Saturday, October 2, 2010

Enneagrammatical Errors: Common Enneagram Mistakes

Once we learn the Enneagram of personality, a whole world opens up to us
. We discover that our perception of reality, well.. isn’t reality. It’s a mere facet, reflecting a limited worldview. We realize that we have been like the blind guys groping that elephant. The part we perceive is real enough, but we only apprehend a small part of the whole. As my teacher Helen Palmer says, each of the Enneagram types has one ninth of the truth.

The Enneagram map helps to be vigilant as to when we are falling back into what Tom Condon calls the ‘trance” of our type. We question the reality before us and try on perceptions of the other eight types in an endeavor to sense the whole Elephant, as it were.

Certainly, new worlds offered by the eight types we do not inhabit have much to teach us. Our own type illuminates much as well. Yet, we may slip into “knowing” by virtue of our Enneagram knowledge too soon. We may fall prey to Enneagrammatical Errors.

Here are a couple of common ones that most of us (including me) have fallen prey to.

Point Envy
I’m not sure, but I”m guessing that Sevens get this one a tad more often than the other types. Thankfully, I can’t remember how many times I heard from a well meaning Enneagram enthusiast that they wished they were a type Seven. All I can say to that is “Oh no you don’t! You don’t wish you had my inside.”
Each type comes with its own set of problems and heartache, gifts notwithstanding. Speaking from the Seven perspective, I can truthfully say that what looks like happiness and optimism from the outside (even felt at first from the inside) often is the manhole cover over a huge, dark sewer of pain.

And until we travel below ground through that muck, all the twists and turns through the shadow, true joy eludes us. Believe me when I say that I would not wish that horrifying journey on anyone. Except maybe a fellow Seven who’s ready to become “real.”

My friends who inhabit the other eight types of the Enneagram have their own dragons to slay on their journeys. Point Envy is natural, perhaps, but misguided. (And for more on how Envy plays out read the previous Blog Entry: An Inquiry Into Envy For All Enneagram Types) So the next time you find yourself wishing you were a different type, count your blessings. The devil you know and all that....

Instant Typing
People I’ve known for a couple hours when they discover I am an Enneagram teacher invariably ask “What type am I?” Well, I don’t know. and anyone who says they do is cantilevered out there a little too far.

Because the Enneagram map describes an internally held worldview and beliefs about reality, there is really no way TO know. I just give my stock (and true) answer: “No one knows how you feel inside except you. Anyone can have any trait or characteristic that we notice externally given the right situation. It’s why we exhibit that trait that illuminates the internal landscape and narrows the search for type.” It works. They get it, dare I say, instantly. Feel free to use it next time someone asks you.

The Enneagrammatical error of instant typing occurs when people actually believe that they can type others after a few hours, minutes, days. Or even, gasp, by looking at a photo. I don’t care how talented, enlightened, or how many years you’ve spent studying/teaching the enneagram, you cannot tell someone’s internal terrain just by looking at them. And if someone types you, even if they know you well? Take it with a boulder sized grain of salt and do the work yourself.

The Enneagram is a map of internal terrain and an inner worldview, best learned by self- inquiry and self-observation. True, books, classes, websites, and trained professionals can offer tools to the seeker to help them narrow down their type to break its hold. But the discovery process is an individual one, exploring oneself with the map as a instruction guide for growing oneself.

We’ll look at more enneagrammatical errors in subsequent blog posts. Some of the mistakes we’ll address will include:

Enneagram Evangelism. Being Too Enthused About the Enneagram

Being a Not Type


Confusing The Map With The Territory

Have you noticed, fallen prey to, or been the unlucky recipient of other Enneagrammatical Errors? Or have a tale to tell about one of these? Leave your wisdom here in the comments; we learn by sharing.