Some of you may have taken one of the two Enneagram Personality tests I recommended in my last article. If you did then it is important to remind you of the following principle:
Whichever of the Nine Enneagram ‘personalities’ you think you have (or scored highest for) you should fight as hard as you can not to be that particular way. In short, you should lose that ossified way of being.
For example, until recently I scored high for the Number 8. Here is a description of the Eight by The Enneagram Institute:
Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.
In order to avoid the fate of becoming fixated on strength (and thereby making myself obsessional about it) I had to let go of the banana about having to ‘be in control’. In point of fact I never particularly wanted to be in control of anything until I became a well-known therapist. After that point my Headmind decided that it had something to prove to people who did therapy or training with me, and then the banana about having to be ‘strong’ started to work on me. Before that particular delusion took over I usually scored high on the Number 5 personality. Here is a description of that one from the same source:
Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation.
I would guess that I was a ‘Five’ all the way from my teenage years until about 10 years ago, when I learnt to see through that false ego. What drove it was my emerging experience of being typed as ‘deaf and therefore ‘stupid’ and ‘inadequate’. That was why I went for one banana about having to be a know-all and another one about having to live in an ivory tower. Neither obsession did me any good.
Here are the fixations that go with each of the nine types.
The One: Has to be in the right. Must never be in the wrong. The Perfectionist.
The Two: Has to look after others. Must never be rejected. The Martyr.
The Three. Has to be a success. Must never be second-best. The Workaholic.
The Four. Has to be admired. Must never be ignored. The Show-off.
The Five. Has to know everything. Must never be caught out. The Loner.
The Six. Has to belong. Must never stand out from the crowd. The Conformist.
The Seven. Has to be happy. Must not be sad. The Addict.
The Eight. Has to be in Control. Must not be weak. The Bully.
The Nine. Has to be inside the Comfort Zone. Must not get stressed. The Slob.
The Enneagram is a method through which you can understand human personality. There are 9 personality types, which I will describe in later articles.
I have written about Personality – and also about the Ego – before. In the system of Reverse Therapy, your personality/ego is a creation of Headmind, which bears no relation to who you actually are.
A common problem with Enneagram books is that they try to label people as belonging to a certain ‘type’. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that knowing someone’s Enneagram type will tell you is how far they have got stuck in Headmind.
You are far more than your personality. Somewhere, deep down, you possess a Personal Genius which holds the personality you give out to others in contempt, and which seeks to break free of it. Personal Genius, if anything can be, is your real self. But you have no control over it for that was given to you at birth.
Your Enneagram personality, by contrast, is something you need to work on in order to abolish it. Your personality is not you; rather it is your Prison.
The ideal, the goal, is to become ego-less and to cease to possess a personality.
Only then can you become that which you are truly are. Gurdjieff, the originator of the Enneagram taught precisely this.
Before you read the second article in this series you might want to take the Enneagram test and here are two:
Eclectic Energies (This is a free test which is reasonably accurate).
The Riso Hudson test (The Riso-Hudson test is the most thorough test currently available. It costs $10.00).
In my last post How the Ego Works I described the Ego as an internal watchman that has been installed in you by the people you grew up with.
So long as you live in society you can’t live without the watchman because it is through her that you navigate your way around the social order. And even if you left for a monastery you would still need an ego to find your way around the rules in there.
At the same time we should be wary of gurus who claim to be living beyond the ego. That is impossible. But we can work towards ego reduction. if we do that we are likely to be less phoney, less frustrated and less conceited.
The list that follows isn’t comprehensive but if you are sincere about personal development then practicing all of them will take you a long way.
Don’t take things personally
The ego is, by definition, paranoid. It relates everything that happens around you back to the self. As if you are the centre of the universe and more important than you in fact are.
In the same way, the unkind remarks others make about you have very little to with you at all. It has much more to do with their own ego: their delusions, frustrations and self-importance. Don’t be fooled.
This means refraining from talking about your own misfortunes and trivial concerns and not criticizing others’ behind their backs. Above all, don’t name-drop or brag about your wealth, possessions, sexual conquests and achievements. It’s not only egocentric but makes you look ridiculous.
Don’t use religion as an ego-booster
Thinking that you are nearer to God than other people – or that you are doing God’s will – is the most insidious form of egoism there is. It also makes you just part of the guru pest I have written about elsewhere. It’s a sad fact that many religious (though not all) are some of the most unkind, judgmental, and inhuman people on the planet.
Don’t hide behind false modesty.
This is a subtle one because it makes it easy for us to camouflage the ego. ‘English irony’, in which someone claims to be simpler than they are usually hides a very opinionated person. In the same way, a dependent person who says they are ‘useless’ at something is usually after more attention, not less.
Unegoistic people are, as a rule, very matter of fact about their strengths and weaknesses.
Don’t identify with group-egoism.
This is another insidious ploy used by the ego to give itself a false sense of superiority. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your family, the neighbourhood you grew up in, your nation or the cause you stand for. But things get nasty when you join in group attacks on outsiders.
Don’t dress, or put on an act, to impress others
Somehow, we always seem to know when we are working from ego. There is a fine line between dressing smartly and dressing to impress – and we always know when we have crossed it. The same applies to being nice to others – and flirting with them.
Do things for their own reward
If nobody knew you were giving to charity, would you still do it? The answer for most of us is – probably – yes. The same criterion should apply to every thing else you do. The things you do to make money, or praise, or to acquire status, all of these feed the ego.
Doing things purely because you achieve fulfilment through them, or because they satisfy the personal genius in you, reduce the ego.
Your ego is a false idea about what and who you are. It is an idea you took over from other people.
Babies don’t have egos. But they start to get one as soon as they realise they have a name. As soon as you have a name you develop the delusion that you have an identity separate from other people. But, in reality, your sense of who you are is defined by your relationships with those same people – ‘son’, ‘daughter’, ‘pupil’, ‘friend’, victim’, etc. Your ego is like a distorting mirror held up to you by the people around you. And when you start to ‘see’ yourself as others see you, you start trying to live up to the expectations that those others have formed about you.
For example, your parents and teachers speak about you as ‘the shy one’, ‘the noisy one’, ‘the brainy one’, ‘the stupid one’, ‘the sporty one’. After persistent indoctrination you start to identify yourself by these concepts.
If the ego that was handed to you was all about having to be a high-achiever then your ego will condemn you to a life of failure because, no matter how clever, successful and hard-working you are, you will never match the ideal you have been set.
If your ego is based on the idea that you are stupid, ugly, or worthless then you are also condemned to a life of failure. Simply because each time you identify with your ego you will act according to expectations.
The Ego is based on frustration. No matter how hard you try, you will never live up to the engrained demands which it carries.
What is worse, the Ego will repress, dismiss or delete your your emotions, your basic needs and your personal genius in the misguided pursuit of ego-strokes – flattery, approval, status, power, or lurve.
Identifying with the Ego creates anxiety and dis-ease – the pre-symptomatic state in which Headmind splits from Bodymind and you are no longer living in your body, in the moment, acting spontaneously as your experience dictates. You become alienated from yourself, from others, and from life itself.
But there is a solution. Next up, I will be writing about how to discard your ego.
‘Wherever I climb, I am followed by a dog named ‘Ego‘.