Tom Condon – Living the Dynamic Enneagram
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello and welcome once again to Conscious.tv. I am Iain McNay and my guest today is Tom Condon. Hi Tom.
Iain: Tom has written a book which came into conscious.tv and that we found interesting and we thought we would get Tom along whilst he is in the UK for an interview. The full title of the book is The Dynamic Enneagram: How to Work with Your Personality Style to Truly Grow and Change. At the moment it is an eBook, but it will be coming out shortly as well, as a paper book.
So, the Enneagram is something I heard about many years ago, twenty years ago and I found extraordinarily helpful in my life, not only in understanding myself better, but understanding my relation to other people better. There are many different ways to look at the Enneagram and Tom is going to pretty much..., we are going to cover his book and focus very much on the personality style to truly grow and change. So Tom, for people who haven't heard about the Enneagram, why don't you just give a brief three minute summary of what the Enneagram actually is?
Tom: It is a system of nine personality styles on one level. There is also another way of conceiving the Enneagram that is different from strictly talking about personality. The one that I deal with and the one that is best-known and that people respond to a lot, is a kind of compact system that describes nine different personality styles and their connections and interactions. In that description, what you recognise, are kind of nine ways of perceiving reality; nine ways of apprehending the world and kind of specialising in a certain style of perception and a certain skew towards how you perceive and interact with the world around you. I would say, in one sense, what the Enneagram is describing when it describes someone’s personality style, is a kind of reality strategy, a kind of strategy for making your way through the world; a picture of the world, a map of the world that you have internally. An internal representation that allows you to predict events and know where you are, know who you are, in a world where other people seem to know where they are, or who they are. It has got to do with a world views basically, and how people see themselves and how people subjectively see the world around them and perceive, as well as feel, the world around them. Within that, there are talents, resources, abilities and things that come naturally to you that maybe don't come as naturally to other Enneagram styles. Then the Enneagram also describes typical illusions you are prone to, pitfalls and things that motivate you and ways in which you are kind of blind to other potentials, other dimensions and other ideas.
Iain: Okay and when we had dinner together last night, you were telling me that you first heard of the Enneagram over thirty years ago and at that point there weren't actually any written books on the Enneagram.
Iain: And you were educating yourself about it from notes from seminars that people had written. It must have been quite exciting to get involved in what has proved to be a very helpful tool at quite an early stage?
Tom: I got involved in NLP, about 1977 and liked aspects of it very much and still do. NLP is a bit of mixed bag because it has a sort of shallow, opportunistic, sort of sociopathic dimension to it, but actually the original formulation of it was based on the study of effective psychotherapists and people who helped people change. What the guys who created it came up with, were a number of techniques that were common to a lot of therapies and also a way of understanding the inner subjective experience in terms of the senses. How someone has a problem, how do things look, how do things sound, how do things feel when you are having the problem and then also applying techniques towards creating solutions. NLP had a lot of good stuff in it, but it was also inherently kind of shallow and it lacked. It was not a good system for working with the whole person, or comprehending the emotional ground, or the subtext and inner dynamics that generated a problem behaviour. About the time I was realising this about NLP, I came across the Enneagram and the Enneagram at that time – I lived in Berkeley California – was taught by Helen Palmer and Claudio Naranjo, and a few other people. Most of the people I knew, were therapists and they were all kind of involved in the Enneagram, they had all heard about it. There were no books, there was nothing in literature, it was all just kind of... Helen would do 10 week courses and I went to one of them, where she would interview people who all had the same Enneagram style and do panels and it was very illuminating. It was very obvious that they all shared the same strategy.
Iain: So how did you find your own style?
Tom: Through notes mostly and what happened was that most of the therapists who went to these courses, that I was describing, they would keep the hand-outs. And then people would also go to the courses and they would make notes and have their own reactions and they would mimeograph those – they had mimeograph in those days – so the stack of notes grew and got to be about four or five inches thick, before any of the books ever came out. I would read within that about the various styles and it was instantly obvious to me what my style was, which was counter-phobic Six. There was already, at that young age a mountain of evidence to indicate that I was a Six.
Iain: Were you okay to find out you were a Six? What was your reaction/response?
