Have you heard about the Enneagram? It’s all the rave in some circles! Learning about the Enneagram has been so helpful to me and my clients that I want to share it with you.
First, What is It?
The Enneagram has been around a long time. Some people will argue about how long it’s been around, but let’s just say it’s been around for a long time. “Ennea” means nine and “gram” means diagram. It is a unique look at nine different personality types and why they do what they do. By identifying the core fear and desire of each type, it helps us understand the motivation for why we behave, think and feel in certain ways. Even though two people may have the same behavior, their motivation for doing the behavior could be very different. The Enneagram helps break this down for us to improve our understanding of others and our awareness of ourselves.
There is no “right” or “wrong” type. Also, I believe you can have a healthy relationship with any type as long as both of you are in an average to healthy range, not unhealthy. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the different types in my life. Each type brings a certain flavor to life and has their own unique way of seeing and relating in the world. All we need to bring to the table is understanding and respect for the different perspectives, as well as self-acceptance.
Learning about My Type
I was introduced to the Enneagram last year by my favorite business coach, Coach Debbie. She told me what it was and encouraged me to look it up on enneagraminstitute.com
I took the test, and my scores showed the highest as a 2, then 7, and then type 9. I read about the type 2 and thought I could relate a lot to what it was saying. A type 2 is “The Helper” type. As a therapist, a mother and a wife, I could certainly relate to that!
Something didn’t quite sit right with me, though. Though I love helping people, more than anything I love helping people help themselves. I love just being with people. I don’t want people to need me, but I do want to have a close relationship with them. The key motivation of the Type 2 is to be needed. I know a lot of wonderful Type 2 people and you definitely want a Type 2 in your life, but I realized it didn’t speak to who I am at my core.
After meeting with local business owner Kelly Skinner, founder of Soul Care, I went back to read more about Type 7 and Type 9. When we met for a local networking opportunity, she shared how it is a process to truly understand your type and how common mistyping can happen.
It lit a fire under me to really try to use the Enneagram to deepen my understanding of my strengths and struggles.
Type 7 is “The Enthusiast” and Type 9 is “The Peacemaker.” Though I can be very enthusiastic and even silly – or some would say weird – around my close family, closest friends, and if I’m super passionate about something, I don’t think most people would describe me that way on a regular basis. I was voted “Most Shy” of my senior graduating class! I was the kid in grade school who got the report from the teacher, “She’s sweet, but she never talks.” In large groups, I like to hang around the outside of the circle and observe until I feel comfortable.
I describe myself as an introvert who loves people.
Finding My Voice
The more I read about the Type 9, I saw my life laid out before me complete with my motivations, desires and my deepest fears. Peacemakers HATE conflict! More than that, conflict feels sickening at a visceral level. I could relate to their core belief of feeling like others are more important than you and that my own voice didn’t matter as much as everyone else’s. I honestly believed as a child that I shouldn’t speak in class as what I had to say wasn’t very important anyway. I didn’t think anyone would really care to listen to what I thought.
It’s interesting as I’ve learned more about myself through the lens of the Enneagram, how differently we can think from each other and how often we project our own motivations and understandings onto other people. I’ve heard other types say it is difficult for them to not share their thoughts and opinions. They have what feels like an itch or impulse to get their ideas out of their mouth.
For me, and maybe for other Type 9s, it’s the opposite.
It takes a lot of energy to move from what I feel in my gut, to what I think about what I feel, to then put those thoughts into words and sentences. It can be exhausting! I would say I still prefer to listen over talking, but I have learned that my voice matters too. I’ve learned that not only does it matter, it’s worth sharing my thoughts if it benefits another human. It is also easier to share through written word versus spoken word.
If you know or love another Type 9, please ask their opinion. We won’t usually give it unless you ask.
One thing I could relate to right away was how Type 9s can see various perspectives. Some Types see things in very black and white, whereas Type 9s see a lot of gray and possibilities. Being a counselor, I hear so many different perspectives and ways of thinking. I think it has benefited my clients to know they can share anything with me and not be met with judgment or a list of should or should-nots.
On the other hand, I’ve found it very frustrating at times when I need to make a decision.
I can see so many options and possibilities. Also, I think this has affected my parenting in negative ways at times. I can be a pushover and overly flexible when I shouldn’t be. I’ve had to learn to be firmer. Thankfully, my husband is a Type 1, and he keeps us on track too! For those who don’t know a lot about Type 1s, they are “The Reformers” or perfectionists. He’s very good at the black and white, setting boundaries, and being firm.
