The Enneagram Perspective
We can type people in a myriad of ways, grouping short and tall people together, fat and skinny people, Buddhists and Christians, Democrats and Republicans, light and dark skinned, type-A achievers and type-Bacedias, open-minded and closed-minded, ad infinitum. How we sort human characteristics, the various parts of the human puzzle, is a convention. There are no right or wrong ways of organizing our thinking about persons, only useful or less-useful ways. We create certain prototypes in our minds and then fi t people into them. Since a prototype is a mental abstraction, no living prototype exists and no one fits the mold exactly. Real people only approximate ideal archetypes. So personality typologies are useful fictions, some more heuristic than others. Why we use the Enneagram: This book about personality styles viewed from the Enneagram perspective is written for people who want to understand their own dynamics and those of the important people in their lives. It shows how healthy personality styles function; how they get disordered; and how they can return to their original operating condition. First we look at what motivates us most deeply: our core values—what’s really important to us. What do we find desirable and worthy of our esteem and pursuit? For example, do we want to pursue knowledge or relationships or justice or prestige or power? Next we see how our basic values inform our vision about what our life is all about. What are we here for? Do we want to make the world more secure? more beautiful? more peaceful? What is our purpose, calling, vocation? If we value truth and seek to make the world more enlightened, we might feel called to be a teacher or researcher. If we value options and optimism and want to make the world more joyful and interesting, we might become an entertainer or travel agent. If we value efficiency and want to make the world run smoother, we might become a manager or consultant. Then we see how our vision focuses our attention and gives us special insights into what’s happening around us, an intuitive edge, and also provides us with certain proficiencies for solving problems, a behavioral advantage. For example, those who value love and want to make the Introduction 23 world a more caring place and who might pursue careers in the helping professions or human resources, easily empathize with others’ needs and feelings and have an alacrity for addressing their issues. We consider what happens when we over-weight and exaggerate our values till our ideals become idealizations and, instead of wanting to pursue them, we have to obey them. Our values shift from being guides and encouragers to tyrants that drive us from our authentic self into our compensating personality. For example, instead of wanting to do things well and taking pride in our good works, we are tyrannized by our expectations and shoulds and can never be satisfied with what we’ve done. As we over-estimate certain qualities in us, we under-value the polarities, or opposites, of these characteristics and cut ourselves off from them. Instead of cruising on eight cylinders, we’re struggling along on four. We also throw out our unacceptable parts onto others only to find ourselves surrounded by our shadow. For example, if we over-identify with an image of ourselves as being “wise,” then we become uncomfortable with any ignorance in us, keep our little dummy hidden, project out our foolishness, and find ourselves surrounded by idiots. What we miss out on is the sagacity of the spontaneous “little professor” in us and the wisdom of those around us. We then look at the vulnerabilities that come with our values. We develop a sensitivity around those areas we prize. Our greatest strength usually turns out to be our Achilles heel. Our personalities can become defensive shields around our susceptible areas to protect us from being hurt. But while they guard us, they don’t really get us what we need. For example, if we value relationships, we will likely be sensitive about and vulnerable to rejections. We can develop a personality style that attempts to minimize our being abandoned, perhaps by making ourselves indispensable to others. But in becoming the servant, we shun being served (because it doesn’t fit our job description) and so don’t receive the very support we seek.