Blue Collar Approach

A recent Enneagram search on revealed 1,050,000 references to the Enneagram.

So amongst all that diversity, here's where and how I stand. I only know and teach the Enneagram of personality. Cosmic applications (like Blake's and some of Maitri's get my respect but not my allegiance). Theories about how the centers work in proportion to each other earn my respect but no diligent examination.

Maybe I should describe my site the way sports announcers describe some athletes as a "blue collar" player. These are the people who get something done. They may not be elegant or dazzlingly talented, but they work hard, they're earnest and productive. My site's title, Enneagram Central stems from my early blue collar days when I was a telegraph operator on the railroad for 10 years. "Central" was an important railroad term. Like Grand Central Station.

The Enneagram I know and use can be found by serious students no matter where they are. If I watch Emma Thompson in the movie, Wit, I can see a portrayal of the energy of style One. When I see bin Laden's careful planning and pretensions at omniscience leading to omnipotence, I know we're dealing with a deranged Five. My understanding of George II is that he is a Seven. Before his term is up, he will be pilloried more for his arrogance and loyalty to his oil owners than his low voltage neo-cortex.

In keeping with my penchant for the concrete and practical, I'm going to show you a portion of a letter one of my best students sent me yesterday that illustrates a proper use of the Enneagram. Note the trained observation of patterns only the Enneagram can give. Notice the compassion for someone who is starkly different from her. (She's a Seven and Ones with their judgments can irritate them something fierce). And notice the proper use of the Enneagram as she sees the external events being interpreted through an Enneagram filter. Here is a portion of her letter, with a comment or two by me for the reader's sake).

Ones usually live in a perfect world. This man is no exception. His pattern of speech is littered with judgments, all of them black and white, or good and evil. His external frame that defined him for many years has been Christianity. (Note. Ones delete their authentic self and substitute a tradition or group or discipline like law or yoga or medicine or an artistic tradition. CT). If he acted like a good Christian then he was good. However, over the last 10 years or so, his faith has been eroded. He is surrounded by a wife and several sons who do not believe in Christianity as the Church has taught it. He has been exposed to metaphysical concepts that fly in the face of his old beliefs. And, he has been reading and researching and trying to prove the old beliefs wrong (he needs to be able to pass judgment). However, what has come out of all his reading and searching is that there is no right or wrong answer (Oh my God, now what?). His perfect world is no longer perfect.

What I see now is that this man is being very courageous, albeit in an unaware manner. He is systematically destroying his own perfect world and is not replacing it with another. He is keenly aware of the uncertainty in the world about what is good or evil. He's been very affected by September 11. He lived through the Second World War (and is obsessed with the historical events that surround it). He had hoped that the world would have learned its lesson and would not fall back into chaos (i.e. evil) again. September 11 is like a slap in his face because it shows the world has not learned its lesson, and therefore, WW2 was useless. September 11 is a metaphor for what he is going through. He is discarding his old faith and his old God yet has no new anchor to define for himself what will make him good or bad. Couple that with the fact that he is 74 and will have to "face his maker" one of these days. He does not know who his maker is and what his maker will demand of him when he meets him. Quite a struggle I would say.

He cannot speak about himself, he always speaks about the world and is very 9-ish when he speaks. Conversations with him are very one-sided because you get the history of Christianity as a metaphor for one of his issues. He cannot speak in the "I", he speaks on the "world channel" but when I reflect back to him what his issue is he sees it clearly. He suffers from anxiety because of this breaking down of self that he is engaged in. He lives in the past, he likes to tell stories of his childhood (we've all heard them many times but he seems to need to tell them again and again). He escapes from every day life by keeping track of money - he engages in busy work that means nothing. I think it is an escape from self. (Yes, Ones, when faced with a chaotic world, often find one area and keep it perfect. This can be ashtrays, the car, a lawn, kitchen drawers -anything they can control to perfection. CT) Yet, self is not giving up that easy. All the childhood and historic stories he tells, (and they are long winded stories, full of teacher style talking) relate to his own inner struggle. Unfortunately, he also turns off a lot of people with his style of talking. So I believe he also cannot find a helper to help him find his way.

This is a very different picture of a One than the ones I read about in the text books. This is a human struggle that is bordering on the heroic.

Now that is a fine example of "blue collar" Enneagram applications. She is talking about a real person, keenly observing what he is doing and then understanding it with compassion because she understands the inner drama that lies below the carefully observed symbolic behavior. (All behavior rooted in our Enneagram trance is, in some way, symbolic).