I ordered a couple of interesting-looking enneagram books this week, which should get to me roughly around my birthday, because I’m cheap and took the free shipping option. They are both by Clarence Thomson, who is my favorite e-gram expert.
Parables and the Enneagram is, well, about Parables and the enneagram:
Jesus told stories. When the evangelists wrote of his life and legacy, they featured those stories. Here Thomson explains why Jesus chose to tell stories as an integral part of his ministry. The content of the parables and stories are part, the other part is the literary form.
Enneagram students will profit from knowing that a parable is a trance-breaking literary form. They wake us up, jolt us out of our sleepwalking lives. An enneagram style begins with a focus of attention that is so narrow, it is hypnotic. Parables break that focus. They free us. Parables not only announce freedom, they create it.
Basically, it presents the parables as similar to koans: another literary form that breaks expectations and allows the reader or hearer a glimpse of a worldview bigger than their narrow life strategy.
The other book is Out of the Box Coaching which apparently shipped a little faster, so I might get that one this weekend or early next week. Or not. It is the U.S. Postal Service we’re talking about here. Anyway, the most interesting thing about that book is that Thomson and his coaching partner, Mary Bast, talk about how most people come to coaches or counselors, not looking to really change, but to get their dysfunctions and compulsions to work better.
Let’s say you’re coaching a Three. The Three compulsion tends to make people work uncommonly hard and be highly successful at work while being oblivious to their emotional needs. Your Three comes to you with a complaint that she is suffering from stress. Like everyone else, she comes wanting her compulsion to work better. She wants to be able to work harder than anyone but not feel stressed about it.
If you tell her to relax, she will fog over. If you teach her some time management skills so she can take some time off, she will find more work to do in the time off. No matter what you tell her to do, she is quite apt to follow your instructions. Why? Because she achieves a lot of success at work by following instructions. She will turn your coaching tips into one more project, work hard at them and become more stressed.
When you know the Enneagram, you know that her deepest request is to NOT feel that she has to work so hard. She is unconsciously working for love and feels she has to earn love through accomplishment. We show you how to answer both her needs – decrease the stress and stop trying too hard to earn love by success. If she follows your simple time management techniques, she will do a few things differently – a first order change. But the first order change only deepens her rut. She still thinks hard work is all she has to do. When you address the deeper issues of how she goes about getting the kind and degree of attention and love she really wants, you really rearrange her inner world. You bring about second-order changes.
This makes me wonder what things I do that I think I’m doing to “grow” or function better, which are in fact just ways of deepening my own ruts. It explains why a lot of Fours spend years in talk therapy and never see improvement. They just get better at navel-gazing, mythologizing their lives, and providing an interesting narrative for an interested listener: the Four rut. Maybe what Fours need, that “second order change,” is to learn to believe that we don’t have to be so damned interesting.
Which reminds me of the old Chinese proverb, which is a curse half-disguised as a blessing: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, these are certainly interesting times for me. I could do with a nice, healthy dose of boring.