Intro to Position Paper

I'm writing Rhode and Company's position paper, and I'm going to start sending out portions of it in my blog day-by-day.  Here's the first section.

"Like any field of scientific study, personality psychology needs a descriptive model or taxonomy of its subject matter.... A taxonomy would permit researchers to study specified domains of personality characteristics.... Moreover, a generally accepted taxonomy would greatly facilitate the accumulation and communication of empirical findings by offering a standard vocabulary or nomenclature.  Most every researcher in the field hopes, at one level of another, to be the one who devises the structure that will transform the present Babel into a community that speaks a common language."

-- John P. Oliver, Insitute of Personality Assessment and Research, University of California




The purpose of this paper is threefold.  It provides a general survey of psychology's attempts to categorize people into personality typing systems, and it tracks how psychotherapy has attempted to respond to the various types' needs.  

The second is to provide a survey of the major 21st century Enneagram thinkers and how they see the Enneagram as corresponding to the major personality theories in the field. 

Finally, this paper makes the case that excellent therapy requires a client's spiritual nature to be taken into account along with their physical, intellectual, and emotional condition. The Enneagram, an elegant fusion of psychology and several ancient wisdom traditions, has the ability to combine quite a few mainstream personality theories, and do so to a degree of accuracy that has heretofore been unattained.  It is the fundamental organizing principle of personalities that philosophers and psychoanalysts have been looking for since Hippocrates.

relevance of the enneagram

For almost as long as humans have wondered, "what does it all mean?", there has been advice on how to triumph over our primitive animal passions and transcend our limitations to achieve something great and meaningful.  The Buddha taught how to awaken from slumber; Plotinus enjoined us to look within to The One, Christianity implored the dark world to see Christ's light, Sufism advocated for a kind of wisdom that only an idiot would understand. 

The message today in our fast-paced society is no different; whereas in ancient times, it was a call to awaken from our trance-like state and develop virtuous qualities, with the advent of psychoanalysis, we had professionals to help us integrate our unconscious with the conscious.  Abraham Maslow came along and replaced the therapist with paved the way for America's homegrown spirituality- the Human Potential Movement, where we work to achieve self-actualization. today, our higher self is called forth in private coaching sessions or in jam-packed arenas.   Though the vocabulary is different, there is a common instinct that psychologists have noted that makes us pine for a worthier pursuit than our day-to-day survival.  Marie-Louise von Franz eloquently noted mankind's thirst for "something more":

Nowadays more and more people, especially those who live in large cities suffer from a terrible emptiness and boredom, as if they are waiting for something that never arrives.  Movies and television, spectator sports and political excitements may divert them for a while, but again and again, exhausted and disenchanted, they have to return to the wasteland of their own lives.  The only adventure that is still worthwhile for modern man lies in the inner realm of the unconscious psyche.

For most of us, the realities of the post-modern western world mean working harder to stay in the same place as our parents were a generation ago.  With such factors affecting us today as the shrinking middle class, the threat of job loss to automation, and consequently longer working days, more pressure on women by our culture to simultaneously break the glass ceiling while also giving their children more one on one time than our mothers did, there is a lot of pressure on us than there was 30 years ago.