Helen Palmer – Relationships Matter: The Enneagram Tells us How
Interview by Eleonora Gilbert
Eleonora: Hello, and welcome to conscious tv. My name is Eleonora Gilbert and my guest today is Helen Palmer. Hi Helen.
Eleonora: Helen is an international best-selling Enneagram author and teacher of psychology and intuition. She is the author of two best-sellers - The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life. Then we have also The Enneagram in Love and Work: Understanding your Intimate and Business Relationships. We have The Pocket Enneagram - I’ve used this a long time ago, and The Enneagram Advantage. And a lovely book Inner Knowing. You’ve edited this book and put together a number of essays by renowned psychologists and writers. It’s a really neat little book… It’s not so little…
Helen: That one is my favourite…
Eleonora: Is it? Oh right! I can see it becoming my favourite too. Helen is the co-founder with Dr David Daniels of the Enneagram Professional Training Programme offered by Enneagram Worldwide. You’ve been in this business, if we can call it a business, for over 30 years.
Eleonora: And you’re currently teaching one programme a month and you’ve also been involved in the writing project on The Diagram as an Eternal Guide to Spiritual Evolution. And you co-chaired in 1994 the first International Enneagram Conference held at Stamford University with Dr Daniels and are the founding director of the International Enneagram Association. There is plenty more that I could say about you, but I think we’ll leave it at that.
I’ve done, in the past, a number of interviews based on relationship and consciousness and being more present to what is real, and we talked earlier about the importance of relationships and how there are no boundaries. You travel all over the world and you seem to be encountering similar kinds of problems across various different cultures. Would you like to say a little bit about that?
Helen: Well we have Worldwide, which is the house of our professional training, [which] has bases – people come to our country and train with us and then go back to their own country. This has been going on for over 30 years so there’s quite a proliferation of the material. What I notice about it is the marked tendency when the Enneagram first comes into a country, such as mainland China, or South Africa, or several countries in South America, for example, the recapitulation of the problem that we had in the United States when the first books came out. My first one, The Enneagram, came out in 1988, which is over 25 years ago. And the impact that it made was tremendous at the beginning. People were so anxious to know their own type and how they could better interact with other people of different types. And again the spiritual material got quite down-trodden, I thought. At the beginning when material that is suitable for a certain level of consciousness comes out - which is that you’re ready to work on change - this is not a universal theme. “Someone else in the relationship should change, not me…” “If you would change I’d feel a whole lot better…” So we go to work to change the other guy instead of being able to witness these pattern-like ways in which we inhabit a relationship. We’re oblivious, until attention turns inward and you begin to reflect, or begin to recognise, your own situation and what you bring to a relationship – because you can certainly change that.
Helen: But not affect the other in the direct way of expecting them to be able to witness themselves. So when the books first came out there was this higher order of consciousness; nothing invented by us, but being renewed. The Enneagram is a renewal of a very old teaching and the timing is beautiful because the world is in such conflict.
Helen: And we see that within ourselves, the conflicts, choices we have to make between work and love and relationship and being a success… things that the previous generation never had to face, really. And many interactions in the world: dreadful. Collisions of cultures, different levels of culture, and they don’t understand each other. So when the first books came out in ‘88 they had an immediate impact because of the promise that they held, that we have a map that can guide you into self-reflection to understand your own idiosyncrasies, your own pattern-like way of sorting information and that it is vastly different from somebody you might be relating to, or the culture that you’re in. You may be vastly different than the surrounding environment. So the material started to degenerate almost immediately. And I hate to say that, but it really started to take a dive, almost immediately, into a kind of pop psychology cocktail party. “Well it says here that you look like…. and your appearance is such that your outer behaviour is such, that I think you’re a type… certain type.” And that was very hard for those of us that were involved in this. It was very hard for us to witness, and inevitable.
Eleonora: Why would you say inevitable?
Helen: Because, in order to make itself available to survive in the reality of these conflicting different environments where the material landed: different socio-economic groups, different races, different religions… America, for its many difficulties, is one of the true melting pots. I think that’s a significant contribution, but the cultures themselves don’t accept these materials. You know… “Why are you so self-involved, looking at your type?” “Why aren’t you productive out here in the workplace? Why aren’t you more of a success? Why are you so inhibited this way?” That could be something that you could actually work with as material, psychological material which can be observed, and so you have a choice about being on automatic, or taking the choice of a more liberated view. And eventually it took hold, much to my delight, in the business community.
Eleonora: And what sort of period are we talking about here? Because you’ve been in the business for nearly 30 years – or over 30 years…
Helen: Right. I was a teacher of psychology and intuition for years before I ever met the Enneagram. But intuition, which is the objective knowing - we have a capacity for unfiltered by type, by type structures, by this illusion of our identity - we have a capacity for clarity which can be trained. That’s what spiritual material is about. It’s about training to be able to not see through and sort through the identity, but be able to participate in relaxing our own identity so that we come to a more truer ground inside of ourself, and so all of those filters of perception begin to relax and you begin to see the reality of what you’re actually facing instead of the subjective reality that you previously saw.
Helen: That’s how intuition can be trained. So the ten years prior, teaching psychology at university level and also having private classes in intuition training, when I met the Enneagram it was a godsend, because it put together the psychology of type and what the filters are by name. It named the filters for the normal and the high-functioning person whereas where I came from way back when, anything to do with psychology, was something about deep pathology. You wouldn’t want to say for example that you were going to a therapist, especially in a working-class family at the time that I was teaching psychology because it was pejorative. Well the Enneagram isn’t pejorative, it’s organised for people who are in evolution, who are trying to be able to work with themselves in a definite and helpful way.
So it talked about the psychology of type, or at least that’s what I read into it - the structure of type - because that’s what psychology is. It’s a structure of understanding the thought patterns, the emotional patterns, and the somatic patterns that we call our identity. And they vary according to the type of person that you are, but it also had the liberating effect of advising that we practise a simple breath observation practice. It implied this, when the Enneagram first came, that there is a place of silence inside of yourself that is always unfolding in the present moment, which is rapidly taken over by the patterns that move you from past to future, by-passing the present moment. So the aim was to be able to develop presence and single-pointed attention in the present moment which has, as we now discover, huge health benefits. The recent science, based on brain research, has done nothing but to strongly support the personal perceptions that we had, but couldn’t legitimise in any coherent way. We had no way to explain it, or to justify it and you needed justification at the beginning.
Eleonora: When you started talking earlier about the fact that the introduction of the Enneagram was taking off, but then somehow it kind of nosedived - where are we now with that? You know, over the 30 years that you’ve been involved in this…
Helen: Well it definitely hit bottom. At a certain point where it became the parlour game, and the “I know your type better than you know yourself…” and the arguments about what “your type” is and it was childish and trivial, but the best that we had. That lasted, I would say about 10 years.
Eleonora: Right. And now?
Helen: Now, since it bottomed out so to speak, all of a sudden the differences among us, partly because of the world situation… but it’s imperative to understand that you are not seeing the same reality as somebody with whom you relate.
Eleonora: Yes. Very much so.
Helen: It’s an amazing insight for most people, who assume that what they see is consensus. So the differences among us have become so apparent that people now talk about how they see the situation and they expect to hear an alternative point of view from somebody who holds a different position.
Eleonora: Would you say that from understanding now the various different patterns and how we see the world from these particular patterns – do you find that people actually get on better? Or do you find that it has not made that much difference - not just in terms of relating, but also in terms of their own personal growth and moving from a particular perception of themselves to being something far greater…
Helen: The key word you used is pattern, because most people think, “Well, if I have an opinion… (which is really a concept) if I have a fixed opinion about something, well, I could change that. I could understand your, other, opinion based on the differences between us.” But pattern is something else and it needs another perceptual sense. It needs an ability to turn attention inward and to be able to perceive the pattern-like way in which your mind sorts information. Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re getting into spiritual material because you begin to turn inward and reflect upon not just an opinion, which is an idea, a concept that’s buried in some part of your pre-frontal, mechanical brain, but you begin to notice when you turn attention inward, the pattern-like way in which your mind actually is structured. So for example, someone who is rooted in an instinct to move away from people… or if you are the type of person that is rooted in an instinct to move against people, or to seek security in making contact with people, now these are inborn instinctual responses. Now, I’ll make a very long story short, but those instinctual responses are buried in the back of your brain and they come out of the animal kingdom and they come out of evolution and, they haven't gone away. And you cannot at the same time be seeking security by contact with people and also opposing them and, also moving away from them out of insecurity and fear. You can't be taking that movement all at the same time, but you have a first tendency response. That's at birth. That's innate. So you don't come into the world new you come into the world with a certain bias, which is neurologically wired.
So the first tendency response is part of how you read the diagram. There are three types that are instinct moving away and fear-types. Instinct moving against, that would be the anger-types first tendency response, and instinct moving toward. Most people would say, “Well I have all three…” because you do but, there is a strong proclivity to move in one direction rather than the other two. So with that neurological wiring you interface with the environment in which you find yourself. Now, somewhere between nature at birth and nurture in the environment a relationship forms and you learn to adapt, which is the technical word to have an adaptive strategy, to be able to interface successfully with whatever environment you have. We know this because adults report the environment and how they made their way so that they could be secure.
So the hub of relationship is this automatic response that we have. It's very important to know the type of person you are because it explains a whole lot about yourself and it isn't better to be a seeking contact, or being against, or being away from. It isn't better to be one or the other. It's the way we are.
Eleonora: Does that change over time, over our lifetime?
Helen: It depends on your circumstance because, as an adult I would say I am a lot more angry that I ever was as a youngster - as a fear-type. But you have those adaptations and I don't see any reason why they should go away.
Eleonora: I presume that these adaptations are in order to survive.
Helen: These are survival strategies. In the animal kingdom you see it very clearly. The animals that run away, the ones that stand against and go toward, you know in an aggressive way and, the ones that seek contact in the herd or the pack or the group. Anyway that's the beginning of things; it's not the end of the story. But, all this interface means that you have, as an individual, a pattern-like way of behaving, that's on its own, automatic. Very hard to accept. This was one of the reasons why the Enneagram had to prove itself over time, because it's just very hard to accept that we are on automatic and that we don't have choices about what we do. You know ninety percent of our behaviour is sub cortical. We don't know about it until we go looking and there is this ability that we have as humans, it dignifies us from the animal kingdom: this capacity to internally reflect upon the patterns that drive us and then, choice begins to open and, it's a great relief if people even get that far. “I have something to say about this… I can change.”
Eleonora: Right. I'm trying to connect various different things based upon what you have just said. Earlier we talked about also the witnessing consciousness. Can you say more about that?
Helen: Well, self-reflection is identical to witnessing consciousness. In the Christian sector it's called witnessing consciousness. In the Vedanta it's called self-reflection. It could be called the inner observer. The word observer is confused with… "I look in a mirror and that's what I observe out here." The adaptation that you have is to turn attention inward and actually begin to reflect upon your thinking. It's not just what you think, like the conclusion you come to, but there is a pattern-like way which a brain sorts billions of bits of data; it supports by focusing attention on a certain sector of reality that was your survival when you were young. Now we were speaking earlier and you said you would be a [type] Three, you were inclined to that direction and I’m a Six. So, the way that your mind focuses is toward success and accomplishment and connection with people that can be earned by that. Mine, on the other hand [laughs] is to move back, step back from contact and evaluate, to think. So we operate from very different centres of...
Eleonora: We come from different places completely; we see the world differently.
Helen: We come from different places. One is in the head and the other in the heart and it isn't that we don't enjoy or understand each other, it's just that at the beginning you would assume that I was dealing with the same patterns that you were dealing with and was interested in the same thrust, you see.
Helen: So it's that, especially in inter-personal relationships, that assumption, because of appearance, because of education, because of the language that you speak, because of so many factors we somehow think that everybody is doing the same thing here.
Eleonora: However, that ability of witnessing consciousness somehow puts a stop to that automaticity of projecting onto the other my worldview.
Helen: Yes, the assumption that we have which is… [laughs] I mean, we insult people on a daily basis without realising it on the assumption that we have, that they ought to enjoy this. “Let's have a very deep talk about what we think about things.” The Six would say this is intimacy to us and it can be really off putting to many other types. But, we don't know that. So, the interpersonal level depends on being able to observe oneself and that is not selfish because, with self-observation comes a huge amount of insight into the situation that we face. Self-reflection means to turn attention inward and to be able to notice the patterns of thought that arise in you and to notice what the focus of attention might be, that all of these thoughts, emotions, sensations are dedicated to. The focus of attention means that you, metaphysically, you attach a point of concentration on something. This naturally organises the field of all those billion bits of data into what is coherent to you. You will be reading a different kind of information out of the same room that I will be reading.
My thing would be “Okay, now where is the difficulty here and what must I do to counteract this?” That would be the naïve Six view and, for the naïve Three it would be, “What is positive here and how can I exaggerate and bring that forward so everybody can participate in it?” So you are moving toward contact and I am not. But each of these is an intact worldview, and each from its own position is correct. It's a truth.
Eleonora: Yes, it can't be otherwise, because this is my experience. And that is your experience.
Helen: [agrees] … and it's true for me subjectively. It's true, but only partially. So all of these partial truths, if you begin to reflect internally, you begin to realise that, “Well, there are some things that I could change here. I might have a choice actually. I am not an automaton that is on automatic, I can witness these things. I can witness the structures of my own neurological pathways.” Now isn't that something? Because the emphasis that I have put, at least on the Enneagram, has been the witnessing of the patterns, rather than separating from the patterns and emphasising the other necessary factor, definitely: which is to be in the present moment without any patterns. That is the practice of presence.
Eleonora: Yes and that is the difficulty…
Helen: It is the absence of patterns that is emphasised particularly in the traditions of Za Zen and Vipassana which is taking the United States, at least, by storm. This is very helpful and necessary, and now we have evidence-based research which is fundamental to supporting this whole enterprise of having a choice. The enterprise of having a choice is what we are all about here, because then we can participate in raising our level of consciousness.
Eleonora: When you say ‘choice’, first of all there needs to be a certain degree of self-awareness of the particular pattern. Firstly, even acknowledging that there is a pattern, that there is a difference between us… so say more about the choice.
Helen: Yes. Well, it's the fundamental proposition of the whole thing. Is that we humans have a role in evolution. That our consciousness can evolve and, we can participate in raising level of consciousness within our self. That is the proposition. That is mysticism, which is at the core of every world religion. Is the mystical component of the fact that we have a definitive role in an evolutionary spectrum, but it's not out here [places hands at arms-length]
Eleonora: That's right [laughs]
Helen: [laughs] it's not out here. I can't change anything; I can't change anyone in a relationship no matter how dear they are to me. I can't change them!
Helen: But, I can have a part, a choice about how I manage myself in a relationship, so that I can perhaps influence them, by changing myself. There is enormous power and importance in the one who goes first. The one who goes first is mighty, because it requires self-change in the absence of any feedback whatsoever that it's going to be beneficial and you don't want to lose the relationship because you are so attached to it, so it sets up a huge amount of tension. The idea of moving into oneself and relaxing the patterns that drive us, especially getting to the point of self-witnessing, or the self-reflection where you can notice the internal cues and signs of the body, the emotions and the conditioned mental patterns. So, I've emphasised that, because I have to put out that many people have described and discovered their type out of a book, no previous experience..."Oh that's me," by process of elimination, “I don't do this, I don't do that.” Process of elimination, "Alright this is it!" [my type]
Eleonora: And then buy it, and believe it.
Helen: Because it's true, but only partially. There are eight other versions of the truth, but the ninth is me. So, the fact that they could recognise out of a book, descriptions, what is going on internally to themselves mean that they have an awake self-reflective capacity, or they would not have been able to accomplish that feat. That's very heartening to me. So I would say what got us off the bottom of the deterioration in the first phase was [that] enough people were saying, “No don't tell me what I am. I'm certain. You are looking at my appearance you are not seeing how I am organised inside because I have gone looking.”
And then it becomes almost miraculous the amount of choice you can make. Whether or not you do it, is your own free will. Many people stop right there. In the business community the Enneagram is so strong with the executive coaching, with team building. Properly handled it's like "Oh my gosh I've managed you so incorrectly, I’m sorry!" The Three might be bobbing and weaving changing position to whatever works always with an eye on the goal, but the process of how to get to the goal changes. Well tell that to a [type] One who already has a fixed goal that they are moving towards, step by step, in a very precise way. They simply don't understand each other. You are simply bobbing and weaving and I don't understand what you want - would you tell me? And from the other side it's like, “Well why do you stick in the old when we are on to the new?” do you see. Now those are just team building techniques and they are marvelously important.
Eleonora: So when people see that in a work situation, then what happens?
Helen: Well, it's not exactly my area, but I certainly have trained a lot of business people in the Enneagram and what happens is, depending on how it's handled, it can be phrased as an asset, because it is! "You have a great skills set," for example, "but I don't know why you just dig in, Mrs One, when I start to change the agenda," the Three might say.
The One would say, "I dig in because you've changed your mind. Obviously you're not in charge of things." You see? So once explained, then when the 'dig in' comes for the One, they can recognise, “All right. I can stay inside. I can be present. I can watch what happens. Is this effective or not?” without jumping to a premature future conclusion. And on the other side the Three might say, "Well, when you dig in like that, I feel I'm doing something wrong and I want to get you back again. I want to get back into connection with you, emotional connection with you." I will just come in [turning attention away from the imagined One] and be present and restrain myself and go about and see if my idea works... [Noticing the imagined One] Oh, they came along!" It can be used in a very strategic way, but all of that is on the horizontal plane of daily living. It is not a spiritual moment.
Eleonora: Absolutely. That's what I wanted to ask you next, because you know when it comes to business I think the focus is certainly not about transformation. Not in a business sense.
Helen: And it should not properly be there.
Eleonora: Right. So here we are in a business situation, let's say, and the individual actually recognises the difference between ‘myself’ and my other co-workers. Does it stop there? Or do you find that there is...?
Helen: I would be congratulatory. I would say, "Now that we've found out that when I look like I'm moving too quickly and changing my mind and you feel ‘dug in’, you can turn your attention inward and find a point inside of yourself where you're relaxed. That's huge. We both have to take the same medicine. Nobody's right here, because each view is correct from a certain subjective viewpoint. Nobody's wrong here. But if when we feel this rising concern... if we could both just take a pause, come inside ourselves..." I mean, it is so uncustomary for anyone to centre themselves in a business setting - and I'm all for the introduction now into the business community. Still horizontal plane: nothing deep, spiritual at all; but for basic attention practices, to shift your state of consciousness so that you're not going into a premature judgement of the conclusion, which wouldn't happen if you hadn't introduced the pause. So staging it in that way, we're almost there in the business community, but change your state of mind? This is just bizarre until it's introduced in the proper business language, which I don't actually have.
Helen: But it's the same principle that would happen in a spiritual direction session, "Well my relationship is in such difficulty, and this is how I feel inside." Well, you don't have to have those feelings right now. Those feelings are quite appropriate that you have. It's the adaptation that you are. That is your identity. It's quite appropriate, but, if you really want to work on this relationship and take it to another level of experience, then those patterns of reactivity - moving away from, moving against, moving toward - they have to quiet down. And method. Same method as in the business setting, but methods for bringing your attention inward and relaxing into a pause. Now what guides this moving from patterns (head, heart and somatic) into even a temporary silence, is restorative. You come to your senses because those automatic patterns are strategic for survival. In relationship, you're trying to be open to whatever is presented. You don't want to be on survival, defending. You want to be receptive to reality as it actually is occurring between two people.
Eleonora: If I were to look at my experience… for instance, when we talk about being in relationship with another, what is actually in relationship is the pattern, and what I find really hopeful is the possibility of not doing that. The possibility of really recognising that the divinity within each one of us, is actually the divinity that we [all] share, rather than focusing on what obfuscates what's really real about us.
Helen: I would be careful of the language.
Helen: It's very accurate what you say. I would be careful of the language. As soon as you bring divinity into it, though it's true, it is not true for everyone specifically in that language. But... and I'm not chiding you in any way because I run into this all the time. The vocabulary that you can use speaking to spiritual directors is different than the marketplace. It's different than you can use with your beloved because the implication through the divine within us is somehow, "Well, you listen to my grievance first and then we'll worry about what's the divine here."
Helen: It's just the strategy and this is I think the marvel of the programmes that you're running here, is that you're getting people coming out of an old language base and finding the proper language/vocabulary for, because an individual couple is going to have their own vocabulary for this, you see?
Helen: So you see, they need to be instructed about this. It's like, “How could I get the message across to you?” And sometimes the wife or the husband might say, "I just need to say, 'Stop. I'll come back to you in 20 minutes.'" Another partner might say, "I need to settle it right now." Another partner would say, "I need to find where I feel so nervous about this thing. I need to just get my nerves under management." You see it's very important to tailor the vocabulary to the couple that wants to really evolve. Now the other thing is nobody is really aware that it's one big reality out here. They're on the horizontal plane, so the language of the Enneagram, I think one of the marvels is, that with the right vocabulary you can reach almost anybody with this. It's for everyone.
Helen: And on a global basis [laughs] it's incredible. You work with a translator and you have a bunch of let's say Sevens under interview. You know, Chinese Sevens, and you have something in your ear which is translating the Mandarin, or the Cantonese and you're coming to some sort of conclusion about what they're saying and then you pass the question to the translator who gives it to the audience in general. It's like three languages going on. Chinese, American, Enneagram. It's like three languages and they say the same things that I am absolutely primed to answer because it's a universal template for change. I just adore the whole enterprise, yeah.
Eleonora: That's what I find so amazing… that the Enneagram goes across cultures as well.
Helen: Oh, no doubt! But the language now is to reflect upon yourself and your part in this. That's the first shift of attention to internalise and begin to realise, "Yes, my attention is going to all the defects here. I notice that. I notice the absence of positives... but I'm very good on seeing the negatives," for example. Or, "I see all of the loss and the abandonment." Meanwhile, the partner is just trying to have a conversation about their point of view. They're not abandoning anybody, but it seems that way from the [type] Four perspective. It seems that way and it's true from that subjective perspective.
So to be able, for each of the partners, to know their Enneagram type is a huge advantage. The second thing is to share the willingness to go inside and get empty because the spiritual evolution and the evolution of the couple had a lot to do with being able to withdraw, to relax into silence where this is no past or future, there's just now, and to extend that present-time awareness and then you realise you're looking at a different reality. The whole view changes and the first things that you see is the tension and the urgency and commitment in someone else - however wrongheaded it might seem to your ego structure, to your identity - they're trying very hard to have a relationship with you. You see their suffering. And you realise you're holding up your end to keep it going, that suffering. So it's most important at the beginning for each of the couples to know their type, because that explains a lot. "Oh, I thought when you said that, this is what you meant and here I find out you had a totally different point of view.”
Eleonora: It creates space.
Helen: Yes, well said it creates space. And the space, when you come inside yourself and you turn inward means that you have to have some pause practice going on to be able to receive the other and remember, “Oh, this is the man that I love. Oh! And I'm agitated inside. That's me.” And in agitation, whether you know it or not, those survival patterns will engage and everything goes into a misunderstanding. The change is, change your state, your internal state of mind into silence. And from the silence you can watch these patterns and you keep coming back to the silence. You let the patterns go... and then you realise that you can watch for the outcome of things and your timing improves and your ability to notice something when the right time to say it comes up... you're useful!
Eleonora: Yes. This is a lifelong kind of practice.
Helen: When the investment is big, like a relationship, it can go quite swiftly. But you're quite right, it goes in levels, and there is divinity at the end of it.
Eleonora: When we talk about the practice for instance of the witnessing consciousness, would you also recommend that taking time out - like for meditation - that would strengthen that part of ourselves?
Helen: Yes, it's essential.
Eleonora: It's essential.
Helen: It's essential, but not to make a big deal of it because once you know your type... you see this is why I value the system because it's like a roadmap. You're not in there just looking, like, “Well, I'm tense... no, I'm not tense.” You know what you're looking for, which is... the[type] One is looking for the focus of attention - criticality. The Two is looking - focus of attention on other people's needs. The Nine is looking at everyone else's agenda and losing their own.
The focus of attention is what drives the sorting system of brain so that, if you know that focus of attention, you know the way you're wired; and you have a very good little codebook so that you're not going in just in general, “Oh I need to get away, and relaxing,” which is the way the general public assumes it would be like that. No, you don't need an alternative life. You need to know the patterns, the focus of attention and you need to recognise through witnessing consciousness, which is a stage of development, but it is the witnessing consciousness that can go all of the distance to freedom.
Eleonora: Yes, and we talked earlier that you do see the Enneagram as a path, as a spiritual path.
Helen: I do.
Eleonora: It was up to a point... again, speaking from my own experience, there was a lot of talk about 15 years ago when I first became involved, that the Enneagram was a spiritual path, but I didn't find it that way because I felt it was somewhat finite. Somehow it didn't offer beyond the recognition of the patterns. But how I hear you...
