The Inner Triangle, Now We Get to Practice at Point 6. 

The Inner Triangle’s journey ends here at Point 6, with what Enneagram teacher, Mario Sikora calls “Action.” Isn’t action a great word to associate withPoint 6?  In the first half of this journeyit was at Point 6 that we felt the fear of inadequacy as we woke up in a place that was unfamiliar and feeling overwhelmed. Now it is the place where we are invited to live out with courage our reconstructed, rewritten stories, to activate them.

John Keats wrote, “Nothing becomes real until it’s experienced.” So much truth is wrapped up in these few words. We often know there is something more we can do, and we often say out loud that we will do this thing and then stop there. We get fooled by the myth that knowing and planning to do something is the same as doing it. When we take an honest look we see we never executed, we have done nothing. So, as Keats points out we can’t know what we haven’t experienced. The theoretical idea we talk about has no experiential legs to stand on. It is in actually doing something that we know anything about it, know its contours, its value, its truth. We can say we believe and value something, but without putting our bodies behind it, without stepping into the action of the idea we will never really know much about the thing at all. Doing is the testing that leads to believing. Doing is felt and therefore known and can’t be taken from us.

So it is here, at Point 6, that we take what we came up with at Point 3 and put it to the test by trying it out. It will be on the other side of the action that we will have something to evaluate. We will find out as we practice these re-written stories whether or not they cause us to feel truer, whether or not they give us opportunities our old ones blocked us from.  We find out if the rewritten stories are robust enough to make life better for us and for those around us.

And then, as I used to say to my children, “practice makes easier.” Once we have experienced waking up at Point 9, the more honest rewriting of our story at Point 3 and the putting our new ideas to the test at Point 6, we get to do this three-step process again and again as we do the trial-and-error work of change. As we encounter problematic pieces of stories created earlier in our journey, rather than applying patch after patch we now have a way to reconsider and rewrite them. It is through this work that bit-by-bit we build a healthier, truer, stronger self which is life’s invitation and to which the Enneagram offers itself as a tool.

Here we are at the end of several Insights following the journey along the Enneagram’s Inner Triangle. Because the Enneagram functions to help us see ourselves honestly and then goes further to help us use what we see for continual growth, it is helpful that this classic journey of losing and then finding ourselves is found front-and-center in the Enneagram symbol. I hope you have not only found it informative and related to the journey itself, but that you will follow the second half’s pathway all the way to action and find something new for yourself.    – Sali

The Inner Triangle, Look Again, with Honesty at Point 3.         

With a newfound practice of self-awareness and an openness to seeing what we had been blind to, we arrive at Point 3. Here we are able to take an honest inventory, seeing more clearly, more truthfully, the parts of our defensive strategy that have caused problems for us and those around us. Now our life experiences can help us as we own how we have seen the world and responded to it and notice the patterns that emerge. The Enneagram’s type formulations can be a great help here as they shine a light on the motivations, the gifts, and the defensive strategies associated with each type acting as a kind and honest friend to re-direct our efforts when we are tempted to fall back to sleep.

In the last Insight I shared Rohr’s use of the analogy of first constructing our house and then taking a clarifying second look to evaluate the cracks in its construction. This all important second look highlights the shift towards self-awareness at Point 9. This shift is the pre-curser to the work we have before us at Point 3 this time around. With that awareness we must now get to work on the de-construction and the re-construction. Another analogy that is helpful to understand the work at Point 3 is given to us by Enneagram expert, Mario Sikora. Recognizing that we have all created stories that prompt us and support us in the creation of our defensive Strategy, here at Point 3 Sikora invites us to re-write those stories, but this time do the editing with courageous truthfulness.

Rohr, Sikora, and the Enneagram in general are all inviting us to look again at all we created and find what we have misunderstood. We need to look for the places we have come to over-protect that no longer need protecting, the places we have not allowed for ourselves that we can now inhabit, and the places in which we have let go of what is most important to us and settled for much less.

Whether we are re-constructing our house or rewriting our story the work requires deep honesty and time. This means we will be rounding the Inner Triangle again and again, but hopefully each time in this clockwise direction. The work at Point 3 requires us to drill down into seeing things (ourselves, others, and life itself) more accurately. Seeing accurately is challenging work. We need to become aware of the underbelly of what is going on with us. We need to understand how pain has been driving us, limiting us, and blocking us as we constructed and wrote and then use all that awareness as we re-construct our house, as we re-write our stories. It is with this emphasis in mind that Sikora calls Point 3 “Authenticity.”  Here we want to get closer to and live out the truth of ourselves.

So what more, you may ask, could the Inner Triangle offer us now that we are aware and exploring? Well stay with me to find out about the goings on at Point 6.   – Sali

The inner triangle, the miracle of waking up at point 9

When we began the topic of the Inner Triangle in the Enneagram Insights I mentioned that I would be showing you how the Inner Triangle points to both the self-awareness and the problem-solving wisdom of the Enneagram. During the first half of the Inner Triangle’s journey keen self-awareness and wise problem solving have been in short supply. But now we turn our attention to the second half of the journey starting again at Point 9 but moving to Point 3 and then on to Point 6.

To begin this part of the Inner Triangle’s journey something critical needs to show up,…self-awareness. When you consider all the forces that have been at work against becoming aware of ourselves, that is, seeing ourselves accurately, it is quite the miracle, so let’s pause a moment and be properly amazed. 

We began all this active defense work (in response to current threats) and then proactive defense work (designed to never let “that” happen again) alone, inside our heads and hearts and bodies, during those first few decades of life. We felt the danger and we designed our responses; we did our best and believed ourselves without much questioning. A lot of time and practice went into perfecting our strategy, lots of investment went into supporting and maintaining our ways of navigating life.

After all that, it is a marvel to witness the turn-about experienced by those of us who begin to recognize what we built for our protection is, in fact, causing us pain – that the very behaviors we have been practicing are not bringing about the seeing and real belonging we had hoped for. It is a miracle to recognize that all too often they have instead led to feelings of isolation and invisibility. This painful recognition is one we push down, until we began to face it and that is the miracle. It is this miracle that occurs here at Point 9 where instead of falling asleep as we did the first time around, we wake to see ourselves more accurately and so begins a second journey offered by the Inner Triangle.

Richard Rohr says it is in the first half of life that we build our house and in the second half of life we evaluate that building. Back in the day we had no option but to build something…, that was our task. What is fortunate about being the one who constructed our house is we are in the best position to de-construct and re-construct another. It is the honest “looking” here at Point 9 that makes two breakthroughs possible. First, we are able to recognize the cracks that represent the ineffective ways of protecting ourselves from what was real but has become habitually perceived threats. Second, we can face the realization that much of our defensive work has had the surprising effect of preventing us from experiencing connection and deep pleasure.

Here we get to see more clearly what we have constructed with the benefit of all our accumulated life experiences behind us. Here at Point 9 we make what some refer to it as return trip around the Inner Triangle this time with the awareness, maturity, and courage to see so much more.

Next stop, Point 3, where we will focus in on the cracks and what improvements are needed.  – Sali

The Inner Triangle, Point 3, Double Down to Deal With Fear    

Welcome back to our journey around the Enneagram’s Inner Triangle. After starting at Point 9 and hitting Point 6 we arrive at Point 3 where our task is to deal with our fear that has been mounting. We are capable of holding a lot of fear, but too much over a long period of time is a problem that must be fixed. We need to create a way out.

At Point 3, rather than re-think both the original problem (we feel unseen and unwelcomed by our people) and our created solutions (we interact in a different way we hope will better appeal to them), we will double down and further invest in our solution. We whole heartedly believe what we have told ourselves about how to be seen, how to get a secure place within the group so we invest all the more. This moves us further from Gift driven behaviors and toward Defensive Strategy driven behaviors.

You can think of the Defensive Strategy as a protective layer between us and what threatens us, like a house to shelter in from pain and fear. Here at Point 3 our move away from Gift and toward Defensive Strategy is crystalized. We have changed our mailing address and taken up residence inside our strategy. We have put curtains on the windows and pictures on the wall, creating what feels to be a stable living space. As time goes on, we will make tweaks here and there, but the hard framework of our early constructing (based solely on our efforts to be noticed by and belong to our primary group) will hold tight. It will drive how we operate, the rules we live by, the way we understand and place limits on ourselves and others. It will hold tight even while it robs us of the many possibilities that exist outside of its walls.

There will be many years of living inside our Defensive Strategy house before it occurs to us to re-think both the original problem and our created solutions and notice the substantial cracks throughout our house. For those interested in this re-think, the second part of the journey is available. It’s a return journey which starts again at Point 9 with self-awareness. Until next time.    -Sali

The Inner Triangle, Point 6, We Open our Eyes

In the last Insights we began the Inner Triangle journey at Point 9 where we, while “asleep” and unaware, solved the pain and fear of not being seen or welcomed by letting go of certain behaviors (coming out of Gift) which didn’t seem to be working and developed other behaviors (coming out of Defensive Strategy) we thought would work better to receive the welcome we sought.
We now move from Point 9 to Point 6. It is at Point 6 that we “wake up” to find ourselves in an unfamiliar place. It is as if, while we were asleep we were transported hundreds of miles down the road and much of what we used to orient ourselves is gone. Our reaction to the waking-up is disorientation and fear. Recall that the work we did at point 9 was done to reduce fear, now here our fear is inflamed.
This fearful reaction makes sense. Before we “fell sleep” we were practicing behaviors that came out of our Gifts, ones we naturally held and offered the world. We were just being us. But when our security was threatened we needed to make substantial changes. We used the currency we had and exchanged Gifts for Defensive Strategies. It’s those exchanges we awake to.
When looking at our situation objectively, we can see the understandable and yet unfortunate situation we are in at Point 6. Figuring out the best solution to creating seeing and welcoming led us to abandon parts of ourselves. Without them we feel lost and disoriented. We are a long way from where we started and are afraid. The prevailing emotion state at Point 6 is fear. Where am I? What have I created? Will it be enough to sustain me?
Point 6 on the first half of The Inner Triangle journey is a difficult place, full of fearful disorientation and crippling loneliness …not a place anyone wants to stay long. This will call for yet another solution that we will look next time as we get to Point 3.  Until then…  -Sali   

