Expand Yourself

One day of late winter 2006, I got a laconic email response from a former colleague/friend to one of my then-trademark emotionally charged mass email ramblings.

"I think you're a Type <insert a certain number between 1 and 9>"

My curiosity piqued, I embarked on an intense googling session that ended up on a page talking about something called the Enneagram.

Realizing that my colleague had led me to something big, I started reading obsessively about each of the 9 types described. I quickly concluded that my colleague was wrong and that I was actually a Type <insert another number between 1 and 9>.

Triumphantly I replied to him: "Nope, I'm actually Type blah blah blah". To which he shot back: "No Type blah blah blah is like such and such, and you're blah blah blah for sure.

Feeling quite annoyed about his response ("Who was he to know me better than I did?!"), but my interest definitely off the chart at that point, I purchased my very first Enneagram book: "The Wisdom of the Enneagram", by authors Richo and Hudson.

And this, my friends, was the first day of my new life. My real life.

That casual email from my former colleague jump-started my exploration of who I thought I was (but who I was not) and of who I actually am (but who I did not think I could be) and propulsed me onto a path of inner development that years later have me living a life of joy, love, and fulfillment.

To this day, the Enneagram is still the most powerful teaching I have ever been exposed to.

So what's the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a model of human personality which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. It has been described as a method for self-understanding and self-development.

According to The Enneagram Institute, the Enneagram can be seen as a set of nine distinct personality types, with each number on the Enneagram denoting one type. It is common to find a little of yourself in all nine of the types, although one of them should stand out as being closest to yourself. This is your basic personality type.

Everyone emerges from childhood with one of the nine types dominating their personality, with inborn temperament and other pre-natal factors being the main determinants of our type. This is one area where most all of the major Enneagram authors agree - we are born with a dominant type. Subsequently, this inborn orientation largely determines the ways in which we learn to adapt to our early childhood environment.

Contrary to other models of human personality, the Enneagram explains that we're much more than our personality (who we think we are). The Enneagram does not put us in a box; it describes the box we stuck ourselves into and gives us a path to break free.

The contribution that authors Richo and Hudson made to this fantastic psycho-spiritual development model is their description of nine Levels of Development. There is an internal structure within each personality type. That structure is the continuum of behaviors, attitudes, defenses, and motivations formed by the nine Levels of Development which makes up the personality type itself. The Levels account for differences between people of the same type as well as how people change both for better or worse. There are three unhealthy levels where serious mental illnesses develop, three average levels where most people operate, and three healthy levels of progressively higher levels of functioning.

What possibilities can the Ennegram open up?

Whereas the pattern of personality (the "Enenagram type") that we develop in early childhood is necessary for survival, it ends up metaphorically reducing our field of view from 360 degrees to 40 degrees (operating from one type rather than nine). Our personality pattern turns us into automatic pilots compulsively responding to what's going on inside and outside of ourselves in the same ways. Obviously such limited ways of functioning condemns us to running into issues, especially relationship issues because relationships don't flourish on automatic pilot.

Living a fulfilling life requires the ability to disengage the automatic pilot and go manual.

Progressively adding eight more tools to our original one-tool toolbox frees us from the limitations of automatic piloting and allows us the use of nine controls for manual piloting. This results in the possibility of experiencing and responding to what happens in the moment with freedom, spaciousness, and authenticity. It means that we are present and resourceful, that we understand ourselves and others deeply, that we can take good care of ourselves, and that we can build happy, healthy, and fulfilling relationships.

Back to my story.

It took me about a month to realize that my former colleague had been right about my type all along. I had actually done what most people do at first - misidentifying my Enneagram Type by focusing on my behaviors rather than exploring the deeper motivations of my personality structure.

The unhealthy ego uses all kinds of tricks to keep us stuck in our box.

Getting a diagnostic of my personality structure was extremely painful, yet incredibly freeing. It made sense of all the symptoms I was experiencing but did not know were caused by a pattern.

Most importantly, the diagnostic allowed me to design the right treatment for my condition, and little by little - with consistent practice over time - I expanded my field of view from 40 to 360 degrees, which stretched the tiny little self back to its original whole self, which is a unique blend of nine balanced energies.

Well, still working on about 80 resisting degrees!

As I learned how to operate the manual controls of my self-craft, I became free, whole and fulfilled, even in the midst of the difficult emotions triggered by life's ups and downs. I became able to understand others deeply and help them embark onto the same extraordinary journey of freedom, expansion, and fulfillment.

What's next for you?

Did I manage to pique your interest? I hope so!

If yes, please, please, please proceed slowly as you delve into your exploration of the Ennegram and work at finding out your type. A wrong ego diagnostic - and subsequentely taking the wrong medication - can lead to undesirable outcomes, just like it would be for a misdiagnosed physical illness. Tests tend to be innacurate as they focus on behaviors rather than their underlying motivation, and therefore it's best to limit their use to getting a sense of your 3-4 most likely types and then proceed with a careful investigation of each possible type. It's well worth it to invest time and energy to find out your real type, so that you can follow the recommendations that would be more useful to you. Go slow, be curious, and don't let your ego trick you!

Will you join me on this life-changing journey?