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 behaviors. 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 fixates on a particular fear and forms a primary identity in response to it, a 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. We also 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 reinforce their own negative, habitual patterns. For this reason, it is best to be introduced to the Enneagram by an experienced guide who can respond to individual questions in a safe, interpersonal setting. The following offerings are available as a resource for 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 it is dealing with lifelong patterns and largely unconscious values, fears, and motivations, even the tests can sometimes give you 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 find it hard to identify those aspects of our experience that are so deeply ingrained, and in some cases we may we feel ashamed or afraid to confront the truth about ourselves so directly.
For all these reasons, figuring your Enneagram "type" can be a confusing process. Kristen also offers one-on-one Enneagram guidance in the context of spiritual direction. Click here to take the online Enneagram test and learn more.
Kristen has researched and worked with the Enneagram for over a decade. She has worked with people of all types and levels of experience, guiding newcomers through the process of discerning their type for the first time, and helping those with a cursory knowledge of the system begin to develop a deeper understanding of how it applies in everyday situations and relationships.
Kristen received her bachelors degree in communication studies from UNCG in 2004, where she was trained in interpersonal dynamics, family systems, socialization theory, identity construction, and social psychology. In 2014, she earned her Masters in Divinity (M.Div.) from Union Theological Seminary, where she took several graduate level courses in psychology and religion. Kristen was trained in the Enneagram through the Servant Leadership School of Greensboro, a spiritual formation program where she served as assistant director and adjunct faculty from 2015-2017.