I was first introduced to the Enneagram from one of my best friends, Cameron, in St. Augustine. She was using it in her independent study for Youth Ministry at Flagler College. My girlfriends and I were looking for a bible study to do together and Cameron suggested that we look into doing a study on the Enneagram. We found a book that taught it from the Christian perspective and that had a study guide called The Road Back to You. I immediately ordered the book and dove right in. After eagerly skimming each type's description I was torn between 3 types. I decided to read the full chapter of the type I felt the strongest pull towards and that was it. I knew I had found mine. I didn't know other people had the same kind of motivations and thoughts and struggles that I did! It was a wave of understanding and comfort (and a lot of me saying ouch). We then began our study of the book throughout the following month. Doing the study together as friends was life-changing. I found out things about myself and my friend's inner lives that I would never have known otherwise.
So what is it? A cult? A Buzzfeed quiz? Another Myers Briggs thing? No. The Enneagram is a tool for self discovery and growth based upon ancient teachings coupled with modern psychology. The Enneagram describes 9 distinct personality types. It's common to find a little of yourself in each type, though one of them will stand out as being closest to yourself. We're all born with a dominant type which then determines the way we adapt to our childhood environments and so on. The Enneagram also has spiritual roots. Jesuit monks would use it in their teachings and even now, pastors and theologians use it in counseling, in churches, and for spiritual growth.
Why study it?
After studying the Enneagram, I found that I had a deeper ability to love others and love them how they need to be loved. I no longer expected people to react to situations in the same manner that I would. I recognized unhealthy patterns in my life that had never been called out before. It helped me cope with issues and hard times without retreating into my typical behavior. It makes you aware of your desires and motivations. It certainly helped me feel understood in ways I had never felt before (as a type that chronically feels misunderstood). And most importantly it brings you closer to the One who embodies the positives all types - Jesus. We are all just facets of Him.
What are the 9 types?
(A very basic overview)
Type One (The Reformer) is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic. This person wants to be right, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, and to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone. People of this type have an inner critic in their head.
Type Two (The Helper) is generous, people-pleasing, empathetic, and possessive. This person wants to be loved, to express their feelings for others, to be appreciated, and can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. People of this type find it difficult to seek help for themselves but take pride in being needed.
Type Three (The Performer) is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious. This person wants to be affirmed, to distinguish themselves from others, to have attention, and to achieve success. People of this type may subconsciously put their feelings aside to in order accomplish a goal and can change their persona to blend in with various social groups.
Type Four (The Romantic) is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental. This person wants to express themselves and their individuality, to create and surround themselves with beauty, to maintain certain moods and feelings, and to take care of emotional needs before attending to anything else. People of this type are attracted to melancholy, longing, and want what is unavailable or hard to get.
Type Five (The Observer) is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated. This person wants to possess knowledge, to have everything figured out as a way of defending themselves from threats, and to protect their independence. People of this type believe their resources are scarce and store up their knowledge and privacy.
Type Six (The Skeptic) is engaging, responsible, anxious, and loyal. This person wants to have security, to feel supported by others, to have reassurance, to test the attitudes of others toward them, and to fight against anxiety and insecurity. People of this type are worst case scenario thinkers and often have trouble making decisions because of doubt.
Type Seven (The Enthusiast) is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered. This person wants to maintain their freedom and happiness, to avoid missing out on worthwhile experiences, to keep themselves excited and occupied, and to avoid painful experiences. People of this type are often planning their next adventure and fear committing to a limiting experience.
Type Eight (The Challenger) is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational. This person wants to be self-reliant, to prove their strength and resist weakness, to be important in their world, to dominate the environment, and to stay in control of their situation. People of this type have an "all-or-nothing" style of attention, seeing the extremes of a situation.
Type Nine (The Peacemaker) is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned. This person wants to create harmony in their environment, to avoid conflicts and tension, to preserve things as they are, and to resist whatever would upset or disturb them. People of this type can relate to all sides of an argument and merge with loved ones, losing boundaries and taking on their point of view.
*Fun fact: I'm a Type 4*
1. It's just another personality quiz.
False. The Enneagram is not an online quiz you can take in 5 minutes and suddenly gain self discovery. The best way to find your type is to read about all 9 of them (preferably in a book!) In most instances when I introduce it to someone I'll hear, "so it's like Myers Briggs?" I personally don't like to compare the two because Myers Briggs is indeed a personality quiz and the Enneagram is not. In fact, the Enneagram strives to break the chains of our personality (used interchangeably with the phrase "false self") in order to become a healthier person. Personality reacts to the ever changing outer environment with identifiable, predictable and conditioned reactions. Thus, personality is said to be the “conditioned being” as opposed to the “real being”. You can read more about that here.
2. It boxes you in.
The Enneagram is not an excuse for your behavior nor do you behave a certain way just because a book says so. The Enneagram is freeing; it gives you the tools to break the pattern of your behavior - not conform to it. I like how Ian Cron describes it in The Road Back to You. He says each of the 9 types are a basic shade of a color, but that every person is a varying shade of that color.
3. It's witchcraft because it sounds like pentagram
The word Enneagram is of greek origin and refers to a diagram with 9 points or lines. The diagram shows how each type is connected, where each type moves in health, stress, and the different triads of the head, heart, and gut. More on that here. It's just a visual aid really.
4. My type is the worst one
I hear this too often and it breaks my heart each time. Every type has positive and negative traits. No type is worse than another. Trust me. It's tough to be called out on things we thought were hidden or only we knew about - but thats how change happens! We need every type to have a full and interesting world. Having trouble seeing the positives of your type? Just ask me and I'll tell you!
Feeling Inspired? Heres the Books I Recommend:
The best introductory book: The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. They also have an excellent podcast.
The best for deeper learning: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr.
The best for spiritual growth: The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz.
The best website: The Enneagram Institute (sign up for their daily emails!)