The Inner Triangle, How We Got Lost

In our last Insight I introduced you to the Inner Triangle that illuminates our universal (shared) human story, where we all started and how we get to where we are now. It is an important part of the Enneagram symbol as it explains how and why we lost track of our Gifts and replaced them with our Defensive Strategy, as well as how and why we can let go of our Defensive Strategy and reconnect with our Gifts. The Inner Triangle follows the journey we start early in life and one we will continue on until our dying day. This journey unfolds in two parts; today we begin with the first part, beginning at point 9 where we first lose track of ourselves.
The term the Enneagram uses for this losing track is “falling asleep” to ourselves. This term highlights what we will do, unaware, here at point 9. This all begins sometime in our first four years of life.  You see, we arrive in the world open and vulnerable, intellectually unaware, but holding qualities that come naturally to us (our Gifts.) Our initial vulnerability includes an assumption that we’ll be welcomed and seen as we are, especially in our gifting. We eventually run into experiences in which we’re not seen or welcomed and experience pain and fear as a result. It is simply too scary to be overlooked or misunderstood at this stage in life therefore our sense of security is affected. If this happens too often, we are compelled to find a solution to ensure the seeing and welcoming we require. It will come down to tweaking, in some way, how we have interacted (which has up to this point been driven by our Gifting). As we tweak our Gifts, we are essentially developing their replacements, our Defensive Strategies- behaviors meant to help relieve the pain and fear we experience.
Our new tweaked strategy seems to work, we are grateful, and our pain and fear lessen. As this process repeats itself, we find ourselves moving further away from our Gifted behaviors through lack of practice. At the same time, we are building our Defensive Strategy.
It is important to keep in mind that this is happening when we are young… when there are limits on our knowledge and our options, but no limit on our need for the security that comes from being seen and welcomed. The creativity we demonstrate given these combined limitations, is admirable.
In the next Insight we will continue The Inner Triangle’s journey and find out what is next for us at Point 6. 

 – Sali– 

Let Me Introduce You To The Inner Triangle

The Enneagram is a great self-awareness tool highlighting what is important to us and how we interact in the world. It’s also a great problem-solving tool for when things aren’t going so well helping us find better ways to interact. It contrasts behaviors that come from our strengths (I call these our Gifts) and behaviors that come from our weaknesses (I call these our Defensive Strategies.) Today I want to introduce you to the Enneagram’s Inner Triangle which lays out for us how our Gifts and Defensive Strategies are related to each other. Over the next several Insights you will see how the Inner Triangle points to both the self-awareness and the problem-solving wisdom of the Enneagram.
Let me explain a bit. We live our life; we don’t watch ourselves live it. Similarly, we might run a race but don’t watch ourselves run it. Someone else does the watching. From their third-party perspective they can give us feedback on how the race is going. The Inner Triangle takes this same third-party perspective and gives us feedback on what is happening as we live our life. We find the Inner Triangle in the middle of the Enneagram symbol using the lines connecting 9, 6, and 3. Even though it uses these numbers, the Inner Triangle is giving every type feedback on what is happening in us and around us. Using this feedback will increase our self-awareness and make possible new problem-solving possibilities.
The Inner Triangle gives us feedback on our universal (shared) human story, that is, where we stated and how we got to where we are. It is the Enneagram’s attempt to helps us have a context in which to understand how we have both Gifts and Defensive Strategies and how they relate to each other. There are two halves to this universal human story, the first half begins at point 9, moving to point 6, and then onto point 3, the second half starts again at point 9, but now moves us to point 3, and on to point 6.
This may make little sense right now but stay with me as together we follow the Inner Triangle’s observations step-by-step. We will watch from this third-party perspective how our human story starts off with us vulnerable and needy, having little awareness, and trying to figure out how the world works, and then where we go from there. I hope you will see your story reflected in the observations of the Inner Triangle and will be able to use it to increase your own self-awareness and problem-solving skills because that’s what the Enneagram is all about.  Stay tuned!    – Sali

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Seven, How Things Unfold

I began these Enneagram Insights discussing the Law of One and the Law of Three because these overarching concepts are part of the wisdom contained in the Enneagram. Today we move to the Law of Seven represented by the six inner lines that begin and end at point One called the “hexad.” Recall the previous Insight in which we observed two opposing views reconciled and a third view emerge, the Law of Three (see the previous post, below). It is at this point that the Law of Seven comes into play highlighting what unfolds in the life of a thing does not do so in a straightforward way. Instead it will do so in a way the breaks that straight line and move up, down, this way and that, jump, pause, circle back, or go off in a new direction all together. The hexad lines illustrate visually that nothing is free of change; quite the opposite, change is a certainty.

