What is the Enneagram?

One of the best ways to explain the Enneagram is by analogy. At one point, hereditary traits and psychological development were a mystery. How did our bodies grow, why did we inherit our father’s eyes, our mother’s mindset? With the discovery of DNA, long sought-after questions about the human body and brain were answered. We now know that DNA affects every aspect of our physical development, and that one’s psychological make-up is also influenced by DNA. And while the genetic code was discovered over 50 years ago, its complexity and exactitude continually prove its relevancy as a guide to understanding human beings.

The Enneagram is the genetic “blueprint” or system of personality. Its fundamental parts were discovered hundreds of years ago. The Enneagram is both a “nature/nurture” system, a psychological template that can be tied to brain development as well as an individual’s tendencies and capacities to be influenced by his/her environment. As further discovery and development has taken place, the Enneagram’s contemporary relevance in understanding personality and facilitating self-understanding and personal growth, proves accurate and vital.

Like DNA, the Enneagram is complex, specific and multi dimensional. It defines the general and unique traits of mental, emotional and somatic experience. It answers questions about how we view and respond to the world and the people in our lives, our communication style, what motivates our behaviors.

Unlike DNA (so far as we know at this time), the Enneagram takes into account the part of a person that is not personality, often referred to as Essence, Spirit, Self, Soul, etc. This is the part of us that has the ability to observe our “blueprint.” It is the “Inner Observer,” the “Over-Self,” that is outside thoughts and assumptions of who we are, who others are and what reality is. It is the channel through which compassion flows.

As we learn our Enneagram “blueprint” or traits and develop the observer within, we are presented with the opportunity to discover ourselves and humanity more fully. In practical terms, this means living a life more fully understood and expressed, communicating with others in more effective and thoughtful ways and understanding the larger world in a humane, accurate context.