Los Angeles Christian Counseling
The Enneagram personality test has been remarkably beneficial in clinical counseling practices to help people understand how they grow.It is a very old system of typing. Various streams of the system exist, even one connected to a Christian heritage. For a long time, Christian spiritual direction has utilized the Enneagram to help people understand themselves and grow into a deeper relationship with God.
In the past, the Enneagram was a tool kept relatively hidden from the general populace. As time passed, the art of the Enneagram was introduced to the lay people. It has become an important tool to help my clients see themselves more clearly.
The root of the word “personality” is found in the Latin word “mask.” More simply put, our personality can be understood as a mask we wear in our lives, often learned at an early age. We use the mask as a defense again pain and the hostile world around us.
As we grow, we develop reactions and behaviors, which eventually become so patterned in our lives that we believe that is who we truly are. But those behaviors are part of the mask, underneath it all, is who we actually are.
The true self is hidden beneath our managed and driven persona. It is less guarded and more peaceful. The goal of the Enneagram is not to simply put you in a box, but to help you understand your “mask,” the way you perceive life, and help guide you back to your true self.
The Enneagram consists of nine different types – each one representing a unique aspect of God’s character. Since the Enneagram is rooted in the character of God, each type reflects part of his nature. So no one type is better or worse than another.
In one of the leading works on the Enneagram, The Road Back to You, authors Cron and Stabile state that the Enneagram isn’t about being the right type, but gaining knowledge about ourselves: “What we don’t know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others. As long as we stay in the dark about how we see the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we’re prisoners of our history.”
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? – Proverbs 6:9
John Calvin said, “Our wisdom…consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Many people assume that we all see the world in a similar light. We rarely question or understand what has shaped our way of understanding the world around us.
What we often don’t consider is how much our early days in our family, shape our view and understanding of the world. Taking a step back and considering perspectives is one of the first steps to waking up and seeing ourselves for who we really are.
At first, when we were infants, we existed with our true self unaffected by the world. As we grew up, we faced pain and disappointment because every family contains a certain level of brokeness. No family can deliver the perfect love we were made for.
As a result, we developed ways to defend ourselves from pain by wearing a mask of who we feel we need to or want to be. Over time this mask became more and more ingrained into us, and we began to think that it is who we are.However, these defensive tactics are not our true self, but merely a provisional self. The mask usually works for a time and then breaks – typically around the late twenties – because the patterned behaviors and ingrained perceptions stop working so well. This is when the journey to the true self can finally begin.
The true self is who you are in your truest sense. It’s your absolute identity. It exists apart from performance, moral system, group affiliation, or any external value system.
“The surrendering of our false self… is the necessary suffering needed to find “the pearl of great price” that is always hidden inside this lovely but passing shell.” (Falling Upward by Richard Rohr).
Exploring the Enneagram Types
The Enneagram types are broken into three major groups:
- The instinctual or gut triad contains types 8, 9, and 1. Anger is their primary emotion.
- The feelings or heart contains types 2, 3, and 4. Shame is their primary emotion.
- The thinking or head triad contains types 5, 6, and 7. Fear is their primary emotion.
There are several ways to discern your type. One of the easiest places to start is with an online test to identify your type. No one test can provide definite results, but they can serve as helpful starting points. One of the most effective ways to determine your type is by working with a therapist who is familiar with the Enneagram system.
Identifying your type is often uncomfortable because you see the good, but you also see the bad. However, the uncomfortability cannot be avoided. Personal and spiritual growth requires us to face uncomfortable and painful experiences. In fact, it is often these challenging and testing times of life that yield the most fruit.
9 Enneagram Types
There are 9 enneagram types and each of them in some way reflects God’s nature:
- Type 1 is the Perfectionist, reflecting his righteousness and goodness.
- Type 2 is the Helper, reflecting his nurturing spirit and love.
- Type 3 is the Achiever, reflecting his radiance and hope.
- Type 4 is the Romantic, reflecting his depth and creativity.
- Type 5 is the Observer, reflecting his truth and wisdom.
- Type 6 is the Loyalist, reflecting his courage and faithfulness.
- Type 7 is the Enthusiast, reflecting his abundance and joy.
- Type 8 is the Challenger, reflecting his protection and power.
- Type 9 is the Peacemaker, reflecting his oneness and peace.
I want to restate that there is no one right type. All of them are reflections of God.
I Figured Out My Type – What’s Next?
