My experience with the Enneagram has been nothing short of an Epiphany with a capital E. But how does a “personality typing system” create healing? There are many elements of resistance that can arise with exposure to the Enneagram. Any of these questions or objections seem familiar?
- I hate personality typing stuff. It’s putting me in a box! I’m a unique person and object to the whole idea!
- Somebody told me I’m a (fill in a number). Now I feel like they’re judging me or seeing me as nothing more than my number. That can’t be right.
- That’s so trendy right now. Argh! I hate hipster-y things!
- I did that on Facebook. I’m all done now right?
- That has that weird witch-crafty looking symbol. I don’t trust it. It’s probably evil.
- I took that test, but it didn’t seem like it worked for me.
- I always test as a different type each time I take one of those tests. I’m sure the Enneagram is the same thing.
- I tried working with it but there’s too many moving parts! I don’t get it.
- Where do I start?
Well there are countless more responses but let me work with these. If you have another to contribute to this discussion, send it on and I’ll see if I can wisely address it, assuming you want an answer… (Feel free to disagree, I will choose not to be offended even if I’m uncomfortable with it—I’m a nine. I want this to be a peaceful discussion but I’m learning that may not be in my control, so I promise not to take it personally. Though I will delete comments from Trolls and generally inconsiderate people no matter what your type might be.)
Here we go…
Statement 1: I hate personality typing stuff. It’s putting me in a box! I’m a unique person and object to the whole idea!
My Take: Yes! You are an individual with your own essence, ideas, opinions, value, and uniqueness. If this were simply a personality typing system, I’d totally let you off the hook with that one. In fact, I’ll let you off the hook anyway because that’s the beauty of the Enneagram! (See next response for more on this issue.) However, the Enneagram is so much more than a Myers-Briggs test. Carl Jung was a big one for shining light on our shadows, those aspects of us we either don’t see or don’t want others to see. Rather than showing you who you are, I hope our discussions shed light on who you aren’t. You aren’t your number! You’re so much more! Let the Enneagram help you find the way to you. (Thanks Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron-and others for communicating this understanding.) The Enneagram reveals a false self or a projected, formed by genetics, environment, and experiences self. It reveals our tendencies, our go-to behaviors, thoughts and feelings in stress and in growth.
Note: If you’re under 20, familiarize yourself with the types and tendencies but don’t sweat this! Hold it loosely. Let it inform you not limit you. You’ll get to the nitty gritty of it. For now, enjoy your life! Seek to be awake to life, love yourself, Creator and others! The rest will come in time.
For those of us who are more seasoned by life, consider jumping (or tiptoeing) in. You’ll find rather than putting you in a narrowly defined box, you may discover the real you instead! The result is expansive not contracted! This actually blew up my box in the best way possible.
Statement 2: Somebody told me I’m a (fill in a number). Now I feel like they’re judging me or seeing me as nothing more than my number. That can’t be right.
My Take: You are correct! A deeply held principle of the Enneagram is you don’t tell people what their type is. In my excitement and fascination with the tool, I have been guilty of some amateur assessment of others (often TV characters since that’s not real or personal). This is really a bad habit. Please resist the temptation!
- It’s rude and dishonoring of the intricacies of who we are as Creator-made individuals to inflict another with your judgement of their type.
- You can’t know the most important factors underneath the person’s on-the-surface, obvious behaviors. It is the motivation underneath, the tendencies we are each blind to in ourselves that are most likely the primary indicator of our types.
Note: I mistyped myself at first because I didn’t understand the link to the dark passion of my type. Judging from the behavioral characteristics alone, I look like a 2-the Helper. But the Enneagram really awakened me when I realized the deeper elements of my true type 9. My coming blogs will likely speak to these aspects.
Statement 3: That’s so trendy right now. Argh! I hate hipster-y things!
My Take: I hear you! And sadly, as great as Facebook can be (Cute cat videos for the cat allergic to enjoy!) When something becomes trendy, some of us run away! Sadly, this shallow, consumerist view is the last thing the Enneagram is meant to be. In fact, here’s another “let you off the hook” opportunity, if you are not interested in growth, soul growth at that, or growth into becoming a better human, don’t bother. The Enneagram is more than a conversation starter for parties. So maybe it’s the exact opposite of too trendy! What’s your particular resistance, knowing it’s a soul growth tool, not just a trendy Facebook test?
Statement 4: I did that on Facebook. I’m all done now right?
My Take: See Statement 3 above!
