Friday, May 29, 2009

Sixes on the Enneagram

We had a delightful visit this afternoon with a friend from out of town with whom we always engage in deep philosophical and theological discussions.  Although there were many themes bandied around, I had a eureka moment when we went through the personality types on the Enneagram.  The Enneagram system describes nine distinct personality types and their interrelationships, mapped around an ancient symbol of perpetual motion.  Ennea is the Greek word for nine.

Each of the nine personalities has its strengths and weaknesses, as do all personalities and I can recognize my own number and that of my wife very easily.  The descriptions given to each number are dead-on for each of us.

We are not sixes.  Yet, when we were discussing the characteristics of 'The Six' I knew that it described fundamentalist christions quite thouroughly.  The name given to this personality type is The Loyalist because, of all the personality types, Sixes are the most loyal to their friends and to their beliefs. They will “go down with the ship” and hang on to relationships of all kinds far longer than most other types. Sixes are also loyal to ideas, systems, and beliefs—even to the belief that all ideas or authorities should be questioned or defied.

Beliefs.  Faith.  Doggedness.  Righteousness.  Interestingly, on the website of The Enneagram Institute, I found that  George H.W. Bush is an example of a Six. Surely, so is his son.  So is Mel Gibson, J. Edgar Hoover and Nixon.

The Six typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. They fear being without support and guidance.  Sixes come to believe that they do not possess the internal resources to handle life’s challenges and vagaries alone, and so increasingly rely on structures, allies, beliefs, and supports outside themselves for guidance to survive. 

The three paragraphs above come from that website as is the following:

They are both strong and weak, fearful and courageous, trusting and distrusting, defenders and provokers, sweet and sour, aggressive and passive, bullies and weaklings, on the defensive and on the offensive, thinkers and doers, group people and soloists, believers and doubters, cooperative and obstructionist, tender and mean, generous and petty—and on and on. It is the contradictory picture that is the characteristic “fingerprint” of Sixes, the fact that they are a bundle of opposites.

Well, a 'bundle of opposites.'  In psychiatry talk,  that is often referred to as bipolar.  They must be hard to live with.  Were my wife a Six, we would not have married.  I dislike 'bundles of opposites' because to me they seem untrustworthy, cunning, deceitful.  I wonder how their marriage partners tolerate the ambivalence, the yes/no, the swings in attitude.  I wonder if many are on mood enhancers.

So, the characteristics of Sixes shouted out, "Fundamentalist Christian!" to me bang-off.  This characteristic from above, they believe that they do not possess the internal resources to handle life’s challenges and vagaries alone, puts the icing on the cake.  No wonder they believe in an active Supreme Being manipulationg factors in their lives.  No wonder they kowtow to the letter of the law from Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  No wonder they display 'meanness' and 'aggression' and 'bullying' and 'pettiness' and 'distrustfulness' - it's part of their personality.

Here is the final paragraph on Sixes:

The biggest problem for Sixes is that they try to build safety in the environment without resolving their own emotional insecurities. When they learn to face their anxieties, however, Sixes understand that although the world is always changing and is, by nature uncertain, they can be serene and courageous in any circumstance. And they can attain the greatest gift of all, a sense of peace with themselves despite the uncertainties of life.

A sense of peace.  Imagine that!

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