Author Archives: TJ Dawe

Superman, Batman and Spider-Man

“Spider-Man tells us that even heroes are human and can be hurt, and that you can be a superhero. Batman tells us this is a dark, terrible thing and you don’t want to do it. He says ‘I’m here to scare the hell out of you.’ Superman is here to say ‘This is as good as we can be. I’m not going to preach to you. I’m not going to tell you this. I’m just going to show you through my actions that, as in the line from the Superman movie, “There are good people”’” – Jeph Loeb, comic book writer

So what Ennea-types are these three characters?

I see Spider-Man as a Seven – the Enthusiast, the Adventurer.

Spidey never stops talking. He cracks jokes as he fights – and he’s hilarious. Sevens are the life of the party, the energizer of their social group. It’s rare to meet a Seven who isn’t funny. And they’re pretty talkative.

Spider-Man revels in the thrill of swinging across the city. He zips around, fighting whatever crime comes up, and rescuing whoever needs saving. Sevens go with the flow, jumping from one situation to another, drinking in sensations, enjoying the novelty of each new situation.

He can be hurt. Central to Spider-Man’s character is a deep and abiding pain for not stopping the criminal who went on to kill his uncle Ben. Same with his responsibility for Gwen Stacy’s death. His sadness surfaces briefly, in moments of solitude (a good example of this is in the opening to Spider-Man: Blue, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale). Sevens harbour pain, and when it comes out, it can look like frantic activity, super-charged socializing, distraction or addiction. The sadness underlying this behaviour can be hard for others to see as pain.

Spiderman- Blue

He says that you can be a superhero. Sevens are idealists, and egalitarians. They want freedom and fun, and not just for themselves – for everyone. In the movie Amazing Spider-Man 2, he rescues a little boy who’s being bullied by older kids, repairs his science project, and encourages him. In the movie’s final moment he talks with the same kid, now dressed in a Spider-Man costume, facing the Rhino. Again, he talks to him with respect and camaraderie, making sure he’s safe before plunging into action.

I see Batman as a Six – the Loyalist, the Defender. I’ve written another article about his suspicion of authorities, even of his own team-mates.

Central to Batman’s character is the trauma of having seen his parents killed as a child. Compounding this (in the movie Batman Begins), he falls into a dry well, out of which hundreds of bats fly from a passage to an unseen cave, terrifying him. He later stands amidst those swirling bats, calmly. Sixes have a strong relationship with fear. They might submit to it, jumping at shadows and looking over their shoulders – or they might move right toward it, becoming daring to extreme degrees, to prove fear has no power over them. Batman makes his base in that exact bat-cave. He adopts a bat’s likeness, using fear as a weapon against criminals.


He’s tremendously loyal to Gotham City. Batman Begins climaxes with him battling a cabal of criminals who intend to destroy the place. He believes there are good people there, despite its powerful mob and corrupt police. Sixes will often identify with a place. They might deride it, and then passionately defend it. Even if they move away, they’ll still identify as a person from that city, or from that part of the country.

I see Superman as a Nine – the Peacemaker.

Nines are modest. Superman works tirelessly to help everyone, and doesn’t expect any reward. He flies away before he can be thanked. Nines consider themselves to be nobody special. They’re embarrassed by praise, and will avoid it or deflect it.

In Superman: Peace on Earth (by Paul Dini and Alex Ross), Superman remembers his youth:

PoE - the farm

“I still think back to the farm. I remember the creak of the old windmill, the smell of fresh-cut hay, and the warm spring wind in my hair.”

Nines love nature. They’re refreshed by it, focusing on its beauty and peacefulness. Nines also dip into pleasant memories. When things are stressful, they disappear into an inner sanctum where all is well.

Superman then enacts a yearly ritual, flying a big evergreen into Metropolis for an eager crowd, and then decorating it at super-speed. Nines take pleasure in bringing happiness and a sense of wellbeing to those around them.


On hearing a young woman gasp and faint from chronic hunger, he attends to her, and later, comes up with a plan to spend twenty-four hours doing everything he can to fight world hunger. He delivers cargo containers of food to every part of the earth. Ultimately he can’t save everyone, and feels disappointed with himself for the limits of his abilities.

Nines often make good leaders. They don’t put themselves above anyone, so their concern extends to everyone. When they fail, they look in the mirror.


The story ends with hope, as Superman considers that he may not have eradicated this massive problem, but maybe he’s inspired people to do more than they otherwise would have. And with this sentiment, we see the shining heart of a Nine at his best, flowing with selfless love, doing what he can to improve the world, tirelessly, by example, with whatever means he has.

