What is the Enneagram?
Remember bumper cars? People driving around in little protective shells, ramming into each other and getting nowhere? Sound like your life sometimes? This chaos is what the Enneagram helps us untangle.
Literally defined, ennea means 9 and gram means symbol or point. So, Enneagram means "9 points" or a "symbol of 9".
As a system of psychological structure, the Enneagram describes 9 archetypes of human personality. (Different teachers ascribe different names to these archetypes, but the numbers never change.)
1 - Moral R E F O R M E R
2 - Friendly H E L P E R
3 - Driven P E R F O R M E R
4 - Emotional C R E A T O R
5 - Analytical O B S E R V E R
6 - Loyal D E F E N D E R
7 - Enthusiastic P L A N N E R
8 - Fearless C H A L L E N G E R
9 - Agreeable M E D I A T O R
Your dominant type determines your unique way of being in the world. It is the car you've been driving around since childhood. No doubt you've experienced bumping into others whose way of being in the world differs from yours!
As the lens through which we see the world, our "type structure" determines what we notice, value and fear (core driving motivations).
Each person is driven by core motivations which produce cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns that form the basis of the personality. These defensive patterns of "thinking, feeling & doing" are deeply ingrained and operate automatically without our awareness.
As subconscious and fear-driven, our ego type structure is difficult to recognize in ourselves yet strongly defended, which explains all the conflict.
The Enneagram differs from other assessments in that they are largely descriptive in nature (here are things you do). The Enneagram, by contrast, is explanatory in nature (here is why you do those things).
Seeing both unconscious patterns and core driving motivations enables us to take off our lens and look AT it - instead of only through it. This is valuable because we cannot change what we cannot see.
Beliefs drive behavior. So, understanding the motivations driving habitual patterns is critical to move beyond mere "behavior modification" into real transformation.
Thus, learning your Enneagram type does not put you in a box; it helps you see the box from which you are experiencing the world. This allows you to step out of your box and limited perspective into the bigger picture where different viewpoints and gifts contribute to flourishing.
The world is fearful, highly reactive, and filled with conflict. It's like a big mess of Enneagram bumper cars out there! When this is also true of the Church, the world notices. Divisive reactivity undermines both our witness and effectiveness.
Thus, it is not surprising that the prayer focus of Jesus in John 17 is for unity - for the Church to function as a unified whole. The Enneagram supports this by helping us recognize the defensive patterns that cause conflict and division. It also helps us see the image of God in human design, which cultivates understanding and neutralizes polarizing stances, creating ground for harmony.
For the Church, the Enneagram provides a powerful way to understand and practice the “many parts, one body” truth found in Scripture. And teaching each other about our unique way of “seeing & being" through personal sharing is a great place to start.
Park your bumper car for awhile and join me at my next EEC workshop to learn more!