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Yin or yang?

A skeptical fellow pointed out a new psychological profile fashion called "enneagrams". Even though this would be dismissed by psychiatrists as pop, modern psychiatric evaluation tools are equally trivial and disturbing. The main problem is the division between this sort of psychology, and real life, a chasm almost too vast to describe. But let me give it a try.

The test asks you some questions, and for each, it gives you two choices -- to force you to pigeonhole yourself into one of nine personality categories. The questions run like this:

"I have tended to be:
A. focused and intense.
B. spontaneous and fun-loving."

"I've been more of a:
A. "street-smart" survivor.
B. "high-minded" idealist."

Et cetera. It's terribly misguided.

A balanced and full life is one where these kinds of complementary attributes are striving towards equilibrium and convergence. In life, while trying to create a flow of positive moments, you always have to watch these others things, and strive not to let one get the better of the others. This is the basic goal of self-awareness, and the deep challenge of life. Taoism, to take only one example, is predicated upon it. As is the golden mean. But this pervasive truth is lost among these psychopartitions.

I mean, in what possible way are idealism and street-smarts mutually exclusive? Could it possible mean anything to say: "Are you Yin or are you Yang"? These make a necessary whole: that's the point. One means nothing without the presence of the other. It is inconceivable to me that any sensitive person could ask "are you focussed on yourself or others"? The point of life is that these things are inseparable, and that the differences dissolve if you manage equal emphasis.

... but if you get rid of the "enneagram"-ist's matrix, the one that categorizes you, and instead use these questions rhetorically, to see if your life is out of balance, then this is actually useful research. They could be like a new bunch of koans. But this is not the apparent intent.

Another sad day for humanity. On the other hand, without their work, this article couldn't exist ...


Greg Bryant

July 22, 2003


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