The Enneagram is a tool that awakens our compassion for people just as they are, not the people we wish they would become so our lives would become easier.
Ian Morgan Cron
I’m a big fan of Myers-Briggs, a personality tool that gives us a broad overview of how we operate in the world, but it’s essentially a descriptive tool. You won’t find much information or specific clues to identify what you may or may not need to change and improve based on your personality type. The Enneagram, however, gives you a clear and straight vision of how you can either break through or break down in life since it offers insights into what motivates you and what patterns may hold you back from being your best self.
Even people who think they know themselves enough can learn a lot from the enneagram. In fact, when you assume you already know yourself, that’s usually when you get comfortable and you stop questioning your behavior and attitudes. However, once we stop questioning, we stop learning, and we take our own very existence for granted. Spotting where we are misperceiving reality and where we are not using our essence to the best of our abilities becomes a difficult task.
There are lenses we use to interpret the reality that may have been useful in the past, in our childhood or teenage years. These lenses allowed us to survive and move through life, but that doesn’t mean they are adequate, healthy, or even helpful in the present moment. The Enneagram gives us guidance about what these lenses might be, how they manifest when we are under stress, and how we can tap into and return our true essence. According to the enneagram, connecting with our true essence allows us to stand on a path of integration instead of stress and overwhelm.
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In total, there are 9 different Enneagram personality types, which are represented in a nine-pointed geometric figure. Ennea means “nine”, and gram means “figure”. We tend to adopt one of these types in childhood to cope and survive. Each type holds a specific view of the world, which in turn shapes the way we think, feel and behave. Within each type, there are healthy, average, and unhealthy levels of functioning. These levels depend on self-awareness and circumstances.
When under stress, we tend to assume the negative characteristics of the personality style that is connected to our personality type in the figure by an arrow pointing away. When in balance, we tend to assume the positive characteristics of the type connected to ours by an arrow pointing back to our core personality number. For instance, I’m an enneagram 4 and, under stress, I assume the negative traits of enneagram 2, which are often related to codependency. When I’m in a good place, however, I assume some of the traits of enneagram 1, a personality that is driven by ethics and morals.
As a tool, the Enneagram gives us the opportunity to expand our self-knowledge, identify what limits us, what empowers us, and how to seek greater integration within ourselves while also respecting everyone’s differences. That’s why I agree when authors say the Enneagram is a tool that can help us become more compassionate toward each other.
We should never use, nonetheless, our personality as an excuse for wrongdoing and hurting others. You can’t say I’m like this so deal with it. To give you a concrete example, as an enneagram 4 I need to keep my intense emotions in check so that I don’t overwhelm others on a regular basis, and I also look forward to developing traits associated with enneagram type 1 (e.g. principled, purposeful), which help me ground my creativity.
To find out what Enneagram number you are, you can take this test.
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