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1. The Multi-Dimensional Enneagram
Understanding Ourselves and Others
The Enneagram is being used daily by millions of people around the world because it works. It is the clearest, most accurate method available for understanding ourselves and those who are important to us. It helps us understand why we do not easily get along with certain people while with others we instantly feel that we are old friends. Understanding the Enneagram is like having a pair of special glasses that allows us to see beneath the surface of people with special clarity: we may in fact see them more clearly than they see themselves.
The insights the Enneagram gives us can change our lives, and those who have gotten to know it cannot imagine how they once got along without it. It is as if they had been born color blind and were suddenly able to comprehend the world in all its subtle hues for the first time. They are thrilled to uncover what had been “right in front of their noses” all along but was obscure and hidden from view. The Enneagram opens up whole new vistas for us, new depths of comprehension, new levels of meaning. Knowledge such as this, however, is not obtained without paying a price: there can be no going back to our former blindness once we understand the Enneagram. The world, others, and we will be different forever.
People from diverse cultures all over the world are responding to the Enneagram because they see their experience accurately reflected in it. They are embracing it as one of the most important discoveries of their lives, something that has helped them make sense of what previously seemed impenetrably ambiguous, or worse, utterly chaotic. Once people grasp the essentials of this extraordinary system, they can participate in the noble work of deepening their understanding of themselves and their fellow humans. Who knows what benefits will accrue as new generations are able to draw on the wisdom of the Enneagram throughout their lives?
Moreover, there are as many uses for the Enneagram as there are individuals who use it. Those who are in therapy or in one of the twelve-step programs will find it an invaluable source of insight into their childhood and why they have become the people they are. Spiritual seekers will discover in it a trustworthy guide to the deeper dimensions of human experience. Those of us in intimate relationships will benefit from understanding more about ourselves and our partners. The Enneagram can help us understand what causes our partners to behave in ways that have previously baffled us and can indicate what is needed for more effective communication and conflict resolution. This understanding also helps us bring more acceptance and compassion to our relationships, as well as insight into where and when limits and boundaries need to be set. Learning to understand our partners is the best way to keep a relationship alive and growing. And compassionately understanding ourselves — what we need, want, fear, and are afraid of expressing — is the best way to keep our own psyches healthy.
While the Enneagram is primarily a profound psychological and spiritual tool, it is also highly practical for business applications because its insights are so on target. Many businesses and organizations are using the Enneagram in management to increase their employees’ productivity and, ultimately, their profitability. They have discovered that they can save a great deal of time and frustration for management and employees alike by applying the Enneagram as a communication tool. Corporations have been using the Enneagram for hiring the best possible person for a particular job, for teaching executives to manage their employees more effectively, for customer service, for clarifying a corporate image — a corporate “personality type,” so to speak — or for building a more profitable sales force. Team building, executive development, marketing, corporate communication, and conflict resolution — among its many applications — are more effective when insights from the Enneagram are applied in the business world. Major organizations that have been using the Enneagram include Adobe, Amoco, AT&T, Avon Products, Boeing Corporation, The DuPont Company, e-Bay, Prudential Insurance (Japan), General Mills Corporation, General Motors, Alitalia Airlines, KLM Airlines, The Coalition of 100 Black Women, Kodak, Hewlett Packard, Toyota, Procter & Gamble, International WeightWatchers, Reebok Health Clubs, Motorola, and SONY.
What Is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a geometric figure that delineates the nine basic personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships. Each of these nine types has its own way of relating to othhers, its own set of perceptions and preoccupations, its own values and approaches to life. Each relates to others in different but understtandable ways. The Enneagram helps everyone understand that there are nine different points of view, nine distinct sets of values, nine different communication styles, nine ways of solving problems — and so forth — that are all equally useful and valid. All of the types have something necessary to contribute to a thriving, balanced world.
As a typology, the Enneagram helps people recognize and understand overall patterns in human behavior. External behaviors, underlying attitudes, one’s characteristic sense of self, conscious and unconscious motivations, emotional reactions, defense mechanisms, object relations, what we pay attention to, our spiritual barriers and potentials — and much more — are all parts of the complex pattern that forms each personality type. While the Enneagram suggests that there are nine basic personality types of human nature, there are, of course, many subtypes and variations within the nine basic categories. Even with all of these subtle distinctions, however, the Enneagram cannot account for every aspect of human nature. Always remember that the Enneagram does not put you in a box — it shows you the box you are already in (but don’t know it) and the way out!
