The Lines Are the Basic Building Blocks of the Enneagram, Not the Points by Michael Goldberg

The Lines Are the Basic Building Blocks of the Enneagram, Not the Points by Michael Goldberg

Skype interview with Michael Goldberg 
by Viviana Trucco


-Viviana Trucco  “I felt very honored when I received a message from Michael Goldberg offering a Skype call on account of an article we had discussed in our monthly meeting “Conversando with the Enneagram”.  Michael’s pen is priceless. His prose provides a narrative aesthetic that moves and allows an inner work appealing to the emotional chord through metaphors and myth, an unusual convergence of literary art and corporate-business pragmatism. Michael gave us a seminar by Skype from his home in Arizona to our chapter in Buenos Aries. The seminar was very interactive; Michael spoke to our many questions. For our members who did not speak English “Cecilia Zanoni” translated simultaneously; sometimes we had a quick discussion in Spanish to flesh out the more complicated points. Michael’s approach means to turn on its head the way the Enneagram is understood, taught and worked with. It was profound, challenging and motivating. What follows is a narrative of some of Michael’s argument, along with some of his comments from the seminar

-Michael Goldberg:  “Here is the main thing: the lines are the basic building blocks of the Enneagram, not the points. An Enneagram line is an archetype, a collection of themes, like a novel or a life. These themes are meant to be engaged, participated in, and wrestled with.”

“At one end of the archetype/line is a point, the most extreme position in the argument. This is an enneagram number. But the enneagram number does not stand by itself. It remains part of a line, part of an ongoing story with its opposite, at the other end of the line.”

“When the archetype tells its story consciously we have creativity, imagination, grace, life. We have choices. We can be our many selves. Our lives have meaning because we are consciously living a dynamic story that matters to us.”

“When someone becomes fixated, stuck, the storytelling stops. We pretend that the line does not exist for us, only our “point.” In that case, there is no living story, just a stagnant point of view. Only one end of the archetype/line is heard from, only one part of the discussion is allowed a voice. This is the fixation.”

“The work of the enneagram is to bring the story back to life.”

“A fixation is always a limited point of view, (one slice of the pie) and it is the limited point of view, not the “level of evolution” that is la problema. Thus, if you work to “develop” your type, you may make it prettier, but you are actually making yourself more fixated, by further identifying with it and entrenching it. You go deeper into your trance. Working to “evolve” your fixation is, in an American idiom, like putting make-up on a corpse. It’s nice, but it does not address the basic problem. Evolving within your point is the fantasy of the Ego. This is why they are called “ego fixations.”

“The real work with the enneagram is undermining/ deconstructing the fixation, not building it up, not ‘evolving’ it. And the way that you do that is flesh out the forgotten story, so as to avoid being stuck on automatic.”

“How to bring the line to life? It is through story, myth, art, music, architecture, science, anything that raises the issues/choices/values inherent in their line-as-a-whole, the archetype. For example, in Greek myth, Persephone (4) struggles between life in the Underworld (5) and in the Upperworld (3).  Persephone learns, as all Fours must, how to live in two worlds, the Underworld and the Upperworld, and how to move gracefully between them. These dynamics are the true Four path, not to find a cure for depression.”

-Participant: So you say that in the first class it is said all the Enneagram is in us, and the in the second class this is forgotten. How is that? –

Michael: “Most of us learned in our very first Enneagram class that we are ‘all the points.’” But rarely is that idea heard from again. Instead, our attention goes to the intricacies of our own fixation, to describing it in greater and more lurid detail- the types and subtypes, and the subtypes of the subtypes, and the wings of the wings. ( J ) But what you heard way back then was true. We are all the points, and this fact is central to real work with the enneagram, and not the ever-more-intricate descriptions of type.”

-Participant:  What would a Type be then?

-Michael: “A type is always a limited perspective. And that never changes, no matter how wonderfully evolved you have become. (Congratulations!) Evolving your type is the triumph of the ego.”

– Participant:  Please if you could explain with detail what does it mean for you what Ichazo said that the point are the result of the struggle of the wings 

-Michael: Sr. Oscar Ichazo understood brilliantly that the fixations are static and that the enneagram is dynamic and that the goal of work with the enneagram is not to sanctify the fixation. My understanding is that the work with the enneagram is to topple the entrenched fixation and come back to life. This can be discombobulating because we identify so with our fixation. But the wings are the best first leverage for that difficult task, freeing up the story that is forgotten in the wings. Later, we find that all of the lines, and indeed, the triangles and other subdivisions and terrain of the enneagram, the nooks and crannies, have their own intentions and purposes.

-Participant:  What is the relation between wings and instincts?

-Michael: It depends how you understand and apply the instincts. If you use them to further delineate and embalm your type, then that is less than optimal: it makes you more fixated. But if you use them as leverage to grapple with your own story, then they can be galvanizing. – Participant: Are the wings useful to understand the passion as a mix of both wings (ex pride as a mix of anger and vanity etc) or it is valid to use them as subtypes? –

Michael: Precisely the former.

Words exchanged later by email

-Michael: Personal note from Michael to Viviana: “First, thanks for making me feel so welcome and supported. Thank you. But most of all I appreciated how you in particular and a few others, “tracked” my material, that you understood what I was trying to say.

-Viviana, “We, feel very grateful for your generosity in sharing all your perspective and expertise on the Enneagram. It was profound, challenging and motivating.”

-Michael: “I enjoyed our event very much and regards to all. Thank you for making it a pleasure for me (“profound, challenging, motivating” is what I aim for. Gracias.)

-Viviana: The things that passion pushes to be transmitted!

Viviana Trucco Iea Argentina President

“Michael Goldberg is the author of The 9 Ways of Working and Travels with Odysseus.”

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