So even though these larger than life characters might seem remote from each of our day to day experience, they really aren’t.

Each of us holds sadness and pain inside us, and it’s all too easy to run from it, or dissipate it in our characteristic way. But we can sit with it, hold it, and nurse our inner wounds, giving them the time they need to heal.

Each of us has a relationship with fear. We can let it shape us, by submitting to it, or charging toward it. Or we can face it, and come to see that we have more strength and courage than we usually give ourselves credit for.

And each of us has the capacity for humble, selfness goodness. We can crumble in disappointment at our inability to solve the problems of the world. And we can still do what we can with what we have.

The Trick I Found To Meditate Regularly

Basically every teacher I know recommends daily meditation as a personal practice. Even if you only do it for two minutes. Even if you aren’t good at it.

It’s really, really hard to stick to it.

No matter that there are studied, proven benefits. No matter that it’s easy enough to do.

That you can do it anywhere. Any time. For free.

The mind resists. The ego resists. With everything it has.

But I figured out a trick.

I use an app. Insight Timer, by name. It costs three and a half bucks.

There are many meditation apps out there. I’ve had success with this one because of three things it does.

First of all, it offers eighty-some guided meditations, ranging from one minute to an hour. There are well known teachers (Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hahn) and lesser known ones. They’re on a variety of topics. Some have new age music in the background, most don’t.

Let me just point out that I’m terrrrrrrible at meditating. I’ve got monkey mind, the whole time. That’s exactly why a guided meditation helps. A gentle phrase every now then, like “noticing the silence” – followed by silence – brings me into the moment.

Pretty soon my mind wanders again. Part of many of the guided meditations is the teacher saying that the mind will wander. And that’s okay. That’s what it does.

And hearing that brings me back to the moment.

And it wanders again. And something comes up. A voice. A bell. A prompt to take a deep, full breath.

And I’m back.

Another way it helps: it keeps track of how much I’m meditating. You get a gold star for ten consecutive days. You get a green star for five gold stars. A pink for five greens.

It’s silly… but it works. Having a simple though meaningless goal helps me remember to keep up the practice daily.

And of course, I’ve missed days. I’ve forfeited gold stars.

The third thing it does is let me know how many other people are meditating using the app right now. When you open the app you see a world map, with dots, and a total. As I write this, 472 people are meditating, by the way.

When you complete your meditation it says “Congratulations, you just meditated with 472 people.”

You can see who, and where, by clicking “community.”

Avi in Israel completed 5 minutes of meditation.

Annette in Kelowna, Canada completed 45 minutes of meditation.

Roberta in Mashpee, MA completed a guided meditation: Simply Being – Guided Meditation for Relaxation & Presence (Mary Maddux)

Enrique in Guayaquil Ecuador completed 30 minutes of meditation.

Ingrid in Malmo completed a guided meditation: Vipassana (Basic) Meditation (Tara Branch)

You can reach out to people whose profiles you see, or people you know, and friend them.

You can refine the community feed to show what your friends are up to. You can see who’s nearby. Who’s using it right now.

If you don’t know anyone on there, you do now. You can friend me: TJ from Vancouver. If you check out your “friends” feed, you’ll see when I last did a guided meditation, and which one. And vice versa.

It’s easy to disdain going with the herd. Our culture trumpets the value of individuality. I’m particularly prone to this. And there are many examples of groups bringing out the worst in people.

But we can draw strength from each other. We can help each other up. We can give each other quiet encouragement to continue with a valuable, healing regular practice.

Naomi Klein: An Enneagram One Tackling Climate Change

This Changes EverythingAuthor and activist Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything is not so much about climate change, but about the ramifications of unregulated capitalism on climate change.

Klein’s books and career have focussed exclusively on political and social issues. She’s a tireless worker. She never holds back from giving her opinion on the subjects she writes about. I see her as an Enneagram One – the Reformer, the Crusader, the Idealist.

Ones are driven by strong moral imperatives. “Should,” “must,” “ought,” and “need” get a lot of play in their vocabularies. Here are some quotes from This Changes Everything (emphasis added):

“We will need comprehensive policies and programs that make low-carbon choices easy and   convenient for everyone. Most of all, these policies need to be fair, so that the people already struggling to cover the basics are not being asked to make additional sacrifice to offset the excess consumption of the rich.”

“Unlike encouraging energy efficiency, the measures we must take to secure a just, equitable, and inspiring transition away from fossil fuels clash direct with our reigning economic orthodoxy at every level.”

“Rather than allowing subway and bus fares to rise while service erodes, we need to be lowering prices and expanding services – regardless of the costs.”

“(Oil) companies are rich, quite simply, because they have dumped the cost of cleaning up their mess onto regular people around the world. It is this situation that, most fundamentally, needs to change.”

These quotes, taken out of context, might give the impression that the book is a moral harangue. It isn’t. Statements like the above punctuate an elaborate, articulate argument, with copious examples and notes backing everything up.

Her moral strength and certainty share equal focus with her belief in the power of the people to bring about the needed change. This leads me to believe she’s got the Social Instinct as her dominant.

Social types are, predictably, people-oriented. Whether they’re introverted or extroverted, they’re interested in people, what they do, and what they can do. And in the case of Social Ones – what they should, must, and need to do.

Social Ones are often found in politics and journalism. An unhealthy Social One can come across as a finger-wagging scold, and alienate people who would have otherwise been on her side. A healthy Social One is skilful at getting her message across, and can be an inspiring leader who understands that we all need each other, and we’re all in this together.

This Changes Everything contains many, many quotes in which Klein expounds on the need for a grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Billionaire saviours won’t do it. Brilliant scientists won’t provide a techno-fix. Corporations will keep finding loopholes, profiteering and buying politicians and the media to get what they want. The only solution is us.

Here are a few of those quotes:

“Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect.”

“We are products of our age and of a dominant ideological project. One that too often has taught us to see ourselves as little more than singular, gratification-seeking units, out to maximize our narrow advantage, while simultaneously severing so many of us from the broader communities whose pooled skills are capable of solving problems big and small.”

“Fundamentally, the task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis – embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.”

“It is slowly dawning on a great many of us that no one is going to step in and fix this crisis; that if change is to take place it will only be because leadership bubbled up from below.”

This Changes Everything is riveting reading. Klein doesn’t whitewash the severity of the situation, nor does she crush you with despair. Gains have been made, and the possibility she offers of collective action is genuinely inspiring.

It’s easy to write off our civilization, or our species, as doomed from our selfishness and endless bickering. It’s also easy to shirk responsibility, because I’m just one person, and what difference can I make?

What This Changes Everything makes abundantly clear is that change can happen, and it’s our collective responsibility to make it happen. And we can. And we should. We need to. Every one of us has something to contribute. Each of us has the force of idealism within us, and the ability to take whatever steps are necessary to fix this sinking ship.

people's march

I Am Groot – the Loveable and Angry Nature of Enneagram Nines

Guardians of the Galaxy swooped in from space and became the top grossing movie of 2014. And everyone particularly loved Groot – the tall, anthropomorphic tree, who I see as an Enneagram Nine.

Type Nine is the Peacemaker. Nines are humble and self-effacing. They consider themselves to be nobody special, and act like it. They’re likeable, and usually very well-liked.

Groot-flowerEarly in the movie, a group of ragged orphans on a space station approach the Guardians. Groot grows a flower on his hand, plucks it, and gives it to a little girl. How can you not love him?

The only line he says is “I am Groot,” which carries a variety of meanings. He mostly stays silent. Nines are often content to keep quiet, and go along with whatever’s happening. Groot smiles pleasantly as a galaxy spanning adventure unfurls around him.

Nines can be very easy-going, forgiving and accepting.  In an early fight Groot regrows a limb that gets severed by Gamora – a green skinned assassin woman. He doesn’t hold any grudge against her when they become allies.

Near the movie’s climax Groot grows his body into a protective wooden shell, absorbing the impact of a spaceship crash, saving his friends, seemingly at the cost of his own life. He breaks his usual speech pattern to say “We are Groot.” Nines often make very good team players and leaders because they’re genuinely in it for the good of everyone, not just themselves.

Groot gifNines practically never suffer from the tendency to take themselves too seriously. Groot regrows at the end of the movie. As the credits roll we see a mini-Groot in a flower pot dancing to a Jackson 5 song. How can you not love him?

Another stand-out moment involves Groot fighting off invading soldiers. He grows one arm to a great length, spearing through a number of bodies. He smashes them against the walls, repeatedly, and whams them against other soldiers, roaring mightily all the while. The other Guardians pause to watch the spectacle, marvelling at Groot’s display of magnificent and unexpected ferocity, after which he turns, and offers a shy smile.

This moment brings up an important aspect of Type Nine: buried anger. Nines usually have such a calm and peaceful demeanour, it’s hard to associate them with anger. Nines themselves will probably deny they’re holding any anger inside at all. Who, me? I’m not angry. I’m okay. Everything’s good.

A Nine’s inner script tells her that she’s okay as long as she’s at peace and the people around her are as well. Nines’ denial of anger and negativity in general works as a short term solution. But buried anger doesn’t disappear.

Anyone who knows a Nine well will eventually see that anger blow out, like a volcanic eruption, both surprising and disturbing – and disturbing to the Nine herself most of all. Where did that come from? That’s not me!

Nines benefit from engaging in practices that let them blow off steam. Chopping wood. Drumming. Smashing tennis balls. Swimming. Hiking. Running. Lifting weights. Dancing. Let that instinctual gut energy blast into the sky!

Nines benefit most of all from engaging in personal work which puts them in touch with the swells of emotion they lock up inside – especially their swallowed anger.

And we all benefit from looking into what we’re suppressing – anger, jealousy, vulnerability, shame, fear, sadness – and figuring out ways to come into tune with its source.

Nines might avoid this, because hey, it’s only me. I’m nobody special. Why bother? Each type has an equivalent reason to avoid personal work. I’m too busy. I live in the real world. I’m too damaged. There are more important things that need to be done.

But we are important enough. And contrary to what our inner script tells us, we won’t collapse, and neither will the world around us. We won’t lose the love and companionship of those close to us. We’ll regrow our damaged parts. We’ll sprout flowers. We’ll generate and release fireflies that light up the night and delight everyone. How can you not love thaGroot and the fireflies - 2t?

Bill Cosby and the Don’t-Go-There Side of Enneagram Two

Bill Cosby has been typed as an Enneagram Two by many. The way he’s been responding to the flood of sexual abuse allegations that have been coming his way reveals a particular aspect of the shadow side of that type.

Type Two is the Helper, the Giver, the Lover, the Special Friend. Twos are warm, and caring and generous. They’re self-sacrificing, deny having needs of their own, and have a sharp sense of what others need. They live to love, and they need to be needed.

Cosby making a funny faceA Two at the average or unhealthy emotional levels flatters, people pleases and does favours as a bargaining chip – trying to earn love, to make themselves appreciated and indispensable. A healthy Two acknowledges that she has needs, and takes care of them. She extends her love and care-giving, not as a strategy to receive anything in return, but because she can see when and where it’s genuinely needed and helpful.

Each type has a ruling passion – a central misperception that distorts our experience of the world. These correspond to the seven deadly sins – of which there were originally nine. The ruling passion for Twos is pride.

Pride doesn’t usually play out in an obvious way with Twos. You won’t hear them bragging. Cosby, incidentally, never submitted his name for Emmy consideration in all the years his sitcom was triumphing critically and in the ratings.

The pride of Twos will more often show up in the form of casting a positive sheen on themselves, their actions, and their motivations.“I’m caring and giving.” “I feel good when I’ve brightened up someone’s day.” “They need me.”

Twos can lose interest in the Enneagram – or other types of personal work – when it comes time to examine their shadows. They’re so used to seeing themselves in a positive light, it’s jarring to confront the possibility of having ulterior motives to their generosity. They might deny it, and run back to the safety of their self-concept of positivity and guileless giving. They’d rather not go there.

Kind of like Cosby has been doing with these accusations.

In an NPR interview, host Scott Simon brought up the allegations, and later described how Cosby gave “that delightful, impish little kind of Cosby smile, at first, and then was silent.”

cosby seriousCosby is famous for his smile, and for making funny faces. This is probably something he’s done since childhood, to make others laugh and love him. It’s been a solid part of his career and persona. In this case, it didn’t do the trick. So he kept silent.

He remained quiet and shook his head as Simon asked two more questions, offering him a chance to respond to the accusations. Simon went on to ask questions about Cosby’s art objects, which he’d loaned to a museum exhibit, and Cosby resumed the interview as if nothing had happened.

In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Nov 6, when the rape allegations came up he said “We don’t answer that.” Off camera, he asked that the exchange be “scuttled” from the tape. I can imagine that the reporting of this request of his particularly stings, as it shows him trying to manage his image in the direction of positivity.

The water is getting hotter for Cosby. Netflix dropped an upcoming stand-up special. NBC scrapped a sitcom being developed for him. TV Land has cut reruns of The Cosby Show from its line-up.

Cosby cancelled an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. It’s hard to imagine Letterman wouldn’t have brought up the subject.

But he’s going ahead with a stand-up tour, which continues steadily until the Spring. He opened in the Bahamas, and played a show in Florida, and didn’t make a single mention of the increasing controversy. His audiences in both venues supported him. Despite this seeming success, upcoming shows in five states have been cancelled.

It’s impossible to know what’s going on behind closed doors with Cosby. Is he taking a long, hard look at his behaviour over his five decades of fame? Is he able to see the times he crossed the line?

