Have you done the enneagram test? Are you part of type 8, 9, or 1 group? What are some insights that can help you manage staff with these numbers, or if you are part of these groups yourself?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with James P. Owens about the Enneagram gut triad.
James P Owens is a pastor, podcaster, and self-described Bible geek. He is a graduate of Denver Seminary and Duke Divinity School and the host of Hermeneutic of Resistance, a podcast about interpreting the Bible in ways that resist oppression and open doors for human liberation.
Visit his website.
Listen to his podcast.
In This Podcast
- The enneagram triads
- The gut triad
The enneagram triads
The enneagram consists of 9 basic types or dominant personalities, and within those 9 there are three triads:
1.The Gut Triad
Types 8, 9, and 1 are part of the gut triad. They live out of their gut, their internal bodily feelings. They are characterized by how they do, or do not, deal with anger.
2.The Heart triad
The second triad consists of types 2, 3, and 4. These types are characterized by how they do, or do not, deal with their feelings. Each of these types is seeking love.
3.The Head Triad
This consists of types 5, 6, and 7. These types live more in their heads and in their thoughts and they are characterized by how they do, or do not, deal with fear.
The Gut Triad
People part of the enneagram types 8, 9, and 1 feel their emotions within their gut and live out their emotions through their body. When they have strong emotional reactions, they will feel it somewhere in their body.
These types are perceived as having a certain kind of strength and it may come from this bodily gut energy. They have physical reactions to what is going on in their lives.
In the enneagram alongside the triads, there are also stances and they help to explain how each type works. They are assertive, aggressive, compliant, and withdrawn.
- The Challenger/Commander: They are the take-the-bull-by-the-horns kind of people. They do desire control and may, maybe unintentionally, steamroll over others to do things how they think they should be done. Type 8’s are of the aggressive stance and tend to move independently from, or even against, others.
- A good way to work with a type 8 is to not tell them what to do but instead helping them create what they want that works with what you want. When you are managing an 8, do not be afraid to respond to them in a strong way – they tend to be confrontational, and when you respond back with strength, they respect that.
- The Peacemaker/Mediator: 9s are part of the gut triad in how they deal or do not deal, with their anger. Their basic desire is to have a kind of wholeness and have peace with themselves and the people around them.
- The 9 stance is the withdrawn stance: they tend to move away from people and may come across as aloof. If you have a 9 on your staff in your private practice, they may not speak up for themselves in a big group discussion – encourage them to express their own thoughts because they struggle to express their own needs.
- The Perfectionist/Performer: Type 1 is part of the compliant stance; in this case it means they move towards or with other people. They seek out companionship and work in a team.
- If you are a 1 and a private practice owner, the feeling of having things always go perfectly will put a strain on you in your practice. “Close enough is good enough” is good to keep in mind instead of perfectionism. There are some things you have to do right such as legal things and so forth, but realize that you can be lenient with people that work for you and lenient with the fact that they may do things differently than how you do them.
- If you manage type 1’s, realize they have extremely high standards for themselves – they may be much harder on them already before you push on them for making a mistake. Encourage them to learn from their mistakes and that they will get a second chance to try again to relieve some of that pressure.
- The Enneagram Basics with James P. Owens | FP 54
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- The Enneagram Institute
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host, Whitney Owens, recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week, through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow, and scale your private practice from a faith-based perspective. I’m going to show you how to have an awesome, faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.
