The Enneagram Type 8 – the Challenger
Discussion with Phil Wallace, Lynne Sedgmore and Christine Adames
Moderated by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello, and welcome again to conscious.tv. I’m Iain McNay, and today is another programme in our series on the Enneagram. We have three type 8s in the studio who’re going to share what it’s like to be a type 8 and we’re going to have a general discussion to help you spot whether you’re a type 8 or not, and also look at the potential of being a type 8. I have to say on a personal note this is quite a good programme for me because I’ve often had difficulty with type 8s in the past. Especially in business I haven’t always found them easy, so let’s hope they behave themselves and I learn from this as well.
So first of all I’m going to show you some books which we had a discussion of first, to find the most helpful books. These are four books that we all can recommend: The Enneagram Made Easy, which is a very basic one, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram and Facets of Unity – the Enneagram of Holy Ideas.
I’m now going to introduce our guests: we have Phil, Christine, and Lynne. Christine I think you’re going to start by giving us a brief summary of the Enneagram, how you see it and how you were introduced to it.
Christine: Yes, sure. The Enneagram is a model of the human condition. It’s a psycho-spiritual model which is at the same time both old and new. The old bit is that it synthesises and incorporates a lot of teachings from Greek philosophers, some of the major religions and mystics and the new bit is that it’s also developed in the last century to incorporate a lot of modern psychological theories and ideas. It’s represented by a 9-pointed star, a geometric star and these nine points represent nine basic personality types, or programmes that we as human beings have within us. We have all of them - all nine of them - but we tend to hang out in one particular type or domain; a default programme if you will, that is our kind of response to how we react to and engage with the world. And this default programme covers things like the values that we’ve developed as individuals, our beliefs, the meanings that we’ve attached to our experiences through life and our view of the world. Most of this, if not all of this initially is very unconscious programming - we’re not aware of it - and what the Enneagram does, and the study of the Enneagram does, is it enables you to become aware of that programming, aware of your own beliefs and values and how you view the world. It gives you an opportunity to explore the meanings that you’ve attached to your life and your life experiences and it helps to create a space for you to interrupt that programming so that you get a choice about whether or not to continue behaving in the way you’ve always behaved, and thinking in the way you’ve always thought, or to have choice and freedom to actually change how you see the world and therefore how you make your way in the world. I first came across the Enneagram when I was training to be a coach about 10 years ago, but my real direct experience of it came when I trained as a journey therapist. It’s a fundamental part of journey therapy training and continues to be one of the main building blocks for that training and my experience of knowing that I was an 8 came during that training.
Iain: Good. And how has that impacted your life, being an 8? What have you learned on a practical basis?
Christine: Well, the first feeling I remember having, was a sense of relief. Because a lot of things started to make sense about looking back on my behaviour and the things that I’d focused my attention on through my adult life. But also with that came a sense of shame because some of the darker aspects of the 8 personality programming are quite difficult to face up to and deal with.
Iain: Well, that’s a great place to start. So what are some of the darker aspects of the number 8 programming?
Christine: I have a tendency - in the past I’ve been very driven, very driven with my career, very ambitious, very goal-orientated and I know, and can recognise, that that drive means that I can climb over people, walk through people in getting to my goal, that my focus is on my goal and what I want.
Iain: You find you’re quite ruthless in one way?
Christine: It’s not a conscious ruthlessness, it’s a conscious focus that means you don’t see anything else, you just see where you want to go and what you want and another aspect of that is I need to be in control, I need to be in control of my own destiny. In the past I’ve not taken kindly to taking orders from other people, particularly if I don’t have a sense of respect or trust for them. So, those are two of the aspects when I worked in business, that I was very aware of when I looked back, when I became aware of my programming when I looked back and realised part of the game that I’d been playing.
Iain: Because they do often … a subtitle for type 8 is often The Boss, isn’t it?
Christine: Yeah, and I have through my career ended up in those positions and deliberately aimed for the next promotion, the next whatever, in order to be in control.
Iain: OK. So, Phil, let’s move on to you. How did you first discover the Enneagram?
Phil: Well, when I met my wife about 20 years ago, it was love at first sight for me.
Iain: With your wife or the Enneagram?
Phil: With my wife and what I did was… I was very much in love, but we had lots of fights. We would just get into big fights. So for my commercial career I’d done Myers Briggs training on other personality type issues, so we went on a Myers Briggs course where the Enneagram was advertised. My wife and I, we didn’t get much out of Myers Briggs, but we went to the Enneagram course and it was such a sense of relief for me to see that my fighting as an 8 was just a personality structure that I was lost in, rather than being me. Because the shame that Christine was talking about was awful. When I got into a fight I’d be fighting to win. And if I did win I’d feel awful, I felt terrible. At work or in relationships it was just a dynamic I found myself in and I got a sense of relief when I heard the Enneagram’s way of looking at my personality structure.
