What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a powerful tool for self-awareness that is rooted in ancient wisdom and informed by contemporary psychology. It compiles centuries of research about personality formation and development into a comprehensive system that can serve as a guide for navigating the complexities of human experience and relationships.
The Enneagram is different from other popular personality systems like the MBTI (Myers-Briggs) or True Colors, which deal primarily with our behavioral patterns. These systems help us reach a degree of self-awareness by reflecting our own behaviors back to us, but they can only really show us what we do. The Enneagram looks at why we do what we do, examining the deep motivational factors that drive our choices, and how those factors relate to one another.
The Enneagram identifies nine modalities for how people respond to life based on the nine basic human fears: the fear of being bad or wrong, the fear of being unloved, the fear of being worthless, the fear of having no identity, the fear of being incapable, the fear of being without support, the fear of being in pain, the fear of being controlled, and the fear of being in conflict.
All human beings experience all of these fears throughout our lives, but early in our development, the human ego tends to fixate on a particular fear, and forms a primary identity in response to it - a default way of being in the world that we hope will keep us safe. This identity plays out unconsciously like a script in the back of our minds, telling us how we "should" live, establishing our modus operandi as well as our "blind spots." Convinced that our way to live is the "best" way, we fail to see our shadow side - the unhealthy patterns associated with our way of being in the world - and we struggle to truly understand the choices of others whose lives are oriented around different centers of concern.
The purpose of discovering your Enneagram "type," then, is not to label you "put you in a box," but rather, to get you out of the box you are already in! This awareness installs a kind of "rearview mirror" on your life that can help you to check your "blind spot," which can significantly improve your life and relationships, opening you up to new possibilities and ways of being in the world.
Simply knowing your type, however, is not necessarily automatically helpful. Without the proper framework for understanding what to do with this information, it can even become counterproductive: people will often end up interpreting the Enneagram through the lens of their type, and unwittingly end up using it to defend their identity and make snap judgments about the identities of others in ways that reinforce their own negative, habitual patterns. For this reason, it is best to be introduced to the Enneagram by an experienced guide who can present a heathy framework for approaching the Enneagram, and respond to individual questions and concerns in a safe, interpersonal setting.
I offer the following resources for both individuals and groups who want to learn more about the Enneagram system:
Introduction to the Enneagram
This workshop offers a complete introductory overview of the Enneagram system. We will look at each of the nine personality types, and get a basic understanding of their variants and the relationships between them. Prior knowledge of your Enneagram type is not necessary for this course, as we will discuss different approaches for determining your type. This course can be taught in both secular/ecumenical and Christian contexts. In Christian settings, the Enneagram will be placed within a Biblical anthropology as well as a theological framework that connects the work of personal growth and transformation to the journey of Christian discipleship.
The Nine Personality Types
This workshop is intended primarily for those who already know their type and have a working knowledge of the Enneagram system, who want to go deeper with their journey of self-discovery and transformation. We will spend time looking even more deeply into what is at stake for each of the nine personality types, and begin to address some of the relational issues that often manifest between the types. This workshop is a highly interactive group-based learning experience and will ask participants to be vulnerable with themselves and one another.
One-on-One Enneagram Guidance
Having a hard time trying to figure out your Enneagram type? You aren't alone. Like a fish trying to see water, figuring out your "type" is not easy. Because we are seeking to identify lifelong patterns and largely unconscious values, fears, and motivations, even the tests can sometimes give inaccurate results. When we are so accustomed to seeing the world in a particular way, we often don't realize we are looking through a lens at all. We may not only find it hard to identify those aspects of our experience that are so deeply ingrained, but in some cases we may we feel ashamed or resistant to confronting the truth about ourselves so directly.
For all these reasons, figuring your Enneagram "type" can be a confusing process. In addition to group offerings, I also work one-on-one with individuals, offering Enneagram guidance within the context of spiritual direction. Click here to learn more about spiritual direction, or click here to take an online Enneagram test and get started.
I have been researching and working with the Enneagram for over a decade. I was first introduced to the Enneagram in 2005 through my work with The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro (now Second Breath Center), which taught the Enneagram in the narrative tradition of Helen Palmer, along with guidance and workshops from Fr. William Meninger and Fr. Richard Rohr. Over the last several years, I have worked with people of all types and levels of experience in self-awareness work, guiding newcomers through the process of discerning their type and helping those with only a cursory knowledge of the system begin to deepen their understanding of how to apply its wisdom in everyday situations and relationships.
My bachelors degree in communication studies provides an additional framework for understanding the Enneagram as a dynamic system, having been trained in social psychology, interpersonal dynamics, family systems, socialization theory, and identity construction. While earning my Masters in Divinity (M.Div.) from Union Theological Seminary, I took several graduate courses in psychology and spirituality, seeking to understand the complex relationships between identity, trauma, and the concept of the self in relation to religious and spiritual transformation.