I'm Clarence Thomson. I've been working with the Enneagram for 15 years. I have two backgrounds. My academic background includes Master's degrees in social communication and theology - I was a priest for seven years.

My other background is in business. I was the director of Credence Cassettes for 22 years for the National Catholic Reporter. We were the first and largest distributor of audio cassette education in the Catholic and mainline Protestant traditions.

Foreground - Imagination

I am a theologian and a business man, but to be honest, that's the background. In the foreground is imagination. I never forgot the primacy of imagination. I used it in talks and counseling as a priest; I used it in writing promotion copy as a businessman and I use it in coaching. Let me explain why.

I was 23 years old, just graduated from St. John's University with flashy marks and a degree in philosophy. You can imagine how smart and rational I was. I got a summer job as an intern in a state mental hospital and on the second week I was escorted to one of the back wards where seriously deranged patients were basically warehoused. I was told we would talk to Alice, whose delusion was that her mother was an African queen (she was white) and her father was a Bengal tiger.

Well, I knew that with my superior logic and credentialed superiority I would be able to show her the folly of her delusion and lay the groundwork for liberating her.

After an hour's conversation in which she answered every one of my objections - logically! - I walked away shaking my head. I asked the psychiatrist why she could be so logical and so crazy. He replied simply, "Most mental illnesses are of the imagination, not the logical function." Lights went on. Organic shudders went through me.

So the way I coach is by messing with your imagination: A couch potato (self-preservation Nine) came to me wanting, in her words, "to find her passion in life." This is a rather standard statement of Nines. I asked her how she spent her evening and she replied that she watched TV all evening almost every night.

Nines hide from their lives. I didn't remind her of that. I didn't tell her to stop. I didn't scold, plead, explain or make any logical suggestions. It happened to be the week before Halloween, so I told her she could watch all the TV she wanted, but she had to wear a mask so nobody could see that she was attractive and might want to relate to her.

Our next session was postponed because she was on a date.

Enneagram Background

I started the first Enneagram Newsletter and edited it for eight years, during which I also wrote a best-selling book for Crossroads Publications, Parables and the Enneagram and the lyrics for the popular songs on the Enneagram: Not Only Angels Have Wings.

I wrote a book with Tom Condon, Enneagram Applications and another with Mary Bast, Out of the Box: Coaching with the Enneagram. Most recently, Dr. Shadrack Smith and I, described how the different Enneagram styles can be used to enhance health resolve, in You're Fat, You're Fault.

I have been presenting nationally and internationally and also coaching by phone for the last 15 years.