For those wondering about the Enneagram we've been talking about, I thought I would jump on and do a quick article on why you should care about the Enneagram.
First, as always, some context. The Enneagram has ancient roots and was known only to a select few in religious orders for most of its history, Only in the last couple of decades has it become widely known in cultural spheres as a personality typing system. In many ways, it is like any personality typing system (eg. Myers-Briggs) but it tends to have a little more psychology behind it than more popular systems.
So how does it work?
The short answers is, nobody really knows. It just works. There are nine distinct (this is key) types that people generally fall into. These nine, break down into three broader umbrellas of "centers" or primary vehicles for experiencing the world. 2, 3, and 4 are the emotional or feeling center; 5, 6, and 7 are the logical or feeling center; and 8, 9, and 1 are the visceral or body center. These centers, along with the specific traits, potential neuroses, and motivations of the numbers (and their wings) make up a persons type. Sound complicated? It is; at least complicated enough to be helpful. So why should you know your type or number?
1) Knowing yourself helps with judgement in decisions.
Speaking to an 8 after a passionate public disagreement in Seminary, they told me that they actually agreed with me on most of what I was saying but the motivation to fight, for the sake of fighting, was a strong pull for them. WHAT?! We just went though this very public war of words on Platonic Dualism because you like disagreeing?? The thing is, I've probably been in many similar disagreements with 8s in the past but this student was self-aware enough, because of the Enneagram, to voice that his underlying motivation was actually for the conflict.
We all have fundamental tendencies that shape why we make the decisions we do. Some are learned, like things stemming from trauma or habit; some are inherent. Knowing your Enneagram type may help you uncover what some of your key motivations or tendencies are and may keep you from getting yourself in unnecessary trouble.
2) Knowing your type helps your relationships.
Every had a fight with your partner that made no sense? Not like, "we fought over which Star Wars Prequel was the best." Yes that is a fight that makes no sense because all the prequels are bad but it's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a fight where it seemed like you were speaking different languages.
The truth is, you probably were. Different Enneagram types have different ways of communicating their emotions and when they are emotional. Sometimes my mom, (7) and my dad (1) would have a fight about how to put the dishes away. This was not about control, it was a fight about priorities. My mom just wanted to move onto the next stimulating and fun activity; my dad had a rigidity for rules and order. They loved each other but those fights were utterly pointless and avoidable if they had known their Enneagram and utilized it.
3) The Enneagram helps you unpack your anxieties.
In "The Courage to Be" Paul Tillich (I'm paraphrasing) identifies anxiety as different then fear because fear has an object while anxiety lacks one. As such, anxiety has a propensity to spin out of control because it is not grounded in reality by a rational object to anchor it. One who is afraid of heights won't likely have a panic attack while on the ground.
Most (non-clinical) anxieties, however, do have a source at their core. We just often don't do the work of going deep enough in ourselves to figure it out. The Enneagram is a GREAT way to begin to do that. Often learning about your Enneagram Type, for this reason, can be a painful experience requiring plenty of processing but I have not yet met a person who has not come out on the other side better for it.