Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lesson #23: The Enneagram

Your personality is a portal to your soul. It carries information regarding your life purpose and your origin. Your personality is a fixation that causes you to perceive life in a certain way. Once we realize we are seeing life through a particular filter, or blinders, we can eventually take the blinders off and gain a broader perspective of ourselves and life. This can be critical to making spiritual progress.

The Enneagram is a fantastic tool that can help you understand yourself and others in your your life. It can help you work through difficulties, improve your relationships, and be more effective in anything you do.

It is believed that the Enneagram originated in the Sufi teachings, although others claim that it cropped up independently in other parts of the world. Until recently, it was strictly an oral tradition, taught only through interaction with people, but now we can learn its principles by way of the written word.

The Enneagram is depicted by a nine-pointed star diagram, each point representing a personality type. While we each possess all nine qualities, there is one that we are more fixated on than the others. Generally, this focus is most easily seen when a person in his his twenties, while he's still searhing for himself. The nine personality types include:

Point 1:   Perfectionist
Point 2:   Helper/Giver
Point 3:   Achiever/Performer
Point 4:   Artist/Romantic
Point 5:   Observer/Intellectual
Point 6:   Loyalist/Devil's Advocate
Point 7:   Epicure/Free Spirit
Point 8:   Boss/Leader
Point 9:   Mediator

By studying all of these types, we start to understand and appreciate the basic personality templates that comprise humainity. This is true not only for individuals, but also for families, political group, companies countries, etc. For instance, the United states as a whole expresses the performer/achiever, while Italy expresses the artist/romantic.

So, the fixation that we each have helps us understand what we need to work on, because the goal is to loosen this preoccupation so that it doesn't take over our lives. Ideally this focus (the drive to achieve, to be loved, to be in charge, etc.) will be transformed or transmuted into its higher spiritual counterpart (to simply "be," to love unconditionally, to be a great leader, etc.).

If you've never studied personality types, you might be amazed at the ways in which this information can help you make sense of your life, past and present. Helen Palmer's book, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life, is a classic which I highly recommend, but there are other simpler books to choose from as well. In fact, there are many personality systems and resources available, so let your guidance steer you toward the material that works best for you.