Discovering one's primary ennea-style very often is an “Uh-Oh!” moment. Even more than it is an “Ah-Ha!” moment. Indeed, it can be a little of both.
The gist of the Uh-Oh: our ennea-type is usually the description we least want to be… or even want read about! It’s the one that hits us in the gut. It’s the one we have the strongest feelings about. It can repel or disgust us. It’s the one that exposes us too much, or even entirely. It terrifyingly covers all the corners of our inner world.
The gist of the Ah-Ha: there can be relief in the discovery of our type and the types of others. The pattern is not so personal. We are not alone. Everyone is connected and seen as doing their best. It can be delightful to learn just how different people are. Things that confounded us for ages suddenly snap together. The world makes a little more sense. It’s even fascinating.
Critically important is a good sense of humor about ourselves. When we laugh together about our type patterns, we move into a place of loving acceptance. Few insights are more compassionately felt than the laughter of recognition, especially at our foibles.
Whatever combination of Uh-Oh and Ah-Ha, a shock of recognition accompanies awakening to the Enneagram. Without this shock, it’s easy to reduce the Enneagram to pop psychology or superficial horoscopes or just another personality quiz floating to the top of our Facebook feed. We might even dismiss the Enneagram as redundant or a waste of time.
The Enneagram starkly reveals the ways in which we create and export our suffering. The more repelled, disgusted or horrified we are when discovering our type, the more likely we are on track for transformative growth. Yet a sprinkling of Ah-Ha is helpful for making peace with our type patterns. It also encourages continued exploration.
May you have many Uh-Oh moments discovering your Enneagram style! And some Ah-Ha moments for good measure.
Actually, the Enneagram helps us forgive ourselves & others.
Reflections on Type Testing
Enneagram tests are only guides. In this respect, the Enneagram differs from Myers-Briggs and other personality systems using standardized tests to return precise personality results. Myers-Briggs concerns conscious behaviors; Enneagram concerns unconscious motivations. (Some folks attempt to correlate the two systems.)
It's difficult for Enneagram testing to pin down our type. Many tests understandably ask about behaviors as a proxy for motivation, even though different types do similar behaviors for different reasons. Or the tests focus on motives, values, and beliefs, even though we are not always aware of how such things operate within us. We bring to Enneagram tests the degree to which our deepest motives are hidden even from ourselves.
Nines and Sixes are notoriously difficult to type. Nines tend to identify with all types. The Nine pattern is to live into all points of view, to blend with the energetic agendas of others.
Sixes tend to resist identifying with any one type. The Six pattern of skeptical doubt tests each type to see where, on the one hand, it fits, but, on the other hand, it does not fit. Sixes habitually analyze both sides — both “hands” — and avoid coming to conclusion, preferring to remain safely ambiguous. Sixes are most likely to say: “it all depends on the situation!”
Styling Our Shocks Of Recognition
I’ve been reflecting on how the different types experience their Uh-Oh moments in type related ways.
For example, a friend recently told me she often feels ashamed of herself when reading her Type Two description. Twos zero in on shame (and pride) — they are very sensitive to it, and aggressive towards it. Similarly, I’ve heard Ones report feeling self-critical about their criticality when reading about Type One. And a Type Five friend was sheepish when I first asked her number: she felt it exposed too much of herself to say it aloud.
Enneagram teacher Rachel Alexandria gracefully opened up about resisting her Type Eight ennea-style when first learning about it. She thought recognizing her Eight patterns would mean she would become "more of a bitch, more bossy, more domineering...and people wouldn't like me." With the help of her teacher -- the Enneagram is a living wisdom transmission -- she lived into using the Enneagram to be herself more fully in service of others.
One of Rachel's Ah-Ha moments was getting clear on "what does belong to me and what doesn't belong to me." She used the Enneagram to sort out the ennea-patterns of her family of origin that got overlaid onto her natural ennea-style.
Indeed, it appears the different types experience some Ah-Ha moments in type related ways.
For example, a Type Four friend told me he felt great relief when first reading about the Type Four. In his shock of recognition was joy: he was not so strange, so alone, so different in the world after all! His feelings of difference, abandonment, exclusion were accounted for precisely. It was exhilarating for him to learn that many other people run the same Four pattern.
Another Four loved one was stopped in her tracks mid-pity-party when I read aloud a snippet of the Type Four description. For her, the Enneagram offered a healing objectivity — inviting some equanimity amidst the chaos of her emotions.
In an instant, the Enneagram saved her from drowning in a sea of subjectivity. She was able to shed the more authentic, tender tears that yearned to come forward in true grief.
As a Type Six, my first Uh-Oh focused on just how frighteningly extensive and subtle the Enneagram mapping goes. I also had a big Uh-Oh when seeing myself in what Claudio Naranjo called the Six's propensity to play "the persecuted prosecutor" when avoiding my pain.
My initial Ah-Has involved understanding more fully how my suffering repeats itself, particularly my tendency to doubt myself and others. Plus, the Enneagram gave me an accurate map to safely navigate the sometimes confusing world of other people’s behaviors. It helped me to see everyone's good intentions -- forgive & heal old wounds.
My work continues, especially in the form of mindfulness around excessively attaching to the Enneagram in the kind of evangelical fundamentalism Sixes tend to inhabit. Even my enthusiasm for the Enneagram is accounted for, which makes me all the more enthusiastic about sharing it. And so it goes…
What are the type-related ways you experienced your Uh-Oh and Ah-Ha moments?
I’d love to hear any insights you are willing to share. Meantime, in this video, I offer reflections on typing other people. In brief: use good discernment!