Working with the Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition

Quite simply, the Enneagram has saved me from myself. IT has had a profound impact on all of my relationships, especially the one I have with my husband, and surely it has profoundly impacted the work I do with my clients. Thank you! I LOVE the Enneagram.” – Patricia Belanger Martin

Finding a Middle Ground, Based Upon Truly Understanding…

Sam and Bridget, a very much in love, engaged couple had come to an impasse until they discovered the Enneagram for the first time in a weekend relationships workshop. Both embraced grounding and centering in order to get receptive and open-hearted. The goal was to really learn hear each other. Bridget, a Type 1 Perfectionist, believed deeply that she had to get things good and right in order to be loved. She would come up with what she considered the “one right way” to resolve an issue or a conflict. But Sam, a Type 6 Loyal Skeptic, would focus on and magnify how her solutions wouldn’t work. He would come up with many doubts and concerns with her solution. All this had led to great consternation, hurt, and anger in both of them – virtually alienating them from each other for hours, even days, at a time. Learning to really hear each other and with their new understandings, they light-heartedly agreed that Sam would have no more than four doubts at any given time. They laughed and embraced each other with tears of relief and joy. Soon they were married and appreciating each other even more than ever.

I have been interested in the Enneagram for a number of years, but after finding the narrative Enneagram [Our Narrative Tradition with the types speaking for themselves], I was convinced this is something for me! I was lucky enough to have you, David, as a teacher in our course! I think your way of teaching and treating pupils is so loving and wonderful! I was SO happy to be able to meet you and to be able to spend time with you, such a kind person! I shall never forget loving and accepting moments of your lesson.” – Raili Varmo

Mother and Daughter Discover the Way to Greater Happiness

I worked with Melinda, a Type 2 Giver/Helper mother, and her distress over her 15-year-old Type 4 Romantic daughter, Roberta. She so wanted her daughter to be happy, believing it was up to her to make Roberta happy. If not, she believed she would be an utter failure as a mother. Yet, no matter how good the advice Melinda would give, it only inflamed the situation leading to more upset, outbursts of emotion, and tears from Roberta. And well, from Melinda too as she felt so unappreciated for all she was saying and doing to help her daughter. Both had only recently discovered the Enneagram before coming to my workshop. The Type 4 teenager with all her strong feelings and unconscious pursuit of the ideal life and relationship, which she could never quite live up to, felt deficient, lacking, and consequently riddled with big emotions of sadness and longing. In the workshop, Roberta grasped how she mainly focused on what was missing and lacking, and not what was present, fine, and wonderful. She learned to breath down and ground herself at the first sign of upset and to appreciate her mom’s efforts as caring, instead of perceiving that her mother was finding more ways that she, Roberta, was deficient. And mom? Well, she learned the three great principles in relating to her Type 4 daugher: Understand 4-ness, nderstand 4-ness and understand 4-ness. Meaning, first listen and empathize. And ONLY THEN give a little advice around what might make the situation and life, better. The result? Melinda freed herself from believing the only way to love is through giving to others and Roberta began to take in all that she appreciated about herself and her mother. Both Melinda and Roberta laughed and hugged. We all flowed with tears of joy. And this discovery resulted in lasting change.

A Mother’s Despair and Renewal of Hope

I once worked with a distraught, even depressed Type 7 Epicure/Adventurer. She had lost her 20-year-old son in a car accident two years prior. Depressed? Aren’t Type 7s the positive future planners?  The type that is suppose to keep life up and open to possibility? How could this Type 7 have sunk into such anguish, depression, and almost despair? I almost immediately discovered that Maria had been spurning, trying to avoid the natural pain of the grief process. She exampled “that which resists persists.” In stead of allowing herself the natural hurt and pain of grief, which tells us how much we love and care, she spurned this leading to almost inevitable depression. She realized in our early sessions how she feared sinking into suffering — Type 7’s deepest fear and hence exactly what leads to the avoidance of painful emotions. I encouraged Maria to let in the authentic sadness she needed to feel, knowing this would help her heal. She needed to experience the truth of her love for her son. Finally and patiently, she did allow herself to experience her grief, her undying love for her son, and her contributions to his life and his to hers. All this knowing that he would always be there in her heart. I knew that her fear of sinking into endless pain and suffering was a typical and very powerul Type 7 belief, but one that was not serving her. Paradoxically, her seeming endless suffering was the result of resisting her grief. We shed tears together and within a few weeks, yes a mere few weeks, her exuberant spirit returned and as well as her joyful contributions to life.
Suffice it to say, David, I am immensely grateful for my Enneagram experiences with you – they are among the precious life memories that will accompany me into the transitional moment ‘when I disappear into the face of God.’ May you experience an abundant joy from all your efforts in service to others.” – Mary An Tyson

How Could this Strong Loving Man Collapse into Pain and Self-hatred?

Bart is an energetic powerful, full-of-life Type 8, the Protector/Assertor. He had done much work on himself by the tine I had met him to grow and evolve. How could he collapse into feeling suicidal? He had been working with the Enneagram understandings, and had been gaining considerable awareness. But with his all-or-nothing style of attention and big exuberant energy I immediately discovered that while he had great awareness, he virtually lacked non-judgmentalness and was without open-hearted acceptance of himself and of the errors of his habit of mind. He had come to realize that he had been overly demanding, critical, and intimidating to his loving Type 5 Observer/Thinker wife, JoAnne. Struggling with anger and contempt for his own unwitting and unaware behavior,  the goal was to help him realize that he needed to be kind to himself, to accept himself, and that such acceptance did not mean that he condoned or agreed with his past behavior. He realized that he was treating himself in the way he treated his wife with criticalness, intimidation, and demands. When he blended together acceptance with awareness all this changed. He softened his impact, allowed in his tender feelings toward himself as well as toward his wife, and became even more loving and compassionate.  His exuberance now had the balance of receptive force and soft, tender feelings. And JoAnne, what about her? She came to more readily engage in her feelings and in life, and to express her own emotions.

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