Happy New Year!

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

The Enneagram

Happy 2014!  I wanted to start the year off by taking a minute to introduce the Enneagram for those of you who don’t know it and as a reminder of the beauty of it to those who do. My hope is that more and more people understand and engage in this system, as I believe it is an awesome tool for developing more compassion towards ourselves and each other, and who doesn’t deserve a little more compassion?!
So, what is the Enneagram? 

The Enneagram is a personality system that describes nine different ways of seeing the world involving fundamental patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting.  The basic idea is that when we were born, we had a closer connection to our essential self.  Then, throughout childhood and growing up, we developed certain patterns in order to survive and seek satisfaction.  In other words, we were once able to see the world from a 360 degree perspective, and in an effort to protect ourselves we sectioned off most of that, ending up with a mere 40 degree outlook on the world.  Tunnel vision, you could also call it.
The Enneagram provides a map of each type’s 40 degree perspective, including:
  • What is the essential truth that they lost sight of
  • What they came to believe instead 
  • Where their focus of attention turned to, as a result of this new belief
  • What is the number one fear they avoid
  • What makes them personally reactive
  • What this costs in their daily lives and relationships
And then, unlike other personality systems, it offers an opportunity for spiritual growth by:
  • Identifying your blind spots
  • Offering practical applications in order to let go of old habits and develop new patterns
  • Reclaiming more of your essential self; or getting out of the box you are already in
What interests me most about the Enneagram, and one of the primary reasons I became certified, is the idea that there is so much more to see, to do, to participate in and the Enneagram provides a way to shrink the blinders and see more of the 360 degree perspective.
The first step in applying the Enneagram to your life is Discovering Your Type.  
This session is a one-on-one process where I will guide you through a series of questions, in order to help you discover your type.  These questions are designed to help you look at the motivations behind your actions: why you do what you do.

At the end of the session, I will give you feedback on your answers and how they match up with the Enneagram, narrowing down your likely type. 

The purpose of this interview is to engage in a process of self-discovery.  To help you continue in this process, at the end of this session you will receive a free copy of TheEssential Enneagram (a $12.99 value) by David Daniels, MD and Virginia Price, PhD to help you further explore your type.

Sign up today

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com.  

Seven Lessons of Our Own Personal Myths

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,

Narcissus by Caravaggio

I had a very upsetting chat/fight/argument with a loved one this past weekend, and whereas I won't go into the personal details of the heated discussion, I would like to write about what I learned from the experience.  But first, just a funny anecdote to begin.... This morning I told my boyfriend my intention to write about my lessons and he said, "Yeah, write about how you learned that you don't really listen."  I laughed and said, "that wasn't what I learned!"  I guess I can add and contemplate that (very possibly true) fact later.  Now, onto my lessons (as I deem them)...

Lesson One: We are all right, in our own right.

Most arguments or conflicts happen because two people are not on the same page.  They are each fighting their own fight, in the same ring as each other.  It seems like they are disagreeing, but if we could look from each person's perspective, we would see that they are both right, in their own right. 

Lesson Two:  Our own projections get in the way of being intimate with our loved ones.  

Our projections come from our own personal myths, or in Enneagram-speak, our type biases.  We see the world from this perspective and then look for evidence of our myths' reality.


Lesson Three: "If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." 

This is one of my favorite quotes is from the movie Pollyanna.  Pollyanna is speaking to the minister of the town, who is used to preaching about fire and brimstone.   Pollyanna's gift is teaching people about gratitude and how to find joy.  She wears a locket, from her father, and in it reads the quote, supposedly coined by Abraham Lincoln.

This quote took me years to understand.  As a child, I didn't get why anyone would "look for the bad in mankind."  I kept turning the phrase over and over in my head, and then, with time and experience, I began to realize what it really meant.  It's about assumptions.  It's also about finding evidence to confirm your own theories, or your own personal myth.  

Try this: think about the color of red.  Now look around you and look for objects that are red.   All of a sudden, you'll see evidence of the color red everywhere.  It will jump out at you and you'll be surprised at how many things are red!  Well, the same is true for our assumptions, our projections, our type biases, and our own personal myths.

Lesson Four:  My myth is melodramatic.

To be a little more specific, let me state my own myth, that I've only just begun to expose.
Unless I am the ideal ________ (daughter/sister/girlfriend/friend/actress/server/consultant), I will disappoint the others in my life, they will not approve of me, they will not love me, and ultimately they will abandon me and I will be alone.
Exaggerated, much?  Yes, of course it is!  It's my own personal myth.  But until I had this very saddening talk with my loved one this past weekend, I didn't realize that this was my assumption, that this was my projection.  As I put this myth onto my loved one, they were shocked and dismayed, personally offended and felt attacked.  How could I even begin to attest that they were not supportive, encouraging, loving and proud of me?  During the encounter, I kept trying to state that I was just expressing how I feel.  And somewhere during the exchange, it hit me.

Lesson Five:  Though my myth feels true for me, it is not necessarily true for another.  

Yes, this is how I feel, but do I have real evidence to back it up?  All of a sudden my assumptions and my projections began to dissolve.  And this thought entered my mind: what if it isn't true?  What if I've been operating under a false belief?  What if, all the effort that I put into being the ideal daughter/sister/girlfriend/friend isn't necessary, because my loved ones will love me for who I am and not because I am some ideal. 


Lesson Six:  Our myths are old, protective devices.

We all have them.  But, what is both thrilling and terrifying is the notion that they may no longer be true.  We don't have to play victim to these debilitating assumptions any longer.


Lesson Seven:  Learning Lessons is hard.