Further, while ideas about psychological type cannot tell us everything about people, they help us make meaningful distinctions that are extremely useful. For instance, people generally believe that others think the same way they do. They often believe that others have the same motivations, values, and priorities — although this is usually not the case. However, when personality type is properly understood, communication becomes exponentially more effective because people begin to recognize and make the most of human diversity. We learn to respect others who are not the same as we are and to treat them with tolerance and compassion.
How Was the Enneagram Developed?
The Enneagram as a symbol was first brought to the attention of the modern world by the Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff around the turn of the twentieth century. The typology now associated with the symbol was developed by Oscar Ichazo, the founder of the Arica school of self-realization, in the 1950s and 60s. In developing the basic principles of Enneagram theory, Ichazo drew on classic Greek philosophy and ancient spiritual ideas from mystical Judaism and early Christianity. Ichazo taught a number of students the basics of his theories of the Enneagram in Arica, Chile, in 1970, and some of them, notably gestalt psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, brought the Enneagram to the United States soon thereafter. Within a few years, awareness of this powerful typology had quickly spread around North America. In 1973, Don Riso began developing the Enneagram in the light of modern psychology, adding his own insights and discoveries to the original body of knowledge. He was joined by Russ Hudson in 1988, and both have been writing and teaching about the system ever since.
One central aspect of our work with the Enneagram has been the endeavor to bring our findings into alignment with modern psychological research. In Understanding the Enneagram, we saw that the Enneagram adds cohesion and significant insights to the theories of modern psychology with its specificity, comprehensiveness, and elegance (284–311). It organizes observations about human nature by consolidating what has already been discovered as well as by suggesting new avenues for investigation. By “cleaving the diamond” of the psyche along its proper internal lines, the Enneagram presents us with the categories that we actually find in everyday life. What is particularly intriguing is that this system, based on ancient philosophical ideas and empirical observations, anticipates many of the findings of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (the DSM-IV), of the American Psychiatric Association and other typologies.
What Creates Our Enneagram Type?
One of the primary things to understand about the Enneagram is that we find ourselves reflected in the whole of it. From one point of view, the personality types are metaphors for the various psychological functions operating in each of us. (See Chapter 7 for more on the Functions.)We develop into one of the nine personality types because our consciousness has developed in certain ways as a result of our heredity and childhood experiences. Nevertheless, our personality type is largely inborn and is the result of what psychologists call temperament. Any woman who has been a mother is aware that children are quite distinct from one another even when they are still in the womb. The child then uses the strengths of his or her temperament as a primary way to cope with stresses in his or her environment. But in the process of adapting, a variety of unconscious mechanisms and structures come into play that help the child feel safe but that also limit his or her sense of identity. In a sense, the development of the personality is as much a defense against our early environment as it is an adaptive reaction to it. The remaining eight personality types (which we develop to greater or lesser degrees throughout our lives) represent the other potentials of our psyche and are important parts of who we are.
How the Enneagram Helps Us Grow
But how does a system of personality types help us liberate ourselves? Aren’t we more than a simple type? The answer is yes we are. Human beings are complex and mysterious, but in fact, our personalities are based primarily on repetitive habits and patterns. Our personalities are not the whole of our psyches, although they are enormously important in that they largely affect the way we see the world and interact with it. Thus, the personality is a kind of filter that potentially limits us and our freedom.
By indicating the chief features and barriers of our psychic landscape, the Enneagram can help us prepare for a more profoundly direct and spiritual relationship with reality. While many people are interested in living more spirit-centered lives, many of us have not had the time or opportunity to develop a reliable practice of meditation or self-observation. Nor do most of us have access to an authentic spiritual school that could guide us along our path.
The Enneagram can help us prepare ourselves for the inward journey by showing us many of the obstacles as well as supports available within our own psyches. It can help us see the reason for taking time from daily routines to meditate or practice spiritual disciplines so that we can acquire the resources necessary for our transformation and liberation.
In the process of teaching the Enneagram to thousands of people for many years, we have seen over and over that the key to transformation lies in our capacity to be present — to be deeply abiding in the here and now, with our minds, hearts, and bodies fully engaged. While this seems an obvious and simple thing, there is one huge barrier to our being more conscious and attuned in the present moment. It is that our personality is not at all interested in being here and now.
In fact, the personality is always drawing us somewhere else, even if we think of ourselves as realistic, practical people. Our habitual thoughts, emotional reactions, fantasies about the future, and old stories about who we are and what others have done to us cloud our awareness and limit our capacity to be fully awake and present to reality. But it is all the more difficult to break out of our old patterns because we are almost totally unaware of them. The mechanisms of our personality are invisible to us. We therefore need to find a way to awaken to our true condition, and having awakened, to remain mindful of the siren-calls of personality.
