Enneagram Apprentice §7: a Process Model (R6)


Process and Personality Fixation    (A re-write of what was first issued in September 2008)

I’ve been inside the Enneagram (roughly) for twenty years on and off. As I think we’ve discovered it works—never mind the how? and the why? of it—it’s a model that just seems to make sense experientially.

Going along with the NLP line that whatever ‘works’ is pragmatically OK, I’ve just accepted the existential clarity it seems amazingly to offer. From time to time Being-a-Five-I becomes unhappy with this and Sceptical-I has often wondered specifically why the Fixations are arranged around the perimeter in the order as presented. Making-the-time-I got clogged up as far as clearing the space for appropriate focussed thinking was concerned…

But now it’s made the space…

In the Gurdjieff canon the Enneagram is often related to planetary effects on the way we are but Being-very-sceptical-I has so far had little time for this. More to my way of thinking, JGBennett, a follower of Gurdjieff and successful businessman fifty years ago, presented the Enneagram as a complex powerful systemic tool. Thus, presupposing that the Enneagram can unravel and explain the system inherent in all human experience (and beyond), he considers the simple practical example of a kitchen at work:-I have recently been incorporating an exploration of this approach in my Enneagram course: we have started to look at how it could be applied to aspects of our own work and life. The Enneagram has thus become a way of usefully deconstructing a work/life process as well as a way of working with personality fixations.

Taking the example of ‘The Kitchen at Work’, it can be seen that the 9-3-6 triangle depicts the prerequisites for the kitchen’s very existence; without people in charge at 9, without the notion of finished food on a plate (3) and without customers (6) there would be no kitchen; ‘kitchen’ is the emergent property of this particular system:-

On the perimeter of the Enneagram, 1 round to 9  represents a temporal flow of events, one thing following another in time; 1-4-2-8-5-7 represent different vantage points from which the process can be productively viewed:-

For example, when you stand at 4 and look at 1 you’re obliged to ask the question—in what way does the kitchen have to be organised in order to prepare the food in a particular way: when you stand at 5 and look at 7 you’re obliged to ask the question—in what way does cooking the food impact on the process of eating it?…  if you stand at 3 and look at 6 or 9 you’d find yourself asking the questions—what raw food best satisfies ‘life’ and what kinds of food will be appropriate to this particular community?  And so on. Adopting different vantage points in what is usually thought of as a temporal process helps to flesh out and codify interrelationships between stages that are normally, in time, only vaguely apprehended. When we are entranced by the clock we have ‘no time to stop and stare’…

In another example concerning launching a new product, Bennett separates out the 9-3-6 triangle and then lays out the process of getting product design (which might be anything from a new machine to a training programme, to, in life, a holiday proposal…) up and running from management decision (which might be yourself) through initial design to production and quality control. This follows the PDCA (Plan/Do/ Check/Act) industrial Continuous Improvement model with which you may be familiar.

Again, 1 through to 9 represents a logical step by step sequence. But 1-4-2-8-5-7 in either direction offers a set of possibilities that’s more in line with what goes on in the brain when we’re thinking out a process; using the Enneagram in this way gives us a deliberate way of exploring what can otherwise be a chaotic & random process: when you stand at 4 and look at 1 you’ll perhaps become aware that you already had a vague idea of the possible product from which you derive the precise specification—does it successfully describe what you had in mind? when you stand at 5 and look at 8 you could begin to anticipate what snags ‘quality control’ might reveal in the design you arrived at after working with the sample product at 4; if you stand at 3 and look at 6 or 9 you’d find yourself asking the questions—how does the product relate to the market and will it satisfy management or the demands of the organisation? And so on…

The burning question for a Being-five-I is:-

How does the order of the Fixations round the perimeter of the Enneagram come about?

Another question that seems to get us somewhere is:-

If the Enneagram as a model describes all human [and inhuman] processes, does the temporal order of events in a process have anything to do with the way the Fixations are ordered?

This is a loaded question since some part of me has already answered the question to its own satisfaction thus:-


9. The peaceful autonomous self-fulfillment of Nine-ishness in Life enables it to have a detached view of the whole process 1 – 9…

1. To have a proper  conception of the kitchen ready for work requires the ordered, all-encompassing Big Picture, visionary approach typical of a of One-ishness…

2. When the kitchen is at work it requires the sensitive guidance of a person who cares about other people—Two-ishness might be handy here…

3. Selection of raw food requires purpose and persistent focus and direction—Three-ishness has these characteristics…

4. Preparing the food demands creativity which is broadly the province of Four-ishness…

5. Cooking the food is applied creativity— taking into account all that’s known about methods, constantly reviewing the variables involved—a Five-ishness is good at checking and observing

6. No use doing any catering unless you consider the needs of other people—Six-ishness is good at doing this…

7. Serving a meal requires enthusiasm and a practical zest for style—Seven-ishness has both these characteristics…

8. A good way of eating a meal is to be in control of how you eat. Eights have self-leading qualities which well fits them for making calm decisive assessments of a meal…

9. The peaceful autonomous self-fulfillment of Nine-ishness in Life enables it to have a detached view of the whole process 1 – 9 again… round and round…

The way I present the Enneagram, of course, we end up gathering together the Top Form characteristics of all the Fixations; in Bennett’s ‘Process Model’ there’s an important place for representatives from all fixations… Let’s consider Bennett’s ‘Launching a New Product’ example…

9. Management makes a calm cool & collected decision about the need (etc) for a new product…

1. The spec is a vision of how things could be—requires Visionary-I

2. The spec requires nurturing and careful work with others to bring it to the design stage… Caring-I’s province…

3. A Three can have an image of the final result and work hard with focus & direction… Dynamic-I

4. The initial creation of a sample product…

5. Thinking about the original design in comparison with the sample product— refining if necessary…

6. Taking everybody into account— including the possible market

7. The product is up and running—it now needs persistence and enthusiasm to keep the project going…

8.  Self-control & leadership required at this stage…

9. Management makes a calm cool & collected look at what’s happened with the new product… round and round…

Mustn’t-get-too-excited-I finds this all mildly interesting! 

Peter Knight has used this process to good effect in his training sessions.

One thought on “Enneagram Apprentice §7: a Process Model (R6)

  1. Something hidden just out of view: The enneagram offers us, if we are willing, a vast repertoire of “Is” to work with or discard. Gurdjieff’s ideas related to planetary effects on the way we are seem to invite a cosmic perspective, a universal scale for us to ponder if we wish, or experience as prescribed by Bennett’s seemingly more practical application of use. Either way as we begin working with the enneagram we may become aware that the tension between the fixations can produce in us our own planetary shifts. It does boggle the mind when we try and configure the micro from the macro, along with dimensional levels of consciousness, so maybe better to intuitively jump in.

    A 4/5 like myself can easily fall prey to and slip into certain “Is” that can cause some havoc, especially the “I” can just grovel through this project on my own, or the creative “I” will pull me through. When I do this I am forgetting, falling deeper and deeper into sleep, and using a relatively short number of “Is” in general. Soon the inevitable happens ; things fall apart with my project after a certain stage of progress, and then the not so TF “Is” come out to join in the hell I’ve created. We do this all the time and then we become different forms of the word idiot! If instead I move around the perimeter of the enneagram, this may spark at least an opening Inside, and many times more than that. But if I move in a DOI direction there is always a hidden reality of tensions that beforehand seemed absent. The only time this tension didn’t occur was when I didn’t provide the enneagram with a sufficient quality of energy. We get exactly what we put in, so now I am back to the question of scale, dimensions, levels of being, esoteric science, ancient knowledge, the stuff that pulled my attention in the direction of the enneagram in the first place, or it was pulled to me? But, Attention, Focus, Aim, Work,Emotional Risk, Adventure, and Sincerity, will do just as well. My only regret about my experience with the enneagram is that I’ve not yet done any work with a group of people. How does that feel? What types of outcomes are there? What does that feel in terms of energy and scale?

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