Iain: So, how did you change then? Or did you change after you understood more about how you worked, or how your personality worked? How did that affect you on a practical level?
Phil: On a practical level I guess it’s affected me in lots of ways. Ultimately I guess I’ve changed my career because of that, because I’ve always been the boss, ever since my early 20’s I’ve been the boss of whatever operation I was involved in. And I would act out because I would have a very clear focus on what needed to be done, what was the right way to get something done and get success and achieve goals, often at the expense of the people in the team. Although I could lead and inspire the team I would often hurt them, it could be really quite brutal at times, getting the job done. And… I kept on colliding with this sense of shame. We’d done the job. I’d be getting applause for having led a team to a fantastic place and I’d be feeling awful because of what I’d done to make it happen. Or what I felt I’d done - a sense of shame - so in the end I’ve changed careers, I can’t trust myself to be a boss and now I’m getting a different kind of pain altogether. It’s like, I’m not the boss, I’ve actively chosen not to be the boss of where I am at the moment. I’m working as a therapist in a team.
Iain: Isn’t that a cop-out in a way? Because what you decided to do, and that’s fair enough, you changed your career. But can’t you be a boss and a good boss as a type 8?
[Phil: (sighs) Yeah.
Iain: Maybe Lynne can come in.
Lynne: I really resonate with what’s being said then. And I’ve taken a different path, I’m a Chief Executive in the Public Sector and I’m on my third Chief Executive role and what I’ve had to do is because… anger. The thing that you haven’t mentioned and that I’ve always been very much aware of, is very quick to get angry. I think I’m just speaking it as it is. Everyone else thinks they’ve been completely erased out by me because I’m like, “I was just telling you how it is.” But they’ve gone away feeling completely pole-axed by the energy and the aggression. It wasn’t conscious aggression, but it was received as such. I found the Enneagram 25 years ago and at our best 8s are servant leaders, we move to 2, so we’re able to serve, we understand that people are important and I’ve had to consciously work at that, yes, at getting the task done. Because we can see how to do it, you see. We’ve got this laser beam and we can see the big picture and you just look at a situation and it’s like, “Yeah, that’s where we go”, and you just assume everyone else can do that and that was the revelation for me of the Enneagram, understanding there are eight other ways of seeing the world that are not mine and actually - this was the really hard thing for me as an 8 - they’re equally valid, because we’re always right. In our shadow or our worst, we’re right and 9 times out of 10 we tend to get it right, so my work has been very much how do I get into the servant-leadership style which is saying I am here to serve a higher purpose which brings in the spiritual dimension of the Enneagram and putting all of that energy, that focus, that drive into higher order than just getting my own ego needs met. But I think rage, impatience, anger, wanting people to have done it… we’re so fast as well. We do things very quickly, very immediately, we come from the gut. We’re very intuitive. It’s not all bad, though we are the bad boys of the Enneagram… we’re also fun.
Phil: Well, I’ve taken a different approach to that change and my approach is the fact that - you talked about the 2 and the 8’s relationship with the 2 - I’ve very much denied…
Iain: Just [to] explain for people who don’t know, 2 is obviously another type of the Enneagram and that’s known as The Helper.
Phil: The soul child of the 8, where the 8 comes from - and I’ve very much come to realise that I’ve denied my 2 - and I guess what I didn’t want to do, by denying my 2 and what it meant was I didn’t want to take the risk of connecting emotionally, being vulnerable with another. I needed to be in charge of my relationship with the other, whoever I was with, and I didn’t want the risk of being a servant-helper. [That] was an awful thought to me [being] in that role. I’ve come to learn, in a different way by training as a therapist now for 10 years, working as a therapist, I’ve learnt to be in that role but with connection with my heart. I’ve come to terms with my fear of my vulnerability when I’m emotionally connected to somebody.
Iain: That’s a big step, isn’t it?
