Author Archives: TJ Dawe

Trump – a Great Big Unhealthy Eight

trump-pronoucing-the-letter-fTrump’s type is Eight – the Challenger. Eights are tough, decisive and confrontational. A healthy Eight is a warm, generous, big hearted, magnanimous, courageous, a leader who cares for others, and protects them. (See the profiles of James Hetfield and Margaret Cho as examples)

Over the course of Donald Trump’s campaign he’s displayed a laundry list of unhealthy Eight characteristics: savage mockery of others, crude sense of humour, relentless self-aggrandizement, inability to prevent himself from counter-attacking when provoked, and a desire for revenge on his enemies – including wanting to imprison Hilary Clinton, sue the women who’ve accused him of sexual harassment, and his Tweeted description of Paul Ryan as ineffective and (a particularly vile insult to an unhealthy Eight) weak.

Inside every tough, loud, power-asserting Eight, there’s a sensitive tender child. A healthy Eight can access this softness. An unhealthy Eight buries their vulnerability and denies it, closing off their heart.

It can be hard to sympathize with a low functioning Eight. They’re crass bullies. But this is what their suffering looks like. A chronically unhealthy Eight tries to cover their pain with intense activity and over the top behaviour, piling on work and pleasures, with none of it really impacting them for more than a moment. They end up alienating people, and feel less safe and more unloved than before.

trump-bushThe infamous recording of Trump bragging of kissing women and grabbing them by the genitals happened a month into his third wife’s pregnancy. Marriage to a supermodel and the tremendous event of an impending birth did so little to alleviate Trump’s loneliness and pain, he was already on the prowl, smirking and bragging like a frat boy as he covered up his sensitivity from himself. This strikes me as the sign of someone profoundly unable to feel happiness.

After he loses the election – by a landslide – I predict Trump will retreat and hibernate. In Enneagram terms, this corresponds with the movement from Eight to Five under stress. There’s trump-wavingbeen talk of him starting a news network of his own. He might. But running a presidential campaign is a colossal expenditure of energy. I think he’ll be cut to his heart by the humiliation of such a dire loss that he’ll disappear and lick his wounds, much like the Eight character Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad after being shot, or George Foreman, after losing to Muhammad Ali in Zaire.

What Trump does is, of course, his business. I don’t know him, and I don’t imagine anyone reading this does either. An analysis of his inner life is relevant to us inasmuch as each of us can look into our hearts, and spend time looking at our own relationship with our vulnerability. Have we been wounded? Have we closed ourselves off from our sensitivity? Do we mistake chest-pounding for strength? Do we dare to actually feel our feelings, to let the world touch us, to take quiet time with ourselves, to cherish and respect the dignity of all people and all creatures, and to take action for their protection?

The Tragically Hip and the Enneagram

The Tragically Hip gave their farewell concert on Saturday, August 20th. Seen through the lens of the Enneagram, I see front man Gord Downie as a Five, and the Hip as a band that oozes the ethos of Type Six, which has helped cement their status as Canada’s greatest band.

Gord with hankie on his faceType Five is the Investigator, the Specialist, the Observer. Fives are cerebral, intense, private and weird. Gord Downie’s Five-ness can be seen in multiple ways.

Firstly, his lyrics are cryptic and obscure. Even the band’s most ardent fans are at a loss to explain the meaning of the many of their best loved songs. Try to decipher the meaning of these lyrics, from their song Springtime in Vienna:

Instructions from the manual/Could not have been much more plain/The blues are still required/The blues are still required again

Past territorial piss posts/Past whispers in the closets/Past screaming from the rooftops/We live to survive our paradoxes/We live to survive our paradoxes/We live to survive our paradoxes

Gord riding the mic standWhat the hell do they mean? Who knows! Doesn’t matter.

During guitar solos, Downie engages in eccentric stage movements that can loosely be called dancing. He shakes. He strikes a strange pose and holds it for a full minute. He pantomimes actions that have no relation to the song. I saw him mime mowing a lawn with what was clearly an electric mower – he stopped at the edge of the stage, flipped the mimed handle to the other side, and mowed back across the stage, and then flipped it, and mowed the other direction again. One YouTube commenter on this compilation likened his movements to those of David Byrne of the Talking Heads – another Five.

Gord making a weird faceAnother of Downie’s trademarks has been his improvising strange poetic rants during songs – a tendency somewhat reminiscent of Jim Morrison – who I believe was also a Five. Like his lyrics – what do these rants mean? Again, who knows. And again, it doesn’t matter. If you have an appetite for more, these improvisational explorations can be heard in abundance on the band’s 1997 concert album Live Between Us.

