Enneagram helps in spiritual direction

How the Enneagram helps in spiritual direction

Imagine finding out that you’re normal.

Imagine learning that you’re not alone.

Imagine discovering that, in fact, there is nothing wrong with you.

Imagine stumbling in a dark room and suddenly you find the light switch.

This is what I found in the Enneagram.

“Wait,” you say, “the innia-what?”

The Enneagram is a personality typing system. It’s a lens through which you experience the world. It’s your operating system, the way you’re hard-wired on the inside.

Discerning your Enneagram type can help you learn why you find your job unfulfilling, or why you constantly have friction with your spouse, or why church always makes you feel like a square peg in a round hole. Rather than be defined by your behavior, the Enneagram reveals your motivations. Sure, you like helping people, or you want to change the world. But why? What’s your payoff? What’s your driver? The Enneagram answers these questions.

The Enneagram identifies nine different types for people. Each type has amazing gifts, and each type has a dark side. Any type might be an extrovert or introvert. Any type can make a great pastor or nurse or police officer. But they’re each driven by different motivations.

Type ONE: The Perfectionist or Reformer

When I think of the ONE on the Enneagram, I think of the scene at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where young Indiana emerges from the cave to find that his scout troop has abandoned him. “Everyone’s lost but me,” he proclaims.

ONE’s are visionaries who can see a perfect world. The only problem is it exists only in their mind. They’re idealists. They’re driven by a nagging sense that nothing is good enough, and they are on the elusive search for getting things right. ONE’s make great editors. You might be a ONE if you are your own harshest critic in not only your spiritual life but also in the rest of your life.
In spiritual direction, you may be searching for the right way to connect with God. You may have tried every technique for having a quiet time but think you could be doing it better. A spiritual director can help you being okay with grace.

Type TWO: The Helper

The North American church loves TWO’s. The TWO can’t stop themselves from helping people. They are the first to volunteer. They love to serve. At a party, they’re the first at the door to welcome you and get you a drink. A TWO will take care of your every need.

TWO’s genuinely love people. But it can come at the expense of themselves. They can see everyone else’s needs but their own. They are driven by the need to be loved. You might be a TWO if you’ve ever caught yourself fixating whether others are actually noticing all of your hard work and service.

If you’re a TWO, you may need to be referred repeatedly to spiritual direction before they discover its a good idea. You spend so much of your energy helping others, you forget to take care of yourself. You are the person who need to be told on the airplane to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. A spiritual director can help you ground your identity in the love of God rather than on how much others need you.

Type THREE: The Performer or Achiever

The THREE plays to win. Competition is their native language, and productivity is their love language. They get things done. American culture celebrates THREE’s all day long.

A THREE can be a natural leader but can struggle with relationships. Doing is so much easier than being. It’s easy for a THREE to default into “the end justifies the means,” stepping all over others and their feelings. You might be a THREE if you find yourself to be a social chameleon, able to slip into a variety of personas to impress whatever crowd in which you find yourself.

Similar to the TWO, THREE’s can easily forget self-care. If you’re a THREE, you probably never want to admit a moment of weakness and self-care could be interpreted as weakness. A spiritual director can work with you on embracing stillness and trusting in the slow work of God.

Type FOUR: The Romantic or Individualist

An Enneagram FOUR sees the world from such a unique perspective. FOUR’s embrace the unconventional. They don’t just think out-of-the-box, they live life out-of-the-box. They are driven by the need to be different. Many FOUR’s are artists or work in creative fields. They are great idea people.

They find themselves right at home in melancholy. They can be captivated by emotions, especially their own. FOUR’s by default are contrarians. You might be a FOUR if you think the Enneagram, or any personality system for that matter, is completely ridiculous. “You don’t know me,” is the mantra of the FOUR.

If you’re a FOUR, you might be driven by a keen sense of beauty, and so spiritual direction can open you to finding God’s beauty and presence in the mundane and ordinary. A spiritual director can help you heal from past hurts and keep you from wallowing in them.

Type FIVE: The Investigator

A FIVE might be a compulsive learner because they’re driven by the need to understand. They can be fantastic listeners and make great counselors and spiritual directors. They just have a superpower of seeing everything, and then being able to make connections admit it all. A FIVE will observe and take in everything before they participate.

FIVE’s tend to have a limited amount of daily emotional energy, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. If you’ve encountered a spent FIVE, you may have found them aloof or cold. A FIVE tends to value competence in others, and can easily dismiss those they judge incompetent. You might be a FIVE if your happy place is a bookstore.

In spiritual direction, you might explore how to live less in your head and more in your heart. A spiritual director can help you share your life with others and be with others without agenda.

Type SIX: The Loyalist

A SIX on the Enneagram is loyal and full of compassion. You want a best friend that’s a SIX because they will never let you down. Like the FIVE, the SIX is a gifted listener. Like the ONE, the SIX is a natural rule follower. But where a ONE follows the rules to be right, the SIX follows the rules to be safe.

A SIX is driven by the need to be secure. They’re frequently playing out worst-case scenarios in their head. Worry is the native language of the SIX, and fear can be the voice in their head that never shuts up. If something can go wrong, the SIX is convinced it’s a matter of when, not if.

In spiritual direction, a SIX can discover freedom from their ever-present anxiety through centering prayer and meditation. A spiritual director can help a SIX trust that in God everything is going to be okay.

Type SEVEN: The Enthusiast

Everybody needs a SEVEN in their life who will jump out of airplanes with them. A SIX needs safety, while a SEVEN needs excitement. A SEVEN seeks thrills and is willing to try anything and everything. A SEVEN is driven by the need to have fun.

Spontaneity is the life of the SEVEN. Where FOUR is right at home in hard feelings, the SEVEN ain’t got time for that. Negative emotions tend to get shut down and repressed by a SEVEN. You might be a SEVEN if the idea of “spiritual disciplines” bores you.

In spiritual direction, a you might explore the practice of finding God in stillness. A spiritual director might help you channel your energy in facing difficult emotions like grief or sadness or anger.

Type EIGHT: The Challenger

An EIGHT is either your very best friend or your very worst enemy. EIGHT’s draw on a tremendous capacity of compassion, especially for the down-and-out, the little guy, and the marginalized. EIGHT’s make great activists and lawyers.

The world of the EIGHT is black and white. They have an intuitive sense of justice. If an EIGHT senses you’ve been taken advantage of, they will jump to your defense. But if they sense you are the one doing the victimizing, they will rear back like a momma bear protecting her young. An EIGHT tends to thrive in conflict and confrontation.

In spiritual direction, you can find a place of moderation and balance and see people as human beings rather than simply causes. A spiritual director can help you explore strength in vulnerability.

Type NINE: The Peacemaker

The NINE’s on the Enneagram have an innate sense of empathy. They are bridge builders and have a gift for seeing all sides of an issue. NINE’s are content to go with the flow. They are the most laid back of all they types.

Where a THREE might blend into their surroundings to find the advantage, the NINE blends in so as to not be a hassle to anyone. You might be a NINE if your default response to the question “Where do you want to go out?” is “I don’t know, wherever you want to go.”

In spiritual direction, you might grow in your ability to make your own decisions rather than just along with others. A spiritual director might help you uncover your true self under the layers of others’ expectations under which you’ve hidden.

This is just the briefest of sketches. There are all kinds of ways that each type is connected to others in both stress and mature growth. Learning the dynamics of your Enneagram type is just one way of growing into a more human being as God designed you.

You can begin to uncover and explore your type with a spiritual director. Two great books for learning more about the Enneagram include The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. There’s also a related website with a lot of audio resources unpacking the Enneagram.

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