For the next ten days I am going to spend some time writing about a topic called the Enneagram- a subject that is near and dear to my heart. The Enneagram is a personality typing system that emphasizes psychological motivations. It has an interesting history that dates back to the esoteric teacher George Gurdjieff (1866-1949) but has recently regained popularity among clinicians and lay person’s alike as a fun and effective tool to self-growth.
The Enneagram offers a way to better understand one’s emotional outlook on life. It can’t cure problems, but it can help point out the underlying fixations that lead to recurring problems in our lives. It is also a great tool for allowing us to better understand how other people see the world differently. I have been using the Enneagram in my clinical practice for years and find it to be one of the most potent growth tools I have for helping my clients see their underlying issues. I use is endlessly in my personal life as well and have found it to be the single most powerful ‘bust my own chops’ tool that I have when I want to get real with myself and grow through something.
The Enneagram system itself can be a simple or as complex as you want- a quick pop-psychology quiz, or a lifetime of self study…. You get to decide how deep to dig.
There are 9 basic personality types, and you can take a quick and dirty test here to give you an idea of what your type might be. But taking the tests and finding your type is just a small part of the Enneagram system. Once you know your type, there are several other layers of identity that correspond to that type. For example, every Personality type has a wing. Wings are the numbers that sit on either side of our type number (So a person who is a type 5 will have either a 4 wing or a 6 wing.) There are further enneagram tests to take that help you understand what your wing is. Understanding our wings adds another layer of self-awareness to understanding how we move through the world the way we do. Once you know your Enneagram type, you can take further tests to find out what your wing is.
There is also an Enneagram barometer of sorts that you can use to watch to gauge your level of mental/emotional health. This barometer is often expressed in Enneagram writings as ‘Integrated, Average, or Disintegrating’ Once you know your type you can begin to study the warning signs of how you may act when you are beginning to ‘disintegrate’ into lower behaviors. In the case of the Enneagram being ‘average’ is okay, but is always shaky ground. What the Enneagram system teaches us to do, is to aspire toward our ‘Integrated’ or best selves.
A simple system it is not, but the Enneagram system can offer a lifetime of self-study to those who are interested in learning how to bring their best self forward into the world.
What I love most about the Enneagram is the way it brings people together. When you learn your type and can ‘Ennea-talk’ with someone else and compare and contrast your types, it is not just illuminating and useful, it is laugh out loud funny. The Enneagram teaches us about the things that secretly motivate us, and the way we are all masters of sabotaging ourselves is both predictable and humbling.
Finding our true Enneatype requires honesty, and when taking an Enneagram test it is important to mark your answers based on how you really are in the world, not on how you want to be, or strive to be. When you read about your Enneatype description and it feels like someone has read your diary- you know you have found your true Enneatype.
The test I have listed above is just one of oodles available online. (The best tests are not the free ones.)
It’s a wonderful system of learning for anyone committed to growth, and over the next 9 days I will do a brief synopsis of each Enneatype.
And I am curious, what’s your type?