Self-Discovery and the Enneagram

Have you heard of the Enneagram? It feels like one of those words that popped up once and then again and again, and now it’s everywhere. Then again, it’s quite possibly I’m merely paying attention now. Wink. A dear friend first introduced me to the Enneagram a couple of years ago. I took a test and began reading a bit, but quickly felt overwhelmed by all the information! Centers, wings, stress and growth numbers? I listened to a couple of podcasts, but couldn’t quickly orient myself in the language and nuances. It seemed complex and unapproachable, honestly. So of course, I put it down and went back to my beloved Meyers-Briggs and moved on (INFJ, if you’re curious). That is, until this Spring.

Self-discovery sounds like one of those aloof words used while wafting incense or in sitting in lotus, but I’m learning it’s far more pragmatic and even cyclical in nature for me, a journey that ebbs and flows with the terrain of my days and years. There are periods in life, like this past month, where I feel naturally quieter and more reflective. Although I need quiet reflection daily, these more intense weeks  of reflection seem to beckon a deeper searching out of self, and self in the perspective of God.

I am fascinated by the diversity of human life, how we can experience the same exact moment and yet take away different realities based on our life lenses and temperaments. Perhaps motherhood has made me more acutely aware of the need to understand my own life lens, and also those in my care.  It’s a beautiful journey, even though I will be the first to say the reality of self can be bittersweet, as it unmasks the hidden lies of fear and shame and anger with it. But this is where I have received the deepest healing and self-compassion, too.

The Enneagram, like all temperament sorters, isn’t the answer to everything––BUT it is a beautiful, insightful tool for living, for the creative life, for relationships, for parenting, or business. It’s a tool, a help toward understanding your personal lens. There are nine numbers on the Enneagram, each motivated by a specific need, each attached to a specific gift and root sin. That’s the simple bit, but the nuances occur in how each of us move toward health and unhealth (and how very different each number looks on that spectrum), by the influence of adjacent numbers (wings), and the influence of different numbers we lean into in stress or growth. It sounds strange, yes? Our children are old enough to be a part of this conversation, and it’s been enormously insightful in my parenting, to understand how they are motivated in their own actions. For instance, we have three different numbers across our four children: One (Reformer/Perfectionist–the need to be perfect); Two (Helper–the need to be needed by others); and Seven (Enthusiast –the need to avoid pain). I won’t go into details right now, as I want their journeys and numbers to be theirs, but these insights have been a revelation in my parenting.

My Enneagram number is Three, the Achiever/Performer (the need to succeed), but more than learning about me, I encourage you to learn about you! Especially in parenthood and marriage, this is so helpful to understand. I admit at times it’s been really difficult learning about the “shadow self,” but recognizing the darker side of my number has been the most healing and empowering so far. So if you, possibly like me, have an immediate “ugh” that happens when you begin learning about your number, keep going! Every person (and Enneagram number) has something entirely beautiful to bring to their homes, work places, and communities, and knowing our flaws and working through them brings health and freedom!

I listed some of my favorite resources below, ones I’ve read or listened to on the Enneagram. Cheers to a new month, and to self-discovery and growth, regardless of where in life we are. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram and have any resources to add, please share them in the comments!


TO FIND YOUR ENNEAGRAM NUMBER

The Enneagram Institute RHETI Type Indicator

The Road Back to You Enneagram Inventory

Or simple begin reading the Enneagram Type Descriptions  to see where you identify most.

 

TO READ

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr | Written by a Fansican monk, it can be heady at times, even though it is thorough. I needed full attention for this one, but the information is organized well, even with charts that follow.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery | This book is such an approachable introduction to the Enneagram, and it’s wonderful as an audiobook, too.

The Enneagram Institute 

 

TO LISTEN

The Liturgist Podcast #37 The Enneagram | This podcast is two hours, although it goes by quickly! Two guests give an overview of each of the numbers with a fun way to listen. This was where I started at guessing where I was on the Enneagram, and then I began reading the books and website below.

The Road Back to You Podcast | Ian and Suzanne (the guests on the podcast above) interview someone(s) each episode, having a lighthearted conversation about specific aspects of the guest’s Enneagram number. It’s encouraging and insightful in a really organic manner.

 

NON-ENNEAGRAM RESOURCES I HAVE LOVED FOR SELF-DISCOVERY

Rising StrongHow the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Neiquist

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Water My Soul: Cultivating the Interior Life by Luci Shaw

8 replies
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      I just added it to my cart. Thank you for the recommendation! I definitely have a strong 4 wing, often in conflict between my desire for productivity and deep, authentic connection with my work. It makes so much sense! I recently finished The Benedict Option, which had an entire chapter on the monastic “Rule of Living” which I LOVED, and you may also. So good. Other parts of the books were more challenging for me, but so thought-provoking, and even affirming of some choices our family has made. I’m also currently reading James Danaher’s book, Contemplative Prayer, which I has been so good for my heart and daily living lately. He’s a three on the Enneagram, which he doesn’t address, but his focus feels familiar. 😉 Each of these reads seem linked to the one you mentioned in some intrinsic way, so I’m excited to read for myself. Thank you again.

      Reply
  1. Emily Tucker
    Emily Tucker says:

    I also recently went through the enneagram myself and promptly made my husband and mom take it too! I’m a type 5 – the investigative thinker/observer which really does suit me and an ISTP on myers-briggs. The thing I like best about the enneagram is how the profiles break down you at your healthiest to your most self destructive. Which totally helped me clarify some past occurrences in my life.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      I completely agree, Emily. I love reading the variation within each number, the common traits but variety of nuances based on the individual. It doesn’t have quite the rigid boxed-in feeling.

      Reply
  2. Flora
    Flora says:

    Oh Bethany, this stuff is… eye opening! I just read a description of type 2 on the website, and I have to say, it sounds frighteningly familiar. I need to keep re-reading it to let it sink in, but already I can see where my strengths and weaknesses lie. The darker side of my ‘type’ is truly uncomfortable to admit (in fact it feels shameful), and there are behaviours I can summon examples for. Time to get reading, I think!

    Thank you for sharing it with us. 🙂

    Flora
    http://www.theeverchange.com

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Isn’t it revelatory? It’s been so insightful for reflection and understanding of self. I have a couple of friends who have felt that it was too negatively focused, illuminating the darker side more than the light. But I heard one of the authors explain that in their experience, it is easier for people to identify their numbers based on the negative characteristics of a number than the positive. Plus, it’s constructive to see what each number look like in health, to understand the “work” each one has to do, since they vary by number. Enjoy!

      Reply
  3. Jessica Turner
    Jessica Turner says:

    Very interesting! I am quite interested now to read about it and find out more about my personality and how that resonates in my current season of mothering a preschooler and toddler, preparing to start homeschooling, and managing my home. I have found myself with a lot of great (I’ve been told) ideas lately but stuck on how to effectively put them into practice and see them through. Perhaps the Enneagram would give me insight into what hurdles I’m struggling with internally and help me set more effective goals. Reading about what others have done hasn’t helped yet, except to give me starting ideas. I also love Present Over Perfect; almost finished with it! Some of your recommendations may go on my summer reading list.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Yes! It’s helpful for any relational dynamics, but especially as a parent who is with their children all day long. Although I have long been a student of my children, aware of how different we are, this has given me new insight and grace for them, new language to validate them and help them work through their own obstacles. And Present Over Perfect was a delight, like sitting with an old friend. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the others, too. 😉

      Reply

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