Out of the Box Coaching and
Breakthroughs with the Enneagram, Mary R. Bast, Ph.D. 
Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved. Revised: September 16, 2014




Step Out of the Box

Have you typically tried to ignore or overcome your pesky patterns of behavior and then been frustrated when they crept up on you again? Without realizing it, you’ve been giving energy to those unwanted patterns, feeding them a tasty banquet with all the attention you’ve put toward not being someone you don’t want to be! 

You can stay with your patterns and add a twist to get unstuck. For example, Greg was a college professor who loved mental gymnastics but wasn’t very comfortable with emotions, and dreaded holiday get-togethers. His wife Suzanne thought his relatives were somewhat cold and arrogant, and invariably a member of his family would say something that upset her during their visit. She would then go into what he called “a dramatic meltdown.” Greg’s response? He didn’t want to talk about it with Suzanne; he just wanted to hide. This upset her even more, which increased his desire to withdraw. He wanted her to stop reacting “so emotionally.” She wanted him to “quit being so intellectual and support her.”

Greg realized this interaction pattern wasn’t very effective and he thought of a way to break the pattern: when with his family, he and Suzanne would find a private space and take ten minutes every hour, so she could vent and he would take her feelings seriously. Greg loved the idea of expecting and planning time for Suzanne to blow off steam, because he wouldn't be distracted wondering when or how it might happen. Suzanne responded positively because he was acknowledging her right to her feelings about his family. As it turned out, they didn’t need to take ten minutes every hour. Just knowing they could do it broke them out of the box. “That outing,” Greg later said, “turned out to be our very best family visit. While we hoped to be able to make it through two days, we actually stayed three days extra.”

You can experience similar, surprisingly easy, solutions when you hold up a mirror to aspects of yourself you’ve wished weren’t there.  


1.  Write down one pattern of behavior – a response typical of you – that has caused you some difficulty. Be thorough and descriptive. In what ways have you tried to ignore or overcome this problem?

2.  Invite the pattern by simply paying attention to it. How often does it show up? What seems to trigger it? What does it look like? What are its variations? Be a mirror to yourself, speaking in descriptive terms without self-criticism. Do this for several days. Write down what you've learned:    

3.  Now think of a small way you could change the pattern. For the remainder of the week, consciously repeat the patterned behavior with that one small change. Write down what you’ve learned: 

(NOTE: This is the first practice section of the Self-Coaching Workbook. If you're strapped for time or money, completing the exercises and readings in the workbook could take you exactly where you want to go.)