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Understanding the Enneagram,9780618004157

Understanding the Enneagram

Edition: Revised
Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 1/18/2000
Publisher(s): Mariner Books
Availability: This title is currently not available.


PERSONALITY TYPES, the first book by Don Richard Riso, has become the leading guide to the Enneagram, as well as a cherished classic in the literature of personal growth around the world. This is the groundbreaking book that set the standard for insight and accuracy about this ancient symbol of human personality. UNDERSTANDING THE ENNEAGRAM soon followed and has since become another indispensable reseource, teaching readers not only how to understand this psychological framework in daily life but how to use it in many different settings. Don Riso and Russ Hudson have now fully revised and updated this authoritative guide to the Enneagram, based on their continuing work in the field, which is attracting ever-increasing attention. Discover how to use the Enneagram to find fulfillment in your personal develpemnt and in all of your relationships.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments vii
The Practical Guide to Personality Types
The Traditional Enneagram
The Nine Personality Types
The Levels of Development
Identifying Your Type: A Questionnaire
The Centers
Psychological Catagories
Advanced Topics
Personality, Essence, and Spirituality
Bibliography 382
Index 387


Chapter 1 The Practical Guide to Personality TypesWe are like prisoners in an unguarded cell. No one confines us against our will, and we have heard that the key that will release us is also locked inside. If we could find the key, we could open the door and be free. Yet, we don't know where it has been hidden, and even if we knew, part of us is afraid to break out of our prison. Once out, where would we go, and what would we do with our newfound freedom? This is not a meaningless metaphor: we are prisoners of our ego, enchained by our fears, restricted in our freedom, suffering from our condition. No one prevents us from searching for the key that would free us. We must, however, know where to look for it and be willing to use it once we have discovered where it is. With the Enneagram, we have found a master key, one that will unlock many doors. It gives us access to the wisdom we need to escape from our self- imposed prison so that we can embrace a fuller life. The Enneagram helps us to let go of the limiting mechanisms of our personality so that we can more deeply experience who and what we really are. It provides insights that can help in freeing us from our fears and conflicts, from our wayward passions and compulsions, from our disordered desires and inner confusions. No part of this process is automatic, however. Even after we have identified our personality type, it still may not be clear how to use the insights we have been given. People often ask, "Now that I know my type, what do I do with it? Where do I go with it now?" Understanding the inner workings of the personality types helps to some degree, but information alone is not enough to free us. Instead, we need to understand the transformative process and our role in it. The paradox is that we cannot bring about our transformation yet, without our participation, it cannot be done. So what part do we play in our own inner development, and how can the Enneagram help? The Enneagram can help because it is an invaluable map for guiding us to the points of blockage in our particular personality structures. The fundamental premise of the Enneagram is that there are nine basic personality structures in human nature - nine points of view, nine value systems, nine ways of being in the world. They have much in common with each other, although each manifests its own set of attitudes and behaviors, reactions and defenses, motivations and habits. And each requires its own unique prescriptions for growth. The central message of this book is that by showing us what our personality is made of, so to speak, the Enneagram indicates what is necessary for our real growth and transformation. Everyone is not cut from the same cloth, or poured into the same mold; therefore everyone's psychological and spiritual issues will be somewhat different, and the order in which they can best be addressed will be different. By helping us understand the structures of our own personality type, the Enneagram shows us how and why we have closed down and become constricted in our growth. It provides us with a panoramic view of what is happening in us and in our significant relationships. It gives us nonjudgmental, nontechnical language in which to talk about these ideas, and it demystifies much in the realms of psychology and spirituality. We see that these realities are neither foreign nor strange: they are the worlds in which we already live. In addition to giving us insight into our day- to-day behaviors, the Enneagram offers an answer to our spiritual yearnings because it shows us with great specificity how our personality has limited us, what our path of growth is, and where real fulfillment can be found. It teaches us that the longings and structures of our personality are actually useful guides to the greatest treasures of our soul. By regarding our self-defeating patterns and even our psychological pain and limitations as indicators of our spiritual capacities, we are able to see ourselves in a different