The Guiding Light of the Enneagram
Our unique way of reacting to life based on our conditioned mind is our personality. …We mostly live in our conditioned patterns and spend a lot of energy maintaining our comfort zones, this is like flying in auto-pilot mode, but life has its own ways of throwing surprises at us to take us out of our personality comfort zone. …We must get to know our personality intimately; and this is the key to taking charge of our own flight and developing the capacity to soar to our highest potentials.
Rooted in ancient wisdom and elaborated through modern psychology, the Enneagram is a system describing nine facets of human nature. It is unique in the sense that it can act both like a Mirror and a Guiding Light. The Enneagram not only reveals the intricacies of our personal auto-pilot mode (the Mirror) but it also bears the wisdom to point us to liberation from our existential crisis like a beacon; similar to a light house or our North Star; it can guide us to our highest potentials (the Guiding Light).
Personality is your Auto-Pilot Mode
What is it that drives you to get out of the bed in the morning to get on with your daily life? Or for those who might be bored and a little depressed; preferring not to leave the bed; why is it so? What is the hope, energy, fullness; what is the fear, boredom, emptiness; that we all feel? We are all subject to a deep inner restlessness and we seek remedy for it in creating meaning for ourselves by aspiring to be a better person; each in our own unique way. Depending on our values and beliefs, we might work hard for better relationships, better job, fitter body, more money and possessions, fame, happier holidays, more fun, more power, more education, more knowledge, higher spiritual station, higher status in the community, and so on. Or we might be the type who reacts to all these so called “better, higher, more” stuff; so we work against all that in our own unique way by being a reclusive, a hermit, an antisocial, a fanatic activist, or even an outlaw.
Getting involved in life or avoiding it makes no difference, either way the truth is that after childhood, beginning from adolescence and all the way through to adulthood and old age, we all typically feel that inner restlessness and react to it in our own ways. Our unique way of reacting to life is our personality. In general our personality prefers to stay in its comfort zone where we feel competent and ‘in control’. We spend a lot of energy maintaining our comfort zone, but as we all know too well, life has its own ways of throwing surprises at us and taking us out of our comfort zone. But hey our personality has even worked out what to do in times of stress; we automatically pull out our Disaster Recovery Plan, wear a different mask and fight hard to bring ourselves back to our comfort zone. Even at times when life treats us much better than we expected, we might not be able to handle it, we may self-sabotage and take ourselves back to the familiar, stable, “in-control” state.
Life keeps going on and we keep repeating our patterns over and over; we get entrenched in our routines, our “way of life”; our personality shell becomes harder, we learn to fly in auto-pilot mode. This usually goes on to the extent that we become predictable to people around us, but we remain blind to it!
Life Crises Interrupt our Auto-Pilot Mode
Our conditioned “way of life” is like auto-pilot mode which works well until the time that one receives a wake up call and may ask oneself questions like: Been there, done that, now what? I am stuck, confused, who am I really? Where is my place in the world? Who would love me for myself? What’s the meaning of life anyway? Why me? Why this keeps happening to me? How do I carry on, I can’t live with myself anymore, I don’t trust myself anymore. … Life crises come in various degrees and intensity and may occur due to a major life event or just happen at any time for no good reason. Some examples of major life events include falling in love, marriage, birth of children, kids leaving home, divorce, separation, contracting a severe illness, becoming disabled, falling victim to a natural disaster or a crime, loosing a loved one, migration, major promotions or loosing one’s job, retirement; and obviously midlife crisis.
Our restlessness now starts to feel like emptiness. One may react to this feeling of emptiness either by distracting oneself and gradually restoring the auto-pilot mode, or by crashing down and feeling emptier and depressed. Self-distractions can take different shapes such as changing jobs, breaking relationships and starting new ones, further education and training, traveling and moving away, extreme sports, gambling, alcohol, drugs, and so on. However; as most of us know well; these self-distractions are only temporary band-aid solutions that lose their effectiveness sooner or later as new crises confront us. So what is the real solution then? Is there a better way, a way to take charge of our flight and soar to our highest potentials? Yes, there is a way. It is to see the crises as an opportunity to know yourself and to grow up to your next level of maturity. This is one of the significant meanings of the old maxim “Know Thyself”.
