A few years ago, I learned about the Enneagram from a dear friend of mine—an Army Chaplain for whom counseling is a big part of her job—who thought it would be helpful to me. I laughed at her when she told me to be open-minded. When I heard the term “Enneagram” (pronounced any-uh-gram), I confess I thought it sounded like a cult to me. My friend recommended a book to me, and I ordered it. I’ll be honest—the Enneagram has changed my life and definitely for the better.
In a nutshell, the Enneagram is a personality typing system which groups people into one of nine basic personality types. (I am a Type 4 – the Individualist or Romantic!) The Enneagram teaches people how to embrace who they are and who others are, accepting that not everyone sees the world in the same way. I’ve learned a great deal of compassion and generosity of spirit from the Enneagram teachings. There’s no way I could offer a good explanation in one short article, but I wanted to share three books that I’ve used to learn more about the Enneagram.
First of all, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson is the book that my Chaplain friend shared with me. It was my first introduction to the Enneagram and it is very thorough. It’s easy to read and easy to understand. There is a detailed explanation of the Enneagram and the history behind it in the first section of the book. The book then dedicates a long and detailed chapter to each number of the Enneagram. Each of these chapters begins with a short “test” used to help people identify their own numbers. “The Big Blue Book” as my friend refers to it is the most thorough book I’ve come across to teach the Enneagram.
Secondly, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile is an excellent primer on the Enneagram. It is very readable and much more concise than “The Big Blue Book.” It doesn’t have all the detailed information that The Wisdom of the Enneagram has, but it is a good overview for someone who just wants to dip their toes in and find out if the subject is something they want to explore further.
Thirdly, The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships is a book by Suzanne Stabile, and it is a follow-up to The Road Back to You. It takes a closer look at relationships and how different numbers relate to each other. It’s an excellent second step into an Enneagram journey, and Suzanne is a wonderful teacher and author.
In addition to the books, I’ve found three podcasts that I love to listen to: Typeology by Ian Chron, The Enneagram Journey by Suzanne Stabile, and The Road Back to You: Looking at Life Through the Lens of the Enneagram by both Ian and Suzanne together which was began as a companion to their book. They have special guests most every week where they talk about different types and different topics, like work and relationships.
Since first learning about the Enneagram, I’ve discovered that it’s much more well-known than I first thought. A lot of writers and religious teachers that I follow use the Enneagram in their own lives and practices and have found it to be very beneficial.
For me, knowing my Enneagram number (and my husband’s number!) has helped me navigate my relationships much better. When I identified my number and read the chapter on Fours, it was like reading a chapter on my life’s story, my personal history, and my deepest, darkest secrets. It has helped me understand myself and what makes me tick in a way no book or personality typing methodology or therapy session ever has. Learning about my husband’s number—he’s a Two—has helped me understand him in a way I never had before. Knowing that we see the world in two very different ways has helped us mesh in our relationship much better. Understanding what motivates him and makes him tick has made me appreciate him more and helped me have compassion in situations when I once would have just been frustrated.
The Enneagram has been a very helpful tool for me and a lot of people I love, and I hope you will find that it is helpful for you, too. I’d love to know your thoughts on the Enneagram, whether I’m telling you about it for the first time or you’ve been a student of it for years. Please feel free to leave a comment or send an email through the contact link at the top of the page.
Rachel Holbrook writes from her home in Knoxville, TN. She is the author of the syndicated serial, Little River, Volumes 1 & 2. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, *82 Review, Ink in Thirds, Akitsu Quarterly, The Avalon Literary Review, The Society of Classical Poets, and various other literary journals. She recently won an Honorable Mention for her short story “A Slow Burn” at the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society’s annual convention. She also received the Springs of Helicon Award for Poetry, awarded by Tennessee Wesleyan University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going on literal and literary adventures with her husband and six children.