The amazing thing is that as we are able to bring a nonjudgmental awareness to the reactivity of our personality, our perceptions become sharper, and we begin to discover a vast part of ourselves that is not conflicted, self-deluding, or fearful. As we become more conscious of the mechanical aspects of our personality (that is, our automatic, reactive, defensive patterns), we are less and less controlled by them. By using the habits of our personality to remind us to be present, and then remaining present while observing and feeling the reactions and habits of the personality, we gradually open to real freedom and inner peace. Thus, the paradox of the Enneagram is this: we study the Enneagram because it is necessary to become conscious of how our personality operates so that we can become free of it.
The Real Purpose of the Enneagram
While it is extremely valuable to discover our dominant type, it is best to not get distracted by typing and to keep in mind the real purpose of the Enneagram. First, remember that we have the whole Enneagram within us. When we speak of our type it is useful to think of it as our dominant type — our default setting and motivational core. This is an extremely valuable thing to know, and it can greatly facilitate our growth by being aware of what is most centrally driving our ego agendas. That being said, we will manifest characteristics from all of the nine types from time to time. In short, we are all nine types.
Second, remember that the reason we learn our Enneagram type is to remind us to come back to the present moment when we see our personality drawing our attention into its particular preoccupations and reactions. When we use our knowledge of the types this way, they become liberating rather than constricting us in old identities. As important as discovering our type is, a much more significant achievement is to be willing to observe it in action. Indeed, discovering our personality type only presents us with this greater challenge of courageously observing ourselves as we really are, no matter what we find. Without the willingness to see the maneuvers of our personality from moment to moment, transformation cannot take place. Unless we learn to observe ourselves, finding our type (with the Enneagram or any other system) will give us little more than another label with which we can hide from ourselves. If we only find our type but go no further, the Enneagram itself can become an obstacle to our growth.
Third, it is in the act of seeing ourselves objectively that something lets go in us: a new possibility is created when we allow the grace available in the moment to touch us. We discover that at our deepest we are not our personality. When we experience this truth, transformation becomes possible. Without our trying to do anything to “fix” ourselves, the act of bringing awareness to the moment causes our higher essential qualities to become more available and our personality to lose its grip over us. As we have more moments of freedom from our personality, our essence reveals its many facets — acceptance, love, authenticity, forgiveness, compassion, courage, joy, strength, and presence — as well as gratitude, vitality, and boundlessness — and all of the other manifestations of the human spirit. By moving beyond merely knowing our type to the ability to see ourselves as we are, the shift from personality to essence takes place and we discover that we can live differently. We discover that we can be free.
In the end, the Enneagram can be thought of as a treasure map that indicates where the secret riches of the innermost self can be discovered. Pointing out each type’s path to self-realization is thus one of the Enneagram’s most profound gifts. But the Enneagram is only a map, and it is up to us to make the journey: only we can accept the daily challenge and adventure that is our life. The Enneagram takes us to the threshold of spirit and freedom, love and liberation, self-surrender and self-actualization. Once we have arrived at that uncharted land, we will begin to recognize our truest self, the self beyond personality, the self of essence. That self, of course, cannot be tested by a questionnaire, but only by life itself.
The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator
If we are going to use the Enneagram for self-understanding, for relationships, or for practical applications, we must be able to accurately assess our dominant personality type (as well as those of others). The questionnaire in this book, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI, version 2.5), is a reliable tool for that purpose. Those who are already acquainted with the Enneagram have intuitively sensed that this system works; the RHETI attempts to complement intuition by verifying the personality types empirically. If the Enneagram is to become more widely known, its intuitive validity will have to be corroborated by hard evidence. This questionnaire is offered as a step toward the scientific validation of the Enneagram as a whole.
Scientific Validation and Limitations with Psychological Tests
The intention behind developing the RHETI was not merely to give people a shortcut for determining their personality type. If the Enneagram is to continue to gain mainstream and academic acceptance, the empirical validation of this system is necessary, and having a reliable questionnaire is essential. That process was boosted by the first independent validation of this test — a recognized standard in the field — and will be accelerated with further validation studies and subsequent developments of the test.
But an Enneagram questionnaire — indeed, any questionnaire that aims to help us discover our personality type — cannot provide real and complete self-knowledge by itself. At best, all an Enneagram test can do is to provide evidence about your dominant type. While we have done our best to make the RHETI as valid and reliable an instrument as possible, it is good to remember some of the limitations inherent in using a test to determine your Enneagram type.
