A Tool for Transformation: The Enneagram

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Why the Enneagram?

The top three catalysts for transformation and insight in my life have been:

1-relationships

2-suffering

3-the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a personality assessment tool that helps people uncover their motivations and discover how to grow. Enneagram theory suggests that all of us fall into one of nine personality structures that each have their particular gifts and downfalls. We tend to pull towards particular paths of integration and/or disintegration depending on our type. I went to an Enneagram training last winter and the teacher, Michael Naylor, used the terms “asleep” and “awake” a lot. Learning the Enneagram has the potential to wake us up to our desires, drives, and fears. As Michael Naylor put it, how do we “sense our aliveness” in the most profound way.

People use the Enneagram (and all personality assessments) for all kinds of purposes. I had dinner with a recent college grad last night who said the Enneagram wave had swept her college last year. And why not? Personality assessments can be really fun! We get to see what’s unique about ourselves, who we’re like and who we’re not like. There’s a voodoo quality to reading a description of your type—“ooo, how did they know me so well?”

But the Enneagram has a different quality to it. There’s an element of being found out….of having our darker desires unearthed. One of my spiritual mentors told me, read all the descriptions and the one you think is most horrible is probably your type.

So why do I use the Enneagram in Counseling and Spiritual Direction? Because at its roots, the Enneagram is all about spiritual transformation.  It is a tool that helps us see what we think the solution is for us (that never works well) and redirects us towards the action that actually is the best solution (but that we may never have chosen). This kind of understanding is critically helpful in therapy and spiritual direction because it can help us press towards real, life-transforming change.

For those of you who have utilized the Enneagram, how has it been a part of your own personal transformation? 

For more information:

–Look at my “Resource of the Month–December, 2012”, The Essential Enneagram.

–Check out www.enneagraminstitute.com . Michael Naylor is a certified teacher with the Enneagram Institute.

This blog is revised and reposted from 11/22/11

One Comment

  1. Janice, I love, love, love the Enneagram, too. It’s been the most significant transformation tool since I discovered it about 7 years ago. I appreciate 1) how it unmasks my core motivation in almost all that I do and 2) that there’s movement to it, a dynamic-ness to it that says that you’re not stuck or forced to do anything but there are choices (good and bad) that we make. I think few things have provided more fodder for me in prayer (apart from Scripture itself) than the mirror that is the Enneagram.

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