Being a therapist, I value transformational work. Over the past 10+ years I have studied the Enneagram, a holistic system based on many ancient wisdom traditions combined with modern psychology. For me, it’s a model of personal transformation that leads to a path for growth.
The Enneagram is a geometric figure, stemming from the Greek for ‘nine’—ennea—and ‘figure’—grams, giving us the ‘9 pointed figure’. The actual origins of the symbol have been lost to history, though many of the abstract ideas, geometry and mathematical derivation suggest it has roots in classical Greek thought (Riso Hudson).
In the early 1900s, Greek-Armenian born teacher and philosopher Ivanovich Gurdijeff brought the Enneagram symbol to light. Through his teachings of psychology, spirituality and cosmology Gurdijeff enlightened students to their place in the world and purpose for life.
It wasn’t until the 1950s when Oscar Ichazo discovered the connection between the symbol and personality types that the wisdom of the Enneagram formed what we know of it today. Ichazo unlocked the connection to the 9 passions, based on the 7 deadly sins plus fear and deceit to further describe each persons tendency to ‘miss the mark’ in some way or, as a therapist I like to call it ‘distort’ our thinking, feeling and doing in ways that cause us to lose center.
In 1970, Claudio Naranjo, a noted psychiatrist who used gestalt therapeutic techniques, studied with Ichazo to further develop and teach the Enneagram which grew in popularity throughout the western world. From there, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, along with other authors, have spent countless hours developing further material to succinctly categorize the 9 personality types for us who long to grow in self discovery.
The Enneagram presents 9 personalty types and where each of us may recognize within ourselves behaviors from each type, there are defining characteristics of one that dominates.
What I love about the Enneagram is how holistic and thorough it is. Generally, when clients are new to the Enneagram, I urge them to gather the information, learn about the primary instincts, read about the types, take a test, but more importantly, sit with the information awhile, talk to others who know you best and see what resonates.
A helpful resource to start with is The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels.
If you’re interested in learning more, click the link below to find out how Heather can lead an Enneagram training for your group or organization!
About the Author
Heather Mitchell is a licensed mental health counselor with Star Meadow Counseling. One of her career passions is studying and teaching the Enneagram as a tool for self-growth.