How Do We Actually Change?

How Do We Actually Change?

How Do We Actually Change?

By Interweaving Good Process with Content

Of all of the treatment modalities I worked with across my career as a therapist, nothing came close to healing hurting hearts and relaxing ego defenses as when I used the Enneagram system.

Have you studied much of the good content available in books as well as on the Internet, regarding the Enneagram? It’s an extraordinary, incisive system and profoundly insightful. But just reading alone doesn’t seem to bring it home. If that were the case, I could have sent my clients home with an Enneagram book and awaited transformation. Why is it that we can’t seem to enact real change after reading one of the many great Enneagram books or by simply studying online? I observed that something else is needed. Just “studying” the Enneagram is not enough to create transformative personal change. Why is that? What I would like to suggest is that in order for us to actually experience personal growth, it’s necessary to interweave consistent and dedicated “practice” — process — with the study of great content. We need process and we need interaction, trial and error, and ongoing, repetitive dedication.

I recall my time in medical school. I was studying content endlessly and hearing it lectured weekly from professors. I rarely received instruction regarding a process or method to incorporate the mountains of content I was exposed to. The only implementation seemingly happening was some practice with fellow students and on patients. I remember learning how to draw blood by first practicing with a fellow student — what fun. We didn’t volunteer for each other as a result of being instructed to do so by our teachers, nor was the notion suggested in our academic study. But something in me, and my fellow students, knew that while we had studied “how to draw blood” in our books, and had watched experienced nurses demonstrate it for us, we actually had to experience the task firsthand, which would include our own cognitive, emotional, and physical, skill-developing processes. Embarking on intrapersonal development requires much of the same process. To really change our lives — which means to adjust something in ourselves, we need to include some sort of implementable process with each bit of content encountered.

Overtime, I became devoted to developing processes for my clients that would coincide with their study of the Enneagram. I focused much on how to integrate what we can memorize mentally with what we can learn and practice physically and emotionally. This means, working with all three centers of human intelligence: Belly Center/sensations, Heart Center/feelings, and Mental Center/thoughts. Actual development — change — requires conscious, emotive, sensory “embodiment,” and as such, the forming of “an experience” of the newer way of being. This also requires repetition, i.e. practice. While we are in an age of personal growth gurus and an abundance of self-help information made readily available, I find that good practice, effective process, is missing in many of today’s approaches and teachings. With the emphasis heavily placed on the cognitive study of personal development information, models, and tips and tricks, there’s little emphasis on how to implement and practice these great teachings into actual developmental change and growth.

As we find ourselves, we find our way to others. As we bond with ourselves, our capacity to bond with others increases. As we accept ourselves, we can more readily accept others. As we come to love ourselves, so we come to experience love— to give and receive love — with others. As we reflect back, we come to realize there is nothing more important in our lives than to pursue our own growth — to come forth into the light of who we are and who we can be. There is nothing more important than to dedicate our selves to our capacity to love, to living a life of compassion, and to pursue knowing ourselves with tenacity

To do this we need far more than good content; we need process.

GRAPHIC_UGP_5As-2What is process? Years ago, I developed something called the, “Universal Growth Process for Self-Mastery” with Terry Saracino of Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition. It’s based on the implementation of the following “5 As” I’ve determined critical to moment-by-moment practice. The 5-As are:

1. Awareness
2. Acceptance
3. Appreciation
4. Action
5. Adherence

Process is fundamental to working effectively with the day-to-day content of your life as well as with those new concepts and models for self-development that you are trying to incorporate. For example, let’s take a look at using the 5-As process when faced with reactivity. When there is big distress, hurt, or anger coming at you or coming from within you, it’s important to be present to it, immediately. We might not like it, but, we can get present to it — allow the awareness of it. Next, we accept it as our current reality without judgment, critique, or suppression. It’s important to grasp the content of what’s happening so that the upset person, or the self within us, knows we are present. Furthermore, listening to the content openheartedly helps build a bond — with ourselves or with another.

Keep in mind, “listening” to the content doesn’t necessarily mean we like it, concur with it, or agree with it. This is where we struggle. We seem to think that if we “listen” thoughtfully to what’s bothering us or to what’s bothering another person that we’re agreeing with it, or that we’re weak or a push-over. That’s not the case. Listening in order to process “is presence.” Once we listen, we appreciate what’s come up into our awareness. Next, what’s the appropriate and necessary action you may need or want to take? And finally, it’s about adherence. We commit to the action needed, we carry it out, we stay present to ourselves and the other, and we start the whole process again, if necessary.

Let’s Look at the “5As” of the Universal Growth Process, in detail:

Awareness is the capacity for personal receptivity; it’s the result of grounding ourselves in the present moment and observing, witnessing, what’s comes up, what’s being thought, felt, and acted out. Fundamental to this is being able to breathe deeply, which grounds us in “the now,” explore the sensations of vitality in our reactivity, and then discover the underlying meanings driving our upset, what core belief has been challenged? While simple, this fundamental aspect of development takes practice, patience, and time.

