“In the course of working on ourselves, we learn in time that when we stay on the surface of ourselves, which is to say when we are identified with and operating from our outer shell—our personality—we suffer. The more asleep we are to the reality beneath our shells, the less we feel that life is fulfilling, meaningful, and pleasurable. Or, in the language of the enneagram, the more fixated we are, the less we partake of the loving nature of reality, for we have lost our connection with Holy Love. Our suffering is not the result of being alone or of being in the wrong relationship, is not because we don’t have enough money or because we have too much of it, or because of anything of the sort.
Nor is it because our outer surface doesn’t look as pretty as we think it should or because our personality isn’t as pleasant as we think it might be. We suffer because we are living at a distance from our depths—it’s as simple as that. The more our souls are infused with Being, the better we feel and the better life seems to us, no matter what our outer circumstances happen to be.” Sandra Maitri,
Studying the enneagram is a complex journey. We can end up with 27 aspects of ourselves from this test. I want to help you understand yourself but do not wish to overwhelm you with detail. So, every Saturday we will work through understanding and using the enneagram. We are going to go slowly so sit back, relax, and find your path.
I will give some more sample tests at the end of this post. But, I believe, it may be easier, just reading about the types in several sources. When you find yourself, write down that type. It may be several types. We are each an individual. The main types you find will help you to understand how you can find the source of your pain because it will tell you what you have been driven to discover about yourself.
If you haven’t heard of the Enneagram yet, it won’t be long before you do.
After being used for several decades in Catholic retreats and seminars, the nine-type personality tool has seen an explosion of popularity in evangelical circles. Since 2016, evangelical publishers have released at least three-full length books on the Enneagram: The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (IVP 2016), The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth (Zondervan 2017), and Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram (IVP 2017). A new book—The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships (IVP)—is set to release in April.
On a personal note, I have good friends who swear by the Enneagram as the means by which God showed them their blindspots and helped them overcome weaknesses in their personality.
So what should we make of this new (or ancient?) personality wheel with a strange name?
Journey of Discovery
I want to get at the question in a simple, straightforward—and admittedly limited—way. I’m going to look at The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. I’ve chosen this book for several reasons: it was the first one (so far as I know) to come out with an evangelical publisher, it has been successful enough to spawn a soon-to-be-released sequel, and its authors are popular experts on all things Enneagram.
I understand that some fans of the Enneagram will say, “But that’s not what I believe!” Or, “That’s not how I use it!” I get that. It’s a tool that can be adopted and adapted to a variety of theologies and contexts. But you have to start somewhere, and The Road Back to You seems as good a place as any to dive in and interact with this increasingly popular tool of self-discovery. Hereafter in this post, my analysis with the Enneagram will be through reviewing this single book.
So What Is It?
Ok, enough preface. What are we actually talking about?
The Enneagram teaches that there are nine different personality styles in the world, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type or number has a distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves. (24)
While the ancient roots of the Enneagram are sketchy—maybe it started with a monk, maybe with with Sufism, maybe with occult practices—most everyone agrees that the modern Enneagram entered America by way of the psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, a student of a Chilean named Oscar Ichazo who rediscovered the Enneagram in the early 1970s. From Naranjo, the Enneagram entered the Catholic world through Father Robert Ochs, and then later made another splash when the Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr began writing and speaking on it (10-14).
At first glance, the Enneagram may look like just another personality test, along the lines of discovering your Myers-Briggs type, knowing the color of your parachute, finding your strengths, or realizing you’re a golden retriever instead of a beaver. But Cron and Stabile are adamant that the Enneagram is much more than a psychological profile. “The true purpose of the Enneagram is to reveal to you your shadow side and offer spiritual counsel on how to open it to the transformative light of grace” (31). Growing up, we learn to cope with the emotional wounds we receive in childhood. In order to protect us from pain, we “place a mask called personality over parts of our authentic self” (22).
2. An overview of the 9 types: Soul Perspectives: 9 Types
3. Enneagram tests:
Free enneagram tests:
My favorite free test:
Electric energies–This test consists of pages containing nine questions or less (one for each Enneagram type). After you have answered enough questions to establish which types you are not, you’ll get no further questions for those types.