Christine: Yes. And I don’t think I could have done that if I hadn’t become a therapist either. I think I needed to get out of the business environment and - very similar to Phil - try a different way of being, you know, move into a different way of being. And the big thing that’s come for me is I want to be of service and the challenge now is well, what does that mean in everyday life? Practically how do you do that? I think that’s come from reconnecting with my heart and what’s important to me. I’ve found a great joy in being with children. I’ve never had children; I’ve always concentrated on my career. Independence and kids would kind of be a problem with balancing that, and I’ve found a great joy in spending time with children. I’ve got involved with a charity now that’s about helping children and that’s been absolutely wonderful, absolutely wonderful, and really helped with the heart connection and that sense of being able to be open to the feelings of joy, and some sadness, because some of these children we work with, have difficulties and having the courage to sit in that emotion and not push it away. One of the things I’ve found as an 8, I’ve found the most difficult was sitting with love, sitting with people that love me and a lot of the spiritual retreats and the work that I’ve done on myself over the years I have found it quite hard to be in a room with people that are basically loving me. It’s almost a physical burning…
Iain: It was hard for you to respond to that, you’re saying...
Christine: Just to be there, never mind respond. Just actually be in the room with it. It’s very intense. It’s got easier as I’ve progressed, but I’m very aware of it. Very aware of it.
Iain: So for people who are watching who don’t know much about the Enneagram, or anything about it and think they may be a type 8, what other clues would they look for in terms of beginning an investigation, if they’re interested?
Lynne: I think it’s that needing to be strong, which it’s as if it’s compulsive. You feel that you have to be strong, you hide that vulnerable inner child away. At some point in our lives we just felt we were on our own, we had to do it, we were the ones who were responsible and it was down to us and I think that’s a huge feeling. I also think the thing that really made me understand my 8ness is I can’t bear people telling lies around me. There’s something about truth and justice and it’s almost like you will put yourself right out there on a limb to make sure that the underdog is being protected. We’re very protective of the underdog and the other thing for me was the compulsive confronting. It’s almost like you can’t help yourself. Something happened…
Iain: Talk more about that.
Lynne: I’ve got an anecdote. On a train in south London. A gang of youths slashing the seats. Everyone else moves to the other end. Before I even think about it - and yes, I am a teacher I started out life as a teacher - I’m [shouting], “Put that knife away! Stop doing that!” It’s only when they turned round that I realised the danger that I’d put myself in, but I didn’t get to that until a lot later. In the moment it’s almost like you see something wrong, or some injustice and you just try and sort it out. Or you step in. And it’s almost a compulsive…
Iain: So what happened?
Lynne: Well actually nobody came. They stopped. Actually they stopped. Because I think there’s an authority in an 8 that people often respond to. They did get off the train behind me. They stopped what they were doing and they sat down. They looked a bit sheepish and then they followed me off the train, but they didn’t harm me in any way. But when I thought about it, when I got in, I was shaking from head to foot, but it didn’t stop me at the time. There’s nothing between the event and the doing. It’s like kerchunk (karate motion with hand)!
Iain: So it’s not a conscious thing of your thinking, “I’m being courageous”, it’s compulsive. You have to, because you feel that’s right.
Christine: That’s what I meant about the programming. It’s so automatic, you don’t even realise you’re doing it. And I’ve certainly never backed away from a fight. Particularly if I think about my work context, if one of my team is having a hard time, or is being badly treated by somebody, particularly if they’re outside the department, I would wade in. I would not hesitate to wade in to protect them. Loyalty is really important. I feel very loyal to the people that worked for me. I feel very loyal to my clients now, but I expect that loyalty in return so there’s a kind of double issue... Loyalty is very important along with the truth and the courage, but it’s not a conscious thing or it wasn’t a conscious thing at the time, but that’s another common value I think for 8s and injustice! I mean I cannot tell you the number of campaigns that I’ve got involved in, right from Greenham Common many years ago, right the way through. Now, the internet’s brilliant, because you can sit and sign a petition and write a letter to your MP almost automatically. Well I’m there doing it. You know, I’m venting my discomfort or anger at the injustice that I see but I’m aware. The difference is, now that I’m really conscious that I’m doing it and I’m choosing, there’s a space that comes up that develops and you think, “OK, do I really want to react to this? Or do I not? What do I choose?” And I think the other big part of recognising you’re an 8 is the amount of effort you put into something. I used to go through doors at work apparently and people would go, “We always know when you’re coming through a door”, because the door bangs open, because it was all about putting too much efforting into something and it’s something simple like opening a door. But it can also be something complicated like restructuring the department so I can work 18-hour days, or would work 18-hour days to get this done and put all this effort in and then come out the other side of the event and crash, because I was exhausted, I need time to recover. I used to choose jobs and projects that actually reinforced that pattern so if you feel you’re putting a lot of effort into something, or trying to achieve something, pushing the rock uphill, that’s another key aspect of an 8, I think, because you don’t stop, you just push harder.
Iain: I’m just looking at some notes that I made just to try and cover all the possible clues. I’ve written down can’t stand being used or manipulated. Is that something…?
All three: Oh yeah!
