Defenses, Dichotomies and Character Structure
Workshop with Peter O'Hanrahan
For three decades the Enneagram has been used as a path for personal and professional development, better relationships, and spiritual unfolding. It increases our self awareness of the patterns of our personality and offers specific suggestions for each type. It's a practical method for psychological work. While every personality type can be appreciated for their strengths and contributions, it's the defense system that creates big problems. This is how we get stuck in the "fixation" of the type, the largely unconscious habits of thinking and feeling that can dominate our behavior. When the defenses have taken over, we are not thinking clearly. Our point of view narrows, and our empathy for others disappears. We can see this in others; it's much harder to recognize this in ourselves.
Understanding our defenses, when and how they are activated, is one of the most valuable applications of the Enneagram. It's a key to remembering ourselves, our true needs and priorities, and to staying open hearted in our relationships. It allows us manage our reactivity in the moment and to identify the resources and practices that support deep work on ourselves. If you are committed to your own growth and to becoming more present and caring in your relationships, knowing the defenses of your personality type is vital.
The Enneagram pinpoints three parts of our defenses: 1) the idealization, what we want to live up to or think we should be; 2) the avoidance, what we try to stay away from or cover up (aka our shadow); 3) the defense mechanism, which is the "enforcer" of the type structure.
For example: Nines seek to be harmonious and avoid conflict. The danger is that in doing so they may withdraw from real contact with other people and their own feelings. It seems easier just to stay in the comfort zone and ignore problems or difficult issues. As a body-based type, they "narcotize" themselves with habits of repetitive behavior, such as TV, reading, eating, or anything that works. In doing so they "fall asleep" to what's important.
Another example: Sevens have a great capacity for enjoying life and staying upbeat with positive plans and multiple options. At the same time they seek to avoid painful feelings and issues. As mental types, their quick thinking and ability to "re-frame" problems with a positive spin gives rise to the defense mechanism of "rationalization." For a type that hates limitation, this defense keeps them up in their heads and emotionally isolated.
We need some defenses to live in the world. The challenge is to make them flexible and appropriate to each situation rather than be taken over by them. The Enneagram provides us a way to manage our defenses with a psychological tool that can be used to bring sharp awareness and the possibility of intervention to our defensive reactions, and open the door to deep personal and spiritual growth.
This workshop will include lecture, discussion, personal interviews and breakout groups.
The Enneagram of Defenses, Dichotomies, and Character Structure
Contact Peter to schedule this workshop designed for your community or workplace. firstname.lastname@example.org