light. With this new perspective comes compassion, healing, love, and transformation. We believe that, rightly understood, the Enneagram can have a tremendously positive effect in the world today. By touching people profoundly, mirroring their experience of themselves and helping them trace the trajectory of their lives, it reveals our common humanity. It speaks to the soul, reawakening faith, hope, and love. Many of our students and readers have told us that the Enneagram has helped them to rediscover spirituality - and even brought many of them back to the churches and traditions they once left. Their deepened appreciation of spirituality and awareness of what spirituality really means allowed them to operate more gracefully within institutional frameworks. They could see the soul of the religion they had left and were able to orient themselves to its true Spirit. In this book, we have enriched our presentation of the Enneagram with ideas from Fourth Way* schools such as the Gurdjieff Work, the Diamond Approach of A. H. Almaas, the seminal insights of Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, and other awareness practices. We have also drawn upon major religious traditions (principally Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Jewish mysticism). We hope that this book will be a useful introduction to the Enneagram for those who are unfamiliar with this system, as well as a valuable resource for those already familiar with it, as there is much new information here. Above all, we hope this book will demonstrate the Enneagram's relevance to all forms of transformational work - and firmly place the Enneagram in its true psycho-spiritual context. The Enneagram can be applied on a superficial level, of course, and the reader may wish only to use this information to find out what type he or she is, or to find out the type of someone else. New and valuable insights are possible with even this kind of pragmatic information. But to get the full benefits of the Enneagram, one must integrate it into a genuine spiritual practice. Otherwise, the information alone tends to become an end in itself - and ironically tends to solidify the personality structures rather than liberate the person from them. But when the Enneagram is part of a spiritual practice, it more readily becomes a means for recognizing our True Nature, and hence for loosening the structures and limitations of the personality. Of course, having a spiritual practice does not guarantee ego transcendence and liberation from egocentric structures and consequent suffering. But without a spiritual practice, it is less likely that we can become liberated from the limitations of our personality. The momentum of the ego is too great, and it cannot be transformed without bringing an even greater force to bear upon it: the awareness that comes from a spiritual perspective on ourselves and our lives.The two principal areas in which to use the Enneagram are for self-understanding (seeing ourselves as we actually are) and for understanding others (so that we can have more harmonious relationships). By far the most legitimate use of the Enneagram is to understand ourselves. It can help us understand our fears and desires, strengths and weaknesses, defenses and anxieties, how we react to frustration and disappointment - and, more positively, what our truest capacities and greatest strengths are so that we can build on them rather than on misjudgments and illusions. We will get the most benefit from the Enneagram if we approach it with a spirit of open- ended inquiry, using it as a support for discovering things about ourselves and for seeing how our characteristic issues are played out. As we observe ourselves with the help of the system, we will see what we are up to again and again, especially how we are fleeing from ourselves - and why. And although we may discover many things that make us uncomfortable or that do not fit into the self-image that we have of ourselves, it is important not to judge or condemn ourselves for what we find. As we study our type, we will begin to understand more clearly than ever that our personality is a form of defense that we have continued to use for reasons that started in our infancy. Our personality has brought us this far, but we may not need some of its features as much as we once did. Because the Enneagram predicts the healthy, transcendent qualities that we can expect to attain, it helps us to have the courage to let go of old outmoded habits. There are three stages to this work. First, we need to learn self-observation so that we can see our behavior as objectively as possible. Second, we need to increase our self-understanding so that we can know the true motives for our behavior. And third, we need to cultivate awareness or presence, which facilitates and deepens the process of transformation. Self-observation and self- understanding alone will merely provide us with insight to get us to the threshold of transformation, but it is only through presence and awareness that transformation actually occurs. Without developing the ability to "show up" fully, the transformative moments of our lives will have limited effect. The Enneagram is not only about understanding and transforming ourselves, however; it helps us in understanding others, in fostering compassion for them and developing insight into how they think, what they fear and desire, what they value, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. In