I like to think we balance each other out!
Times of Stress
In times of stress and pain, Type 9s go toward the unhealthy part of Type 6s and become very anxious. I can completely relate to this! Looking back over times of pain and conflict in my life, I have always become so incredibly anxious.
I have learned that when I become anxious, it works as a warning sign for me to slow down and evaluate what’s going on in my life. I start to say no to things and make my life as simple as possible again so I can find rest. I’ve been able to come out of times like this with doing restful things such as spending time in nature, reading, playing or listening to music, and spending time with people I love.
I would say most Type 9s also are very sensitive people.
We get overwhelmed by a lot of noise, people, or things going on. I’ve also self-diagnosed myself (I’m a therapist so I can do that, right?!) as having social anxiety disorder. The more I’ve thought about it, I really think it’s just part of my personality.
I’m a very relational and social person (like I said, I love people!), but I do tend to get anxious walking into a new place or a big group. The ironic or funny thing is people tell me from the outside I always look so calm and confident! It’s hilarious to me!
If only they knew that my heart is beating a 100 miles an hour, and I’m literally freaking out in my head. I’m so glad everyone else perceives me as peaceful though.
Times of Growth
In times of growth, Type 9s go toward the healthy part of Type 3s, “The Achievers.” We can become very visionary and productive. I can say that I love moments in life when I can get excited about a cause, a vision, designing, and creating. In these moments, the ideas that flow through my mind and out of me to the people around me are limitless to the point of driving them crazy! I’m able to see the path from the end of an idea back to the beginning and enjoy sharing these ideas with others and getting them excited as well.
The creative juices really get going! These have been evident from business ideas, to ways to encourage and love on people, to thinking of ways of helping others create a vision for their life.
The Struggle is Real … Sloth
Each type has a struggle, and the struggle of the Type 9s is what is called sloth.
Sloth basically means lazy or shut down. Most people in my life would not attribute this quality to me, but I would, and I know what it looks like in my life. Sloth looks like taking on several ideas and projects while being a mom to four amazing sons and the best darn wife I can be to my hunk of a husband and trying to care for my clients, and grow my business, and start a second company … because I had an idea and a passion for this new idea so why not, and trying to be a good friend, and daughter, and sister, and then … CRASH!!!!
I’m crying in the grass in the front of my office, or I can’t get out of bed because I exhausted myself. I can’t move. It hurts to move. I stay in bed and watch Netflix and scroll the Gram. I pull myself out of bed to get food for the kids and then back to bed.
That’s what it looks like in my life. It’s doing a lot and then realizing it was waaaaay too much! I completely shut down.
It also looks like shutting down in a conflict. Ask my husband or my family what frustrates them the most about me. “What’s wrong honey?” Me, “Oh nothing. Nothing’s wrong. Or if there is something wrong, I’m not going to tell you because it may cause conflict, and I don’t want to hurt you.” I know. Frustrating, right?! For you and me, I promise.
What I’m Working on Now
I’m reading a book called “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott.
I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn to say truthful things in a kind way. I’m working on telling others how I feel, my opinions, and my thoughts and not shutting down when I perceive them responding aggressively or in an unkind manner.
I’m trying to learn to sit in the conflict with them and not run away. I’m learning to be more assertive, to set better and healthier boundaries, to know it’s OK to end an unhealthy relationship, and to know that my voice does matter.
More than that, when I get to share something with someone else that encourages them or helps them see a perspective maybe they can’t see, I feel the peace that I’ve been longing for all along.
How it Could Help You
The Enneagram can be helpful tool for anyone wanting to gain self-awareness.
Self-awareness is so important for many reasons. It helps us understand our own strengths and struggles so that we can use our strengths and work on improving our struggles. It helps us connect better with others by helping us understand how we come across to others. It’s difficult for us to see ourselves how other people see us. When we’re able to do this, it improves our relationships because we become more aware of our own biases and triggers.
We are able to catch ourselves when we start to project our own understandings and motivations onto other people.
In the end, it deepens our connections with others by deepening our understanding of ourselves.
Thank you for reading my thoughts and experience of my dive into the Enneagram.
For more information about the Enneagram, please check out the www.enneagraminstitute.com. There are also several great books including “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” by Don Richard Riso, and “The Modern Enneagram” by Melanie Bell.
You’ll find many other wonderful books and websites. These are just a few I’ve read and enjoyed. Happy learning!