That’s Why I…! (Pt.2)

(Pt. 2 of 2; Here’s Part 1.)


So yeah, sometimes you feel crazy, or other people think you’re crazy. I felt like I was going batty, because life looked so perfect. I had no reason to be “in the depths of despair.” That summer, when I learned about the Six Human Needs, a million lightbulbs were going off in my head. (Speed recap of the Four Psychological Needs: 1. stability, 2. variety, 3. significance, 4. love). Around the same time, my boss introduced me to the Enneagram.

Woah, what?!

It took me a while to pay it any heed, because it sounded woo-woo, like psychological mumbo jumbo. What she said next piqued my curiosity though. “You’ll know you’ve pinpointed yourself when you want to hide from the truth, when you don’t want anyone else to know that about you.” She was coming at it from an ancient Christian perspective of the Seven Deadly Sins taught by the Church Fathers.[efn_note][/efn_note] (That was all Greek to me, but it made me curious nonetheless).

There is nothing better to get me out of a funk than to pique my curiosity and put me on a research trail to learn something new. (Little did I know at the time that this very trait would be the major clue to understanding why I do what I do.) It took me a while to get into it. The first book I read was a little too Eastern Religion-y for me. My boss gave me another that came from a Christian perspective, a language that made a lot more sense to me.

The lightbulbs started popping. Woah! So, if this is why I’m this way, then maybe this is why Terry’s this way. If these differences are designed by God, maybe they reveal aspects of His nature. If they reveal aspects of His nature, that means both can be right. If both can be right, it’s fruitlessly frustrating to try to make them one homogenous “right” way of doing things, thinking about things, approaching things. Maybe they are meant to balance each other out.

Three Fingers Pointing Back at You

You might be reading this, thinking, Well, duh!

That just means you haven’t examined your own situation closely enough. I’m talking, think about every major argument you’ve ever had with your spouse, your child, your parent. Step outside yourself and hear the language you each were using. Think about the values that you each were holding. Pinpoint what it was exactly that set you off like a rocket, when you were about to blow a gasket if you didn’t walk away and cool off. Yeah, it’s that applicable.

Now, imagine the possibility that you both were right. Imagine the difference it would have made if you knew the other person’s language and values, what was most important to them, what they feared, what they craved. How would you approach them now? How would your conversation be different? How would understanding them compassionately have made it so much easier for you to craft your language in a way that broke down the defensive barriers and had you both saying, “Oh, I see where you’re coming from. I understand that. It makes total sense. Here’s where I’m coming from. What can we do that will satisfy both our needs?”

A lot of work exists on the Enneagram. My boss emphasized over and over, “It’s not a personality test. Any Enneagram type test you take on the Internet will be inaccurate at best. You have to do the deep work of examining your own fatal flaw. It’s a journey.” So, while those personality tests can be fun and nearly irresistable, if you really want to understand yourself and the people in your life, it will be a long process of compassionate discovery.

Tool for Transformation

Riso and Hudson describe the Enneagram as a “tool for transformation,” a “bridge between psychology and spirituality.”[efn_note]Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. The Wisdom of the Enneagram. (NY, NY: Bantam Books, 1999). 29.[/efn_note]

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Okay, so now you might be thinking, Yeah, I suck at communicating, but what do I do about it? If we are all the way we are and nothing’s going to change that, we’re just doomed to keep fighting and misunderstanding each other, right? No. That’s like saying, Hey, that guy speaks Chinese, and I speak French. We’re doomed to never understand each other. You’re only doomed if you’re too lazy or selfish to learn their language or too independent to get help. In that case, you’re dooming yourself.

I hope to write more about it soon, because so many people have been patient to walk through this process with me, but in the meantime, if you want to start better understanding yourself and the people in your life, here are some great places to begin.

The woo-woo book: The Wisdom of the Enneagram

The Christian-flavored version: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

A popular favorite I haven’t read yet myself: The Road Back to You

A comparison with the Myers-Briggs: “Understanding the Enneagram (from a Myers-Briggs expert)”

Meanwhile, I’m off to go put it into practice again myself as I face my first hurdle of the day, helping my very-different-than-me-son with his algebra, without either of us blowing our tops. Pray for me!