short, we more easily appreciate perspectives that are different from our own. Indeed, understanding others more profoundly allows us not only to appreciate the good we find in them but also to be more objective and compassionate about things we may not like about them. Although we tend to think that other people are basically like us, it is helpful to recognize that different types think and feel and react quite differently. By understanding personality types, we can see others more objectively, connecting deeply with them yet remaining in our own center, true to ourselves. By understanding the Enneagram, we paradoxically become both more self-possessed and more capable of reaching out to others. In fact, we often use the Enneagram in our relationships because it is as important to understand others as it is to understand ourselves. We simply cannot (and do not) go through life with no idea about "what makes others tick" - about how they are likely to react in various circumstances, about their motivations, about how genuine or truthful or good they are. Whether or not we are conscious of it, we always use some kind of "personality theory." It is therefore extremely helpful to recognize what our implicit theory is and to make sure that it is as accurate and comprehensive as possible. Another reason for understanding the Enneagram is that it helps us recognize our unconscious tendencies before they become self- defeating habits so that we can avoid the tragic consequences of those habits. The Enneagram can act as an "early warning system" of potentially harmful behavior, allowing us to do something about it before we become trapped in unhealthy patterns. If our attitudes and behavior did not have potentially tragic consequences, we could think, "Well, why should I care about self-knowledge? What difference does it make to know more about myself or my personality type?" The answer is that our attitudes and our actions always have consequences, some of which can affect the whole of our lives. This makes acquiring self-knowledge and insight into others an extraordinarily practical thing to do. Without self- knowledge, we can make choices that may turn out disastrously. Without knowing our own motives and not having control over our behavior, we can do harmful things to ourselves, our spouse, our children, our friends and acquaintances - even to people we may never meet. Furthermore, without being good judges of the characters of others, we can be terribly hurt and abused. Many marriages end in bitterness and divorce because people do not know either themselves or each other. How often have we heard somebody say, "If I had only known what my husband was really like, I would never have married him." Or, "If I had only known the Enneagram twenty years ago, my life would have been so different . . ." We can console ourselves with the thought that at least we know the Enneagram now - and with its help, we will be much more likely to avoid the suffering caused by our lack of self-knowledge and the unwise actions that may result. With insight, we have a much better chance to avoid tragedy and become happier.Each of the great spiritual traditions uses different metaphors to express many of the same discoveries about human nature and to express its insight into the way out of our predicaments. At its deepest, the Enneagram is not only profound psychology but a path toward the spiritual since true self-knowledge is the first step toward spirituality. Despite the Enneagram's origin in a variety of spiritual and metaphysical traditions, however, it is not overtly religious. It can be - and has been - adapted to many different religions and religious expressions because it reflects the patterns found in human nature. By helping us more clearly understand the human side of the relationship between the Divine and the human, the Enneagram can become an integral part of any spirituality. Thus, while it can say very little about the revealed truths of religion, the Enneagram can say a great deal about the forms that the human ego takes - and these are the primary obstacles to a direct experience of the Divine. It demonstrates both the need for working on ourselves and the direction we must take if we are to do so. The Enneagram is a tool that, when used properly, can help us discriminate between the more superficial aspects of ourselves - our personalities - and the deeper aspects of our true nature - our Essence. That is all it is. But considering the sublimity of this work, the Enneagram is a treasure, something more valuable than anything we could have hoped to discover. Even in a purely psychological, nontheological frame of reference, we want to understand the Enneagram so that we can become more free - more liberated - from whatever is blocked, negative, and destructive - from whatever is unfree, conflicted, fearful, and wounded in ourselves. The Enneagram can aid our healing so that we can use our growing freedom in ennobling and constructive ways. Once we begin to be liberated from our ego states and our inner conflicts - from the darkness and fear inside - with each step we take toward the light, we will gain that much more freedom and create new capacities in ourselves. Strength will build upon strength, grace upon grace, virtue upon virtue, and each new capacity will summon forth yet another as we become the persons that we are meant to be. In the end, however, the Enneagram will be