Monday, November 28, 2016

Knowing me, knowing you.

Several close acquaintances and I have been getting into the Enneagram. It's not hard to find out about, using a respected introduction.

The Enneagram is a personality profiling tool, comparable to Myers Briggs but more profound, nuanced, relational and spiritual (privileging no particular religion).

No wonder, then, that it hits the spot for many of today's pop-psychology-literate sojourners, disillusioned with tribal religion, interested in finding themselves, yearning for deep connection.

There are nine 'types' on the Enneagram wheel, each with depths to be plumbed. Personalities, we learn, are essential and morally neutral. Shaped by our earliest and childhood experiences, they are a skin, important, strong but flexible, not our deepest self.

Personality-assessment tools can be written off as a waste of time, encouraging self-absorption in an already narcissistic generation. Or else accused of encouraging individuals to use their 'type' as an excuse for laziness and immorality. It depends how they're used - they are only tools, after all. With the Enneagram, you can learn to at once accept yourself and recognise the traps your personality sets for you, becoming healthier and able to give much more.

Seeing your personality clearly for what it is, as something you can mould but not totally discard or change, something you can use rather than be controlled by, is proving helpful for me. It took me quite a few goes of the Enneagram questions, alongside other inner work, to even answer them honestly. It turns out I really didn't want to admit to being the Achiever, ....but I'm finally ready to own it!

I can only speak for myself, but in that case working through what being an Achiever means (in Enneagram terms, rather than meaning I achieve lots, well!) has helped enormously in a few short weeks:
1) I see that it is ok to want to achieve things and be admired. I had dedicated much energy to repressing that desire, believing it to be 'wrong' and arrogant, burdening myself hugely in the process
2) I see that I go into situations needing attention and praise, so I am alert to, rather than in denial of, the less healthy ways I might try to get it
3) I am so relieved to have articulated as 'normal' a feeling I have always assumed to be a sign of inauthenticity: for an Achiever, given the extent to which "they have adapted their lives to the expectations of others, [when] the question arises, “Well, then, what do I want?” They often simply did not know".

Believing I'm ok (1) and knowing my weaknesses (2) means that I am closer to believing I already have, or am, what I want (3). So I can stop exhausting myself, flapping about in an attempt to find it somewhere else all the time.

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