Statement 5: That has that weird witch-crafty looking symbol. I don’t trust it. It’s probably evil.
My Take: The history of the Enneagram is long and rich. Its roots reach back to the early Christian thinkers (though it also reflects and has been impacted by teachers from other faiths and mystical traditions). I view it as an ancient truth with contemporary relevance. As I’ve worked with it, more and more I am convinced it carries within it such deep truth that to limit this to someone’s particular religious view is doing everyone a disservice.
That said, the Enneagram is richly congruent with the truths written in the scriptures of my faith tradition. The teachings were originally kept as secret knowledge and studied using largely the oral traditions with teachers instructing their students in the ways of deep Wisdom. It was only in the 20th century that it was written in book form and presented in an accessible way. Psychologists and spiritual directors have built on the passed-down teachings and it is now a great tool (one of many) that leads to deep spiritual and personal growth.
As far as the symbol goes, it is rooted in mystery and deep meaning—some of it quite logical, even mathematical. The symbology of shapes, numbers, and arrows add to its richness. Though it is a wonder in its complexity, it can also be somewhat easily understood if broken down into simpler shapes and elements. The circle is a universal symbol of completeness. In the energy world in which I work, it also symbolizes continuous flow and endless path of energy. The triangle and triads in the teaching (also a subject of future blogs) are a part of why it is so much more than just about finding your number. These triads reveal the motivation that is underneath, down to even your unconscious or subconscious behaviors. The arrows are used to show which number you resemble when in growth and when in stress. Go with the flow and you end up stuck via the path of least resistance. Go against the arrow and though it’s tough at times and takes intentional action on your part, it will bring maturity and a greater energy to create your life, freeing you to discover and fulfill your reason for being here.
Statement 6: I took that test but it didn’t seem like it worked for me.
My Take: A test is often not the best way to discover your type. I’ve found one of the best ways is to use a book or a study group to explore each type and discover first, who you’re not. Even to a 9-type who can see all perspectives and may merge and appear chameleon like (threes can be chameleons too), there will be some types you will recognize as NOT you. Friends and loved ones can often help as well.
Please realize if you get your type wrong at first, it’s ok! As you work with the type and increase your knowledge of yourself using the principles of tendencies, needs, shadows, wings, and unheard messages, you WILL discover it. Even just the process of elimination will be a guide to your number eventually. Just start it, you’ll get it right in time (though this is hard for a 1 type—The Perfectionist). Note that there are multiple labels or names for each type. If one label doesn’t fit, another nuance of it might.
Statement 7: I always test as a different type each time I take one of those tests. I’m sure the Enneagram is the same thing.
My Take: I took the Myers-Briggs test over several years and tested differently every time! (See the above question about being patient with yourself about discovering your type and its purpose in your life.) Unlike other typing systems, the Enneagram is a tool for soul growth and change, not a static typing system. The goal is not to label or give you an excuse of “well that’s just who I am.” “I am who I am. I cannot change,” is a deep dark lie! It limits your potential. As I wrote earlier, the Enneagram teaches you who you are NOT as much as who you are, and the aim is to become so much more than you are, to live life more fully and expansively, not to be limited or confused about who you are.
Statement 8: I tried working with it but there’s too many moving parts! I don’t get it.
My Take: I actually picked up one of the best books on the Enneagram, Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson years ago at a used bookstore or garage sale. I started in and got totally lost and gave up. When the Student is ready the Teacher appears! It wasn’t until my “sister” and two daughters began sharing its impact on their quality of life that I engaged. Boy did I engage! Because the teachings came back around to me after a very big Trauma, one that revealed many early life smaller traumas, I was ready to hear its wisdom. This is the reason the tradition was oral between mentor and student for so long. In a vacuum (inside the pages of a book) the life it offers can be veiled. When brought to life through friends and loved ones we trust, the life energy in it appears! The book by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile, “The Road Back to You” is an excellent way in. So is a group to study with!
Statement 9*: Ok, you’ve convinced me! Where do I start?
Through Healing Pathway, I would like to create such a group to delve deeper. I’m still learning too! If you’re new to the Enneagram or a master—Let’s learn together!
Please text, call, Facebook message or email me if you’re interested in committing to a small group virtual class/discussion/book group, etc. on the Enneagram, discovering and working your type. We’ll figure out the best platform, Skype or live Facebook class as we get participants.
Join me on the Enneagram Path!
facebook: Healing Pathway
LinkedIn and Facebook: Terri Shannon Renfro
*Notice I included 9 statements? I couldn’t resist!