An introduction to the Enneagram

Over the next few weeks I am going to focus on the Enneagram. For those of you who have never heard of the Enneagram, it is anancient andexcellent tool that at a basic level can be used as a personality indicator but is far richer, deeper and more in-depth than that.

Don Riso and Russ Hudson in their book The Wisdom of the Enneagram describe it as a: geometric figure that maps out the nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.

Christopher Heurtz in his book The Sacred Enneagram beautifully describes it as: the nine ways we get lost, but also the nine ways we can come home to our true self. Put another way, it exposes nine ways we lie to ourselves about who we think we are, nine ways we can come clean about those illusions, and nine ways we can find our way back to God. He goes on to say that: It explains the “why” of how we think, act and feel. It helps us come to terms with our gifts as well as the addictive patterns that tether us to our greatest interpersonal, spiritual and emotional challenges. The Enneagarm invites us to deeper self-awareness as a doorway to spiritual growth.

With its roots going back as far as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth century and having its roots in spiritual wisdom from many ancient traditions, this wonderful tool has been around for a very long time. It isn’t strict, it’s not a way to box us in but rather free us from our self-made boxes. Its role is to support the ever evolving, transforming human journey. Richard Rohr is very wise in saying that the Enneagram is most helpful when used in conjunction with other practices like study, contemplation, therapy, spiritual direction, and life in community with others.

So… to a very brief introduction to the nine types borrowed mostly from Alice Fryling – Mirror for the Soul.

Ones – gifted with goodness, they do things extremely well and are conscientious and ethical. Their false self tells them that they are responsible for making life perfect and when this doesn’t happen ones can experience anger towards themselves, others and God.

Twos – gifted to love but when operating out of the false, they like to feel needed by others rather than loving unconditionally. This can lead to them meeting the needs of others compulsively whilst denying their own needs leading to pride. They need to know what everyone else needs but no-one can know what they need. Humility opens the door to them acknowledging their needs and loving with authenticity from a true place.

Threes – gifted to be effective and succeed in making things happen. They may become vain and do not do well when confronted with possible failure. From their false state that can give in to deceit in order to fulfil the image they’ve constructed. The Enneagram offers threes a place to embrace and express the truth about themselves, their abilities, weaknesses and emotions.

Fours – reflect the creativity of God. They can be prone to self-doubt, self-contempt and self-hatred. They suffer with envy seeing everyone else as having qualities that they’re missing. They are deep feelers and their journey is towards continuing to feel deeply but not getting stuck there.

Fives – gifted with wisdom. They have an insatiable quest for knowledge and information and can get protective of the knowledge they possess. From their false self they get greedy for knowledge but are unwilling to give it away. As they learn to detach they hold more loosely to all that they know and are able to relinquish the insatiability around knowledge.

Sixes – faithful and loyal. They don’t trust themselves and give more weight to the opinions of others than their own. They are prone to fear, needing to be prepared for any eventuality and danger. As they transform they learn to trust themselves and God more deeply leading.

Sevens – gifted with joy. They can run from the negative or painful parts of life by going from one activity and experience to another. They have a gluttonous thirst for anything joyful or happy in order to avoid inner pain. As they transform into their true selves, they can enjoy life even when it includes pain.

Eights – leaders gifted with power. They may deny their own vulnerability as they have a fear of weakness. This may lead them to dominate others and give in to a lust for power. They are invited by God to accept their weakness and vulnerability.

Nines – gifted with peace. They are calm and content but fear change and conflict. They can become lazy and slothful as a way to avoid the things they fear taking the path of least resistance. Nines are called to action and in their true self are able to be more assertive, state their preferences and become energised and more present to life.

As the weeks go on, we will look in more depth at each number which will provide a platform from which to dig deeper.

The Enneagram can be extremely useful as you continue your journey of growth and transformation. As a Spiritual Director, I can join you in discovering more about yourself through exploring The Enneagram and your number within it.