When I first was introduced to the Enneagram, I had major doubts about the accuracy and more importantly, the implications of the results. And my greatest suspicion wasn’t the test but myself, or more precisely, my ability to self-report who I am, what my tendencies are, and how I react in light of those characteristics with confidence. I had a concern that if I go down this rabbit hole, I would be misled, mischaracterized, or even worse, enshrine a lie in my heart as truth, being worse off than before.
For those of us who have a keen interest in the Enneagram but have difficulty identifying the number type we recognize with, we face a “dilemma of skepticism.” We don’t want to be boxed in. We don’t want to be told who we are. We don’t want to be reduced or diminished by a number.
Later on, I realized the Enneagram does not function as a horoscope, telling you what you are or what you’re not, dictating what you should or shouldn’t do, etc. It’s not a set of rules or prescriptions that deconstruct your identity into a perfect box. Instead, Richard Rohr would say the Enneagram, if understood well, has the qualities of a mirror–a reflection that also tells a parable.
Jesus throughout the gospels taught in parables. He did so because he knew that there was an epidemic of people thinking they could see and hear but in reality, their hearts were blind and deaf. They would be around Jesus, hear his words, and be moved into contemplation but in the end, they would eventually be unmoved, unchanged, and unimpressed–and they fell away.
Likewise, if any of us takes the Enneagram with the expectation that it will tell us who we are and then, we will rejoice in that discovery, then we have misunderstood the purpose.
But when we look into the Enneagram with the anticipation of finding embarrassment and vice, then we are on the right path.
Richard Rohr recounts his first foray into the Enneagram as a sobering a-ha experience. His first feelings were not of elation or confirmation but resistance and humiliation. He wasn’t exploring personality profiles as he initially thought; he was studying paradigms of dysfunction, uniquely his own.
He’s a ONE (so am I). And he discovered that ones want to be right above anything else. Principles, creeds, values. All had to line up and cohere. But as he continued diving into his reflection as a ONE, a dark truth was realized. His pontifications, his principled crusades, his high morals were just as much in the interest of “self,” the ego, as much as it was about objective moral perfection. That’s the classic falseness of ONEs: a veil of perfection to hide the imperfection underneath.
The realization of this truth became a discovery of embarrassment, not an elation of triumph and joy.
But Richard Rohr says this is the path. This is how you know you’re on the right track of truth and freedom. When you identify with a number, does it bring you relief or does it bring you humiliation?