Who we are

Not where you’ve been, where you’re going – that’s the real you, according to a venerable monk, Thomas Merton.

If you want to know me, don’t ask where I live, what I like to eat, how I part my hair; rather, ask me what I live for, in every detail, and ask me what prevents me from living fully for the thing I really want to live for.

Take his insight and then filter it through your Enneagram filter.  If you are a Two, for example, you tell yourself consciously what you are living for.  Good for you.  Now examine what the usual focus for style Two is and see if you are living for your conscious reason or whether you are living out of a rigid pattern that exemplifies your style.  As a style Two, for example, you might say you are living for your job or vocation and that’s true.  Now see if you are also spending a great deal of time figuring out how to get recognized for all the good things you do.





“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
–Corrie ten Boom, Dutch writer
Of all the Enneagram styles, Sixes worry the most, probably because they expect bad things to happen. Murphy was an optimist in their minds.
There are a few things they can do to interrupt this habit. One important insight is that worry is usually a generalization. We will worry about “not having enough money,” without getting specific about what we think we will lack. To pay the mortgage? Or take a trip? Or help your child with college? Or food tomorrow? We can take action against a specific, we can’t take action against a generalization and worry is a substitute for action. It is a booby prize: we feel like you’ve done something because wepaid attention but the situation remains the same, only now with less time and energy because worry saps our energy.

Facts are always an interpretation

Enneagram students go looking for “traits.” It is an easy mistake to make. It feels nice and scientific. The assumption is that we start with the facts and then we move to an hypothesis – she is a five, for example.
Here’s what an anthropologist thinks of that.

With their exclusive interest in the distinctive, particular, individual and unique “fact,” historians obviously do not eat apples. They eat the first red object on the lowest branch of the third tree in the fourth row of the northwest orchard etc.
What anthropologist Bruce Malina means is that when we say apple, we bring a full tank of cultural and personal assumptions and when we read an historical document we don’t know their corresponding assumptions.
That’s why “traits” are hints, not descriptions of an inner world. Let me give you an example. I am a Seven. My boss was a One. When we used the term, “good” job, a bit of confusion was always lurking. Close enough to work was more my style. Carefully crafted, tested, verified, critiqued and reluctantly approved was “good” for him.
So when a Seven says someone is OCD, (obsessive compulsive disorder) he just might mean a helluva lot more careful that he thinks is necessary. So when I say, looking for “traits,” that she is a perfectionist )the standard description of a One, I am making a judgment that looks like a fact but is a lot more squishy that the word fact might indicate.
One time I was teaching high school and a girl would not stop talking, so to tell her to “clean up her act,” I made her vacuum a room. I thought it was a nice symbolic 10 minute penance. It took her an hour. I was so embarrassed at how hard my punishment was that I apologized to her. “Vacuum a room” was “factually” correct, but look at the difference.

You decide

Several styles, especially sixes and nines, for different reasons, have trouble deciding. Sixes would like the decision to be a conclusion drawn from the data. But the word decision from its Latin roots originally was drawn from the act of chopping down with a sword. It is future-oriented in the sense that of all the possible conclusions from the data, you chop off all except one. It is an act of assertion, not wisdom. It is a commitment and if it is not that, it will not be a “good” decision. Nines see all the options and often see them without any one option better than others because they are not in touch with their own desires. It is the act of assertion that is difficult so they don’t make it. Instead, when they are not on their game, they go along with someone else’s decisions.