How to use the Enneagram

The Enneagram is an extraordinary tool that is being utilized by therapists, addiction counselors, spiritual teachers, and corporations to understand the core dynamics of the Nine personality types and how to promote their health and transformation. Used correctly it directs an individual to their particular core psychological misunderstanding, that in spite of knowledge and sincere efforts, continues to generate unresolved and repetitious suffering in relationship, in work, in addiction, and in relapse.

With deeper insight, the Enneagram can guide people to observe and transform these fixated personality habits, and thus awaken their true Essence, that which is innate, precious, and the doorway to their personal freedom, purpose, and happiness.

It is the mission of the Enneagram Center for Transformation and Change to further these goals, and to guide individuals towards that which is best and finest within them, and away from addictive habits of suffering.

The Enneagram is a potent tool to:

  • Transform fixated habits of suffering, to halt addiction relapse, and to powerfully improve the quality of life in those who have established a drug-free life.
  • to Guide Men and Women who are struggling with profound spiritual questions at Midlife.
  • to assist individuals in moving through persistent fixated personality habits that in spite of their best knowledge and efforts, are impervious and seemingly unchanging.
  • to inspire individuals who have achieved a drug-free life, to move forward in the direction of their most precious and innate gifts.

Pieces of the Enneagram System  

First, a couple of definitions. The Enneagram is a symbol consisting of a circle, a triangle, and a hexagon. Around the circle are nine points,referencing the Nine Types. Each Type has a psychic structure that contains a Basic Fear, a Basic Desire, a dominant Superego Message(or Inner Critic message), a characteristic Passion or Vice, a characteristic mental Fixation, a path of disintegration where they descend into the negative defensive pattern of their Type, and a path of integration in which the individual begins to move in the direction of what is most precious and wonderful within them. That is, they begin a journey home.

For example, the passion for the One is resentment, while its mental fixation is on judging. If you’ve identified yourself as a One, you know that your attention is often attracted to discovering what is wrong, what isn’t being done properly, what needs to improve, and an unmistakable tendency to want to improve everyone and everything around you. The fixation of determining and judging what is “wrong” with self, others, or whatever one is attending to sets the One up for a nonstop thought process that allows them little rest, nor the ability to be able to savor what is wonderful, sweet, good, and precious. Driven by this fixation of judging, and the accompanying passion of resentment and anger (towards others who can’t keep up with their perfectionism) suffering ensues. Criticism suffering. Perfectionism suffering. Angry suffering. Nothing being good enough, suffering. For the Type One who decides that he or she has suffered enough, has criticized himself and others enough and is ready to change, the Enneagram becomes a powerful tool for self-exploration, observation, and genuine change. But change does not occur as you might think it would.