Helen: Well, you got to start somewhere... and I mean, I'm pretty responsible for that. We had to start with the types because without the type recognition you don't have the capacity to realise that you can also witness.
Eleonora: Yes, of course.
Helen: Now, I would say that this is an approach that I take where self-reflection, the reflection on the patterns doesn´t stop there. It means that you can recognise and relax the patterns that you have, more or less on the spot. Rather than awakening five days later, two hours later and realise, “ Oh, I did it again! ”
Now, what this does strategically inside, is to relax a lower order, prefrontal patterns, neurological patterns and limbic patterns; emotional patterns that are wired together in a very.... it´s like a loop tape. You have an emotion – you have the corresponding thought. If you have the thought - you have the corresponding emotion. They´re quite tied together as a reaction. You can actually change those reactions by introducing a pure level of consciousness that never gets conditionned. And this can be called variously according to your culture: the inner witness, the reflection of the self, the inner observer.. You call it what you like, those are just simple words that describe the ability to recognise when you´re going on automatic. There´s a huge amount of energy and life force called The Vice actually, or the passion of the heart, in the Enneagram which is now going to engage and recreate itself. Pattern-like, though it might be totally unappropriate to the present, it is historically the way we are wired to relate to things.
All of that energy can be relaxed in the present moment which brings your attention to a spiritual level of consciousness where you are more objective in being able to see reality as it´s actually taking place. That is called, intuition. It is a recognition, it´s not thoughts, because you´re in the present moment and extended in silence. It is a recognition of the reality that you actually face, as in a relationship when all of a sudden you relax your, “I want my say, ” you relax that. And you begin to get into silence and you begin to see the suffering of the partner which is real. They´re trying to maintain this relationship and it´s very touching. And that encourages you to go a little deeper into yourself and realise, “This is a state of mind, ” because your energy starts to flow, your consciousness starts to elevate in the sense that you are focused on reality as it´s actually unfolding in present time instead of through this fixed filter of illusion, which is your identity structure. Now, that is why it´s a spiritual path. The first thing that has to happen is, “I have to get rid of me, my identity.”
Helen: And I would put in the fact that the Enneagram was developped not as any kind of psychological system, because psychology has a history of just barely over 200 years old. This is out of ancient times, this renewal of the Enneagram map. It´s a map of the obstacles, as it was originally used, to prayer and meditation. To deeper presence in the present moment, because what comes up is, as soon as the identity is triggered, [Oh sigh] “I´m going into silence, deeper” - a new level. [Oh sigh] “What´s going to happen? ” And the survival strategy activates, but by relaxing that survival strategy, you pull energy away from prefrontal´s and limbic activity and back into the ability to tolerate deeper silence. When thoughts come, let them go.
Eleonora: Is this the area of work that you´re focussing on, now?
Helen: Oh, that´s how I entered this whole thing. You know, one would suppose that I am deeply steeped in the psychology of type. That was an area that I taught for a long time, psychology of personality, but it´s not my interest.
Eleonora: What´s your interest now, in the evolution of the Enneagram?
Helen: I think it´s very important... now this is a personal, you know... others would have other wishes to the Enneagram.
Helen: I put a lot of value on the work of Desmond Tutu.
Eleonora: Really? Say more.
Helen: Well, he´s about the reconciliation of hostile opposites. I´m a longterm peace activist and Desmond Tutu is my local hero now. Before it was Mahatma Ghandi, but Desmond is with us and he has instituted a method. I don´t know if we have time, a couple of minutes?
Eleonora: Yes, we do.
Helen: There was a time in his country when prisoners who had committed heinous crimes, atrocities against their own people who were imprisonned. Too many prisoners. And he had the idea in concert with others, “We can repatriate these people, because there´s nowhere else for them to go. We either execute them, or we rehab them and put them back where they came from because no one else will have them. ”
What a brilliant idea, to repatriate people who were accused and guilty of crimes against their own people. And this has so much to do with human relationships, which is your question. He has a method where the previously convicted are brought in and they are faced with their accusers in the very town where these atrocities were committed. And the ground rules are: we bring in a bank of fair witnesses from another town that wasn´t involved and we´re going to sit here until everybody has had the chance to speak their piece. Their view. Their truth. Their subject of reality. And the first, of course are the accusers and they want vengeance. “You did this to me!” I mean, these are machete...
Eleonora: I can imagine.
Helen: So horrendous... they´re sitting there with their mutilations. But the accusers have their way. And that could go on for days. And the witnesses are witnessing and speaking among themselves and the accused are silent. This can go on a long time and here´s Desmond in his Episcopal Archbishop´s robes presiding in silence over this whole interaction. Now, you could see this as an affirmative force and a negating force. [claps her fists together] No hope. No reconciliation. No third force reconciliatiion. And then the accused come forward. These are now grown men and women and they say, “They took me when I was seven, eight years old. They stole me from this place and we were told that you had sold us. That you knew. We were told this. We believed this. And we were told that if we didn´t commit these crimes in other places as we grew up that they would turn upon us because those that are outcasts have to band together.” It´s a bonding technique and it´s very powerful. That was my understanding of the material that Desmond Tutu is bringing forward. And the reconciling view is the shock that you see in this small documentary that I saw. The shock that you see on the accusers´ face. They never knew. They never could take in, because they hadn´t known the reality of the other. Which is what, when you´re receptive to it, which is the ground rules, and the ground rules held: There will be no retaliation. So the accused were free to speak. No retaliation. And the... “I was eight years old... and all I had was my friends. So we made our way in our world...” as we do.
Eleonora: And the resolution being....
Helen: The talking back and forth resolves the situation. You don´t have to do anything. You see in a receptive field of reality you don´t do anything except wait, in a certain state of mind, not in a thinking way. However justified those thoughts might be. Not in an emotional way, however justified it might feel to want retaliation - you´re empty. And I´m sure there was some instruction going on about the state of mind of listening to this. And the ground rules held.
The last shot on the documentary was amazing to me. It was one of the chief accusers, a woman whose husband had been killed in front of her eyes. She was going to the... there was only one well - quite symbolically - there was one well and everybody has to get water out of that same well. She´s going toward it with a jug, and coming back was the one that she had accused. And they passed in complete silence. And then the cinematographer asks: “What did you feel about that? ” to the woman, and she said, - and this is is such good neural science - “I´ll never trust him. I don´t like him, but I´m too busy about my ordinary business and I don´t think about that.” The memory remains. It must, because it happened. You´re not going to take away the memory from those prefrontals, but the limbic relaxes. The emotional charge just went out of it. And that is healing.
Eleonora: And so what touched you was seeing firsthand the possibility of listening, for both the accuser and the victim, [to] their story and where they were coming from in comitting what they had done, and also in being present to the possibility perhaps of... maybe forgiveness. I don´t know, I´m using my own words... I don´t want to...
Helen: No, no, forgiveness is great. Forgiveness can be, “I don´t care about you, but I´m not gonna do anything to you.” That´s a good form of forgiveness, given the situation and that will change over time into more of an acceptance
Eleonora: Yes, so what you´re talking about is really the possibility of changing the brain pathways.
Eleonora: And that´s what you find of the work of Desmond Tutu... so powerful and so healing. In the same way that the Enneagram also gives the opportunity and the possibilty of changing these brain pathways.
Helen: Which is why I´m so stuck on this psychological structural approach, because you can change the structure voluntarily... and get a different one. I mean choice is.. it´s such an inspiring thing to me. We can choose to be different and, yes, the memory is still there, but it doesn´t engage.
Eleonora: We can change.
Eleonora: We can change and I think that´s really wonderful to know that really, we can make these changes. And we´re also coming to the end of our time. Was there anything else you´d like to add very, very, very quickly?
Helen: If you love your honey and he´s being a real pain [both laughting] ...change your state of mind and he´ll be your honey who´s trying to get a message across and you can speak to the message instead of getting reactive.
Eleonora: Wonderful! Thank you Helen, I just want to go through your books again, Inner Knowing. The Enneagram Advantage. The Enneagram in Love and Work: Undertsanding Your Intimate and Business Relationships. The Pocket Enneagram and the other book, your the bestseller is, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life. Helen, it´s been a pleasure to have you, thank you very much for coming to London.
Helen: Oh, I´m delighted to be here and to be able to speak these things, they´re so... it´s very healing to me.
Eleonora: Thank you. And thank you very much for watching conscious.tv and we´ll see you again very soon. Good-bye.
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