Key Point: The Enneagram has been a system and model of human personality, which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. It has been used as a “map for the soul” for centuries and appeals to the tenets of most formal religions. According to Don Risso and Russ Hudson, two of the foremost experts on the rich application of the Enneagram, we need more than interesting information about the nine personality types, (which does not diminish the importance of understanding the Enneagram). To quote them: “This map of the soul can become useful for us only when we combine it with key personal growth techniques. To this end, we offer seven tools that we have found indispensable for spiritual development.”
I’m still learning about the Enneagram . However when I read Risso and Hudson’s seven tools, it resonated so much with what I’ve been writing about, that I wanted to share them with you, (and the Enneagram has me very curious).
Seven Tools for Personal Growth
Seeking Truth: If we are interested in personal growth, no element is more important than developing a love of truth. Seeking the truth means being curious about what is going on in ourselves and around us, not settling for the automatic answers our personality feeds us. If we observe ourselves, we will see that many of the stock explanations that we give ourselves for our behavior or for the actions of others are a form of resistance. They are a way of avoiding seeing more deeply into our current state. For example, one stock answer might be, “I am really angry at my father,” but a deeper truth might be that I really love him and desperately want his love. Both levels of truth might be difficult for our personality to accept. It could take a long time to admit that we are angry with our father—and even longer to acknowledge the love beneath the anger. As we learn to accept what is real in the present moment, we are more able to accept whatever arises in us, because we know that it is not the whole of us. The truth encompasses both our fearful reactions and the greater resources of our soul. While our automatic reactions can derail our search for the truth, acknowledging their presence brings us closer to the truth. When we are willing to be with the whole truth—whatever it is—we have more inner resources available to deal with whatever we are facing.
“Not Doing”: The process of spiritual growth sometimes seems paradoxical because we speak of struggle and effort as well as of allowing, accepting, and letting go. The resolution of these apparent opposites lies in the concept of “not doing.” Once we understand “not doing,” we see that the real struggle is to relax into greater awareness so that we can see the manifestations of our personality. By neither acting on our automatic impulses nor by suppressing them, we begin to understand what is causing them to arise. Not acting on our impulses creates openings through which we can catch glimpses of what we are really up to. Those glimpses often become some of our most important personal growth lessons.
Willing to be Open: One of the primary functions of the personality is to separate us from various aspects of our own true nature. It causes us to limit our experience of ourselves by blocking from awareness any parts of ourselves that do not fit our self-image. By relaxing our bodies, quieting the chatter in our minds, and allowing our hearts to be more sensitive to our situation, we open up to the very inner qualities and resources, which can help us grow. Every moment has the possibility of delighting us, nurturing us, supporting us—if we are here to see it. Life is a tremendous gift, but most of us are missing it because we are watching a “mental movie” of our lives instead. As we learn to trust in the moment and to value awareness, we learn how to turn off the internal movie projector and start living a much more interesting life—the one we are actually starring in.
Getting Proper Support: The more support we have for our personal development, the easier our process will be. If we are living or working in dysfunctional environments, personal growth is not impossible, but it is more difficult. Most of us cannot leave our jobs or our families so easily, even if we are having difficulties with them, although we can seek out others who give us encouragement and act as witnesses to our growth. Beyond this, we can find groups, attend workshops, and put ourselves in situations that foster our real development. Getting support also entails structuring our days in ways that leave room for the things that nurture our souls.
- Give yourself time to understand and evaluate where you are with the first four of these seven spiritual development tools, and determine how you can advance on each in your life. Like most things of enormous value, they are paradoxically simple but also quite complex. As with most successful, habit forming initiatives, small forward steps propel us there in a more sustainable way.
The first 4 of 7 Tools in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: I heard an interesting statistic. You know that most people are only 10 percent different than everyone else in terms of the way we think? Most of us apparently fall in a spectrum where we think, want, need, hope, and operate similar to most others on the planet. Of course there are exceptions, but in this case, it seems to me that these tools can apply to 100 percent of us.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis