Who Do You Think You Are? Personal and Spiritual Growth Using the Ancient Wisdom of the Enneagram

By Catie Bilz I had been in Michigan less than 24 hours the first time I was asked, “So what’s your type?” I moved to Ypsilanti with my husband in May of 2015 after being relocated with his job. Our lives had been turned completely upside down and I felt totally out of control. We moved in on a Saturday, and on Sunday I had to leave for a conference with my new job. I was anxious to meet my new coworkers and build new bonds.     So when my new coworker greeted me and quickly followed with, “So what’s your type?” I was taken aback. What could she possibly mean? As a counselor, I knew that there were a number of personality typing systems out there, but I didn’t trust any system in particular, because I didn’t believe that I could be “pigeonholed” that easily. A few moments later, I was introduced to the Enneagram, which involved taking an online test that described me in a way that I had never experienced. It started me on a journey of self-discovery that has forever changed me. That was nearly three years ago. Today, the Enneagram continues to guide my professional work as a counselor. Let me share with you some of the frequently asked questions related to this path for growth. So what is the Enneagram exactly? The Enneagram is an ancient symbol that can be traced back at least 4,000 years, and it is used as a personality typing system for personal and spiritual growth. Coming from the Greek words “ennea” (nine) and “gramma” (drawing), the Enneagram asserts that there are nine basic personality types in the world, and that each sees and interacts with the world in a different way. Each of us is born into the world with pure awareness, but in order to survive, we develop a set of skills that become our personality. This personality protects us in the world, but disconnects us from our true self. According to Richard Rohr, “In the end, we do not recover the self that was lost but discover our new selves in and through the process.”  The work of the Enneagram is identifying the ways in which your personality hinders your growth. For many, personality typing systems can feel limiting – like you have been put into a particular box.  The Enneagram is different from other personality typing inventories in that it gets to a person’s deepest motivations and offers tools for increasing awareness. Ian Morgan Cron writes, “The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.” What can the Enneagram offer me? The Enneagram can be utilized in a number of settings, including in relationship with others, in business, in church settings, and in personal growth. The Enneagram increases your capacity for self-observation and can show you a direct path for health within the context of your personality. We all can look different to others when we are doing well or are under stress, and knowing these tendencies can help you avoid problems in all aspects of your life. Even businesses can learn a great deal when using the Enneagram for leadership development and team building. The Enneagram has proven helpful in this environment for everything from bringing together the right team for a project to conflict resolution. Within relationship with others, knowing your Enneagram type as well as the types of others can improve your ability to communicate effectively and create depth in relationship with your partner, family members, and friends. In the church community, the Enneagram can be used within groups to increase spiritual development. Where do I begin? The Enneagram has become a popular personality typing system, so there is a plethora of information on the Internet. There are a number of free Enneagram tests, but these tests are frequently inaccurate, due to testing bias and other factors. The best way to discover your type is to seek out help from an Enneagram professional. Enneagram professionals can provide typing interviews and other resources to help you in your journey. If you are in the Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti area, I hope that you will consider working with me at Deepwater Counseling. I am a certified Enneagram Coach and am trained in The Narrative Enneagram, providing both private counseling and coaching services. Want to learn more? Contact me here to begin your journey so when someone asks you, “What’s your type?” you’ll have an answer. By Catie Bilz M.Ed, LPC, NCC