So how might the One use the Enneagram? He first might learn to observe the automatic flow of his emotional and mental associations with calmness and kindness, such that he begins to understand that in spite of his desire and effort to stop this perfectionist drive, that his attempts to do so by utilizing the very mechanism that runs his fixation and emotional passion—his mind—does not work. Something else is required to break the psychic chain of these two automatic mechanisms, something that is counter-intuitive to how his mind might assume is the solution. The One, being logical, will want to enforce logic and discipline and control on what he observes, but with good luck he will see that in spite of his efforts he is unwittingly trying to control himself with the very mechanism that has him under control. What paradox and mystery. What is first needed is “presence.”This means developing the capacity to observe his mental and emotional reactions, to simply watch and see their twenty-four/seven activity, and to compassionately be with them, seeing them as they are, without dropping back into the fixation of the Type One–judging. The One, upon observing this non-stop flow of mental and emotional reactivity, will likely want to attack and judge this process, thus keeping it tightly in place. This principal applies: nothing changes in a state of disapproval. If you get angry at what you observe, you only strengthen the hold of this unconscious and deep habit pattern. You tighten the chains of your imprisonment. Observing it—the judging mind and the accompanying desire to criticize self and others—without judging what you observe brings in “presence,” and from presence something else arises within an individual that allows the pattern to stop on its own. It is not by tackling and dragging these habitual patterns into the daylight and then chopping off their heads with judgment that brings about relief. Learning to “see” the patterns within oneself without judgment creates “space” for the patterns to stop on their own, without “doing” anything about them. This is very difficult for the One because by their very nature, they are doers. The trick, however, for the One is to take the time to develop “presence” and meditative stillness so that “eyes to see” are created to begin observing this nonstop show. Type Ones know exactly what this inner dynamic feels like, and the accompanying suffering they experience, and the unwitting way they might make others suffer with their judgment habit. Not fun, and surely not what the One intends by any stretch of the imagination. In their heart of hearts they seek what is best and sweetest within them to arise, and this includes the capacity to have a quiet mind, a soft and open heart, and the ability to engage and connect with those they seek to love. At their best they care deeply about helping others and the world. Their fixation and passion, however, are wired to keep them stuck, unable to be affected by the world, but diligently trying to affect it. Until they develop clear awareness of this tough personality structure they have acquired that gives them little rest, and begin to disengage from it through observations mercy towards themselves, they will continue to spin on the same spot of suffering. This does not mean that they won’t function well in the world, in fact, One’s are tremendous and competent hard workers, but this does not negate the kind of unnecessary suffering they experience on a daily basis, that if they slowed down long enough to sense, would surely show them the energy they waste in service of this personality structure. And truly what it costs them: peace and contentment. Like all Types, they seek the freedom that is innate to their nature, and the Enneagram becomes the doorway for experiencing this innate freedom unimpeded by their tenacious fixation of “judging mind” and passion of“resentment and anger.”

But there is more. We have touched the surface of a powerful beginning of inquiry. Particular meditation and spiritual practices will deepen this process. Let’s talk a little about this next territory. There are three Centers in each individual, the Gut or Instinctual Center (Center of Instincts),the Heart Center (Center of Feelings) and the Head Center (Center of Thinking). The Types themselves are broken into one of these three Triads. For instance, the Eight, Nine and One are Instinctual Center Types, meaning that each one of them has a distortion or imbalance in this Center. The One tries to control his instincts, attempting to keep instinctual urges suppressed and under wraps. As a result, the Instinctual Center scrambles with the Thinking Center, amping it up,while left out of the dance is the Heart or Feeling Center. What many One’s notice is that they are so logically driven into practical action to fix things, that their Heart is left somewhere in the lurch. Their innate ability to feel their feelings, and to connect with others on a heart level where genuine intimacy is nourished, is somehow distorted or inhibited. Thus another important area of work is identified, this capacity to wake their heart up, to open, to expand, to feel the depth of their being. But the personality habit of the One is not wired in this direction, in fact, analyzes their heart and emotions into non-existence, unconsciously driven to control the uncontrollable—one’s heart. And thus, another leg of the journey begins. Which is only to say that the Enneagram provides a deep and clear path through the obstructions one has developed in one’s life, such that with precise and conscious work one can begin to unravel and “remember” the precious mystery and value that one is.

I’ve discussed two areas of inquiry and focus that the One might attend to to unravel the personality knot they find themselves in. Each Type has a different kind of knot, and a unique path to follow to return to their innate capacity and ability to be present and fully alive on their journey.The Enneagram maps out their unique paths, and points the way home.

So the Enneagram, for starters, is about identifying a basic habit of mind, body, and heart that inhibits an individual from accessing deeper states of joy, happiness, strength, aliveness, serenity, deep connectedness with others, a sweet valuing of one’s Being, a sense of potency and competency in the world, the ability to love at depth, and the ability to experience the profound preciousness of oneself and life.

Then comes the development of “presence” which is often accomplished through meditation practices designed to quiet the mind, to open the heart, to allow an individual to begin sensing their body and inhabiting it. With a practice in place, one begins the journey of excavating the Soul, of moving through whatever shocks, sufferings, misunderstandings and sorrows that have caused an individual to abandon their capacity to be present, to sense themselves, to feel the depth and beauty of their heart, to to awaken to what is their Essential identity, the very stuff of their true nature and soul. The Enneagram provides a map back to this precious material, and each Type has a different map.

Scroll to Top