This is the second episode in a four-part series on the enneagram in private practice. And I have James P. Owens here with me. This is not only a great person to talk to about the enneagram, but also my husband. So we can do a lot of banter back and forth on marital things, but also on private practice things. As I can definitely tell you, James probably feels like he owns a private practice himself with how much I talk about private practice work, right, James? [JAMES]:
Yeah, that’s right. Just as I always said when you were in grad school, that I could have passed the NCA for you if I had to. Same way I feel like I know way more than I ever would have wanted to about private practice. [WHITNEY]:
That’s right. That’s right. And what we didn’t talk about before that I was thinking about after we recorded our last episode is another thing that’s really interesting about James and I is that James has been totally involved in the clinical world. We have worked at three different places together, which I think is pretty unique about a couple. We started out working at a Christian ministry. It was the Wesley foundation at the University of Georgia, which is actually how we met. But then later, while I was in graduate school, James actually was a recruiter for my graduate program. So he learned all about Masters in Counseling program stuff at that point. He actually was interviewed in one of my classes as Ivan Pavlov. That’s right, he brought a big dog, he attached some syringes to the side of his mouth. And so that was really awesome. And then we also moved to Colorado and he and I both worked at a psychiatric hospital together. So James is well aware of the clinical world. [JAMES]:
Yeah, the Ivan Pavlov project was really special. Because even after that, I would walk around in the hallways at your school, and people would be like, hey, it’s Pavlov. Where’s the dog? [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I think people didn’t actually know your name. They just thought you were Pavlov. [JAMES]:
Pavlov. Yeah, that’s right. [WHITNEY]:
Well, you did have a good accent, so that, like, brought it all together. Awesome. Well, let’s… So, for today’s episode, we are going to talk about the gut triad. I feel it as I say it, in my gut, when I say gut triad. I think it brings my accent out too. But we’re going to talk about… [JAMES]:
Well, as a type one, you are part of the gut triad. [WHITNEY]:
That’s right. That’s right. So we’re going to talk about what the gut triad is, and maybe, James, let’s actually start with what is a triad within the enneagram? And then specifically, maybe you could talk about what the gut triad is. [JAMES]:
Absolutely. So I think this will be something really helpful for your listeners to introduce them to the concept of the triads. I know it helps me understand the enneagram to understand my own type, but also the types of others. So of course, as we discussed in the last episode, the enneagram is nine basic types. So that divides into three triads. Types eight, nine and one are part of what we call the Gut Triad. These are types that live out of their gut, out of their bodily, internal energy. These types are also characterized by how they deal or don’t deal with their anger. The second one is the Heart Triad; that’s types two, three, and four. These types are characterized by how they deal or don’t deal with their feelings, because they’re types that… If you listened to the last episode, you might have noticed that I mentioned in the basic description of them how each of these types is seeking love, very much living out of their feelings. The last one is five, six, and seven; that is the Head Triad. People that are living a little more in their heads, in their thoughts. These types are characterized by how they deal or don’t deal with their fear. That’s five, six and seven. So yeah, so we’re going to talk about the gut triad today, which will help us understand types eight, nine and one a little better. [WHITNEY]:
Perfect. Thank you for kind of going through that with us. Okay, so, the gut triad, I’m gonna guess it’s called gut because you actually feel it kind of internally or like, within. Can you explain what that is? [JAMES]:
Yeah, each one of these types – eight, nine, and one – tend to be people that live out of their gut. They tend to live on gut instinct. And so I think if you are one of these types, you probably understand this intuitively. You feel things in your body. When you’re having a strong emotional reaction or going through something, you’re going to feel it some way in your body. If you’re not one of these types, that might seem a little unusual to you, like, I know, for example, for me, I’m in the head triad as a five. And so I actually tend to be pretty disconnected from my body. But eights, nines and ones are not that way. Eights, nines and ones tend to be very connected and to live out of that bodily energy. For this reason, I think one of the things that other types perceive about gut types is they perceive a certain strength. I know I do when I’m interacting with eights, nines and ones; I perceive in them a certain kind of strength. And I think that strength really comes from this bodily, gut energy. [WHITNEY]:
I’m sitting here thinking about our interactions and how I’m always talking about how I feel things within me, and you’re just kind of sitting there going, okay. And then you’ll talk from your head, and I’m like, oh, this is too much for me. So going back to it is helpful to understand where people are coming from so that we understand them through the enneagram lens. [JAMES]:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I can think of numerous times when you have said you, you know, are having some kind of physical reaction to something that’s going on, you know, mentally or emotionally. And I think that’s probably very characteristic of all of the gut types. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, yeah. So, all right, so let’s talk a little bit more about the eight. And I would love to also kind of address, like, what this looks like with people and obviously, clinically, and then maybe we could talk a little bit about what it’s like to work with an eight. Like I said in the other episode, I use the enneagram a lot in my clinical work. I have my clients – obviously, the ones that are open to it – I have the clients take it because it will help me guide them on their journey. And we talked about last episode, the origins of the enneagram, and it used to help Catholic priests in mentoring people and helping them in their right direction and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. So we don’t use the enneagram with our clients to like, hound them, or put them in a box, or shake a finger at them; we use it to help spur them on in their growth.
But then I also do that with the people I work with. Everyone I hire, I have them take an enneagram test. And that can be the clinicians down to the assistant, so that I know better as a boss, how can I help them do their job better. And knowing their enneagram helps me not only that, but to dive into their strengths, to know the best way to love and serve them. And so I do want us to kind of talk about that. And I do this also with my consultees because when you run a private practice, your enneagram is going to come out, like, it’s going to. And so I can help leaders in understanding their enneagram as they’re entrepreneurs, and we do find, at least I find – James, you could probably attest to this – certain numbers tend to be the kinds that would start a business, would start a private practice, would listen to a lot of podcasts, you know that kind of a thing?[JAMES]:
Yeah, absolutely. So I know we wanted to go ahead and dive into type eight. So type eight is called The Challenger or The Commander. And if you are a type eight, you may well be the type that would start a business, maybe multiple businesses. I know a type eight who has a full-time job and two side businesses. So type eights are take the bull by the horns kind of people. They’re very confident, come off as fearless, strong, powerful. You’ll remember from the last episode, the basic desire of a type eight is to protect others, to be strong and avoid weakness, and they fear being controlled or violated.
So if you’re a type eight, and you’re, say, running a private practice, or you’re a counselor of some sort, realize that that’s probably how you’re going to come across to people. You’re going to come across as a little strong, a little abrasive, you might have been told in the past that you come on a little too strong. You’re probably not trying to do that, you’re probably not… certainly not trying to be mean to people. But you should be aware that this is how you might come across to people. You might come across as somebody that’s a little bit intense at times. Type eights do desire control. So be aware of that as well if you’re a type eight, running a business, running a private practice, that you might even unintentionally at times, steamroll over others to get your own desires, own things that you want to get done, done.
One of the things that I think is also really helpful along with understanding the triads, so this is kind of another concept, we talk about the enneagrams, we have triads, there’s also something called stances. And I think the stances are really important in understanding how each type works, or works together with others. So the stances are assertive, or aggressive, compliant, and withdrawn. And we’ll explain each one when we get around to it, but the eight is part of the aggressive stance, and that means that eights move independently of others. Or sometimes we might even say, against others. So an eight as a leader is a strong leader, they’re gonna do their thing. Get on board or get out of the way.[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I totally know them. It’s so true, James, several people that I’ve consulted with that have really strong practices are eights. And I think I – and who knows where I hear anything – but I know I heard somewhere that you want to hire an eight to work for you because eights get a lot of work done. [JAMES]:
Absolutely. They are extremely productive people. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. And so I think it’s important if you have an eight in your practice, like, as an employee maybe, or maybe even a client, a good way to work with them is don’t tell them what to do. Like James said, they kind of move against. So I have found that if I am working with an eight and I say, hey, here’s our game plan, you’re going to do X, Y and Z, that does not go well because they want to do their plan. So helping them create what they want, instead of us imposing what we think – or at least they sense it as imposing, we don’t think it’s imposing – but they need to create their own things. So they feel like they have power and control over it because the worst thing is to take control away from an eight. [JAMES]:
Absolutely. I think that’s really good advice. And if you’re managing an eight, don’t be afraid if they come to you, you know, in a strong way. Don’t be afraid if they come to you with something that sounds like a strong criticism, or something that almost sounds like they’re being rude. They’re probably not trying to be rude. This is how eights seek out intimacy with other people. They do it through confrontation, through strength. And at the same time, if you respond back with strength, not with anger, or with pettiness or anything like that, but with actual strength, like, hey, I know what I’m talking about, eights will often respect that. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I’ve actually found that to be the case. So I have an eight here on my staff. And you know, you talked about in the first episode about really reading about your type and understanding it because when she took the enneagram, she came up as a three. And then over time, as we’ve gotten to know each other, and she’s read more and studied the enneagram, she’s realizing that she’s a lot more an eight. And now that I kind of see our interactions and even the way you just described that, she will come to me very strongly where I can get kind of intimidated, believe it or not, I kind of pull back. But then understanding that that’s not what she’s trying to do. She’s just trying to be close to me and trying to talk through things. And so I have learned to come back strong instead of pulling away. So I appreciate that advice. And it has worked, actually, in the way that I’m working with an eight on my staff. [JAMES]:
Absolutely, yeah. Three and eight is a common mistype. Three, eight and seven are all part of that same aggressive, assertive stance. And so those are common mistypes.
