The Enneagram

One of the most profound teachings of my lifetime has been the Enneagram: “Ennea”, taken from the Greek word meaning “9” and grammon, meaning writ or draft. In geometry, an enneagram is a nine-pointed geometric figure, and if you were to read up on this subject, you would see how the Enneagram Wheel displays the nine points, or personality traits involved.

The theories of the Enneagram date back, way back, and no one is exactly sure where it was derived from. Don’t let that sway you however, because the principles can change your life. It is based on the belief that all personalities that exist fall under nine categories, which are given names to coincide with their number:

Perception1. The Perfectionist

2. The Helper

3. The Achiever

4. The Romantic

5. The Observer

6. The Questioner

7. The Adventurer

8. The Asserter

9. The Peacemaker

 

Ever hear the expression, “I’ve got your number?” Well it is believed that this phrase came from the Enneagram practice. 

While the Enneagram has nine personality types, it is also written that each falls under an additional category of three emotions; namely, fear, anxiety, and anger. Don’t despair, however, because these are considered “gifts” and each has its place in society. If you are a 2,3,or 4, you are from the Anxiety Center. Numbers 5, 6, or 7 are in the Fear Center, and 8, 9, and 1 are in the Anger Center.

When I teach the Enneagram, I like to use this analogy: Picture a major car accident between two cars and immediately following the crash, three vehicles arrive with three drivers. One person will invariably run to the accident victims, making sure they are okay. One person will first think to call for help, making sure police and medical personnel arrive. Still another person will be lead to direct traffic to make sure no other accidents occur.

Each of these personas has their place and in fact there is no right or wrong or first thing to do. All of the aspects are equally important. Now think for a moment where each of these personas would be getting their energy from; meaning what within themselves would be driving their actions? The Enneagram philosophy explains how the fear center is located in the head or “thinking” aspect. The anxiety center is located in the heart or “feeling” aspect, and the anger is in the gut or “doing” aspect.

Knowing where these centers are located and understanding what drives them, can you guess which persona would do which task? If you guessed the head/fear/thinking persona would call for help, you are correct. The intelligence within us that would say, “I don’t know enough to handle this scenario and need to call in the experts.” It would make sense to believe that the persona who ran to the injured parties would be coming from the heart/anxiety/feeling center since they would be more in tune with the needs of another. And finally, the gut/anger/doer in us would prompt immediate action and control to prevent more danger from on-coming vehicles.

This is only a quick analogy but can you imagine yourself and what you would do first? Most of us can relate to the three emotions of fear, anxiety, and anger, but do you know which of these drives you the most? Once you determine what center you are, it becomes an easier task to find your “number” on the Enneagram wheel.

At least 15 years ago, a friend asked me to attend an Enneagram workshop at our church. I had no idea what it was, something about numbers, but I was desperate to get out of my house for the weekend. I said, “Oh, I am in! I need to get away from these kids. I’m so angry all the time and I hate myself for it.” Little did I know that the weekend was “centered” on finding your center! Little did I know that anger was actually my gift! When this was revealed to me, a tremendous healing occurred and I realized that my anger was a part of me, an integral element that gave me strength, clarity, judgment, and an eagle eye of perception. All I needed to do was get it out of compulsion mode and back into the positive aspect, but how?

At the time, I was just discovering myself and ways to heal. It was the beginning of a long journey that I have embraced, and what I call “Positive Manipulation” (www.positivemanipulation.com). I teach the Enneagram explicitly for this purpose: To help people get out of their own way and discover and come back to their gifts….once again. 

PerceptionThere are many books about the Enneagram and even more info on the internet. Because it is so personal, and each person has a different ability to comprehend, it is difficult to recommend readings. I was lucky enough to have great teachers and went on to study for many more weekends. Once you discover your number, it brings a tremendous release, but when you begin to discover other people’s numbers, and with that brings more understanding and compassion about what others are struggling with. It can bring your relationships with family, friends and co-workers, to a whole new level of growth.

A good start would be “The Enneagram Made Easy” by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele. (www.wagele.com) It is very simple to understand, but don’t stop there. Investigate and research, and if you have any questions, email me at donna@donnamartini.com for clarification. I hope the Enneagram can bring you to a new appreciation of your perceived limitations and help you manipulate them back into your true gifts!