The Enneagram – get out of the box.

The Enneagram. Another personality test just putting people in a box. Or is it?

I admit, when I first heard of the enneagram a few years ago, I could only roll my eyes and think “what codswallop!”.  I had heard and seen a lot of misuse of the enneagram, which appeared to me to be all about self and very little about God. But now, having read different resources has helped me see it as a way of figuring out who God made us to be, flaws and all, and has been so freeing.  Through the enneagram, I can see how He has created my personality, and how I can be held back by my flaws. So now, I can take those to Him, to help me become more of who He created me to be.

What is the enneagram?

The Enneagram is a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. 

taken from truity.com

So I will back up a little and tell you how I went from the eye-roll to the jaw drop! I joined Hope Writers a while back and one of the teachings was on the Enneagram by Ian Morgan Cron. Which was slightly irritating as I realised I was going to have to do this test.  I, skeptically, took a free online test, and before even reading what the descriptions were, I took another one to see how different the results were. They were not different. I took a third one, again, the results were the same!

I read my personality type description on the Enneagram Institute website and I have never been able to see myself so clearly, without feeling any judgment or bad about who I was, although some parts made me cringe.  To have “someone” neutral put into words, exactly how and why I behave, feel and think the way I do was eye-opening.  I know that sounds rather ridiculous, as surely we should know ourselves enough.  I am fairly self-aware, but this was so insightful and quite spot on! When our family, friends or a counsellor tells us something about ourselves, we can get defensive or hurt, or think they are just flattering us, but this is different!

What I appreciate most about the enneagram, is knowing someone else’s type, as it gives me a more in-depth understanding of why they behave the way they do.  Let’s face it, we all have tricky parts to our personalities, and these are highlighted with people that are very different to ourselves.  I cannot tell you how much this has helped in some of my relationships, as it is easier to see what is behind our behaviours.

I am a 7 on the enneagram, The Enthusiast. As a 7, in times of stress I take on the unhealthy levels of a 1, and in times of growth, I take on the healthy levels of a 5. When I am stressed, I get anxious, controlling, a bit ocd. What is helpful about knowing this, and most importantly those in my life knowing this, is that we now know that is not who I actually am.  It means I am in an unhealthy space and I am not dealing with it well – getting annoyed with me, or telling me to calm down is not going to help me, or anyone! There is something going on behind my reaction. When I realise I am in that space, I can be reminded that I need to take this to God. I need Him to show me the root of the problem and take steps to manage myself better. Basically, not just to be more self-aware, but to actually make the choice to adapt.

Another thing about a 7, is I am scattered.  This has frustrated me about myself for years.  Again, strange not to have seen this before.  When I read that this is actually part of my character, it was a relief.  Instead of being annoyed, I was able to think ‘Oh, okay, this is part of who I am, but what will I do to manage it better?’.  It doesn’t mean we just sit back and say ‘Oh well, that is my personality type so we all have to accept it and live with it’.  So in order to not let the scattered part of me become too problematic, I have to plan better and I have to learn to slow down.  This is a blessing to myself, but mostly to everyone around me!

Also important to remember, the enneagram is just a useful tool. I do think there is a lot of hype and stereotyping that goes on around the enneagram, and one needs to be careful to not slip into becoming obsessive about it!

Do you know your character type on the enneagram?

If not, why not give it a try, it only takes about 15-20 minutes at most. There are many places you can do the free test, here are just two of them.

The Enneagram Personality Test (truity.com)

Enneagram Assessment – Your Enneagram Coach

I really enjoyed The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It works through each character type – from varied points – healthy, unhealthy, in the workplace, in relationship as well as in children.  Incredibly insightful book, especially the sections on children I thought.

Other great Christian resources are Elisabeth Bennett and also Beth McCord, they both have some really useful insight.

We are called to love one another, and this tool is a great way to help us understand how God has created us all so uniquely and beautifully, for His purpose. Quirks and all!

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