as useful and rewarding as we make it. The Enneagram will enrich us to the degree that we understand it correctly and use it properly in our lives. We can be confident that we will find endless insights and great riches here.Understanding the Enneagram is a practical guide to this system, building on many of the insights first presented by Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. We are not concerned here with the basic structure and theory of the Enneagram or with comprehensive descriptions of the nine personality types, as they have been provided in our other books. Indeed, very little material is repeated from Personality Types, and what little was necessary to repeat is completely revised and expanded. This book is also cross-referenced to the Revised Edition of Personality Types so that you can return to that longer resource if you want to find out more about something. Furthermore, much of the new material here is completely independent of the earlier book (the Type Profiles, the Questionnaire, and the Recommendations for Personal Growth, for example) and can be used without reference to it. THE PURPOSE OF THE ENNEAGRAM The Enneagram reveals the patterns by which we organize and give meaning to all of our experiences. Its basic premise is that if we could see the core pattern around which we organize and interpret all of our experiences, the framework on which we hang the events of our lives, we could make much quicker progress in our spiritual and psychological growth. This core patterning is, of course, our personality type. When we recognize our type and see it at work in ourselves, aspects of our personality that have been hidden from us are revealed, and paradoxically, start loosening up. We suddenly have considerably more psychological space in which to maneuver because we can see ourselves with more perspective. It would not be far-fetched to say that one of the main points of the Enneagram is to show us where our personality "trips us up" the most. It highlights both what is possible for us, as well as how self-defeating and unnecessary many of our reactions and behaviors are. Our type has both positive and negative qualities, but we do ourselves no favor either by exalting it or by condemning it - not to mention using it to judge other people or their types. No matter what our type is, and no matter what particular form our ego has taken, we all face one central problem - estrangement from our deepest nature. We may have had intimations that what lies beneath the structure of our personality is something miraculous, the very thing that we have wanted more than anything else, even though we have looked everywhere else to find it. Despite our intimations, it is difficult to let go of our personality and to trust that there is actually something more "essential" in us. It is difficult to believe that there is actually a spark of Divinity in me. But there is good news as well because the structures of our personality tell us what the main blockages to our true nature are. This is why the Enneagram, properly understood, is an extraordinary tool for psychological and spiritual growth: it illuminates the unconscious parts of ourselves that stand in the way of our being more fully alive. It demonstrates that what stands in the way between ourselves and bliss is our attachment to our personality. Perhaps one of the most challenging notions for us to accept at the beginning of transformational work is that the personality - the ego and its structures - is an artificial construct. But it only seems real because up until now it has been our entire reality. Identifying with our personality has been how we have lived and gotten by in life. Insofar as it has enabled us to do so, the personality has been a useful, even highly valuable, friend. As our insights deepen, however, we come to accept the hard truth that our personality is largely a collection of internal defenses and reactions, deeply ingrained beliefs and habits about the self and the world that have come from the past, particularly from our childhood. To put this more simply, our personality is a mechanism from the past, perhaps one that has helped us survive until now, but one whose limitations can now be seen. We all suffer from a case of mistaken identity: we have forgotten our True Nature and have come to believe that we are the personality. The reason we must explore the defenses of the personality and the vulnerabilities it is protecting is so that we can reexperience our Essential nature - our spiritual core - and know directly who we really are. Each of us came into the world as pure Essence, although that Essence was still undeveloped. Each of us has also had a mother and a father (or other caretakers) who already had their personalities very much in place. Because they had to protect themselves from experiencing their own developmental gaps and losses, it was not possible for them to fully support the unfolding of all of the aspects of our spirit, no matter how much they loved us. In short, to the degree that they could not be with the fullness of their own Essence, they could not recognize or help develop the fullness of our Essence. From this perspective, we can also see that these blockages may go back many generations. Our parents unintentionally sent "messages" to us as children to hide ourselves. We gradually came to believe that one or more parts of us were not safe to have or to display to the world. No