In all the navigating between type descriptions, often we might fail to realise the important bit first: Our Enneagram type is not “what we do”. Neither is it our motivations for doing what we do (even if that’s usually a more productive perspective). We do a lot of things, and we have lots of different (and sometimes even conflicting) motivations. Approached through those filters, for some, it’s hard to see what the core is.
Most likely, we might resonate with multiple types — and then the perceived need arises for complicated type combinations and/or properties, to find what best describes us. But actually, the purpose of our Enneagram type isn’t to describe us. It is not a typology. It describes “types” — but we also need to understand what it is that type itself describes: a basic perspective that in turn feeds motivations and subsequent behaviours that constantly direct our attention away from reality. This is the perspective that, even if we want to engage in personal work, has the ego go, “Sure, totally let’s do that — as soon as I’ve addressed this thing first.”
“This thing” stopping us from being present now
What the “thing” is might not be immediately apparent to us, as it’s so tightly weaved into our perception of reality and “how things are”. So yes, we have aspects of most, if not all, types. We possibly see ourselves mirrored to a larger extent in a couple, or even a handful, of them. But the point of identifying the core is that this is the seat of our suffering; the fundamental, misguided beliefs and emotional structure that keep us from being truly present to ourselves, to others, and to life itself.
The irony, of course, is that this happens with the most innocent of intentions: to restore what was lost and defend against further suffering. So our job is not to nail down to the finest detail how we relate to every last aspect of the Enneagram. Nor is it to chastise ourselves for our flaws or attempt to edit the raw materials we were given so that we don’t have to look at the mess the ego is creating. Rather, it is to identify, sit with, and explore the expressions of the ego’s workings, so that we can find our way to this core — of misunderstanding, and of suffering.
This is not necessarily an enjoyable trip; for the ego, it’s a death threat. But it can be immensely rewarding, and in the process, we learn that the ego in itself isn’t the problem, but rather our identification, our blind faith in it. In fact, we learn that it was just a construct, all along — a tool for helping us navigate on our journey through this world, but which does not work well as a self-driving vehicle, let alone as a stand-in for our true being.
Curiosity killed the cat — and tamed the ego
So we can start being interested: Where am I putting my faith today? Right now? Just there, in the conversation with my co-worker? Yesterday, when I played with my child? And beauty is, there are no wrong answers. The point isn’t training ourselves to be a certain way; the point is being aware of what’s going on. Usually, this starts as a retrospective awareness, but then, our ability to pay attention gets nearer to the present, until we can be aware of what we do when we do it — and ultimately, before we actually do it; in the pause between the impulse and the action. Exploring this path, to an increasing extent we will indeed “be trained” — but not according our own schedule, and usually not in the way we might have expected ❤️