Acceptance is allowing the heart to open without judgment, to welcome — to accept — whatever is arising in the moment, both in self and others. This includes befriending our upset — not being either afraid of it, dismissive of it, or highjacked by it. It entails seeing clearly the tendencies of the judgmental mind, aka the super-ego, the inner critic. Acceptance of what’s there does not mean the “3Cs” of Capitulating, Condoning, or Concurring with one’s own or others’ reactivity or behavior. We are “free” when we truly grasp that what acceptance really means is the act of open-hearted surrender to what “is,” without judgment, and with presence. Acceptance does not mean agreement. Once we’re actively “accepting,” we then have the opportunity to explore the meaning of our reactivity. “What’s this about?” We get to ask ourselves. Before any action is taken, we can get ourselves present and curious, the best place to create choices for how to respond. These first “2 As,” Awareness and then Acceptance, operate best in tandem, as, in order to do the critical, life-transforming work of personal change and growth, we have to gently accept where we really are, first. This is where it all begins.

Appreciation requires realizing that the positives in our lives often get neglected and require our re-experiencing them in order to help us use appreciation as a great resource. Appreciation is exactly that and more; it’s an appreciation for “what” is revealing itself, for what we are allowing ourselves to become conscious of, tender and attentive to, and have compassion for within and about ourselves and someone else. With appreciation, we are able to comprehend that the moment we see reactivity, either in ourselves or in another, we are seeing into someone’s, or our own, pain.  And moreover, this further enables us to release from harmful behaviors and beliefs.

Action — in three steps:

1. Noticing → pausing → collecting energy → containing not suppressing it, when we get reactive or are find ourselves on automatic.
2. Conducting self-inquiry in order to discover, discern, and work with whatever reactivity or theme arises in the moment. Basically, what are our key identifications, core beliefs, and associated deepest concerns and feelings embedded in our Enneagram type structure that are up right now?
3. Mentoring our selves with the “inner coach” into conscious conduct. Conscious Conduct includes two interrelated forms: releasing into acceptance, using a receptive energy, and taking action that is respectful to self and the other. Both of which can allow integration of our positive resources, including our higher qualities, into our Enneagram type structure.

Adherence – committing to practice this process in our daily lives, especially in order to work with our reactivity and upset on a moment-by-moment basis. In time, we can more easily release from habitual and conditioned beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that no longer serve us.

Note: This blog was developed with much input from my webmaster Suzanne Dion, also an Enneagram teacher.

Please let me know what you think, feel, and experience.

How do you experience change and development? 
What promotes your personal development?
What kinds of processes/practices have you used to embody self-mastery development in your own life?

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Saving Our Lives
and the Planet


Saving Our Lives and Planet

Bringing the Future into the Psychological Present

We live in stressful times with much conflict, greed, and violence in the world. Population growth continues as well as material growth and increases in wealth. There are current predictions that say we will eventually run out of basic resources, such as energy and water, and our rain forests. Yet each year we create further debt, regarding material resource utilization. These projections get ignored. Why? Resource utilization is fundamental to life. A rapidly changing world with multiple demands further limits our ability to bring a critical awareness of a challenging future into our psychological present.

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For What Are We Remembered?

What About Us Carries On?

If our parents have already passed away, what is it about them that we remember most? And what about our grandparents and great grandparents? Do we remember how they met? Where they lived? What careers they pursued? What they valued? And of course, what about some of the other influential people in our lives, like that special teacher, aunt or uncle, coach or dear friend? What about even our spouse, for those of you who may have by now lost your life partner?

What I find notable is that most of the factual information about our forbearers is forgotten or lost. So what is it about those who have passed on, that is really important? What is it that transcends their physical lives? Have you thought about how you would like to be remembered? This is a really tender question, but it’s a vital one. Virtually all of us have been a caregiver or nurturer for others at some point in our lives and sometimes, sadly, if we take stock of our lives, maybe we find that we did not give of ourselves in nurturing or caregiving ways. How did each of us make those life-sustaining connections to others? Did we nurture our relationships? Did we give of ourselves? Did we share in the betterment of other’s lives, as well as of that of our own?

What we come to find we are actually remembered for are our qualities of being. Our nurturance of others, our presence, our receptivity, our awareness, our compassion, our joy, our generosity, our hopefulness, and our expression of our own wants and needs. And all of that in congruence with that of others. Sadly, we may actually be remembered for how we actually lacked these qualities, or even, that we expressed much the opposite of these altruistic qualities.

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Integrating our True
Nature, into our Lives

Integrating the Higher Qualities of our Essence into our Lives

SYNOPSIS: This blog reviews what the higher essential qualities of the nine Enneagram types mean to me. For each type, I clarify the meaning of the words used in the Enneagram teachings, define how I experience these qualities, and give clear and short examples. I state the meaning of essence as those qualities of being that underlie all external manifestations and are always present in one way or another, such as hope, faith, and love. Then I describe a process for integrating these essence qualities into our lives, integration being the interweaving of these differentiated parts into ourselves, into our experience of ourselves. Often, this involves access to our own peak experiences as a resource, as a peak experience is one that included a direct experience of our essential higher spiritual qualities. In Enneagram terms, these are our inherent virtues. Integrating our inherent virtues into our everyday modus operandi over time results in transformation, a sustainable growth that can be experienced in our soma, our hearts, and our minds.