Lynne: Oh yeah. We can smell it a mile off. You can feel it. You know when someone’s got that energy even when others can’t. And sometimes that’s when we’re seen to be vengeful, or having personality conflicts. But we know it’s there. You can just sense it.
Iain: I also wrote down, making decisions is not difficult.
Christine: Oh no, and don’t bother me with the facts. I’ll do it on my gut, thank you very much! The number of times I’ve said that in my business career. Don’t confuse me with information, my gut’s telling me what to do.
Lynne: If anything we make them too quickly sometimes. That can be a weakness.
Iain: [reading from list] Self-reliance is important?
Lynne and Christine: Oh yes!
Iain: You mention the thing about working hard. Like excitement and stimulation.
Christine: Yeah, that’s the killer that one, that need for intensity. I’ll give you an anecdote. My cat went missing a couple of weeks ago and she was gone nearly 48 hours and it was double guilt because we’d been away. Came back and I was, “Oh, the cat’s gone, that’s it, she’s been run over, we’re never going to see her again!” Husband, who’s a 9 with a very positive outlook, “Oh she’s just got trapped somewhere”. But I was having this really emotional response to the fact that the cat was missing. And I put so much into this emotional response, and she walked through the door at 10 o’clock the following night. And he said, “See, she was just trapped somewhere.” But I’d invested so much emotion and intensity imagining this cat gone, and the feeling of loss around this cat and for me that was a sign of how important she was to me, that intensity.
Lynne: We haven’t mentioned the word ‘Lust’. That’s one of the things we… we lust almost for everything. My childhood memories are of always being told, “Enough is enough, now, Lynne”. “Is enough never enough for you?” “Enough’s enough.” …my mum’s a 9. So there’s something about enough is never enough for us. And we have such a lust for experience; I’m an 8 with a 7 wing as well, so that constant keeping options open, trying things out. And my energy is boundless. I’m never ill, very, very rarely. And it just seems to keep coming and coming and I’ve got the boredom threshold of about two minutes and just love being stimulated. The intensity can be exciting but, I’m married to a 9 and I spent the first few years sort of prodding…
Iain: You’re both married to 9s, that’s interesting.
Lynne: …and prodding, to make sure there was somebody home. “Come out there and meet me, meet me!” you know, because if you’re not doing that you don’t care. And there is a sort of pathetic side of that. It isn’t just about strength, there’s something in there that’s saying, “Come and meet me.” As an 8 woman, I also scare people because people used to be very scared of me… and I never got why. And there was something for me about needing people who can meet me. I love it when somebody stands up to me and I can actually let my guard down and not have to fight back, but most people are terrified of 8s because we tend to keep upping the ante but as we get more healthy we want to be met, or I want to be met by somebody who can hold their ground and just…
Christine: And speak the truth. I think that’s another…
Phil: When I [was] in the commercial world, I would consciously employ department heads who could push against me and say, “Phil, you‘re saying it wrong, you’re completely wrong.” And they’d fight me, they’d be happy telling me to my face, “[That’s] a load of rubbish!” Because what would happen, if I was working with the technicians, I would scare them. I would freeze them and I couldn’t communicate like that. So I would consciously recruit people to run departments who could fight me and could work with in a more heartfelt way, in a more subtle way.
Iain: But you see, isn’t there a difference between fighting you and standing up to you?
Phil: No, Not for me. I accept there is, but for me. No, if you’re pushing against me we’re having a fight, I enjoy that. A fight is not a negative statement for me.
Iain: You see that’s very interesting because… I said at the beginning of the programme that for me type 8s have always been very challenging, especially in the business arena. One of the things that I’ve done in my life, since I’ve discovered the Enneagram, [with] people that I find hard to get on with, I do a bit of research and I work out what I think their Enneagram type is. In a way it doesn’t matter if I always get it right or not. I get enough clues somehow and I feel I understand them more and I’ve found with type 8 that the best way for me to deal with them, is I have to prepare myself somehow, because for me just to go straight in and have a fight is not natural. So it’s like, “I’m not going in to have a fight, but I’m going in prepared to be strong and hold my ground”. That’s how I do it. And I think that’s probably something that a lot of people have to do with type 8s because it doesn’t come naturally. You’re in their face for them to come back and be in your face. It’s something you build up to or you learn, [it’s] something you acquire.
Phil: My preparation as an 8 is in the service of a completely different dynamic. My preparation as an 8 is because I know people look to me as a leader. People will follow what I say. I’ve got to be really careful what I say. I don’t want people… I don’t want a quick decision if it’s not properly informed, so I would go to - in Enneagram speak - I’d go to my 5. I would do an awful lot of research to avoid the shame I felt of making a mistake. I didn’t want to lead people in the wrong direction. So I would do an awful lot of work to protect myself - that’s what my preparation would be - to protect myself from the shame of taking people in the wrong direction, because they’d follow me. People I worked with would tend to follow me wherever I went. And that’s a big responsibility.
