Once a week, Susan Olesek comes inside San Quentin to help incarcerated men discover the roots of their personalities and how it plays into the way they see everyday life.
The program she oversees helps men realize how life experiences mold personalities and how negative experiences create behaviors that turn into serious problems.
Gabor Maté was invited to San Quentin, on March 1, to lecture on brain development, trauma and addiction to an audience of more than 150 people.
Olesek said she’s followed Maté’s work as a “need to understand how we heal. We’re continuing to blend our work together— how attachment is integral to healing and how personality forms.
“Gabor practices Enneagram Principles with- out even knowing it,” she added.
Maté talked about how addicts become discon- nected from themselves, which turns into low self- esteem—“all the things that land people in prison.”
Several members of the audience spoke about how the Enneagram System changed their lives. They included EPP staffers, several San Quentin EPP graduates, EPP alumni who’ve returned to free society, and interested inmates.
A formerly incarcerated man said before getting an understanding about Enneagrams, he’d been in and out of prison, for 15 years.
“It has helped me stay out of custody since December 2016,” he said. “All of my relationships are better, because of this. I learned how to communicate. When something sets you free, you want to keep it.”
Camilla Field, an EPP facilitator, made these comments: “I keep coming be- cause the experience I have working with the men in blue is extraordinary. I feel like I have to be present and meet the men where they’re at. That means that I bring the best version of myself. The ways I experience my work with these men is divine.”
To explain the Enneagram System, Maté and Olesek took center stage with inmates Ronell “Rauch” Draper, Dustin M. Baldwin and Jason Griffin.
The Enneagram System classifies personality traits as follows:
3. Performer/Achiever, 4. Romantic/Individualist 5. Observer/Investigator 6. Skeptic/Loyalist
8. Protector/Challenger 9. Mediator/Peacemaker.
He said that he came from a close-knit family; however, he didn’t meet his father until he was 16 years old.
“For a long time, I thought that my grandpa was my father,” Baldwin said. How- ever, he said when he was 11 years old; his mother told him his grandfather was not his father. Coming to terms with this, Baldwin said, “The hard parts of my childhood, I suppressed.”
Olesek explained, “Parts of your personality distorts the truth from you.”
Baldwin wondered how being incarcerated affected his son’s life.
Maté asked Baldwin to talk about his son, while understanding that his son is experiencing an absent father. He asked Baldwin to explain his son’s feeling of isolation, loneliness and depression that comes with having an incarcerated father.
“Understanding your own experience would allow you to be more compassionate toward your son,” Maté told Baldwin.
Olesek then turned to Draper, who is a 4. Romantic/ Individualist. Sensing that Draper “has a tendency to withdraw,” Olesek asked him to talk about relationships.
“The impulse for me is to shy away,” Draper said. “I’ve been through the class like 10 times, but until I feel connected, it’s make-believe. It’s not real.”
Draper talked about his mother not being capable of expressing love or care.
“There was a lot of abuse. I couldn’t hug her,” he said. “It became ingrained in me that this was my reality until I became the person that she couldn’t hurt, even though I was still hurting.”
Drapers said as a child, he “spent a lot of time frustrated and angry. I would go to anger immediately.”
He went on to explain that because of his early life experiences, it was difficult for him to trust people or him- self.
“You have to trust your- self,” Maté said. “One of the things trauma does is, it stops us from trusting ourselves. However, one of the great projects is working on self- trust. It’s easy to turn to not trusting the world. But, you have to trust yourself and
Participant asking Dr.Maté a question Susan Olesek, Jason Griffin, Ronell “Rauch” Draper, Dustin M. Baldwin and Dr. Gabor Maté have compassion for your- self.” The last person, Griffin, was categorized as a 7. Epicure/Enthusiast.
“A seven teaches us what joy is,” Olesek said.
Griffin called himself an “eternal optimist,” adding, “I wonder how people don’t see how beautiful life is, even in San Quentin with all the people—the connections.”
Maté responded, “He has something that I don’t have—joy.”
Griffin replied, “About joy—I have a deep love of life. I see even in my negative emotional experiences and sadness, there’s joy to be had. For years, I sup- pressed my sadness because I was afraid of it.”
Griffin talked about liv- ing with an alcoholic father, struggling with substance abuse and wanting to be “a perfectionist.”
“I was an only child. To deal with that, I kept myself extremely busy to the point that I didn’t experience anger or sadness,” Griffin said.
Maté posed the question: Is addiction choice or dis- ease?
“It’s neither,” Maté said. “It’s an attempt to solve a problem. We must ask what problem the addiction attempted to solve. How did you develop that problem? Addiction isn’t wrong, but it brings more problems than it tries to solve.”
In closing, Maté said, “I’ve never felt more comfortable than with these men. They were gentlemen—all authentic. Most places you go in the world, there’s a lot of pretend. There’s no pretend here.”