Saturday, December 3, 2016

It Takes Three to Tango

 (the two who dance together, and the dance instructor)
I'm counseling a couple to build a healthy relationship. An inventory on this couple suggested she's an Enneagram Two and Six (split) and he's an Eight. What will be the best techniques to use employing the Enneagram with this couple?
First a caveat: I'm not a therapist. I'm a social psychologist and a good process observer who often uses the Enneagram. I like coaching couples about their Enneagram interaction dynamics because there's immediate feedback. I can help them see these dynamics in action instead of relying on how they tell me they interact. It's very effective to be able to say, "Let's stop a minute and take a look at what just happened..." or " what A just said to B..."

Because they learn about themselves as they explore their interaction dynamics, individuals can improve their relationships to some degree without the other member of the partnership present, but that's not quite as powerful, because we can fool ourselves about how well we apply something we've learned. That same deficit is present in anything I might say to this reader because I'm not actually seeing this couple in interaction, playing out their Enneagram dynamics in their own unique way.

But there are some guidelines for effective counseling with the Enneagram. First, I'd be curious to know which inventory this reader used. Many people rely on written instruments, or at least use them as supplements to determine Enneagram style. Because I've seen so many individuals mistyped using written instruments, I find it much more fruitful to let clients themselves determine their Enneagram styles by distinguishing among all nine. This helps them take ownership and reduces their defensiveness. More important, they become clear that many behaviors are shared by more than one style, and they eventually center on the one that represents their primary driving force. While it's common that Sixes think they might be Twos when they're first learning the Enneagram, Twos usually know they're not Sixes:
The driving force of style Two is pride -- there's a tendency to influence indirectly, to be somewhat manipulative and/or seductive, and to have a great deal of difficulty focusing on their own needs, particularly how they may contribute to relationship problems. Twos like to align themselves with those in power, so if your client is style Two, she wouldn't necessarily be in conflict just because her partner is style Eight. This is often a sexually expressive combination as long as style Two is focused on satisfying style Eight's needs, but as time goes by she'll want much more emotional reassurance than style Eights typically think is necessary.
The driving force of style Six is fear. Sixes have big-time issues with authority (which would be certain to come up with a style Eight partner), are pretty open with feelings and eager to learn about themselves, but may do some blaming of partners that's often based on projection. Early in their relationship style Six would typically seek style Eight's protection, but later would begin to see the other as a bully. If your client is style Six, she might well be looking for more equality in the relationship, as well as intimacy.
When you're the counselor, style Eight will want you to tell it like it is, no matter how raw or profane, as long as you let him know you care about him in spite of his rough edges. I don't mean you say this to him, but rather show your appreciation: by laughing at his jokes, by not being intimidated. At the end of the first day with a style Eight client, after showing his delight with my very direct feedback he walked with me to the gate at the airport and, when we shook hands in parting, held the hand I extended with both of his hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Mary, thank you for caring." 

About working with style Right, Suzanne Zuercher (Enneagram Companions) writes:
"Once a trusting atmosphere exists, 8s respond to the director's suggestions about how to gain insight… As they become more free and less fearful they open to methods of interior work with the same gusto they display in other areas of living… All of this energy… will frighten 8s; often they will project this fear onto directors, being tempted to hold their feeling back lest their directors not be strong enough to bear it… Strength but not aggression, power but not contest, honesty but not ruthlessness are what 8s look for in a director."
Twos, on the other hand, are highly relational, want to be in on everything, and will want a relationship with you. Counselors need to be sure they don't let style Two's focus on the counselor's needs take over. I've had meetings with business clients where I had to mentally slap my head when I realized we'd spent the first 15 minutes talking about my life. Style Twos may focus on the other person to avoid dealing with their own needs. It helps to ask the simple question, "What do you need?" or to gently point out how helpful she is and how that pattern at the same time gets in her way. 

Zuercher also notes how likely it is style Two will make flattering remarks to keep the counselor away from uncomfortable topics. She then writes:
"…directors find it hard to cut through superficiality, reporting, and wordiness with their 2 directees… probably best dealt with by pointing out to the 2 what has just taken place, leaving comments on that observation for the directee to make. Many times 2s are not aware of what they are doing and having it described helps them recognize their fear of acknowledging the unpleasant."
Style Sixes, because of their watchfulness for others' power tactics, may engage in a push-pull interaction with a counselor. In a class I taught on building relationships with the Enneagram, I asked participants to state an intention for their own transformation. A style Six said, "You're the expert, I'd like for you to tell me what I should focus on." 

My answer? "That would be a death sentence for both of us."(If you respond to a Six's request for advice, you become the authority to rebel against. It's vital they find their own power.)

When she asked what I meant by "a death sentence, I said, "What do you think it might mean, given the dynamics of style Six?" 

"That I'm the expert on myself?" she said, tentatively. 

"Sounds like you're on to something," I concluded. 

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