I wish I didn't have to learn these lessons by having a fight with my loved one, by feeling vulnerable and emotional and ashamed.  Yet, it is what it is.  I hope that next time, before I project my myth onto my loved one, I am able to first check-in with myself.  I hope I am able to confront my loved ones in a non-critical, non-attacking way, and ask them gently how it is they do feel.  Then, as my boyfriend suggested, I also hope I will be able to listen to them with an open heart as they respond. 

Does this resonate for you?  What is your personal myth that you hold on to and project onto others?  Are you ready to let go of it, or test it's validity?  To examine these questions and more, schedule a Deepening Type Awareness session with me today!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com. 

Benefits of the Enneagram, or the Teachings of US Weekly

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

As I've started my new Enneagram Consulting business, the question I hear a lot is: Why would I need to learn about the Enneagram?  What's the benefit?

On my website, I list the benefits as follows:
  • Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do
  • Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships
  • Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices
  • Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and others
  • Acquiring practical tools to manage the feeling of overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily life
Okay, sounds good, but what does all that really mean anyway?  What does all that look like?

Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do

It's like this.  Imagine you had a hand mirror and you were holding it behind your head, then you bring it forward in front of your face and voila you see yourself more clearly!  That's how I felt when I began learning about my Enneagram type.  Aspects of myself that I had a deep awareness of, but just wasn't fully conscious of, rose to the surface.  For example, I've always known that I have a tendency to compare myself to others: am I better? Am I worse?  I flip through US Weekly, my guilty pleasure, and what I've come to realize is that I'm looking at it, in order to compare myself, as well as picture an ideal (both aspects of my type).  I look at celebrities' bodies and their dresses mainly and I see how I far off I am from their image of perfection, but it also gives me something to strive toward.  What I didn't realize before the Enneagram, is how much this behavior reinforces a sense of unworthiness and longing, as if I am missing something that others (celebrities, in this case) have.  Huge wake up call for me!  Now, just an added twist on this subject: this habit of comparing myself is pleasurable for me, there is comfort in our patterns, we are safe there, we know what to expect.  But the first step is just to notice, and say Aha!

Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships

I've been with my boyfriend for a little over a year and a half and I couldn't be more happy with our partnership.  I actually am not sure that I would have been able to find Michael and get this far if it weren't for my work with the Enneagram.  During our first year of dating we had about 5-6 fights, but they were big fights, fights where we almost broke up.  What were they about you ask?  We couldn't even tell you!  Honestly, the smallest thing would trigger one of us and then, like a pinball machine we would go back and forth wracking up a tornado-like mess!  What I came to realize is that we weren't talking about the same thing!  We weren't on the same page.  I was speaking from my own place of hurt and assumptions and he was doing the same thing.  So we were getting offended and hurt for no reason.  Once we finally began to understand each other's Enneagram type and point of view, everything shifted.  We could hear and really listen to the other without bringing our own baggage to the conversation.  We learned how not to take things personally.  We began to value our different perspectives and how much they are an asset to our compatibility.  Now, whenever we get close to skating towards a point of possible eruption, we look at each other and laugh.

Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices.


Let's stay on the former topic of US Weekly, for expediency's sake.  Okay, so I now know that flipping through US Weekly leads me to compare myself with celebrities and inevitably feel that I come up short.  I also know that there is something wickedly delightful at looking at pictures of beautiful people in designer clothes.  So, I have a choice.  Do I want to continue to flip through US Weekly, despite the consequences?  Do I want to go cold turkey and see what else I might do with my time if I wasn't flipping through a magazine?  The point is not really what you choose, it's not about judgment or punishment.  It's about staying open, curious and compassionate with yourself and your habits.  And it's about realizing you do have a choice.  My teacher, Dr. David Daniels, calls the Enneagram "Liberation Psychology."  True Dat.

Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and others

Again, this ties into what I was just saying.  If there is a part of me that still enjoys reading gossip mags, that's fine, that's my choice.  But, if I can continue to be curious and cultivate compassion for myself, new pathways can form right in front of me.  I have this ideal that if I stopped wasting time on US Weekly, I would develop some of my artistic pursuits: drawing, playing the guitar, singing, etc. or I'd spend more time at the gym or cooking for my baby.  Maybe that's true, maybe that isn't.  The point is that the curiosity makes it fun: what would I do?  What could I do?  And the compassion helps you not stay stuck in a cycle of self-flagellation, repenting for defeating patterns.

Acquiring practical tools to manage overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily life

Can we all agree on something?  Life is hard, and in this day-in-age, incredibly overwhelming!  I think I would be much more content if I lived in the late 1800s where I spent my time on more simple demands: reading, cooking, cleaning, spending time with family, and maybe occasionally delighting onstage like Sarah Bernhardt.  (This fantasy is another quality of my tragic romanticism).  But still, we all have a lot on our plate, a lot that demands of us and drains of us and we need a way to put it all in it's proper place.  I say that if yoga, psychology and astrology had a love child, it would be the Enneagram.  It offers practical tools like those three disciplines/areas of study offer.  There is a component to get in touch with your physical body--through breathing and grounding.  There is an element of communing with your emotions, feeling the sensations and detaching from the story that perpetuates the emotion.  And there is the psychological element of understanding why you do what you do, and offering choice.  In essence, the Enneagram celebrates all three centers of wisdom: our heart, our mind and our body.  And it offers practical tools to deal with the curve balls that life throws at you.

So, these are just a few short examples of how the Enneagram has shown up in my life, just a scratch in the surface.  The Enneagram is deep, it's complex, it's endlessly interesting, and it's a process, a process that begins by discovering your type.  If you want to know how the Enneagram can be of benefit in your life, sign up for a Discover Your Type session today!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com.