Perspective 2: Interpersonal Center
Centers of Expression
The second perspective relates to the external world and how others perceive my participation in the world. This perspective of the centers is more behavioural in nature and is determined by how I interact with others. Clearly we all have the ability to act, feel and think. However, the energy and nature of my interaction with others may lead to people experiencing me as more of a thinker, more emotional or more of a doer.
This interpersonal expression of the center is not necessarily linked to Enneagram type. This opens the possibility that some individuals who resonate with Enneagram 1, for example, may be expressing themselves as “thinkers” in the world, whereas another may be more emotional or more action-oriented, regardless of the fact that Enneagram 1 has a structural or intrapersonal position on the Enneagram in the action center. The interpersonal center expression can lead to mistyping of self or mistyping by others if one confuses the interpersonal expression with the intrapersonal expression of the center.
“It has, I think, long been debunked that just because a person’s ennea-type is formed from a particular Center that that is the primary Center they use. For example, many 9s are not so much in touch with their body center; many 9s relate more to the heart center and some to the head center. Many 3s do not relate to being heart-centered and some don’t appear this way either.”
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From a growth and development perspective, the center that we are most likely to show others through our interactions, is often out of balance or unhealthy in its expression in relation to the other centers. A highly emotionally expressive individual is more likely to make some decisions without due consideration for facts and objective analysis and may override or ignore signals from the body or gut that their course of action is potentially problematic. Likewise an individual who is highly action oriented in their expression in the world may not pay sufficient attention to careful planning or the impact of their decisions on others and may rush into the premature implementation of impulsive decisions. An individual who is highly thinking oriented may fall into “analysis paralysis” and struggle to move to action or may engage in a cold and emotionless way with others.
As the interpersonal center expression drives behaviour, others are able to give us valuable feedback with regards to how they perceive us. This use of the center is not directly correlated to the invisible intentions and the psychodynamics of type (although these patterns still influence behaviour), but rather by how we behave in the world.
Perspective 3: Transformational Center
Centers of Intelligence
This perspective is beautifully positioned by Roxanne Howe-Murphy (2013) as the practice of presence which enables us to access each of the centers as a center of intelligence . A center’s expression becomes intelligent when we are able to be present to it in a grounded, open-hearted and clear way. This kind of presence is not necessarily a pleasant, ephemeral and disconnected or trance-like state, as Howe-Murphy notes there are many misconceptions regarding what it means to be present.
Each of the centers offer us a point of contact through our sensations which enables us to be present. This requires a deepening of our relationship with all three of our centers of intelligence. This deepening can be seen as analogous to the levels of development within each Enneagram type. As we become present to the intelligence of a center, we integrate and express ourselves at a higher level of development. At this higher level the center is transformed from the expression of action, feeling and thinking to a higher-order of body, heart and head centered intelligence.
Howe-Murphy positions the intelligence offered by each center as follows:
- Body center: Grounded and alive
- Heart center: Receptive, open-hearted and authentic
- Head center: Quiet, spacious and trusting
To access the intelligence of each center starts with embracing practices that enable an individual to get in touch with each center in a particular way as part of their way of being in the world. At a more advanced level, transforming or healing deeply entrenched patterns may be required.
A particular pattern that is useful to focus on relates to bringing balance across the centers. For example, an individual who is dominant in the expression of their feeling center at an interpersonal level is likely to benefit greatly by developing their body and head centered intelligence in order to transform the expression of the heart center. These intelligences also build on each other: presence of body opens the door to presence of heart which in turn opens the door to presence of mind.
The centers, like so many fractal patterns contained within the Enneagram, offer multiple perspectives and also contain multiple constructs or interpretations of a central construct.The way in which we have been working with the centers as a broader Enneagram community has created confusion. To date the language and construct boundaries we have used to denote each of the three perspectives described in this article have been blurred and unclear, which has created the impression of competing rather than complementary interpretations of the centers.
This article attempts to bring the boundaries and perspectives into crisp focus to enable us to have a more useful conversation and application of the central construct of the centers in future.
Howe-Murphy, R. 2013.
Living: Transforming Your Relationship to Everything that Matters through the
. Santa Fe: Enneagram Press
Lapid-Bogda, G. 2011.
Why we need Claudio Naranjo (Helen
Palmer, Don Riso and Others) More Than Ever.
Published online October 24,
2011. Accessed on May 1, 2013. URL: http://blog.theenneagraminbusiness.com/2011/10/why-we-need-claudio-naranjo-helen.html
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