His public approach to this controversy does mirror that of an average or unhealthy Two. Don’t go there. Stay positive. Smile. Hope it goes away.

Before his recent show in Florida, he made a telling comment to a reporter, implying that he believes himself to have done nothing wrong: “I know people are tired of me not saying anything. But a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos. People should fact check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.”

Cosby’s situation, of course, mirrors a more widespread tendency in all of us, regardless of type. An honest and thorough moral inventory – whether public or private – is hugely daunting. Easy to put off, even as the evidence of our transgressions mounts. It’s much easier to forge ahead, pretending everything is okay, seeing ourselves as good, hoping the sun shines our shadows out of existence.

Doing that comes at a price. The more we estrange ourselves from the impulses we don’t like, the bigger the divide will be between the version of me I believe I am, and the version others interact with.

If we’re willing to look at our shadows, we can develop a relationship with them. They have that much less power to steer the car. We can participate in the world, noticing when we’re angling for the approval of others or taking advantage of them. We can take more and more steps toward authentically be ourselves, in the moment, seeing others as they are, secure that we’re seen by them and valued by them, faults and all.

Jian Ghomeshi and the Shadow Side of Enneagram Threes

Type Three on the Enneagram is the Achiever, the Performer, the Catch, the Best. Threes are ambitious and driven, ready and able to climb to the top of their chosen field (Arnold Schwarzennegger, Nora Ephron). They’re very image conscious, presenting a crafted version of themselves to the public to achieve a given goal (Madonna, Tom Cruise). At their best, they’re aware of themselves as role-players, and play up that element of their public persona (David Bowie, Lady Gaga). They can be charming and likeable as well (Paul McCartney, Anne Hathaway). In North America’s celebrity focussed culture they’re commonly involved in the media (Diane Sawyer, Oprah Winfrey, Ryan Seacrest, Dick Clark).

jianwtie-200I don’t know enough about Jian Ghomeshi to say with certainty that he’s a Three, but that’s my guess. Like many Threes, he came from humble origins and shot to the top. He attained prominence in his twenties as a musician, and then leveraged that into a career in the media, becoming one of the best known and respected public voices of the arts in Canada. He’s good looking, charismatic, and entirely comfortable being in the spotlight.

Now he’s embroiled in an ever-widening scandal for alleged sexual and physical assault to multiple women. More and more voices are surfacing, saying that for years he’s had a reputation as not just a womanizer, but someone with dark secrets. This wasn’t part of his public persona.

Each type has what’s known as a ruling passion – something that clouds our view of the world and causes us to see ourselves as separate not only from each other, but from Being. For Threes the ruling passion is Deception. This doesn’t necessarily take the form of deliberate lying – although it might. It’s more that a Three shapes herself into the image that exemplifies the elements her culture (or chosen subculture) values, and often believes this presentation herself.

Ghomeshi got ahead of the scandal before it broke, posting his version of the story. He copped to engaging in rough sex, but didn’t go into detail, saying his sex life is private – very smartly appealing to the generally tame sexual mores of Canadian culture. He’d been fired by the CBC unjustly, it seemed, because of their prudish fear of the impending attack by a bitter and crazy jilted ex. It was a well crafted bit of writing. I believed him. Many did.

The tide of public opinion seems to be irrevocably turning against him as the allegations pile up. Due process certainly needs to take its course. But it’s hard for me to imagine Ghomeshi ever holding any kind of place in Canadian public life again, no matter what the courts decide – if he ever goes to trial, whether with his own lawsuit against CBC, or if criminal charges are filed against him.

What’s of particular interest to me is what Ghomeshi will do next – and I mean this in two very different senses.

His PR firm ditched him. A musician he managed has dumped him too. I’ve read an analysis of his lawsuit against the CBC, saying that he can’t possibly win it, and he knows it. In the many articles coming out about him, I haven’t read a single voice supporting him. His world is closing in. He might be planning a swift, brilliant and unpredictable Captain Kirk-like sortie that’ll somehow get him in the clear in the high court of public opinion. (Captain Kirk is another Three, by the way)(As is William Shatner)

Or – presuming the allegations are true – he might take this opportunity to genuinely face the shadows in his life that led to horrific criminal behaviour, and more importantly, allowed him do so without remorse. This could be the chance to look into the layers of estrangement from the pain and passions in his heart, and to move from the image to the real thing – someone who owns up to his faults, his excesses, and all of his shadows.