Fives can have a sort of gallows humour. In an interview, Downie referenced a song from the band’s 1995 album Day for Night: “Even ‘The Inevitability of Death’ is kind of a funny song more than anything. I mean, I thought it would be funny imagining radio deejays cueing it up and announcing it as people are driving off to work.”

The Tragically Hip Gord Downie’s Five-ish weirdness is very well held in the container of the band’s overall Six-ness. Type Six is the Loyalist, the Questioner, the Devil’s Advocate, the Buddy. Sixes are a bundle of opposites – alternately trusting and suspicious, introverted and extroverted, fearful and courageous. A group of Healthy Sixes will have a sort of all for one/one for all feel to them.

Sixes are very egalitarian. They often have an every-person quality. The Tragically Hip have always been very down to earth. An early profile referenced them wearing the same clothes on stage as they had on playing street hockey a few hours before the show – and this was in 1992, when a band’s image often eclipsed their actual music. Even with the Hip’s massive success within Canada, they never dressed or acted like rock stars. There have never been tales of excess, meltdowns or feuds.

The five band members went to high school together in Kingston, Ontario. Their friendship is the glue that’s held them together. In a CBC documentary, rhythm guitarist Paul Langlois described how the band chose him because he was someone they could get along with, despite The Tragically Hip, Photo: Gordon Hawkinshim not being the best guitarist in the world. Downie confirmed friendship as the basis for the band, saying “If we weren’t in this band, some of us wouldn’t be playing at all. You have tiffs with someone when he has smelly feet in the touring van, but we all respect each other as friends first.”

Healthy Sixes have a sense of being part of something bigger. The back of the band’s album covers have always prominently featured the sentence: “All songs written by The Tragically Hip.” This makes a big difference in terms of the income of each band member. Keeping it equal has perhaps contributed to their cohesion as a group. They’ve never had any substitutions of members. A replacement vocalist for Downie, who’s recently revealed he has an inoperable brain tumour, is unthinkable.

A notable exception to the Hip’s obscure lyrics is the song Wheat Kings, about the twenty-three year imprisonment of David Milgaard for a murder and rape he didn’t commit. The Hip helped Milgaard’s sister get signatures for a petition and raise money for the costs of his legal fight which won his freedom. Wheat Kings is one of the band’s best loved songs, and serves as a reminder that legal injustice happens in Canada too.

Hip fans with flag If Canada were to have an Enneagram type, it’d likely be Six. Canadians are egalitarian to a fault. It’s an extreme social taboo to toot your own horn, as an American friend of mine living in Canada once observed. Canadians ingest a steady diet of American media, but are very nationalistic, vocally proud of the country’s socialized health care.

But Canadians who feel superior to other nations must contend with the institutionalized racism and abuse of the residential school system. First Nations children were separated from their families, forbidden from speaking their indigenous languages and physically punished to astonishing degrees for doing so, and in many cases were also sexually abused. The residential school system was studied by South Africans as the model for apartheid. The legacy of suffering and trauma in First Nations people continues to this day, and it’s the responsibility of every Canadian to help bring about restitution.

gord-downie-justin-trudeau-and-the-complicated-magic-of-national-mythmaking-body-image-1471876504In the band’s final concert, Downie gave a shout-out to Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, who was in attendance, wearing a Tragically Hip shirt. He said “Prime Minister Trudeau’s got me, his work with First Nations. He’s got everybody. He’s going to take us where we need to go.” Later he added “He cares about the people way up north, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what’s going on up there. And what’s going on up there ain’t good. It’s not cool and everybody knows it. It may be worse than it’s ever been … [but] we’re going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help.”

This drew rapturous applause from the audience. With this public expression of admiration and call to action, Trudeau will have much to answer for if he hasn’t done anything by the next election.

Ultimately, the Tragically Hip’s legacy is one of unity. In that final concert Downie said from the formation of the band, they had the idea that everyone is invited, and everyone is involved. They could play at the university in Kingston, or for the bikers. And their music, while not beloved by every single Canadian, is tremendously popular – the broadcast of their final concert pre-empted the Olympics, and was seen by one third of the country. Their audience includes blue collar workers who love a driving beat, and artsy intellectuals who enjoy exploring the possible meanings of Downie’s lyrics. Disparate types stand shoulder to shoulder, passionately singing along to lyrics whose meaning they’d be stymied to explain.

Canada is a nation of opposites, of conservatives and progressives, of environmentalists and oil patch workers, of bankers and hippies, of hockey jocks and peace protestors, of Tim Hortons coffee drinkers and locavores, of conformists and weirdos. And as the Hip have pointed out, we live to survive our paradoxes.

the Hip band shot

Margaret Cho: a Powerhouse Enneagram Eight

margaret-cho-tattooFor anyone who’s frustrated, frightened or furious in light of recent events, there’s much inspiration to be had from Margaret Cho – a powerhouse of courage, strength and conviction, and an Enneagram Eight.

