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Are you an Enneagram Sceptic?

Among the many things I appreciate about Brené Brown is her almost irreverent scepticism for several ‘holy grails’, which in her latest podcast includes the enneagram! As an enneagram practitioner, I do not profess to be an expert, so it was wonderful to hear teacher Chris Heuertz on the subject. Brown was the sceptic, but clearly through her reading of Heuertz’s work, among others, she has become more of a follower.

I find the Enneagram a complex tool to debrief and coach, mainly because there are nine types and to do all nine justice requires far more bandwidth than my memory allows.

In South Africa I jumped through the hoops of the 5 Lens Enneagram, and their CEO recently released some insights on how various enneagram styles have been affected by Covid19. My ‘type’ a 4 was described as, “there may be a deeply felt emotional response and a search for the deeper meaning in all of this. This may have spiritual or philosophical aspects and involve a quest for personal meaning and purpose. Communication may be emotional and expressed in artistic forms. Increased moodiness may occur and even extreme displays of emotion. A darker, more solemn or depressed expression could present.”

I can’t say that I experienced much of that although I’m sure that all types experienced some of it! And I guess that’s where my scepticism lies; in that my style has never seemed to totally ‘fit’? (But then perhaps I am being true to type, since apparently as 4s we all think we are somewhat ‘unique’!)

And maybe that’s where Heuertz’s caution is useful, “You have a type but you are not a type.”

Rather he speaks of the enneagram as unlocking nine sets of fears and how that potentially thwarts our purpose. His challenge is valid for many psychometric tools of how once you know your ‘type’, what do you then do with that? “If we can’t self observe then we can’t self correct”…which I guess points me back to the work of a coach and a facilitator which is how each of us can be better integrated into adults in both our personal and our work lives.

I enjoyed the podcast in Brown’s “Unlocking Us” series; it’s worth a listen, particularly if you are an enneagram practitioner.

I loved Heuertz’s closing comments about not “type snipering”. In the organisational development world I have certainly lost count of the number of times I have been asked for my enneagram ‘number’ and refrain now from asking others!

But I did leave more curious, more appreciative of the tool and holding the enneagram in a more sacred space than I did before. Perhaps that can be attributed to Heuertz’s reference to Mother Theresa and the practices of solitude, silence and stillness. Or maybe it was his presence which interacting with Brown’s was humble, straight forward yet deeply articulate and mindful.


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