By the Numbers

Late last month I went to an Enneagram workshop.  The Enneagram is a way of describing basic personality types, based on ancient wisdom, about our motivations and core of our behaviors. When I first saw the chart many years ago, I thought it looked a bit like a pentagram, some spell-casting charm.  It’s not, but you might understand why I thought that given how much I love Dungeons and Dragons!enneagram 2

Each of the numbers represents a worldview or way of looking at the world that shapes our actions on an instinctual level.  When we are stressed we react out of this type.  When we are healthy, we might move toward integrating other types connected by the lines.

Our trainer, Paul Hanneman, who was excellent, presented it as something that we were mostly born with and that was fostered by our earliest life experiences and how we dealt with them.   Our types are not intrinsically bad or good, but they can be limiting.  They helped us get through childhood, developing our ego self.  But as spiritual beings we are more than our instinctual reactions.

By understanding our ego-self motivations we can find a deeper spiritual self, the self that God sees. We ended the day exploring the question of “Who are we if we are not our ego selves?” and another way of asking that was “What does God see when God looks at us?”

I will not do justice to Dr. Hanneman’s great two day workshop in a paragraph, and I found so much of what he talked about revealing, convicting and exciting.  I am so glad I attended.

About the only thing I didn’t enjoy was trying to uncover my enneagram personality type. Weeks later I am still no closer to truly feeling that this system captures anything specific about myself.  A few weeks before the class I took an online quiz with dubious reliability that placed me at one number, that sort of fit.

For the class I took a $12 test that is considered one of the most accurate; my type should have been in my top 2-3 scores.  The result from the online test was one of my bottom scorers; my top two scores didn’t resonate (which is supposed to be the true “test”), and my third and fourth options, which were almost tied, could have been a coin toss to see which seemed to fit best.  And neither “thudded” – a feeling in our heart when we know we’ve found it.

enneagram 3For the sake of the workshop, I finally chose that I was 3-ish, some people call it the Achiever. It seemed reasonable since it was in my top three and the motivation behind this personality type is shame at failure.  I definitely felt ashamed at failing this workshop – I mean everyone else was finding their types – thuds all around me, but I was bouncing between 1, 3, 4, 7, and 9 like a super ball.

We had some time talking with others of or enneagram type and I definitely found many things in common with my fellow 3 in this conversation. But I wondered if I wouldn’t have found that no matter where around the circle I had landed.

I learned a lot about myself, my motivations, strange reasons I might make decisions that seem odd looking back. I saw my relationship with my parents, my husband and child, with friends, and with God in new and wonderful and sometimes horrible ways. I grew spiritually just by exploring the concepts and I know how I do spiritual direction will improve just by having this knowledge in my back pocket.

But Lordy, how I wish I could just figure out that number!

A friend recently posted on Facebook that she had thought she was one number and now recognized that she was another. She hadn’t changed; she just knew more about herself now and could see how the old number described some part of her, but that it didn’t get to her true motivations.

After all this work with enneagrams, I realize that the goal isn’t finding some number like a horoscope reading – it’s about getting to know so much about yourself – going so much deeper into your own heart and your relationship with the Divine – that you recognize new and exciting and wonderful and horrible things.  It doesn’t matter whether I’m a three integrating nine and six or a one integrating four and seven, or whatever. It matters that I’m on a journey to keep going deeper with God. That’s my “thud” moment for today!

Have you studied the enneagram or tried to find your type before? Have you used other tools like this?  If so, what was your experience with them? How might exploring your deeper motivations, set out as early as babyhood, help you in your spiritual journey? What does God see when God looks at you? Have you experienced yourself as deeper than your instinctual reactions to stress? Part of the enneagram is recognizing that while one number might be dominant, they all exist to some degree in each one of us.  There is a wholeness that comes with opening to our true selves. What do you think of Dr. Hanneman’s statement: “Most of the people in the Western World have never met the people they really are.”

Clearly I have a long way to go before I am an enneagram master, but I can walk with you as you explore the person you really are – the person God sees when God looks at you.  Contact Openings: Let the Spirit In to find out more.

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