Using the Enneagram with Judith Searle

CLARENCE THOMSON REVIEW OF THE LITERARY ENNEAGRAM IN "ENNEAGRAM MONTHLY", OCTOBER 2001



The Literary Enneagram: Characters from the Inside Out
by Judith Searle
Metamorphous Press, 2001
350 pages, $23.95
800 233-MAPS (6277)

Judith Searle's new book, The Literary Enneagram, is a masterpiece. If you are now, or ever want to be, a student of the Enneagram, this is required reading.
       I call it required reading because it is a teacher¹s delight. Searle quotes extensively from the great literature of our language, so you get the thrill of precise, nuanced thinking and smoothly professional entertainment. Then she starts explaining the Enneagram energies that drive the narrative. And she explains them concisely, accurately and succinctly. She not only says "this is a Two," she explains why this is a Two, she distinguishes among the three subtypes, she shades their preoccupations and foci into the stress and security points.
       Watch.
       Dave Jacobs is an unhealthy version of a Social Two in Alice Adams¹s novel, Medicine Men. When his lover Molly, a One, develops a brain tumor, Dave, a physician, insists on taking over not only her medical care, but her life.
       After a long revealing quote, Searle just comments: Like most unhealthy Twos, Dave has no idea how overwhelming he can be in an intimate relationship. Then she leads with flashlight in hand into the next quote by setting us up: Dave takes great pleasure in organizing Molly's medical appointments, using her, in a sense, to enhance his position in the medical establishment. He also takes pride in making himself the hero of the situation, relegating Molly to a minor role.

"So lucky I could get this appointment." Dave said this many more times than twice when they drove south, down the Peninsula toward Mt. Watson Hospital, and the famous, marvelous Dr. William Donovan. Molly, repeating those words back to herself, became interested in their order, which clearly put the emphasis on "I could get." On "I." Dave was to be the hero of this episode in her life, Molly clearly saw, and in a blurry way she wondered just what her own role was to be; she felt that if Dave was to be heroic she was not.

      Searle leads us further with the plot development. Searle observes, When Molly finally confronts Dave about his refusal to explain important details like the side effects of her radiation treatments, he makes her feel guilty for not appreciating him. Then she gives the narrative that illustrates her point. I felt skillfully tutored as Searle weaved back and forth between example and commentary.
       Searle publicly admits to being a One and her book shows it. It is as close to perfect as even a One would need it to be. It is thorough (350 pages of small print) and is so well-organized it will be a reference book forever. (I was so glad many of the sources she quotes are classic, the library will have them all. I can't afford to buy all of the books she made me want to read!) It is riveting. The readers think they know these characters and they think they know the Enneagram. They do. Then, when Searle scopes in on a telltale passage and surgically lays out the Enneagram style: wings, subtypes, stress points and degree of health, you realize on a much deeper level how utterly brilliant the Enneagram is and how talented these authors are.
       Searle, a modest teacher, does not rhapsodize or elaborate; she just keeps pointing to the characters and to their home on the Enneagram circle. I found her typecasting flawless. The only time I came to her work with a different opinion (I thought Hamlet a Four and she makes a convincing case that he's a Six), I was powerfully swayed. I don't grant that to many authors. The readers get to make their own conclusions, their own connections and feel terribly wise as they do so. No matter how well you think you know the Enneagram, you'll find your knowledge fleshed out by her vivid examples and clear explanations.
       It is good journalistic form to find some negative things to say about any book review to preserve the canon of objectivity and balance. It is, however, also good form to be honest. I don't find anything negative to say about this. I'm putting my money where my mouth is, too. I'm teaching a course here in Kansas City at the Johnson County Community College. I'm calling it the Enneagram in Literature and Movies. I will use Condon's book on movies and Searle's book on literature as textbooks. However you choose to teach or learn the Enneagram, Searle's new book ought to make a lasting contribution.

 

Clarence Thomson can be reached at: enneagram central, 35439 Mission Belleview, Louisburg, KS 66053 or e-mail: ennctrl@aol.com.