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Spiral Dynamics and the Enneagramme #2


Jack: It is true that, listening to the description of the different levels, it was sometimes difficult not to think of certain Types in the Enneagramme. RED and Type 8, or ORANGE and Type 3, for instance. How can we put all this together?

Fabien: We have been observing and asking questions of people around us for almost 2 years to see if and how both systems can coexist. The results of that survey support the validity of both systems and respect their specifics. Every morning, when we wake up, we are convinced that we are the same person we were the night before, and 10 years before, and in our childhood. Yet, and it may sound like a paradox, we also have the feeling that we have deeply changed.

Patricia: The Enneagramme describes with extraordinary subtlety the steady part of our personality. It is the enneatype we keep from the beginning of our life until the end. Which doesn’t keep the Enneagramme from being dynamic and from integrating a certain number of changes, with the growth of the wings, or with the disintegration or integration process. This process represents a major psycho-spiritual evolution, that independent of the changes described by Spiral Dynamics.

Fabien: Spiral Dynamics describes with as much subtlety as the Enneagramme another aspect of our personality: the way we adjust to life conditions, and the way we fit into a social structure. We think that, for a more thorough understanding of how we and others function, we need to use both approaches together. Our observations show that both systems can be used fully.

Patricia: All Types in the Enneagramme can have access to the Spiral’s levels…

Fabien: … and all levels can be experienced by all Types!

Jack: Are you pulling the ‘all-is-in-everything-and-vice-versa’ trick on me?

Fabien: Yes. All combinations are possible, but they are not equal. Let’s talk about the concept of affinity between a Type and a Spiral’s level. A Type may feel comfortable in one particular level because it enables the Type to fully express its personality; or on the contrary, feel uncomfortable because that level does not match its natural way of functioning.

Patricia: This is a bit like travelling. In some countries, you feel immediately comfortable; the culture seems familiar. In other countries, people look unfamiliar to you and you need more time to adjust.

Fabien: In the process of growing up, humans go through different levels of the Spiral. Some levels feel more natural and comfortable than others. A person might find it hard to leave one level and go to the next, even if life conditions require it. In Enneagramme terms we would say that in such instances an individual rigidly clings to their personality instead of adjusting to changes in the environment. So certain levels encourage clinging to the personality which slows down the adjustment to the new environment.

Jack: Could you give us some examples?

cp=counterphobic - s=social subtype - x=sexual subtype - a=mental as support centre - m=instinctive as support center Copyright © 2004 Fabien & Patricia Chabreuil

cp=counterphobic – s=social subtype – x=sexual subtype – a=mental as support centre – m=instinctive as support center
Copyright © 2004 Fabien & Patricia Chabreuil

Fabien: Sure. The chart sums up how each Type can feel at home or not in each Spiral’s level.

A complete discussion of this chart requires a thorough knowledge of Spiral Dynamics. However, we can rapidly go through the main aspects for each enneatype.

Patricia: Ones are particularly comfortable in BLUE. The existence of an absolute Truth, of specific rules defining the right way of doing things, suit Type One. The negative, sometimes punishing attitude towards behaviours seen as deviant easily matches an egotic Type One’s functioning. The sacrifice of Self required by this level is easy. Of course that does not mean that all Ones are centred in BLUE. It means that for Ones reaching the BLUE level in the Spiral is easy and once there, it’s difficult to detach from BLUE. Because they feel so at ease in there, Ones prefer to ‘live’ there and even when circumstances require a move to ORANGE, Ones put up more resistance than other types.

Fabien: 2s do not like RED. RED’s impulsiveness and potential to explode frightens them. They feel much more comfortable in GREEN, which is sensitive and takes others more into consideration; but that level is probably too egalitarian for them. 2s are one of the Types who haven’t found a world yet that seems perfect for them.

Patricia: Thanks to their ability to adapt and to their passion, deceit, Threes are able to feel comfortable in any level. But individualistic, opportunity-driven, competitive ORANGE is their favourite field. That causes a big confusion between 3s and ORANGE . We will get back to that later.

Fabien: Like 2s, 4s have not yet found a world that suits their ego. 4s are sensitive, caring and respectful of others, that’s why they could easily like GREEN. But GREEN implies a level of sacrifice of the Self that 4s are not comfortable with.

Patricia: Rationality and scientific progress are an ORANGE feature and perfectly suit 5s. However they prefer YELLOW which relates to the world through mental thought and information gathering. To the contrary, 5s cannot bear BLUE’s existence of an absolute and indisputable Truth.

Fabien: 6s can feel comfortable in strong, hence secure, social structures: PURPLE with its traditions, its referring to authority and its wish to find an explanation for the world; GREEN with its importance of a strong belonging to a community; and somehow, BLUE, there again, with its authority, rules and belonging. But counterphobic behaviours can lead Types 6 to reject those same systems.

Patricia: Highly developed Type 7s’ individualism, which is centred around avoiding pain and satisfying impulses, deeply connects them to RED. 7s also feel comfortable in ORANGE: they share its wish for material success, the same progress-orientated optimism, the same taste for change and technology. If Types 7 manage to discipline their mind, YELLOW, which is curious and understanding-oriented, can play a prominent part.

Fabien: RED, which favours strength, refuses to be dominated, likes fighting to get power and control is 8’s big temptation, the level in which they can satisfy their taste for action. On the other hand, GREEN’s search for consensus, and the rhythm that goes with it, can seem unbearably soft to type 8.