How does this Law of Seven help us navigate personality? It suggests we ready ourselves for the distinct possibility that real outcomes many depart from what we have planned, either in a positive or negative direction. Warned by this law, we can comfort ourselves that whatever is happening now will not continue forever—or we can brace ourselves for that same reality. This invites us to recognize and accept that—beyond our effort or manipulation— things will change, something new will be introduced, and we will need to let go of something else.

It invites us to move with our lived experiences. We can develop practices that help us cherish what we have and experience as we hold them loosely. It invites us to create practices of intentionally marking situations and stages in life that will come to their end. It reminds us that difficult seasons will give way to less difficult ones. This is a truth we have encountered in life. The Enneagram is simply adding this truth to the wisdom it brings.  -Sali

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Three Invites Either/Or to Shift to Both/And

In the previous scene of our drama, point 9 showed up in hopes of casting a new vision by inviting our opposing characters to reconsider their Either/Or-ing. What could be their response? Let’s imagine the following. 

We watch point 9 assure both 3 and 6 that they are being heard, affirming that they both bring something of merit. This idea was previously unimagined by our 3 and 6 points. Impacted by point 9’s gentle, attentive voice, 3 and 6 begin to relax and, most interestingly, to be a bit more open to the differences that point 9 has affirmed in the other. Now dismissing the other and moving against or away from is replaced by curiosity. As we see this transformation build, we see the potential of moving beyond two opposing views to creating a third thing, a resolution that can move things forward. 

I want to shift now and look at the Law of Three more technically. There are labels we use to identify the three forces we have personified for our purposes and have been following these two months. The label used for point 3 is the “Affirming Force,” that which begins the process with the introduction of a starting point. Secondly, is the “Denying Force” at point 6, which comes up against what is offered from point 3. Lastly, the “Reconciling Force” at point 9 that offers to negotiate what is best and true from the first two forces. This last force makes possible the shift needed to achieve reconciliation, support right action, and experience real resolution for the good of all. 

The Enneagram, holding the triangle front and center, is illuminating the wisdom of the Law of Three. It is from within this space of Both/And that the Enneagram suggests we come to the table with our ideas allowing other very different ideas to be set alongside them. Then, with time and curiosity, we see how seemingly contrary ideas can refine each other, affecting and influencing each other until what gets created looks very different than what we each first laid down. Truly the “tug of influence” between the Affirming and Denying forces alone gets us nowhere. The Enneagram uses the Law of Three to invite us to see this plainly and loosen the hard, certain lines we draw and discover that Both/And sets us on a path of more durable resolutions. -Sali

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Three and Both/And

We have been exploring the Law of Three represented by the triangle held squarely in the middle of the Enneagram’s circle, listening for the wisdom it wants us to take hold of and practice. Last time we left off with the “tug of influence” happening between point 3’s “Yes!” and point 6’s “No1”. And remember from our last Insight, we all practice both “yes” and “no” views at many points in life. Also keep in mind that there are no “good guys” or “bad guys” here; these are different, unique voices. Yet they can make for an impasse that often becomes a final—though less durable —resolution. 

Luckily, this is where point 9 enters the story line, dropping down into point 3 and point 6’s back and forth of what can feel like opposing truths. The 9 moves into this opposition with a beautiful, albeit difficult, Both/And

We have highlighted the opposing stands point 3 and point 6 represent and the (partial) truth represented by each, but what of this Both/And point 9 brings? What is this all about? 

Metaphors abound to help us appreciate the effect of the point 9 here. One I particularly like is visualizing point 3 and point 6 as a boat and sail respectively and 9 as the wind. The boat will go nowhere, the sail will be of no use, without the effect of the wind to pull it all together, to bring the best of each to the act of moving forward. The boat is not enough, the sail is not enough—yet both are needed. What makes their gifts come together to make something happen is the wind. Point 9 shines a flashlight on what both bring, pulling out what is needed and letting go of what is not. To be sure this shining, inviting forward, and letting go, is often unwelcome by the voices at points 3 and 6 or by you and me. We get stuck in our truth, protective to the death–afraid that if you win, I lose. So, we double down, with our hands over our ears, and lose so much. Next time we’ll explore what we might have to gain if we allow point 9’s Both/And to get through to us.