Nine ways of seeing
Enthusiasts say the Enneagram offers a key to better relationships at home and at work
SOME PEOPLE think labelling individuals with specific personality traits is a futile exercise. However, American psychiatrist and author of The Essential Enneagram (Harper Collins 2000, 2009), Dr David Daniels, says that whether we like it or not, we all fit, more or less, into one of nine personality types, and learning which we are is not a self-limiting exercise but, in fact, a process through which we can get the best out of what we’ve got.
Daniels, who is clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford Medical School in California, US, will be in Dublin this weekend to lead a workshop on Three Centred Knowing, an approach which develops knowledge of the Enneagram’s nine personality types through the exploration of the different centres of intelligence (mental, emotional and bodily sensation) which drives them.
But first a little bit about the Enneagram. Daniels says that contrary to popular perception, the Enneagram is not something mysterious. “Enneagram simply means a nine-sided figure in Greek and the Enneagram personality system is represented by a diagram of a nine-pointed star within a circle,” he explains. “Basically, it explains nine fundamental patterns of personality – habits of the mind which allow us to organise our attention.”
Crucially though, the Enneagram personality types cannot be objectively worked out because they are derived from the individual’s inner experience of life. You can only truly identify your own personality type and this is often done by reading the nine personality descriptions and choosing the one which most accurately fits.
“It’s pretty easy to identify your personality type from this [so-called] paragraph test, but if you haven’t done any observation of your behaviour, it’s harder,” says Daniels.
In his book, The Essential Enneagram (co-written with the late Virginia Price, a psychologist who was also based in California), Daniels gives very detailed analysis of each of the nine personality types: the perfectionist, the giver, the performer, the romantic, the observer, the loyal sceptic, the epicure, the protector and the mediator.
Once you understand your core personality type, the next step is to understand the emotions – particularly the negative ones – that drive you. And, according to Enneagram enthusiasts, therein lies the key to better relationships in work and home life.
“Each personality type leads with one of three fundamental emotions – anger/rage, panic/distress or fear/anxiety,” says Daniels. According to this theory, anger or rage occurs when we experience that we aren’t being treated properly or are not getting what we want/need, which relates to the body centre of intelligence.