The last year or so has been a journey of growing in self-awareness. Self-awareness, perhaps contrary to what some might suppose, is not actually a selfish pursuit. Or rather, it need not be. One might make the case that Jesus’ own awareness of himself— his identity and mission— shaped his decisions each day. In a similar way, I want to know myself— through the lens of how God has made me to be— so that I can walk in my true calling. If I am not living out of a healthy, mature true self, how can I give myself for others?
The Enneagram has helped me discover these things at a deep level. I appreciate how the Myers-Briggs helps me name my preferences; I celebrate how StrengthsFinders helps identify my strengths (who doesn’t love that?!). But my self awareness and understanding of others grows even deeper the more I understand the Enneagram.
So, what is the Enneagram?
It’s the study of the nine basic types of people. ‘Ennea’ is Greek for nine and ‘gram’ is Greek for drawing.The Enneagram is represented by a nine pointed star within a circle and shows how you are primarily motivated and how you view the world. It is built on the premise that humans are driven by desires and fears. The Enneagram shows us, depending on your basic type, what your particular fears and desires may be. You may see great variations from person to person identifying as the same type depending on maturity level, birth order, and values.The history of the Enneagram is connected to various ancient religions, though the exact origin is unknown. Some say it is rooted in Christian mysticism. Many say it was taught orally by other religious traditions in the Middle East. It was introduced in Europe in the 1920’s and in the United States in the 1960’s.
Knowing the history behind assessments helps, but I also typically wonder if various personality tests have any scientific validity. (Most Enneagram Type 5’s out there are probably asking this same question!) Researchers and authors Virginia Price and David Daniels wrote a short book on the Enneagram called The Essential Enneagram. They conducted studies with over 900 people in seven years demonstrating the validity and reliability of the Enneagram.
Here are some basics:
Each person has a basic type and your type does not change. Once you dig into the facets of each type, it may be difficult at first to identify or discern your particular type. If you’re not sure, think about your natural desires, fears, and defense mechanisms as a child. It’s easiest to identify our type if we think about how we naturally were prior to age 25. If you’re still not sure, think about how someone who knew you well as a young person might have described you.
The process of identifying your Enneagram type is meant to to be a journey where much patience is required. You can get online and take a quick test to find out your type, but typing yourself in this way won’t gift you personally with the self awareness potentially life changing for yourself and others who may want to journey with you.
To give you a very brief description of each type, here is a list from the Easy Enneagram.
Type 1 (Reformers) – Realistic, conscientious, and principled. They strive to live up to their high ideals. Need to be perfect.
Type 2 (Helpers) – Warm, concerned, nurturing, and sensitive to tother people’s needs. Need to be needed.
Type 3 (Achievers) – Energetic, optimistic, self-assured, and goal oriented. Need to succeed.
Type 4 (Romantics) – Sensitive, warm, and perceptive. Need to be special.
Type 5 (Observers) – Need for knowledge, introverted, and insightful. Need to perceive.
Type 6 (Questioners) – Responsible, trustworthy, and loyal to family, friends, and causes. Need for security.
Type 7 (Adventurers) – Energetic, lively, and optimistic. Need to avoid pain.
Type 8 (Asserters) – Direct, self-reliant, self-confident, and protective. Need to be against.
Type 9 (Peacemakers) – Receptive, good-natured, and supportive. Need to avoid.
I am discovering that I am a Type 9 with a 1 wing (‘wings’ are a whole other subject, along with ‘arrows’, which add more depth and nuance to the Enneagram). As I began to process this, I started to realize how much I was motivated to make decisions out of a true desire for peace in all areas of my life. And how I sometimes want to avoid certain discussions or situations because its just easier to avoid them than confront. I also tend to have high ideals so my 1 wing pushes me to carry out the vision to make things happen.
If you want to learn more about the enneagram, here is a list of resources:
Introduction to the Enneagram:
The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels, M.D. & Virginia Price, Ph.D
The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele
From a mystical Christian Perspective:
The Enneagram – A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr
Digging Deeper in the Enneagram:
The Wisdom of the Enneagram – The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Riso & Russ Hudson (one of my favorites)
The Enneagram in Love and Work by Helen Palmer