The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network. A network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
Yeah. Well, great. Okay, so talk about the nine and what are they like? And what’s it like to work with a nine? [JAMES]:
Yeah, so nines are also part of the gut triad. I mentioned earlier that the gut triad is characterized by how they deal or don’t deal with their anger. And eights externalize their anger, they kind of push it out to the world around them. But nines ignore their anger. So nines, even though they’re right next door to the eight on the enneagram, they often seem very, very different. They totally ignore the anger dimension of themselves. To the point, as I mentioned in the last episode, where sometimes they ignore it, ignore it, ignore it, ignore it, and it finally just bubbles over and explodes. But nines are natural mediators, they’re peacemakers, prone a little bit to procrastination. But their basic desire is to have this kind of wholeness, peace of mind, to make peace with themselves and with everyone in the world. I mentioned the stances earlier, the nines stance is the withdrawn stance. This means that nines move away from other people. So if you’re a nine counselor, or a private practice owner, be aware of this, that you naturally tend to move away from people. You might naturally not be very managerial. Nines are not micromanagers usually. They don’t want to get involved too much with the people they’re managing. Realize that if you’re a nine managing employees, people might see you as a little more aloof or indifferent than you intend to be. So it’s okay for you to seek out your employees, ask them how they’re doing, they may think that you’re not being available enough to them. [WHITNEY]:
That’s a really good point. A couple years back… I have a group of college friends and we text each other all the time and I just love them. And one night, we were all together and I was like, okay, everybody, we’re taking the enneagram. Like, this is what I do for fun. And so, I had all my friends take the enneagram, and one of them popped up as a nine. And I, all of a sudden, these light bulbs were going off. Oh, that’s why she’s been acting this way. So, for example, she was always the one in the text messages that was the least responsive, or it was hard to get her to commit to things. And then it was helpful for me because I understood like, it’s not about me, personally, this is just her personality type. And it’s been really helpful for her too, because she didn’t know what the enneagram was. And now that she knows she’s a nine, she’s able to kind of move past some of that withdrawn feeling and really pursue people a little bit better and understanding how we feel. And so knowing how nines work has helped me not take it personally. [JAMES]:
Yeah, absolutely. And so if you’re managing a nine, like, let’s say you own a practice and you have a nine on your staff, realize that they may not speak up for themselves. So you may want to kind of read the room a little bit, say you’re in like a staff meeting or a group meeting or something, and the nine is just keeping quiet, keeping mum, you know, you might want to kind of try to read their face a little bit and see, okay, well, maybe they have something to say, and you can kind of gently, you know, hey, do you have something to offer here? Encourage them to express their own thoughts and feelings, because nines really struggle to make their own opinions, their own feelings, their own needs known. They’re very much attuned to the needs of others, to the opinions of others, to making sure everyone else has heard that their own opinion is often suppressed. So give them that space to do that, and give them time to do it. It may take them a little bit of time to figure out exactly what they want or think. You know, one of the things I read in one of the enneagram books, I think this is probably Ian Cron’s, is that nines’ talking style is epic saga. So don’t be surprised if a nine that you know and talk to kind of launches into some sort of meandering story that seems to have no point, it has a point for them. And it’s important that you’re letting them tell it. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. Well, as you know, I actually had a nine on my staff at the beginning stages of a group practice ownership. And I had no clue. So to tell you the truth, if I could go back, totally would have had people taking the enneagram at the beginning so that I could have understood them better; I didn’t start doing that until I was a year in. And just being able to understand that, I could have supported her in a different kind of way. But me being the one, I come off as somewhat aggressive, I guess. And I just communicate strongly and make my expectations known. And then, being with a nine, I’m sure that came off really difficult for her and she never told me what she wanted. And I just assumed everything was fine because she wasn’t saying anything. Because I learned that if you’re not happy you say something, but not everyone’s like that, I’ve now learned through the enneagram. And so then one day, she just came in and gave me her letter of resignation. And I was like, what’s going on here? And she did not want to really tell me what was going on. And then when I finally pushed her to say, you know, hey, what really happened, I’m sad that you’re leaving, she let me have it. So it’s kind of like what you were saying, lots of frustrations were bubbling up for her. But I could never change anything or meet her needs because she wasn’t telling me, but I also wasn’t asking because I just assumed it was fine. And then, boom, she exploded on me. And then I had a lot to really process after that. So anyway, it was really that experience that allowed me to say, okay, everyone that I hire is taking the enneagram because I’ve got to know how to best meet your needs and communicate with you. [JAMES]:
Well, and that’s what the enneagram can really do for your private practice, your staff, your church, small group, or any group of people that you interact with, is that it kind of speeds up the getting to know you process. You would have learned those things about this employee if she had worked with you for a number of years. But what enneagram can do is it can give you that knowledge and insight into someone else a lot more quickly. So if you know someone’s enneagram type, you kind of fast forward ahead of these years of getting to know someone and learn about it, you know, more quickly. [WHITNEY]:
Sure, sure. And once I started bringing the enneagram into the work I was doing, I actually had James come and do a training with my staff on the enneagram. And so that was really great because then we were all talking enneagram and understanding each other better. So I do encourage you not only have them take the test, but maybe incorporate some kind of training into the program so that you can help understand each other and like, we are always talking enneagram around here. So, yeah. All right. Did we hit everything you wanted to say on nine? [JAMES]:
I think so. I think we should go on to type one. Type one, The Perfectionist or The Reformer is the third of the gut triad. So, you know, I’ve mentioned at each type the stance. So the eight, you’ll remember, was part of the aggressive or assertive stance, you know, moving against or moving independently. The nine was part of the withdrawn stance, moving away from people. The one is part of what we call the compliant stance. Now, don’t think that compliant there means you do whatever other people tell you. In this case, compliant stance means you move towards or with other people. So ones seek out companionship, they seek out team building, working together. Ones – along with sixes and twos, which are the other members of the compliance stance, the other types that are in the compliance stance – seek out teams to do things together, to do things with, moving towards other people. If you are a one private practice owner, keep in mind that this desire to be perfect, to be always morally good, is going to make it a little hard for you when things aren’t perfect. You know, we know of course in real life that things are never perfect. But a type one is always trying to make things perfect. Our daughter, one of her teachers in school has a saying: “Close enough is good enough. We don’t do perfect.” And our daughter has been repeating this at home, you know, over and over again, along with a few other funny things that her teachers have. Close enough is good enough. We don’t do perfect. It’s a good saying for ones to remember. [WHITNEY]:
Yes, I’ve been running around the house saying it. [JAMES]:
Yeah, along with our little girl. You know, realize as a type one, if you’re a private practice owner, you’re trying to build a staff, that you have incredibly high expectations of yourself. And not everyone may meet the expectations that you have of yourself, that you have a way that you think things have to be done, have to be done the right way. Other people might not have that. Now, of course, there are some things you have to attend to. There are certain details, ethical things, legal things you have to do right and I’m not saying you should let things slide on that. But perhaps as a one, you might have things that you just prefer, and you tend to make those into law, so to speak. You might want to realize that you can be a little more lenient with the people that work for you. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, this is great. I think about starting my practice and starting my group, and Joe would always say, don’t wait til everything’s done right, you just need to move forward with where you’re at. And I think for a one, that’s really difficult. We’re very detail oriented, we have to understand how everything is going to come together. But I have learned over time that if I do that, then I’m not going to accomplish anything, because nothing’s ever going to be right in my mind, you know. And so being able to step out and do things, even if it’s not perfect, is really important to kind of get past that as a one. [JAMES]:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s great advice for ones out there. Now, if you have ones on your staff, if you manage type ones, realize that they do have this extremely high expectation of themselves. So if, for example, the type one that works for you makes a mistake, and they are aware of it, well, guess what, they’re probably going to be harder on themselves than anyone else can be. So if they make a mistake and they’re aware of it, and you come to them, you know, berating them or telling them how awful they are, well, that’s not going to be helpful because they’re already way harder on themselves than you could ever be. You need to let your type ones that work for you know that you value them, that they don’t have to be perfect to be good, that they can learn from their mistakes and make things better. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. I want to share for a few minutes about the most impactful part that I’ve learned from the enneagram. Well, I don’t know, it’s all impactful. But anyway, when we think about the story of just me remembering the enneagram and I remember sitting on the sofa, and you’re talking to me about it, and you said, the ones, I guess their center, their problem is that they’re angry at the world. And the one is just festering with anger. And of course, my first thought was, I don’t have anger. [JAMES]:
Because that’s me being a perfectionist, right? [JAMES]:
Right. Anger is wrong. Anger is wrong. I don’t have anger. I’m perfect, right? [WHITNEY]:
That’s right. That’s right. And so, that’s what I thought to myself. And then, over time, I was like, wow, I am so mad that the world is so messed up. And I can’t believe that people can’t get their act together and do things right. [JAMES]:
So judgmental. It was like the judge voice within me was there, but I didn’t know it was there. And so being able to recognize that, I can offer a lot more compassion, a lot more acceptance, letting things go because yeah, I put way too high an expectation on people and things. And I have had to learn that in my practice, that, you know, everyone’s doing the best they can and being able to, you know, use their strengths and understand their enneagram and love who they are, instead of just getting mad that they’re not like me. But I’m really glad they’re not like me, because that would be a pretty boring practice. [JAMES]:
Yeah, absolutely. So what you’re kind of highlighting there is the way that ones relate to their anger. Yeah, most ones do not think of themselves as angry people, and they’re not externally, overtly angry. What ones do is they tend to internalize their anger. And so it comes out as this kind of resentment, you know, this kind of smoldering resentment at the world for not being perfect, or at other people for not being as hard-working, or as ethical, or as perfect as they themselves would like to be. So I think it’s really good to recognize that because as you said, then you can work on it. And then you can be more compassionate towards other people because that’s really one of the main things that the enneagram is all about. It’s not about just knowing yourself better, even though that’s really important. It certainly isn’t about knowing everyone else’s flaws, and judging them.; it’s definitely not about that. It’s about being more compassionate towards other people. This should all, all of this enneagram stuff, should awaken more compassion, more understanding in us towards other people. It should help us to understand others, but also to be able to act loving and kindly towards them. [WHITNEY]:
Oh, that’s great. Well, thank you for covering all this info with us today. And then, on the next episode, we’re going to talk about the next triad, the feelings triad. So that’s the two, three and four. And then we’ll move on in the last episode to talk about the head triad after that. So, anything else, James, that we didn’t cover? [JAMES]:
Sounds great. Thank you for having me. And I’ll just mention real quick that as you said, in the first episode, I am a Bible geek and podcaster. And so if you are interested in biblical exegesis and the way it impacts the world today, especially in the realms of social issues, and social justice, and things like that, you can check out my podcast, it’s called Hermeneutic of Resistance. [WHITNEY]:
Oh, thanks, James. Well, I’m glad that you started a podcast so we can be podcast buddies. [JAMES]:
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