Over the years of teaching the Enneagram of personality types, I have noticed a tendency for some people to become anxious about discovering which of the nine types they are.
When this happens we fall into a trap of needing to categorise ourselves. We can become even further isolated from Total Being and Wholeness. We turn ourselves into a reference book of singular experiences that we can trot out as the “exemplar” of particular type.
My teachers Don Riso and Russ Hudson have always expressed the importance of discovering our Dominant type, but only as a means to see more clearly, the kind of aspects of our personality / ego structure that we have become blind to.
By identifying where we are, and what our “condition” is, we may begin to fully digest how much we have become a story over told, and to which we are overly identified.
There is a problem though. The personality/ ego structure is sneaky and has a way of embedding itself in the very observation that we seek and thus avoid detection.
The ego seeks the goal, and is not interested in the process. The discovery overrides the journey of discovering. Once the goal is achieved, and we think we have identified our type, a level of satisfaction can arise that is not always in our awareness.
It is the kind of satisfaction that is healthy as a relief from an inner critic, that would otherwise berate us for habitual attitudes and behaviours. Yet unhealthy in the casual response to a habit that we know limits possibility for change and development.
It usually manifests in the form of a comment that underlies a belief, where someone remarks ” …well as a Type Four, I can be very temperamental” or “.. as a Type One I always like things to be right”
How did the idea of seeing what hangs us up, and limits our growth and transformation become an excuse for not changing?
Enneagram Institute Teachers prefer to teach “Dominant Type”, or “Basic Type” as this acknowledges all nine types within us.
Some teachers and Enneagram enthusiasts see part of the problem in the terminology. That “there is no such thing as types” or personality, and it would be better to refer to our “Fixations” as originally taught by Oscar Ichazo.
What if there was a more wholesome way of coming into this Enneagram world of personality, ego, habits and passions?
It has become more clear to me through my own inquiry, observation and insight, that we do indeed have all of the personality “aspects” within us. They are our birth right and our potential for becoming a more complete, holistic being.
Each of the nine aspects can be experienced as necessary functions and components that serve our Soul’s Development.
They may be present to us, but for various reasons arising from our life story, they remain unseen, dismissed, denied and even acknowledged as something that we are ashamed of.
The origins of such a limiting idea of Self can be numerous. Did somebody made a derisory remark about a particular aspect they saw in others or ourselves when we were young? Maybe somebody we were close to exhibited one of the nine qualities that were not always expressed in their healthy form?
The parental affirmations that we were “the sensitive one”, “the strong one” or “clever one” as a child are very compelling. Exploring other possibilities can feel disloyal. The desire to fit-in overrides the risk of isolation. And when we do explore, even that can become the new identity – the one who is always changing, denies that which is the still the same. The ego cannot deal with such a paradox.
Whatever the cause, a lack of inner and outer support for exploring different ways of being, is embedded in cultures, education and the way our friends and family have become used to seeing us.
The most difficult part of personal growth and change, is how others might react to the “new” or “different” manifestations of our being.
You know how it is when your regular supermarket moves the stock around. The frustration and resentment that arises when your favourite items are no longer in aisle five, and you have make changes to your habitual route, in order to find what you want.
When somebody you know well, finds your jokes and stories less amusing and engaging after a while. When the subject of conversation they wish to engage in is not the usual. A discussion turns to concepts you have no reference experience of, or have no interest in, they become a stranger to you, and it can feel like abandonment.
As with the lost shopping aisle, irritation arises. A shift of consciousness challenges the norm, and if you haven’t signed up for Growth and Change, let alone Transformation, it becomes easier to find another person, an alternative supermarket like the one you used to shop in.
Why then would anyone wish to change? Who would want to lose friends, become misunderstood, alienated and confused about who you or they are?
All the more reason for the personality to pretend interest, but stick with what it knows best.
The issue then is why bother? What is the purpose of the Enneagram, if not as a catalyst for Change, Growth and Transformation?
In Reality, we already are changing. We will have changed in many ways over the years. Different experiences, new insights and knowledge and the influence of others moulds our consciousness. We are informed by life.
Staying the same takes a lot of effort. The effort to maintain the sense of the known self is huge and tiring, The identification with a particular ego structure (personality type) requires all our attention. It dominates and clouds our awareness, and keeps us locked in a limited map of the world.
Being Present is not a singular state.
It is not an ideal persona. When consciousness is aware of all that is arising we see dimensions of ourselves, and others that we would otherwise be blind to. We see all of our potential..
The invitation is to recover, acknowledge and integrate all aspects of the nine personalities within us. We will see some aspects we would rather not see as well.
When we can acknowledge and integrate how we can be as controlling as an average eight, as clingy as an average two, or as arrogant as an average five, we have the opportunity to embody the higher qualities of real Will, Nurturance and Clarity. We get to embrace the Wisdom and Integrity of a healthy one, to have the Energy and Vivacity of a healthy seven and to value the Beauty and Diversity in all things of a healthy four.
Don Riso developed the Nine Domains Approach to address team and organisational functioning. Our inner world is much like an organisation of ideas; a team of competing values and identities. Thus we can begin to utilise the Nine Domains Approach in a Synergistic Enneagram quest for Total Being, and our journey towards Wholeness.