Iain: As I listen to the three of you, the feeling that I’m getting is that you haven’t necessarily fundamentally changed yourselves, but you’ve refined yourselves and you’ve used your basic energy personality, whatever we’d call it, in a more intelligent way. Would you agree with that?
Lynne: I think that’s so because when I first discovered I was an 8, I didn’t want to be an 8. And I rejected it, but now I’m glad I’m an 8. It’s as if I can celebrate the good things of me and I’ve completely toned down the other aspects. So, yes, I think that trying to be more intelligent, having choice, having space, being conscious about the impact. I’ve used the Enneagram in three organisations in which I’ve been the Chief Executive and it’s very similar to what Phil was saying. It was like, “Well, if you want to share in this, you’ll find out about me because I really don’t want to be these negative things and I can find out about you”, and what I discovered is people did make stands and they did say to me, “We can prepare for you now, Lynne. We get that it’s not malicious, we get that it’s not intentional.” It’s exactly what you said [Phil]. “We can prepare because we understand the fabric of the 8 and how we can come and make a stand with you”. And I saw teams change, my relationships with the senior team improved drastically because we were all consciously using the 8 and coming to very high performance as a result of that.
Iain: Was this toning down hard for you?
Lynne: There’s a part of it that was very difficult because you can get high on some of this. The intensity, the relief of a good fight, you know...
Iain: So a good fight is something that brings you relief?
Lynne: Its aliveness… it’s about aliveness, and it gets the tension out of your system.
Phil: It’s a physical feeling. I’m 64, I’m an 8, I’m not playing golf, I’m playing squash. Golf as a game is far too low intensity for me. I don’t get anything back from golf. That intensity is there, and after a game of squash - aaah (sighs) - I’m empty.
Iain: So just to understand you more, when you appear to be having a fight with somebody - and I’m not saying you do this now, the three of you - but when you did, it was like almost a similar feeling after you’ve had a game of squash or whatever sports you guys do – that relief and that relaxation you can have after, having a good run or something.
Christine: It’s a discharge of energy and what I found as well is, I had no problem finding the words to wound. Even my father when he was alive used to say to me - and he was an 8 - “Your command of language when the red mist is down! And the way you can speak and put sentences together to wound!” I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it. It would just come. I mean – bang! - I never do it again but I know that capacity, that potential is there and what for me has worked is self-reflection, a lot of 5 now I go into - the point of disintegration for 8s is if you get really stressed - is you can withdraw to strategise and work out what’s going on, and work out a strategy for how you’re going to come back into the game. For me a lot of self-reflection, reading, meditation has helped me tremendously to create that space and I don’t consider it to be fights any more. I’m looking for a win-win-win. A win for me, a win for the other person and a win for the universe and that was the big shift for me, to change that perspective, that’s how I recognise I could let go of that need to discharge that energy and always win and always be on top. For me the service piece is about leading people from behind. That’s why I’m a therapist and a coach. It’s about helping others to become self-leaders. That’s how I serve and if they can take something from me and my experiences of training and being a leader in previous jobs, then that’s how I discharge that now, that’s how I discharge that energy and it’s just a much healthier, balanced and integrated place to be, I have to say, but I do know it’s there. I do know that if at any point I’m not having a particularly good day, and somebody crosses me, I know I have the potential to lash out.
Iain: I know that Sandra Maitri, in one of her books I think I showed earlier, talks about the animal soul being very basic in a type 8 and you have this animal side. It’s like when you were saying about in the [underground] train - the guy with the knife - and you go out there and you pounce without thinking. And you’re saying that never really goes, you just understand it more, it’s more in balance.
Christine: And you have choice. If you really work with the Enneagram and other things - particularly the Enneagram - you create freedom for yourself to choose, to respond in a different way and for me that was the blessing... that was the blessing.
Phil: For me one of the gifts of the 8 is this huge availability of energy, strength and durability and the way I see that is, I used to direct that outwards into my defences into the world of structure. What I’ve learned is, if I can direct that inwards and nourish my heart - which I used to deny - I’m more whole, I’m safer, I don’t act out in the same way at all. I can still feel a rush sometimes when I see something going wrong. I feel still it’s my responsibility whatever’s going wrong. I have a responsibility to do something about that. I still feel the pull of that and it’s learning that it’s not all my business - I can’t do everything I’m pulled to do - is something I have to accept. That’s why I liked and I was really drawn to, ‘Facets of Unity’ that talks about that struggle for an 8. I do get a real sense of what Almaas talks about there and I do feel I’m connected … when I’m connected, I’m connected to everything.
