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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk with the founder of the Enneagram Prison Project Susan Olesek about her work, passion, and mission to help people heal in one of the hardest places to do healing work.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Guest host Susan Olesek joins.
  • What is The Enneagram Prison project?
  • Susan’s mission as creator and leader of the project.
  • What does Susan do on a day-to-day basis?
  • Susan’s story: how she came to discover her vision of using the enneagram within the prison system.
  • What is Susan’s vision for the future?
  • Divine reciprocity – Susan talks about transformation on “both sides of the bars”.
  • Society’s shadow – the psychology behind how we view people who are incarcerated.
  • What drives people who have had a terrible childhood to commit crimes?
  • What it means to provide a safe container for students to discover their type, and why this is needed.
  • How Susan’s students benefit from using a system that has 9 levels of health built into each type.
  • Check out Susan’s go-to book – The Wisdom Of The Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson.
  • What are some of the institutions and countries Susan has worked in?
  • Why Susan’s students need practical application from the system – not to just learn the theory.
  • Why we need to love ourselves.
  • Our drive for connection and attachment as social creatures.
  • The sad irony of “the holding cell” for prisoners.
  • Susan’s takeaway message.
  • Donate, volunteer, or simply learn more about Susan’s work at:

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  • Bill Britton
    • Bill Britton
    • February 9, 2022 at 8:53 pm

    Wow. I had heard about the EPP and was just curious. Sick today so only planned to rest and listen. Instead I took 3 1/2 pages of notes, had my mind blown and my soul challenged (or felt myself called to something beautiful and important). The hosts were amazing, so I subscribed to the Personality Hacker podcast, and I also subscribed to the EPP podcast. I wrote to a therapist friend of mine who is deep into the enneagram like I am, and said, “Stop whatever you’re doing and listen to this.” I learned so much, and my appetite was whetted for more – but I don’t want you to think this was a mostly academic experience I’m talking about. (As a #1 I can do that, and I can go crazy – “Let me buy not just one, but all the enneagram books. I must read them all.”) No, I’m saying that this was another step for me in what seems like a call from God to some kind of involvement with prison ministry. I’m in NYC, and I don’t think the EPP has anything there, but I’m going to explore further, and watch for those “green lights” which say, “yes, go this way.” I’ve been doing a lot of work for the last 10-15 years to become the kind of person that is needed for someone like an ambassador, so who knows? Exciting. Thank you for bringing this conversation to us!!

  • Michael (A.A)
    • Michael (A.A)
    • December 17, 2019 at 1:07 am

    Lovely podcast on someone who’s doing a lot of good for society! I thought I’d share some resources and ideas here for those dealing with trauma, whether with yourself or someone you care about, to add to the conversation. I find society finds talking about trauma uncomfortable, but I’m willing to talk about it.

    1. The website traumahealed is a favorite of mine when you’re introduced to how to heal from trauma.
    2. Look up the types of trauma, since more people have PTSD than commonly thought since some types of trauma aren’t taken as seriously. Emotional and sexual abuse may not be taken seriously as physical abuse. Emotional and physical neglect is even more ignored.
    3. Look up Dr. Pete Walker’s website on a lot of introductory information as well as his books if that’s your choice on Complex PTSD – A type of PTSD which is often seen in childhood and domestic abuse, not just soldiers or the police force which is a misconception, that is, a traumatic event that lasts for a long term period, compared to surviving a car accident for example, which is for only a moment.
    4. Other bestselling trauma books such as, “The Body Keeps The Score,” or “Getting Past Your Past,” also seems to help.
    5. I find along with the usual prescribed CBT, mindfulness emphasized therapies such as ACT or DBT can also help. “The Mindful Way Through Depression,” is another example of a book that focuses on mindfulness specifically made for those with serious mental illnesses. Several workbooks for these therapies also exist in many bookstores. The meditation website Wildmind, may be to your interest, as well as all the mindfulness resources you can look up online.

    Bonus : Look up “trauma books,” online for other possible choices to your reading list. Looking up PTSD or CPTSD on Youtube might also be another helpful thing to do.

    Thank you for reading. I hope this short message can be spread to many people to inform others on how unexpectedly common these horrible experiences are.

  • Grant
    • Grant
    • November 24, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Excellent project, this is a great example of the kind of reform we need in our society. Traumatised children end up in prison to be further punished and further broken It doesn’t get any easier when they leave prison to be further shamed with a criminal record that blocks employment and housing, and blocks being given an opportunity to be a functioning and accepted member of society. It is saddening we cannot catch the broken cycle so that the traumatised are suitably prepared to give their own kids a better chance.

    Enjoyed your TED talk too, and you reference some good works (ACE’s and the trauma work of Bessel van der Kolk). Curious how we get society to face up to its own shadow…as you say, both sides of the bars are responsible if we are to move forward constructively and compassionately. In the UK I think we would benefit from a healthier and more honest perspective about what criminalisation is (rather than see it bluntly as good people vs bad people).

  • Marjorie
    • Marjorie
    • November 22, 2019 at 11:14 am

    This is such an amazing initiative! I can’t wait for next week’s podcast to see the other interview. I hope this gets out more and she’s able to spread her prison coaching to other parts of the world.

    Thanks Joel And Antonia for sharing this awesome project with us!

  • James
    • James
    • November 21, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    I’d like to see her do this work with veteran’s that are coming back from combat and need help dealing with PTSD and either commiting crimes, suicide, divorce, or homelessness.

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