Enneagram: Moving up the Levels of Development

Up Stairs and Over Shadows

An educator said to me, “oh, we don’t do personality typing, we don’t  put people in boxes because we treat people as complete individuals….”  He’s got a point. If we do typing / profiling and just stop there, that is putting people in boxes. It’s can be pointless, unfair, unwise and even limiting. And just like any other tool, the Enneagram can be useful or not, depending on how we use it. How we use it depends on what we understand it is.

For me it is a framework and a map for getting to the highest expression of who we are, the best version of ourselves. It isn’t the simplest of frameworks to understand, and it doesn’t explain everything that a human being is or does. But it allows us to see where we are, and where we can be, if we want. This is where the Levels of Development, pioneered by Don Riso and Russ Hudson come in so handy. No one Type is better or worse than another Type. There healthy, average and unhealthy levels within each personality type. And on any given day, our sense of self fluctuate depending on what kind of day we are having and how deeply entrenched we are in our personality, how far we have been estranged from our true essence.  No one is a pure Type, nor do we not use resources of other Types or exhibit traits, attitudes and behaviour of other Types. As complete humans, we have all nine Types. It’s just that we “live” in a particular Type based on our Basic Fear, Basic Desire and Parental Orientation.

It doesn’t matter what challenges we are having, or what goals we have set. We can be in the middle of a life transition, working on a phobia, overcoming depression, lying in a deep trough on the journey to the dark side….. if we know our personality well, and we know the mechanism and the dynamics of the levels of development, we will know where we are along that continuum. And if we have the right tools we will be able to get from a less healthy level of development to a more healthy level. It doesn’t happen in a weekend, but for those who are on the path of self-development, self-awareness and self-definition, I don’t know a more complete or more useful framework than the Enneagram and specifically of the dynamism of the levels of development and other flowing aspects of the framework. And I don’t know a better book than “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” by Riso and Hudson.

Therefore the Enneagram is about finding out which box we are already in, so that we can find our way out of the box of our ego identification, to breathe the free air of our true essence. The tools? EFT, Integration, NLP….. come see me.

Journey to the Dark Side

Dark Side of the Moon

We all have an identities we like to project. We become what we identify with – the “I am” – “I am responsible”, “I am kind”, I am ethical”, I am smart”, “I am successful”……. Then we have all that we reject – the “I-am-nots”. And the “I-am-nots” get pushed into the shadow. There they furtively exist, rejected, unacknowledged, denied, unlived.

Sometimes they slip out and add mystery to our ordered lives. The wise, from time to time, allow their dark side to show: the straight-lace accountant who has a weekend gig in a heavy metal band, the suburban housewife riding with a motor-cycle gang. For the most part the really bad stuff get pushed into the dark: festering, rejected, ashamed, furtive, craving, indecent – all that unconscious jealousy, greed, guilt, shame, anger, fear, defeat, hopeless despair……. There they influence our lives in unfathomable ways. Do you have impulses which are “not you”? Are there days where an uncontrollable anger takes you? Do you react in unsavory ways when under pressure? Do you have a secret life that you are hiding? Compulsive behavior and addiction? Mid-life transition, or mid-life crisis? You may have to journey to the dark side and do a little integration work.

Either we are in touch or we aren’t, but we all have dark sides. The dark side is a scary place when we are standing in the light. Our eyes play tricks on us and we fill up with fear. When we journey to our dark sides, they become illuminated. If we go arrive there without judgement, without fear and without presumptions, instead of an inner-demon, we notice a wounded child. When we heal our wounded children, we are suddenly less fettered to our identity, our personality, our ego.

Suddenly we become less bound by our habitual “I-am”, because we discover that I am many things in different contexts at the same time. “I-am-not” is part of “I-am”. In the end, perhaps, “I-just-am”. But if we don’t also know the dark, we will never really relax to the light.

P.S. Also see The Hero’s Journey: Descending into the Underworld.