Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Enneagram and You

The Enneagram has ancient roots, stemming from Christian desert monk and medieval Sufi sources.  In the last 25 or so years, there has been more written and discussed about this practice.  It helps us identify the ways we hide from ourselves and from God.  Last August my friend Mark told me about Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert's book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

It's recommended that one does not explore the Enneagram until they are in their 30s, at the latest early 40s.  Too soon and you have not fully developed your character and natural ways of dealing with life.  Too late and you are likely to be too entrenched in those responses and unable or unwilling to identify them and change.

One must not enter this lightly.  Discovering your type will be freeing in the end but it will first force you to confront yourself, the person that is a sinner in need of grace, who doesn't always make the best decisions, whose instincts may hurt others.  We are used to the way we respond; the "dark side" of our gifts isn't always readily apparent.  Rohr notes that discovering your type will make you miserable at first.

Why would anyone want to do this if it makes you miserable, you ask?  Because understanding your motivations and your root sins need not end with simply identifying them.  The flip side of our selfishness is our capacity to love. We see that our type, when we are whole, can enable us to give our gifts to others. We are the best version of ourselves and most open to being used by God. We are given the opportunity to grow and "become more mature, wiser, and integrated" (p. 26.)

The 9 Types:
One: The Need to be Perfect
Two: The Need to be Needed
Three: The Need to Succeed
Four: The Need to be Special
Five: The Need to Perceive
Six: The Need for Security
Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain
Eight: The Need to be Against
Nine: The Need to Avoid

Shauna Niequist has written a short overview of each type.  It's well worth reading but I'd still encourage you to pick up a copy of Rohr and Ebert's book.  While tests are available, it's more effective to read, ponder, pray, and discuss with others.

Perhaps this is still confusing so I will briefly walk you through Type Two, the Helper.

Twos use their gifts to help others, standing by them during difficult times. "Twos desperately want to be liked and have an exaggerated need for validation" (p. 63.)  Their root sin is false pride, as they condescend to those they serve.  Twos' identity is wrapped up in being needed, consequently adapting their personality to whomever needs them.  Their temptation is to always help everyone else, which enables them to avoid themselves.  The dilemma and gift of Twos is that they give others what they want for themselves (the golden rule)- this may not always be what the other person actually wants or needs.  Their defense mechanism is repression. The pitfall is flattery, seen by denying who they are to please others. Mature Twos are able to love unconditionally, without any ulterior motives. Their fruit of the spirit (gift) is humility, as they are able to identify their real motivation.  The invitation to Twos is for freedom- freedom from manipulating others to meet their own needs and from dependency on others for meaning. Tasks for a Two are to learn to say no and to understand what their own needs are.

Very interesting, isn't it?  You may be wondering why I gave that particular example. When I started to read The Enneagram, I was sure I'd be a Two, as I work in a helping profession.  However, I'm not.  As to what type I actually am, you'll have to come back tomorrow!

After reading Shauna's overview, what type do you think you are?  What are your thoughts about the Enneagram?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.


  1. SO interesting! I am a big Myers Brigg nerd, and I only recently discovered the Enneagram. I have only done online testing, so I don't know how accurate it is, but I tested as a Nine: The Peacemaker (and YES!!!! Avoider!!!!). It is so, so accurate in its description of me. I got chill bumps reading that piece at Shauna's just now because oh my WORD. Yes.

    I enjoy Richard Rohr's writings but hadn't heard of this book. On to the To Read List it goes. Thanks, Leigh!

  2. So cool. I would love to know more. I'll check it out.

  3. I was right! A dead ringer for #5. SO ME!

  4. @Megan, let me know what you think whenever you get around to reading it! It was so helpful to figure out my type but also the types of my dearest friends and loved ones. I love that it acknowledges our messy bits and gives us hope and direction on where to go from them.

    @Kim, yay for Fives! Can't wait to experience your Five-ness in person:)

  5. loving this..i am such a personality profile junkie!!
    Gonna take a look at this--i have a funny feeling I know where i'm gonna land:)
    thanks for being so big hearted and sharing your plethora of wisdom!

  6. Just happened upon this post seeing your comment on a TRDC post. I'm so excited now, I've never "met" anyone outside of my high school who has heard of the Enneagram before. I was just going to write a post about it myself! I came across the version of it my senior year psychology teacher, Sr. Mary Ellen, gave us. I was an 8 back then, and I'm still an 8. My best friend in high school was a 5 and my husband is a 5. He's supposed to move toward my personality, but I've moved more toward 5 over the years. Thanks for the additional references, I've never come across them before. I've never heard that exact description of 8's before (the need to be against, ugh, that does sound like me but...ouch).

    I can't wait for your big reveal!

  7. hopefully I can find this book at the library and read it. IT sounds like I am a two though!

  8. @Lindsay, let me know where you fall!

    @Logyexpress, so fun that you're even more well-versed in this than I am! Enneagram is a much stronger practice in the Catholic church. Interesting that you've moved more toward 5 over the years...

    @Teresa, I would think it would be at the library. The original version came out 20 or years ago. Otherwise maybe you could find a used copy for cheap on Amazon. I love hearing what type people think they are!


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