In this way, his story is very relevant to all of us. The impulse to bury our difficult feelings is widespread, especially when doing so will help us gain a desired end. We live in a very achievement oriented culture. “Making it” is the goal. We could all benefit from looking at our own lives, and how we’ve tried to Make It. Who have we stepped on along the way? Who have we ignored or left behind? Which of our own feelings have we buried? How have we justified our actions to ourselves, and in doing so lost the connection to our genuine selves, and to those around us? And what can we do to atone and reconnect, not just with others, but with ourselves?

Metallica’s James Hetfield, and the Sensitivity of Eights

Heavy Metal seethes with power and aggression. And Metallica is the best known metal band there is. And front man James Hetfield has always been the chest-thumping-est powerhouse in all of rock – quite certainly an Enneagram Eight.

James Hetfield - aggressiveType Eight is the Challenger, the Rock, the Bear, the tough, fierce, independent type. Eights don’t take any shit. They don’t want anyone controlling them. They love intensity. And if they perceive they’re being attacked, they’ll hit back – immediately, and hard.

Hetfield’s muscular rhythm guitar playing, his barked singing and equal love of vivid experience off-stage make him a poster child of Eights. His heavy drinking earned him the nickname “Alcoholica.” In the music documentary Some Kind of Monster, he returns to from a bear hunting vacation in Siberia.

But there’s another side of him.

Beneath every Eight’s hard shell is a soft and tender underbelly, which they protect with all their might. Very few get to see it. Hence, people around an Eight might not think of them as sensitive at all, and say or do things that hurt the Eight tremendously – though they probably won’t let anyone know that.

The personality is a survival strategy, developed early in life to get our needs met. A young Eight will learn that she can seize life by the throat and no one will mess with her. And she’ll repeat this so often and so well that she might forget that it’s not who she actually is, but just a strategy.

Hetfield came to see his personality for exactly this, after undergoing extensive therapy whilst in rehab for alcoholism. He described rehab as “college for your head,” where he learned that he’d James Hetfield - ragingbeen fighting to get what he wanted ever since he was a kid, and had continued to operate like that as an adult:

“Getting into Metallica meant that initially I had to fight to survive, for food, for the towel for the shower, for everything. And then fighting to be the best band you can be, and putting other bands down. Finding fault with everything was how Metallica was fuelled. And not only did I play a part in that, I was buried in that. “

He was fierce in asserting what he wanted the other band members to do in the studio, a tendency he later described as “totally childish.” He freely worked on side projects, but prevented other band members from doing so. He said:

“I had panic attacks that Jason or even Lars would start other projects and like those better than Metallica. To hold the band together I forced Lars, Jason and Kirk to stay and to go on. I love Metallica so much that I almost crushed the band with my love.”

James Hetfield sadWithin that desire to control others is a deep vulnerability, a fear of being abandoned. And given that the personality is, after a point, self-defeating, that exact desire can be what drives others away from us. In the case of Metallica, Hetfield’s iron hand caused bass player Jason Newsted to quit the band.

It’s easy for any of us to avoid the long, slow, humbling process of personal work, and I can only imagine this is especially so for a multi-millionaire Eight being given all the success one could dream of as a reward for his raging Eight-ness.

But introspection and the careful untangling of the personality comes with a different set of rewards. Hetfield has been sober since 2002. He limits Metallica’s concert schedule to three consecutive performances before taking a break to give his voice a rest. The band has set hours in the studio for writing and recording, replacing their earlier pattern of working late into the night, drinking until they passed out, and starting again whenever they woke up the next day.

In Some Kind of Monster he states that his alcoholism is rooted in abandonment issues stemming from his absent father growing up. He also discussed this in the documentary Absent, about this specific topic. In the manner of a truly healthy Eight, he has not only come to recognize his own vulnerability, but to embrace it, and let others see it too.

James Hetfield - happy“There’s a lot of machismo in this world, but I suppose the most manly thing you can do is face up to your weaknesses and expose them. And you’re showing strength by exposing your weaknesses to people. And that opens up a dialogue, it opens up friendships, which it definitely has done for me.”

He doesn’t regret the difficult aspects of his life and the battles he’s fought to overcome them, saying:

“In some ways I’m thankful for my addiction, because I experienced my inner self through it. Now I finally see a happy man. I could have died or gone into prison a hundred times. But nothing happened to me: my family is fine I’ve got fans who want to hear Metallica songs, and my band is intact. That makes me happy – really happy.”

Carrie Fisher – A Six Rises When Pushed

IShockaholic’ve seen Carrie Fisher listed as a Six a number of times. A certain episode from her excellent and hilarious autobiographical book Shockaholic has a definite flavour of that type.

Six is the Loyalist, the Defender, the Devil’s Advocate, the Doubter, the Questioner. Sixes’ minds run on overdrive a great deal of the time worrying about many different things, and yet they’ll spring into action in an emergency, or when pushed – especially by an abusive authority figure.

