Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

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Modernizing the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a practical tool created from combining ancient wisdom teachings and contemporary psychology. Part of its appeal is the way it has stood the test of time. From its roots in the philosophies of the Desert Fathers and the Kabbalah, as well as its integration of newer psychological insights, modern students of the Enneagram have an eminently applicable system for understanding themselves and others, communicating, resolving conflicts, and working on themselves. Human nature has remained consistent over time, so it’s no surprise that a system rooted in long-standing wisdom traditions has a lot to offer us today.

The Enneagram of personality, as it is currently taught, is also old enough to have acquired its own history and tradition. Most teachers and students still consult classic Enneagram resources from a few decades ago, and there’s good reason for that. There’s nothing like the early works of Riso and Hudson, Palmer, Naranjo, and other Enneagram pioneers to give a sense of the system’s depth and intricacies. There are situations, however, where a modern update is called for in teaching and learning the Enneagram. The economy and job market have changed since the first Enneagram books were written. In our globalized world, we use forms of communication on a daily basis that would amaze even yesterday’s science fiction writers. It’s useful to have ways of teaching the Enneagram that reflect these new realities.

In our book The Modern Enneagram, we gave a lot of thought to bridging the gap between the Enneagram’s timeless insights and the interconnected world of today. Here are some principles we came up with for modernizing Enneagram work for contemporary audiences, while maintaining the essence of its teachings.

Adapt to a changing attention span.
People today are busy, with the constant buzz of smartphone alerts adding on to schedules full of work and family commitments. The ease of rapid communication means that we are expected to pay attention to more input, more quickly, for shorter amounts of time. A 2015 research study shows that the human attention span has fallen to about eight seconds. When introducing the Enneagram in a modern context, it’s helpful to offer a concise introduction that gets the point across and piques your audience’s interest. From there, you can ease students into more in-depth learning, but first it’s helpful to communicate why the Enneagram is worth their time.   

Use contemporary examples and case studies.
A lot of our favorite Enneagram books reference celebrities and pop culture from decades ago. If you’re introducing the Enneagram to newcomers, they may not be familiar with these examples, or they might find them hilariously dated. It’s helpful to find type examples from modern pop culture, which audiences can immediately relate to and younger students will recognize. Workplace and social realities have also changed since many Enneagram references came out. If you’re working with a group, address these changes and make a point of incorporating recent case studies to support the ideas you’re conveying. In our book, we included references to social media, dating apps, and modern workplace dynamics to keep the content relevant to readers’ lives.        

Take advantage of new ways of learning.
There are more ways of teaching and learning the Enneagram now than ever before. Some of the most popular Enneagram courses are now offered online, and you don’t have to travel to a workshop, or live in an area where one is convenient, to learn about the nine types in depth. There are Enneagram blogs, apps, and podcasts. While new ways of learning the Enneagram are proliferating, there’s still a lot of room for expansion. Consider ways you could reach a broader audience through the wide array of platforms available, and seek out people who want to learn what you have to teach. Don’t be afraid to incorporate new ways of learning into your in-person Enneagram work, too.        

The Enneagram has been around for a while now, and it continues to grow in popularity each year. With an eye to modern realities, it will continue to be a relevant and useful way of learning about ourselves and the people we interact with every day.


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Video Review: Tapping for Your Type

IMG_2442We have something special to share with you this month. Psychotherapist and leadership coach Rachel Alexandria has released a series of videos that introduce a powerful process to heal our Enneagram types’ wounds. Introducing Tapping for Your Type!

Tapping, or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), is a kind of acupressure that uses points on the body to access your energy and ability to self-heal. By using your fingers to tap on specific spots such as the top of your head or side of your hand, you stimulate your body to shift stuck energy and clear emotional blocks. Tapping can be used to address many kinds of challenges, from anxiety to chronic pain to trauma. This video series is the first program to pair it with work on, in Alexandria’s words, our Enneagram “type challenges, limiting beliefs, and stuck patterns.”

