Anxious Sixes are often motivated to change because of the intensity of their fears and because of the sheer number of behavioral limits they endure when hostage to their fears. Most Sixes change because they fear a worse alternative.
Presenting problems to therapists and counselors can include anxiety, problems with authority, alcoholism, dependency. On the extreme end of things, there is a distinct risk for suicide if a Six feels generally helpless and is tired of battling with the world.
Generally good goals for change are: learning to trust themselves and others. Need support and encouragement but only to a point. Then they need to learn to provide themselves with their own. Exercise is very good as it gets them out of their heads and into their body, in touch with their physical power. Learning how to go past worst-that-can-happen fantasies is also helpful. Hypnosis, relaxation techniques, deep breathing, learning to make accurate reality checks and realistic risk assessment are all good. Exaggeration of fears to point of absurdity is also good.
When working with Sixes, your relationship with the Six may become part of the problem or even the subject of the therapy. While some Sixes come to therapy to work on their own inner goals, others will make you into an authority figure, an imaginary parent, to avoid owning their own authority. Part of their pattern is to create dependencies.
This can be blatant or implicit; subtle or obvious shifts of responsibility onto the therapist. Their tone of voice could carry a subtle entreaty to let them off the hook. A Six client might implicitly beseech you or say things like, “I have a lot of anxieties and insecurities and my friends tell me that I lean on their opinions too much. What do you think?” If they want to work on problems with authority and they could ask “Where do you think we should start?” could try to make your relationship part of the problem.
A Six could enter your office look at you expectantly and say, “My problem is that I hate authority figures – they are always telling me what to do. Do you have any advice?” Suddenly the coach is part of the problem. You might get an uncomfortable sticky feeling as though you have just stepped in something. or feel like the Six client is either at your feet or at your throat.
Some Six clients report going to therapist after therapist and “nothing has worked.” Once that’s out in the open, you might considering telling them you won’t do therapy with them; you’re wiling to sit with them and give them feedback but you won’t otherwise do anything since the chances are high you too would fail to help them change. This kind of “non-therapy therapy” works well to equalize the relationship and shift motivation and responsibility back on to the Six.
Sixes see themselves as small in proportion to the authority figure in front of them. The image of the person in front of them can be two – three times larger than their own person. In order to help the Six take back his power it may be possible to use language that prompts the Six to reconstruct his visual images. Example “ It was very big of you to make a decision to come in today – I feel indebted to you for choosing this office. My part in this process is only a small part – ultimately you make the final decisions”
Sixes can think themselves into any corner imaginable and to negatively imagine all kinds of fears. Within their logic there is often no argument or solution since their most vivid fears are based on possibilities which , by definition, cant be disproved. If a Six is bent on making a paranoid case for things, you really can’t talk them out of it. In fact it’s usually better to confirm it.
Some Six clients repeat themselves and you may have to decide how much of this to allow. You may also have to repeat yourself as you are in competition with their internal dialogue. Progress with some Six clients may feel like three steps forward, two steps backward but it is still progress.
If you feel like confronting a Six in an angry, accusative way be aware that the Six probably had a parent like that. Like Twos and Nines, Sixes can delete their own hostility, so it canbe helpful for them to know that you – the supposedly powerful one – feel aggressed upon: When you tell me you’re afraid of me, I feel distanced.” “When you tell me how strong and powerful I am, I feel alone and burdened, like I’m huge and you’re one foot tall, like I have all the power and you have none.” Pay attention to how you feel and communicate it, using “I” statements.
Excerpted from The Dynamic Enneagram by Tom Condon
Copyright 2009, 2013 by Thomas Condon
Available as an ebook serial at Tom’s website http://www.thechangeworks.com
Tom Condon has worked with the Enneagram since 1980 and with Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP since 1977. These three models are combined in his trainings to offer a useful collection of tools for changing and growing, to apply the Enneagram dynamically, as a springboard to positive change. Tom has taught over 800 workshops in the US, Europe and Asia and is the author of 50 CDs, DVDs and books on the Enneagram, NLP and Ericksonian methods. He is founder and director of The Changeworks in Bend, Oregon.