DON RISO: A REMEMBRANCE AND A TRIBUTE
August 30, 2021 marks the ninth anniversary of the passing of Don Richard Riso who, with Russ Hudson, co-founded The Enneagram Institute. Don taught the Enneagram to thousands of students world-wide; he was the author of the first major book on the Enneagram (Personality Types, 1987); and he was a major developer of, and contributor to, contemporary Enneagram theory. In each of his endeavors, he was supported by his strong and underlying love for Reality. His wisdom and compassion were manifest in his teaching style and in his profound love for his students and friends. As one of Don’s students posted on Facebook at the time of his passing, “He soothed my fears, he calmed my uncertainty, he opened his heart and, through that, he opened mine. He was a beacon in the dark, a hand when I needed it…. You brought out the best in me and loved the worst—the part that needed loving the most.”
His work was always original, masterfully expressed, and approachable. When Personality Types first appeared in 1987, Don provided extensive descriptions of each Type, something which had not previously been done. In seeking to provide elegant yet precise language to describe the Types and the many characteristics and processes he was finding, Don introduced new theories and terms to describe the Types, all of which have been subsequently adopted within the Enneagram field, often without awareness of the source of these insights and discoveries. Such concepts include, among others, the “basic Type,” “primary” and “secondary” Types, “characteristic temptation,” “saving grace,” “missing piece,” “lost childhood message”, the “Hornevian Groups”, the “Harmonic Groups”, “Basic Fear”, and “Basic Desire”. Utilization of these terms and ideas, Don felt, provided a better understanding for points of comparison among the Types, as well as afforded specific means of support for students’ awareness practices.
Perhaps his greatest contributions are the Levels of Development which show the “inner logic” of each Type, revealing the possibilities of growth that freedom from ego can provide, and the Core Dynamics, a powerful interlocking system of fears and desires with corresponding attitudes and behaviors at each Level that link that Level to the Levels above and below it in a movement toward or away from Presence.
Don was especially grateful for the friendship and the emotional and intellectual support of his teaching and writing partner, Russ Hudson, with whom these ideas and theories were further developed and expanded, as well as for the substantial support from many, many others who will remain anonymous. As Don would have said, “You know who you are.”
May we all acknowledge his contributions and accomplishments and the wisdom, compassion, and love he shared with the world by following his example and opening our own hearts to our true nature and letting go of our own fear, resistance and self-image.