matter how well intentioned our parents were, to some degree, we all succumbed to the process of hiding and covering over our Essential nature. Out of the need to make unconscious adjustments to our caregivers came the need to form a personality. We began to feel that "What I am is not acceptable, so I need to be different. Maybe I need to be happier, or quieter, or less energetic." The costs of these necessary survival adjustments are great, although perhaps the greatest cost is that we gradually become terrified to be seen as we are. We have spent most of our lives not allowing ourselves to be seen, not seeing other people, and most destructively, not wanting to see ourselves. Further, the painful events of early childhood create a particular way of interpreting our experiences so that later life events reinforce our beliefs about our self and the world. For instance, a child who has been physically abused will tend to view the world as threatening and will have problems getting close to people. Such a person will expect, and tend to find, abusive situations. As a result of this reinforcement of our earliest sense of self, our personality gets "thicker" and we begin to think, "This is me - it's just the way I am." We identify with our reactions and our habitual self- image and beliefs. We do not want to see what is beneath the personality because to go into the areas that have been blocked and covered over means that we will reexperience our deepest hurts. Furthermore, doing so reveals the insubstantiality of our personality - and that is extremely threatening both to our sense of identity and to our ideas about how to survive in the world. This is not to say that personality is necessarily bad, but when the mechanisms of the personality are running the show, the most dire things can happen. All of us can think of dozens of times when we came within a hairsbreadth of disaster but for the fact that we had enough presence of mind to stop the momentum of events and avert a catastrophe. We can all look back to times when, if a few of the wrong words had been spoken, or if we had allowed rage, sarcasm, or pride to take over, the rest of our lives would have taken a different turn. We can all remember pivotal moments when we could have allowed ourselves to go along with the rush of our personality, but did not. Something intervened. That something was awareness. Suddenly we were able to wake up to the danger, the foolishness, and the self-destructiveness of what we had been doing, and to stop it before things got worse. In retrospect, we may get cold shivers when we think about how close we came to losing a job, our best friend, our marriage, or to alienating our children. If something in us had not been awake to see what we were unconsciously doing, the rest of our lives would be very different. That we were present in those crucial moments changed the course of our own history and made all the difference. Awareness is part of our Essential nature: it is the aspect of our Being that registers our experience. Awareness is such a fundamental capacity, that it is almost impossible to imagine what it would be like to be without it. In more mundane terms, we can also recognize awareness as our capacity to pay attention. Unfortunately, our attention is usually drawn into deep identifications with the preoccupations of our personality - into fantasies, anxieties, reactions, or subjective memories. When our awareness becomes identified with these aspects of our personality, we lose contact with the immediacy of our lived experience. Our attention shrinks away from a broader perspective and from what is actually occurring around us. It contracts into narrow concerns or reactions and we "fall asleep." When we begin to pay attention to what is actually here, however, to become more aware of the sensations and impressions of the present moment, something very interesting happens. The simple act of returning our attention to the present causes our awareness to expand. We become aware of much more than the narrow concerns of our personality, and we reconnect with aspects of our nature we did not suspect existed. What would it be like if we were present so often that we no longer waited until the last minute to react to impending disaster? What if we were so awake that we could see the reality of our circumstances, even as they shift and change? We would be able to notice impulses arising in us as if they were trains pulling into a railroad station. We could see destructive impulses coming while they were still at a safe distance, and decide consciously whether or not to board them, as it were. What would our lives be like if we did not automatically get on the train to be whisked away to some undesirable destination before we knew what had happened? What if we were so present that we no longer lived in a semifog of habits and diminished consciousness, going through much of our lives as if we were barely there at all? What if we were so present that we no longer felt that life was some kind of death sentence, something we must endure until we finally got through it? Rather than experience most moments as tedious and dull - and feeling the need to protect and distract ourselves from their pain and boredom - what if we experienced every moment as a gift, something indescribably precious, unique, and irreplaceable? The good news is that we can have a new life if we are willing to learn and practice a few