The “Levels of Development” within the Enneagram always made sense to me — in theory. When I first encountered them (which was basically when I discovered the work of Don Riso and Russ Hudson, which was quite soon after discovering the Enneagram overall more than 20 years ago), they lifted a flat system into three-dimensionality.
Moreover, in a way, they also identified 81 different ways of operating, rather than just 9 (and that was before accounting for things like wings and instinctual preferences, which obviously broaden the scope even more). They made the Enneagram model feel authentically human. All really juicy things … except I couldn’t seem to nail down my centre of gravity; the level that I was defaulting back to. When I tried, it was a bit like trying to grasp a soap in water: extremely slippery.
The levels falling into place
In 2005, after I did part 3 of my training with the Enneagram institute (ergo, at the time, Don Riso and Russ Hudson), it fell into place. It clicked for me how we can really identify a centre of gravity, despite recognising multiple levels and sometimes feeling like we act from all of them within a day, or even simultaneously. It was like I had understood what to look for, where to direct my attention, and what to disregard. Now, it would be convenient indeed if I could go on to tell you exactly how this happened, but unfortunately I can’t. It was one of those things that just integrates naturally when you have reached a critical mass of experience and understanding — after which you really don’t get what was so unclear before.
But the beautiful thing is we don’t have to know exactly where our centre of gravity is to do or inner work. We can just pick and choose the practices that help us evolve, engage in these practices, and voilà — we grow. That said though, it’s sometimes hard to tell what really helps, and what just has us going in circles. And occasionally, a practice that feel like its helping in fact just offers nifty little ways to avoid facing that which we need to face 😉.
Letting our Level guide the way
Also, when our personality type is not taken into account, of course advice or practices that help one person can be toxic to someone else. We need to take our personality into consideration — but also, we need to find practices that work for the levels of ego-identification we are currently grappling with. But when we do that, it’s more interesting what Level we are currently coming from than where our general centre of gravity is located.
Because even though we have such a “centre of gravity”, we also fluctuate in the levels throughout our everyday week, day, or sometimes even hour. Things happen in the outside world that affect not our psychological maturity and ego-identification in the long run, but the psychological maturity and ego-identification we are operating from in this moment. And that might be a lot easier for us to nail down than our current centre of gravity — especially in retrospect when we reflect back on our day or week. To this end, it is immensely valuable to orientate ourselves on the vertical axis of the Levels “on purpose” so that when crap hits and the ego launches a hard campaign, we’re ready.
Because of this — and because the Enneagram world is shock full of type descriptions and tests but doesn’t offer a lot of resources that actually guide us towards growth — I put together a booklet on “climbing the levels” — that is, cultivating presence, lessening the grip of automatic ego-pilot and personality fixations in a way that takes into account what tends to work on a particular level. The booklet is a compact piece in that it’s only just over 13 000 words, but it contains high calibre suggestions for inner work, as well as brief descriptions of the levels themselves.
Since the suggestions don’t so much cover what material to work on (as that would be specific to type, and even more so, to the individual), but rather what type of exercises and approaches might be more helpful on which level, there are also reminders of which sort of fears and desires are likely to feature for a certain personality type at a specific level.
Should you want to really dive into this material experientially, you might want to check out the interactive online course Exploring, climbing and experiencing the Levels of Development starting September 4:th and running for 10 Sundays. In this course, we will explore each level relevant to inner work in turn, and we will look at what modes and formats best addresses the issues at each level. (The booklet is included in the course, and if you have it already and want to sign up, send me a message and ask for a personal discount link!)
Let’s see what emerges …
Also, it’s highly likely that I will put together an online course or individual session program (or both) to match the booklet , depending on the interest. Stay tuned (perhaps by registering a free membership on lyckowbackman.se) — and, if you like, do get cracking with the booklet! 😊❤️