Flemming Christensen´s meeting with the Enneagram is based on an interview with Rezzan Huseyin and converted into this blogpost.
Discovering the Enneagram
My story about discovering the Enneagram and how it became central to my work starts when I was running a consulting company with 60 employees in Denmark.
(click here to receive 50 selected pages from the new book The Enneagram and why your blind type matters)
People joined my little business right after university, and they all represented a mindset about high ambitions, profound generosity, engaged learners, and brilliant specialists or teachers.
After some years, they found a partner, they got married, they had kids, and then their mindset changed.
And I couldn’t understand what was going on. My mindset did not change even if I also had my son, and yes, I was the owner of the company giving me some good reasons for being ambitious, generous, a learner, a specialist, and a teacher. But I had no experience with why and how people changed principles or values and how cultures both need to adapt and stay strong.
So I was looking into different personality tools, and the Myers-Briggs MBTI was the obvious choice two and a half decades ago.
But I didn’t really like the MBTI.
It was very good at telling people their preferences, but there was no real development in it. In my opinion, the MBTI and other systems based on preferences do not take into account, that our preferences might cloud or cover up the real need, longings and passions that are the profound and essential drivers for our behavior.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram
In my search for meaning and understanding of the human experience, I stumbled across the book “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.
And in the back of the book, they shared their address and probably also their telephone and telefax number at the time.
I called them, and I signed up for their Enneagram Teacher Training.
In 2001 I had my first Part 1 – Enneagram Training with Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and then everything about the Enneagram had a new beginning.
Those two gentlemen would be sitting and talking from eight in the morning to nine in the evening.
And we got these 500-page binders of handwritten notes. And it was very, very exotic at the time. It was just a massive download, but I had the sense that this was what I was looking for.
In my experience, a meeting with the Enneagram can be a life-changing event, but you don’t understand it when it happens. It is your own journey of maturity that makes you understand the wisdom of the Enneagram and what the Enneagram is pointing toward.
The Enneagram Institute of Denmark
I talked with Don Riso and Russ Hudson about establishing the Enneagram Institute of Denmark. At the time, they could not imagine the impact their teaching would have in a country with around 5 mio people. Today Denmark is probably the country with the most Enneagram enthusiasts per capita globally.
We celebrated the founding of the Enneagram Institute in 2002, while Don Riso and Russ Hudson came here, to give their first team leadership workshop about the Enneagram in Copenhagen.
And they have been visiting and teaching in Denmark until the much too early passing of Don Riso in 2012.
Russ Hudson continues to come here and we have done Enneagram workshops together for now 20 years. (click here to read more about the workshops with Russ Hudson in Copenhagen)
The importance of personal growth
For the first 5-10 years of teaching the Enneagram, I was inviting students to learn about the Enneagram for personal growth.
The Enneagram was growing increasingly popular in Denmark, but in reality, I did not see much personal growth and development either in myself or in the community.
There was an explosion of people who knew about the Enneagram but did not know how to integrate the wisdom from the Enneagram.
Being a young teacher of the Enneagram, I was focusing a lot on teaching the structures of the Enneagram and I was focusing on helping people finding their primary Enneagram type.
But having a too narrow focus on the structure and finding your type, can make you more narcissistic.
It makes you more identified with the structure instead of seeing the structure and maybe losing the structure a little bit.
And that was bothering me.
I was wondering how to teach and how we could use the Enneagram as a practical tool for further development – and not a resting place that explains and excuses our behavior and thoughts.
The Enneagram does not teach you how to change
I went to live in San Francisco with my partner at the time.
And that break from my normal playground in Denmark and moving away and trying to see things in a new light, I understood that the Enneagram is pointing towards something.
So let’s say for a type eight, it’s pointing towards incorporating something from type two.
Mastering humility, empathy, and mercy would generally be great learning points for Enneagram Type 8.
But, the change is really, really difficult to master. First, you have to identify the pattern, then you will have to accept the patterns, then you need to have enough presence to “catch yourself in the act”, and then you need to adjust your behavior. Very difficult to do, and the Enneagram itself doesn’t show you the way to permanent positive change.
The Immunity to Chance
I attended workshops about “Immunity to Change” with Robert Keegan and Lisa Lahey at Havard University.
I discovered that the material – connected with the Enneagram – works very well in professional as well as personal settings.
I talked to Robert Keegan about bringing the nine types into his model.
I saw it as a connection between something that is very structural with something that is very practical and very pragmatic, and also inviting to a more personal growth into meaning and purpose.
I also studied with James Flaherty on “Integral Coaching” and how to accept the callings and take appropriate actions when that’s needed.
I had the fortune of having several conversations with James Flaherty.
I interviewed him about his integral coaching model, focusing on each of the Enneagram types and how each type can build the right skills to move of the levels.
I have designed what I call the Enneagram Next Level Practitioner that incorporates the practical steps originally designed by Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey and James Flaherty. (click here to read more about the different trainings)
Make the Enneagram practical
Different teachers might develop or incorporate their different approaches how to make the Enneagram for personal growth, relationship, and leadership.
I love to give people the opportunity to continue self-awareness, self-adjustment, self-growth, and self-development after the training ends. I call it “learning while living and working” as for me, it is in practical life that we integrate the materials and theories from the training.
I also discovered new aspects of the Enneagram, and lately, I presented the idea about our blind Enneagram type in my newest book. I will expect us to see more books integrating new aspects of the Enneagram and new teachers presenting new ways of teaching and learning.
You can enjoy a sneak peek of 50 pages from the new book here: Download free pages from the book The Enneagram and why your blind type matters.