Journey Towards Knowing Yourself
Have you heard of the Enneagram? “The Enneagram (pronounced ‘ANY-a-gram’) is a geometric figure that maps out the nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.” (Riso and Hudson) It is a spiritual tool for finding the best of ourselves. The Enneagram comes from a number of ancient wisdom traditions combined with modern psychology. It is gaining popularity again. There are many books on the subject and several Podcasts.
For the last two years, I have been learning about the nine Enneagram types. I started with an online free test and then decided to take another test for a fee to gain more information. I was amazed at how accurate this personality system described me and other people in my life. When I learned my type and started to understand the dominate issues of a Type Three, I realized that the self I portray matters, and leads to the True Self, where transformation can take place. Three basic elements that are needed for this transformational work are “presence (awareness, mindfulness), the practice of self-observation (gained from self-knowledge), and understanding what one’s experiences mean (an accurate interpretation provided by a larger context such as community or spiritual system). (Riso and Hudson)
I just finished reading Self to Lose, Self to Find by Marilyn Vancil with a group of eleven friends. As I read Marilyn Vancil’s “Section 4: Practicing a Path to Freedom”, I decided to try to practice her “OWN-UP” self-awareness process. OWN-UP is an acronym for – Observe, Welcome, Name, Untangle, and Possess. Marilyn says: “There’s a process of letting go of our ‘seed coat’ (the Adapted Self) and allowing our True Self (the Authentic Self) to grow --- it involves an internal shift…” (pg. 159)
I practiced the "owning up" process by working through something I was struggling with in my life. Here is my description of the process. I took notes from Marilyn’s book and then I journaled my experience.
“O – Observe– ‘take note of what causes a reaction – use binoculars to look closely and honestly at yourself and describe your emotions, thoughts, actions and body sensations.” (pg. 165)
I’m frustrated and anxious. I’m frustrated because of all the things that are coming up with the selling of our house. I’m anxious because I don’t know what’s going to happen (the Radon inspection, the septic tank, the furnace repairs). I’m scared that the sell of the house will fall through. I show these feelings by jumping on Bill, my husband, for unrelated things – there’s been so many hurtles to jump over. Just writing this causes me to get tense.
“W – ‘Welcome God right into the midst of this. Open heart and mind and a willingness to change.’” (With hands open and palms up – pg. 170)
Journal Entry I welcomed God in with hands open and palms up!
“N – ‘Name what is under the emotions, thoughts, behaviors, sensations. Name your Wows – reflections of our divine gifts, qualities of God imprinted on us. Eews are the manifestations of our attempts to express these in our own limited and distorted ways.’” (pg. 173)
Journal Entry I’m a Type Three – my ‘Wows’ are being optimistic, getting things done, bringing out the best in people. My ‘Eews’ are experiencing shame and embarrassment for not performing well, thinking I’m working harder than anyone else, caring deeply about what others think of me, and setting high goals for myself.
When I focus on the task (selling our house and moving), my primary fear is being incapacitated and unable to do it. I get out of touch with my feelings and the drive to be successful. Getting it done gets in the way at the expense of being connected to my inner self.
Threes know how to put a positive spin on everything!
I was frustrated with the circumstances, and I lashed out at Bill, blaming him, but not intending to do that. I was frustrated and felt a lack of control. I sensed that things were falling apart and I couldn’t stop it. My Enneagram type is optimistic, get things done, always be successful. I am trying to do everything not to fail, to make sure the house sells, and that everyone feels good about it.
I was focusing on me and the tasks, trying to make sure everything was right. I called our realtor to get justification for what we did or heard in the “septic tank inspection” – going around and around, talking it through. But, I also got affirmation that we’re okay. I think the things I did were trying to express the divine gifts of Type Three, but I wasn’t acknowledging that at the time. I was doing it on my own.
Thank you, Jesus, for working on me! Thank you for your love and grace!
“U –‘Untangle what has a ‘choke hold’ on you. (Luke 9:23) Deny the False Self– the self I created to survive, declare this ‘self’ dead and has no power…What is the main thread that has me tied up in knots?’”(pg. 181) Journal Entry The main thread that has me tied up in knots is CONTROL! I want to be in control.
I’m frustrated that I’ve had to do all the move myself. Bill’s physical health is getting weaker and weaker and I just don’t know what to do sometimes to help him. I want to claim the transforming power of God to help me be more faithful in nurturing my relationship with Bill. I want to put time and effort into my personal growth!
Lord, I confess that I’ve tried to control everything! I disown control. I’m letting go and letting You work in me. Lord, set me free! Thank you, Lord, for Bill. Help him deal with his health issues and see you more clearly.
“P – ‘Possess – “Quietly notice what shows up and possess it with gratitude as a gift from God in the present moment.’” (pg. 187)
Journal Entry Thank you, Lord, for loving me, thank you for shifting the focus off me and onto Bill, where my love and service needs to be. I will continue to “plan” for our move, knowing that you know what is best and what needs to happen. Thank you for making me, me! Let me see you today in everything we do.
Now what? The Enneagram is an important tool for me because it’s given me insights into myself and others that I didn’t have before. The skills I’m learning on my journey are helping me to observe and let go of habits that have trapped me. I am learning to be present in the moment and realizing this is where miracles happen!
Discover your type! Continue on your journey towards self-knowledge...
Resources about the Enneagram:
The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth For the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Self to Lose Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil
Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI v2.5) The Enneagram Institute has a test for a small fee
Truity: The Enneagram Personality Test (Free online)