How the Enneagram Helped Heal Me
The year was 2016.
I affectionately call it my year of healing. It was the year I decided I needed to talk with a counselor. It was the year that I began to question all the ways I had ever tried to earn people’s favor and who I was when I didn’t. It was the year that I began to see myself through the eyes of other women who would listen well and reflect my soul back to me.
It was the year I chose honesty and vulnerability over hiding.
One morning, as I lay in bed, I offhandedly mentioned to my husband that I had been learning about this thing called “The Enneagram” on a Facebook page that I followed. I was curious about which of the 9 types of personalities I would fall under. I told him I thought I’d like to learn more about this tool.
Imagine my surprise when my husband responded, “Oh yeah – I just bought a book about that. It’s right over there.”
That moment marked a shift in understanding for me. It also marked the last time my husband saw his book, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”, for months. I was hooked.
It didn’t take long before I was able to identify myself as a Type 4 – The Individualist. Actual phrases I had said in my counselor’s office in recent months, like “I struggle with feeling unseen” popped up throughout the description.
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Weaknesses and Strengths
I recognized the characteristics and weaknesses of a 4 in myself, such as someone who focuses on their feelings often, is seeking significance and fears abandonment. Truth be told though, I was surprised to discover that these qualities were more unique to my personality than to others. Light bulb moment.
But what took me by greater surprise was the description of a 4’s strengths. Had I not taken the risk to step foot into a counselor’s office that year, I might not have recognized the validity of them. Words like “self-revealing, creative, self-renewing, redemptive and revelatory” jumped off the page at me. I knew that these were desires in my heart, but I had not ever named them as good – maybe even holy – desires. This was news to me.
In fact, I had spent a good part of my life pushing down that part of me. “Dreamer” was a word I often used to describe the ways my personality conflicted with the everyday demands of life. I saw these tendencies as a nuisance. No one had ever told me they were actually my super power.
The English word personality is derived from the Latin word for “mask”. In essence, our personality is the mask we wear. We wear the mask because it seems to fit well, until it doesn’t. And then we begin to wonder “Who am I really?” and “Why do I feel so far from that person?”
As I scribbled pages and pages of notes from this book in my journal, a theme began to emerge. Because of the wounds and misguided beliefs I had picked up in life, I had actually attempted to cover up the “unacceptable” parts of me (in Enneagram terms, my shadow side) while highlighting the “acceptable” parts – all in an effort to prove my worth to myself and to others. As a result, I began to see the ways I had learned to attach to this persona as well as to those who placed value on the gifts that I had to offer.
One of the ways I saw this truth play out is a theme of performance throughout my life. My drive toward earning good grades and awards throughout high school led to a drive to find significance through my work as a blogger in adulthood. While good grades and hard work are not bad things in and of themselves, the belief that they are necessary to earn favor or love is.
The Enneagram helped to put words to both my wounds and my gifts. The question began to surface for me, “What if these wounds are actually an invitation to discover the Me that Jesus loves? What would it look like to love and offer my gifts, not as a way to earn love, but simply because I am loved?”
When one does not rest in their identity as God’s deeply loved child, the only other option for finding value is through sin. Seeking our worth outside of our relationship to God always leads to attachments to other things (or people or beliefs). For some, that sin is obvious and socially unacceptable. For others (like me), it is sneaky and culturally accepted (such as performance or a critical spirit or even religiosity).
It’s all the same though if it keeps us distant from God’s deep, unwavering, everlasting love that defines us and transforms us into the unique design that He intended for us.
This is why the Enneagram is so helpful. The very sin that is at the core of my type (envy) is what I had relied on for so long to create this persona of mine. I thought the motivation that this sin stirred in me was helping me to find my identity, when in reality it was driving me further away from the God who loves me.
And when one discovers that truth, it changes everything.
Me When I Am Free
The Enneagram helped heal me. It wasn’t a magic bullet. It was simply a tool. But this tool combined with counseling, confession, God’s Word and dear friends, became a map toward discovery of the Me When I Am Free.
I will be honest though. Taking the first step away from my attachment to the coping skills of my personality and toward an identity that is defined simply by God’s love is frightening. I have heard some describe it as similar to a trapeze artist who has just let go of the swing. It feels risky, unknown, and downright frightening to release that rope. It goes against my instincts to let go of what I am sure of, and there is a moment of panic, of wishing I could just keep holding on.
And yet there is no other way to fly.
This moment of release doesn’t just happen once either. Unfortunately, the pull toward familiar sin patterns didn’t simply go away for me once I recognized what it was. The pressures of guilt, shame, stress, anxiety, fear can readily pull me back into my old coping mechanisms. But the more I experience the joy of being caught by the Catcher, the more ready I am to let go.
I love how C.S. Lewis put it best, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be…It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”
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Recommended Enneagram Resources
Beth McCord | Your Enneagram Coach:
Ian Morgan Cron: