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    Iranians: Type 3 personality

    Rather than jumping to your own conclusions ["Nargess Shahmanesh: Why insist on being around Iroonies?"], why not ask yourself if there may be some validity to what was said. Unlike you, I have been doing my research; and from that as well as my own experience I can honestly say there is much to be admired about Iranians as well as much not to be admired. That it is so strong both ways is what makes it both intriguing and perplexing.

    Not knowing if this was a phenomenon to observe just among Iranian-Americans, I looked to see if similar behavior could be found in Iran. Books I have read that indicate this is so are the following: "Daughter of Persia" by Sattareh Farman Farmaian,

    "Middle Eastern Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics" by Cobert C. Held

    "Shah of Shahs" by Ryszard Kapuscinski,

    "The Ends of the Earth" by Robert D. Kaplan

    "The Hidden Hand: Middle Eastern Fears of Conspiracy" by Daniel Pipes,

    "Travels in Persia, 1673-1677" by Sir John Chardin,

    To illustrate the sharp contrast I have experienced between the different sets of behavior, I give you a two excerpts from Chardin's book which, mind you, was written over 300 years ago:

    "The most commendable Property of the Manners of the Persians, is their kindness to Strangers: the Reception and Protection they afford them, and their Universal Hospitality, and Toleration, in regard to Religion, except the Clergy of the Country, who, as in all other Places, hate to a furious Degree, all those that differ from their Opinions. The Persians are very civil, and very honest in Matters of Religion; so far that they allow those who have embraced theirs, to recant, and resume their former Opinion.... They believe that all Men's Prayers are good and prevalent; therefore, in their Illnesses, and in other Wants, they admit of, and even desire the Prayers of different Religions: I have seen it practis'd a thousand Times. This is not to be imputed to their Religious Principles, tho' it allows all sorts of Worship; but I impute it to the sweet Temper of that Nation, who are naturally averse to Contest and Cruelty." (from Chapter XI, "Of the Temper, Manners, and Customs of the Persians")

    In the same chapter, one page over:

    "[Persians] are besides, Dissemblers, Cheats, and the basest and most impudent Flatterers in the World. They understand Flattering very well; and tho' they do it with Modesty, yet they do it with Art, and Insinuation. You would say, that they intend as they speak, and would swear to it: Nevertheless, as soon as the Occasion is over, such as a Prospect of Interest, or a Regard of Compliance, you plainly see that all their Compliments were very far from being sincere. They take an Opportunity of praising Men, when they come out of a House, or pass by them, so that they may be heard; and they speak so seasonably, that the Praise seems to come naturally from them, and carries no Air of Flattery along with it. Besides those Vices which the Persian are generally adicted to, they are Lyers in the highest Degree; they speak, swear, and make false Depositions upon the least Consideration; they borrow and pay not; and if they can Cheat, they seldom lose the Opportunity; they are not to be trusted in Service, nor in all other Engagements; without Honesty in their Trading, wherein they overreach one so ingeniously, that one cannot help being bubbl'd; greedy of Riches, and of vain Glory, of Respect and Reputation, which they endeavour to gain by all Means possible. Being void of true Virtue, they affect the Shew of it, whether out of a Design to impose on themselves, or the better to attain the Ends of their vain Glory, their Ambition, and their Wantonness.... That is the Character of the Generality of the Persians: But there is without doubt, an Exception to that general Depravation; for among some of the Persians, there is as much Justice, Sincerity, Virtue and Piety to be found, as among those who profess the best Religions. But the more one Converses with that Nation, the fewer one finds included in the Exception, the Number of Truly, Honest and Courteous Persians being very small."

    Personally, I cannot say what is the exception and what is the norm. All I know is that from my sample space of experience, there has been a large number of incidents which lead me to conclude that a cultural phenomenon is taking place that I am trying to better understand.

    A personality-type model which does an excellent job of explaining what I have seen is the Enneagram. Believed to have originated in Afghanistan about 2,000 years ago and passed down in time by way of the Sufi order (from "Emotions and the Enneagram" by M.F. Keyes), the Enneagram states that personalities develop along one of nine different types. This may occur on a cultural level as well

    Each personality-type has both healthy aspects and unhealthy ones. What I have observed with Iranians is that most gravitate around the Type 3 personality which goes by nicknames such as "Producer," "Performer," "Status Seeker" and "Succeeder" According to Jerome Wagner, PhD, author of "The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Types," positive descriptions for Type 3 are: efficient, successful, get things done, motivator, enthusiastic, pragmatic, practical, goal-oriented, energetic, manager, popular, active, dynamic, multi-faceted, organized, self-assured, marketer, industrious, team-builder, and competent.

    Negative descriptions are: mechanical, get ahead, calculating, impatient, expedient, workaholic, chameleon-like, scheming, popularizer, image-conscious, self-promoting, appearances, jet set, success-driven, slick, political, mesrepresenting, oeverachiever, role-playing, and ignore feelings.

    The worldview of Type 3 is that being a champion means everything whereby failure must be avoided. As children, Type 3's learned to believe that what they do is more important than who they are. Because of this they are real observant and quick to identify with the success factors of any group. Feelings do not fit into the equation of success. Consequently Type 3's learn to keep themselves busy both as a way to measure their success and as a way to avoid unpleasant feelings.

    In terms of really understanding the dynamics of the Enneagram personality types, I would recommend any book by Don Riso. Other authors include Thomas Condon, Michael Goldberg, Claudio Naranjo, Helen Palmer, and Richard Rohr.

    This is an ongoing interest of mine and is far from over. But as you can see, I have been doing my research.

    Alex Bettesworth


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