What's the big deal with the Enneagram???
Does it seem like everyone you know is talking about “numbers” and “wings” and this wacky thing called the Enneagram? Are you worried that your friends have accidentally fallen into a cult? Do you know enough to know that the Enneagram has to do with personality types and you possess just enough suspicion regarding the validity of such things to scoff at their enthusiasm?
About a year ago the Enneagram grabbed the attention of my circle of friends and I was one such scoffer. As a psychology major, I’ve studied personality assessments enough to know that they rarely hold any scientific validity. (The Myers-Briggs has been debunked by the scientific community countless times, yet it is still used widely in the corporate world.) I figured it was just a phase and my friends would soon move on to the next Marie Kondo or Instant Pot cookbook and we all could get back to our lives.
But that’s not what happened.
Over and over again, I heard women talk about the Enneagram as a life-changing experience. Rather than a novel talking point, it became a way of seeing themselves and their relationships that brought clarity and hope. I confess I was intrigued. A persistent friend sent me a copy of “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stablile and I began my own investigation. Here is what I l have learned:
The Enneagram is unique in several ways. First, its focus is on a person’s core motivations – something that is often floating around in our subconscious. Rather than measuring our degree of extraversion or how we make decisions (traits that are rarely a surprise to us), it seeks to unearth what drives us – which is something that we may have not been in tune with before. It’s kind of like the difference between asking “How do you like your eggs?” and “Why do you like eggs?” Are you motivated by fear? Achievement? Fun factor? This idea is unique to the Enneagram and provides insight that can be life-changing.
Another way the Enneagram is unique to personality assessment is the spiritual element. It’s difficult to nail down the precise origins of the Enneagram, but it has a rich history within the spiritual formation world. And some, like Beth McCord, do a great job of articulating how your personality type might influence how you connect with God. Let’s face it, most personality tests are not concerning themselves with such things.
Last, but certainly not least, the element that sets the Enneagram apart is that instead of describing who you are, it describes what it feels like to be you. Allow me to explain. Many personality assessments can do a decent job of describing your dominant traits. Maybe you are a tad neurotic. Maybe you are a get-er-done kind of gal. Maybe you are good with people. These can be helpful observations. But the Enneagram takes it a step further and describes how you experience these traits. How these qualities make you feel. About yourself. About others. About God.
It’s this last quality that leads many to say that they cried when they realized their type. It was like someone finally “got” what it felt like to be them. They felt known. And feeling known is a powerful experience.
So give the Enneagram a try! You will not be sucked into a weird cult, and with any luck you just may learn a thing or two about yourself or someone you love. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
P.S. Oh, and a terrific resource is Annie F. Downs’ podcast series (That Sounds Fun) in which she interviews a man and a woman of each number and gets a first person account of their experience of the Enneagram. Check it out!