A Study commissioned for a member of the European Parliament April 2014 by Barry Ahern

The European Union is one of the most inspiring political projects in history but today its existence is hanging by a thread.  Joschka Fischer former German Green Leader and Foreign  Minister has spoken in  apocalyptic terms about a possible break-up: “Germany destroyed itself – and the European order – twice in the twentieth century. It would be both tragic and ironic if a restored Germany, by peaceful means and with the best of intentions, brought about the ruin of the European order a third time.”

European leaders are facing up to the fact that the current EU can neither survive this crisis nor prevent the next one. The attempt to enforce rules and punish offenders regardless of the effect on the real economy has led to a revolt in deficit countries and  has created paralysis by stimulating populism. . The result of this approach to the crisis has been to exacerbate the flaws of an integration process that has narrowed the space for political decisions at the national level without increasing it at the European level. Europe now needs a different model of integration based on politics rather than technocracy and rewards for reform rather than only the threat of sanctions.

In the place of a “two-class” Europe in which decisions are taken behind closed doors by a self-imposed Directoire and offered to others on a take-it-or leave it basis, we call for a political and participative Europe. At the level of member states, there must be a system of governance that relies more closely on the community method and is open to all that want to participate. At the level of citizens, we need to find new ways of restoring political integrity and  ensure  that the voice of citizens can be heard.

The public space in Europe is fractured and divisive as a result of the crisis. Europeans need to properly comprehend how they are interlinked and interdependent But the crisis has brought an overwhelming’ reversal back to the national interest as our reference for understanding the crises. Moreover we seem to link economic performance to the general moral character of entire political communities’ – the stuff of the north-south fracture.

We use the language of divisiveness ;member states build ‘firewalls’ to prevent ‘contagion’   and suggest  that dysfunctional economies are ‘riddled with disease’ and ‘ready to poison the lifeblood of healthy economies. The caricaturing of European leaders is an attempt at a populist understanding of how Europe is governed, but we need to go beyond caricature and create an intelligent public space in Europe.

to address the crisis urgently and comprehensively; if the crisis is not resolved the legitimacy of the EU, already being called into question, may suffer a dangerous collapse in public support. Legitimate governance in Europe must be intelligible to its citizens and have clearly defined structures that people can understand, consent to and interact with. Such is scarcely the case at present.

The lack of a really legitimising European democracy is also an economic problem. Where for example organise debate on the causes of the crisis?   No progress on the democratic level can happen without a public space. The Green European Journal and GEF exist to create a Green public space for progressive ideas.

We need also to meet face to face to create real debate. We need an answer to the rising sense of injustice between the generations.  We need to rebuild a social Europe with a concrete content. We need interpersonal solidarity for example   a European Citizens basic income, so that we know we belong to the same society.

Historically, the incentives for states and citizens to take part in the European project were abundantly clear. It was to remove the threat of war from Europe. But today, our task must be to remove the global threat of war.

In his speech before the European Parliament in October 2001 His Holiness the Dali Lama emphasised how we are naturally interdependent when he said, “Today’s world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity.” In an interview beforehand he also mentioned that everyone has a right to happiness – that war is a denial of that basic human right and that war was a concept of the mind and as such it was an out of date concept.

While many of the large blocs in the west like the United States and the EU have managed to tame the desire to wage war within their territories, mainly due to greater economic co-operation, they have been unable to transfer this experience to other places, despite their commitment to human rights and equality for all.

War by its very nature denies the oneness of humanity and there has never been a war that hasn’t resulted in untold misery for ordinary people. If we are to look at the possibility of examining the idea expressed by the Dali Lama of war being an out of date concept we have to being to look at how we form concepts or world views and how these are developed. This will form a major part of this piece.

Dictionaries will define a concept as something that has been thought about or imagined and which can become a broad abstract idea or a guiding principle that can determine how a person or culture behaves. Concepts, in turn, can illustrate how reality is perceived or interpreted. We can say that somehow war is still very much a part of that reality. It is a disease of the human condition and, like every disease, it will continue until somehow it has been eliminated from the planet. As yet no one seems to have found a cure. However, concepts are basically a function of the mind, a way of defining how we deal with the world – from which will flow how we think, feel and behave. It is ultimately seen as part of the toolbox leaders have at their disposal. Thus if we are to exclude war and violence from the toolbox as a method of solving problems we have to look at how the mind works.

The neurosciences are delivering insights into the nature of the mind and the functioning of the brain and provide new information as to how we understand ourselves and the nature of the world we live in. Various parts of the brain have very specific functions that can give us an insight into how, with guidance, we can cultivate a more optimal functioning when it comes to solving social conflicts. For instance, the middle prefrontal cortex in the brain has an area that concerns itself with thinking about the greater good and having a sense of self that doesn’t just reach out to others but defines itself as ‘we’.  Every study of happiness, wisdom and health suggests that it comes along with a sense of the self that is much larger entity than the body.

For many generations now modern culture has fostered a sense of self that is separate from others and these messages impact on how the brain assesses itself. This ‘me’ generation with an underdeveloped sense of ‘we’ is quite pronounced in the western world. It has been driven largely by a type of consumerism being sold as the path to happiness. Likewise it could be argued that how religious beliefs are expounded and consumed through the cultivation of a ‘self’ righteousness that excludes the rights of others to hold contrary beliefs. This can provide a false sense of authoritarian omnipotence that result in a hostile behaviours towards those who don’t hold the same beliefs.  In other words, denial of a sense of the ‘we’ ends up in other being robbed of the freedom to hold alternative points of view and ultimately their right to happiness.

Expanding a sense of self that goes from ‘me’ to ‘we’ seems crucial if we are to grapple with some of the issues that face every society and indeed civilisation as a whole. The neurobiologist, Dan Siegel, tells us that if we can’t change the cultural message that the self is more than the skin our body resides in we’re doomed. Plato described leadership as something that is rooted in certain characteristics or attributes that people have. This still holds true in many modern studies and is often know as the ‘trait theory of leadership.

What these traits are vary from expert to expert. Jun was very interested in defining different character types, based on an introvert extravert model. The Enneagram, a model of human development describes nine traits and is based in Platonic philosophy it has in moder times become congruent with western psychology and psychological types.

The model describes the starting point each of us take when dealing with information, whether it is colleagues and the work environment etc. It also tells us a lot about how we communicate with others, handle conflict, deal with change, leadership style and is particularly good at offering paths for development whereby you can start to initiate change. It’s like you suddenly receive a road map that gives you profound psychological insights into your thinking, feeling and behaving.

Probably our first objective encounter with ourselves is when we hear our voices on an audio and/or visual recording for the first time. Most of us react negatively to the experience. However, if the exercise is repeated it can be a useful way of getting to know an aspect of ourselves and, based on that experience, we can sometimes adjust or change what we project out to others. The Enneagram can enable you to meet yourself at a level that makes sense and enables you to get to know yourself profoundly. Each of the personality types has a distinctive pattern of thought, feeling and action. In short, it looks at the driving force that motivates you in everything you do.


Leadership Traits – Different People Different Styles

One of the nine personality profiles, type Three, often called the Performer, is dedicated to achievements and being rewarded for them. They want to be seen as good doers who adapt and change to what they believe others want them to be. For them the world rewards winners and runner-ups get nothing. They are goal oriented; their days are crammed with activity. Doing avoids the fear of failure and keeps the momentum moving forward. Slowing down is threatening especially if they have to talk about they feel about what they are doing. There is the belief that you can make anything work if you can throw enough energy at it.

So for instance if you have the leader of a country with this particular focus who want to be seen as successful he may strive to be audacious to make an impact and enhance his leadership image. If this means forming an alliance with another powerful state to go to war, as it will make him look good, s/he may there will be a strong desire to avoid any evidence to the contrary that may thwart the road to success. Thus the focus is on the delivery of results due to the perception that this is what good leaders do.

Each of the nine profiles have a path of development and in the case of the Three profile this may include slowing down and looking up the possible negatives of a situation. This in a sense is the antidote to acting automatically lead to a more conscious form of leadership.


Tom: the consensual leader – a case history

Tom is European director of a large corporate hospitality and event management group. He is well liked in corporate circles and had a reputation for setting up major events that ran smoothly. Everyone on Tom’s team felt comfortable and knew that he was always available for a hearing should they need to contact him either by phone or in person.

Tom is a type Nine, commonly called the Mediator. Nines approach the world with a view to keeping whatever environment they’re in calm and comfortable. They like to ensure that everyone is included in decision making. They listen to others without including their own opinions and judgements. There is a desire to avoid conflict at all costs as this would invite them to take a stand, something they dread.

Arriving at a decision as to what action needs to be taken can take a long time. What is going on internally is a constant weighing up of different points of view in order to ensure a solution that involves no-conflict. Ironically, sitting on the fence hoping that things will work out of their own accord often invites what is most dreaded i.e. conflict, as, if decisions aren’t being made, sooner or later someone gets angry.

The upside of this is that these people can be marvellous team builders and excellent leaders as they have a great capacity to give everyone a fair hearing.

Claire is Tom’s second in command and has been working closely with him for the last five years. In the early stages of their working relationship Claire enjoyed working with Tom. She found him easy going and supportive of her work and she was given a wide berth. She had a great capacity for attending to detail and ensuring that if there were any mistakes looming or someone was failing to carry out their responsibilities, these were dealt with.

However, Claire noticed over time that Tom avoided dealing with people whose delivery of services was not up to standard. She’s rarely seen him take a firm stand on difficult issues. She reported the failings of outsourcing contractors regularly and thought that some of them should be let go. However, this usually resulted in no action being taken. She would become very irritated by this as it meant that she often took on the responsibility of working long hours to ensure that everything was up to standard.

She thought some contractors took advantage of Tom and delivered an inferior service and she decided she couldn’t tolerate this any longer and was planning to leave the company right in the middle of one of their biggest projects ever.

The issues that brought this to a head was when she noticed one of their main sub-contractors nearly caused a disaster for their major client and only for her intervention in calling in another contractor to remedy the situation it could have caused a major headache and lost a lot of goodwill. This was totally unacceptable in Claire’s mind and she decided that the contractor had to go.

Tom too, unknown to Claire, had noticed the contractor’s failures over a period of time. He knew it was serious this time and that he should do something about the contractor but kept postponing it in the hope that it would work out in time. The last thing he wanted was any discord in the camp.

Claire is a type One on the system, sometimes called the Perfectionist. From the perspective of this profile everyone needs to put one hundred percent effort into everything they do. For the type One, standards are paramount and their attention is geared towards putting right that 5% or so that isn’t up to standard. They often present a correct and formal demeanour and have an orientation to duty rather than pleasure. They can be particularly demanding and critical towards themselves which is often hidden from others behind a smile and a tight jaw. Sometimes this can spill over to others.


How can the Enneagram model help in this situation?

The first task in using the Enneagram is to self-identify your own pattern of attention. This involves being honest with yourself which isn’t easy for anyone. For the type Nine it means being prepared to identify how much attention is paid to the agenda’s of others to the neglect of one’s own and how much energy is spent in avoiding conflict. A major growth edge for this type it to act on their own behalf and that this might involve learning to tolerate conflict and disagreements at times.

For the type One it can mean looking at how much attention is being paid to error and what needs to be put right. The growth edge is coming to a realisation that there is more than one right way.

When all the parties concerned begin to understand where the other is coming from – major shifts can occur quite rapidly and people can begin to support each other in dealing with their blind spots. It is most rewarding hearing how groups can begin to thrive as the process can be very freeing as new possibilities open up and provides and real personal mastery.

When we look at people in public life such as politicians and others in the public gaze it is interesting to note how some observers and commentators form a consensus as to their traits. What they are noting is the predictability we all have in the way we think, feel and behave.

For example, commentators have observed that the former Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, while having a talent from bringing people together from all sides even those who had strikingly different opinions of each other. This talent came to the fore during the Irish presidency of the EU and during the Northern Ireland peace process. Yet when it came to making decisions on his own behalf he seemed to procrastinate and sit on the fence. For instance he was inclined to opt out of giving directions and especially his opinion. Often they can appear to agree when in fact they don’t. When the Pope died, being a mainly Catholic country, he was asked if schools should close for the funeral. He said it was fine by him but that the schools themselves should make up their own minds.

His consensual style has served him well over the years but it also has it’s limitations as he would procrastinate on making changes especially when it came to cabinet appointments. He was open to meeting all the likely candidates in the hope that it would be amicably sorted but left the final decision to the last minute much to the exasperation of those around him.

Likewise his inability to grasp the seriousness of the Irish property bubble where he would have had to put a stake in the ground was one of the reasons for the collapse of the bubble. In a sense the lack of tighter regulation is also very much a part of the Irish character. In one sense his response was predictable and I’m sure those who work closest to him as well as some of the public have seen this pattern repeatedly over the years.

