Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enneagram Errors Part Deux

In the last blog entry we examined some Enneagrammatical errors that commonly affect or afflict us. Here are a few more errors that are natural and easy to fall into. With naming, a little vigilance, and some focused attention, they won’t catch us unaware.

Enneagram Evangelism. Being Too Enthused About the Enneagram

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me how they were turned off completely to the Enneagram by some well meaning friend/spouse/coworker bombarding them with enneagram enthusiasm, well, I’d have a roomful of nickels. And I hate rolling those things in wrappers so I’d just have to live with them. (Yes, I live rurally and my bank’s coin sorter is rarely working.)

Seriously though, this is a real Enneagrammatical error. The horror on someone’s face when I tell them that I teach and consult with the Enneagram of personality is not feigned. Generally, I listen to their tale of Ennea trauma, offer some empathy (because they’re right, it sucks to have anything pushed on you), and hopefully get them to separate the map from the messenger.

We Enneagram enthusiasts need to be gentle in our excitement. The one best way I’ve found to open someone else to the Enneagram is this: give them an introductory book, mine, David Daniels’, Helen Palmer’s, or Baron and Wagele’s. Tell them your type: “I’m a Seven (or Eight or One or whatever your type is.) This book might help you understand me better. It’s helped me understand myself more.”

We need to restrain ourselves from commenting on their type, even if they ask. They will read the book and begin the discovery process on their own. Let them get back to you. After all, one of the best parts of the Enneagram is having a common language in which to examine our differences and similarities on our path to understanding.

Being a Not Type

One of my friends who is a successful Enneagram teacher and consultant worked so very hard interrupting her passion, her Enneagram drive, that she became what she now refers to as a Not Four. Which is not the same as an evolved or self-actualizing Four.

Sure, the Enneagram gives us a choice to run our habit or passion rather than having it run us. But we need to remember that the passion IS energy. We want to avail ouselves of that energy for growth and transformation, to become our best selves.

My friend was working so hard going against her type, that she underused her type, her gifts. She realized that it’s not doing the opposite of what type first presents, but doing whatever we do with consciousness. Sometimes, Fourness is exactly what is needed. We can’t jettison our gifts; we merely need to be awake and choose right action. With practice and awareness, we can choose the gifts of all nine types, ultimately.


Sevens are not committed. Eights don’t get their feelings hurt. Ones hold grudges. Not true. These are potential manifestations of the worldviews informing Sevens, Eights, and Ones. But don’t believe everything you read.

Yes, Sevens are visionary optimists, and most enjoy beginnings more than grunt work middles. Still, I’ve known myriad Sevens who are very committed to relationships, causes, and projects. They get things done, they complete, they are monogamous.

Eights may project invulnerability coming from a worldview where “only the strong survive”. But let me tell you that I know many a tenderhearted Eight of both genders whose feelings have been bruised because of the assumption that they are touch and don’t feel pain.

Ones can certainly see things in black and white terms and become irritated when others don’t come through, aren’t honest, or don’t pull their weight. But remember that the hallmark of Oneishness is the desire to correct, to make better. I know several Ones who don’t hold grudges - because they feel that it is wrong to do so. It’s not correct.

These are just a few examples, but it is all too easy to fall into stereotyping, even when we know better. Better to ask each individual “How is this situation (feelling etc) for you?” And it works even better when you both have that common Enneagram language.

Confusing The Map With The Territory

Just because we know the Enneagram type of another person does not mean we know him or her. The Enneagram is a rich and compelling map. But it is only a map. In a sense, it can be likened to our GPS devices in our cars or on our phones. It does a good job in certain known areas but it can lose its way or declare you off-road when it is unknown territory.

Each of us IS unknown territory. Our Enneagram type makes us more comprehensible to ourselves and others. It offers a map for growth both psychologically and spiritually. Still, much of our inner terrain is “off-road” even to ourselves. We are a learning in progress. We are growing ourselves.

One day, probably far in the future, it is my profound desire that we will no longer need the Enneagram map. I pray that we will connect intuitively, deeply with ourselves and others. Understanding will be like breathing and we will apprehend the true and holy territory of spiritual beings in human form. And then we might attend to other work, what I do not know.

I know, I know, it sounds like science fiction or utopia. But I can dream. In the meantime, I’ll try to use the map with delicacy and discretion, always reminding myself that there is so much more that is not known.