Enneagram and our primary programmes

Next week, I’m hosting an Enneagram retreat at Holland House.

What will we be doing? Here’s one way of describing it.

We all develop our primary programme from our childhood experiences. You’ll have yours as I have mine.

Particular feeling responses, repeated and reinforced, become a child’s programme. It’s how they will survive in an uncertain world.

With reasonable stress, the child develops appropriate strength and the programme becomes a moderately flexible style of personality.

But severe stress, repeated, can make the programme very rigid, very defensive.

These programmes operate below our consciousness, so we don’t see them at first. This is why Enneagram listening is a very different sort of listening.

It’s listening to things beneath our consciousness. No wonder we struggle with it sometimes.

But these programmes are worth bringing to the surface; for they are very busy on our behalf, giving very precise instructions about what signals to heed, what information to screen, what emotions to release – and yes, what choices to see.

From here on, the brain sends only information of interest to our chosen programme. And from here on, habitual feelings and thoughts block other, possibly more appropriate, responses.

So the Enneagram’s work is to describe these nine behavioural programmes, one of which is ours…and help us toward freedom.

Each of them has a range of intensity. The more an individual’s behaviour is locked into a programme, the more psychotic they are.

When identification with the programme is lighter, there’s greater freedom.

And where the shadow issues are encountered, (that is, the aspects of ourselves we reject/deny) there is strength. For health to break out, what was rejected by our childhood programme will need to be greeted and brought into the fold.

And as with kind attention our programme dissolves, what happens? We screen out less information meaning choices increase, spontaneity is released, new paths appear.

We don’t now need our programmes in the way we once did.

Once they saved us; now they restrict and close down.

You’ll see that in this process, stress has two sides. It can reinforce our defensive patterns… or it can reveal to us what needs to change.

So if we hang around our shadow side rather than always opting for the more positive aspects of ourselves, it’s because it has more to say, more to offer.

Strange but true.

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