THE ENNEAGRAM IN THE WESTERN MINDSET
Series: The Enneagram
The Enneagram has blown up in both secular and Christian culture.You can find it in business meetings, facebook posts, sermons on Sunday and almost anywhere else.I believe that there is a lot of good in shedding light on something that is such a beautiful and helpful tool in self awareness and transformational living.I also believe that the enneagram can be devalued and has even been used in harmful ways when done without a full understanding of HOW it is to be used.
The enneagram is a process of learning that has its roots beginning 4,000 years ago, creasing a path through generations, the rise and falls of empires, the birth and death and resurrection of Christ, multiple other religions, and winding up in our 21 century hands… it demands respect and care.The first step in honoring this ancient guide is to realize it is an eastern developed ideal.
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We who live in the west have an ingrained, subconscious belief that we are right, smarter and better in our western ways, therefor we try and fit everything into our western mindset.We want to conquer, learn and intellectualize the data, get the answer, check tasks off of a list all in the most efficient ways and then move on to the next thing.We ravenously devour anything that is presented to us, often missing the opportunity to savor and fully experience the moment.There are many good things about the western world and mindset, but we must be realistic about how short-sighted it can be.
This is very obvious in the way we are witnessing the “devouring” of the enneagram.4,000 years of depth has been reduced to a 10 minute test where we “get the answer” and intellectually understand the cliff-notes of the parts that we most resonate with.Our western minds lock this in and we check it off the list, able to feel good about adding our two cents in a conversation around the office or in church small groups.All the while we miss the depth and dishonor the process by shortcutting it.
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How do we change this?Two simple things can help.
- Find a good guide.There are those who have studied the enneagram and know how it is meant to work.When there is someone who is willing to lean into this process with you, they can often offer the perspective that is needed.When we leave it up to a test or our own perspective it is too easy to skew the results.In fact, it is very telling how people of each of the nine types try to avoid their truest type. A Type One is too much of a perfectionist to admit to being a One.Type Twos are too worried about what everyone else thinks they might be to land on and stick with admitting their “two-ness”.Threes are too good at performing to let you see behind the curtain.Need I keep going?We each have this tendency to justify and deflect.That is why it is so helpful to have a good guide to call us out and challenge our natural type’s reactive state in our self assessment.
- We can learn to allow things to stretch us instead of trying to fit everything that is different into our own, narrow perspective.For example, we can allow the enneagram to figure us out instead of trying to figure it out.We can “live in the questions” that the enneagram invites to wrestle with instead of reaching for a quick, easy answer.We could also practice vulnerability and allow the things the enneagram brings up in us to affect us beyond just intellectually.This could mean coming face to face with short comings, our false self and some of the uglier parts of us that we try to keep hidden.This doesn’t sound all that fun, but it is the beginning of allowing the process of the enneagram to make us aware which gives us the chance to start moving towards maturity, growth, healing and wholeness.Moving towards your Truest Self is what the enneagram is all about.