Meet the Enneagram

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Last week an article I wrote about the Enneagram was published on The Change Blog. It didn’t seem to generate much buzz, and I was disappointed.

Then I realized that the Enneagram isn’t exactly a household word. In fact, when I bring it up in conversation, most people say, “The what?” After I explain a bit, they usually ask, “And how do you spell that?”

So what is the Enneagram and what’s so great about it?

First of all, a warning: There is no such thing as learning a little bit about the Enneagram and then being done—or even being satisfied with what you know.

The Enneagram refers to a circle with nine points that represent nine personality types.  The word comes from the Greek words for “nine” and “figure,” so it’s literally a nine-pointed figure. Inside the circle are arrows that make the diagram resemble a weird geometry puzzle.

I’m sure a lot of people were scared off by the Enneagram diagram below that the editor of “The Change Blog” chose for my post—and why I chose a photo of a natural geometric puzzle to lead this post.

The Enneagram

So much more than a geometry diagram, the Enneagram is a system to gain insight into ourselves and others.  It is a tool for self-growth and transformation. But it also requires study and inner work and a willingness to take a good hard look at yourself and your habitual ways of being.

We each contain a dimension of all the nine types, but we are predisposed to one type in particular. Each of the nine types has strengths and weaknesses.

Studying the Enneagram is complicated.

Each of the nine types avoids something and has a habitual, go-to defense mechanism. The behavior of each type is motivated by something specific to that type. The arrows connect each type to two other types, and each type has three subtypes. And the types on either side of your type are called your “wings,” and one or both of these influences your basic type. Most people have one dominant wing.

Like I said, it’s complicated.

Not Just a Label

More than simply typing or labeling people, the Enneagram contains a spiritual dimension and is a tool that helps us to reconnect with our Essential Nature.

Although it’s complicated, that’s what makes the Enneagram powerful. Your Enneagram type is so much more than the kind of label you are able to learn from other ways of identifying who you are.

Maybe some of these labels sound familiar:

“He’s such a Libra!”

“I guess I’m an INFJ.”

“She’s a typical first-born.”

“You’re being such a C!” (from the DiSC system that I relied on before I met the Enneagram)

Where to Start

A place to begin is by visiting the Enneagram Institute, which offers a brief free test as well as a longer inexpensive one. This site also has tons of material and videos about each type.

The easiest book to begin learning about the Enneagram is The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels, M.D. and Virginia Price, Ph.D. Each type is nicely summarized after you take a nine-paragraph test designed to help you narrow down which type you might be.

Notice that I said “which type you might be.”

Remember, earlier I warned you that the Enneagram does require study and the willingness to take an in-depth look at yourself. If you aren’t willing to do the inner work of figuring out who you are and what drives your behavior, the Enneagram is not for you.

But I promise you that if you’re willing to explore this wonderful tool for self-growth, you will be hooked. Several of the people I met last night at an Enneagram Meetup have been students of the Enneagram for several years. And they were all there because, like me, they were hungry for more ways to integrate the Enneagram into their lives.

Check Google to see if there are classes or study groups in your area. You will reap the most benefits of the Enneagram by studying it within a community.

Spiritual direction is another place to explore your type although not all spiritual directors are familiar with the Enneagram. I have been taking classes and studying for a year and a half, and sometimes I feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface.

But I know enough to know that for me, this is the best way to change and to grow toward becoming the person God intended me to be.

Enneagram Diagram Courtesy of: By Twisp – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20389925