The way lots of people treat the Enneagram today feels to me like the equivalent of returning to a grocery store over and over, in order to develop your skills in naming and identifying all the different articles in there and knowing exactly where to find each one. Sure, you can to that — but it’s not what the grocery store is for, and you will eventually starve. To live, you need to move on from mere identification to actually purchasing the foods, taking them home, and letting them nourish you.
Sadly, it seems like the larger Enneagram conversation has become more and more about identifications and definitions, and less about actual integration. With social media and online activities comes increased reach, which is fantastic. However, with the same batch of gifts we also get fluff. On Youtube and Facebook, the fluff of the Enneagram — people asking what type others (strangers!) think they might be, tell others (still strangers) what type they believe they are, or endlessly discussing what this or that teacher says and whether this means one of them is wrong — is rife.
The other day, for what I think is the first time ever in 22 years of studying and living with the Enneagram model, I did a YouTube search just for “Enneagram”, to see what came up. And basically, what came up was an never-ending row of descriptions. Lightweight as well as fuller-depth, brief as well as more extensive. Of the types overall, of Enneagram types in movies/books/history, of high/low sides of [insert your type of choice], and on and on and on. Interviews, illustrations, funny bits. So, types.
Of course, learning about the types is important. If we don’t learn about the types, the model makes no sense. But on either side of that are two other very important areas, which, once you’ve got the basic type-descriptions in place, is where the magic happens.
These two areas are so important, they will get their own headline.
The two Very Important Areas
One is learning about the model as a whole. What “type” means and defines, and what it doesn’t. How wings, arrows, groups and developmental levels matter — and how they don’t. Because the question is seldom whether, but in what way; at what plane. But often, people are so eager to collect information about the Enneagram and its types that they forgot to find out what this information means. (I’ve written about this before, in posts like Did you only learn it, or did you actually get it? The importance of zooming out, A bunch of characteristics or an energetic climate — some thoughts on traits, behaviours and type descriptions and When the Enneagram presence runneth over — the challenges and gifts of expanded reach, among others.)
And the other — the most important thing without which none of the other stuff helps even a little bit — is learning about ourselves. What resonates and how; what that means, what it doesn’t mean. What the truth is beneath our masks, strategies, rationalisations, and urges. Who we are, at our deepest core, and who we’re not; what’s actually us and what is mostly our vehicle for transport here on Earth, the interface via which we interact with the world. All this, and so much more.
Enneagram life outside of the VIAs
Without insights into these two areas, the Enneagram becomes little more than a party trick — a cool system for quickly getting insights into a person and their motivations. (That is, this is what it could be in theory; however, becoming a good enough “stand-up Enneagram typist” would likely in reality require quite a bit of knowledge about these two areas, too. So the likely use for the Enneagram at said hypothetical party would probably be more like telling cool anecdotes about someone else’s uncanny ability to quickly suss out these things.)
Of course, I don’t know what the posters of such fluff on social media do with the Enneagram when they’re at home; how deeply they delve within themselves. But my guess is, if it were at all deep, they would post about other things online 😎.
This state of affairs sometimes frustrates me. Wake up!!! I want to yell to these posters — who have quite possibly just never been shown what the Enneagram can be; what insights it really has to offer once we get past the initial, typology-related fascination. I want to point them to where the real fascination is to be had. Unfortunately, though, that place is inside of them — and the willingness to go there, stop, breathe and find out about oneself really has to come from within. So then I remember that my job — rather than make everyone see it my way, which is of course tempting 😉 — is to keep posting stuff, creating content and offering courses for those who do want this inner exploration and true Enneagram insight, and trust that whoever is meant to find it will. (Are you someone who just did, and want to find more? Please register for a free membership and access to the Members’ area.)
Because these things — the two Very Important Areas — continue to inspire and fascinate me, and fuel my love for the Enneagram. So if you want to explore, experience and excavate the deepest truths about yourself, together with some of what this model means — all against the backdrop of type awareness and insights about their dynamics, but not in abstract theorizing about them — I think we’ll get along just swimmingly 😊❤️