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Re-finding Oneself | The Enneagram as a Guide on the Journey

This past week, I had the opportunity to work with 30+ people who are part of a US government agency for a 2-day program on the Enneagram, self-mastery, development, communication, and building relationships. They were extremely responsive to the Enneagram and its practical and profound use for them at work and home, but there was one woman in the group who had a discovery of “coming home” to her “self,” and her experience inspired me to write this blog.

I want to say first that I know very little about her, really, and my knowledge of her has very little to do with being able to provide the context for her to have a profound experience with the Enneagram. The story, however, is rather simple.

On day 1, she typed herself as a 6 (more phobic than counterphobic), and she seemed to match every single descriptor: fearful, major contingency planning for worst-case scenarios, trust issues, and self-doubt. In addition, her face looked worried (facial tension everywhere, a wary look in her eyes), and none of the other participants (many of whom had known her for several years and worked with her) doubted her self-assessment.

However, on day 2 of the program, she had a simple statement to make in front of the group. She announced that overnight, she had done a great deal of self-reflection and realized that she was, in fact an enneatype 9, not a 6 at all. At that point I asked her a simple question: “Did something occur in your recent life that completely stressed you out and induced fear and anxiety?”

Very calmly and clearly she reported this: “Yes, something happened and when I went back to the multiple decades prior to this event, including my youth and in my 20s, 30s and 40s, I was definitely a 9, not a 6.”

Because she gave somewhat limited information in her comment and, in addition, this was a program for an organization and not a public Enneagram program or a deep-dive into the psychological aspects of the Enneagram, I preserved her right to privacy and simply asked this question: “How long ago was the event? There’s no need to tell us what the event was unless you want to do that.”

She simply responded, “10 years ago.” However, the look on her face as she remembered this was one of peacefulness, serenity. No longer was the facial tension apparent on her face. No longer was she fretting, asking many questions, and more. The transformation was astounding and available for all to witness. As a note, this event occurred before anyone in the room knew her, so was their only data about her (and therefore, their experience of her and her probable ennneatype came after this 10-year old event).

Really, there was nothing else to say except congratulations! Except I did say one more thing and it was this: “Is the event over and resolved?” Because she said yes, I responded with the comment: “Perhaps your body and your brain have not yet recognized that they can now relax. If so, you may need to remind them!” She gave a hearty laugh of recognition, relaxed even more, and had the miracle of re-finding herself.

I love the Enneagram for so many reasons, and its ability to help people re-find themselves is a big one. I had this experience myself, thinking originally that I was a 4, only to discover a few years later that this 4 I thought was me was a way of surviving a difficult childhood and was covering my real type, enneatype 2. I’ve seen variations on this re-finding in a number of people, including a client who was a 1, but discovered his life journey through his arrows of 4 and 7. I love the arrows – the woman in this blog going from 9 to 6 and back to 9; my experience going from 2 to 4 as an unconscious survival strategy, but then going back to 2; my client going from 4, then 7 and back to 1 – because they are so dynamic and fundamental to both who we are and who we are becoming.

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