the Integral Enneagram - a 3-dimensional approach

It is my intention to briefly present a model of consciousness development, specifically designed to illuminate and illustrate a cogent and pragmatic process for individuals to accomplish this development.

In the creation of a new model, when the primary aim is to be as comprehensive as possible, it is both efficient and effective to embrace synthesis. As is often said, there’s no point in re-inventing the wheel – as long as it works.

There are a vast number of disciplines and models currently available, and each may have genuine value to contribute. The fatal flaw seems to be when any one of them is touted as the singular “universal solution.” When a discipline or model attempts to address areas beyond the original intention of its development, compromises, vagueness, generalities, ambiguities, and all-out inaccuracies ensue.

This is the premise of my intention to develop a discipline and model that synthesizes the working aspects of existing structures with new information obtained through working with real-world clients.

In developing a process that would have measurable and verifiable results, I looked at currently available processes; specifically where these systems either broke down or lost measurability. The aforementioned flaw of the “universal solution” seemed to be at the forefront of these breakdowns. In attempting to create one-size-fits-all processes, inaccuracies and inefficiencies abound. There needed to be a way to address transmitting the information to people in a way that they could truly implement and integrate.

Following the one-size-fits-all method of reaching the most people requires establishing the intellectual equivalent of a lowest common denominator, which once again is fraught with fallacies and inaccuracies. All people do not work/think/process the same way. Some systems resonate with certain types of people, subsequently resulting in higher levels of success. When other types of people (who don’t resonate with that system) are not able to achieve that success, or even to stick with the program, they start to believe it is their own fault.

This only furthers feelings of shame and inwardly repeated stories reinforcing low self-esteem. In fact it is possible to show multiple paths to a similar goal, and allow people’s natural processing of the world around them to dictate which path they choose. This has the tremendous upside of alleviating virtually every resistance or stumbling block to a person’s acceptance, understanding, and implementation of the steps necessary to the process of achieving their potential.

Of course this requires far more effort on the part of the practitioner, and this may indeed be a factor in this approach not being the standard of the industry. In fact, invoking the very term “standard of the industry” may indicate another obstacle to the actual efficacy of most programs, disciplines, and models currently in use. When the ultimate goal is the commercial profit of the practitioner, it becomes a natural and reasonable process to minimize the effort while maximizing return. This unfortunately puts the focus on what’s best for the practitioner, not the client. Of course most practitioners have the best of intentions, and try to establish a compromise that serves both client and practitioner, however that conflict must be acknowledged and processed as part of the overall work, if the relationship is to maintain authentic and genuine communication.

In seeking a process that was squarely aimed at the client’s best interests, it becomes obvious that the more tailored and specific the program or discipline, the more effective that program or discipline would be. This means that the criteria most important to the application of any program would be the client’s processing style or type; how the client takes in, sorts, and processes sensory, emotional, and conceptual information.

That style or “typology” would determine the vehicle for transmitting the program or discipline (the method of teaching, as well as what is being taught). Again, having different approaches to the same goal achieves the same end, with a much higher incidence of success.

That goal, re-stated, is the “ascension” and growth of consciousness development and evolution. The basic structure of all disciplines sharing this aim is relatively straightforward. Again, not needing to re-invent the wheel, Integral Psychology and Spirituality has synthesized thousands of disciplines to arrive at a generally accepted model of this evolution. That model shows our consciousness moving from the child’s narcissistic perspective, up through holding multiple perspectives, and eventually to a stage of being capable of holding all perspectives. In the language of Integral Psychology and Spirituality, this is a three-tiered model consisting of Pre-cognitive, (pre-rational) Cognitive, (rational) and Trans-cognitive (trans-rational). Each of these stages of consciousness have characteristics that manifest differently in the different types, and yet have general similarities with regard to one’s actual ability to process and evolve.

Starting with this goal of consciousness development, and the premise that all roads leading to that goal are equally valid, the starting point of developing a methodology would have to be addressing these different paths, and how they are dictated by people’s natural processing styles or typologies.

This is what drew me to the need for an expanded view of that magnificent model of motivation, fixation, ego-blocks, and processing: The Enneagram. The Enneagram, woefully misunderstood by most laypeople and unfortunately by many practitioners, is incredibly accurate in illustrating our deepest core motivations and unconscious drivers. What we do as a result of those motivations and drivers is a completely different story, and unfortunately the story many people focus upon.

The motivations behind observable behavior are almost always a mystery to us, unless we engage with the person performing the behavior, and ask them. Even then, people are often confused about why they do what they do, so this requires artful, and in-depth questions to draw out the deeper drivers. This is not easy or fast, and we return to the commercial profit aspect of how much time a practitioner (not to mention a layperson) is willing to spend pursuing this information. The easiest way to look at this is that we can do totally different things for the same reason as often as we can do the same thing, for completely different reasons. The reasons or motivations speak to who we are, how we process the world around us, and thus what our path to higher consciousness would be. Our behaviors say little more than what we’ve learned, how we react, and maybe an inkling into our survival strategies.

When the Enneagram is used to model motivations and drivers, the observed behavior makes sense. When the Enneagram is used to label people’s behavior, the model is reduced to a parlor game.

Additionally, simplifying the model to reduce people to a singular type, again labeled by a behavioral or singular character trait, causes the model to lose accuracy and depth. The dynamic and fluid nature originally described by Georges I. Gurdjieff (@1910) got simplified and made somewhat more static as it was being disseminated and taught over time. This would again be evidence of the “lowest common denominator” principle entering the process of using one way of teaching to everyone reducing accuracy and detail.

To use the Enneagram to its fullest, we need to look at all the information it gives us about all the parts of ourselves that it describes. Rather than factoring down to a singular type, perhaps with one wing, perhaps with two wings, depending upon which school you follow, the model we’ll be exploring looks at each of us as a kind of choir or stew, made up of five component types; each contributing to create the complexity that we find in real people.

For people less familiar with the Enneagram, “type” refers to a lens of perspective, or filtration process by which each of us takes in and sorts the world around us. It is generally accepted that we have a core type, a disintegration or stress type, and an integration or confidence type. The dynamics of their influence are usually simplified to “going to” that type (as in a One going to Four in stress, or going to Seven in confidence). Although this is an easy way to grasp a general concept, the unfortunate inference is often that a person changes from being one type to being another type.

With our Integral Enneagram, you are who you are, and stress and confidence evoke parts of you, in differing amounts, and in different situations. Keeping with the choir metaphor, somebody starts singing louder, or even taking a solo. Keeping with the stew metaphor, adding carrots or adding lots of potatoes will change the flavor of that stew, even when the primary components are the same.

Furthermore, the influence of both wings all the time add dynamics of inner conflict, the specifics of which were heretofore much more difficult to isolate, and thus process. Thus we start to look at the individual as being a “constellation” of types, each type having it’s own solar system of motivations, drives, and fixations.

When Ken Wilber addresses “types” in Integral Theory, he usually breaks it down to what he calls the “Big Three.” These are Art/Beauty, Science/Truth, and Goodness/Morals (also broken down to perspectives: the I, the It, and the We). These correspond beautifully with the primary Triads of the Enneagram, and their foci: Heart, Brain, Intuition. The parallels are just too perfect to be coincidence. (Those of you familiar with NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming will recognize these three perspectives as the Self, Witness, and Other).

The Heart Triad is generally concerned with questions of identity (who am I and how do I fit in?). Interestingly the traditional Enneagram locates a type called the “artist” in this triad - that type also known for internalizing their fixations. The perspective Wilber affixes to this triad is the “I.” (In NLP; this most closely parallels the Self position).

The Brain Triad is generally concerned with questions of safety (how can I be safe and how can I trust you?). Interestingly, the traditional Enneagram locates a type called the “scientist” in this triad - also known for internalizing their fixations. The perspective Wilber affixes to this group is the “it,” the most objectively detached pronoun, seeking truth through scientific objective means. In NLP, this view is the “detached” Witness.

Finally, the Intuitive Triad is generally concerned with questions of “rightness” (why aren’t things/people as they should be?). Interestingly the traditional Enneagram locates a type called the “reformer” in this triad - that type also known for internalizing their fixations. Wilber affixes the “we” perspective to this group, as they seek a way for “us” to live together in the world. In NLP, taking the position of the Other enables you to hold another’s perspective, thus creating an “us” possibility.

Integral Theory and the Enneagram once again support and enrich each other as parts of the same model of human consciousness (as do many other models and disciplines from the Eight Arms of Yoga to the mind-mapping of NLP).

Up to this point, the model could still be flat or two-dimensional, and that is the next part to be addressed. Going back to our model of consciousness being one of ascension through stages, we can see that each of our five component types are individually occupying a range of stages or altitudes, and once again the amalgamation of these is what is seen by the outside world.

Another major differentiation between the Integral Enneagram and the Enneagram of Personality (currently enjoying prominence in the coaching world) is in the approach to “depth” and development. Riso and Hudson did a brilliant job of describing nine levels of psychodynamic stages, which can dovetail in certain places with the spectral model of consciousness development used by Integral studies. However, because they are working with the Enneagram of Personality, their level divisions fall within the realm of psychology, and thus are not the same. In fact, at the lower levels, psychodynamic and consciousness scales can be diametrically opposite of one another.

Riso and Hudson label the lowest levels of psychodynamics as pathological destructive (often self-destructive) and delusional. The lowest levels of consciousness, (in Integral studies) are basic survival and self-preservation, requiring vigilance and heightened awareness of real surroundings. Tenets of evolution would indicate that psychological dysfunctions such as delusions or self-destructiveness would hinder and be in opposition to survival. Of course all things being AQAL, there has to be an intersecting sub-set, destructive and delusional in their survival strategies. So this is a place where the Enneagram of Personality and the Integral Enneagram diverge; obviously, psychological “health” and higher consciousness are not synonymous, so the Levels of Altitude will be different.

From the perspective of levels of consciousness or stages, we are looking more at the capacity or ability to process from increasing numbers of perspectives. When we allow all of our five component types to be identified at their stages relative to one another, we arrive at an extremely accurate “map” of a person’s processing style, their internal conflicts, their probable external conflict triggers, and in fact, an extremely clear Integral or AQAL (All Quadrants All Lines) view of a person, allowing for dynamic shifts, growth, internal interactions, and a path toward true inner equilibrium.

By bringing each of our component types into conscious focus, we can work to elevate parts of ourselves that are holding us back; weighing down our ascending path (integrating Dharana and Dhyana; perceptual and sustained awareness into our “way of being”). Furthermore, when our component aspects are in equilibrium, balance, and harmony, we have the inner and outer congruence necessary to ascend up that path of consciousness development and evolution far more easily. We no longer have unconscious or subconscious conflicts that sabotage pursuing that which we desire. We no longer waste our time pursuing that which is not in line with our ethos of self, with others, and environment (Yamas and Nayamas).

Looking at this from an engineering or physics standpoint, we eliminate the inefficiencies of the mechanism, thus using our energy only toward the best results.

The Integral Enneagram must by definition integrate IOS (Integral Operating System) with the Enneagram, rather than merely placing them side-by-side. They are not two studies, but pieces of the same picture, each enriching the other.

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