Ted is working on a show about the enneagram, and he had a couple of discussion groups to gather stories about that.
His invitation was hilarious:
1’s: Think about it, make sure this is the right thing to do.
2’s: If you want to bring some snacks, that’s fine, or even better, that’s spectacular!
3’s: You’ll do great!
4’s: We’re looking forward to your unique contributions.
5’s: You can sneak out any time you need to, we won’t call you out.
6’s: There’s nothing to be afraid of.
7’s: We’re going to cover it all! And it will be fun!!!
8’s: Let us know if you’d like to lead one portion of the evening.
9’s: We need you here….
…because well, there may be 8’s and 7’s together.
I went to one, and it was fascinating and enlightening.
For those who don’t know, the enneagram is a personality typing system, much like Myers-Briggs. A few years ago, Gloria was talking about the enneagram and strongly recommended that I find out mine. At first, I was a bit skeptical. I took the test (1, strong 2 wing), and felt like the description resonated, more or less. And then I took it for JC (solid 5). The version I took had some notes about relationships between various types. When I read the one for a relationship between a 1 and a 5, my jaw dropped. It felt like someone had been sitting in my house taking highly specific notes! Eery!
Ted’s invitation got me thinking about the enneagram again. I wondered about my kids’ types. They’re too young to take the tests, and their personalities are theoretically under construction, but by reading some descriptions, I was able to hazard a guess at each of them. I initially thought Petra was an 8 (“The Challenger”), but on further reflection, I think she’s probably a very healthy 5 (“The Investigator”). She was not interested in discussing this further, which is a very 5 way to be.
Silas seems to be a 6 (“The Loyalist”), and when I read him the description, he deeply connected with it. He spent this week telling people that he’s a 6, as if he’s finally defined himself. I think his interest in it mirrored mine–he sometimes wonders if it is okay to be who he is in the world, and having a type that is defined and named is validating. It’s helpful to me to be aware of the fundamental need for security that is at the root of the 6 personality type. I probably don’t do enough to help him feel secure.
Silas’ response to learning his enneagram is much like mine. I used to struggle with feeling like everyone felt like I was too serious. I tried to be fun, but I’m not good at it. Having a personality metric say, “You’re this category of person. Other people are like you. It’s okay to be this sort of person,” feels deeply freeing. Maybe that’s why I’m so into them, and can (and will) rattle off all my classifications, given the slightest excuse: Capricorn, Upholder, Gryffindor, INF/TJ (right on the line, every time). I’ve come to embrace those types and even joke about them. At Ted’s event, I gestured to the huge stack of enneagram books on the floor. “If I wanted to read just one of these, which one would you recommend?”
Ted’s partner Michelle picked up one with a cartoon face on the cover. “This one’s fun.”
“Remember, I’m a 1,” I told her. “I don’t do fun.” She laughed and offered me a different, probably more serious, book.
I learned a number of interesting enneagram-related tidbits at the event, so I do indeed want to read up a bit more. One reassuring thing was that Ted said, “Sixes make the world go ’round,” meaning that a 6 is the person who will always think about and plan for whatever disaster might be coming your way. The 6 is the person who has a first-aid kit in the car, who has a charger for their friend’s phone, who double-checks the route in case the GPS doesn’t work.
One 6 at the party talked about an event we both were at, years ago, when a team of horses, spooked, took off with a wagon that had several children playing in the back. “I was the one who ran and jumped on the wagon and stopped the horses,” he said. “I was only able to do it because I had already thought about, ‘What if those horses started to run off?'” I, also an adult, also present, did not spring into action. The possibility had not even occurred to me.
Hearing this about sixes makes me feel a little more hope for Silas. Right now he can seem kind of hapless (but he is only eight!). I think hearing some stories like the one about the horses might help him channel his anxiety in a productive way.
Another thing I learned was that each type has another type that they move toward when they are stressed, and another for when they are in a healthy space. When I said that Petra is probably a healthy 5 who seems 8-ish, this what I meant. I was thinking recently that I’m in a really good, unusually optimistic space lately. I wrote in my journal, “I feel expansive, like the world is full of possibility.” A healthy 1 moves toward 7: “The Enthusiast.” Exactly.
Our household is full of very intense types– 1, 5, 5, and 6. No chill 9s or supportive 2s around here. I wonder if that’s typical. It’s either why we get along really well, or why we shouldn’t, I”m not sure.
I’m also curious about my friends and creative partners now. While it is possible to “armchair diagnose” another person’s type, it’s tricky. The enneagram isn’t about outside behavior, it’s about why we do things. As Michelle said, “We all procrastinate. But a 7 might procrastinate because they just aren’t excited enough about it, and a 5 might procrastinate because they want to make sure their plan is the best plan, and a 1 might procrastinate because they’re afraid they won’t get it right.” So basing it on someone else’s behavior is often misleading. I was able to make pretty good guesses about my immediate family because I know them better than I know practically anybody. But for others, I’m reluctant to even try because I probably will make the wrong assumptions.
If you know your number (or take the test), please tell me! I’m curious. I also wonder whether certain numbers are more invested in the idea of personality types generally. Ted said he was having trouble finding 8s to talk to–is it possible that they don’t want to be part of this discussion?