By now you might have guessed that the possible profile that might illustrate this style is type Nine, commonly known as the Mediator. (I use this example reservedly as ultimately it is up to individuals to identify the profile that makes sense to them.) The Nine illustrates the psychological laziness of one who shies away from an interiority that will allow them to discover their own agenda and put it on a par with others.

Each of us is unaware that our version of reality is limited, is seen through a particular lens and that others don’t see things that way. Thus to be really effective one has to be open to going beyond the box you find yourself in. The real effectiveness of the system is the ease of accessibility to those who have a healthy level of emotional intelligence and have the capacity to self-observe their own behaviour. For these individuals it can be a fast-track road to an advanced level of self-management.


A cultural typology

As the model illustrates archetypal modes of human behaviours it will also have a bearing on the kind of patterns of perception adopted by a community and society as a whole.

For instance, during the 30 year of sectarian strife in Northern Ireland certain patterns were strikingly to the fore. During these times if you were to drive from Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, to Belfast, which is the capital of the province and is in turn part of the United Kingdom, you would encounter a strikingly different world compared to that of the southern half of the land mass, the Republic of Ireland.

As you approached the border during the nineteen eighties and nineties, you encountered as series of obstacles of various kinds due to the security situation at the time. You’d see signs ordering vehicles to turn off all audio equipment. The British army had listening devices that enabled them to overhear conversations in cars. Those who knew this usually ignored the request. Large ramps were erected to ensure you drove slowly. Driving at over 25km might cause damage to the suspension.

The border post itself was manned with soldiers, guns at the ready, standing around in the compound into which all cars drove in single file. No one was allowed through until they were inspected. This no man’s land was framed by tall corrugated iron sheeting. Huts with tiny lookout holes for the video cameras and listening devices watched the cars silently. Young paratroopers with British accents, guns at the ready, would ask for details of your journey before allowing you through to the other side.

As you drove into the territory you could see a military lookout post poised on the top of the highest hill in the area just. The whole area could be surveyed silently from here. You instantly knew that you were being watched even though you didn’t know who was doing the watching. You couldn’t tell if anyone inside was present as the windows in the viewing area were tinted. Occasionally the sound of a helicopter scanning the border area could be heard hovering overhead. The sense of threat was tangible.

In Northern Ireland both sides found their identity as members of the community by aligning themselves with Catholicism and were usually known as being nationalist or republican. They wanted to belong to the larger republic in the south of the country. They represented about forty-five percent of the population. The remaining percentage was Loyalist or Unionist who identified with Protestantism and they firmly stood with the United Kingdom.

Some neighbourhoods were no go areas for those who were of the opposition. In certain places it would be unwise to wander. Not all neighbourhoods were integrated. A ‘safe’ car park was essential for visitors if you drove with a Republic of Ireland registered vehicle. Unless you knew the area well you relied on local knowledge. Cars were frequently hijacked for robberies; some occasionally had bombs planted underneath. The people of Northern Ireland had the same colour skin and spoke with the same accents. It wasn’t easy to make out which side people were on.

It has been said that by the time young people reached their teens in the North of Ireland they had learned approximately twenty ways of checking out which side you belonged to. Your name, the area you lived in, the school you attended, the activities you took part in, what sport you played etc. provided enough information to make a reasonable decision.

For decades a lack of trust permeated political life in the North. The current peace process has begun to move the agenda away from war and hatred towards peace. This process has meant that a courageous series of leaps of faith had to be taken by both sides. At times it has been like taking a roller coaster ride through a burning furnace. As soon as a step forward was taken the doubting and mistrust would begin again, which would lead to a further crisis. So deep was the mistrust on all sides that it took the combined efforts of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland respectively, and Bill Clinton, all of whom made themselves available twenty four hours a day, to help bring all sides together for crucial peace talks during the negotiating stage.

During the peace talks the common agreement was that all sides should be treated with parity of esteem. This had not been the case for most of the last century. There was very little common ground; both sides kept to themselves; a hidden apartheid was declared and divided loyalties were given and supported by allegiance to a particular state be it the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Both communities used religion to support their respective political belief systems.

The pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving adopted by the population was that of a sceptical paranoia. One’s survival depended on doubting and questioning the safety or otherwise of unknown areas you were travelling through and whether you could trust people. In the Enneagram model the Six pattern illustrates how we deal with worst case scenarios. Thus in an area where safety was important everything need to be checked out in order to reach certainty. The politics of the time were dominated by this sense of mistrust as described by the Six profile where the focus of attention has an eye on worst case scenarios and the hidden agendas of others.

The path of development for the Six is to learn to trust both self and others. In the case of the peace process this pattern of stopping and starting was the constant dynamic throughout. At trust the process moved forward great strides were made in building bridges based on a common ideal of putting the well being of the whole community at the centre of the reconciliation process. At each step the pattern of mistrust and doubt emerged and it seemed at times everything was going to fall apart as one stumbling block was removed another immediately took its place. No sooner was an agreement made on the surrender and verification of the terrorist’s hoard of arms than a doubting mindset took its place. “How do we know there isn’t another hoard of ammunition buried somewhere else?” In a sense there was no way you could prove this one way or the other. Further witnesses other than the agreed impartial international observers were then demanded. Requests for photographs of the decommissioned arms followed.


Politics many guises

Politics has multiple definitions and can be seen in many guises. It has been described as the science of government, the art of the possible etc. A political system is founded on a broad understanding of a shared common ideal. When people refer to colleagues who play office politics they are often referring to how people manage power in and around the stated goals or aims of the company and the culture it fosters. Those who take power in an organisation engage in politics in various ways be it consensual, autocratic, democratic etc.

We all engage in politics whether we are conscious of it or not. For instance, if we are working in a corporation where a blind eye is taken towards bullying by those in authority all workers are faced with the political choice of deciding whether to tolerate it or not. Likewise our consumer habits have political consequences. If we decide not to buy gasoline from an oil company that has a record of environmental destruction we are consciously engaging in a political act. The more conscious we are of the choices that are available the more power we have to effect change.

Another way of looking at politics is to see it as a forum where people gather together and try to work out a common understanding according to a particular belief system. On a local level this can be about drawing up regulations for a professional grouping.

One might say that to a large extent politics is about the art of survival – the survival of a particular belief system within a group or a society that helps to frame an understanding of the world so that we can operate in it.

At a basic level the energy involved in politics is instinctual. And our instinctual energies are concerned with our survival. The art of the politician is to harness this instinctual energy through dialogue and the use of power and in the process hopefully prevent people from going out and killing each other if there’s a perception that survival is threatened. Think back to how you reacted the last time someone said something to you which threatened a strongly held belief.

In terms of the descriptions of people’s behaviour that the Enneagram describes so vividly every society provides a frame of reference that facilitates the acting out of type behaviour. This behaviour in turn is bound up with our belief system. Certain catalysing factors bind the society together. For example, if we apply the Three profile to the United States, we can see how success and achievements are rewarded and failure isn’t tolerated very well in the society.

This works it’s way out into the deception that consumerism will bring happiness. If something happens that threatens this, be it another nation that decides to reduce it’s oil supplies, wars can be used to defend the belief in one’s right to oil supplies. When the war starts it is can be disguised as a justifiable attack on a repressive regime.

Under the G.W. Bush regime the society fell into the Six pattern of perception where fear of terrorism has crept into the society a fear and mistrust of outsiders that still resonates at the present time. Indeed it can be a motivating force for seekers of political office when candidates seek votes by stirring up suspicion and fear around those whom they wish to conquer.

Indeed it is a powerful motivating force to mobilise people to support violence or a way rather than the road towards bridge building through dialogue which will have to take place in the end.

The founding of the EU was a development of the need to consolidate peace shortly after the end of the Second World War. Both Jean Monet and Robert Schumann sought to bring together the beleaguered nations of Europe so that there would never be another war between the fighting factions again. The envisaged union would be based on economics whereby the former feuding states would co-operate with each other in developing strong trade links and working together for the good of all. This was the starting point for the shared ideal. Since then the European Union has expanded further into states who had long histories of conflict.


Political conflict and noble ideals

So – what happens when people disagree or think that the other sides view is so threatening that they will stand firm in their belief system in order to preserve the status quo? A new politics is emerging is areas of conflict around the world where minorities assert their rights on the basis of parity of esteem rather than engaging in violence. Often the issues can be softened when mutual respect has been established: no downgrading, no denials, blaming, condemnations etc. These only serve to prolong the situation. It often starts with the premise that everyone’s point of view has a validity of it’s own and deserves to be listened to. A basic tenet of the Enneagram you might comment.

However, it would be naïve of anyone to think that politics will not rear its head in Enneagram circles. This is particularly true for groups or societies that work for the good of others from an idealistic standpoint. It is better to be aware of the possibilities so that, like many good people who gather together with the common aim of doing something for the betterment of humanity, it does not lead to its ruination.

Politics will raise its head no matter how noble our ideals. It’s a basic instinct and our instinctual life will continue until we die. To become aware of its energy is to open up what drives our Enneagram type. It is worthwhile, therefore, to take a look and see how it expresses itself politically before we become its victim.


Insights from the Neurosciences – towards a clearer understanding of human experience.

The problem with adopting specific patterns of behaviours is when they become conditioned human responses and result in narrowness and rigidity. When this happens we are unable to think, feel and behave outside our comfort zone. If this rigidity is challenged we become hostile. Viewed on a wider scale if a leader sees others as threatening the option might be to engage in conflict with a view to dominating the other.

The emerging research offered by the neurosciences as to how we adopt entrenched positions provide some clues. They tell us that our lives are shaped by cultural experiences, that our temperament is largely genetic and that experience, together with our genes, shape how neurons link in to each other.

Our brains have a sense of vulnerability that is impacted by the culture. At the same time the neocortex in the brain is basically a pattern-recognising machine that seeks to make sense of life by searching relentlessly for familiarity based on our memory of previous experience. Over 100 billion neurons take part in this process which passes signals to other target cells and through these form pathways that connect with each other. In a sense what we say and what we think can become truly predictable.

Dan Siegel’s work in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, draws on over a dozen branches of science to create a framework for understanding our subjective and interpersonal lives. He notes that we live in an age where we are being bombarded by constant stimuli that our nervous systems are asked to respond to. If our brains become so compacted by these experiences we can have little awareness of anything beyond the self. The only capacity the individual has is to experience the ‘me’. There is no capacity to develop a sense of the ‘we’ referred to a the beginning of this article.

The brain then is capable of developing a psychosis which protects the neural pathways from further overload. In other words these behaviours become hardwired into our system. This creates what Einstein described as an optical delusion that the self was separate and has no relationship to the whole.

Siegel has addressed the issue of climate change from a neuroscience perspective and has provided some interesting insights. The first step is to look at the nature of the mind. It’s only since 1992 that scientists have come up with a working definition of the mind. Siegel says that there is 100% agreement among a group of scientists that the mind exists not only in the skull but in the entire body. For instance, when people speak of knowing something in a heartfelt way or having a gut feeling about something they are using the neural networks around the intestine and the heart. These areas of the body profoundly influence behaviour, decision making and reasoning. The gut and the heart actually pick up information and process it and they’re part of the learning system.

The mind also relational in the sense that we are social creatures and also that the mind is responsible for regulating the flow of energy and information.

Using the insights of neuroscience, Siegel, says that when dealing with climate change we need to take into account that we are relational creatures and we need to have a relationship with the planet.

It’s also important that if people are expected to modify their own behaviours they need to have the capacity to deal with their internal world effectively and specifically.

Changing habitual behaviours isn’t easy – it can cause distress and disturbance and most of us don’t like it. For instance the current relentless drive to consume in the developed and developing worlds, with its subliminal message that this is the path to take towards happiness and fulfilment, is part of the cultural psychosis that ultimately requires inner resources on the part of individuals to become more resilient at working with and regulating how best to live in a sustainable way that benefits all.

Having a map of your relationship with the planet is crucial if you don’t have one you’ll be climate blind. Neuroscience tells us that the brain makes maps. These maps determine what we do. In order to learn something we make a map and the brain accommodates this. For example, if you learn to play a piano you make a map and this involves your fingers extending themselves so you can accommodate the map. Thus if we don’t have a map making capacity for our relationship with the planet we won’t make decisions that include the planet.

How people will react to climatic distress will vary. When we get anxious about something we might fight it or become frozen in fear or just numb out on it. However, some people will have the capacity to be present with the distress with empathic concern. The brain stem, sometimes called the reptilian brain which is over 300 million years old, is where the fight/flight/freeze response resides.