Carrie Fisher was in her late twenties, on a date with Senator Chris Dodd, and found herself at a restaurant with Ted Kennedy, his date and another couple. She describes her awestruck reaction to his presence:

ted_kennedy_1“Well-spoken, extraordinarily intelligent, poised, thought-provoking – he was a statesman in every sense of the word. I was intimidated by him, in awe of him, overwhelmed. He has something, for lack of a better word, heroic about him…. Who was I to contribute to a conversation being conducted by such lofty, learned men? Men who ran things. Men who talked the talk. Men who not only knew the law, but wrote it! Surely I was out of my depth as I ever would be. It wasn’t my even my depth, it was theirs! I was sinking to the bottom of this erudite, senatorial swamp as they rose higher and higher with each cocktail.”

So here we see a characteristic of Six – inflating the status of others and deflating her own, which sets her up for what happens next.

Kennedy turns to her and says “So, do you think you’ll be having sex with Chris at the end of your date?”

It was a first date.

Her date doesn’t intercede, but smiles at her.

The other guests try to pretend nothing untoward has been said.

Fisher responds just like a Six would when confronted with what she perceives as a shove, and from someone abusing their authority at that:

carrie-fisher“This would not do. Seriously. There was no other way to look at this than completely not okay. Even if this man’s brother had been a hero. Even if two of his brothers had been heroes. Even if he, in his legislation-passing, cause-confronting way, was a hero. I was not just going to lie down and let this man moonwalk all over me.

“‘Funnily enough, I won’t be having sex with Chris tonight,’ I said, my face composed and calm. ‘Not that probably won’t happen.’ People blinked. ‘Thanks for asking, though.’”

When put in the fire, a Six’s nervousness evaporates. They’re calm and in the zone as they act – in this case, seconds after she’d been quaking in intimidation.

Kennedy keeps pushing.

T Kennedy“‘Why not?’ the senator demanded of me. ‘are you too good for him?’

“I tilted my head, my head, my mouth pursed, and glanced at Senator Dodd’s expectant face. ‘Not too good, no just… ‘ I shrugged. ‘I’m newly sober, you see, and I’d have to be truly loaded to just fall into bed with someone I’ve only very recently met. Even if that someone is a Democrat.’

“Now the air around us hung back, holding itself in check to see what would happen next. But I knew that I would not let this man get the upper hand, or somehow discomfit or shock me. I had some laws and this was one. Whatever this imperious… I want to say drunk, but he wasn’t that, not yet… whatever this imperious inebriate-to-be threw at me, I’d say something right back.”

A Six will stand up to anyone when pushed. It doesn’t matter how much they might seem outmatched. And they’ll do it with a strength and certainty that would make a giant pause.

Kennedy then asks her about having been a drinker. She responds that acid was her preferred intoxicant. He asks if she ever had sex on it. Nope. How about masturbation?

I don’t know enough about Kennedy to know his type, but his behaviour in this anecdote makes him seem like an Eight – the Challenger. He enjoys pushing someone’s buttons. He’s being intentionally provocative in order to see if the person can take it, to find out what they’re made of.

Carrie Fisher with gunFisher describes masturbation as playing with oneself, and proceeds to play peekaboo, putting her hands on her lap and opening and closing them, saying “peekaboo, I see you!” as the rest of the guests freeze solid.

“By now we had blundered headlong into a world of who could outshock who. Which one of us would say the thing that would stun the table into silence?”

The subject of Fisher’s father – singer Eddie Fisher – comes up, and Kennedy eventually challenges her into singing one of the songs he used to sing with her as a child.

So she does. A showtune. At full volume. In a crowded, expensive restaurant.

She sings the entire song.

And eventually the evening wraps up. Kennedy’s parting words to her: “Would you have sex with Chris in a hot tub?”

“I’m no good in water” she responds.

Years later, a woman told Fisher she’d been at the restaurant that night, saying she’d talked about that incident for ages: “It was incredible. We’d waited for years for someone take him on like that.”

She remarks to herself “So it did happen! I didn’t make it up, didn’t hallucinate it, didn’t forge it out of some gray lying part of my brain where dreams go to die. There really was a night that I sat and sang at this famous senator from New England. Sang the entire song without once breaking free from the cage of his gaze.”

Although few people have had encounters with the famous and powerful, most Sixes will be able to recall some occasion where they felt pushed by some bully, and rose right up to his or her face, refusing to back down, defying the fear and anxiety that usually grips them.

