Know Your Personality Type

J. M. Faust



We’ve all heard of a Type A personality: a driven, possibly unhealthily so, overachiever. If you find it hard to identify with such categories, you might want to look into a totally different system of personality typing.
       Through a process of evolution that spanned most of the 20th century, and was helped along by a number of proto new-age thinkers, the Enneagram symbol was linked to personality types. The symbol, believed to have originated in Babylon in 2500 B.C., became the synthesis of ancient wisdom traditions combined with modern psychology. It purports to reveal nine archetypes of personalities into which humans fall. The types, labeled One through Nine, reveal the gifts and strengths of each kind of person, and also their potential pitfalls. Armed with this psychological insight, exponents believe you can leverage your strengths while avoiding some of the traps common to your type.
      "What’s really powerful about the Enneagram — rather than just being a description of people — is that it goes deeper," says Russ Hudson, co-author of the "Wisdom of the Enneagram." "The Enneagram, rightly understood, tells us a lot about our primary motivations, the things we’re afraid of, what to avoid, what we want the most deep down, and really reveals a lot about what underlies a lot of our behavior."
      Although Hudson and his colleagues at the Ennegram Institute in New York prefer to use the numbers to type people, the types can broadly be defined, from One to Nine, as the Reformer, the Helper, the Achiever, the Individualist, the Investigator, the Loyalist, the Enthusiast, the Challenger and the Peacemaker.
      Choosing one at random, (OK not at random, but because it’s my type) the Enthusiast is described as busy, fun-loving, spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive and scattered. We are told that a Seven’s basic fear is of "being deprived and trapped in pain"; the basic desire is "to be happy, satisfied, and to find fulfillment"; and that the super-ego message (a Freudian reference) is "you are good or OK if you get what you need." While those might seem like the fears, goals and messages of just about anybody, contrast it to the profile of personality type One, the Reformer, who is described as the rational, idealistic type; principled , purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic. The One’s basic fear is described as "being bad, defective, evil or corrupt." The basic desire of Ones is "to be good, virtuous, in balance — to have integrity." The superego message: "You are good or OK if you do what is right.
      The Enneagram then goes on to show a continuum of behaviors from Healthy/level one, which for the Seven is "joyful and satisfied", to Unhealthy/ level nine, which is "overwhelmed and paralyzed." Keeping oneself in the healthy range is the goal of Enneagram study, and to do so, the book prescribes a number of practices and awareness techniques. What the study doesn’t try to do, says Hudson, is change a type.
       “From our view, once a Seven always a Seven, but ... as you grow as a person, as you understand the ways in which you tend to get tripped up by Seven-ness, you start to open more to the positive capacities of all the types. We tell people when we’re teaching them that we have all nine types in us. There is no type that is going to be completely alien to our own experience; however one is home base, it’s our center.”
       Hudson says their test is commonly used in the helping professions, such as in therapy settings, but it’s also gaining popularity in the human resources departments of such companies as DuPont, GM and Sony.
      "I understand that the CIA has been briefed on the Enneagram," says Hudson. "One of our colleagues did some workshops there. I believe they’re using it to profile foreign leaders and people they want to pay attention to, to help them predict likely behaviors in different settings."

      Despite its roots in religion, Hudson says the symbol’s use today is independent of that. "It’s not a religion, it’s not a path. I think of it as a tool and I think of it as a map. A lot of people talk about 'be here now' or 'wherever you are in life, there you are' and that’s true. And most people recognize that when they’re present and more actively engaged with their immediate experience, they’re more satisfied, happy and tend to do things better. It is both the study of the potential of what can happen when we do live that way, and the barriers to why we don’t live that way more often. There are very logical and understandable reasons to why we don’t."
      That’s something to think about when you try the Enneagram. To do so, pop over to the Enneagram Institute and give yourself 25 minutes to take their personality test. You’ll be asked 145 provocative questions, such as: "I’ve usually ... a) been shy about showing my abilities or b) liked to let people know what I can do well." And "I’ve prided myself on my … a) perseverance and common sense or b) originality and inventiveness." When you’ve finished the test, the results will automatically tally, and you will be classified as one of nine personality types. Whether you buy into the premise or not, you’re likely to enjoy the process of asking yourself revealing questions.



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