Benefits of the Enneagram, or the Teachings of US Weekly

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

As I've started my new Enneagram Consulting business, the question I hear a lot is: Why would I need to learn about the Enneagram?  What's the benefit?

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
Okay, sounds good, but what does all that really mean anyway?  What does all that look like?

Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do

It'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 others

Again, 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 life

Can 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 

To Commit, or Not to Commit?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

After a week long of overindulging in The Big Easy, Michael and I have decided to start The Dukan Diet and today is Day One.  I hate diets.  I hate restricting myself and I hate depriving myself.  To me, diets = commitment.  And I have a very complicated relationship to commitment.

Why I am allergic to commitment?  Let's see, as a 4, I prioritize my feelings above all.  And when you make a commitment, feelings don't always get to have their say.  Then there is the element of routine, which I tend to avoid (even though I crave it).  This is not to say I am unable to commit.  If the commitment involves another person, I always follow through.  Be it a date night with Michael, a girls dinner with my besties, a lesson with my guitar teacher, or anything else that involves my loved ones, I am there.  No question.

It's when I need to make a commitment to myself, and the agendas that I deem important, that I tend to fail.  That list includes diets, exercise regimens, meditation, studying the Enneagram, practicing guitar, and any other self-care activity.  If I can enlist another to join me (as in Michael with The Dukan Diet), I know I'll have a fighting chance to keep my promise.

Moving forward, I am hoping that this joint pledge to the diet will open up opportunities for me to follow through with other commitments I've longed to keep to myself, mainly meditation and exercise.  Commitment has a lot to do with trust.  When we make the agreement to commit to something and we follow through with that, we have taught ourselves that we can self-trust.  When we fail to follow through, there is a part of us that doesn't have inner faith.

I am looking forward to self-trust and inner faith, and the sense of accomplishment and self-worth that comes with showing up for my commitments. 

How do you show up for your commitments?  Where are you most committed in your life?  Where are you least committed in your life?  What stops you from committing and what propels you forward?

As always, feel free to comment on the questions I've posed!  I'll follow up on Friday with more thoughts on the relationship other types may have to commitment.

Have a great week!

Follow Up Friday: What is your favorite worst feeling?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , ,

Follow Up Friday is a new series where I check in on the questions and issues that I introduced on Tuesday's blog.
As I continued to examine this question throughout the week, I found myself sort of hating my personality type.  I actually got mad at it, like it was this other outside organism (which it sort of is).  Saying things in my head like: why can’t you be happier with where you are?  What’s wrong with you?   You’re missing out on life, you know.  These kinds of thoughts, I realize, are not helpful.
One of the reasons I love the Enneagram so much is that it is not about changing who you are.  It’s not about being some perfect specimen.  It is about shedding light on your automatic patterns, your default perspective.  When you shed light on these patterns, then you have a choice.  This is the awareness piece in any spiritual practice.  You can either remain a victim of your old methods of existence, or you can choose a new way of seeing things.
What comes before gratitude and after awareness is acceptance.  As my teacher, David Daniels says, when awareness gets too far ahead of acceptance that’s when you have discord.  So casting back on that night where I had a conversation between my Inner Guidance and my Habitual Mind, I was missing the piece of acceptance.  I was trying to force myself to the gratitude step. 
So, what I’m planning on practicing is acceptance with compassion and curiosity.  My therapist has an analogy that I think is very fitting.  It’s like having a new bud planted on your windowsill and urging it to instantaneously blossom into a flower: Grow!  Grow!  Grow!  It’s an absurd idea, so why do we do it to ourselves? 
The next time my mind casts back to yearning for the rose-colored past, or gunning for the idealized future, I hope I can get curious and with compassion discover why it is I am leaving the present moment.
Let’s continue this conversation!  If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave them in the comments below or email me.
Have a lovely weekend!    

What is your Favorite Worst Feeling?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

This question was passed down to me by mom through her good friend, the late Teresa Adams. 
The other night, I lay in my bed after a long workday.  My thoughts were begging to climb to heights of new ideals for the future, were scrounging to crawl back to the past to see it with rose-colored glasses.  I caught myself.  My inner observer seemed to be especially attuned that night.  The conversation in my head went like this:
INNER OBSERVER:  Wait, wait, wait, hold on just one minute!  Instead of longing for the sacred past or the idealized future, why don’t you spend a few minutes right HERE, right NOW, giving gratitude for the day?
MY HABITUAL MIND:  Yuck!  How boring?!?  I don’t want to do that!  I want to daydream of a beautiful future, how I’m going to lose weight and have long lustrous locks, how I will wear beautiful clothes, how I am going to make a living doing something that I love.
IO:  Just try it.  See if you can say what you are grateful about today, the present moment. 
MHM:  That does not sound fun AT ALL.  I mean, I’ll try it, but I’m not happy about it.
So, I tried it. 
MHM:  I am grateful for this comfy bed that I am lying in, with these soft sheets.  I am grateful for this cool air-conditioned room.  I am grateful that I babysat two beautiful babies this morning and got to see their smiling faces and spend two hours walking through Central Park.  I am grateful that I had a busy and fun night at work at the restaurant. 
As I started naming all of what I was grateful for, I was amazed at how awesome my life is right HERE and right NOW.
IO:  Good job!  I know it doesn’t feel as fun or as juicy.  But that is because you’ve trained your mind to see what is lacking or what is missing.  It’s habitual.  So, it requires effort to shift it, but the more you practice it, the easier it will be and the more fun you will have in the present moment!
An element that distinguishes the nine different types of personality in the Enneagram system is where your focus of attention (a.k.a. your favorite worst feeling) goes.  Here they are for the nine different types:
Type One:  Right and Wrong/What needs to be improved
Type Two:  Fulfilling other’s needs
Type Three: Approval for tasks
Type Four:  Longing for what is missing
Type Five:  Detaching in order to observe
Type Six:  Worst-case scenarios
Type Seven:  Pleasant options
Type Eight:  Power and control
Type Nine:  Merging with other’s agendas

What is your favorite worst feeling?  Investigate it.  See why it’s juicy for you.  What do you do to counteract it? 
Leave your discoveries in the comments!  I look forward to reading them and engaging in the conversation with you!