WHAT IS THE ENNEAGRAM?
The Enneagram (pronounced ANY-a-gram) is a personality typology system composed of nine distinct yet interconnected personality archetypes. I often incorporate the Enneagram into therapy with my clients as it serves as a useful framework for people to better understand themselves and others. While there are many personality typing systems out there, the Enneagram sets itself apart by combining traditional spiritual wisdom with modern psychology. It not only reveals insights about the way we show up in the world, but also informs how we can best grow and develop beyond the confines of our personality.
THE ENNEAGRAM IN THERAPY
Identifying your Enneagram type can reveal a wealth of insights regarding why you do the things you do, how you show up in life when you're at your best, and your worst, and why relationships with certain types of people are more difficult than others. Those who engage with the Enneagram soon begin to recognise the patterns of their type playing out in their day to day lives. Over time, they often find themselves being able to respond to life's challenges from an informed and grounded place, rather than simply reacting to things from an automatic, and unconscious place.
BE LESS REACTIVE
The dynamics of our personality type are often rooted in early childhood experiences. At the time they served us, but in adulthood they can often lead to reactivity and stress. Understanding how these dynamics play out in your day to day life can give you the power to respond to life's challenges from a more informed and self-aware place.
UNDERSTAND YOUR GROWTH PATH
Unlike many other personality systems, the Enneagram presents a clear and unique growth path for each type. For example, the lines connecting each type on the diagram demonstrate how we show up when we're at our best, and when we're at our worst. The Enneagram offers growth paths both on a psychological level, as well as a spiritual level.
ENHANCE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Many who engage with the Enneagram find it an invaluable tool to help them understand their friends, family and colleagues. Having a sense of the enneagram types of the people in your life can help you to see the ways in which they might trigger you, while also being able to understand those who you feel closed off from and unable to relate to.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHERE DID THE ENNEAGRAM COME FROM?
The exact origins of the Enneagram are lost to history, but hints of a precursor can be found in Babylonian and Middle Eastern traditions dating back to 2500 BCE. The rediscovery of the Enneagram in the modern world can be attributed to three key figures: George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. The majority of modern Enneagram teachings, as well as publications, are based upon Naranjo’s work, and influenced by modern psychology including the theories of the psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, gestalt and cognitive-behavioural traditions.
HOW DO I DISCOVER MY ENNEAGRAM TYPE?
There are several means for people to discover their Enneagram type. Often individuals find their type by encountering descriptions online, reading Enneagram books, taking Enneagram tests, or having it suggested to them by friends or family. There is no right or wrong way to find one's type, and depending on the individual it might take some time for a person to really understand themselves and why they do what they do. If you would like to be typed, I am a trained Enneagram Typing Practitioner and can conduct a typing interview during one of our sessions at your request.
HOW DO I KNOW THIS ISN'T SOME KIND OF CULT?
A lot of people are first wary of the Enneagram when they encounter it, especially because the symbol itself resembles a pentagram (a symbol often encountered in the occult world). While there are always bad actors who will take ideas and systems and apply them maliciously, the Enneagram has overwhelmingly been a positive tool for personal growth and transformation for many people around the world. You might come across people who offer exclusive membership to classes or clubs related to the Enneagram, or make radical claims about what the Enneagram has to offer. In my practice I merely promote it as a useful tool for personal insight and understanding - nothing more.
I DON'T WANT TO USE THE ENNEAGRAM IN THERAPY. CAN YOU STILL BE MY THERAPIST?
Yes! While I commonly use the Enneagram in my own thought processes when understanding and relating to clients, I recognize that the Enneagram isn't for everyone, and that's ok. I never force it upon clients and don't mind if it doesn't come up in our sessions. In fact, many of my clients never hear about the Enneagram in our sessions because their concerns aren't particularly related to the information it reveals regarding personality structure. However, given that the Enneagram has helped me so much in my life, it seems worthwhile to at least introduce it to clients in the hopes that they might benefit from it also.
HOW DOES THE ENNEAGRAM RELATE TO RELIGIOUS BELIEF?
While there is a spiritual component to the Enneagram, the Enneagram was never a religion, and it does not require any kind of membership or demand that people believe in any kind of deity. There are plenty of people who describe themselves as agnostic or atheists and still find immense value from exploring the Enneagram, as engaging with the system requires deep introspection and mindfulness. Those who are religious often find it helpful for exploring their own belief, and as such the Enneagram can sometimes be found in religious communities.
IS THE ENNEAGRAM SCIENTIFICALLY VALIDATED?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is that the bulk of Enneagram knowledge has accumulated through narrative and experience. The lack of scientific validation is not a result of a breadth of research, but instead a lack of it. As of 2020, there were a total of 49 published studies on the Enneagram, only 9 of which appeared in mainstream journals. The Enneagram is slowly becoming more mainstream and entering the realms of psychology and scientific research, which will hopefully result in more insights into how the Enneagram aligns with the established theoretical foundations of psychology. Until that time, the Enneagram is best engaged with on an individual basis, whereby the person can decide if it's useful for them, or not, and used accordingly.
I'D LIKE TO READ ABOUT THE ENNEAGRAM. CAN YOU RECOMMEND ANY BOOKS?
I recommend the following books to beginners:
The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People
By Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele
The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide
By Dr. David Daniels and Virginia Price
However, my go-to guide for all things Enneagram is:
The Complete Enneagram
By Beatrice Chestnut.
If you enjoy podcasts, I highly recommend the Enneagram 2.0 podcast hosted by Beatrice Chestnut and Uranio Paes which is available for free on most podcast streaming services.