Saturday, December 3, 2016

Coming Home: Enneagram Nines and Ones in Relationship

Style Nine

Unawakened Enneagram Nines can be easy to get along with because they're likely to go along with most anything (whatever others are interested in); over time this can wear thin, as others in relationship with Nines find themselves doing most of the planning. Also, it may be particularly annoying to co-workers and friends that Nines find it easier to focus on what they don't want. For example, going along with someone's suggestion, then complaining about the activity once they're in it.

Style Nines may back off from conflict and deal with their anger indirectly. They'll try to maintain their image as "nice" people, by withdrawing (either physically or mentally) from potential confrontation or by minimizing the importance of an apparent problem. Their partners want to be met half-way, to talk openly about their difficulties, instead of meeting with obstinacy or passive-aggression.

There can be benefits in their withdrawing if they use the space to get in touch with their true feelings and figure out what they do want, so they can come back to their partner with more clarity. When withdrawing is a habitual avoidance, however, they're likely to be unable or unwilling to come face to face with their own contribution to problems in the relationship. At this extreme, their need to feel comfortable (and/or to blame their co-worker or partner) keeps them from sharing responsibility for creating an authentic connection. 

Style One 

Though it's not always apparent, style Ones are "compliant;" moving toward people, seeking affection and approval in their attempts to "do good" or "be good." They'll automatically try to live up to others' expectations, for themselves as parents and spouses or as model co-workers, even to the extent of losing sight of their own feelings and needs.

Unfortunately, their self-esteem may rise and fall with others' approval or disapproval. Thus, rejection or even criticism is very difficult for them. Paradoxically, their own internal critic is often projected outward, when they feel it's justified (i.e., their partner has done something "wrong"). Their anger can show up as cold annoyance or sarcasm, or even as a moral tirade largely out of proportion to the precipitating event. However, self-aware Ones are truly good, and can be counted upon to respond to even the most stressful demands from people they respect and/or love. 

Mutual Development 

As you think about the individual gifts and blind spots of styles One and Nine, you can begin to speculate how their similarities and differences might trigger difficulties in a relationship. In the discussion below of the three-step model for mutual development, the One/Nine partnership is used for purposes of illustration, but the model applies to any pairing:

(1) Talk about your implicit beliefs and explicit behaviors; become aware of mutually self-defeating patterns:
Acknowledge that you're bound by patterns of interaction and it's difficult to see how you help create problems because you're part of that pattern. This requires going beyond a theoretical discussion of your Enneagram style, observing yourself and soliciting feedback about the ways your style manifests in you.
If you're style One, for example, and don't see yourself as someone who's "punitive," review your history without judgment, ask yourself about times when you felt justifiably angry, and recall how you framed that anger to the person who was the target. If you're style Nine and don't see yourself as "passive-aggressive," do the same.
Seek feedback from the other about what may have seemed punitive or passive-aggressive to them or how they might have observed that behavior in your treatment of someone else. Make it real for you, whatever terminology fits the way you operate.
(2) Envision the transformed relationship and commit yourselves to learning as you go:
Once you have a shared vision of how you want the relationship to thrive, you can commit yourselves to mutual learning about your progress toward that goal - observing your own behavior, but also soliciting and accepting feedback from each other. Whether you're working together or in a personal relationship, appreciate the fact that style One's occasional moral tirades may hook style Nine's tendency to withdraw from confrontation.
Your vision could include a commitment from style One to look for triggers to anger and to be descriptive and nonjudgmental about what's irritating before it reaches volcanic proportions. Style Nine could commit to staying emotionally present and being assertive.
These actions will be mutually developmental, because:(a) learning to give descriptive feedback helps Ones become less judgmental, and (b) knowing Ones expect an assertive response gives Nines more determination to hang in and not withdraw.
As in Step (1) above, observe your own behavior and solicit feedback from each other. Note the situations where you're able to remain unhooked and determine what you did to make that happen. Do more of it.
(3) Be alert to how you get in the way of your own progress and stay committed to the transformation:
Note the situations where you slip into the old, self-defeating routine, try to remain nonjudgmental and explore together what triggered it, where either one of you could have done something to break the cycle; then make a commitment to try again the next time.
For example, if either partner responds to feedback defensively, describe that response non-judgmentally, as if holding up a mirror (e.g., "I just told you how I want to be treated, as we agreed I would do, and you continued to criticize me, so I'm feeling tempted to fall back into my pattern of retreating." Or, "You stuck with me this time instead of withdrawing, but it feels as if you want to put the whole blame on me, and that's hard for me to accept. How could we share responsibility for making this more constructive?")
Styles One and Nine Together 