Tom: Well, when you find out your Enneagram style, truly find out… because people will vacillate and sometimes it is a process. I always tell students a good indicator is the one that kind of makes you sick to your stomach a little bit.
Iain: So you feel it here (indicating gut), but not necessarily a good feeling?
Tom: Some sort of physiological...
Iain: An “Oh dear…!”
Tom: Yes, “Oh my God!” is how it is, rather than an “Ah Ha” experience. Yet, when I came across mine, it was uncomfortable, especially relating to the downside of it, but it was so obvious and right away really helpful. Because, you know, you started to realise this is a pattern, there is a name for this, there is a name for the type of suffering I have inflicted on myself. There is a rationale and a schema and a kind of unconscious drive to do it and to reproduce it and you know… there's that Chinese saying, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names” and so that was a good first step.
Unfortunately in those days all of the material, since it was generated by therapists and since it was generated by people who had spiritual practices that emphasised the Via Negativa, which is to say, you kind of blast the student with insight and shock them down to their toes, most of the descriptions were negative in those days. So the name for Sixes was Coward. (Laughs)
Tom: So (Tom shrugs) that was a little hard to wrap your arms around and kind of enthusiastically affirm. Nevertheless it was pretty plain.
Iain: Interesting, because when I first found out my type, which was also type Six, was I think about twenty years ago and I found it an incredible relief. The basic reasons for the relief was that first of all, I thought that there are other people like me (laughs), that means one person in every nine - as there are nine types - is functioning in the same way as me. Yeah, because often I couldn't find out, why do I respond… couldn't understand why do I respond so differently to other people, to situations?
So that was kind of very affirming, very positive and of course at that time there were more books out about it. Then, it was all the information about how to be with that, and as your book is talking about, how to grow with that, use that in a positive way to your advantage to find out more about yourself.
Tom: Right, right.
Iain: And that, as I said earlier is the key for me: finding out more about myself and about the other. Now one of the things that you say in your book - and you mentioned this also in your introduction - is that the Enneagram is an inner map, but of course everybody's is an incomplete map, isn't it?
Tom: Well and also to the degree that you are caught in the pattern of your Enneagram style, it is an old map. It is one of those maps of the New World that they had in Europe before they had fully explored the New World. Or a better example is, there was a map of California that represented it as an island, an early map based on the perceptions of early explorers. They soon realised it wasn't an island but it took one hundred and fifty years for them to actually change the maps. So it is like you have an inner map - I think of it as almost an inner flat Earth - and you are sort of sailing on the ocean and trying to avoid sailing off the edge of your flat Earth 'cos that is also the edge of your self-definition and your capabilities and your inner subjective universe.
Iain: So is it, in effect, a map of how we see life based on how we were brought up and on our experiences?
Tom: And what we adapted to. How we handle those experiences when you are caught in them; I mean it is more than that; you are born probably with a temperament and a predisposition to certain Enneagram styles. Some people insist it is genetic and that you are born with your Enneagram style. I would question that just simply because I have identical twins in my family and they don't have the same Enneagram styles and we won't know until there is a blood test in any case.
Iain: Yes, so you are raising an interesting point here which is a little bit controversial in the Enneagram world. Some people say it is genetic - as you say, you are born with it – other people say, it is to do with conditioning right from very early childhood.
Tom: My wife had the best comment on this at one point. She is a Nine, she said, “I may have been born a Nine, but I definitely learnt to be unhealthy.” I thought yeah, that kind of captures it because at least in my work and the work of a lot of people, the emphasis is on how to grow and change and evolve out of stuck points and rigid patterns; ways in which you over-identify with one aspect of your personality and under-identify with another. Where you kind of have an ideal but it is defensive. A [type] One, will identify with being good and right and virtuous. Then the capacity to sin and make chaos and break the rules, that's sort of pushed away, becomes a shadow, and in doing that, you are then making an inner defensive arrangement that protects you in certain ways when you are growing up. Maybe the One grew up in an environment where there are high standards in the air, or there was a lot of criticism in the air, or it was just implied that you had to really do your best. So the person internalised those high standards and tried to push away other aspects of their personality making them into a shadow, basically.