Patricia: Last but not least, 9s. They are horrified by RED’s impulsive violence. They feel reassured by BLUE’s traditionalism; but GREEN, with its search for consensus inside the community and its purpose to belong represents their main values but also their potential shortcomings: vagueness, inaccuracy and indecisiveness.

Jack: This idea also appears in the Enneagramme: our biggest strength is our biggest weakness. Because we know how to function in a level, we tend to get stuck in it. On the other hand, we can miss interesting information from levels that seem initially off-putting. Using Spiral Dynamics and the Enneagramme in tandem can help therapists and coaches fill the gaps in their understanding of client behaviour.

Fabien: Not only therapists and coaches, but also parents can help their children as they grow up. On a personal level, we can understand our own reluctance and difficulties. What’s more, bringing both systems closer enables us to foresee difficulties adjusting to structures. For instance, if you hire a 7 in a department that is centred in BLUE, you may have problems.

Jack: Do you think that considering these 2 models in conjunction benefits both?

Fabien: I think the affinity between a Type and a Spiral’s level can sometimes distort the way we describe Types.

Patricia: That is one of our pet topics. An enneatype is a favourite centre, an inner and/or outer use of that centre, an orientation, a compulsion, a passion-virtue pair, a fixation-holy idea pair and a main defence mechanism. If you push it, that’s all there is to it, and the whole Enneagramme could be described on both sides of one page. But to be more precise, to make the identification easier, to make the model more effective, the Enneagramme community wrote tens of thousands of pages! For the same reason we have observed, researched and questioned people of all enneatypes.

Fabien: Now let’s assume that, statistically, most Ones stopped their growth in BLUE, or went further, but kept a hypertrophied BLUE. In that case, our description of One might mix features of type One, and features of BLUE that have nothing to do with Type One. You remember I mentioned Michael, the person I met in a training? That was his criticism about the Enneagramme: “I’m clearly a type One. Anger and perfectionism drive my personality, but I’m not centred in Blue.”

Patricia: For instance, a deservedly highly respected member in the Enneagramme community writes: “If you are a One, …you’ll feel secure in a workplace that provides clear guidelines and a strict demarcation of responsibilities.” The same person writes: “They need to know the rules and how to follow the rules to get the job done.” Another person describes Type One as “rule-bound”.

Fabien: No, this is not Type One. This is Type One–BLUE. When Michael reads those sentences, he cannot fully recognise himself in the Enneagramme model. He considers that it is flimsy, that it accurately describes some parts of his personality, but is totally inaccurate about other parts.

Patricia: And what about our description of Type 8, that is often a bit too RED?

Fabien: Not to mention the description of Type 3. In Western culture ORANGE is dominant and Types 3, who seek social success, easily adjust to the ORANGE level. Our portrayals of 3, apart from describing their basic patterns, are overly influenced by ORANGE . That puzzled us for a long time. We saw many people who knew that they were not Types 3 and yet showed so many features traditionally linked to that Type. Actually, what we thought was Type 3 was in fact ORANGE.

Jack: What can we do to better discriminate?

Fabien: Two things. First, we should pay more attention to distinguishing between patterns that are Type based and patterns that are unique to the individual. For instance, nothing in Type One’s basic features demands there be rules.

Patricia: The second thing is to welcome minorities! Even if most Types One have a strong and frequent access to the BLUE level, let’s try to define new combinations like Type One-GREEN, Type One-YELLOW, etc, and let’s do it for all 9 Types.

Jack: That would be a huge task!

Fabien: Tell me about it! We hope that this article in the EM will make many readers want to look further into Spiral Dynamics and take part in that task. All contributions are welcome, feel free to contact us.

Jack: Obviously, it is also a way to make the Enneagramme more transcultural?

Patricia: Of course. People from all over the world are passionate about the Enneagramme, but most of them come from Western countries. For economic or other reasons, our Type descriptions do not take enough of other countries’ cultural specifics into consideration. Introducing all the possible combinations between enneatypes and Spiral Dynamics levels would remedy this situation.

Fabien: Making the Enneagram more specific to make it more universal.

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2 Responses

  1. Keith E Rice says

    Hi, Tim

    For the “potential correlations with Spiral Dynamics”, you may have to look elsewhere than me, I’m afraid.

    I’ve never had a great interest in the Enneagramme. I’ve long ago lost the correspondence between myself, Chris Cowan and Fabien Chabreuil that led to the re-publishing of the Ennagramme Monthly article.

    I’m more than prepared to accept the likely validity of the work of the Chabreuils and would be only too glad to publish a follow-up. However, as a model of temperament, I’m much more attracted to Eysenck’s sciencey Dimensions so Temperament

    I’d recommend you check out Institut Français del’ennéagramme I’ve not communicated with the Chabreuils for years; but, back in the day, I found Fabien to be warm and receptive and very serious about the complementarity of SD and the Enneagramme. He also writes in excellent English.

  2. Tim Saunders says

    With an interest in SD and the Enneagram I would be interested to learn how would you go about integrating the Enneagram (of personality) into your general theory of SocioPsychology as contained in your book Knowing Me, Knowing You? I know of one book which combines NLP with the Enneagram but none which treat its potential correlations with Spiral Dynamics.