Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's Your Number? Understanding Your Enneagram Type

Great article here on Huffpo. Thanks, Karen. Twenty years ago when I began teaching the Enneagram, I would tell people what I did and they would need me to spell the word and explain in depth. Now when I'm on a plane or at a gathering and mention the Enneagram, I'm more likely to hear "I'm a Six" or "We learned it at work, I"m a One." The Enneagram is merely a map, not the territory. One of the best things about this map is that it promotes inquiry with a common language - it is not simply categorization. (And it is not the only map that does this, but I find it the most profound and useful.) Things we might have taken personally, we come to realize are often simply people being themselves. The Enneagram promotes awareness and consciousness, not stereotyping. It is rich and deep - and if we are lucky and aware, someday we will no longer need any map for understanding one another - we will truly be able to appreciate the territory of another as well as ourselves.

For more resources or to learn more, check out and

Lynette Sheppard

author of The Everyday Enneagram
About Relationships
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Energy and The Enneagram Part II

The nine types of the Enneagram can be further divided into three “triads” or groups of three, based on the primary center of intelligence through which the world is understood and reactions are formulated. These energy centers are like complementary organs of perception that help us make sense of our environment and relationships. Types 8, 9, and 1 share the gut as the primary center or organ of perception. The heart is the primary center for types 2, 3, and 4. Types 5, 6, and 7 use primarily the head center.

Head Center
The head center is useful in logical reasoning, abstract thought, the use of language and symbols, and imagery. It is also the organ of perception involved in planning, memory, strategizing, and envisioning pitfalls and possibilities. Our dreams and our visions of the future are created in the head center. We synthesize information and make mental connections here. It is the center that we most commonly associate with understanding and “intelligence.”

When many of us first attended school, we discovered that we were to use the head center as our primary intelligence for learning. IQ tests were based on head center skills such as memory and logical or abstract thought. 5’s, 6’s, and 7’s probably felt right at home. Unfortunately, 6/9 of the Enneagram types were asked to value the head center over their primary learning and understanding center. Small wonder that many of us felt misunderstood or had difficulty adapting to “head centered” learning.

Heart Center
The heart center is important to our emotional life. This is the center where we feel connection to other beings as well as to ourselves. The heart center is the repository of our love, empathy and compassion. Love and loss, bliss and pain reside in the heart. Our ability to intuit how we appear to others is located in this center of intelligence. We understand how others perceive us through the heart center. We tap into others’ approval or disapproval of us, and feel what adjustments will shift their perceptions. (Fours often make adjustments against what will gain another’s approval - to prove their uniqueness and that no one can understand them. But make no mistake, they are just as concerned with how they are perceived as are Twos and Threes.)

Gut Center
The gut center is the instinctual and sensate center. The world is sensed or felt from the belly, below the umbilicus. The gut center senses the spatial location of objects and people in the environment. Sensing the elemental, the realms of wind, rain, earth, rock, and storm, comes naturally to the gut center, . This is the center of our intuition or “gut knowing.” This center instinctively knows the ‘best” way to do something. The gut ‘senses’ conflict vs harmony in the environment even when no words are spoken. This is the center of our power, our strength, and our instinctual knowing.

Emotional Intelligence
The skills and talents of the heart and gut centers can be best described as our emotional and sensory intelligence. Daniel Goleman, in his excellent books on Emotional Intelligence refers to our EQ or emotional intelligence quotient. He describes those natural abilities of the heart and gut centers. Many of us have not cultivated or exercised these aptitudes, even if our primary intelligence center is the heart or gut. We may not have been cognizant of their existence nor have understood their importance to our daily living. Yet we use them all the time, whether we are aware of it or not.

The Centers of Intelligence in Daily Life
Let’s look at the contribution of these three centers of intelligence to an everyday decision faced by each of us at some point in life - finding a home or place to live.

We look at the factual information: how far we’ll need to travel to work, whether it fits in our price range, if it is close to shopping or schools, or other services. We look at the rooms, imagine how we might decorate them, and what we might change to fit our vision of a home. All of these are the purview of the head center.

The intelligence of the heart center is concerned with connection - is this a place that we might feel connected to ourselves and/or others? How will our friends and family feel about this move? Will we make new friends or feel connected to our neighbors? Do we feel emotionally drawn here? A sense of loss of the old home may even be felt in the midst of the anticipation of the new.

The gut center helps us to sense layout of the space - the feel of the rooms, whether expansive or cozy, open or protected. We get a sense of the area, the neighborhood from our gut. Is it friendly or adversarial, safe or hostile, open or secluded? Our gut instinct tells us if this is the right neighborhood, house, or place for us.