Iain: So, it is as if we construct in our minds these boundaries don't we? We construct an understanding of how we see life to be and it is that, which kinds of inhibits us in later life. Because it is useful, those boundaries may be useful when we are very young as it protects us, but as we get older they become redundant, but we don't realise they are redundant.
Tom: Well, it is like getting addicted to pain pills or something. The thing that saved you in the first place, or relieved your pain, or allowed you to adapt to whatever your family circumstance was, whatever your early experience of life was, what role in your family you were expected to play – all these things can have a defensive cast where the self gets kind of warped, or misshapen and there is a shadow that goes with it - and then the thing that saved you turns out to be the thing that gets in your way some decades later.
Iain: Yeah, so it worked once and then it stopped being effective anymore.
Tom: Right, but we get attached to how it worked and parts of ourselves get kind of time-locked as well. You know, where you reach some barrier when you were a kid where you found circumstances overwhelming, or extremely painful, or just confounding. And you start to do things to yourself that happened to you the most and in doing that it has an element of control that comes into it and then you find out later that you are still generating something that corresponds with the low side of your Enneagram style. You're baffled by it and various Enneagram schools have names for that. They call it a compulsion, or a fixation or a habit, an emotional habit, but there is some logic to it as well. There is an underlying drive, there is an underlying will within it to reproduce it, because at some level you believe in it as a method.
Iain: Is there an example you can give from your own life? Something that served you when you were younger and then you had to really be aware that as you got older that didn't work the best for you anymore?
Tom: Well, Sixes scare themselves. I grew up around Irish alcoholics who used to drink and fight and I remember developing a sort of strategy where I would sit at the dinner table and if I saw people starting to drink I started to, in my own mind, predict the weather. What was going to happen in twenty minutes… because things could go crazy, you know. Somebody, when they were drunk, could have an argument about the peas at dinner, you know. A lot of it was just nonsensical, but it was also kind of unpleasant. So as a Six, one of the things you do, is you start to imagine negative scenarios and kind of anticipate and fantasize, and the logic behind it, the defensive logic is that you are trying to prepare for what might go wrong or what might happen that would be unpredictable in order to be prepared for it, so that you can handle it in a strong way. But the paradox of it is that actually, when you scare yourself, the more you scare yourself, the more you feel kind of helpless and kind of young and resource-less. So it has this back to front quality.
Iain: Yes, it takes your power away, your own power away. When you are young you are powerless, when you are older you actually have some power.
Tom: Well, when you are young maybe it makes sense to give away your power in a circumstance where your power is going to be taken from you anyway. But when you are older it is like you are giving away your power to imaginary authorities, or other people, or conspiracy theories or something like that. When you are doing that, you are missing a piece of yourself, you react to your own power out there, in other people, and have a self-image of being maybe young and helpless lurking within it somewhere.
So Sixes are unusually contradictory among Enneagram styles this way, but all the styles have a sort of ruling paradox built into them. Style number Three, are quite performance-oriented and image-oriented. When you scratch down to it and summarise it, it is like the person believes in order to be loved for who I am, I have to pretend to be who I am not.
Iain: Yes. In the book – you use an interesting word for me - you talk about being in a trance a lot of the time.
Tom: I use that term in a specific way because I have a background in hypnosis and it sounds like a loose metaphor, but actually when you look closely at the inner subjective experience of different Enneagram styles, especially when people are caught in their patterns, they actually have trance-like characteristics that correspond with studies of official hypnosis. Things like, certain Enneagram styles are prone to amnesia and hypnotic subjects sometimes will be prone to amnesia. Other Enneagram styles are prone to the opposite of amnesia which is hypermnesia where instead of forgetting things you remember things in very unusually sensory rich and vivid detail. Style number Four will do that, Sixes will do it too, where you remember some awful thing that happened in the past. Or a Four will be nostalgic for a time when they were twenty years old and in love for the first time and life had a certain kind of beauty and they remember the smells and the song that united them with their beloved. And there is a lot of sensory rich detail in it that they get preoccupied with, as they sort of take themselves out of the present. So when I say a trance, it is really like an open-eyed hypnotic trance and there is a lot of correspondence with it.
