My work with Enneagram Worldwide has further enhanced my understanding of the human condition. The Enneagram System, validating what Neuroscience shows, describes three centers of intelligence that affect all human behavior. When basic needs are not met, three adverse affects occur: Fear/Anxiety; Distress/Panic; Anger/Rage. While each of these reactions is critical to how we survive, develop, and grow, we don’t do well in life if these are constantly in full throttle. A process of adapting, adjusting, and managing these reactions becomes part of our development path. The Enneagram represents a profound and powerful way to understand personality, providing numerous, practical, and often immediate applications for personal and business development.
The brain is constantly scanning for a threat or something that would help you survive. Its fundamental purpose is to keep us alive. Threats can be physical, like an angry dog running towards you, or emotional, like feeling lonely when you don't fit into a group. How we respond to threats depends on our growing brain development since birth that shows up in our individual personalities.
Example: I have been coaching Ryan using the Enneagram as way of delving into some of the connection issues he has with his co-workers. Ryan is a programmer for a tech company. He enjoys his work, often spending hours by himself on his computer. He loves reading about subjects even more, taking in as much knowledge as he can, even on the weekends when his roommates are out having fun biking and hiking around the city. Ryan came to me because he was feeling lonely, not connecting with others and feeling out of place. He remarked that he spent most of his childhood at home engrossed in what he loved, learning about computers. Now that he was in the working world, seeing others around him engaged in life outside of computers, he felt alone. Using the Enneagram narrative, I read nine different stories to see which narrative resonated with him. Through self-observation, he was able to see the patterns proposed by Type 5, the observer. Many conversations later, with much self reflection, Ryan became aware of his patterns of isolation, missed opportunities for relationship, not acting on important matters because he didn’t have all the information, and retreating from group activities. On the bright side, he also saw that he was a hard worker, with a great work ethic, which his company and co-workers admired. His skills for listening and observing others around him made him a dependable friend. His calm demeanor helped in crisis. Ryan was becoming more self-aware of who he was in relation to himself and to others. We worked together on the areas that he saw as limiting, engaging with his co-workers and meeting new people outside of work. He concentrated on his strengths and worked on the areas that he defined as his threats. I brought Neuroscience into the discussion. We talked about how the brain scans for threats numerous times a second. What is important to note is that the brain does not distinguish between physical or emotional threats. Ryan was able to use the brain research and the Enneagram to better understand how he perceived and acted on his emotions. His new self awareness empowered him to make different choices about how and when he engaged with others.