I saw that all the Enneagram teachers, we were inviting students to learn about the Enneagram for personal growth. But I didn’t see much of it. Let’s say for a type eight, it’s pointing towards type two – try with a little humility and empathy that would help you. But the change is really difficult. And the Enneagram itself doesn’t show you the way to permanent positive change. Flemming Christensen
The Practical Enneagram by Rezzan Huseyin
It the Enneagram practical?
It is what Flemming Christensen had been looking for, but he does not think it provide permanent personal growth and change by itself.
Rezzan Huseyin is a developmental coach, a long-time student of the Enneagram. She is living in the Uk, just outside London, and hosts the great podcast “The Practical Enneagram”.
Rezzan interviews Enneagram experts on how to use the Enneagram, so it is not just a theoretical tool.
She invited Flemming Christensen for an interview and we are allowed to bring it in “Enneagram Insights podcast”.
Rezzan Huseyin is asking how Flemming first discovered the Enneagram and how it became central to his work.
And he is raising the question whether the Enneagram is practical and able to provide permanent positive change on its own.
Discovering the Enneagram
Rezzan Huseyin: “When did you first discover the Enneagram and how did it became central to your work?”
Flemming Christensen: “Two and a half decades ago I was running a consulting company with 60 employees and I was a little confused about their changing mindset.
People came to my little business right after university and then they show up with one mindset and then they find a partner, they get married, they have kids, then their mindset changes.
And I couldn’t really understand what was going on.
I was looking into different personality tools and the Myers-Briggs MBTI was the obvious choice at the time.
But I didn’t really like the Myers-Briggs. It was very good at telling people their preferences, but there was no real development in it.
And then I stumbled across the book “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” by Don Riso and Russ Hudson.
In the back of the book, they were sharing their address and probably also telephone number at the time. I called them, I signed up.
So in 2001, I had my first training with Don and Russ.”
The Enneagram – what Flemming Christensen had been looking for
Back in 2001 Don Riso and Russ Hudson would be sitting and talking from eight in the morning to nine in the evening.
Flemming Christensen and the students got these 500 page binders of handwritten notes.
“And it was just a massive download.
In the midst of all that, I had the sense, but there was not a clear understanding, that this is what I was looking for.”
The Enneagram Institute of Denmark
Flemming Christensen establishes the Enneagram Institute of Denmark in 2002.
“So Don Riso and Russ Hudson came and gave their first team leadership workshop about the Enneagram in Copenhagen.
And ever since they have been here.
10 years ago Don Riso died. But Russ Hudson continued to come every September to present his new material.”
What Enneagram type? Riso´s challenge
Rezzan Huseyin: “And are you a type 5 Flemming? I don’t know what your type is.”
Flemming Christensen: “Interesting, because for the first five years, I thought I was a type 5. And I was telling everybody who wanted to know about it that yeah, look at me being type 5.
And then Don Riso invited me to live, think, feel as one of the types a month at a time.
So it was installing the super ego instructions.
It was having the assumptions that the types were having. It was working with the aversions of the types.
It was celebrating the fixation of the type.
So it was both playful, but also it was like discovering all the nine qualities of what not type but point question about a type, it’s like I can go and connect with something of it that was awakened in me at the time.
It was a very insightful and powerful exercise to do.
So I went on this deep exploration and it was the combination of the instinct and the type that I realized that 5 was not the correct choice.
It’s self-preservation 3. So I kind of sort of have the same energy in some ways, but definitely not the same motives.”
Read more about Don Riso´s challenge here: https://www.flemmingchristensen.com/the-don-riso-challenge.html
The Enneagram and no personal growth
Rezzan Huseyin: “At what point did the Enneagram, did you start using it in your organizational work?”
Flemming Christensen: “It was right away because that is how I’m trained. That’s where I come from.
And then 10 years in, I saw that all the Enneagram teachers, we kind of were inviting students to learn about the Enneagram for personal growth.
And I didn’t see much of it.
I didn’t see it in myself. I didn’t see it in others.
Some of my teachers haven’t done much personal growth, but they were kind of teaching the structure. And in a way, understanding how you fit into a structure, it makes you more narcissistic.
It makes you more identified with the structure instead of seeing the structure and maybe losing the structure a little bit.”
Read more about Flemming Christensen´s Enneagram Journey: https://www.flemmingchristensen.com/discovering-the-enneagram.html
The Enneagram is not practical – but it is pointing towards something
Flemming Christensen went to live in San Francisco.
“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, hey, try something from type two with a little humility, with a little empathy that would kind of help you.
But I never seen any one being able to just transform that.
The change is really, really difficult.
And the Enneagram itself doesn’t show you the way to permanent positive change.”
3 methods: Immunity to change, The Integral Model and the Human Journey
Flemming Christensen took some workshops and an integral leadership program.
He discovered three methods that he can connect with the Enneagram to make the Enneagram practical.
Both in private and professional settings.
One of them is the Immunity to Change by Dr. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey.
Another one is the Integral Model by James Flaherty.
The last one is on how to accept the callings. It’s the Human Journey taught by Pamela Weiss at the San Fransisco Zen Center.
Flemming Christensen: “And they works very well in a professional setting with the teams and leadership. And it works very well for personal coaching, personal development”.
Mechanisms for change
Rezzan Huseyin: “These are the mechanisms for change as you see them, rather than the Enneagram, which doesn’t facilitate change on its own?”
Flemming Christensen: “Yes, I had the fortune of having a conversation with James Flaherty, where I interviewed him with his model, his integral coaching model, focusing on each of the types.
I’ve been talking to Dr. Robert Keegan, talking to him about bringing the nine types in his model.
So it’s like a connection with something that is very functional and very useful and very practical and very pragmatic as a type.
And you will be able to, when you pick it up yourself, it’s like you gain self-mastery in taking your self-awareness into practice.
I think all the different teachers have their different approaches on how to make the Enneagram practical.
I’d like to give people the opportunity to continue self-awareness, but also continue self-adjustment or self-growth, self-development.
And then maybe once in a while you need to talk to your coach or your therapist and kind of have a boost.
But on a day-to-day basis, we need to catch ourselves.”
In the next episode Rezzan Huseyin and Flemming Christensen have a conversation on his latest book “The Enneagram and why the Blind Type Matters”.