Iain: Yeah, but it makes sense that we are going through life and we are partly hypnotised by our early beliefs and it stops us seeing reality, doesn't it?
Tom: It does, and then what I do like about disciplines like NLP and working with hypnosis, is that they pretty much approach working with the inner life and approach working with problems as things that we create ourselves, that we make this stuff up, that we are self-generating, even if we are generating from an unconscious level. You can read in Enneagram books - sometimes the wording in Enneagram books is kind of fatalistic and passive and it sounds like something that has just descended upon you, that you are stuck with, like a scarlet number on your forehead or something. I find it a lot more useful to approach it from the standpoint of how much of this is learned behaviour and how much of it, if it is learned, you can over-write and unlearn. You can delve into the depths of it and find emotional stuck points and maybe feelings you couldn't handle earlier in life that you can now manage because there is so much more of you, or free yourself in a variety of ways. I don't know that there is a limit to that and that then tracks over into how people experience the Enneagram spiritually too. You know, what they open up to as they grow and change, old themes fall away and old conflicts get resolved and then you have the sense of living less of a story, less of a script and have more of a sense of being in the present and responding to life and aware of the vastness of life around you.
Iain: And the richness that comes with that.
Tom: Yes, living a more complete life.
Iain: Yes. So tell me more about yourself in so far as how that has affected you as a human being, because you have been on this long journey with the Enneagram and you gave an example earlier of something that was helpful when you realised it, but how do you generally feel? You talk about being a counter-phobic Six, how do you generally feel about life now? Has your view fundamentally changed?
Tom: - Ah yeah, I would say. I mean it has fundamentally softened and lessened compared to where I came from. When I first came across the Enneagram I was pretty much in a mode of perceiving danger wherever I looked and the counter-phobic style within type Six is to go against the danger.
Iain: To jump over it?
Tom: Yeah and I would literally do things like jump off bridges onto moving trains.
Tom: Yeah, and climb hotels.
Iain: What, you climbed hotels on the outside?
Tom: Yeah, they have these ladders that go up the side.
Tom: I would do things like that and part of the reason for doing it, apart from being young, impulsive and reckless, was that I always had the sense that I could do it. You understand, it was a calculated risk, but when I would do things like that, I then would be free from fear for a few days.
Iain: And is that what happened, in effect?
Tom: Yes, it was. It was like expunging the fear and then the habit, the un-dealt with habit of scaring myself would creep back in. I would do something daring on Saturday and then by Tuesday I was starting to get a bad case of nerves.
Iain: This is a very interesting point. I guess this applies in its own way to the other types as well; you can do something that in a way takes you out of the habit of that type, but on the other hand, you have almost got to do your homework as such, in understanding and working in a less dramatic way just to loosen up and lessen the effect of the history of the type.
Tom: I would kind of classify different approaches to working with something like an Enneagram style and in maybe a broader way. If you think about it in terms of therapy, or change, or trying to evolve in whatever way appeals to you the most, or is necessary the most, there are approaches that involve going against the problem and what I am describing is certainly that. I was going against my own fear and I was trying to… Sometimes, it is recommended in Enneagram books that you create counter examples to your normal experience, quote/unquote, 'normal experience' and you maybe make more space and gather more life experience that contradicts the tendency you have when you are maintaining your pattern. So it is good for that. It is not so good for really getting over it, if that is all you do. Because if you just go against the premises of your style, or the tendencies, or the compulsion or what-have-you, then a lot of times you just strengthen the conflict within you; sort of like isometrics. And then there are other approaches that involve standing back from your style. Certainly a lot of dissociative meditation techniques are like this, where you are trying to witness the pattern and see it, rather than say feel it for example, and where you are trying again to expand your awareness so that you are not taking your own behaviour personally, not taking your own pattern personally, and maybe seeing the workings of it and the intricacies of it without reacting quite so strongly in your body say for instance, and in your feelings. And then there are other approaches...
Iain: Let's just take that because that's an interesting thing I would like to follow through with you. So, yes, we have had a lot of people on conscious.tv itself who have talked about how they sit and see they are not the body, they are not the thoughts, they are not the emotions.
