Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Veils Parted, then Snapped Shut!

Before I knew anything about the Enneagram I was coaching the head of a nonprofit agency in Cincinnati (let's call him "Brad"). After interviewing his staff and board members, I shared their feedback with him. The short version:
"According to your staff and members of the board, you're highly entrepreneurial, with a strong drive, and you're a masterful networker, building support for your organization's goals with the board and with influential members of the community. But your focus is perhaps too much on being 'Mr. Outside.' Your staff says you're not involved enough in the day-to-day, nuts and bolts aspects of running the organization, and they have a strong desire to build more teamwork. While consensus is a stated organizational value, they describe you as persuading people to do things your way in what is only apparently a consensus-building process."
"Why, that's exactly my profile on the Enneagram!" he replied. "Style Three." 

I was blown away by this response because, serendipitously, only the day before I'd received Helen Palmer's The Enneagram in the mail, mistakenly ordered instead of the book on genograms I was researching. Had Brad not made this connection I would have sent the book back to the publisher. Instead, I decided to read it so I could speak a language familiar to him.

That Saturday morning I sat in bed and opened Palmer's book. Her description of style Three's patterns gave me such insight into Brad's personality I decided to read more, starting with Enneagram style One, and to figure out my own. All had characteristics I could relate to, and I was beginning to give up on identifying myself. Finally, I made my way to style Nine.

As I read, I fell into an intuitive state of knowing: You're on to something big!  Every molecule of my body was tingling with the sense of veils parting, something I'd needed to know that had been standing slightly behind me, waiting to be seen. And here it was!

Underlining style Nine's mediator qualities, I thought, My whole consulting career has succeeded because of my skill in resolving other people's conflicts. I've used my gift in a positive way, but it's been reinforced so much, I've failed to look at my personal avoidance of conflict. I've been too busy helping other people not make waves! Continuing, I became excited to learn about this personality style's distractibility. This is so important to me. I'm going to go make a pot of coffee and spend the entire day reading about this wonderful system.

I wandered toward the kitchen, but in the hall on the way noticed a pile of dirty clothes I'd set out to wash, so I made a trip to the laundry room. When I returned to the hall I realized I hadn't started the coffee, but on my way to the kitchen saw the telephone and remembered I hadn't called my Mom in a week, so while the coffee was brewing I called her and we talked for almost an hour. The veil had snapped shut! 

As I sipped my third or fourth cup of coffee I walked around my condo, trying to decide what to do with the rest of the day.  

First, I'll get dressed.

There in my bedroom I saw Palmer's book lying on my bed where I'd left it more than an hour earlier, and again the veils parted.  

Not only had I been given a new vision of my gifts, I'd experienced a prime example of the ego-state that had held me captive -- distracting myself from the most important of my own agendas, to find myself behind the programmed patterns.