And then after the fact they’ll wonder if they did the right thing, if they over-reacted, if that even happened at all. They’ll probably leave that out of their picture of themselves, continuing to believe they’re the scared little person, until the next time someone powerful gets in their face, or the face of anyone who can’t fight back. Then watch out!

Robin Williams and the Sadness of Sevens

Robin Williams’ suicide has stirred a tremendous outpouring of love and sadness from millions who’ve been entertained by him.

Robin_Williams-EsquireHe’s long been the poster-child of Ennea-type Seven – the Enthusiast – the high energy, gregarious, optimistic, fun loving life of the party. At their best Sevens brim with a radiant joy that touches on the divine, energizing everyone they meet, making them glad to be alive.

He burst into the world of stand-up as a whirling dervish of jokes, impressions, characters and improvisational tangents – serving as a prime example of Sevens’ quick-mindedness, easily connecting one thing with another, enjoying the thrill of the high speed ride. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t write down his material, and early in his career his manager hired a court stenographer to transcribe an audio recording of him on stage, which he then used that to help build a consistent set.

Sevens are egalitarians. Williams spoke to minor cast members in films and up and coming comedians with no condescension. And he played local comedy clubs wherever he was filming, no matter how small or seemingly beneath his fame-scale.

But beneath the lightness of Sevens is a whole lot of pain and anxiety, unseen by many, and sometimes very powerfully kept from the Seven’s own awareness.

Robin-WilliamsA Seven’s basic fear, as described in The Wisdom of the Enneagram, is to be deprived and trapped in pain. This fear would have no purchase on a Seven’s soul if they weren’t already in pain at some deep level.

Stress and pain activate compulsions in every type, and the particular strategy of Sevens is enjoyment and distraction. This can come in the form of travel, of a busy social calendar, and in some cases, substance abuse.

Williams famously struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse for years, and underwent treatment. He readily talked about his excesses in his comedy, but never talked about the pain that lay at the root of his addictions.

Speaking of the very candid Richard Pryor, Williams once said: “He has this incredible ability to recognize the most basic human truths, to talk about deep-seated fears. I’ve never been able to talk personally about things…. That’s such a Pandora’s Box. Once you open it, can you deal with it?”

The ability to own up to our pain and sit with it is challenging for any type, but it’s a particular hurdle for Sevens. Their quick-minded approach can treat a surface encounter with their pain as having “gone there” when in fact there’s a great deal more personal work to do and profound, powerful sadness to experience and finally purge.

As Russ Hudson said in a post about Williams, and depression: “What does not help are exhortations to ‘cheer up’ and ‘get over it,’ to just ‘think positively,’ etc. Such suggestions when a person is in the grips of depression actually heighten the sense of being broken, flawed, and not worth saving, because at such times the individual WANTS to be free of their dark thoughts and moods with all of their soul but feels unable to do so.”

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-23183012-2000-1330A Seven is in a particular bind when facing depression. The protective mechanism of their personality chastises them to get over it and move on to something enjoyable. And if they do, their true pain remains, all the more powerful for being invisible.

I don’t know enough about Williams life to even hazard a guess as to where his pain came from. I wish he’d been willing to talk about it in his stand-up. I’m sure he would have provided a helpful light to millions who struggle with depression and addiction. And he’d have certainly found a way to bring even the darkest exploration around to a funny place.

His succumbing to the sadness inside can act as a invitation to all of us to be willing to open our Pandora’s Box. To do so isn’t to chain yourself to a ten ton millstone of pain and deprivation for the rest of your life. We’re already chained. Taking a long, honest look at our pain is the first step toward picking the lock.

How to Devise a Personal Practice

So you know your Enneagram type. And you want to engage in a pracitice. Where do you start?

A first step, described in many Enneagram books, is catching yourself in the act as you go about your day, and your habitual reactions assert themselves.

Another simple practice is meditation. Even five minutes a day, paying attention to your breath as best you can will help.

Those are good exercises. And generic. Which is fine. They’re a foundation. Every piano student has to learn her scales.

But what kind of music do you want to play? Classical? Ragtime? Bebop? Country? Blues? A practice should be specific to your type, your level of health, and your life circumstances.

It can still be simple. Engaging socially once a week. Checking in with yourself once a day to see if you’re suppressing your needs. Stopping yourself from jamming your opinion into a conversation when someone else is talking. Paying attention to how strident your conscience is being today.

Each type is multi-faceted. You won’t relate to every element of your type’s profile. And of the parts you do identify with, certain elements will be more problematic than others.

Pick one.

Start small.

Make it doable.

Build from there.

If you don’t know what to do, check in with someone. It’s probably a good idea to check in with someone anyway.