Iain: And there is a certain freedom in that and it is a huge realisation because you realise at that level that you are not just the body, the thoughts, the emotions.
Tom: Yes, not just the body.
Iain: Yes. On the other hand we've got the reality, day-to-day reality that we have the vehicle of the body in which to live our life and it is something that I didn't get for a time, but now I see more and more, the importance of yes, you want that realisation because that realisation is showing you the bigger picture, is showing you who you really are. But integrating that realisation in day-to-day life, that becomes really the key and certainly from reading your book, there is a lot of advice, a lot of ideas there of how you can do this process of integration. But understanding the humanness more, it doesn't just go away, does it?
Tom: No, it doesn't and we are incarnated and we are living in the world and our bodies have a lifespan and certain things bring health and certain things don't. It is a little like a self-image, you know. To me a lot of this work involves realising you are more than your self-image, more than body but, you are also your body. I mean, if you can handle it, it is like having two contradictory ideas in your mind at the same time, and you know both are true at different times.
There was a Rabbi one time who said, “You should go through life with things in two pockets and when you come into a new situation you can reach into one pocket and pull out a little note to yourself that says,’ The world is made for me' and then the note in the other pocket says 'I am but ashes and dust' and he says the trick to life is knowing which pocket to reach into at which time.”
Iain: (laughing) And knowing that either is not the total truth.
Tom: Right, right.
Iain: You also talk about the Void in the book, which is something I’ve certainly experienced from time to time in my life. Just talk us through how you see the Void.
Tom: Well, as you grow and change, you lessen your... People don't really evolve out of their Enneagram style and turn into another style, or have no style - I would say - any more than they evolve out of their nationalities, but as you grow and change you wear it more and more lightly and in doing so you are more and more open. There is less and less in the way of you and the world around you, both externally and when you look inside internally, there is far more space. People start to have spontaneous experiences of the Void, of the Mysterium Tremendum and we were talking a little bit about the difference between maybe looking at the night sky and seeing it almost as a ceiling or a kind of umbrella that has little pinprick lights in it, versus occasionally, when the stars are out in a remote place for example, you look into the night sky and you sort of feel the distances in your body, you feel yourself kind of sucked up into space in a way, and that is quite a different sort of apperception of what is around us. But you know, we are on this tiny planet, we are all very involved in our lives and rightly so and there are a vast number of cultures and the cultures all have a history and yet we are in a suburb of the Milky Way galaxy. There are a hundred billion other galaxies and the new telescopes are showing us more and more, distance, strangeness, and something in us defends against that and yet at the same time, as you grow and change, you start to open up to wider and broader and deeper and further realities, I would say.
Iain: Because you talk about the Void being intense, formless, beautiful, but it can also be frightening and unnerving.
Tom: Well, most people have a dual reaction to it and I would say our unconscious minds kind of protect us from the perception that we are surrounded by infinity. I mean, that it is something that people seek, because extinguishing the self, means extinguishing its suffering. So we go towards experiences where we are getting in the flow, where we lose ourselves; experiences that are immersive, that take us out of our normal frame of mind and then at the same time, if we go too far, we are sort of sailing on the edge of the flat Earth. And then there are those waterfalls that were talked about in medieval times; down below there are dragons and rocks and the ships break up on the rocks and the dragons eat the sailors and there is something in the unconscious that then guards that boundary and we sort of contract and maintain our world view.
Iain: Yes, because we believe somehow that if we go past the boundary, which we have constructed, we will perish.
Tom: Yeah, and in a way that is true, you know. It is like an ego-death which is different from physical death, but on some unconscious level we are not making that distinction a lot of the time.
Iain: You also talk in the book about families and how we carry our families around with us. Just explain that a little more.