Knowing more about your type is invaluable. However, knowledge by itself does not lead to transformation. Self-awareness is also critical and required.
Abstract knowledge alone will build an understanding of a type, but self-awareness and knowledge will help you understand your actions and see your deeper motivations. You will begin to see how you are uniquely drawn and wired because every type has a specific focus of attention.
Let’s examine each type’s focus:
Type 1: focuses on problem solving. What is wrong? What needs to be fixed?
Type 2: focuses on other people and their needs. Type 2’s need to be needed.
Type 3: focuses on success. The definition of success will vary, but 3’s deeply need to feel successful.
Type 4: focuses on what isn’t there. What are others missing? What needs to be present?
Type 5: focuses on creating space for themselves to think. They can’t be overly attached.
Type 6: focuses on worst case scenarios. How can we prepare for things when they go wrong?
Type 7: focuses on adventure and excitement.
Type 8: focuses on gaining control for self-preservation and the preservation of others.
Type 9: focuses on balancing the wants and needs of others to keep the peace.
We Can Change
If we let him in, God will conform us to the image of Christ. This sort of transformation is not something we are capable of on our own. In order to really be changed, we need to remain connected to God as he works in us. The Enneagram is a way of understanding this transformation. As you learn about yourself, a quiet path emerges.
Each of the three groups requires a different means to achieve transformation:
For the gut/instinctual triad, stillness is pivotal on the road to transformation. By stopping and being still, the gut/instinctual drive is forced to release control and recognize their identity is tied to their sense of being in control.Stillness counteracts the busyness of this triad. Christopher Heuertz writes in The Sacred Enneagram, “Stillness interrupts the addictions of gut people and prompts a reevaluation of their drive.”
For the heart/feeling triad, solitude is a life-changing practice. Heart/feelers are overly concerned with relationships, so they cannot clearly see unhealthy relational dynamics in themselves or in others. Solitude affords them the space to begin to see the negative dynamics.
Alone with God in solitude, they can begin to gently loosen their dependency on and comparison with others. As Heuertz explains, “Solitude teaches us how to be present – present to God, to ourselves, and to others with no strings attached.”
For the head/thinking triad, silence is critical for transformation. This triad tends to be characterized by busy minds and racing thoughts. Silence opens them up to hearing the voice of God and to face the real fears and desires they’ve been hiding from.As Heuertz explains, “The Enneagram shines a light on what obstructs our essence from emerging and opens our path to God. The quiet practices discussed above allow God to begin moving us back towards our true identity.”
When we realize that people see the world differently, we are able to hear others more clearly. And as we begin to understand our own pain and perception, we gain tremendous compassion for others experiences and perception.
We begin to see others truly and understand how tremendously beautiful they are in their unique way of being. It’s like stepping into someone else’s shoes for the day. Our relationships begin to improve as we listen carefully to others rather than ourselves.
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:22-24
How the Enneagram Helps
What sets the Enneagram apart is that it isn’t just descriptive. Rather than just tell you who you are, it tells you who you can be. Diving into the depths of the Enneagram can lead you home to your true self, the self you were created to be and where you best reflect your most authentic and glorious self.
The Enneagram can help us to have greater compassion for ourselves and for others. I’ve seen the Enneagram be very effective in couples therapy as well.
Are you interested in growing in self-awareness? Would you like to know what has shaped you and how you view the world? With the right help, you can learn more about yourself and begin to identify and change patterns in your life.
Growth is not a quick process, but if you are committed to learning and being persistent, you can begin to see real change. I remember the first time I saw some of the unhealthier aspects of my type in action. It was really discouraging, but I also knew that I had the ability to change.
As we begin to sit in the discomfort and begin working through our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we can begin to move away from our unhealthiness and step into alignment with our true self.
If plan on exploring the Enneagram, please don’t do it alone. I would be thrilled to work you as you pursue your own self-transformation. The road will be hard, but if you are open to God’s work, then he will change you in ways you could never imagine.
Enneagram resources to help you in your journey:
The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile
The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz
Typology podcasts with Ian Cron
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
“Black Enneagram”, Courtesy of Rob Fitzel, www.fitzel.ca, Used by Permission; “Another Cold Night”, Courtesy of Jonatan Pie, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lonely Traveler”, Courtesy of Nur Taufik Zamari, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Serenity Now”, Courtesy of Keegan Houser, Unsplash.com, CC0 License