Type Eight is the challenger, the maverick, the rock. Eights are aggressive, independent and have no patience for bullshit. It’s a type more often associated with masculinity, although a woman is just as likely to be this type as a man is.

Patriarchal socialization and cultural stereotypes have steered many women away from their boundary-setting, strength-displaying energies.

Not Margaret Cho. She’s tough. She knows it.

Margaret Cho - book coverIn her 2005 book I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, she describes the hate that comes her way online on a regular basis. And she likes it, because “if all you have to fight me with is prejudice then I’ve already won the battle, and I’m eventually going to win this war.”

And, like an Eight, she’s unimpressed with the cowardice that online anonymity allows:

“I want to hear what you have to say, but before you have your say, look me in the eye and tell me your name, what your mother called you when you were little, what you do for a living, if you are married, who your children are, if you are truly happy in this life and what your family is like, then, word for word, repeat the emails that you have written to this figurehead in cyberspace that you don’t consider a human being. I also want you to hold my hands when you do it. You can say all the things that you have already told me I am – shall I remind you? Chink, dyke, hole, whore, pig fucker; telling me to go back to where I came from, even though I am an American margaret cho - in blackand was born here; fat, ugly, et al.”

Eights exude body energy. Look me in the eye. Breathe. Stand your ground. Go ahead and rip into me. I can take it. I’m that tough. Are you?

Her strength and power are a huge part of her appeal. She cultivates a similar strength in her fans:

“Fans of my work are not the nicest people in the world. If you’re into me, you’ve been through it. And if you don’t know what being through it means, then you just don’t know me yet. The great fan base I have built up over many years in the business comes to see me with a lot of anticipation, and they have a lot invested in what I might have to say. And they can fucking fight. Margaret Cho - hairQueens do not play. They will fucking kill you. Lesbians know how to throw a punch that will leave a very large bruise, and they aren’t opposed to kicking men right in the balls. The underrepresented, unvoiced, ignored part of our population, the great many people who make up the Cho Army, are something you are unaware of, and they’re pretty much the gang not to fuck with. We are the baddest motherfuckers on the block.”

Not everyone identifies as an Eight. But each of us is, deep down, all nine Enneagram types. We spend more time with one type’s energy and strategies than the others. But if we try, we can find any type’s energy inside us. Tuning in to our Eight-ness can give us the boost we need.

If the patriarchy’s got you down, as abusive assholes get acquitted, as you get one reminder after another that the system is stacked against you – do yourself a favour and give yourself a big strong dose of Cho. Read her books. Watch her stand-up specials. Listen to her albums. She’ll jumpstart the Eight in you. This world can be tough – especially for women. When it’s trying to mess with you, you have the right to kick it in the balls.

Beyonce: a Three Goes to Six

Beyonce super bowlBeyonce turned many heads with her Super Bowl performance of her new song Formation. I see it as a move from Three to Six.

I’d posit Beyonce as a prime example of Type Three: the Achiever. She’s a success machine. She’s been performing since she was seven, writing her own music since her teens, and topping the charts for more than a decade. Her concerts are full of extensive choreography, and she watches a video recording of each night’s concert, giving herself and her dancers notes.

Threes will relentlessly self-improve. No matter how successful you are, you can always make it bigger.

Beyonce hauntedSome Three-ish quotes from Queen Bey:

“As soon as I accomplish one thing, I just set a higher goal. That’s how I’ve gotten where I am.”

“I wanted to sell a million records, and I sold a million records. I wanted to go platinum; I went platinum. I’ve been working nonstop since I was 15. I don’t even know how to chill out.”

“I love my job. But it’s more than that: I need it.”

Threes identify who they are with what they do. Who am I if I’m not this impressive list of accomplishments? And of course, if you reach the highest highs, then what?

Don Draper meditatesThis theme shows up in some other contemporary chronicles of Threes. In the final season of Mad Men, Don Draper’s ad agency is absorbed into the industry’s biggest firm, and Don is assigned the biggest brand in the world: Coca-Cola. He leaves work without warning, and drives across America, seemingly abandoning his prize. The final episode shows him at the Esalen Institute, meditating, sitting with himself, feeling the sadness he’s efficiently tucked away the entire series.

Black WidowIn Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow falls victim to an enchantment that makes her relive memories of her training and conditioning in Russia, with the reveal that she’d been sterilized in order to make her an even more streamlined killing machine. No children, no attachments. But as the story progresses, she wonders who she is when she isn’t on a mission. Is there a person there anymore? What does she want?

Beyonce brought all of her entertainment and business savvy (a common combination with Threes in show business) to her recent Super Bowl performance, debuting the song the day before, and following her performance with an ad for her upcoming world tour.

And the song itself contains some Three-ish declarations of her status as the undisputed queen:

Beyonce-FormationI see it I want it , I stunt, yeah, little hornet 

I grind ’til I own it, I twirl on them haters

Albino Alligators, El Camino with the seat low sipping Cuervo with no chaser

Sometimes I go off, I go hard, Get what’s mine, take what’s mine , I’m a star, I’m a star

Cause I slay, slay, I slay, hey, I slay, okay, I slay.

But the more outstanding part of the song is her declaration of her roots. Beyonce grew up in Houston. Her parents were rich, her dad drove a Jaguar. She didn’t come from the ‘hood. But in Formation she puts herself firmly in the camp of Southern African Americans:

My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana 

You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas Bamma

Beyonce, carI like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros 

I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils

Earned all this money but they never take the country out me 

I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.

The term “bamma” refers to an unsophisticated Southern Black. She claims the title with pride. She champions kinky hair and big nostrils – rejecting any notion that physical assimilation with whites equals beauty.

Beyonce-cop-Car-formation-2The video shows her on a New Orleans police car, sinking into the Mississippi, a reference to Hurricane Katrina and the entrenched social problems in that part of the country. For her Super Bowl performance she costumed herself and her dancers in Black Panthers uniforms, and at one point had them form an X as a nod to Malcolm X.

Beyonce has been the target of a great deal of ring wing rage since then. She doesn’t seem to care. This move was, of course, very deliberate. She could have continued creating music in the style of Single Ladies and Crazy in Love, and it would have been a safer choice to present a familiar hit at the Super Bowl.

Beyonce black panthers outfitsBut each of us has to ask ourselves – who am I? What do I stand for?

Type Six is the Loyalist, and a healthy Six understands the value of being part of something bigger. Threes can see themselves as independent agents, disconnected from the whole, unfettered by ethnicity, or even relationships. Sixes commit to helping the underdog.

Beyonce has declared herself a proud member of a marginalized group, and has changed public perception of her image forever. As she’s said:

“I’m over being a pop star. I don’t wanna be a hot girl. I wanna be iconic. And I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I feel like I’m highly respected, which is more important than any award or any amount of records. And I feel like there comes a point when being a pop star is not enough.”

Pixar’s Inside Out, and the Simple Healing Power of Empathy

Pixar’s been making first class movies for twenty years, and Inside Out may be their best yet. It contains a beautiful and succinct example of the simple healing power of empathy.

Inside Out 1 The movie mostly takes place inside the head of Riley, an adolescent girl. Her major emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust are personified. Sadness is the inadvertent villain, accidentally tainting Riley’s memories with sorrow as she tries to adjust to her family’s cross country move.

Joy and Sadness get sucked into the maze-like memory banks of Riley’s brain, and meet Bing Bong – Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend. Sadness, Joy and Bing Bong witness the destruction of Riley’s inner childhood world. Bing Bong Inside Out 2sees his beloved wagon Rocket get dumped into a pile of junk, and bulldozed off a cliff, into the deep canyon of unrecoverable memories.

Bing Bong sits on the edge of the cliff, stunned. Joy approaches him, and tries to keep their plan of action on track:

Joy: Hey, it’s gonna be okay! We can fix this! We just need to get back to headquarters! Which Inside Out 3way back to the train station…

Bing Bong doesn’t move.

Bing Bong: I had a whole trip planned for us.

Inside Out 4Joy doubles down on positivity.

Joy: Hey… who’s ticklish, huh?? Here comes the tickle monster!

Bing Bong doesn’t respond.

Joy: Hey Bing Bong – look at this! (makes a Inside Out 5face)

Still nothing.

Joy: Oh – here’s a fun game: you point to the train station, and we all go there! Won’t that be fun?? Come on, let’s go to the train station…

Inside Out 6Sadness quietly approaches Bing Bong, and sits next to him.

Sadness: I’m sorry they took your rocket. They took something that you loved. It’s gone. Forever.

Joy: Sadness – don’t make him feel worse!

Inside Out 7Sadness: Sorry.

Bing Bong: It’s all I had left of Riley.

Sadness: I bet you and Riley had great adventures.

Bing Bong: Oh – they were wonderful. Once we flew back in time. We had breakfast twice that day.

Joy: Sadness!

Inside Out 8Sadness: Sounds amazing. I bet Riley liked it.

Bing Bong: Oh, she did. We were best friends.

He starts to cry.

Sadness: Yeah. It’s sad.

He bursts into tears (made of candy), and Inside Out 9hugs Sadness.

Joy groans in exasperation.

Bing Bong recovers. And gets up.

Bing Bong: I’m okay now. Come on. The train station is this way.

Inside Out 10Joy is astonished. She approaches Sadness.

Joy: How did you do that.

Sadness: I don’t know. He was sad, so I listened to what…

Bing Bong: Hey! There’s the train!

Inside Out 11Joy is an exaggerated personification of Enneagram Type Seven – the Enthusiast. Her go-to strategy is to focus on the positive. Sevens, Nines and Twos are part of the
Positivity Triad. In situations of difficulty, look on the bright side! Cheer up!

Sadness is an exaggerated personification of Enneagram Type Four – the Individualist. Her first impulse is to acknowledge the real emotion of the moment. Fours, Sixes and Eights are part Inside Out 13of the Emotional Realness Triad. In situations of difficulty – speak honestly with me. Don’t hide or sugarcoat anything.

Joy is certainly important. And in many situations, it takes going through one’s pain to reach it. Covering it up, distracting from it – these are short term solutions, which might continue one’s entire life.

Also notice that Sadness didn’t try to solve Bing Bong’s problem. She doesn’t suggest a way to retrieve the wagon, or get a new one. Ones, Threes and Fives are part of the Efficiency Triad. In situations of difficulty – solve the problem.

And yet, it’s being emotionally real that solves the problem.

Empathy is startlingly easy and powerful.

Brene Brown provides an insightful observation, saying that “rarely if ever does an empathic response begin with ‘at least’”:

“I had a miscarriage.”

“At least you know you can get pregnant.”

“My marriage is falling apart.”

“At least you have a marriage.”

“John’s getting kicked out of school.”

“At least Sara is an A student.”

Providing empathy helps someone in pain experience what they need to – a necessary step for healing.

zebra buckingAnimals have been observed dealing with stress and trauma in this same way. A zebra who’s just outrun a cheetah will be filled with cortisol and adrenaline. That zebra will then shake its whole body, ridding itself of its pent up energy. The stress is released, and the zebra goes about its day, without clinging to its recent life-threatening experience, or suffering post-traumatic flashbacks later.

No matter our type, no matter what strategy we incline towards, we can choose empathy when someone has suffered a loss or is going through a difficult time. Turning into our sadness doesn’t mean we’ll get stuck in it. Strangely enough it’s plunging into that bottomless pit that allows us to reemerge, strengthened and healed.

David Bowie – a Shining Enneagram Three

BowieDavid Bowie was a picture perfect Enneagram Three.

Type Three is the Achiever, the Performer, the Catch, the Best. Threes have their eyes on the prize, and go for it. Bowie blazed into the pop music scene in his early 20s, and never really lapsed in public adulation. He conquered the movies too – playing a war hero, a goblin king, Pontius Pilate, Nikola Tesla and Andy Warhol. And right before he died, he put out a new album – which garnered rave reviews, before anyone knew he was dying.

Threes can be powerhouses of proficiency. Bowie said he was never attracted to depressants, like marijuana or heroin. He preferred stimulants, saying “I hate sleep. I would much prefer staying up, just working, all the time. It makes me so mad that we can’t do anything about sleep or the common cold.” And notice his preference would be to stay up working, not partying.

Threes don’t shy away from accolades. They know they’re great. Bowie knew his value as a rock star. He said: “To not be modest about it, you’ll find that with only a couple of exceptions, most bowie and imanof the musicians that I’ve worked with have done their best work by far with me.” Threes know they’re the best, and know they deserve the best. They’ll take the most desirable person as their mate – in Bowie’s case, Iman, a Somali supermodel.

Threes are very image conscious. How am I coming off? Which aspects of myself will I accentuate to achieve my goal? An unintegrated Three believes their own sales pitch, confusing their image with their actual self. But an aware Three knows they do this. Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson pointed out that Bowie was a master of this. He made a game of reinventing himself in various guises. The audience knew he was doing this. And he knew you knew. Lady Gaga and Madonna – also Threes – excel at this too.

In a revealing quote, Bowie describes his initial cultivation of different personae as a compensating mechanism:

“As an adolescent, I was painfully shy, withdrawn. I didn’t really have the nerve to sing my songs David-Bowie-Ziggy8on stage and nobody else was doing them. I decided to do them in disguise so that I didn’t have to actually go through the humiliation of going on stage and being myself. I continued designing characters with their own complete personalities and environments. I put them into interviews with me! Rather than be me — which must be incredibly boring to anyone — I’d take Ziggy in, or Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke. It was a very strange thing to do.”

Even though Threes project supreme confidence and skill, there’s often self-consciousness at the root of their achievements and image projections. They fear the world seeing the “real” them. It can be hard to get close to a Three. Intimacy can seem threatening. If someone sees the frail person behind the mask(s), they’ll see how imperfect, how human, how ordinary I really am…

His real last name was Jones, by way. David Jones.