Know your Personality: Take Charge of your Flight and Soar
The key to taking charge of our own flight and developing the capacity to soar to our highest potentials is to get to know ourselves intimately. For more insight on the significance of knowing oneself see Dear Rumi…Why am I here? Tell me about work and life purpose, and Two Aspect of our Nature.
We all have unique personalities but we can be broadly classified into certain personality types. Many old and modern systems of personality typing have been developed over the course of centuries. For example astrology, numerology, Hippocrates four classic temperaments, Carl Jung’s system of psychological types and MBTI, Karen Horney’s tri-type of moving-towards, moving-against, and moving-away; the DISC, the 16 Personality Factors, and many others.
The Enneagram is one of the most effective and comprehensive systems available. It is unique in the sense that not only it reveals one’s personality or auto-pilot mode (like a Mirror), but it also bears the wisdom to guide us out of our personality box. It can act like a beacon, a light house or one’s North Star to guide one towards one’s highest potentials (the Guiding Light).
The Enneagram of Personality: Ancients Roots, Modern Insights
The history of the Enneagram symbol dates back to over 2500 years ago, and later revived during late 19th century by the enigmatic wisdom teacher G. I. Gurdjieff. The history of the nine personality types can be traced back to the fourth century. However, the mapping of these two sources of insight as one system and its scientific validations have developed over the past seven decades–beginning in the 1950s by the Bolivian wisdom teacher Oscar Ichazo, followed by the Chilean psychiatrist, Claudio Naranjo in the 1970s in the U.S. and then many others including psychologists and wisdom teachers who have contributed to its development to date.
The Enneagram System
At the simplest level, the Enneagram system divides personalities into nine basic types. Then the influence of the wings (the two neighbouring points) comes in, as well as the inner flow of each point when we are knocked out of our comfort zone: The flow of point 9 going to 6 to 3 and back to 9; and the flow of point 1 going to 4 to 2 to 8 to 5 to 7 and back to 1. There are still more enriching depths and dimensions to the Enneagram such as the subtypes or instinct variations, the centres or corners, the levels of development; and in fact different Enneagrams such as the Enneagram of Passion and Virtues and the Enneagram of higher consciousness or Holy Ideas which we will not cover here.
I do not advocate labelling personality types because it runs the risk of being misunderstood and help boxing oneself or others deeper into personality types. Hence I invite you to learn more about the Enneagram either through books and the Internet or contact us to learn more about your type and its intricacies through taking a full test and follow up consultation. As a starter you can take the free short Enneagram test on our site to obtain an initial idea of your personality type (the short test is not as accurate as the full version).
Therefore; very cautiously; here is the list of the nine types as labelled by various pioneers and practitioners of the Enneagram.
It is important to note that we all have all of these nine aspects in our personality, with one aspect usually being dominant along with one or two others appearing strongly. And that none of the types are better or worse than any of the other ones.
- Type 1 The Reformer, Perfectionist, Judge, Crusader, Critic
- Type 2 The Helper, Giver, Nurturer, Caretaker, Manipulator
- Type 3 The Achiever, Performer, Motivator , Chameleon
- Type 4 The Individualist, Romantic, Artist, Mystic, Melancholic
- Type 5 The Investigator, Thinker, Observer, Sage, Reductionist
- Type 6 The Loyalist/Devil’s Advocate, Sceptic /Guardian, Pessimist
- Type 7 The Enthusiast, Planner, Epicure, Optimist, Escapist
- Type 8 The Boss, Leader, Challenger, Protector, Intimidator
- Type 9 The Peacemaker, Mediator, Accommodator, Resistor.