The Enneagram- waking up to the mask we live in

I learned about the Enneagram in seminary about 10 years ago. I recall sitting around a friend's dinner table in Denver discussing it, taking a free test, and thinking I really related to a 5. Life went on, I forgot about it, and then rediscovered it 4 years ago by listening to podcasts by Ian Cron, Suzanne Stabile and Beatrice Chestnut. I also participated in an Enneagram Journey group (a curriculum by Suzanne Stabile), which was a deeper dive into the 9 types.

I discovered that the Enneagram is different from most personality typologies in that it doesn't just give you a snapshot of who you are, it reveals the mask you wear, which you learned to put on as a child, because wearing that mask made you feel loved. It is also fluid in that it reveals what you look like in health and unhealth, and provides a path of growth.

As Suzanne Stabile explains "A person's enneagram type is like a mask, a layer of self-protective personality put on in early childhood. The goal of understanding one's number is to remove this mask and bring one's healthy, true self to light."

*the childhood message you received likely came from your experiences with parents, family members, friends, school, church etc. (not necessarily explicitly)

There are 9 different types, each with a more dominant wing (above or below your core number) and separate subtypes (self-preservation, social, and sexual- which actually makes 27 different subtypes). Each number belongs either to the heart, head or gut triad, and either the aggressive, dependent, or withdrawing stance. Each number shares a line with other numbers, which shows where you go in stress and security.

It took me a little while to figure out which number I identify with the most, which actually ended up being a self-preservation 3 with a dominant 4 wing. The reason it took me so long is because 3's can over-identify/chameleon (yikes!) with other numbers very easily (mostly with the motivation to be accepted), so I saw parts of myself in many other numbers, but my core motivations are of the type 3. However, I hold this inner tug of war where part of me is concerned with my image and fitting in (3), and part of me really values authenticity and individualism (4).

We cannot change what we are not aware of, and the Enneagram is a powerful tool for just that.

Coming to terms with my number felt a bit exposing and vulnerable, like someone read my diary and now knows my underlying motivations for why I do what I do. But after getting past this and realizing there are so many others like me, I found it an incredible tool to help me grow in my self-awareness, and make intentional choices instead of just falling into the same habitual patterns.

I started noticing my patterns for when I am feeling overly stressed and anxious, and became aware of how I put my emotions on a shelf and focus on a project or task so that I don't have to feel them. The awareness is what gave me the choice. I woke up to the mask I can easily put on to fit in, gain admiration and approval, and feel loved. I'm not saying I have this all figured out, it is a constant process. But becoming more aware has helped me to grow stronger in my own identity in and relationship with Christ, because the mask is not my true self. And if we think we are loved for the mask we wear and not for who we really are, that leaves us feeling pretty empty and (ironically) unloved.

As a Christian, the tool of the Enneagram alongside the leading and revealing of the Spirit has been very transformational for me, and I encourage you to explore this for yourself.

If you are curious and interested, I recommend the following resources:

The Enneagram Institute- this website is full of resources, including a test that is a helpful starting point. From there I recommend you read all of the numbers to gain clarity for yourself and more compassion and understanding for others in your life.

Suzanne Stabile- her teaching style is so relatable and easy to understand and I highly recommend her curriculum and podcast

Beatrice Chestnut- Beatrice has a new podcast that is very insightful and her book "The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge) is an excellent deep dive into the 27 subtypes.

And if you are looking for an enneagram coach who is incredibly knowledgeable and gifted in this area, contact Dedra Herod.

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