Some limitations are inherent in the nature of any test that relies on self-reporting. No such test can be foolproof or 100 percent accurate. After several years of experience with test construction, we have come to the conclusion (supported by studies in psychometrics) that it is virtually impossible to devise a questionnaire that is over 85–90 percent accurate, and any claims to anyone’s having done so should be met with skepticism. In the appendix of this book, we have included the results of an academic study of the RHETI administered independently by Rebecca Newgent, Ph.D., as her doctoral dissertation at the University of Akron. We intend to use this study to make further refinements of the test, and hope that it will lead to further validation studies of the RHETI. In any case, Dr. Newgent’s findings were highly encouraging and placed the RHETI well within the range of a viable psychological test.
But even with sufficient reliability in a test’s construction, other challenges remain. One of the primary limitations with any personality test based on self-reporting is that it takes some degree of self-knowledge to take a type-test, yet this is often the very thing that is in short supply. Because many people lack self-knowledge, they are at a loss about what is true about them when a questionnaire asks them to report on their attitudes or behaviors. At the heart of the problem is the fact that each of us has a certain self-image that does not include everything about us. For example, we may be far more aggressive than we realize, or we may not be as sensitive, loving, dependable, or outgoing as our self-image leads us to believe. One of the values of the Enneagram is to help us correct our distorted notions about ourselves — but until we can acknowledge our “blind spots,” we will not be able to recognize them either in ourselves or in a test.
It is also in the very nature of certain personality types to have difficulty identifying themselves. The three primary types — Threes, Sixes, and Nines — probably have the most trouble because their identity depends on their identifications with others. They live through others or else live through the real or imagined reactions of others to them. Either way, because they do not see themselves directly, testing for these types is more difficult. Of course, all of the types present other problems caused by self-deception, self-justification, and the desire to “look good.” This can be particularly true when the test is administered in the workplace. People are likely to respond in ways that they believe are expected of them rather than as they truly feel.
Of course there are other pitfalls in any self-scored test: people can skip questions or entire pages, or they can make mistakes in arithmetic as they add their scores. Sometimes they do not understand the vocabulary, do not read or follow the instructions, or get impatient and answer the questions arbitrarily. Other errors are more subtle: while some respondents do not have the self-knowledge to answer the questions appropriately, others may know the Enneagram types so well that they are able to skew the answers to make the test confirm the type that they want to be. Others may overanalyze the questions and become confused by hair-splitting and thinking of fantastic situations in which both of the statements might possibly be true of them. When one considers all of the potential sources of error that can be introduced in test-taking, it is a wonder that psychological tests, including the RHETI, ever come out at all.
Despite these problems, the RHETI has proven to range from about 56–82 percent accurate for determining the basic personality type (depending on the type). While carefully reading Enneagram books and going to workshops is probably the most reliable way to identify or confirm one’s dominant type, many people like to get launched on this journey of self- discovery by having an accurate personality type indicator available. At the very least, tests can be useful in narrowing down the possibilities from nine to two or three. In the last analysis, finding your dominant type ultimately depends on honest self-observation over time.
Insights obtained from a test, workshop, book, or an Enneagram teacher should be used only as corroborative pieces of evidence in the process of self-discovery. It is unwise to expect any method to be the only way to discover our dominant type. The responsibility for finding out who we are always lies with us. Insights from any method should be considered along with all the other available evidence before we come to any final conclusions. Talking to friends, reading the descriptions of the types, attending workshops, and above all, relying on your own self-observation over a period of time are the best ways to discover your type with confidence.
Differences Between the Earlier Version of Discovering Your Personality Type and This New Third Edition
While the earlier two versions of this book have proven to be favorites with Enneagram readers, we realized that people were primarily purchasing them for the test and not using much of the supportive text on interpretation. At the same time, we were aware of the need for a simple, fresh introduction to the nine Enneagram types for people newly acquainted with the system. Further, we had made some additional changes and refinements to the version of the test in the last edition of Discovering Your Personality Type (version 2.0), resulting in the more accurate version 2.5 that is included here. It was also version 2.5 that was studied and scientifically validated.
Thus, it made sense to release a new edition of this book with the validated version of the test and with additional introductory material. Our hope was that readers would find in this newest edition all they needed to begin their exploration of the Enneagram without going into the greater complexities and subtleties of the system that we have described in our other works.
As a result, we removed some of the extra interpretive material and replaced it with fuller introductions to the nine types as well as to the basics of the system. The two-paragraph descriptions of the nine types from the last edition are here replaced with treatments of over 2,500 words each. In this new edition, readers can take the test and immediately go to the type chapters for an introduction to all the most important points they need to know about their type. We have also included new material for more advanced students so that those familiar with our other books will be well rewarded by investigating the type chapters and other sections in this edition.
Copyright © 2003 by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.