Descriptions of the Types’ Virtues and Essential Spiritual Qualities

img_integration_daviddaniels_400pxwThe essential qualities, meaning our embodied inherent virtues, and our Holy ideas — which are mental qualities — exist at the core of our being, at the hub of existence and at the core of our collective unity.

We all have had “oneness of all” experiences at some point. For example, when we either listen to or play music, find ourselves in a wondrous scene in nature, ski effortlessly down a a mountain of white powder, get swept away in blissful sexual union, while full of intention and deep in prayer, during meditation or a deep reflection, when experiencing delicate and beautiful acts of kindness, when imbued with warm, unconditional love, we are at “one” with all that there is. Moments of oneness may also occur in times of great challenge and when there seems to be little choice.

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The Miracle of Receptivity

The Power of Pausing, Acceptance, and the Breath

These days, we are all so active and fast-paced. It’s a hectic, modern world. Our children are “glued” to their video games and tweeting. They have a lot of homework and a lot of tasks to accomplish. Adults move endlessly from task to task, attempting to get more, or at least enough, accomplished in a day.

There are three fundamental energies we humans rely on, and boy, we need all three of these energies to really thrive in this world. But I have to say, the most neglected of these three energies in our particular society is the one known as “Receptive Energy.” Here is a brief definition of each:

  • Active or Yang Energy flows outward into assertive and decisive action that is unrestricted and expansive. This energy is over-valued in achievement-oriented, success-oriented cultures. When contracted, this energy can get expressed externally as unrestrained, not unrestricted action and aggression.
  • Receptive or Yin Energy flows inwardly as openness and receptivity and outwardly as flexibility and adaptability. It can also show up as stillness, even readiness, for action. When contracted, this aspect can lead to inertia and withdrawal.
  • Balancing or Yin-Yang Energy represents a reconciling energy, harmonizing both active and receptive forces. It manifests as a continuous adjustment that we make to the ever-changing circumstances wherein reaction occurs if either receptive or active energy seems to dominate. When contracted, this energy collapses into a narrow and amplified rigidity.

Both Balancing and Active Energies depend upon Receptive Energy. Furthermore, Receptive Energy also provides the time and space for the Balancing Energy to fully operate. Receptive Energy function reminds me of a teeter-totter that we as children played on, where there was just no fun if we couldn’t create movement and flow. Thus, Receptive Energy allows us to thrive efficiently and effectively.

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Who Exactly Are the
“Good Guys” with Guns?

Another Shooting, Ignited with Concern…

One week after the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, killing 20 children and several adults, the executive vice president of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, finally declared that he  “Had the answer.” What follows is his entire speech as broadcast on television.

“The answer to bad guys with guns is good guys with guns,” he confidently said. That was it.

That’s his answer to the horrific acts of violence we are enduring in America.

This approach, where you feature two opposing concepts or views in a single sentence creates a blind dualism that cannot be integrated. This is true for much of the world we live in today. Simply spend a few minutes reflecting on what is going on in the Middle East, the killings by ISIS, the political battles here in America and elsewhere, and the endless oppositional views on multiple issues.

Furthermore, the National Rifle Association (NRA) with more than five million members claims that the right to bear arms is an inalienable right of the individual American citizen guaranteed by the Constitution. This refers to the right to acquire, possess, collect, exhibit, transport, carry, transfer ownership of, and enjoy the right to use arms as stated in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Implicit in this meaning is the right to shoot to kill.

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Forgiveness: How It’s Truly
a Path to Freedom

Overview: Forgiveness, the profound letting go of grievances, provides a key to reclaiming the essential self and building healthy relationships.  Ironically, each type holds specific resistance’s to forgiveness which are tied to the type’s survival strategy. The barriers to forgiveness, the costs of holding grievances and resentments, and how the barriers to forgiveness be worked with are all explored here. In reading and responding to this blog, bring an open mind, heart, and spirit and an example of something or someone (could be yourself) you need to forgive.

Forgiveness: How It’s Truly a Path to Our Own Freedom

Without forgiveness, life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.” — Roberto Assogioli

Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you are bitter at heart, sugar in the mouth will not help you.”
— Yiddish Proverb

Forgiveness is an absolute necessity for continued human existence.”
— Desmond Tutu


In working with inmates for the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), I rediscovered how, “We are all prisoners of our own making,” as Susan Olesek[1] puts it. And a key to remaining in this “self-imprisonment” is the lack of forgiveness. This is key to both those incarcerated as well as for the rest of us.

First, we need to define forgiveness as both the pardoning of offenses and the releasing from resentments. And here’s a critical distinction: Pardoning an offense does not mean we deem the offense as unimportant nor deny the consequences, but rather, an allowing for penalties to be applied in a way that is respectful to both offenders and pardoners.

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