The additional examples below for the One/Nine partnership are only some of many possible ideas for mutually developmental actions. You can continue this exercise with more of your own:
(a) Both Nines and Ones are comfortable with routine, perhaps too comfortable. It would be mutually beneficial if they commit together to breaking this pattern. The more fun they make this exercise, the better. Nines can be a bit serious, and Ones, as well, need to develop their wacky side.
(b) The most obvious dynamic where both Ones and Nines stand to gain by self-observation, mutual feedback, and development is in their common difficulty with anger. They both need to identify and describe how their anger shows up, to discuss with each other what triggers it, what form it takes, how aware they are of it, and what alternatives they can create to respond differently.
(c) These partners can complement each other because Nines see many sides of a situation and Ones tend to be black and white in their thinking. At a superficial level they may seem compatible because Nines will tend to accommodate when Ones have strong opinions, but this can get old for both of them (perhaps more for the Nine than for the One):
The Nine viewpoint is a natural counterpoint if Ones choose to develop more creative thinking patterns. Ones could ask Nines: "What are some other ways to think about this?" This is simultaneously developmental for Nines, who learn their opinions do matter.
Nines could ask their One partners for advice on how to take a stand when something's really important. Because Ones love to teach, this brings their natural gift into the relationship and builds their esteem.
(d) Ones can be demanding, and consequently critical when their wishes aren't met. When the Nine doesn't do what the One expects, instead of "Why did you/didn't you...?" (which is really a criticism in disguise) the One can invite an analysis of the process: stating observations in specific, descriptive terms and asking for help to break the dysfunctional interaction. When the One is less punitive, the Nine can more easily stay engaged until the situation is resolved.
(e) It's developmental for style Ones to learn to give more praise, even if someone's behavior doesn't meet their ultimate standard. By using appreciative feedback, aimed at incremental steps in the desired direction, they're released from seeking total perfection. Style Nines benefit from applying the same technique, instead of focusing on what they don't like. Agreeing both will use appreciative feedback offers this pair the opportunity to model and learn from each other.
(f) Both need to practice a centering discipline: style Nine to develop focus, style One to develop patience. They could take a class together in yoga, t'ai chi, and/or meditation and decide together how to apply it in everyday life. In addition, Nines develop by taking initiative, by not waiting for their partners to choose what they do together. So if they do agree to take a class, the Nine could arrange it. Ones forget to take care of their own needs, so it will be mutually developmental if the One reinforces the Nine's efforts by joining in.
Coming Home

These few examples will stimulate your thinking about other ways Ones and Nines together can transcend their old routines and interpersonal "ruts."

In addition, you can apply this model to all your relationships. Keep in mind it's a real loss of your developmental potential to maintain the status quo. Even worse, you can undermine any relationship by acting on negative expectations based on someone's Enneagram style (e.g., "He'll never change; it's too important to him to be right!" or "She'll never take the initiative to change.").

Margaret Frings Keyes says it succinctly:
"The commonest path to often not recognized as such. a lifetime training discipline without equal when we pursue it with commitment."
Partnership is also the place where we can come home to ourselves. Through our truly authentic relationships we come to accept ourselves fully.

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