There’s a video series geared toward each type, with a free demonstration video focusing on core issues (accessible on her site and via YouTube) and a subsequent set of videos focusing on the type’s common challenges with work, social issues, relationships, wellness, and spirituality and life path. Alexandria also encourages viewers to watch videos for their connecting points and wing, giving them a wide array of tools to address the stuck patterns they run into from day to day. If you’re butting heads with your boss, the work video would be a good one to come back to; if you’re grappling with questions of meaning and purpose, the spirituality and life path video will likely offer some gems of guidance.  

We’re both new to tapping, and Rachel Alexandria’s straightforward introduction makes it easy to dive in. Her videos show you a number of pressure points to tap and demonstrate the process. Thanks to their clear visuals and demonstration, any new practitioner can quickly tap along. The process works through a set of statements, repeated aloud and anchored in the body through tapping on a particular acupressure point. Each one follows an acknowledgment of a particular, type-characteristic challenge, such as “Even though I feel like I have to rebel against authority,” with words of self-acceptance or release, such as “I deeply and completely accept myself.” The result is more affecting and grounded than using affirmations, and the videos encourage listeners to look at their pain directly and delve into healing head on.  

Alexandria’s innovative approach has both breadth and depth, touching on a spectrum of challenges that each Enneagram type may encounter and offering validation and insights that can often be emotional. We highly recommend it for anyone who looking for a somatic tool to work on wearing their personality patterns more lightly and easing the chatter of the inner critic. You can check out the whole series here.


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Understanding the Levels of Development

levels of developmentWe all have times when we’re at our best – attentive, resilient, and able to handle whatever comes our way. We also have times when every little thing bugs us, and we find ourselves caught up in conflict at the drop of a hat.

Most Enneagram teachers, including us, believe that we each have a personality type that is probably set from an early age. Our Enneagram type gives us a core motivation and a way we desire to exist in the world. Sometimes, those of us who share an Enneagram type will also share similar ways of behaving in our environments. However, we also see a great deal of variation in how people with the same type behave, and in how we ourselves behave at different points in our life.

One of our Enneagram teachers, Don Riso (joined later by Russ Hudson), described much of this variation through the Levels of Development. Riso identified that each of the Enneagram types has nine different Levels of Health at which they can exist. All of us have days where we’re “on our game,” with an awareness and ability to respond to circumstances in a way that’s empowering. On the other hand, sometimes we have days that are more difficult, and say or do things we later regret. These Levels represent a range of attitudes and behaviors that exist in all of us, over the course of years or even in the same day! Understanding the Levels of Development helps us stay aware of how we’re doing, and catch ourselves when we dip lower than we’d like to.

Below is a brief summary of how The Enneagram Institute summarizes Healthy, Average, and Unhealthy Levels:

The Healthy Levels (Levels One, Two, and Three) – At the Healthy Levels of Development, we’re able to approach situations with awareness and compassion for ourselves and others. We have the ability to make decisions that are effective and beneficial. We embody our Enneagram type’s most positive qualities. When operating healthfully, we find ourselves acting and behaving in ways that contribute positively to our own lives and our communities around us. Most of us hope to attain the strong awareness and psychological health of Levels One-Three, and through our personal growth work and practices we can establish a baseline of functioning at these Levels.

The Average Levels (Levels Four, Five, and Six) – Average Levels of Development tend to encompass much of our everyday functioning. At these Levels, we’re often feeling good and managing our lives, but we don’t have the same degree of awareness as we do in the Healthy Levels. Riso and Hudson describe us as starting to operate on autopilot at these Levels, and our decisions are based on what we feel like we need to get our type’s motivations met. When we face challenges at Average Levels, we make decisions less mindfully, often saying and doing things to try to gain control over situations. These decisions may not be the best in the long term, and can cause strain on our relationships. The good news is, at Average Levels we still maintain some level of self-awareness, and respond to personal growth practices that help us regain healthy psychological functioning.

The Unhealthy Levels (Levels Seven, Eight, and Nine) – When we function at Unhealthy Levels, we lack self-awareness and make decisions completely on autopilot. At this point, our decisions have the potential to be destructive to ourselves and others. The good news is, most of us don’t operate here long-term. When someone stays in the Unhealthy Levels, it’s usually a reaction to severe crisis or trauma. At these Levels, we benefit from receiving support from a therapist or other trained professional.

