I hate the Enneagram today

Just kidding. I don’t hate the Enneagram. I just hate what I see (some) people doing with it – which is robbing it of all usefulness and meaning by encouraging people to identify with the most shallow, surface level details and cling to them as an identity. That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it? Okay…How about helping people dress themselves up in yet another layer of clothing, instead of helping them strip down to what is real and true about their innermost selves?

Not that I have anything against clothes. Clothes are great. So are personalities. It’s the clinging that’s the problem.

enneagram symbol out of balance to thinking
A graphic depiction of when I’m out of balance – my thoughts get out of control and overshadow my other intelligence centers.

The Enneagram is a really solid framework for understanding what each of us are (consciously or not) motivated by. It is not a checklist or description of outer behaviors that we can group people by. And yet – that’s the temptation, right? It is always a temptation to freeze things into a form we can understand, because it makes us feel safe. But unless you’re a specific frog with antifreeze in its veins, to freeze something is to kill it. I’m afraid people are killing the Enneagram.

This blog on why it isn’t a good idea to get attached to your Enneagram type sums up my stance so clearly, I feel like I can relax. My mind can drop the imaginary arguments it was spinning out on. I can go back to making graphics and carving molds of the Enneagram symbol to make jewelry without worry that it won’t be understood the way my inner control freak wants it to be.

Why do I find seeing my ideas represented elsewhere or expressed by other people to be so reassuring? Because it proves I’m not alone. It rids me of the delusion that it is me against everyone else. I am not the only (possibly crazy / bitter / jealous / myopic / judgmental / ignorant / insensitive / insert-your-favorite-insecurity-here) person in the whole universe who doesn’t agree with what everyone else thinks is grand.

vessel hudson yards nyc
This structure is named the Vessel. I think it looks like a pine cone. It was expensive to build and apparently draws a lot of criticism. Many liken it to a “metal meat stick” or Shawarma. Is it art? Is it good? Everyone gets their own opinion.

And just like that – I no longer feel the need to defend anything. Personally, I think there are more layers of meaning and usefulness in the Enneagram than there are stairs in that Vessel thing. It doesn’t matter if other people think the Enneagram is just a fun label to rally others around their love of cozy blankets or checklists, because there are other people who “get” me.

I hate the Enneagram? No. That’s just my reflex, to hate something when other people “ruin” it. But I’m not a five year old. I can do better. I can stop tuning out my anger, hear what it is telling me, and choose what to do. Compare that to refusing to let anger surface, and then feeling endlessly confused and conflicted, as is my pattern as an Enneagram 9.

It is a gift to feel seen and understood. I didn’t understand just how much of a gift until I started letting go of my resistance to it. (I had this notion that I could somehow be safe if I didn’t ever “need” things from others. What a joke.) Because the Enneagram helped me see where I was stuck, I want to share it with others. But when I feel like someone else is threatening a concept by having their own ideas about it, well. That’s a sign I’m heading in the wrong direction. It is the same mental trick that lets people kill in the name of religion. Fundamentalism takes the fun out of everything.

I don’t need to tear down anyone else’s ideas, and I don’t need to force mine on anyone else. My heart knows full well that everyone has a right to their own experience, as it is right now. I’m happy that people are finding ways to feel seen and understood. The fear that people are boxing other people in with their Enneagram memes is just a mental abstraction. It isn’t actually happening in my life. If anything, the memes are helping me , so long as I accept my feelings and get clear about what exactly I am having a reaction to.

I’m accepting my need to explore what I think, feel, and create with people who are also interested in not just what they do, but why they do it.

Thanks for being one of those people.

PS – I am a Body Type. That doesn’t mean I can’t think or feel. We all have all three types of intelligence: body, heart and head. Check out my new Enneagram Resources page if you are still figuring out your type.

The Power of Threes

The world is full of opposites: light or dark, good or bad, wet or dry. These categories are simple and easy to understand – but they aren’t the whole story. What about all those shades of gray? The neutral? The moist? Seeing the world as either/or means we often get ourselves trapped between a rock and a hard place, when to an outside observer, it looks like we should be able to climb out pretty easily. The power of threes is like a mental rope we can use to haul ourselves to a more expansive viewpoint. But first, you have to know what obstacle you’re facing. Enter the Enneagram.

enneagram chart

The Enneagram divides people into nine archtypes. Each type also has a wing (one of the adjacent numbers on the Enneagram circle). For many people (me!), this explains an inner conflict or confusion since the pattern of the dominant type is often very different than that of the wing. For example, I am a 9w8. Nines are all about going with the flow and avoiding conflict – but Eights like to take charge and challenge the status quo. I have often felt trapped between my two habits – either I ignore my feelings so I can avoid upsetting anyone, or my Eight wing takes over, and I am too forceful in asserting myself. Friendly or fierce. It feels like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. But thankfully, that false dichotomy isn’t the whole picture. The power of threes, as I’m calling it, means there is a third choice.

What’s behind door #3

As a Nine, that third option is to really pay close attention to how I feel. Sounds simple, and it is, but it isn’t always easy. I’d rather not be bothered by uncomfortable feelings. It takes a conscious effort to stay present to my own experience and not get swept away by other people’s (often louder, or more insistent) needs. Anger scares me – I had some pretty amazing “what not to do” role models in my life. But anger is my friend, now. I finally see that anger is just an invitation to pay attention, and when I do, I get to solve the puzzle. How do I stay true to myself and allow other people that same freedom?

Harness the power of threes

The real wisdom of the Enneagram is when you are able to see the patterns within yourself – your typical type response, the wing you turn to when needed AND – the hard part – your third and least developed type of intelligence. The part of you that might as well not exist, for all the attention you’ve paid it. When you start to see that third option, it can feel miraculous. It isn’t. It is just how we are meant to live, as fully functional humans, with our heads, hearts and bodies all communicating within ourselves.

When we learn to use all three, magic happens. You can call it whatever you like: thinking, feeling, doing. Mind, body, spirit. Mental, emotional, instinctual. Head, heart, gut. If you look into the Enneagram in any detail, and I hope you will, you’ll find that each teacher uses a slightly different framework. In this blog, I’ll explore different perspectives – not to decide which one is “right” – but to make connections and expand my own understanding of myself and the world.

If you don’t know your Enneagram number, reading over the type descriptions on Enneagram Institute website is a good place to start.