F.: Thanks for the e-mail, and yes, you’re correct. Riso and Hudson, two men as versed in the Sufi enneagram and the personality types as any, agree that the U.S. is the nation that is the prime example of a type-three culture, but they too say that the preponderance of the type three persona is “no less true in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand than in a fast-track corporate culture.” My observations are available in the post you referenced, but what they observe is also at the heart of the Advaita teachings that deal with the root of human suffering, so today’s post will share some of their observations.
The body-mind-personality triad is that which fosters suffering and delusion, and delusions foster more suffering. That’s the trap. Two final obstacles to being released from suffering involve (1) being rid of the influence of one or more of the personality types and (2) being rid of the innate influence of archetypal images that are always dualistic. We’ll focus on #1 today, so note what Riso and Hudson have to say about the Type Three personality and see the parallel with Advaita’s message about personas. To quote and paraphrase them:
Persons are dysfunctional, driven, narcissistic, and image-oriented. They emphasize style over substance as well as symbol over reality. Persons celebrate the artificial and can no longer tell a fabricated image from the real. The masses are so seduced by the slick package that they often don’t realize that there is nothing in it. Calculated images successfully masquerade as reality and persons display all the rehearsed sincerity of a beauty contestant. Exhibitionism and self-promotion are fashionable and persons are being sold a narcissistic fantasy: “You can be ‘somebody’ if you are like everybody else, only better. If you manage your image properly, you too can become a star—or a god.”
Persons are searching for validation of self (of their false self or selves) so they look to others who supposedly have earned esteem in order to determine who they must be and what they must do in order to feel valuable and worthwhile. They strive to exemplify whatever qualities are honored in their immediate circle, so the most they can do is parrot what “esteemed others” say, no matter how nonsensical and unoriginal those sayings might be. Because they are estranged from any knowledge of their True Self, they feel empty and isolated without having a clue about what it is that they are doing or thinking that is at the root of their suffering.
So to understand the bogus nature of persons, understand the bogus nature of the Type Three personality. Know also that Type Two’s and Four’s can be drawn into Type Three Personality Behavior, as can Type Sixes and Nines, and that persons raised in a Type Three culture are likely to internalize the traits they see most often. As a result, a Personality-Type-Three world has emerged: it’s all image, persons cannot differentiate the true from the false, and they strut about like actors on stage—playing their roles and parroting worn-out lines heard from other actors before them.
The pointer for the Advaitan student is that all suffering is rooted in identification with body, with mind, and with personality, be it a Type Three personality or any of the other eight types. To be truly free, persons much be free of their personalities and their personas as well. The pure consciousness is impersonal consciousness. Personal consciousness (consciousness of personas and the unconscious drives of personality) will always guarantee misery and suffering. How free do you want to be? In terms of tolerance for suffering, when is enough…enough? Please enter the silence of contemplation.