A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I was reading a book on the Enneagram and that I’d gotten some helpful insight in it. I had a lot of time last night to read, so I finished The Enneagram of Belonging: A Compassionate Journey of Self-Acceptance, by Christopher L. Heurtz.
A Little Background
I’ve always been a sucker for personality tests, astrology, and other ways of categorizing people’s personalities or figuring out what makes people tick. I love archetypes, too, as evidenced by how much I enjoy tarot. I have always liked to meditate and I do a lot of reading about self-help topics and ways to lead me to get along with others better, enjoy life, and love myself. I am very aware that some of the science (if there is any) behind these kinds of things is suspect or non-existent. I happily coexist with my cognitive dissonance, and take what works from the things I explore and leave what doesn’t work behind.
When I first read about the Enneagram, back in its earlier days, I didn’t see any science in there at all and a lot of mysticism. It reminded me a lot of numerology, which I also had a hard time with (but who knows, numbers may very well have effects on us).
I picked this book up, though, because I’d heard there has been a lot of work in the Enneagram community, and a couple of friends were very enthusiastic. Plus, seeing the words “compassionate” and “self-acceptance” in the subtitle made it sound like the book would fit in with all the work I’ve done on self-love. And Brene Brown wrote the introduction!
On to the Book
I ended up getting a lot of ideas and insights, and a lot of it I credit to the author. Heuertz is very good at making the complexities of the Enneagram make sense and is very careful to make clear that the spiritual aspect of the system are way more important than identifying your type and buying a t-shirt with your number on it. (Nonetheless, I am adopting the sloth as my official mascot since my type’s main passion is sloth.)
As I read through the book, and Heuertz slowly led us through the various aspects of the Enneagram and how they work to hide certain aspects of ourselves, and fool us about other things, I found myself gradually to understand what he was talking about, and how all the concepts, numbers, and such interact. I loved that the book wasn’t all about how to figure out your type and who would be your ideal date, but to figure out what’s stopping you from loving ALL parts of yourself, even the “negative” or challenging things.
He carefully brings you to see how the ways you’ve used to protect yourself from whatever childhood issues you had can be addressed, then allowed to stand as a reminder if you start to slip into old patterns. This worked very well for me, and gave me concrete things I can do to help. For example, he provided this little mantra for people like me:
May I be present.
May I own my own power.
May I have inner peace.
I also welcomed the way he explained how people can have tendencies from adjacent groups, which helped me realize that my Nine has a One wing, in their jargon. Besides that, Heuertz, briefly presented the 27 subtypes. It was really fascinating to see how the same type can manifest itself so differently depending on which underlying “instinct” a person operates from.
In the end, it was really easy for me to figure out where I fit on the Enneagram and how I can best use this information for personal growth.
I realize none of this makes a lot of sense unless you already know something about the Enneagram and its inner workings, so I’ll share some of the insights I got. Here’s the big summary of my type, bearing in mind that the description beneath it is all the sterling characteristics, not the shadow side and all that darn sloth.
A couple of times I actually said, “Aha” to myself when I saw a tendency I’d never understood about myself explained. For one, he explained that from a young age, I put the needs of others ahead of mine (my sick mom, who sometimes disappeared (leading to fear of separation) when I was a child, for example). And I always suppress my anger, because I am supposed to be all about love, because, “how could expressing irritation be loving?” Oh, too true.
The biggest insight I got was about WHY I avoid confrontation to an extreme degree, so much so that it sometimes looks like I’m not doing anything. It has to do with that sloth, the fixation of this type:
“Indolence is a lazy word for how Nines present as inactive in their world…Because Nines desire uninterrupted interior harmony, hey will do nearly anything to avoid that being interrupted. However, the easiest way for them to maintain their peace of mind is to cause as little friction in the world as possible.”p. 158
He goes on to point out that we take so much energy trying not to be energetic that we seem lazy, when we’re really internally exhausted. How to fix this? More action.
I completely agreed with this characterization, because I can remember my brain screaming to me that it just wanted to be left alone and not have to go on and on about conflict (even stuff I really need to deal with). And I also know that I feel a LOT better in the past few years, because I have been pushing myself to DO things (horse riding, for example). I feel so good when I ACT, which is my virtue. Geez, the damn thing seems to work.
Now, some of you who know me may be saying, wait a minute, I don’t see any sloth in you, Suna. You are so active, volunteer so much, are always trying to help people…ha ha, there’s an explanation in this fine book, when talking about the passion for Nines:
“…the unintended personal and social consequences of type Nine’s sloth will sometimes cause them to move toward their counterpassion of hyperactivity. This is an obvious over-correction that is generally internally aimed at self-perfection projects. But when it is externally expressed, it tends to have an activist edge to it.”p. 202
AHA. Guilty as charged! This explains all my volunteering and projects, as well as why I spend to much time analyzing my perceived imperfections and working to better myself. Looks like I need to keep on working toward being active, but not TOO active.
Thanks to reading this book, I now see how all the different facets of the Enneagram work together and am ready to send out lots of love to my inner sloth.
I’ve had a couple of good conversations on this topic with my friend Vicki, who’s been taking a course through her church. She has little quotes she can just whip out and send me. They are interesting enough that I’ve been inspired to get two more books on the Enneagram. I’ll continue to take the parts of it that ring true to me to heart, and not get so over-involved that it takes over my life and I spend all my time guessing other people’s types like I did with the Meyers-Briggs stuff for a while.
So, tell me, what type are YOU?