Category Archives: Personality

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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The Doodle Test

Yoshiko croppedRecently I attended an introductory workshop on graphology given by my friend Yoshiko Inagaki. Yoshiko is one of the nation’s top graphologists and is also a certified life coach. She has examined more than 1,000 handwriting samples for Fortune 100 companies and individual clients, and in her life coaching practice she uses handwriting analysis to help her clients achieve deeper self-awareness.

One of the activities during the seminar was the Doodle Test, which I found fascinating. For graphologists, doodles have meaning. They are “like the  brain’s DNA,” says Andrea NcNichols. “They can unlock great insights into yourself and those around you.” For example, arrows can mean that the doodler is ambitious; cubes, which are quite common, suggest that the person is looking at the picture from all angles. One who draws houses may be yearning for a strong emotional center. Meaningless scratches indicate that the doodler feels directionless. Weapons are bad news. See other warning signs at “What your doodles say about you” at

Yoshiko explained that the test is a serious psychological analysis tool that has been administered to thousands of people. It consists of two preprinted sheets of paper with six squares on each sheet. Each square (with one exception) has one or more lines already drawn inside it. The test-taker is told to draw doodles that elaborate on the starting lines already provided. We learned afterwards that the doodles in each of the twelve squares represent how we  see some aspect of our lives–for example, home, parents, friends, sexuality, and so on. A few days ago Yoshiko honored me with an hour of her time to talk about her interpretation of the second part of my test.

In general, my doodles tended to be abstract, she said, suggesting that I’m comfortable with abstract thinking and don’t feel the need to have everything spelled out for me. She also saw that several of my squares reflected a strong creative side – a tendency to do things differently or march to a different drummer. Her conclusion fits with the description of my Enneagram type, which is Four. When it came to the square that shows an empty tic-tac-toe grid, I took my creativity to the extreme. Doodle tic-tac-toe smallThis doodle was supposed to reflect my attitude toward competition. Yoshiko was looking for choices of X’s and O’s and the patterns they formed. Instead, I filled all the cells with smiley faces. She took this to mean that I am independent and create my own rules. By not playing the game, at a deeper level, I’m rejecting the “duality-based mentality of this society that automatically creates the dynamic of the win-lose proposition.” While I like to win, I don’t want it to be at the expense of others. Life is about cooperation. She added: “By making everyone appear identical – and a with a smile – there’s a sense of happiness in oneness.”

Another interesting square had a hair-like arc in the center. I chose to draw a girl’s head below it and a hat covered in fancy curlicues on her head. Yoshiko told me that doodles in this square correspond to my social self-image. She thought the hat might be a jeweled tiara Doodle tiaraand the thought balloon, my thoughts about the future of the book I have just published. We decided that the doodle reflects my positive feelings in relation to my growing readership and the rewarding feedback I have been receiving about the book .

The test was a very interesting experience for me. I learned a lot about myself, and a couple of the doodles (not reported here) clearly pointed to some deep psychological issues. In those cases, Yoshiko guided me through them gently and helped me to not over-interpret what they meant.

Yoshiko will be celebrating National Handwriting Day this coming January 23 with a repeat of her workshop. For more information, you can contact her at


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The Enneagram

Enneagram my colorsAnother important area of my life is studying the Enneagram, a set of understandings that enables us to know ourselves better and have compassion and appreciation for others. I discovered this system when I was going through a rough patch in 2005-2006, and it put me on a fast track to releasing judgment, both of myself and of the person I felt had “wronged” me. For the past six years I have been hosting a monthly meeting of people from various religious, spiritual, and even agnostic backgrounds who are using the Enneagram to support their personal growth.

The prefix ennea- comes from the Greek word for ‘nine’. The system, which dates back to ancient times, considers that people behave according to nine different patterns, based on their relative reliance on the gut, the heart, and the mind. Ideally, all three should be in balance and we should be able to release our fixation to our dominant pattern, but that only happens in fairy tales.

While the Enneagram has religious roots, it has morphed over the centuries. Today it is used not only by spiritual counselors but also by therapists, teachers, anthropologists, business managers, lawyers, politicians, and those of any faith or belief system who are interested in self-knowledge.

One of the first approximations to today’s Enneagram is found in the writings of the fourth century Christian monk Evagrius Ponticus, who described “eight terrible temptations, from which all sinful behavior springs.” [1] This summary description of eight ways of being in the world, a compilation of centuries of research by the Desert Fathers in Egypt, was intended to help devotees understand and deal with the process of temptation by being aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. His list  later became the basis for the Seven Deadly Sins (in which two of the types are conflated) and also the Enneagram (with a ninth type added) as it made its way through history and developed into its present form, now used for a variety of purposes.

Over and over again, I see that the descriptions of the types, even in the words of Evagrius,  are uncannily accurate.They draw their  accuracy from centuries of observation by both religious and lay researchers. The system  has great predictive power.  In other words, if a person’s type is known, it is often possible to predict how he or she will respond to a problem or challenge. Each type has characteristic mannerisms, sayings, and forms of expression. We go through life trying to figure out the people we meet– and usually failing. The Enneagram teaches us to recognize nine universal types and understand what leads the people of these types to do what they do. This knowledge opens us up to accepting people just as they are without the need to impose our own perspective. We become free to value them without criticism or unrealistic expectations. Better yet, it wakes us up to our own shortcomings. We have to recognize what we do (not as easy as it sounds) before we can change it, and sometimes simply being aware of the pattern allows the change to happen.

Our group meets every second Tuesday of the month. This coming Tuesday, the program is geared to beginners. We offer a basic program every third month. The core process group meets twice in between, and  members take turns proposing topics and facilitating the discussion.


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