Finding Freedom Through the Enneagram
Updated: May 3, 2021
Have you checked out the Enneagram personality types yet? I'm a little late to this whole thing because I don't like to jump on bandwagons. I'm a little rebellious like that. But a friend encouraged me to check into it more than just taking a little quiz online, and I'm so glad she did. It has been life-changing for me, and I hope reading about the freedom I've found will inspire you to check it out for yourself and your loved ones. I'm not going to get into the whole system here. There's plenty of information available on the internet, so I'm just going to jump right in to my story.
After a lot of soul-searching and serious consideration and prayer, I have concluded that my type is number seven, with a six wing (7, w6). Wings used to overwhelm me, but I read a very simple book called, "The Road Back to You" and it helped me understand them. What a difference that information made! Sevens can be flighty and unable to commit, but I have a strong need for stability and can be incredibly loyal, so the seven wasn't sitting quite right with me. Then I came to understand the six wing, and it all came into focus. Sixes are the stable, steady ones.
Enneagram Sevens have a strong need for adventure and learning/experiencing new things. The six wing causes me to seek out very stable, steady people to surround myself with. Guess what Sixes aren't super-excited about? Adventure and trying new things. Of course. So I often find myself either on my own to seek out adventure and new experiences, dragging along those who are only there because they care about me, or forgoing it altogether. Since I got married, moved to a rural farm, and started having children (which is in itself an adventure full of new experiences), adventure and new experiences outside of farm and family life haven't been high on my priority list. Add in quarantine.
Say "Hello" to discontented and frustrated me.
My husband, who I've currently typed as a one with a strong two wing (give me some time to make sure that's right though), is introverted and very content to stay on the farm 95% of the time. I'm very attracted to the stability and preciseness in his personality, but after close to ten years of marriage, I need to shake things up a bit from time to time. Our conversations can go something like this...
"Honey, maybe we can get a babysitter this weekend and go out for dinner one night?" I say, as I scan the internet for restaurants I've never tried.
Rick looks at me, slightly concerned. "Okayyyy... Like the little Mexican place that you like so much in town? Or in the city an hour away?"
Eye roll. Big sigh. "Why would we get a babysitter for the place in town? We could just take the kids. I want to try something new. And hey! There's a concert that night too. Doesn't that sound fun?
Rick looks like he might throw up. "Um, I might have to do some farming at that specific time. I wonder if your friend might like to go with you instead."
He'll go if I really press him. He'll order the most simple and inexpensive thing on the menu and sit patiently through the concert while I stand and dance and sing along. He would be much happier relaxing at home with a frozen pizza and Netflix. He once ordered a hot dog at a seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean. He couldn't understand my horror, stating that he just wasn't that hungry. When I tried to explain that it doesn't matter if you're hungry when you live on a farm in the Midwest and get a chance to eat fresh seafood, he just shrugged. He had absolutely no need to experience fresh seafood, which he finds a little suspicious because it isn't meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
I probably bring enough excitement to the relationship for both of us. When we were dating and I told him that I wanted to go on book tours and speak, he easily replied, "I don't mind. I'll take the babies with me on the tractor." I often picture myself as a kite blowing in the wind and him contentedly holding the end of the string. He enjoys watching me fly, and he's very thankful he's on the ground. I'm happy to soar, comforted by the knowledge that he's holding on tightly and won't let go.
Those who love Enneagram Sevens can pull us in too tightly and not give us the space we need to soar. We then have a tendency to cut the string and fly off, losing the grounding we had in them. With my six wing, I'm unlikely to cut the string, but I might quietly rebel. I might look for ways to get the space and air I need in unhealthy ways. An unhealthy Seven has a tendency to become gluttonous, and a stressed out Seven has a tendency to become a perfectionist.
In our relationships, communication is so important. I have to say, "Hey! This string is too tight. I need a little room." (Translation: Take me out on a date please, or Let's plan a vacation!) When I clam up and don't ask for what I need, the people who love me don't know how I feel. They find space and air frightening, not exhilarating. They aren't trying to stifle me. They're trying to keep me safe.
