Thursday, September 29, 2011

Transcend and Include

Transcend and include -- each moment transcends (or is external to) the previous moment, which becomes internal to (or enfolded in) the new moment. Ken Wilber
A LinkedIn group discussion itriggered many questions about how or if coaching might be based on a client's preference for the self-preservation instinct (home, food, security, family), the one-to-one instinct (personal energy, sexuality, close relationships, spiritual union), or the social instinct (social identity, participation in groups and community).

For those who want to know more about the instinctual subtypes, there's a good introduction at Peter O'Hanranhan's web site.

Some teachers have used the metaphor of a three-legged stool with one leg each for the self-preservation, one-to-one, and social instincts. This metaphor is not unique to the Enneagram community, nor is the notion that an ideal "stool" will be perfectly balanced. In academic medicine the three legs of the stool are teaching, patient care, and research. The Episcopal Church's stool has scripture, reason, and tradition as legs.

The Enneagram instincts stool is often described as having one leg shorter than the other two, that leg being the one we over-use -- the one where our personality's ego-structure plays out most of its habitual behavior, a way we fall "asleep" in daily life. Perfectionists whose primary instinctual drive is self-preservation, for example, would tend to focus on organizing their physical world, on doing things right, and as coaches we would explore the degree to which this is an over-zealous, unconscious, habit-driven focus.

Perfectionists might also assume that the legs of the stool should be exactly the same length. But that's not a helpful coaching assumption. A coaching client with a one-to-one focus might have identified and released some key patterns in his one-to-one interactions as well as in his self-preservation focus. His social instinct might still be less developed than the other two, but there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, no need to ensure that his connection with community is exactly even with self-preservation and one-to-one relationships.

The coaching questions are always and only, "How do I help clients become more conscious?" "What are their habitual patterns?" "How do these patterns operate?" "As clients step aside, without judgment, and gain a broader perspective, how might they interrupt a pattern?"

If the client with a one-to-one focus comes for coaching to be more comfortable in groups, that's a coaching opportunity. And I asked Peter O'Hanrahan to show how that might work, coaching me as an Enneagram Nine with a primary one-to-one and secondary self-preservation focus. We were looking for a way to move the energy around, to extend it in a new way.

I described attending an LGBT-sponsored dance at my church. I wanted to support the group, but entered the room in my habitual, one-to-one way, looking for someone familiar, feeling discomfort surrounded by so many faces of acquaintances I didn't know very well. I did find two people I knew, sat and chatted at their table for about 30 minutes, then left for the sanctity of my home and a good book I looked forward to finishing. Nothing wrong there. But I wish to be more comfortable in social settings, to release the habitual response of feeling marginal in groups.

Peter asked me to consider situations where I do feel quite comfortable in a group, and I described my qigong classes. As I mentioned in another blog post, I'm a body-based type -- I learn kinesthetically and my discomfort in groups is physical. Peter said, "So what would be a way for you to stay grounded in your body while being around those people at the church party? Notice how your attention goes out to the people in that space, notice your anxiety, and bring your attention back into your body, being grounded in the way you are in qigong classes."

I have since been in groups where I had a chance to practice this grounding, felt surprisingly comfortable, and also noticed a spontaneous change -- I was quite chatty!