The Enneagram explains nine personality types. These types fall into one of three triads: head, heart or body. Additionally, each of the nine types looks radically different, depending on what level of health the person is functioning at.
It is super helpful to recognize what the full spectrum of possibilities looks like, both for yourself and all the other types, even if it makes you uncomfortable to see it all spelled out. The Enneagram highlights the path (yes, you are not the first to travel this way) each archetype takes when evolving or devolving. The goal is to not judge yourself or anyone else. The goal is to accurately assess where you are, so you can free yourself from self-defeating habits.
The Three Levels of Health
Visit the Enneagram Institute website for detailed descriptions of all nine types at all levels. There are actually three levels within each level (told you there were a lot of threes!). What’s your level of health? Be honest with yourself.
Healthy – all the good stuff. Powerful, compassionate, decisive, achieving, creative, grateful, generous, loving…
Average – living life, fearful in some areas, confident in others. Avoidant in some areas, direct in others. Emotionally healthy in some areas, not so much in others.
Unhealthy Levels – all the bad stuff. Scared, isolated, victimized, full of rage, paranoid, bitter, defeated… No one wants the unhealthy levels, or average ones, really, but we unconsciously create average to unhealthy experiences when we don’t. deal. with. what’s. real.
No matter what level of health you are functioning at, remember it is just a temporary state. It is not an identity to get locked into.
Level of Health is different from a temporary emotional state
Our culture is all about embracing the “positive” and minimizing the “negative.” The Enneagram is not. The Enneagram allows for the full range of human emotions, but recognizes that our behavior and how we act out our emotions will look different based on our level of health. Maybe this goes without saying – but I’m saying it. In my experience, many people are uncomfortable with painful emotions and therefore try to rush others back to happy, when really they need to feel all the feels. Feeling the feels allows true joy to arise – when it’s ready.
An example from yoga
Once I was in kukkutasana, this silly yoga pose where you shove your arms through your lotus-folded legs and then lift up onto your hands. The name means rooster pose in Sanskrit- go figure. Anyway, my teacher Tim walked by and said, eyebrow raised:
“Your chicken has short legs.”
I laughed. He was right. I needed to get my knees up higher (some day…). But Tim wasn’t criticizing me. I was not a misshapen chick. It just wasn’t quite the best position. I needed more practice. Now, if he had glared at me and said, “You dumb bird! Look at how short your legs are! What’s wrong with you?!” I probably would have left in tears – and never come back. And if he’d said, “Wow! Your chicken legs look amazing!” well, that would have just been weird, and not at all helpful.
I love the Enneagram as much as I love yoga because it allows for the constant growth and change that people (um, try all fucking things in the universe) naturally go through. Please don’t label people as good or bad, perfect or flawed. We are dynamic creatures. The only way to get better at anything is to work with what you’ve got. Flattery is no better than denigration here. We need honesty.
Only you can give your chicken longer legs. I’m sure a “spread your wings and fly, little bird, fly!” quote would be more inspirational, but I’d rather not mix my metaphors. Just be glad I didn’t translate kukkutasana as cock pose and try to make a comparison using that!
I highly recommend the book Enneagram Transformations: Releases and Affirmations for Healing Your Personality Type by Don Richard Riso. It is short, sweet and powerful. Affirming your type’s good qualities is a proven way to improve your level of health.