He also let himself look silly. In a behind the scenes interview for his appearance in Ricky Gervais’ series Extras, he straight-fadedly describes supplying Gervais with jokes for upcoming episodes, like “you and whose army??” In the interview he maintains this facade of empty-headedness, playfully tarnishing his image, which makes him all the more loveable.

He once said “I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, ‘Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.’”

Iman-and-David-Bowie-BabyAnd yet he not only came to recognize his own humanity, but described it happily, saying “I’m very at ease, and I like it. I never thought I would be such a family-oriented guy; I didn’t think that was part of my makeup. But somebody said that as you get older you become the person you always should have been, and I feel that’s happening to me. I’m rather surprised at who I am, because I’m actually like my dad.”

A healthy Three can be a shining star without losing their humanity. Their ordinariness doesn’t dim the brightness of their accomplishments – it adds a refreshing warmth. Healthy Threes remind us that we can shoot for the stratosphere, we can pluck the stars from the sky and present them as glittering, fascinating diamonds to the world – and this doesn’t mean neglecting the simple pleasures of love, companionship and self-deprecating laughter.

The Social Instinct Brought Us Into the Digital Age

steve-jobs-Steve-wozniakThe central myth of American culture, according to David Simon, is the transcendent individual: there are great men and women who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and achieve greatness through their autonomy, courage, intelligence, strength and perseverance.

It’s an image particularly associated with science and technology: the lone genius, an anti-social geek, working in his garage in spite of the rejection of the mediocre masses, and then springing his brilliance upon the world and changing everything.

The problem is, it isn’t true.

the Innovators book cover  Walter Isaacson has built a career writing biographies of great individuals: Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin. He swings in the opposite direction for his newest book: The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

It’s an excellent read, and I highly recommend it. Here’s the short version: it was pretty much all groups.

There have certainly been visionaries and geniuses, but they worked with people who had complementary abilities. Those who were isolated, or bad at working with others, made very limited contributions to the information revolution.

In Enneagram terms, this is the Social Instinct at work. The healthy aspect of this instinct is the ability to tune in to others, to work with others, to feel comfortable with others and appreciate how people can work together and bring out the best in each other.

microsofts-early-daysA few examples of this from the book:

When Bell Labs moved their headquarters to New Jersey, they had their various buildings connected by long corridors, specifically to encourage chance meetings between people working in different departments. Steve Jobs replicated this when redesigning Apple’s headquarters.

As Atari exploded with the popularity of Pong, they instituted parties every Friday, with beer, pot-smoking and skinny dipping. Company founder Nolan Bushnell said “We found out our employees would respond to having a party for hitting quotas as much as having a bonus.”

Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore – co-founders of Intel – worked at cubicles identical to those of anyone else in the company. They didn’t have reserved parking spots – no one did. Noyce’s personnel director and wife said “There were no privileges anywhere. We started a form of company culture that was completely different than anything had been before. It was a culture of meritocracy.” This was a very deliberate contrast to the top-down culture of corporate America.

Grace Hopper – a foul mouthed programmer of one of the first computers – swore like a sailor at Richard Bloch – her hardware engineer partner – developing a “pirate crew camaraderie” which became part of the culture of coders, who may be prickly but ultimately value their collaborators as allies.

When researcher Paul Baran was asked who invented the Internet, he answered:

The process of technological development is like building a cathedral. Over the course of several hundred years, new people come along and each lays down a block on top of the old foundations, each saying “I built a cathedral.” Next month another block is placed atop the previous one. Then comes along an historian who asks, “Well, who built the cathedral?” Peter added some stones here, and Paul added a few more. If you are not careful, you can con yourself into believing that you did the most important part. But the reality is that each contribution has to follow onto previous work. Everything is tied to everything else.

team of programmersWe have a strong desire to look good. What could look better than saying “I built that cathedral. Yes, me. Just me.”? But if you were raised by at least one other person, if you learned language, if you wear clothes that you didn’t weave, and eat food you didn’t grow or hunt, then you’re part of the social continuum.

We will continue to learn to live on this planet inasmuch as we can live and work with each other.

Fear of Syrian Refugees and Unhealthy Six-ness

In the wake of the Paris attacks, there’s been a whole lot of unhealthy Six-ness in public discourse.

Type Six is the Loyalist, the Defender, the Devil’s Advocate. The ruling passion of Six is fear, or anxiety. A stressed-out Six’s ego keeps them fearful and suspicious. Danger lurks around every corner! Look out!!

American political discourse is rife with unhealthy Six-ness. There’s an us and them mentality. Those other guys are evil, and worse yet, they’re unified! They’re taking action to destroy everything good! My side needs to circle the wagons, now!!!

