Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Container of Soul: Mutuality and the Enneagram*

Understanding your Enneagram style is a powerful tool to enhance your personal effectiveness and spiritual development. The Enneagram is even more powerful when explored in the context of relationships with others. While each of the Enneagram combinations brings special considerations to the development of mutuality, any combination will offer complementary gifts as well as the potential to exaggerate each style's down side. Here, you'll learn how to create specific actions that are mutually enhancing, whatever the combination of styles.
For example, if you're a Three interacting with an Eight you might find that both of you for different reasons are out of touch with your emotional side. It would be mutually developmental to practice and reinforce each other for active listening.
Or if you're a Two (highly relational) interacting with a Five (highly independent) you both would benefit from exploring your differences, agreeing that the Two will give the Five a little more space and the Five will accede to the Two's desire for a bit more interaction.
Regardless of the combination of Enneagram styles, the first steps to create mutuality are to value each person's gifts, be sensitive to areas in need of growth, and approach the relationship in ways that are mutually enhancing and beneficial. 

Consciously framing each person's potential development in terms of mutuality includes discussing how one Enneagram style complements the other, as well as mutual blind spots. The examples below, using the Six/Nine partnership for illustration, are only some of many possible ideas for mutually developmental actions:  
  • Although acted out in different ways, both Sixes and Nines have problems with decision-making. Nines may procrastinate while they gather others' opinions and/or seek to build consensus because they have difficulty knowing choosing; Sixes may procrastinate while they gather more data to develop certainty about the "right" choice and/or worry about how others will judge their decisions. Both may change their minds  Nines because they don't want to be pinned down, Sixes because they begin to doubt themselves. Both, however, rely too much on others' opinions. This is a development area where similarity of focus can be beneficial to both. It's often easier to see someone else's behavior initially, so they could agree to give each other feedback about decision-making behavior and to discuss and look for blind spots in their rationale for delaying decisions. Or they might agree to meet once a week to review decisions and compare notes, each learning from the other. 
  • Similarity of focus can also be beneficial in the way both communicate their ideas. Nines are known for their epic tales; it's sometimes difficult to get a simple answer from them as they struggle to bring their complex awareness of infinite alternatives down to a central theme. Sixes can feel charged with so many things they want to say, listeners are left trying to figure out the message. For both it's useful to ask before speaking, "What's my key theme? What are my main points? Who is my audience? What do I want them to understand?" Efforts to improve in this area can be mutually developmental by (1) listening to each other and summarizing what appear to be relevant points and/or (2) preparing and rehearsing with each other to confirm whether or not their message is clear. In either case their heightened awareness will help both develop more clarity. 
  • Sixes tend to look for hidden agendas sometimes unnecessarily. Nines tend to look on the bright side to a fault. It would be mutually developmental in a complementary way if each would consciously seek the other to fill in the flip side and create a more balanced perspective. 
  • According to Enneagram theory, both Sixes and Nines have a connection to the achievement-oriented Three. They can support each others' development by encouraging the up side of their Three connection, stimulating each other to action, accomplishments, and success. For example, they could set deadlines for a mutually valued project and hold themselves and each other accountable to meet specific milestones. 
  • Nines need to assert themselves more, speak up for themselves, confront others directly. Sixes do this more readily. Together, they can observe and discuss how to model for and learn from each other: 
The Nine can openly appreciate and imitate the Six's courageous action by being more assertive, while simultaneously helping the Six know when to draw the line between challenging someone and suggesting a solution.

The Six can acknowledge and imitate the Nine's patience and graciousness in sometimes giving others the benefit of the doubt, while simultaneously helping the Nine distinguish between self-effacement and diplomatic problem-solving.
  • Sixes will recognize when they're upset. Nines have a tendency to "merge" with the partner, and may find their own feelings emerging in response to a problem the Six is experiencing:
In response to these emerging feelings, Nines may withdraw into their own feeling state and/or want to talk about their own feelings and similar experiences, leaving the Six feeling stranded. The Nine may also take on the Six's problem, playing the role of intermediary in order to seek harmony or stability. It's mutually developmental if the Nine's own feelings are kept separate and the Nine acts as a sounding board for the Six, then encourages the Six to decide what to do (it's important for Sixes to experience their own potency).
Subsequently they could focus on discovering and dealing separately with the Nine's own feelings ("Why did I react so strongly? What must I be feeling deep inside?"). At this point, the Six could be the sounding board for the Nine.
Use the principles of mutuality to seek interactions that simultaneously develop yourself and the other person in all your relationships, using the above examples from the Six/Nine interaction to stimulate your thinking.

Mutuality is a reflection of the shared belief that both people in a relationship can grow, as reflected in this quote from Thomas Moore:
Friendship is the container of soul [and] the soul requires many varieties of vessels and many kinds of spaces in order to work day by day with the raw material life serves up.

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