I often say and believe that knowing your Enneagram type number is not the end goal of learning the Enneagram – it is a step on the path towards personality integration – opening, accessing, and aligning our three centers of intelligence. I still believe this.
At the same time, the importance of learning our type accurately has been significantly highlighted for me in the form of real people who are seriously engaged and highly committed in self-understanding. This recent email tells the story in the form of Marion:
Marion’s Self-Report (An Arrow Line Switch)
“I have been involved in supporting the organization of a two-day conference involving 100+ people engaging people who manage information centers across a large region, of which there are some 75 centers. I was approached just six weeks ago, when speakers and the agenda had largely been put in place…and my role was to be the MC (master of ceremonies) of a two-day conference and to facilitate conversations where it was possible and time allowed. So the last few weeks have been very involved, fine tuning as we got to the conference last week.
So what is my appreciation about helping me find my type accurately (my thinking I was a 5 and your insights and those of other program participants who were type 8s, that 8 might be a much better fit)?
As I get to know my type, the more I am feeling very comfortable. My type 8-ness shone over the two days of the conference…quietly directing and influencing and challenging when it was needed most. It felt terrific and it felt right. Taking charge and getting into action was so apparent…with a softly, softly approach!
Would I have taken this engagement in 2011…not sure…now having the wisdom of knowing what gifts I bring…I was like a duck in water! The feedback has been fantastic…and they have invited me to MC again next year!”
The Real Meaning of Marion’s Message
Marion is more introverted than extroverted, does like to observe people and events, and she is intellectual. Told she was a 5 – and 5 made some sense. The problem was that Marion is also a bold person, with a deep hearty laugh and lots of palpable energy. Is she aggressive? No. Is she forward moving? Absolutely!
The problem with Marion thinking herself a 5 (and there’s nothing wrong at all with being any number) is that, in general terms, she had not found her self in 5: no tribe, no clarification, no “Oh yes!” or “Oh no, now I really have work to do!” Worse, she was starting to shape herself into a type that was not her, working on development (reattaching to feelings and becoming embodied) that wasn’t adding much benefit, and not gaining the deepest recognition of self so that the layers of the ego can be relaxed, peeled away, and more. And worse, still, she wasn’t able to step into the confident personal power place that many 8s can get to easily once they do their real work. But now, all of that is different, as you can read in her email to me.
In a recent program, one different from the program in which I met Marion, three people recognized they had mistyped themselves (based on the ideas of Enneagram teachers they had studied with and/or from books they had read), and by day three of the six-day program, there was a migration.
The first person thought she was a 7, had been reinforced in (or not dissuaded of) this belief by Enneagram teachers, but when we were engaged in “pinches” (aka anger triggers or hot buttons) and “crunches” (responses to these triggers), she blurted out, “Mine are much more like the 8.” Although I had not really doubted she was a 7, in the recesses of my mind I realized I had wondered why she didn’t seem so effervescent and champagne-like as the other 7s in the program. So I simply said, “Have you ever thought you might be an 8 rather than a 7?” After the initial “No, no, no!,” she experimented by talking with the 8s. In 10+ minutes, she realized she was clearly an 8, and did she ever come alive. She became more vital, deeply energetic, and unbelievably relaxed. The change in her was amazing.
The second person, watching this almost instantaneous metamorphosis, came to me at the break and said, “I need some assistance. For four years, I’ve thought I was a 7, but as much as I keep trying to fit into that, something isn’t fitting at all.” In a five-minute period, with my asking her a series of questions (largely about the ability to focus), it seemed that 3 was a much better fit. Did she want to entertain the idea that she might be a 3? No! Was she willing to explore this possibility? Yes. Off she went with the 3s, and after a 20-minute walk with them, she came back tentative but thrilled. She commented, “3s aren’t really what I thought” (which is often a euphemism for “I don’t much like 3s, so I can’t be that”). I have seen this many times. A person doesn’t either relate to or like the type they actually are. Is this self-negation? A mirror of oneself that is unwanted? Or is it that they may not have learned the types accurately, from their own interpretations or what is actually said by an Enneagram instructor? I think different factors operate within different people, but it is certainly a common reaction. Again, upon recognizing her real type, this woman became grounded, vital, flowing, and much happier (a tell-tale sign).
The third person, observing the above (two people voluntarily exploring their type and then moving), came to me the next day and said, with a forlorn look, “I think I might be a 2, not a 1.” I asked, “Would that be OK?” The answer was, “No, I don’t like 2s very much.” As a 2 myself, I laughed and said, “We’re not that bad! Just think about it for a while.” She did and now she laughs that she ever really thought she was a 1, as she is really much happier as a 2. She makes sense to herself now, and knows where and how to work on her development.
All of us who help/guide others in finding their Enneatype live in a place of fluid ambiguity and opposing principles/forces. How do we guide people effectively so they can find their type and find it correctly without telling people what their type is (and if we are wrong, all the worse)? Lately, I am trusting the process more, allowing spaciousness in self-discovery, sharing my perceptions in a non-defining way, learning more and more how to ask the right questions at the right time. Or, at least, I hope so!