Mayor Bob Filner and the Enneagram

Enneagram my colorsLast January I posted a basic introduction to the Enneagram, an approach to understanding why people do the things they do. The system identifies nine basic personality types and characterizes them with piercing accuracy. Some experts attribute the differences in the nine types of behavior to brain chemistry. Whatever the explanation, there is truth to the Enneagram that cannot be dismissed lightly.

The ancient message behind today’s understanding of the Enneagram is that we live by defensive behaviors that wall us off from realizing our natural potential. The ways in which we do this are essentially predictable, and awareness of these patterns may, if we’re lucky, help us minimize some of our habits and traits that are not helpful or else learn to channel our behavior so that our style works for us in better ways. Within each type there’s a ladder to emotional health, but climbing the rungs is a lifelong challenge and very few people reach the top.

The Enneagram is about working on ourselves – not judging others. However, public figures are fair game. That entitles me to make some comments about San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, whose aggressive, lecherous, and overall clueless behavior has drastically undermined his effectiveness in office.Bob Filner best cropped

I’m going to guess that Filner is an Enneagram type Eight.

Eights are hard-wired to relate to the world primarily through the body. “Doing” (making the world just, bluntness, high energy, spontaneity) is preferred. Their thinking minds support their “doing,” and they repress their true feelings.

To quote experts Don Riso and Russ Hudson, “Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be egocentric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable”

Does this ring a bell?

Riso and Hudson offer an extensive description of the Eight at the link above. Here are some of their points that I think can apply to Filner:

“Swaggering, boastful, forceful, and expansive: the “boss” whose word is law. Proud, egocentric, want to impose their will and vision on everything, not seeing others as equals or treating them with respect.”

“They possess a powerful connection with their instinctive drives.”

“Much of their behavior is involved with making sure that they retain and increase whatever power they have for as long as possible.”

At the unhealthy level, they “develop delusional ideas about their power, invincibility, and ability to prevail.”

If Bob Filner is an Eight, it’s going to be difficult for him to change. Getting him to resign would be a major challenge. He is not going to walk quietly into the night. Eights rarely eat humble pie, and they tend to avoid therapy and self-questioning because they don’t believe they need it. Bob says he wants to be a “better person.” That’s what San Diegans want, too. His best hope for a fast track to transformation would be a therapist trained in the Enneagram.


That said, my friend Douglas Holbrook (long-time San Diego attorney and fellow student of the Enneagram) has come up with another solution that’s worth considering. Check out his video below.



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