Tom: Well, I think it is the family therapist Salvador Minuchin who said that families create specialists and what he meant was that families are systems and that there are roles to play within families and functions to serve within families that are based on whatever is needed within the family for it to function well. So someone comes into a family and they are, to a certain extent type-cast, it depends upon what the family needs. Does it need a hero, does it need a screw-up, does it need someone who makes conflict, someone who avoids conflict? Families create specialists in this sense and so you can sometimes see pretty clearly that a family doesn't cause someone to have a certain Enneagram style, but you can see that the role that they played in their family of origin, comes out through the expression, especially of the problematic, or the low side of their Enneagram style. Then the tendency is to recreate that - sort of invisibly and unconsciously without realising it - in your own family as you grow up and create one, but also maybe in your work place for example. Seeing the boss as a kind of parent, relating to co-workers as you might relate to a sibling, that kind of thing; and it is all very subtle and some of it doesn't matter because it works very well. But sometimes what you start to realise is that you are carrying with you a field of experience and you are filtering the world as you find it through that field and kind of relating to people in ways that are familiar and also setting up new situations that are presumably untarnished. You come in and you sully them up with unconscious assumptions and expectations and requirements and you know things have to go this way and if they don't, it means that and there is a way in which all of that stuff is grist for the mill, for stuff to work on and to catch yourself in the act and maybe to unhitch from.
Iain: It really is work, to get to the bottom of this, isn't it? I know that one of the things for myself was that a lot of the time I found the work truly fascinating, because I found more and more as I looked at myself, that I was interested to find out why I was the way I was. Not only was it practically helpful, but the inner journey is an intriguing journey, just as going on an adventure and walking across mountains or driving [is]. That inner journey is interesting because certain people take to it naturally, other people just resist it. I don't know whether you have a feel for this, in all your years of experience, about what are the factors that really encourage someone to follow the inner journey, as opposed to ones who are just trying to ignore the whole thing and get by.
Tom: Well motivation to change is really an important thing and there are no rules about it. There is no book anywhere that describes who should change and how much, or whether they should change. It has to do with, for most people, with how much they are suffering and maybe the inkling that they have somewhere a hand in their own suffering. Then that leads them in certain directions to seek out methods and to seek out contexts where it would be safe and where it is encouraged to grow and change. Some people grow and change, in my experience a smaller percentage based on a kind of aspiration and curiosity, you know, “I wonder what it would be like if I went beyond this?” This sort of thing, where there is more of a positive motivation, you might say, to change. Then within the Enneagram styles there are different considerations as well. There are certain Enneagram styles, when people are caught in their pattern, they suffer a lot more: Sixes for example, Ones for example, Fours for example and then there are other Enneagram styles who have defences that make them feel better. Sevens will reframe things and find the positive in difficult and painful experiences and kind of jump to the positive benefit a little too fast, when they are caught in their pattern. And what does that do for motivation if your way of coping is to generally make yourself feel better? You might not get as distressed as you really ought to, about something that you have a tendency to do, or create, or hang on to. Style number Nine, for example… one of the things I will ask in workshops sometimes, is that I will ask the Nines to tell me the first number that comes into their mind when I ask the question, “How long do you expect to live?” And the number is almost always 85-110. What does that do for motivation?
Iain: It is a bit optimistic isn't it?
Tom: Well they may be right, some day there will be a medical, if there is ever a blood test or something like that, there may be a medical work-up of the different styles. I wouldn't be surprised if Nines on average live longer, it is a type B personality. You handle stress pretty well. There is a lot of things to suggest that might be true anecdotally, but if I am in my middle 60’s and I am going to live to be 85-110 and there is something I am doing that is affecting my life, or affecting my relationships, or I am in a conflict with somebody in some way, or I have a bad habit, or I have something I have to change, but I am going to live to be 110...
Iain: Then there is time to do it?
Tom: Yeah, you know, what is that, 45 years, why rush into this thing?
Iain: So which of the types, when you ask that question, gives the answer with the least number of years that they have to live?
Tom: Ah, I haven't asked the other styles that question so much. There are styles where the future seems shorter… like style number Four. A lot of times they will say, “Well, I don't know how long I will live, but the past is what is in front of me, not the future”. When Fours are in their trance, Sixes too, when they are in their trance, they will be focussed on the past rather than the future and have trouble kind of thinking about the future.
Iain: You also talk in the book about there being two versions of the Enneagram in a way. There is the Enneagram of Personality and the Enneagram of Everything. Can you explain how you see the distinction there between the two?
