"Everything sounds trite before we're ready for it."
- Gloria Steinem, Revolution from Within


How could something even schoolchildren are taught become so difficult as we "mature"?

In Context:

Making a Living

Too much focus on "the job market" lends itself to the tail wagging the dog. What kind of world might we have instead if everyone did work that resonated with their very souls? No internal conflict, no external conflict. People everywhere simply experiencing what we might call "Right Livelihood".

Unfortunately, too many of us get lured into "good" jobs before we even know what our personal values are. We then follow "the dream" of acquiring any number of things that epitomize "success", though all too often, our acquisitions have been purchased with borrowed money accruing interest. Thus, we stick with our "good" jobs to pay the interest and to pay for the things even when our very souls are gradually being sucked away from us, eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year.

With no modern day version of a vision quest for most young people, we need something else to help the vulnerable determine what really best gets them out of bed in the morning. Temperament Theory reminds us that we all have innate styles and preferences. If we have no choice but to live in a specialist society, it might be a good idea to pay attention to those preferences to inform the choosing of our life's work.

But even if that window of opportunity has been missed, we can call on our greatest wounds to inspire our greatest gifts. While the Enneagram of Personality Types generally focuses on egocentric behaviors, feelings, and thoughts developed over time for self defense, the positive side of those same skill sets might also be put to use in vocational ways.

Regardless of the timing of finding our right path, the goal is to apply our personal gifts for the greater good, in a way that not only respects ourselves, but also respects others and the environment. As Helen Palmer writes in The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life, "The hope is that the talents and skills of a mature adult can become the vehicle through which essential abilities can be used for the common good."

Building Community

Building community encompasses everything from choosing a life partner, to starting a cooperative venture, to forming an ecovillage. We bring other people into our lives with the assumption we'll be sharing some kind of space and making decisions together. Novelty is bathed in fresh energy and optimism, resulting in feelings of falling in love.

But the honeymoon eventually comes to an end, leaving real people to challenge each other's nerves. Unless we have tools in place to maximize equity and shed light on what's going on, the exit door looks all too enticing. But then that comes with it's own set of consequences.

It would first help us all to remember that not everyone is like ourselves. Temperament Theory has been developed over centuries, suggesting that evolutionarily speaking, we all have specific gifts (as well as specific needs) we bring to the table. Without shame or judgment, we can speak to those needs using techniques found in Compassionate Communication. Of course, it would help to discern whether our voice is indeed coming from our more essential self or from our ego self. The Enneagram of Personality Types can help illuminate the difference between the two.

While these tools are especially useful before we settle from the heady states of newfound love and come to our senses and unconsciously get caught up in inevitable interpersonal conflicts, they are nonetheless helpful at any time we wish to examine how fundamental traits, language, and motivations play out in relationships.

For organizations operating on democratic principles, relationships are more likely to remain equitable when the underlying governance structure encourages more than just the casting of votes. Sociocracy recognizes the value of individual input and employs structures and processes for all voices to be heard and used together to consent to "good enough for now" solutions.

As most human solutions have "externalities", or consequences for more than just what meets the eye, Ecological Literacy is imperative for predicting how natural systems might be impacted, for respecting those voices that cannot necessarily be heard. And for addressing those times when one or more of us miss the mark, Restorative Justice provides an alternative to more punitive and alienating forms of justice.


Regardless of whether or not we choose to become parents, all of us have been parented, in one form or another. But the fact of the matter is, the most important job of parenting comes with no rulebook. No diploma, certification, or licensing is necessary to bring another human being into the world.

One thing leads to another and before we know it, doll babies are standing on their own two feet. Unless parents are prepared to meet other unique spirits on their own terms, they might be all too tempted to try to mold little ones into their own images. As Don Riso and Russ Hudson write in The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types, "The whole of our culture and education constantly reminds us of how we can be more successful, desirable, secure, or spiritual if we were only to change in some way or other. In short, we have learned that we need to be different from how we actually are according to some formula the mind has received. The idea that we simply need to discover and accept who we actually are is contrary to almost everything we have been taught."

Luckily, both Temperament Theory and the Enneagram of Personality Types remind us that there isn't only one legitimate way to be. While there may be more popular ways of being in any one time and place, we all in fact bring our own little special piece to the great puzzle of humanity. Some are more colorful, some more subdued. Some are edgier, some come with softer sides. Fit us all together, and you've got the bigger picture.

While parents and other caregivers may not always be able to mirror, they might at least try to affirm a child's way of being in the world. When neither of these happen, we run the risk of having defensive egocentric instincts, feelings, and thoughts passed along to our next generation. Riso and Hudson explain, "Our personalities draw upon the capacities of our inborn temperament to develop defenses and compensations for where we have been hurt in childhood. In order to survive whatever difficulties we encountered at that time, we unwittingly mastered a limited repertoire of strategies, self-images, and behaviors that allowed us to cope with and survive in our early environment. Each of us therefore has become an 'expert' at a particular form of coping which, if used excessively, also becomes the core of the dysfunctional area of our personality."

Personalities stand a greater chance of being anchored in the healthier range of our capacities, if along with having our basic survival needs taken care of as children, we are accepted and loved for who we are. This begins with parenting. And it depends on parents who accept and love themselves for who they are. "Deep down, all of us just want to be understood and accepted for who we are," write Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger in Nurture by Nature: How to Raise Happy, Healthy, Responsible Children Through the Insights of Personality Type. "This understanding is the greatest gift we can give our children. It's the real essence of self esteem."

Knowledge of personality differences, along with Compassionate Communication, can help us heal past hurts and nurture health in future generations and society at large. These tools are anchored in ancient wisdom traditions, neuroscience, and modern psychology, and can help us create an overall culture in which the very serious job of perpetuating the human species might be done with more respect - which consequently might make it just a little bit easier.