How we evaluate whether to pay attention or not to an issue is the next step. This involves the limbic system. This area works with the body and the brain stem to generate emotion. Our emotional responses are evaluated and then appraised based on whether we perceive it’s a good or a bad thing to deal with and from there we will try to work out what to do. Thus if it’s evaluated as causing personal distress we’ll avoid it. This process works in a way that we are barely conscious of it.

The way the issues around climate change are communicated can have a powerful effect on target audiences if delivered in the right way. Social neuroscience studies have a lot to say about the way messages that might be distressing or otherwise are communicated and received. For instance if you are asked to imagine someone filled with pain and then asked to imagine that it’s you filled with that pain, the studies point out that while we can have empathic concern, we pull away and don’t do anything. If however you are asked to focus on the pain of the person and to imagine what it’s like for them an empathic response can be elicited where someone doesn’t pull away from it and they have very little personal distress.

This difference in response between personal distress and personal concern could make a big difference in how we respond to issues including people who have different cultural values to ourselves. Thus if personal distress arises on discovering that resources are limited, they might gather up all their resources needed and do nothing about it. So it’s not enough to inform people about this, they have to be able to see that there’ll be a positive outcome while needing to maintain emotional equilibrium about it.

Letting go of mindsets relaxes the mind so that it can deal with whatever needs attention in a highly effective way. Siegel notes that the functions of the pre-frontal cortex need to be kept in mind as its function is about thinking about how we mediate awareness of the present moment. Allowing self-awareness to develop creates the capacity to be more attuned with yourself and the more you do this the more you loose the illusion that you are a separate person.

As inner awareness develops the pre-frontal region of the brain becomes thicker and can regulate any subcortical distress. Studies have shown that as you learn to observe and relax your own inner landscape inhibitory peptides are secreted to calm any distress coming from the lower areas of the brain. As this practice of seeing and shaping the internal world develops people start making ‘we’ maps so that compassion and kindness become more natural.

Underpinning this is a sense that if we are to live together in peace we’ve to discover what we have in common, that we are all interconnected somehow and thus interdependent. The climate debate is forcing human civilisation to see this interdependency – that amount of carbon emissions emitted has an effect on all of us.

As technology develops and expands it too is bringing us closer to a sense that we are all interconnected. Young people all over the globe can transmit their concerns about human rights in their own countries instantly.


Cultural Identity, Politics and the Enneagram – a move towards international understanding

Our cultural identity supports the behaviour of personality type. We adapt our type behaviour to whatever is culturally acceptable. Emotional expression is part of the culture of the Mediterranean states – and vice versa in some northern European states. This cultural identification becomes part of the fabric of type behaviour.

These cultural ‘differences’ come to the fore when we deal with other societies or states. Politics from the perspective of the Enneagram can be viewed as a way to ensure the survival of a particular belief system.

Just as we rely on our type behaviour to help us get around in the world – so too our cultural identity is woven into the type behaviour. A One will base their viewpoint on the rights and wrongs of particular laws as expressed by the home culture and this will influence their views when dealing with other cultures. Likewise a Four will look for or dismiss what is seen as culturally inferior or superior in their own culture and use this template when relating to other societies.



Government is a complex matrix that involves a number of different arenas. The most visible is occupied by the politicians – they in turn are surrounded by key people who advise and support. The permanent staffs ensure the system works, so motivating key people is crucial. It is also necessary for department heads and others who work closely with public figures to know how best to get through to them as the pressures politicians are under are incredible at times.

Throughout history it’s probably true to say that the greatest politicians have been the most successful communicators. Knowing how distortions occur when communicating enables the politician to increase effectiveness as they often have respond immediately to issues, often with very little time for research or consultation.

Politicians must show qualities of leadership. The Enneagram leadership paradigms provide a very accurate description of different leadership styles that help identify difficulties and encourage flexibility and the capacity to adapt to change. To succeed continual mastery of the brief must be shown and having an insight into their leadership style can move them forward, and also gives them a huge advantage when negotiating with colleagues.

Policies often need to be implemented quickly and effectively. The Enneagram model works extremely well in highlighting how teams can get stuck and how to resolve the issues, and create a healthy feedback system to deal with conflict. Good teamwork is vital and it is the job of the leader to get to know their staff communication styles and how to work under pressure with them without alienating them, as best results are achieved if the representative works with an inner circle.

Carrying the wisdom of the ages the Enneagram in the modern era can provide solutions that can take us into the future by providing the understanding that everyone has a contribution to make and that true greatness comes from having the honestly and courage to lead.