When you waft around between spiritual and developmental disciplines as I do, you learn that defending your position on something is just not a good sign. It’s kinda frowned upon, actually.
And so you stop defending, and when you feel defensive, you assume you must have some Shadow. Therefore the desire to defend becomes an occasion for pause, rather than reactionary retaliation.
I located my personal exception to this rule recently when I found myself defending my identification of my self (sic) as a Type Seven on the Enneagram.
Who dared question this hard-earned piece of my ego operating manual?
A teacher I love and respect, no less: Ginger Lapid Bogda, whose training – on integrating the Enneagram with coaching – I have attended these past couple of weeks.
I had aroused suspicion by sending a boring introductory slide (not very Seven) and by answering an early question in an un-Seven like way.
That, as far as I could see, was all Ginger was going on.
Now, I do not mind being questioned or admitting I’m wrong. That happens all the time! As you (a.k.a me) might expect if you go around sharing your partially articulated thoughts with gusto.
Plus, you know, I’m British. “Sorry” is my favorite word.
Where (it emerges) I draw a line is being a recipient of the exact same type of overly simplistic, curt analysis that most Enneagram teachers advise against.
I also object to having my Seveness emphatically evaluated by people new to ‘the work’ (I’m referring to a couple of my well-meaning fellow students), and lacking a deep understanding of the types.
And I profoundly object to time-wasting … although I admit, this little unfolding scenario did help me to stay engaged during the training.
Ginger couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t persuade her. And so our sessions together proceeded with my gnawing desire to prove my Seveness, which I confess, I am not beyond.
Enneagram type is not a self-concept
This is all possibly not very interesting.
The curiosity for me lay in the fact that I couldn’t just acknowledge that I may have my type wrong.
If only for an easy life! And approval!! These are usually compelling enough motivators for me to roll over.
Plus really, what is in a self-concept? The stories we tell ourselves and others about who and what we are – they are just that: stories. Ways into connecting and participating in the social realm. Not my preferred ways, but ways nonetheless.
Problem is, my identification as Seven does not form part of my self-concept exactly. It is my recognition of a pattern to the ways I lose presence and awareness – ways that I have been observing for years. To acknowledge openness to being incorrect about this repeated witnessing was, it seems, too much of a porky pie (it means lie) to tell.
I think of that Meatloaf song: I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.
Scrap that, I would do it.
But it is going to take a lot more than a boring slide and a two-minute interaction for me to reconsider my identification.
Are any beliefs worth defending?
One of my beliefs is that all beliefs should be held loosely. Dogma rarely serves and it can be helpful to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice upon sight of a wiser perspective and clarifying information.
Yet we must hold some beliefs if we are to live in this world.
I hold the ones that I have formulated from the inside out, evolving on the crest of my slowly expanding awakeness. They include my beliefs about the unique support the Enneagram can provide us in our personal transformation and, yes, my location of myself at point Seven.
Such beliefs are my operating principles. I’m not guarding them as such, but they will take a little more force to dismantle because they guide my decisions on what to focus on.
Using the Enneagram to stay identified
The experience served as a great reminder of the essentiality of not using your type to stay identified with type. I’m not saying that I do this now…but I have. We all dip in and out of our identifications. See mine above (British).
In fact, I think there is a natural stage in learning the Enneagram where you trade one chaotic and dispersed set of identities for one coherent, elegant one: your type. And we wind up using Seveness (or Fourness, or Nineness) as ways to convey who we are.
But this – which must have the Enneagram pioneers turning in their graves – is to miss the point.
My favorite Ennea-ism: the Enneagram is not what we are; it is what we are not.
Put another way: the actual point of the Enneagram is not to reinforce and upholster an identity, but to support a gradual disidentification from the habitual patterns of (smaller) self, as we allow a burgeoning perspective of (larger) Self.
A few pointers for Enneagram Type Sevens
I really enjoyed Ginger’s training, by the way. She is a quirky and fun instructor who has near-unrivalled amounts of experience in coaching with the Enneagram to draw upon, and mastery in creating accessible educational resources. She will remain a favorite teacher.
Ginger’s passion for people typing themselves correctly is also one that I share. Wise discernment of developmental work absolutely rests on the correct identification of type. And it is so easy to mistype, for various reasons. Not least among them are that tests aren’t definitive. Plus, some of the Enneagram Subtypes have characteristics that are more readily associated with a different position on the Enneagram.
I learned a few snippets here and there about types, including Sevens, that I may as well go ahead and share here, as they are relevant to today’s exploration.
Please forgive all the attention on Sevens today… I will even this out at some point.
Snippet 1: Each Enneagram type operates under a certain paradox. Type Seven’s, as Ginger taught it, is wanting to be taken seriously and be fulfilled, but not behaving in a way that people take them seriously, and not doing the things that will help them to feel fulfilled. Upon reflection, my whole twenties was defined by this paradox. No jokes.
Snippet 2: Sevens contend with a specific problem when it comes to learning environments. In short, they can be a little arrogant. The Seven is the first to be thinking “I got this – can we move on already?” That voice needs noticing and doubting. Stay listening, fellow Sevens; there is usually a deeper understanding to be gained.
Snippet 3: The Type Seven ego structure lends itself to us overestimating our abilities on occasion. This internally applied rose-tintedness is a way to guard against painful feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. It is safer to assume that we aren’t as good as we think we are, prepare more than we want to, and get honest objective feedback on our work.
Are you a Seven and does any of this resonate? I’d love to hear from you.