Turfed out Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to leverage this fear of outsiders in the recent Canadian election, referencing “old stock Canadians” (us) and making an issue out of Muslim women wearing a niqab during their citizenship ceremony (them).

Gumball metaphorNow fear has gotten back into the driver’s seat for many of us. Some are fearful of allowing Syrian refugees into Canada or the US, denouncing politicians who’ve promised to do so. Implicit in this fear is the belief that these refugees, and muslims in general, are terrorists. Or at least ten per cent of them are, anyway. Keep them out!!

Enneagram author Russ Hudson said that American culture needs a strong dose of healthy Six. And this doesn’t just refer to those of us who identify with Six as our Enneagram type. We all have that energy. We can all find the Six in us.

While an unhealthy Six is cynical, mean-spirited, prejudiced, and highly positional, a healthy Six knows that everyone counts and has equal weight. A unhealthy Six will view an entire pack of “others” as uniform and threatening, but a healthy Six can see the difference between individuals and know that blanket statements that fan the flames of fear don’t give an accurate picture at all. The healthy Six sees the actual people struggling under the heel of oppression, and rushes in to defend and protect them.

Classifications separating people are manufactured. George Carlin (a famous Six) pointed this out in his book Brain Droppings, when he said “Everyone is from somewhere else. All people are refugees, immigrants, or aliens. If there were natives anywhere, they would be people who still live in the Great Rift Valley in Africa where the human species arose. Everyone else is just visiting.”

Extremism – in both religion and politics – is born from fear. It’s an unflattering truth to face that reactionary  Canadians and Americans are operating from the same mentality as the terrorists they’re afraid of.

Our instinct to fear and distrust others developed to help us survive in a different time. It’s regressive to adopt it now.

We can rise above this way of being. We can thank the fearful vigilance in us for its concern, and act with clarity and humanitarian compassion that extends to all people fleeing harm and oppression.

Stephen Harper and the Self-Prez Instinct

Stephen Harper doubled-down on Canada’s self-prez instinct, and lost.

The Self-Preservation Instinct (known in Enneagram circles as “self-prez”) refers to one’s physical wellbeing. Someone who has self-prez at the top of their instinctual stack will have a frequent focus on one or more of three areas: health, finances and domesticity.

Stephen HarperFormer Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper very well might a self-prez type. He’s been staunchly pro-business his entire political career. More oil sands development and a rabid push for the Keystone pipeline. Closing down research stations and muzzling scientists because of the danger of their findings making a dent in investment and profits. Cancelling the long form census, ostensibly because of the cost of it.

Canada, as a whole, emphasizes the self-prez instinct. American culture does too. The American Dream is to get rich. The Canadian Dream is to get by. And getting by means a stable job, a house you own, a cottage by the lake, and frequent trips to Tim Hortons.

Harper appealed to the Canadian public’s self-prez concerns right from the start of his time in office. He cut the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by one percent, and then another. He defunded publicly run day cares, and gave that money out as increased family allowance cheques. He instituted tax-free savings accounts (TFSA).

As this recent election ramped up, he made a big show of having balanced the budget. He promised to invest in the auto industry, and increase military spending, to provide jobs. As things came to a close, his party bought full page, front page ads on every newspaper in the country, saying:

Voting Liberal 

will cost you. 

With higher taxes and lost benefits to fund new government programs

$4 028 for a typical family, and

$4 086 for a married couple over 65.

Can You Afford a Liberal Government?

It didn’t work. The Conservatives got trounced.

In his concession speech, Harper affirmed his self-prez priorities, saying: “Laureen (his wife) and I have embraced the public life because we believed that Canadians that are working hard should keep more of the money they earn because we believe that government should manage the people’s money the way that they manage their own.”

Later in the speech, he proudly claims a legacy that’s primarily financial: “We have built a Canada that is stronger than ever, our economy is growing, and new jobs are being created. The budget is balanced and federal taxes are at their lowest in 50 years. We are poised to seize the opportunities that come with free trade access to Europe, to the Americas, and now to the Asia Pacific.”

Self-preservation is, of course, really important. Without a healthy self-prez instinct, none of us would be alive. But the danger of overemphasizing this instinct is that you can conflate material wellbeing with genuine happiness.

A major flaw in the American psyche, as identified by Noam Chomsky, David Simon and others, is the tendency to measure human worth solely in relation to a person’s ability to generate wealth.

There are other values that deserve our attention. They’re just harder to measure.

The survival of our civilization, and even our species, might come to an end, with the darkest irony, if our collective self-prez instinct continues to prioritize short term financial gain over long term wellbeing for us and the planet, as well as the healthy social unity that will keep us taking care of each other instead of excluding, bickering, and murdering each other.

An open letter to Stephen Harper from a BC woman went viral, quoted in full below, expresses exactly this.


