Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

The Ennea—WHAT?

By Jean Geissler, Becketwood Member

I discovered the Enneagram in the late 1980s. Ever since, it has served me well. This ancient wisdom is a tool for transformation that helps me better understand myself and others, enriching relationships. This system of personality development is now taught worldwide, but 30 years ago it was known mainly on the east and west coasts. In the Midwest, were I to say, “I am a certified instructor of the Enneagram,” I might hear “the Ennea-WHAT?”

This Greek work is pronounced “any-a-gram.”  Ennea means nine, and gram means something written or drawn. Enneagram refers to the nine-pointed star within a circle, which symbolizes diversity within unity, a concept that can enrich our Becketwood community as well as our society as a whole.

Author Parker Palmer believes “The renewal this nation needs will not come from people who are afraid of ‘otherness.’ Our main hope for renewal is diversity, welcomed and embraced.” Christina Baldwin, Minnesota actor and director, adds, “The discovery of our differences is an opportunity for growth.” From its roots in the mysticism of an ancient oral tradition of spiritual psychology, a virtual “Enneagram explosion” has occurred, mainstreaming into arenas as varied as education, business, sports, psychology, medicine and spirituality, as well as in the area of personal and relational growth. For further information visit International Enneagram Association.

Personally, before ever studying the Enneagram, I was aware of several strong, seemingly unrelated personality patterns in my life. I knew I had a certain “adrenalin addiction” (evidenced by a growing number of speeding tickets). Other people had an “enough” button; I did not! (If something was good, more must be better!) With my go-go-go, more-more-more lifestyle, I was definitely burning the candle at both ends (and my body told me so with recurring tension headaches). So it was truly an eye-opener when I encountered the Enneagram and learned that:

  • Each of the nine Enneagram personality types perceives their world through its own distinctive lens. Some types’ lenses are more sensitive to emotion, some to intellect, and some to instinct.
  • Each type is motivated by a particular driving energy that, early in life, creates a defining cluster of personality patterns that serve as one’s survival mechanism. (E.g. one type is driven by the energy of anger, one by pride, one by envy, etc.)
  • The energy driving my type is intensity! As it turns out, all those familiar patterns of mine are actually related. They function like the spokes of an ever-spinning wheel, driven by a hub of intensity. This realization was a major light bulb for me. Many light bulbs later, my tension headaches were no more, and my life has been qualitatively better.

Because this transformative wisdom has been of such benefit in my life and that of others, I enjoy sharing it. Each month Becketwood’s Enneagram discussion group gathers to share stories and insights of how the Enneagram is working in our lives. We are also fortunate that one of the most active chapters of the International Enneagram Association meets often at the nearby Carondolet Center in St. Paul.

Rev. Nhien Dougherty, J.D., a Horney mediator, describes her experience: “Through the Enneagram, I learned that the mind is its own prison, fueled by fear and an instinct for self-preservation. My opportunities for joy were suppressed because of old, limiting beliefs.” Since the Enneagram enables us to observe our own imprisoning paradigm of beliefs and behaviors, this awareness creates wiser choices.

Some call this old paradigm of personality patterns the false self, which, like a heavy cloud cover, can obscure our true self. However, our true self like the sun remains ever present within. In his writings, Thomas Merton explains: “True self is the self with which we arrive on earth, the self that simply wants us to be who we were born to be. True self tells us who we are and how we can grow more fully into our own potential.” With its gift of awareness, helping to free us from the “box” of our false self, and allowing our true self to shine, the Enneagram continues to be part of humanity’s evolution toward higher forms of consciousness.

If this opportunity intrigues you, please feel free to sign up on the ledge and join us on October 16 for “The Enneagram: Voyage of Discovery.” Sponsored by the Program Committee, this event will feature the excellent PBS special “Breaking Out of the Box,” beginning at 7:30 pm in the Windsor Room. Please see the north bulletin board and the October Becketwood Times for more information.


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