The work of personal transformation can be difficult. It helps to remember our Basic Goodness.
The Personality Enneagram shows us some pretty hard stuff. It describes nine styles of sleepwalking, nine habits of reactivity, and nine ways of generating and exporting suffering. Each type manifests a particular expression of one of the three core negative emotions: anger, sadness-shame, and fear. Yuck!
Does the Enneagram only show us how monstrous we are? Actually, for people who turn away because “it’s just too negative,” the Enneagram’s treasures are lost.
And yet… and yet…
The Personality Enneagram also shows nine highest potentials, nine “superpowers,” and nine uniquely creative offerings to the world. The types are nine equally beautiful frames through which to see Reality… and through which Reality sees!
The nine styles are magnificently crafted character roles inhabited in infinity varieties of time and place and cultural expression & set within a universal tragic-comic production in which Reality experiences itself in ever more subtle and profound ways. How Grand!
So what, then, is our fundamental orientation to the nine type patterns? We might begin with an understanding — or realization — that we are fundamentally and instrinically good. Such is the understanding of Basic Goodness.
Yet, what about the type patterns themeselves. Are the patterns bascially good? The question becomes more pressing as we move from map to method: from describing the type patterns to working with them in some fashion for better living.
Some teachers suggest seeing the type patterns as neurosis — conditions to transcend or overcome or clear. Claudio Naranjo’s watershed work Character and Neurosis (1994) is a great example, as is this penetrating video from Carolyn Zaikowski.
In this sense, the type patterns are like clouds obscuring the sun of Basic Goodness.
Other teachers see the type patterns as originating from positivity. Susan Rhodes’s book The Positive Enneagram (2009) takes up this theme, as does this uplifting video by the Enneagram Programme and this delightful offering by Joshua French.
Methods springing from this orientation use the intrinsic gifts of each type as a means of breaking apart the negative qualities that get in the way. The positive qualities draw us to themselves; they magnetize us.
The cloud-sun metaphor still applies, but its the sun that draws us to itself. Another metaphor: the type patterns are beautiful flowers enriched by, and expressing, the sunlight of Basic Goodness.
Holding and working with both views of the type patterns is one of the many the paradoxes of the Enneagram. (Really, all of life.) With the eyes to see and the ears to hear: our bondage is freedom, our longing is fulfillment, and our neurosis is wisdom.
Very likely, our fundamental orientation and methods are themselves products of our Enneagram types. Beware faltering inspiration when all seems neurotic. Beware superficial “flights to light” when all seems rosy.
What’s important is what actually serves wisdom and compassion.