Christine: To the universe.
Phil: To the universe. I understand that.
Iain: How does that feel, Phil? You’ve got two dynamics going on. You haven’t lost your animal soul contact, if you like, and yet you have this feeling that you’re widely connected. How does that balance feel in you?
Phil: It just brings me joy now. It doesn’t bring the red mist any more. It just brings… it nourishes me. That rewiring of the programme slightly to feed the energy into my heart before I engage my head and do something… brings joy.
Lynne: It’s a kind of equanimity. I think the word equanimity comes up for me. One of the things that really worked for me is training as a spiritual healer and being able to learn how to manage energy, so that all this energy that was coming through me, realising I could channel it, I didn’t have to do something with it; also presencing, just literally the feeling my legs, my feet, and sensing into the body. There’s a calmness and an equanimity and a sense of expansiveness that absorbs the energy in a way that the intensity isn’t coming out through the personality into doing. But it’s taken me years and years to know how to be. I really was a human doing.
Iain: And what were some of the key steps that helped you on that journey?
Lynne: Meditation was hard for me, head meditation. I was a Therevadan Buddhist for 11 years and I never really got it. I had a living daylight experience where that energy was everywhere.
Iain: What’s a living daylight experience?
Lynne: When I just got filled with light, one-ness and unity, could just feel I was part of the whole universe. I trained as a spiritual healer with the Federation of Spiritual Healers and just found that helped me to ground myself in whole new ways. So energetic work, and body work which I would avoid really, but kundalini work, [body work] has the most powerful impacts on me, but I will avoid it like anything. I have to work really hard to be in my body.
Phil: To give control over to someone, to give your body physically over to someone to control - as I would characterise it as an 8 - getting somebody to do bodywork on me physically, is a big stretch. I have to go into myself there and really consciously reconnect to allow myself not to tense.
Christine: It’s interesting because we are body types but the one thing that I think the three of us have got in common is, “I don’t want to do this”. I’ve just re-started yoga after many years because I just couldn’t cope with it and I recognise why and understood why, and I think it’s a sign of giving myself a little pat on the back that I’ve actually managed to sustain going to yoga. I think the other thing I’ve learned is, at the core our biggest fear is fear of being controlled and I recognised that that’s a double-bind. My fear of being controlled has controlled me all my life. And the minute I realised that, it started to fall away and dissipate and that sense of connection and one-ness started to become much stronger and I laughed, I actually laughed when I was on a retreat and this came out. I actually started giggling because it really is very silly if you think about it, to get caught up in that kind of delusion or illusion. But I found that very helpful.
Phil: And the whole issue of vulnerability was a big issue. It really was a smack in the face when I realised that for me to be defending all the time, making things right, sorting out the things that were from the outside that were causing wrongness, meant that I had to perceive myself as a victim. And that for me was a big part of the unravelling of my connections of that, because “I’m not a victim.” But to be acting like I’m defending against the damage you can do me, means I have to believe that I’m a victim. And that for me was a huge letting go of, “I know I’m not a victim”. Absolutely.
Christine: It’s letting go of the story… the story of who you are.
Iain: When you say letting go of the story, talk more about that.
Christine: Well, it’s the victim thing, isn’t it? In my case I could talk about a very happy childhood in lots of ways, but then aspects of feeling as the eldest that I was responsible and had to get out there and prove myself. Somehow there’s this kind of story you attach to why you are who are and it’s a pile of crap, to use a very 8 phrase, and if you can learn to let go of that and accept letting go of that and step into that space where it’s unknown; if you’re not this, then who are you? And stepping into that space and being courageous enough and being vulnerable enough to explore, “Who are you?” And the answer is presence. And once you can do that, whatever type in the Enneagram you are, it just brings such freedom and joy and love and for me deep stillness. It’s characterised for me by a completely deep stillness. It’s the complete opposite of what you were doing if you were operating from the 8 personality type. The last thing you are is still!
Lynne: I think that’s right. And we tend to be big body types and clearly the three of us are, because we’re carrying the weight of the world. I think part of the story I really identify with - and I’m the eldest - is being so responsible, being so strong. It’s down to us and I know I pad myself out in order to be able to carry that because I feel stronger and letting go of that and being vulnerable, beginning to realise that actually you’re not right all the time. You can’t control it all; you can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. I t’s just silly. But we really believe that.
