When I first heard of the enneagram I wasn’t interested in it. I had so many Neuro-linguistic programming techniques and distinctions I didn’t suspect that I could use more. But I wasn’t to get away that easy. Given my line of work, the wake-up business, people I respected mentioned the enneagram. Finally, at a Chi Kung workshop I met an enneagram teacher. He was a few years older than me, balding, stout and looked a bit more like a construction worker than the therapist he was.
He rather quickly identified me as an enneagram 8. I learned a lot about myself as, like a horoscope, I tended to mold my perceptions of myself to fit his descriptions of the 8. It wasn’t until over a year later that I discovered I wasn’t an 8 at all and that he was more certain about his enneagram skills than he was accurate. I still benefited from being labeled as an eight, because I learned things about myself in the process. I learned what I wasn’t first and then discovered what I was.
I benefited because he peaked my interest in the enneagram, his misdiagnosis inspired me to bring in this so called expert to do a segment of one of my workshops and it provided just what I needed, huge enneagram curiosity, to discover both what number I am, a 1, and how I could utilize the abundant distinctions of the enneagram to assist people in getting to know themselves.
As I explained, early on I discovered that the importance of the “right” enneagram label is less relevant than the exploration of oneself using enneagram distinctions. I also began observing myself and others through enneagram distinctions and learned a lot in the process.
Thirty some years ago when I attended my first NLP(neuro-linguistic programming) course I quickly discovered that the participants really didn’t integrate what they were learning into their lives. They treated what was taught as facts not as tools for personal and interpersonal exploration that were to be tested and explored. To my surprise the teachers didn’t know the personal power of what they were teaching either. They taught NLP as a body of knowledge rather than a tool for enlightenment and living in the present. While some of my many NLP teachers could get rid of a phobia quickly they didn’t know NLP was a tool for being present and awakening.
The same thing proved true of the enneagram. A couple of years ago I went to an enneagram workshop by one of the foremost authorities in the enneagram. He seemed as stuck within the confines of his number as the participants. The participants actually seemed a little better off because they weren’t even sure what in the world their numbers were. I went out to lunch with five of the participants I had never met before. They didn’t discern the enneagram of our waiter or the people at the next table or even of each other. They asked what my number was rather than trying to figure it out. In other words they opted for knowing rather than learning. Anywhere and everywhere I go I figure out people’s enneagram, even on the phone or reading an author. While I may be “wrong” about their number I get to learn in the process of discernment and bring the enneagram to every aspect of my life. I asked several participants about the enneagrams of their parents: not a clue. Using the enneagram provides useful information and loads of learning.
Pete Seeger used to say that before you can really make music with a banjo you have to learn to play around with it and have fun. I think the same thing is true with the enneagram. Play around with it, have some fun, make some wonderful mistakes and learn about yourself and the people around you. Avoid the experts in your initial play because they tend to teach what they know. Play!
Curiousity killed the cat and made the human’s life worth living.
For insights on how to use the enneagram to improve your life visit: