Last week Adrienne Koch led an Enneagram workshop as part of our younger women’s spirituality program. A group of people under 40 gathered at the RCWMS office to learn about this system of nine personality types. As we went around the circle introducing ourselves and sharing our types, or what we suspected our types might be, Adrienne noted that it’s rare to have a five like me show up for a program like this, much less plan it. When I joked that, after five years of reading about the Enneagram, I was finally ready to talk about it with other people, little did I know how true that need to enter into conversation would prove throughout the evening.
After learning about the Enneagram through a friend and taking an online quiz, I sought to deepen my knowledge by reading Helen Palmer’s book, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life. While the quiz had left me unsure as to my type, reading Palmer’s descriptions made my five-ness crystal clear. I learned more about myself through reading and noticing how Palmer’s descriptions rang true in my daily life and how I relate with others, but my understanding of the other types was lacking. Reading about fives, I had firsthand knowledge. Reading about the other types, I had only a description, lists of characteristics, an idea of a person rather than actual people. In coming together for this introductory workshop, as Adrienne presented an overview of each type and invited each of us to share about our particular type, the pieces started to fit together. Listening to and talking with a group of people, some of whom were new to me and some of whom I’ve known for a long time, the Enneagram came to life and helped me see how the self-understanding I had begun through exploring my own type could deepen and strengthen my relationships.
Even in the few days since the workshop I’ve had multiple occasions to see how being a five affects my interactions in meetings, in relationships, in day to day activities. I can remember, too, times when I have shifted toward seven under stress, and toward eight in times of growth, and I can imagine what life might be like, what I might have to offer, if I loosened my grip on my basic fears and fixations. I’ve sometimes encountered folks who brush off vehicles for self-knowledge such as the Enneagram as navel gazing, completely missing the fact that a lack of self-reflection affects not only one’s self, but how one shows up for others. A lack of self-reflection can be destructive to personal relationships as well as broader communities, and in that sense the work of understanding oneself is a gift a person gives to those they care about. Learning about the Enneagram in community with others is a form of experiential learning that for a five like me feels both challenging and necessary, a place of vulnerability and growth. In addition, in contrast to other personality typing systems I’ve learned about, the Enneagram taps into spirituality, bringing together head, heart, and body, as creatures in relationship not just with one another, but with the divine.
The workshop just scratched the surface, providing an overview to set participants up for an in-depth workshop Adrienne will be leading for RCWMS on Thursday evenings in July. Many of the participants in this overview workshop expressed excitement about going deeper in July. New folks who missed the overview workshop will be welcome to join us in July, as well! As for me, I won’t be able to resist reading more between now and then, even as I look forward to gathering again to continue this journey in community, with friends old and new.
Click here to learn more about the July workshop and to register.