen—to our selves, to our loved ones, and in the world at
large, creating a "crisis of faith" in each of us. Do we continue to live in
the moment and in connection with consciousness, presence, and awareness, or
do we turn to our ego-self and identify more completely with that? If we
succumb to this temptation, we move into the average Levels of personality
type—and into the imbalance of our personality "fixation."
In the average Levels, the imbalance is marked by a shift that results in a
more direct and all-encompassing identification with the ego-self, and a rapid
forgetting of (and disconnection from) Being, truth, and our divine essence.
The weight and energy of the psyche now starts going into the identification
with the ego-self—and with maintaining and intensifying our identification
with our ego-self against all reason, conscience, or wisdom. Rather than
having a flexible identity and ego-structure (as in the healthy Levels), we
start to have a more fixed and rigid ego-structure—with many devastating,
negative consequences for ourselves and others.
At the beginning of this process, there is usually enough self-awareness to
become aware of the "Wake-Up Call"—the signal that we have, in fact, already
moved into the average Levels and are possibly in danger of moving further
down the Levels into deeper identification with the ego. The Wake-Up Call is
not an automatic ticket back to the healthy Levels, but if we are awake enough
to remember the Wake-Up Call and see it operating in our self, we are also
probably awake enough to dis-identify with our fixation and in so doing, move
back up to the healthy Levels.
The Enneagram is helpful for our Inner Work because it not only specifies our
personality type, but what to look for from moment to moment, as we move from
greater or lesser degrees of presence and awareness—along what we call the
"Levels of Development." The Levels are nine internal states within each type,
from the most present, free, and open (at Level 1, the Level of Liberation) to
the most un-free, compulsive, and out of control (at Level 9, the Level of
Pathological Destructiveness). See our books such as The Wisdom of the
Enneagram (Bantam, 1999) and Personality Types (Houghton Mifflin,
1996) for more. For example, when type Four is aware that they are having
conversations in their imaginations, or are holding onto feelings from the
past in their fantasies, they have moved into the average Levels of their
type, and are in danger of becoming yet more identified with their
personality’s defensive structures and locked in their fixation in numerous
ways. In other words, "holding onto and intensifying feelings through the
imagination" is the Wake-Up Call of type Four—and could serve as a mental
alarm clock to wake them up to their state.
The following characteristic "Wake-Up Calls" for each of the nine personality
types happen at the beginning of the average Levels for each type:
For Type One,
Feeling a sense of personal obligation to fix everything themselves
For Type Two
Believing that they must do more for others to win them over
For Type Three
Driving themselves constantly for status and attention
For Type Four
Holding onto and intensifying feelings through the imagination
For Type Five
Withdrawing from reality into concepts and mental worlds
For Type Six
Depending on something outside the self for guidance
For Type Seven
Thinking that something better is available somewhere else
For Type Eight
Feeling that they must push and struggle to make things happen
For Type Nine
Outwardly accommodating themselves to others
Working with the Enneagram
In the process of waking up and becoming more present, nothing is automatic.
Nevertheless, the Enneagram can help us in the following ways.
- We need to see our type correctly and to understand its mechanisms deeply
- We need to be clear, especially about our Passion and Fixation and how
they operate and manifest in ourselves.
- We need to experience and thoroughly investigate our degree of entrapment
in our own Passion and Fixation—that is to say, at what Levels we operate.
This is difficult due to our tendency to see ourselves at Level 2—as our
ego-ideal—as well as because the defense mechanisms of the ego try to keep us
in the dark and ignorant.
- We need to find a way to stay present when a contradiction, lie, or
threatening truth about ourselves has been seen or uncovered. The mechanism of
the personality is to go on the attack, to "change the topic," or to
dissociate—among other reactions. How to stay with the inquiry once something
valuable has been uncovered?—how to "hold the tension"?
- We need to learn to observe ourselves, although self-observation alone can
be a slow process and can stop altogether. Still, we can use books to prepare
our awareness for "catching ourselves in the act," so that when something
arises, we recognize our personality mechanisms in action. In short, knowing
what to look for will help us see things.
However, the tendency is for the process of self-observation and
self-remembering to stop unless there is a "higher force" or another good
influence constantly at work. Everything so easily and so quickly becomes
mechanical, habitual, and unconscious unless presence and consciousness are
constantly brought to everything we do. In the last analysis, the challenge
always comes down to learning how to remain present and in contact with self
during our self-observation from moment to moment.
|Copyright 2007 The Enneagram Institute
||Used with Permission
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