Dear Mr. Harper,

I live in BC with my husband and two little girls. I grew up in Calgary and have many friends and family members there. I’m white and in my early 40s. One of us is a stay at home parent, so we benefit 100% from the direct deposits in lieu of a National Childcare Program. We also benefit 100% from income splitting. And we can afford to take advantage of the increased allowance in our TFSAs.

In other words, we’re the picture of the family who benefits the most from your economic policies.

But we’re not voting Conservative on October 19th.

You see, you’ve misjudged us. We enjoy our standard of living, we work hard for it but it’s not the only thing that matters to us.

You assume we don’t care about our First Nations neighbours, or Canadians trying to bring their family members here from war torn countries. That we don’t care about less fortunate Canadians, our veterans, or scientists. You think we don’t mind that to save a few bucks and balance the books we axed the census, dumped decades of research from our libraries, cut funding to CBC, under-spent our budgets in important departments and closed coast guard stations. You figure we no longer want our lakes and rivers protected and that we don’t understand that climate change is a far greater risk to our way of life than Barbaric Cultural Practices.

You’ve underestimated us.

On October 19, we’re not voting for our bank balance. We’re voting for change because we want the caring Canada of our youth back. The Canada that supported our single mothers that gave us the opportunity to succeed in the first place.

Mary Cleaver

Amy Schumer and Displaced Pain

AmySchumerAmy Schumer is probably an Enneagram Seven: the Enthusiast – quick-minded, improvising, outgoing, entertaining, idealistic, taboo-breaking, egalitarian, pleasure-seeking.

She generates a tremendous output of material. Her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer features her stand-up act, sketches, interviews with people on the street, and longer interviews with people of interest (a phone sex operator, a medium, a little kid). She talks to everyone as an equal, and always comes up with brilliantly funny things to say. She tackles meaningful subjects, and can be hilariously silly the next moment.

She’s said: “My comedy is unapologetic and fearless. Like, sometimes you’ll wind up having condomless sex with someone that you probably shouldn’t. I’m interested in sharing that part of myself unapologetically so that other people will hopefully feel better.”

She wrote and starred in the movie Trainwreck, which she described to NPR’s Terry Gross as being autobiographical about herself in college. It begins with her character waking up in a strange bed after a one night stand.

Sevens are sensation-seekers. Where’s the next thrill?

Amy schumer, bill haderThe movie tells the story of her character’s relationship with Aaron – a high profile sports doctor, played by Bill Hader. She’s assigned to write about him for a magazine. She meets him, follows him around for a day, and then takes him to bed. She’s surprised when he calls her the next day, wanting to continue the relationship.

In one scene she walks with her sister, breathing quickly for no apparent reason. She denies it when her sister points it out, and then notices it herself. She’s taken aback by the fact that she likes Aaron so much. She’s habituated to keeping commitment – and love – at a distance, so the sensation of actually having strong feelings is foreign to her.

Things take a turn when her father dies. She gives a speech at his funeral that makes everyone laugh, showing a gift of the Seven – the ability to bring people together with humour, even in difficult situations.

But she isn’t used to dealing with pain. Her feelings get displaced, and she immediately gets into an argument with her sister, and soon argues with Aaron.

Later, Aaron accepts an award, and as he gives his acceptance speech, Amy receives a call from her angry boss. She leaves to answer it, and then sneaks off to smoke a joint, missing the speech completely.

Sevens might look for an escape hatch when faced with emotions and situations they don’t want. More sensations! No sadness! No conflict! No fear!

Aaron later brings up his hurt feelings, and his misgivings about her promiscuity in general. She exits via the escape hatch, immediately ending the relationship. She goes out, gets drunk and goes home with a guy.

Amy schumer - wineNot all Sevens are sexually promiscuous, drinkers or drug users. But there are millions of ways of distracting ourselves from whatever we don’t want to feel. And it isn’t just Sevens that do this.

How often are any of us confronted with a difficult emotion, and choose to escape it rather than sit with it?

How often do we sabotage our relationships out of fear of being vulnerable, of being seen at our worst?

Do we have the courage to sit with the pain inside, with our insecurities?

Can we take a look at the thousand things we’re doing to fill our lives, and ask ourselves, is this really what I want to be doing with my time? Am I distracting myself? Is there something better that I know deep down it’s in my heart to do? And do I dare admit that to myself, and then take the first steps to doing something about it?

Trainwreck gives Amy a happy and hopeful ending. She steps out of her habits and patterns, and initiates what could very well be a new future for herself.

Of course, it’s much easier to find the way out in fiction than in real life. Our habits and fears are set in deep grooves. Change is always possible, though difficult to initiate, and even harder to sustain. But it’s better to take tentative steps in a direction that scares us than to wind up a smashed-up train.