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What is the Enneagram?

Put simply, the Enneagram is a tool for personal development. Based in a system of nine personality types, the Enneagram draws on a diverse mix of psychology, Western and Eastern spiritual traditions, and mindfulness. Unlike many typologies, however, the Enneagram is not a categorizing system or a party trick. Working with the Enneagram is not about figuring out which "box" you fit in so you can show off your special talents to your friends. It is a tool to help us see how we are already living in a limited way--in our own self-made "boxes" created by our habitual behaviors and beliefs--and, crucially, how we can get some freedom from those self-inflicted limitations. 

At its core, the Enneagram is about waking you up to who you really are and what you are really capable of. It requires us to deeply engage with ourselves, with each other, and with reality. It is the key becoming an active participant in our own lives. Our time here is short! I don't know about you, but I want to really live while I am here.

Ok, but how can it help me?

Working with the Enneagram can open us to new possibilities in our lives—things we never believed could happen. Each of us has created an identity based on likes and dislikes, what we can and can’t do, and so on. I used to be skittish and uncertain of everything, always searching for security and never wanting to do anything risky, and now I have my own private teaching business. Talk about risk! Without the Enneagram I never would have realized the limits I had been putting on myself, and I would likely be sequestered away in some “normal” job where I felt “safe” (so what if it’s soul-crushing and not at all in line with my natural gifts?). 

It can also help us understand each other, and forgive each other. Learning the Enneagram illuminates my own ideas of myself, but it also illuminates my ideas of others. When I spend my life believing you are somebody you are not, or seeing you only on the surface, or having expectations for how you ought to be, I cause suffering for myself and for you. And I might feel disappointed when you don’t live up to my expectations! Those are all natural ways humans are in the world—but we don’t have to be. The Enneagram gives us the tools to notice our own habitual patterns and behaviors, and the resources to choose not to act on them.

I don't like the idea of being reduced to "just a type"!

Good!! There's a saying in the Enneagram community: "Your type is the least interesting thing about you." Fortunately for us, while the Enneagram might be a grouping of nine personality types, its underlying message is that your true identity is a complete mystery. For starters, every single person has every type in them to some degree. I call a person's unique grouping of each type's strengths and weaknesses their "constellation." I might identify most strongly as a Nine, but I might also have plenty of Two and Five going on. Or I might be an Eight with a lot of Six and One, all to varying degrees. There are an infinite number of possible constellations, just as there are an infinite number of possible humans.

 

That said, there is usually one type that people will identify as more than the rest. We say that is our "home base" type. When faced with a stressful situation, there will be a type whose habits and behaviors we default to, and that is also the type most ripe for growth in a person.