It’s possible for all of us to learn to operate in a place that is psychologically healthy and aware! Through a combination of developing regular practices that challenge and inspire us, and finding a team of supporters in our goals, we can develop the attentiveness, functionality, and flexibility that characterize a shift up the Levels.

To learn more about how the Levels of Development work in all nine types, we recommend reading Personality Types, by Don Riso with Russ Hudson, or attending our Journey of Growth (Levels) Enneagram Institute Authorized Workshop.


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Book Review: The Awakened Company

Awakened Company cover
Our colleague Catherine Bell (no relation to Melanie Bell) recently released a book that we’re excited about. Written in collaboration with Enneagram expert Russ Hudson and Christopher Papadopoulos, The Awakened Company is a passionate and pragmatic call for a new way of doing business. While traditional business models focus primarily on profit and efficiency, Bell calls for a big-picture approach that also takes sustainability, community, and mindfulness into account.

The Awakened Company comes at a time, post-financial crash, when “the historic notions of doing business are rapidly unraveling on nearly all levels” (p. 4). Bell describes the problems of meaningless work, a growth-based (and thus ultimately unsustainable) financial model, and the “business is business” philosophy, which “assumes that the purpose of business is to make money, and whatever it takes to do so is okay” (p. 1). She recalls the history of early businesses, rooted in family, community, and service, and calls for a way of doing business that returns to these roots and innovates beyond them. The result is the “awakened” company of the book’s title, which is attentive to global context.

Bell argues that the smallest business decisions have consequences, and that companies benefit from making sure that these decisions – from the sourcing of products to the creation of company culture – are made ethically and with deliberation. “Business is far from just ‘business’,” she concludes; “It’s deeply interwoven with the whole of life” (p. 57). In order to thrive in the modern world, corporations need to adopt a deep-rooted sense of civic responsibility and connectedness.

Much of the book discusses the importance of building greater awareness in the business sphere. Bell introduces the qualities of “presence,” a state of being grounded, attentive, and open, and their positive effects on the workplace. Cultivating presence in leaders and teams fosters adaptability, harmony, and work relationships that feel meaningful. The book argues that the functioning of any company is improved when a leader or small team cultivates a climate of mindful awareness that spreads throughout the organization. Bell also makes a convincing case for the importance of growing aspects of company culture that are often overlooked, such as reflection and aesthetics (and the Enneagram is in there, subtly).

The Awakened Company takes a macro approach, and covers a lot of ground. The book is peppered with brief case examples, allowing readers to better understand how the book’s organizational principles are implemented on the ground. Hopefully a future publication will cover such examples in more detail. The book often uses spiritual language, but The Awakened Company’s suggestions are well researched and eminently practical. This book is ideal for leaders seeking a thorough and well-thought-out guide to principles of sustainable company-building. Happily, the approaches laid out by The Awakened Company are increasingly common in today’s business landscape. With Bell’s book reaching a broader audience, their reach may continue to grow.


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Bringing the Enneagram to Teens

Having learned the Enneagram at a young age, bringing the Enneagram to more young people remains a topic close to our hearts. For teenagers, the Enneagram opens a door to improving relationships with parents and friends, and feeling seen for who you are–a person with thoughts, feelings, and needs independent from those around you. It gives a language to describe your viewpoint to the people who matter to you, and helps in making decisions about the direction you want your life to take.

When we were teenagers discovering the Enneagram, wonderful books existed about this system–Melanie has fond memories of holing up in the college library, browsing the “Enneagram corner”–but none of them focused on people our age. The vast majority of our peers were not familiar with the Enneagram, leaving us largely to teach it to them.

Elizabeth Wagele’s latest book, The Enneagram for Teens, has the potential to change this. Wagele previously wrote an Enneagram book aimed at children, but as far as we know, this is the first book exclusively oriented to a teenaged audience. In this fun and clearly-written read, Wagele writes in an engaging manner that teens are sure to enjoy. Wagele’s cartoons, both illustrative of the types and entertaining, grace most of the pages of her book. Wagele dedicates a chapter to each of the nine types, and a final chapter depicts each type’s leadership style. Wagele describes each type in a way that is easy to grasp, with examples most relatable to high school and college-aged readers.