Iain: You see some people, Lynne, would say that being vulnerable when you’re a CEO of a big company, is a pretty difficult thing to do.
Lynne: And it is.
Iain: So how do you find that balance?
Lynne: I had to go into therapy. I had the experience of, “My usual way’s not working” and feeling very vulnerable and I hid it, so I went into therapy. And then what I realised is, as long as I’m authentic… for me it was the big issue about vulnerability and authenticity and realising that the more… if I’d made a mistake, instead of blustering my way through it, I actually went out to the staff and said, “You know, I think I got that wrong – how can we do that?” Expecting that they would react against me, I got the opposite effect. I mean the leadership theory now is right up into authentic leadership and self-awareness, but in those days - I’m talking 20 years ago - it wasn’t. But I gradually got an experience that as I showed those parts of myself that were more uncertain, less sure, I really got that I didn’t have to know everything all the time that people responded very well. Now, if I’d been incompetent, or [if] I was saying I got it wrong all the time, I think it would have been a different reaction. But this was really showing I was authentically saying, “I don’t know how to do this, or how can we do that?” I might have gone into my office afterwards and cried my eyes out, or shaken thinking, “I can’t believe I just did that. I can’t believe I just did that!” But it was just staying with it.
Iain: So people respond in a positive way to your honesty?
Lynne: To the sense that this is honest, this is real. Because with an 8, what you see, is what you get. But I don’t underestimate the challenges because there are pressures on you from your board, from targets around performance, but my sense is if you’re on this journey of self-awareness and wanting to get out of the traps of the 8ness, or any type then staying with this honesty and truth and “We’re in this together” instead of “I’m here on my own.”
Iain: Was there a point for you, like [with] both the other two guys they changed their careers, was there a point with you, because you talked about - you went to a spiritual healer, you trained in therapy - was there a point where you thought, “Well maybe this isn’t my vocation to be a big boss”, if you like?
Lynne: It’s really interesting; I have spent my life saying I’m going to leave! So I’m an ordained inter-faith minister, I constantly do my spiritual work by training and then when I get to the end of that training I realise I want to stay where I am. I even wanted to be a nun at one time (laughs) - well, they wouldn’t have me anyway - and the novice mistress said, “Not your vocation.” I’m in further education; I’ve been a principal of a college, so my true vocation professionally is serving students for second chance and further education. So there’s a bit of duality with me; I’m always going to leave, but actually business and leadership is as much my spiritual path I think, as going out into a different arena. Having said that, I’ve just moved to Glastonbury! (all laugh)
Iain: OK. So we have about 10 minutes left. I’d like to use this as effectively as we can and I’m particularly interested in - we’ve done a lot on this already - the clues that people watching can pick up of how to move forward in terms of how they maybe identify themselves as a type 8 and see that they’re stuck in their patterns, the practical things that they can do in their own way. Everyone has their own path and their own way of moving forward [to being] more the potential of the type 8.
Christine: The books you’ve talked about, there’s a lot of stuff out there about the Enneagram. There’s all your programmes in terms of trying to bring it to life and I think the other thing for an 8 that’s a real growth point, is asking for help. 8s don’t ask for help and that’s been one of the biggest reliefs for me, so if you are watching and you’re an 8, that’s going to be a real challenge, asking for help, seeking someone out that you can talk to. Going into therapy, which I did as well some years ago, that was a huge thing to do because it meant asking for help, paying for help, and admitting that there was something not quite right. Something wasn’t working well. So I think that’s one I would suggest. Find people that you do trust, whose wisdom you trust, and talk to them, take time out to think about what it is you want, take some quiet time, there’s plenty of retreats and things that people could do as a starting point and just be still for a bit and see what comes up. It’s very scary as an 8, but I think that’s a key part of it.
Iain: Certainly one of the things for me when I discovered my Enneagram type was very much understanding other people so I was intrigued, once I discovered what I was, I wanted to read about everybody else and work out how they worked as human beings and what their difficulties were and as I said earlier, how I could relate better with them. I think that’s probably for you guys as well, quite an important step to really understand how other people function.
Christine: I think there’s a note of caution with that, that you don’t nominalise somebody and say, “Oh, you’re a 4.” “You’re a 6 and you’re a 3” [as if] they become the number. We are not the numbers, but certainly in terms of my training as a therapist it’s helped me understand other people’s maps of the world when they walk through the door, what might their key drivers be, what the focus might be and it’s given me a huge amount of compassion, which I think is another thing, getting in touch with that heart side. That was quite painful when that arose, when that started to bloom, that sense of pain that you felt for other people’s pain, again that was something I had to get used to sitting with and not pushing away, particularly as I was training to be a therapist! So I think that’s one of the key aspects that comes with it, coming with understanding and awareness of other people for me has also brought out compassion.
