Updated: Sep 12, 2022
The Enneagram … it seems to be everywhere these days.
I am delighted to see so many resources available, particularly those written by Black, Asian and Indigenous authors. I love reading or hearing about this beautiful symbol from perspectives other than my own.
The proliferation of information about the Enneagram makes it easy, however, to keep one’s familiarity with the symbol at a “facts-only” level, and thereby sidestep its true value.
I have been privileged for the past decade to be part of a study community whose work is infused with both knowledge and experience of the Enneagram. Our conversations about the symbol go beyond “what type am I” and into “how do I make this symbol a woven part of my emotional healing and spiritual growth”?
This is why I am passionate about teaching this symbol not just in workshops, but in ongoing study groups.
The Enneagram teaches us about the energies we live with in ourselves, and those we encounter in others. Our “type” or what I like to call “the flavour of energy” I’m most familiar with is where I begin the process of discovery.
Learning about “my type” gives me insight into the parts of me I’m not readily aware of because they are habitual. I’m equally blind to certain of my strengths and certain of my weaknesses. These habits of action are called my compulsions because they are what arise in me without conscious thought. Becoming aware of how they function in me, and what is underneath them, has been one of my most life-changing experiences. It’s an awareness that doesn’t come quickly, or comfortably. It is also continually being refined to ever more subtle expressions.
Yet one of the gifts of Enneagram study has growing in compassion toward myself. I’m losing the Puritanical perspective of myself as being always in need of improvement, and thus swamped with shame when I don’t meet my own ideals. I’m learning that especially my compulsive reactions need my care and loving attention, and that they are, in fact, gifts that open me to greater awareness of who I am. The more I know myself, in as much honesty as I am capable of, the more compassion I have for myself, and the better I know how to care for myself.
This understanding is a process of growth that goes far beyond identifying my “type”. It involves continual attention to my inner being, my reactions and my temptations. It requires that I learn how to be with uncomfortable emotions, and how to engage in processing my experiences and my feelings, also supported by my work with the Enneagram symbol.
For me the Enneagram is like a map for spiritual and emotional growth. My “type” is my “you are here” point, and based on that, I can choose whether I want to cultivate a particular kind of awareness, process some difficult feelings, or stretch out of my comfort zone.
Community is such an important part of this growth. I need to hear from others how they experience the flavours of energy in the symbol. I need their support and encouragement when shame takes me under because I’m seeing the less favourable expressions of my habitual energy.
Just recently, I became aware of a particular “automatic reaction” I was feeling, which isn’t typical of the flavour of energy most familiar to me. In considering this reaction in light of what I know of the symbol as a whole, and the stories I have heard from others whose energy is different from mine, I had an aha moment. What was showing up in me was the habitual reaction of my “home energy” over-used to the point of burnout. That put my energy into a different flavour entirely as well as giving me insight as to what I needed for recovery and healing.
This is why I’m offering an online “Introduction to the Enneagram” course on Sept 29 and Oct 1, and inviting participants in this course to become part of an ongoing online study group. There is so much more to this symbol than “you are here” and it’s a journey best undertaken with companions.