Wagele excels at creating material that connects with the target audience. Each type chapter offers a quiz made of statements that come directly from teenagers–a refreshingly clear and direct approach. (You might be a Six if you “want to be safe and to be told the truth.”) Wagele also offers practical goals for self-development tailored to teens of each type.

The heart and soul of Wagele’s book comes from the primary source material. In each chapter, she interviews several people from each Enneagram type, both teens and young adults looking back on their experience. The subjects Wagele interviews provide a diverse cross-section of perspectives. Some, such as a type One rebel, do a welcome job of defying personality stereotypes, while others give a well-rounded sense of each Enneagram type’s strengths and challenges. Especially affecting is one Three exemplar’s memory of telling the principal her team had lost a tournament as she received her diploma–“That’s all I ever think about when I think about high school graduation.” It should be easy for readers to hear their own experiences mirrored in the young voices in the book.

We believe The Enneagram for Teens is a wonderful resource for teenagers and college students first learning about the Enneagram, as well as parents hoping to get into the shoes of their teens. Our own experiences of encountering the Enneagram young were pivotal: for example, Kacie finally understood her parents’ perspectives and why they were different from her own, and Melanie learned strategies to manage her emotions. Wagele’s book has great potential to more widely engage young people in learning the Enneagram. We hope this book will help young Enneagram enthusiasts connect with each other!


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Crafting Successful Communication

ducks try againThe Enneagram has many applications, and communication is one of its more universal ones. Communication is all around us. We chat and plan with our colleagues, engage with our loved ones, catch up with our friends. We e-mail, text, and talk on the phone. We receive messages from our environment every day, from advertisements to street signs. Given how steeped we are in communication as a species, why is it still so difficult to communicate successfully?

The answer is that communication is complex. It involves a sender, whose message is shaped by their own experience and style, and a recipient, who brings interpretive filters that may or may not match the sender’s. Sometimes there are multiple senders, recipients, or messages. Communication norms vary from culture to culture–Richard D. Lewis’s summaries of business communication in different countries offer useful insight into these variations. Just as importantly, communication style is deeply influenced by personality.

The Enneagram describes three communication styles present in most groups. All bring distinctive strengths and challenges. By understanding your own communication style and the styles of people around you, you can engage more effectively on others’ terms and minimize misunderstanding.

Soloists (types Four, Five, and Nine) have a rich internal dialogue. They work best on their own and respond to stress by moving away from engagement into their inner sanctum. Soloists are quieter and may take longer to speak and engage than the other communication styles, but they think through their ideas carefully and bring long-term, strategic thinking to the table, along with innovative ideas. Soloists benefit from being offered time to think before responding, and being asked questions that draw out their ideas.

Initiators (types Three, Seven, and Eight) are action-oriented and driven by challenge. Interested in being in the center of things, they are quick to speak up and engage. Under stress, they default to taking up space and pushing for action. They tend to be direct and energetic in their communication, and may present ideas as a way of brainstorming–“thinking aloud.” They benefit from debate and forthrightness.

Cooperators (types One, Two, and Six) want to work for a common purpose. Natural collaborators, they are more willing than the other styles to play a supportive role and draw out others’ participation, rather than coming up with ideas or starting things. When stressed, their superego becomes vocal both internally and externally, demanding adherence to a personal set of principles and responsibilities. Cooperators benefit from acknowledgment and appreciation.

Communication styles are an especially practical part of our teaching that can easily be applied to interpersonal situations. For those who have difficulty reading others, learning communication styles offers a way to understand different people’s mindsets and tailor communication accordingly. We’ve seen Enneagram knowledge help people on the autism spectrum learn how to interact better with others–one success story here–and we’re honored to be presenting on communication styles to the autism spectrum community at the AASCEND conference. We’re also excited to offer a communication styles workshop through General Assembly San Francisco, where we’ll bring the styles to life through a business simulation.