Lynne: I think actually listening to music that makes you cry. Finding things that actually you can feel in your heart because one of our shadow sides is, we can perhaps cut off too quickly and easily, so I think heartfelt practices. They don’t have to be complicated, just things that make you cry, things that make you feel connected to others, things that make you realise - because people are not objects - that they have their own way of being; there is something in us that needs to respond to where they are and how they are. I think that’s a really important element.
Phil: The Sufi say often, “…this ocean of tears” and often I found that in the early years when I started to meditate, for me to reconnect with my body I would go through a layer of tears before I would connect at every meditation and it was a lot of sadness to process, for the heart to process that and I guess the tip that was most useful for me in the early days was that when I would act out, when I would respond and start an argument, start a fight, I learned what I call my skiing technique. I’m afraid of heights so I learnt to ski and going down a black slope, the best way to ski is to put your weight down the steepest part of the slope and then your skis work and you’re safe. But every instinct of my body was saying, “Cling back on to the snow!” Then of course your skis get light and you’re all over the place. So this skiing technique is when every part of me says, “OK, I’m going to fight now!” that’s a call for a fight, and every time I felt that, I came to recognise it and I would do the opposite. I would just contact my heart and that’s how I bought myself the time. Not that I dishonoured that red energy in me, but I honoured a different part of myself and gave it time to join up so I wouldn’t get lost again in a fight. And that was really scary, scary, scary, scary!
Iain: I did a bit of research from the Enneagram books and I wrote down some well-know people who are type 8s. It’s always interesting for people. Funnily enough, quite a few of them are dead now. Golda Meier, John Wayne, Martin Luther King – very different from John Wayne. Nelson Mandela, Charles de Gaulle, Bette Midler and the one that made me really laugh was Sarah Ferguson. I’m not saying it’s definitely true, that’s in one of the books. It’s to give people a feel for some personalities who are type 8.
Lynne: The very first Enneagram workshop I went on they went round and they were saying,” Oh, Mother Teresa”, “Kennedy”, then they came to the 8 and they went,” Saddam Hussein” (laughter). There was often, in the early days, that the 8 was sort of the really negative figure and I think bringing out that there are very positive 8s whose leadership can be quite amazing, is great!
Christine: In my discussions on the Enneagram in various groups - I think it might be an English trait - the English have a tendency to focus on what’s wrong and what needs fixing and I think in the interests of balance there are gifts that the 8s bring, as there are gifts that every ennea-type brings, and I think anyone watching this, thinking about or looking to diagnose themselves from the negatives, take yourself a break and also look at some of the positive things you bring to the world because if not, you can end up in a very dark and gloomy place if you don’t, if you’re just beginning to understand this work and want to explore it more. There are gifts.
Lynne: I think that’s right and the most liberating thing for me in the very early days of discovering the Enneagram is that the 8 was no better or no worse than any other type which was such a relief to me because I think we do harbour that we are the worst type, we really are bad on some level, so I think that notion that we’re no better, but we’re certainly no worse, was a complete liberation for me.
Iain: One thing I wrote down that I’ve just remembered, that I picked up from one of the books was that type 8s have the power to inspire others to be heroic, which kind of ties in with what you’re saying. They have this leadership quality and others will follow and be inspired… if you’re in your courage, your innocence and your vulnerability - others will follow.
Christine: That’s my deepest prayer for my clients, when working with them, that they feel inspired to face the difficulties that they’re dealing with and the courage to change.
Iain: OK. We’re going to have to finish there. But I want to first thank you very much for coming along and sharing yourselves. I think it’s been a very helpful programme and a very interesting programme as well. So I’m going to do just a little plug again for these books which we all looked at and decided it’s probably good to mention. The Enneagram Made Easy again, which is a very basic one, but if you know nothing about the Enneagram it’s a good starting point. It has some cartoons there also to help you identify your type. Then going into more detail is The Wisdom of the Enneagram, which isn’t too complicated but also starts on the potential of the Enneagram types as well. Obviously these books cover all the nine types. And then there’s Sandra Maitri, one of her books The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram looks in more detail at the spiritual side and the potential. And probably the hardest read, but if you’re ready to stick with it, describes best the potential of the Enneagram is Facets of Unity by A H Almaas. Thanks again to my guests, and thank you for watching conscious.tv and this Enneagram series. We’ve done most of the types now so if you feel you’re not a type 8 and you want to know more about the other types then you need to look at the conscious.tv website and find the other programmes.
I hope we see you again soon on conscious.tv. Goodbye.
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