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What on Earth is the Enneagram?

By: Yvette Cherry

Sometimes this thing happens in my life where I learn a new word or concept, hear about a new person, or restaurant or book, and then suddenly, I’m seeing that thing everywhere.

It happened this way when we bought a Kia Carnival. I’m sure there were approximately zero Kia Carnivals on the road before we got ours, but when we drove around town in it, two-year-old Millie would point them out and cry, “same car! same car!” These “same cars” were everywhere!

In the last six months, that thing that kept popping up was the Enneagram. I did not really know what the Enneagram was, but I was hearing about it so often that I thought I’d better do some investigating. My friend Susan Browning is a huge fan of the Enneagram so she gave me a list of websites and books to learn more about it.

I’ve been learning about the Enneagram for about five minutes now (just long enough to make me a complete guru) and I’m here for you with just the most basic, scratch-the-surface-answers in case you too have been wondering, “what on Earth is this Enneagram?”

So here goes…

The Enneagram is a personality profiling tool to help you discover more about yourself and why you do the things you do. (Other examples of typology tools include the Myer Briggs Type Indicator or the DISC test.)

The Enneagram supposes that there are nine personality types and that each of us relates most closely to one specific type. It suggests that our personality type is formed in early childhood as we respond to the way we are parented and the way we perceive the circumstances of life.

“The Enneagram teaches that there are nine different personality styles in the world, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe.” — Ian Cron, Road Back to You

Franciscan priest Richard Rohr believes the Enneagram is an extremely helpful tool for Christians and in his book, ‘The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective’ he defends the Enneagram as a tool that is consistent with the gospel and faith and gives a brief history of how it was used in the Catholic tradition as early as the Desert Fathers. The Enneagram has been used in many different religions, and it looks a little like an occultic symbol, so it makes some Conservative Evangelical Nans and Pops nervous. (Or in my case, the little Conservative Evangelical Nanna living inside me.) But I’m convinced the Enneagram is a legit tool for people of faith.

The Enneagram is more than a simple personality test. It’s a deep dive into who we are, the ways we act in health and unhealth, the unhealthy motivations that drive us and the ways we cover up for our weakness and perceived failures. The thing I like most about the Enneagram, however, is that it reveals sinful patterns that prevent us from growing closer to God and it shows up the ways we try to hide from God.

Reading about the Enneagram and discovering my type (Type 3) has been really helpful and really uncomfortable. When I first read the description of Type 3, I cringed. It was very accurate, especially where it described the ways I fail and the unhealthy motivations behind some of the things I do.

An Enneagram Type 3 is an “achiever”. They are driven, self-motivated, hard-working and have a need to succeed and feel significant. They are often talented, have an easy time getting jobs done efficiently and competently, they inspire and motivate others. They are good at connecting and networking and represent their company or institution well. BUT, they are often motivated by the need to be admired and approved of. As children, they idealised victory and success and developed the sense that, “I’m good when I win.” They are highly susceptible to feelings of shame.

Threes are show-people and status seekers who work extremely hard for their success whilst trying to make it appear as though things come easily. They want to be praised, endorsed and admired, but they don’t always get that, because people don’t realise how much they “need” it.

A Three has trouble resting, and even more trouble identifying and talking about their feelings.

That describes me very well. A lot of the good and all of the bad.

The Enneagram shows that as you mature, emotionally and spiritually, you embody the best parts of your type, and you take on the characteristics of the type you would be if you were a completely healed and whole person. (Maybe who  you will be in heaven.)

I highly recommend learning about the Enneagram, and finding out what “type” you are, what your ‘wing’ is, and where you go in health and unhealth. Discovering the Enneagram and learning about my type has already helped me a great deal. I feel more aware of myself and have been thinking about the underlying motivation behind the things I do.

A challenge for me the past few months has been to just live without feeling the need to tell the whole world about it (she says as she types a public blog…) and to keep reminding myself that God loves me even when I achieve nothing.

If you’d like to find out more about the Enneagram, here are some good links:

Books:

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery Kindle Edition
by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth Kindle Edition
by Christopher L. Heuertz (Author),‎ Richard Rohr (Foreword)

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective Kindle Edition by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships Kindle Edition by Suzanne Stabile

Podcasts:

Typology Podcast: https://www.typologypodcast.com/

YouTube:

I like this one because this super cute girl applies her makeup while she talks about it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL67L1I2z5A

Website:

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

You might be interested in taking this Enneagram test and figuring out what type you are. (It costs US$12.) Another way is to read all the descriptions and see which one feels right (The test should narrow it down to the three most likely options but you are only one.)  Alternatively you can take the free short sample test.

Article supplied with thanks to Yvette Cherry.

About the Author: Yvette is a wife, mum to four little girls, worship ministry coordinator, and former English teacher.

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