All of the intelligence of the three centers comes into play when we are making a decision. If all three are in agreement that the choice is right, the decision is easy. If there is conflict among the intelligences, we may struggle to ‘think it through.” Or we may decide against the move, waiting until it “feels right.” However, we may not be able to articulate why we chose as we did, if we are only aware of our head or mental center as the intelligence behind our decision-making process.

On the occasions that we have been aware of using the heart and gut centers’ abilities as part of our everyday life, we may have learned to discount them, to devalue their contribution, or to hide our reliance on them. As we learn the role of each of the centers intelligences, we may avail ourselves of their perspectives. The information derived from all three of these centers is vital to our becoming fully conscious and functioning human beings. And because this sensing or emotional intelligence is an innate part of being human, we can re-incorporate or re-member these abilities with only a little practice.

Exercise - Part I.
Think back to an important decision you made in your life. Remember if you can, the role of the three centers of intelligence in your decision making process. How did thinking, feeling, and sensing contribute to and affect your decision?

Part II.
For the next decision you have to make, consciously assess its parameters with all three centers of intelligence. What does your head tell you? Your heart? Your gut? Are they in agreement?
(Material adapted from The Everyday Enneagram. )

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Energy, Centers of Intelligence, and the Enneagram

Determining your Point on the Enneagram of personality is best accomplished as a personal journey of self-discovery. The journey may be short or long depending on a number of factors: how well you know your internal terrain, how much you’ve camouflaged your natural personality to “get along” in the world, and the amount of time you spend noticing your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

A number of written tests have been developed that purport to find your Enneagram type. Unfortunately, results have been inconclusive (ambiguous) at best, and just plain wrong at worst. Nevertheless, a written test can be useful in beginning the process of inquiry into your habitual way of thinking, feeling, and acting.

Why don’t the tests conclusively ascertain our type? The Enneagram describes a worldview, certain beliefs and traits associated with that worldview, and habitual ways of perceiving and being in everyday life. Many of these aspects of type can be elucidated through pencil and paper tests. However, a very important element eludes reduction to multiple choice questions: the energy of each of the Enneagram types. That’s right - energy.

Energy is the manifestation of the life force of each of us. We sense the “energy” or substance of another individual whenever we come in contact with him. We feel if he “takes up a lot of space” or seems “lightweight”, if he seems “down to earth” or “transparent, almost invisible.” These descriptions by ordinary people about others embody what we mean by “energy”. We don’t physically see this energy, yet we have a ‘sense’ of the substance or life force of another even if we don’t think of it as “energy.” Each of the types has a specific energetic; a type of energy based on the primary center of intelligence utilized by the type. Each type also expresses a basic underlying emotion. How that basic, subconscious emotion is addressed by each particular type contributes to the “energetic.”

Centers of Intelligence: Making Sense of Our World

We perceive and interpret information from the environment through our five senses of hearing, seeing, taste, touch, and smell. Each of these senses has its own intelligence, adding to our conception and experience of the world around us. Yet we have more than our five senses to help us parse our environment and those that people it. We take in vital information through three additional senses or centers of intelligence. These centers are less well known, but are indispensable to understanding how we develop a worldview.

The three centers are the head or visionary center, the heart or emotional center, and the gut or instinctual center. All humans have all three centers of intelligence; although we may not access each of them equally. In the next few blog entries, we’ll examine the three centers in greater detail, how energy manifests for each Enneagram type, and how to feel and work with these different energies. Stay tuned.
(Material adapted from The Everyday Enneagram: A Personality Map for Enhancing Your Work, Love, and Life...Everyday.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Celebrate World Enneagram Day

After a looooooooong hiatus, the Everyday Enneagram Blog is back online. While the blogsite took a backseat to hot flashes and hormonal hissy fits during the completion of my latest book “The Big M”, the Enneagram itself was a lifesaver as I found myself bouncing from stress type to security to types I’ve never truly accessed before. The Change of life is a bit like a virulent and sudden case of MPD - Multiple Personality Disorder. And I gotta tell you, it’s a chance to explore the low side of all Nine types. Without ever leaving home. Or talking to another soul. (More info on The Big M available at Menopause Goddess Blog and The Big M website. )

Thankfully, tincture of time has allowed for a reintegration of personality back to my Seven - One - Five home triangle. Just in time to announce “World Enneagram Day” on Saturday, May 30, 2009. Brainchild of the Board of Directors of the International Enneagram Association, this day is dedicated to awareness, consciousness, and presence vis a vis the Enneagram as a map to understanding.

Many of us who are teachers and consultants will be offering free Enneagram talks, classes, and group discussions. Our greater Enneagram community (which is ALL of you readers and seekers as well as teachers) are asked to focus attention and intention through inquiry, meditation, and prayer for all beings in the name of Peace.

To find out more as time draws nearer, visit the International Enneagram Association website for classes and activities near you. Stay tuned to this blogsite as well, and since you are all part of this co-creation, please offer your ideas, insights and suggestions.