Understanding what those who are closest to me need, while learning to understand and communicate what I need, has helped me better navigate my relationships. I've spent years swinging between gluttony (the primal sin of the Seven) and perfectionism (the negative reaction Sevens have to stress), and it's led to some unhealthy habits that have hurt me. So I made a decision this year. I am going to do a better job taking care of myself on a soul level. Yes, I study the Bible, pray, write out what I'm grateful for, exercise, and so forth. But if adventure and new experiences are the song of my heart, what am I doing to make sure that need is met?
Perfectionism tells me to work, work, work, so I can produce, produce, produce. I put my head down and plow through whatever obstacles are in my way. Then, suddenly, I realize I'm exhausted and can't produce one more thing. In an effort to refresh myself, I slip into gluttony. After awhile, gluttony produces very undesirable results and I panic. I turn to perfectionism again to get things under control! So the cycle continues until I'm where I found myself a few months ago - empty, frustrated, and in despair. In an effort to comfort myself, I look at all I've produced, but it's never enough.
Perfectionism lies, saying nothing is ever good enough.
Gluttony lies, saying I will never have enough to be satisfied.
Two greedy monsters threaten to swallow me up, and I've finally seen them for what they are and shouted, "ENOUGH!"
This year, I went through my entire calendar and scheduled VACATIONS and days off. I made reservations. I planned adventures. Parties have become a priority again. I prioritized quality time with friends. I banished guilt and fear. God gave me a great gift in a stable, cautious husband. We discussed the plans and agreed to things that work for both of us.
When I have positive, healthy adventures and new experiences, there's not much space for gluttony or perfectionism.
What does any of this have to do with you? I hope that you'll see from what I'm learning about myself that you can benefit from understanding yourself better too. The Enneagram doesn't coddle you. It calls out your sin clearly, lets you know exactly where you stand, but also helps you see that you're not alone. You're not broken beyond repair. There is a answer for your sinful heart, HOPE, and a Savior. In Christ, we are redeemed from the unhealthy things we reach for when we are stressed. In Christ, we are redeemed from the sin that so easily besets us.
The wisdom of the Enneagram is that it points to a practical and holy response to our sin nature. In recognizing that we are one of many people who act in similar ways, a secret door has swung wide open. Once we walk through it, we realize that we've exited our prison! The door that opened was our cell swinging wide to release us into freedom and health and redemption. Things finally make sense.
We are free.
You can pick up a copy of The Road Back to You at most bookstores, but if you purchase it through this link, a small portion of your purchase is donated to the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network. I volunteer with them to provide accurate, up-to-date information to medical providers and new parents of babies with Ds. When we give parents the proper information to make a good decision, they often choose to raise their children with Ds in a loving, stable environment that brings out the best in everyone involved.
For more information about my miracle baby with Ds, connect with me on Instagram.
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***Edited to add... (5/3/21)
Upon posting this blog, I've been informed that there are some controversial origins of the Enneagram. I was introduced to it by my pastor, so I was surprised to hear that there were any concerns. I have looked into it further and have come to the conclusion that to the pure, all things are pure (Titus 1:15). God has created us - body, mind, and soul. Anyone who studies the mind and soul could have come up with these principles (which is what happened - someone studied an ancient method and put it all together in the form we have today). The concept has been studied by many pastors and church leaders (since as early as 399 BC), put into a form that can be used to draw a seeker more deeply into their relationship with God, and distributed through modern books, blogs, speaking engagements, and counseling sessions. It has been very helpful to many people without drawing them into anything evil, but teaching them to understand themselves and others better. If you are offended by the man who compiled it, please do what you need to do to protect your heart. I am an Enneagram 7 and I like to find the joy. This has been a difficult season of prayer and seeking for me, and I want to offer it as an option to anyone else who might be helped by it.