The Gifts of the Narrative Tradition
By Terry Saracino, Founding President
, Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition (now the Narrative Enneagram)
On May 8, 1989 in Santa Fe, NM, I found myself sitting in a circle with 25 others from around the country in a beautiful room with windows all around for a week-long course on the Enneagram. This would be the first time I met Helen Palmer and her teaching assistants – representatives of the nine types. My heart had been caught by the Enneagram a few months earlier in Denver when my first teacher had animatedly described the types in vivid detail for a full weekend. But, as this week unfolded and I watched Helen interview the types, I knew with certainty that this was how I wanted to teach the Enneagram.
Why was this method of teaching – what we refer to as the Narrative Tradition – so powerful back then and still is today? For those who have never attended a Narrative training, picture a panel of representatives of each type being interviewed by a facilitator. Dynamic and always changing, panels in the Narrative Tradition involve a community, a “field” created between the person whose story is being told and the listening audience. In a word, it is alive.
The Narrative Tradition, based on interviewing and interacting, is a process and invites us into a relationship with our inner territory. We use the content of the Enneagram and make an experience of it. When we describe our patterns on panels using our capacity for self-observation, we began to see them differently. We get some distance from them. Underlying motivations become clearer. Something clicks. Our patterns begin to loosen. As we try to make ourselves clear to the audience, we gain more insight. Insight is an essential first step toward change. Working with the insights we glean on panels helps us make the necessary changes that grow our souls.