The last six months have found me on a path of self-discovery using the Enneagram. It has been enlightening, difficult, and humorous, but most of all, it’s been transformative. It has tapped into something deep and revolutionized my growth process as well as family dynamics. Before I talk about Enneagram types within family relationships, let me briefly highlight what the Enneagram is.
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is believed to be thousands of years old, however, it was in the late 1960s that Oscar Ichazo began teaching the Enneagram as we know it today. It is divided into nine different personality types. Determining your type means taking a look at your core motivations, the why behind what you do. It is meant to be a powerful tool in self-discovery and growth, best used in conjunction with prayer, community, meditation, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
Why I love the Enneagram?
Humans are complex. There are loads of personality tests out there, but there’s not a single one that defines people perfectly. That’s the uniqueness of how our Creator made us. However, there are three things that set the Enneagram apart for me. Here’s why I love it…
- It shows the shadow side. It’s not just a feel-good personality test. It also shows the parts of our being that could use some growth. As Christians, we should have a posture of allowing Jesus to change us from the inside out. The Enneagram is a great tool for that as it exposes your dark side pretty clearly.
- It creates empathy. It helps me understand people better and their motivations behind things. It’s easy to misunderstand if we’re looking from the outside in. I feel the Enneagram has reminded me to look from the inside out.
- It gives language to things that might otherwise seem frustrating. Sometimes we experience feelings but don’t know why. Understanding my core motivations have greatly helped me express why I’m feeling a certain way.
How has the Enneagram transformed my marriage?
This is best expressed with a story that has classically played out over my marriage. My husband and I go to a restaurant. Upon walking in, he says, “Pick a table. I don’t care where we sit.” I go toward a table and sit down. He walks over and says, “Let’s sit at this one,” motioning to a different table.
In our twenty years of marriage, my reaction from this went from laughing to frustration to eye-rolling to anger to thinking “This isn’t a big deal!” Depending on what emotion landed, it would make or break the evening. It wasn’t until I dove into mine and my husband’s numbers that I realized something as simple as picking out a table unearthed some deeper core motivations. His basic fear as an eight was being controlled. My one wing nine could care less about where we sat. I just wanted a perfect evening.
Understanding ourselves and each other in a deeper way has created humor and language to articulate our thoughts and emotions. By the way, when I pick a table now, I pretty much know we won’t sit there, and I’m totally ok with that!
How has the Enneagram impacted the relationship with my kids?
I want to first point out that the Enneagram is a tool for self-discovery. It doesn’t work if we tell people which number they are. People have to get there on their own. It’s only ourselves that can truly understand our core motivations. My kids are 17 and 15. As teenagers, they are still very much on a path of learning who they are. Until they can identify their number, I’ve been careful not to label them.
However, as their mom, I feel the Enneagram has been super helpful in my relationship with my kids. As I’ve observed them, I’ve been able to ask them questions to help guide them in their path to self-discovery. My husband and I feel we are in a launching rockets stage of life, meaning we are preparing our kids to launch them into the world. The more they understand about themselves and others around them, the more prepared they will be in university, in the workplace, and in their own future marriage and family.
It has also helped me to understand what causes disagreements between my kids. My daughter’s challenger, blunt self stirs up negative emotion in my son’s sensitive, justice side creating a perfect explosion. Understanding this has helped me as a parent know how to steer a conversation or help them to talk it through. It has also given me insight into how to relate to my kids one-on-one and the way to ask a question to get positive results.
The Message version of Romans 12:1-2 says
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I love this verse because it reminds me that our everyday life matters and that I need to have a posture of growth, letting God change me from the inside. When that happens, it impacts everyone in my everyday sphere. I believe God uses many different things to help motivate us to grow. The Enneagram is one of those tools He has used in my life. The benefits I’ve seen in my personal life have not only impacted me but my family as well. It has brought a richness to my relationships that I am so thankful for.