If you and I have had any kind of deep conversation in the last few months, you probably know that I have been doing lots of reading around the Enneagram. (Some of you are saying this is a massive understatement!) I became really curious about it’s instructional possibilities for cultivating unique forms of self-renewing practices – especially in the realm of mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It became a personal quest to discover if I could learn something deep and powerful for my own personal and spiritual growth that might also help others.
At this point, I’ve read, watched or listened to at least 8 books, several podcasts, countless YouTube videos, and online articles about the Enneagram. You might consider it a mild obsession. And I’m okay with that because the Enneagram is such a unique and interesting way to look at us individually and collectively. It has its roots in multiple spiritual traditions and it can be applied to anyone open and ready to learning about it.
What I love most is that the Enneagram allows us to look at the origins of our own personality development and gain insight to how and why we developed the way we did. It is for us to discover our type, not to be typed by others. And, if you’re curious, how we can overcome the cycles we tend to perpetuate in our lives and become more of who we really are, not just the mask of our personalities.
Let me share my own personal journey reading about and trying to discover my own Enneagram type these past several weeks and months.
I would say for the last 25 years or more I have been trying to find more meaning in my life and free myself from this belief: that I am broken and imperfect. Some of my loved ones have felt lost in helping me struggle with my low self-worth and lack of self-esteem. For those not in the know I kept it hidden at all costs, often from myself. Except for when I couldn’t hide anymore. I ventured through an emotional breakdown where I almost took my life, been through months of therapy, and went back on my own to stumble around. I’ve done a lot of reading, successfully found a lot of great self-renewing practices that have helped me transform many things. But what I read early this week left me feeling raw emotionally and afraid of truly seeing more of myself that has already been there this whole time.
Several months ago I took an online quiz and thought I might be a reclusive type 5. Then I read more and thought maybe I was an overly emotional type 4. More reading and quizzes journeyed me back to a type 5, then a peace giving type 9, back to 5, to 4, to 5. That sounds exhausting right? For those closest to me it was rather trying to go through these ups and downs, but to me it was exhilarating to be chasing down my type and learning more about how we tick in our deepest psyche. Now that I’ve ventured through the end of a lengthy book by Beatrice Chestnut called The Complete Enneagram I’m ready to come out to you – as a helping type 2 with a self-preservation sub-type.
Some of you may say, of course, Bill! You love helping others. That is true. But this chapter unearthed a whole lot more than that. It described the interwoven pieces of this personality type in a way that explains so much of my journey. Explicitly. In one damn chapter. Like how did she know?! My depressions, failures to maintain relationships, resentments, my addiction and then self-repulsion to hedonistic behavior, and my deep struggle with answering the questions “how do you feel?” and “what do you need?” just to name a few.
Sounds like a great read about yourself, am I right?!
This can be challenging to look at your behaviors and beliefs and why you do what you do. But it can also transform your life. In my case, it might give you more self-compassion so that you can offer more compassion to others around you.
The truth is that we all have aspects of all of the types, but to find our primary type and subtype, or instinctual variant, we can put the Enneagram to work in our lives. My own lesson this week is this: it has been incomplete to look at myself as broken and imperfect. The broader view is that those things have allowed me to demonstrate my capacity for healing and becoming more whole.
I want to pause and say that again. My experiences feeling broken and imperfect have helped me demonstrate my capacity for healing and becoming more whole.
Spiritual growth opportunities tend to be less than fun, but they offer trans-formative learning if you allow and open yourself up to them.
Not to be lost in the Enneagram is what true gifts we can and do bring to the world when we put down the mask of our personality and be who we really are. In the case of a type two, there is a tremendous capacity for empathy and in growth a new found sense of freedom and authentically demonstrating loving service and beauty. My focus is on embodying these gifts more each day.
After reading about the type 2 this week, I can say that it was inevitable that I would have had a breakdown and become depressed at some point. Constantly looking for your worth outside of yourself and in how you show up for others is not the same thing as going inward for it.
The beautiful part of the entirety of the Enneagram is that each and every type has their own fears and patterns to overcome, and more importantly their own gifts to share. How you experience your life is unique to you, but so much is also in common with others. We are in this together. Show us how it is done being an amazing version of your true authentic self. Only you can choose to do that and practice it each day.
What have you learned from the Enneagram? How are you applying it to your life? I’d love to hear from you about how it is impacting your journey.
With love and light,