simple lessons. The first is that there is more to us than our personality. Our true Self and our personality are not the same thing, and it is the quality of presence that restores the proper balance between them and allows us to embody the expansive qualities of our true nature. The personality is highly automatic: it tends to create the same problems for us again and again. But the personality is only automatic when we are not aware of it. When our awareness arises and we directly experience the mechanisms of our personality, they cannot function as automatically as before. Furthermore, the habits and reactions of our personality take up far more of our energy than we can imagine. Many of us believe that letting go of the patterns of our personality will render us ineffective and dull-minded. Actually, the opposite is true. Learning to let go, to relax, to become more present and awake, liberates enormous energy in us and enables us to accomplish far more than we would have thought possible. The second important lesson is that presence never becomes habitual. We will never find a formula or technique that will automatically allow us to be present all the time. Such an automatic method of being present would be a contradiction - a way of being awake while we were actually "asleep." We do not have to push ourselves, change our basic life circumstances, or use willpower for transformation to occur. A real, lasting solution lies in another direction - by coming back to ourselves with ever- deepening awareness, we see and experience the structures of our personality from a larger perspective, and our old habits begin to loosen and drop away. The miracle is that to the degree that they are fully experienced, our old, self-defeating structures will begin to dissolve. By speaking to the truth of who we really are, the Enneagram reminds us of our own innate nobility and spiritual potentials. It helps us discern the more superficial, automatic self of personality from the profound riches of our Essence - our True Self. This is the core of spirituality; real spirituality involves becoming more real. And as we become more real, we begin to become more aware of the Divine since the "really real" is the Divine. In order to come in contact with what is "really real," we must understand and disidentify with the limiting and destructive aspects of our personality. As we gradually learn to disengage from our various habits and fears, agendas and behaviors, we begin to understand the magnificence we are called to. There is the widespread sense that humanity is at an important milestone. While the last century has seen enormous strides in science, medicine, and technology, real understanding and healing of the human psyche has not kept pace. Given our enormous technological power, and with it, our increased potential for self-destruction, we have come to a point in history where genuine self-knowledge is no longer a luxury. Whether or not human beings will learn to live together peacefully remains in doubt; whether or not we will be able to stop ourselves from stripping the earth of its resources remains in doubt; whether or not we will be able to stop fearing those who are unlike us and whose customs and religion are different from our own remains in doubt; whether or not hatred will turn out to be a stronger force than love remains in doubt. One thing is for sure, however. Unless we humans are able to get over our identification with our egoselves - and with it, our willingness to destroy what does not support our ego and its demands - we will not survive. Unless we are able to see beyond our impoverished and desperate ego to the magnificence of the universal Self manifesting in each of us, we will be unsatisfied. Unless we truly learn to love ourselves, we will destroy ourselves. At this momentous time in human history, something powerful and decisive has been revealed to the world: the Enneagram. Its insights puncture our defenses and lay bare the inner workings of our psyches with their mysterious mix of spiritual yearnings and destructive impulses. The Enneagram helps us rediscover our own humanity and also the humanity of all human beings. With its help, we can rediscover the ancient spiritual truth, taught by many different traditions, that we must love one another or perish. What greater gift could be given to the world as we embark on a new millennium? And what deeper truth could we learn day in and day out, every moment of our lives? The Basics of the Enneagram This section is included so that readers can grasp the basics of the system or refresh their memories about the Enneagram. (For more details, consult PT, 27-55.) * One of the most important things that distinguishes the Enneagram from other personality typologies is that it is a dynamic system. This means that the nine types are not static categories - they are interrelated in specific ways, as indicated by the inner lines of the symbol. The Enneagram is valuable because it sheds light on our major challenges to growth as well as on our hidden strengths. It describes nine distinct personality types - nine ways that human nature expresses itself, nine different perspectives on life, nine modes of being in the world. It has important implications not only for self-help but for intimate relationships and all other forms of interactions as well, such as therapy, education, and business, to name

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