Tom - Well, I am speaking out of and operating with and working with the Enneagram of Personality and then there is another sort of version of it, which is kind of inherited from Gurdjieffian sources. Fourth way sources and other people have had a fair amount of input into this that sort of looks at contexts and various aspects of life in terms of the Enneagram and also has a lot of symbolism attached to it that I don't personally find very useful. I don’t really even know how to describe it well, except that it is quite rarefied. There are people who use it who get a lot out of that, so I don't have any problem with that part, but it has more to do with a sort of spiritualised approach that is basically framed as: here is how to reach your highest potential and here is what your highest potential is.
Iain: But that is also what you are working with in the Enneagram of Personality isn't it too?
Tom: I would say so, but I don't really try to formulate what those things are too closely. I am not very theoretical basically.
Iain: Yeah, you're going stage by stage practically and seeing where the adventure leads for people.
Tom: Also allowing for approaching change at various levels from neurotic stuck points, to evolving beyond your world view in a broader way. So I always think that working with biography is a complement to working with a spiritual practice and vice versa, that they are not contradictory even though some people will kind of polarise that way into one or the other. But they both have their advantages and if you only do one, or the other, then they both have their limitations. You know that if you only work in a psychiatric way, a psychological way on your biography, then you can be like Woody Allen who has been in therapy for 40 years… something like that.
Iain: Nothing changed has it? Or it seems like that from his films, that nothing has changed.
Tom: Well I don't know but, yeah, it doesn't seem so different. And then if you only work in a spiritual way and ignore biography, biography comes up and bites you in the ass sometimes, basically. People will sometimes get into spiritualising their ego in a way, so it is like I am trying to be spiritual and I have these high-level spiritual aspirations and you know these other little kind of dark details in life are not me. But other people in your life have to deal with them if that becomes a shadow.
Iain: So we have just over five minutes left, let's use that in a practical way, in so far as somebody who is watching this and say never heard of the Enneagram, but is a little intrigued about what you are talking about and would like to find out more and maybe their type, what would be the starting point for them?
Tom: There are tests and there are some relatively good ones. They are only about 70 per cent accurate in my opinion and partially that is because you have things in you. You not only have a central Enneagram style, but you have secondary Enneagram styles, secondary connections that show up, that start to make sense once you learn the system. But you also have the Enneagram styles of your parents within you, you know. Everybody knows that you introject your parents, well that also includes their parents Enneagram styles and tests can't really measure that because it is not consistent. A Six doesn't always have an Eight father and a Two mother, something like that and so it can be a little confusing, but what is a good starting point is to begin to expose yourself to the material. Maybe take a test, but take it with a grain of salt and try to begin to think about and to observe in day-to-day life, well, “What are my reactions? What are my motivations? How am I seeing the world? How am I perceiving things when I have this particular reaction that seems like it relates to being a Nine, or seems like it relates to being a Two?” Something like that and beginning to kind of fish for what your own motivations are. It is almost like a thought that you think all day long, something that you keep returning to, a kind of meta-pattern that your unconscious is generating, but also is attached to. In trying to do that, then the difficulty can be that not everyone is a psychologist for one; number two, it is almost like a fish trying to see water, or a human trying to see the air because basically, what you are trying to do is ask yourself, “Well, what are my basic unconscious assumptions about reality?” And they are unconscious for some people and yet sometimes you might begin to think about what you were like when you were twenty years old and what you were going through. You know there are sometimes periods in life where something like an Enneagram style is more apparent and more vividly expressed and that can sometimes be helpful too. Also this system won't make you honest, that is something you have to bring to the party. So if you can be as honest with yourself as you can, that really helps quite a bit, and then like we were saying, motivation. You know sometimes people will come into contact with the Enneagram and it is like “'Oh, that is interesting” and it sounds like a bunch of stereotypes to them, and maybe that is a consequence of who is teaching it. Or maybe they met somebody at a party who had gone on an Enneagram workshop and now they are type-happy and they are running around typing everyone in sight. But occasionally someone will come into contact with the Enneagram that way, think nothing of it and then come into contact with it a couple of years later and it blows their mind and just shakes their tree.
