On my website, I list the benefits as follows:
- Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do
- Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships
- Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices
- Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and others
- Acquiring practical tools to manage the feeling of overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily life
Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you doIt's like this. Imagine you had a hand mirror and you were holding it behind your head, then you bring it forward in front of your face and voila you see yourself more clearly! That's how I felt when I began learning about my Enneagram type. Aspects of myself that I had a deep awareness of, but just wasn't fully conscious of, rose to the surface. For example, I've always known that I have a tendency to compare myself to others: am I better? Am I worse? I flip through US Weekly, my guilty pleasure, and what I've come to realize is that I'm looking at it, in order to compare myself, as well as picture an ideal (both aspects of my type). I look at celebrities' bodies and their dresses mainly and I see how I far off I am from their image of perfection, but it also gives me something to strive toward. What I didn't realize before the Enneagram, is how much this behavior reinforces a sense of unworthiness and longing, as if I am missing something that others (celebrities, in this case) have. Huge wake up call for me! Now, just an added twist on this subject: this habit of comparing myself is pleasurable for me, there is comfort in our patterns, we are safe there, we know what to expect. But the first step is just to notice, and say Aha!
Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships
I've been with my boyfriend for a little over a year and a half and I couldn't be more happy with our partnership. I actually am not sure that I would have been able to find Michael and get this far if it weren't for my work with the Enneagram. During our first year of dating we had about 5-6 fights, but they were big fights, fights where we almost broke up. What were they about you ask? We couldn't even tell you! Honestly, the smallest thing would trigger one of us and then, like a pinball machine we would go back and forth wracking up a tornado-like mess! What I came to realize is that we weren't talking about the same thing! We weren't on the same page. I was speaking from my own place of hurt and assumptions and he was doing the same thing. So we were getting offended and hurt for no reason. Once we finally began to understand each other's Enneagram type and point of view, everything shifted. We could hear and really listen to the other without bringing our own baggage to the conversation. We learned how not to take things personally. We began to value our different perspectives and how much they are an asset to our compatibility. Now, whenever we get close to skating towards a point of possible eruption, we look at each other and laugh.
Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices.
Let's stay on the former topic of US Weekly, for expediency's sake. Okay, so I now know that flipping through US Weekly leads me to compare myself with celebrities and inevitably feel that I come up short. I also know that there is something wickedly delightful at looking at pictures of beautiful people in designer clothes. So, I have a choice. Do I want to continue to flip through US Weekly, despite the consequences? Do I want to go cold turkey and see what else I might do with my time if I wasn't flipping through a magazine? The point is not really what you choose, it's not about judgment or punishment. It's about staying open, curious and compassionate with yourself and your habits. And it's about realizing you do have a choice. My teacher, Dr. David Daniels, calls the Enneagram "Liberation Psychology." True Dat.
Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and othersAgain, this ties into what I was just saying. If there is a part of me that still enjoys reading gossip mags, that's fine, that's my choice. But, if I can continue to be curious and cultivate compassion for myself, new pathways can form right in front of me. I have this ideal that if I stopped wasting time on US Weekly, I would develop some of my artistic pursuits: drawing, playing the guitar, singing, etc. or I'd spend more time at the gym or cooking for my baby. Maybe that's true, maybe that isn't. The point is that the curiosity makes it fun: what would I do? What could I do? And the compassion helps you not stay stuck in a cycle of self-flagellation, repenting for defeating patterns.
Acquiring practical tools to manage overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily lifeCan we all agree on something? Life is hard, and in this day-in-age, incredibly overwhelming! I think I would be much more content if I lived in the late 1800s where I spent my time on more simple demands: reading, cooking, cleaning, spending time with family, and maybe occasionally delighting onstage like Sarah Bernhardt. (This fantasy is another quality of my tragic romanticism). But still, we all have a lot on our plate, a lot that demands of us and drains of us and we need a way to put it all in it's proper place. I say that if yoga, psychology and astrology had a love child, it would be the Enneagram. It offers practical tools like those three disciplines/areas of study offer. There is a component to get in touch with your physical body--through breathing and grounding. There is an element of communing with your emotions, feeling the sensations and detaching from the story that perpetuates the emotion. And there is the psychological element of understanding why you do what you do, and offering choice. In essence, the Enneagram celebrates all three centers of wisdom: our heart, our mind and our body. And it offers practical tools to deal with the curve balls that life throws at you.
So, these are just a few short examples of how the Enneagram has shown up in my life, just a scratch in the surface. The Enneagram is deep, it's complex, it's endlessly interesting, and it's a process, a process that begins by discovering your type. If you want to know how the Enneagram can be of benefit in your life, sign up for a Discover Your Type session today!
Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant. She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops. For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com.