Overview of the Enneagram
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The term personality is derived from the Greek word “persona” which means mask. Our personalities are the personas or masks we have built over time to protect our true nature. They are made up of the reactions and responses we’ve found to be effective in things like pleasing our parents as children, fitting in as teenagers, meeting cultural expectations. These responses help use to navigate through a variety of situations and become automated. Over time these adaptive strategies grow in complexity to the point it can be hard to differentiate the personality from the true nature.
An enneagram (little e) is a nine-pointed geometric figure. It consists of a circle with a triangle inscribed and an irregular hexagonal figure within the circle. The Enneagram (big E) uses the figure to describe the relationship between various personality types that are numbered 1-9 to associate with a point on the hexegonal figure or triangle within the circle.
Personalities are fun and interesting to study. However, people are so much more than just a type, number, or description. They should be used to better understand ourselves and those around us. It can be easy to fall into the trap of saying, well she’s a nine so she’ll be a push over because she doesn’t like conflict or I’m a seven so I don’t take anything seriously. These types are ways of categorizing ourselves to help us understand the way we respond or react to situations. They don’t always reflect the inner drive because while that nine may desire to avoid conflict but they may also have an idea that will make development on a project much easier or be passionate about things that they don’t mention for fear of being shot down or having to argue. The benefit of learning these types and about personalities is so that we can work with and through them to get to the inner person with whom we are interacting.
Background on the Enneagram
History of the Enneagram
The enneagram is very old, noone is sure where the idea for it started. It’s current form has been traced to the Christian monk and mystic Evagrius Ponticus. The idea of the Seven Deadly Sins comes from his work. The nine-pointed geometric figure shows up in relation to personality in other areas of the world as well. In the early 20th century a Russian philosopher named George Gurdjieff used the enneagram to teach on esoteric subjects not related to personality. In the 1970’s a teacher from Chile, Oscar Ichazo learned of it, made significant contributions by combining what he had learned about the enneagram with studies of inner work he’d learned in South America and Asia. One of his students was Claudio Naranjo, an American trained psychiatrist. Naranjo brought those teachings to the United States and taught them to a group of Catholic priests and seminary students.
Criticisms of the Enneagram
There are two main criticisms of the Enneagram. One from the scientific community and the other from the religious community. It has been accused of being psuedoscience because the types are claimed to be too subjective and difficult to validate. However, to combat this the book “The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery” compared the types to the work of Karen Horney, a psychoanalyst. Because of it’s early connections with mysticism there has been some religions scrutiny over use of the Enneagram for personal growth from several larger organizations including the Roman Catholic Church.
Different Types of Enneagrams
Originally Ichazo created over 100 different enneagrams to relate to each number, however when the idea came to the US it was reduced to four: Virtues, Passions(Deadly Sins), Holy Ideas, and Ego-Fixations. The virtues represent the natural state of the person in that number in their healthiest state of being. They don’t have to be forced, it is how they exist when healthy. The passions are the emotional responses to not being in the healthy state. They are how we express the sense of loss of peace when not in the natural state represented by the virtues. They are the basis for the Seven Deadly Sins. The ego-fixations are the path from healthy virtues to unhealthy passions. They are given as a warning for each number to watch out for to avoid falling into the unhealthy passion. The Holy Ideas show the way from the passions to the virtues. They are given as something to focus on to move from the unhealthy passion back to the healthy virtue. The current typing system combines these for each of the numbers on the enneagram to provide a full picture of a personality.
The Enneagram numbers are divided into three triads based on a ruling emotion for that number. Each number relates to that ruling emotion differently. This doesn’t mean it is the only emotion felt by that number, just the primary driving force.
The Gut Triad (8, 9, 1) is motivated by anger. The one will internalize anger focusing on themselves whereas the eight will externalize it focusing on others. The nine is motivated by avoidance of anger. Honesty and directness define the Gut Triad.
The Heart Triad (2, 3, 4) is motivated by feelings. Twos outwardly express feelings and focus on those of others finding it difficult to understand or express their own. Whereas the fours focus internally on their own feelings but have difficulty understanding others feelings. Threes have trouble recognizing that feelings exist in themselves or others. They are more image conscious than the other triads.
The Head Triad (5, 6, 7) is motivated by fear. Fives externalize fear whereas the sixes will internalize it and be motivated by their own fears. Sevens have trouble remembering to be afraid of things and tend to be the most adventurous of the numbers. This triad tends to think a lot before they act.
Structure of Episodes
Each episode will start off with a description of the main characteristics of the Enneagram type. This will cover the basics of that type including some statements to help you identify them in your life. We’ll also discuss the primary desires and motivating factors for the personality type. For each type we discuss we’ll go into detail about their basic fear and how to avoid or manage it. Also we’ll discuss basic desires and how they can be met. Then we’ll give a description of a healthy, average, and unhealthy person of that particular type. Finally, under main characteristics we’ll discuss the type’s associated Deadly Sin, how it can affect the person, and the temptation that leads to that sin.
Wings and Things
The Enneagram personality types are not distinct sets of personality. They are interrelated with aspects of various types interacting to create a full personality. Each number on the Enneagram has two wings, the numbers immediately surrounding it. Most people will fall somewhere between their type and one of it’s wings. They will have a few of the characteristics of that wing that interacts with their primary number or type. The lines coming from each number on the Enneagram figure point to other numbers. These are the numbers associated with the traits that a person takes on when they or either under stress or when healthy and secure. In each episode we’ll discuss how the type takes on the negative characteristics of the type it goes to under stress and the positive qualities of the type it goes to when healthy along with how that relates to the particular type.
Interacting With Others
Finally we’ll have a section where we talk about how the type interacts with others. This can be for how they interact and how to interact with someone you know who is that type. We’ll spend most of our time talking about how to interact in the work place. This will include aspects of working together on a team, how different types interact, and how to lead and motivate each type. Developers aren’t complete without friends and family, so we’ll also discuss how to interact with friends and family members both if you are that type and if you know someone who is that type. Relationships are also important so we’ll look at how each type interacts in a relationship and how to interact with them if you find yourself in a relationship with someone of that type.
Tricks of the Trade
Embrace ambiguity and models that don’t perfectly work over seeking models that work perfectly (which may not exist). Life is messy and if you want to move forward, it’s more likely that you will do so by starting with something good enough and then refining, versus hanging out and trying to come up with something perfect before even starting.