Iain: Yeah, certainly. I was saying at the beginning, that one of the things for me was in understanding other people better, especially people I don't get on with, or who I don't seem to get on with. It is that kind of thing that… well, I will have ago at working out their type and I might not get it completely right, but in a way it doesn't matter because I feel that just by the act of trying to understand them more, opens something in the relationship. Then, if I have got the style right and I read up about it, I am more understanding of how their mind is working and why they are the way they are. Isn't that the basis of nearly every conflict and every war? It is a lack of understanding of the other and having a different viewpoint and also not being willing to listen to someone else's viewpoint.
Tom: Well, and also wars are situations where two groups of people are sort of identical and they accuse each other of being what they believe they are not. There is this kind of shadow play that is going on and you know people on both sides of a war behave abominably. So there is a recognition of your own shadow within it sometimes, but also the ability to step into other people's shoes and understand the world from their point of view is a great thing because you de-vilify them for one thing. Also it is a lot like: I am an American, I come to Europe and operate in a bunch of different cultures in Europe and there are guide books for what to do and what not to do in different cultures such as, “Always be on time in Switzerland”, “Never do this in France”. And it is like appreciating differences in nationalities. You can decide you don't like certain Enneagram styles, I suppose, but that is not really the point. The point is, this goes on whether you like it, or not and if you decide there are certain Enneagram styles you don't like, that can also be an indicator of something that is unintegrated within you.
Iain: Yes, and I think again for myself that if I understand the other better, I actually end up understanding myself better and there is that point when the understanding starts to drift away and you actually feel you go beyond the understanding and that there is a connection there.
Tom: You have compassion for yourself just as you develop compassion for others.
Iain: Yeah. Well the clock is ticking away and we have the reality of time. We have about two minutes left; I don't know if you want to squeeze in anything we haven't covered that is important to you in the last two minutes?
Tom: Well, one thing I would like to underline is that when people are doing their Enneagram style - quote/unquote - when they are especially caught in their pattern, there are typical sensory qualities that go with the different styles and that make up the illusion of being within a subjective universe that is quite compelling, that goes with the low side of your style. Sometimes, beginning to identify those can be really helpful because you begin to realise, “Oh my gosh, I am doing this to myself somehow”. But also it is like - we talked earlier about living a story - it is not just a verbal story, it is a story that has visual components and it is a story that has kinaesthetic components as well, both in the emotions and in the body kinaesthetic which are a little different from each other. So when a person is in their Enneagram trance, they are seeing the world a certain way, they are talking to themselves a certain way, they are feeling a certain way and all of those sensory qualities are recurrent. They are things the person is unconsciously inducing and re-inducing in themselves and as they start to realise that and start to work with it, it can really be very helpful to opening up and to dropping old defences and resolving past conflicts and battles and so on. But also you alter your inner experience of yourself. Another way to put this is: I will sometime ask people in a detailed way, in workshops to identify what are the sensory components of the low side of their Enneagram style and then for contrasts sake, what are the sensory components of the high side of your Enneagram style. What is it like when you are at your best? What is it like when you are functioning within your style and what do you identify as the high side of your style even based on descriptions you have read? What is it like when you are not an Enneagram style? What is it like when you've pretty much escaped the mortal coil of it?
Iain: In simple terms, it is like going into the feeling of the style.
Tom: But not just the feeling, kind of… like subtleties in the feeling. Like when Fives scare themselves for instance, the fear is in the middle of their chest, it is not in their kneecaps, and beginning to really identify and specify. It is also like when people say they have a fear of flying; a lot of times that is an umbrella term and then when you kind of go into it more deeply with them, some people will say, “Well I have a fear of turbulence”, another will say, “I have a fear of take-off and landing”, another will say “I have a kind of claustrophobic reaction to being locked in a metal tube with a bunch of strangers”. And so those are really different problems although they all come under the umbrella of fear of flying. What I am talking about is specifying and beginning to discern and discriminate between what it is like when you are at your worst. What it is like when you are at your best and what are the sensory components of that? It helps a lot.
Iain: Okay good. Tom, thank you very much, it has been interesting.
Tom: Thank you.
Iain: Thank you everyone for watching Conscious.tv. Here is the cover of Tom's book which is The Dynamic Enneagram, available as an eBook and will shortly be available as a physical book as well. Thanks again and hope we see you again soon.
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