The Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram) is a personality typing system that helps us to understand our motivations, gifts or talents, and areas of struggle. It gives us a birds-eye view of how and why we approach life the way we do. A mentor of mine describes the Enneagram this way: "What if you had a roadmap — a “soul-map” — for understanding who you are and what makes the people around you tick? A time-tested system that integrates your whole being and can be applied to every area of your life? And what if this map could help you tap into your essential nature, resulting in truly authentic relationships and a deep sense of living "on purpose?" This map exists, and it’s the Enneagram… a powerful personality typing system that serves as a profound gateway to your inner wisdom. It can shed light on behaviors which might be undermining your ability to access wholeness, true intimacy and fulfilment of your life’s dreams." (Jerry Wagner, PhD)
The Enneagram is by far my favorite therapeutic tool. It has roots in the ancient world, but has recently had a resurgence of interest, not only in the therapy world but also in business, relationships, self-care, and more. Experts agree that we are all born with a dominant personality type; we possess an individual orientation toward life. Yet we also share collective values or ethical principles that are at the core of humanity, such as goodness, love, wisdom, and compassion. The nine personality types of the Enneagram are based on shared core values that individuals' orientations are most characterized by. We all share these values or character traits, but in varying degrees. Our personality type as determined by the Enneagram falls under whichever trait is most pronounced. The nine types are:
- The Good Person
- The Loving Person
- The Effective Person
- The Original Person
- The Wise Person
- The Loyal Person
- The Joyful Person
- The Powerful Person
- The Peaceful Person
When I was at a crossroads in my adult life, someone introduced me to the Enneagram, and it was like a light had been turned on in a dim room--I saw my life, motivations, relationships, interests, and struggles in a whole new light! It felt like someone had read the most personal pages of my journal and then explained why I was feeling, acting, and relating the ways I did. It was simultaneously freeing and also very humbling. Ever since that experience, I've been an Enneagram evangelist, telling anyone who will listen about this valuable tool.
As it turns out, I'm a classic type 9, The Peacemaker. Born a middle child, the only extrovert in a family of introverts, from a young age I was skilled at reading a room for emotions, avoiding conflict, preserving peace, and helping people move from disagreement to union. Is it any surprise that I became a therapist?!
In addition to profiling our prominent motivations, the Enneagram also sheds light on our basic desires, fears, and the directions we move in times of growth or stress. It is a helpful tool for not only understanding one's self, but improving relationships, highlighting areas of strength, moving us toward personal growth, and bringing clarity and purpose to our lives.
If any of this appeals to you, I suggest the following:
The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles by Jerome Wagner
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile