It has been said that what we don’t know can’t hurt us. […] The real truth is that what we don’t know does hurt us! Eilis Bergin & Eddie Fitzgerald
For decades, we’ve used personality tests to help us see more clearly into who we are as well as what motivates our decisions and actions. In my coaching practice, I employ the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for just these purposes, and it has been a useful self-discovery and personal development tool for my clients and me. I think the key with any personality test is to remember not to rigidly pigeonhole oneself to a specific type.
In attempting to understand what makes us tick, it is important to recognize the first half of our life is about building our skills and capacity to survive. Fortunately, the second half of our life is the opportunity to now question whether we still need the survival skills adopted from the time spent with our families of origin. At this point, we typically find ourselves asking, “Is there a more hopeful, courageous path free of the compulsions (conditioning and addictions) we picked up along the way?” And, “Is thriving as integral to our growth process as suffering was?” If we choose to journey down new paths, we discover one cannot be without the other.
Choosing to thrive rather than merely survive requires us to dig deeper into ourselves as we really are, not as we have pretended to be. Our expressed behaviours more than likely emerged from the “fixated” mask we showed to deny or hide our vices — fear, anger, envy, laziness, lust, gluttony, greed, deceit or pride. The path out of our wounds and brokenness into integration can be greatly revealed by personality tools such as the MBTI or the Enneagram, which help us to face the truth about ourselves.
What interested me in the Enneagram, a more ancient personality framework, was its claim that we are not a product of our behaviour, thoughts or feelings. These are merely the superficial manifestations of a much deeper driving force. For someone who is interested in getting to the source of the matter, this appeals. As the Enneagram espouses, our “personality, values and vices” are driven by our often subconscious, core motivations. These motivations are encompassed as nine focused patterns, which indicate how “the different personalities look at the world.” The Enneagram’s nine patterns — numbers or archetypes — and motivations are listed below.
- Perfectionist live life right & avoid anger
- Helper be loved & avoid being seen as needy
- Achiever be productive & avoid failure
(or Competitive Achiever)
- Artist be understood & avoid being ordinary
(or Romantic; Intense Creative)
- Observer know everything & avoid looking foolish
(or Quiet Specialist; Thinker)
- Supporter receive approval & avoid being seen as rebellious
(or Loyal Sceptic; Questioner)
- Optimist be happy; avoid pain & suffering
(or Enthusiastic Visionary; Adventurer)
- Leader be self-reliant & avoid being weak
(or Active Controller; Asserter)
- Mediator keep the peace & avoid conflict
In my research of the four books referenced below, each offers its own archetypal names. Although there are differences in categorizing and testing content, the essence of each underlying pattern remains the same. Furthermore, what is clearly emphasized is the fact that in our marvellous uniqueness, no one can be simply reduced to identification with a number or archetype. It is a “false notion that we are that pattern rather than that we have that pattern.” So, rather than identifying with a number or archetype, view the pattern you resonate with as indicating why you do what you do. That is, rather than focusing on your observable behaviour, focus on your fundamental assumptions (compulsions) about life and decide whether you want to change them.
. . . letting go of our ego [compulsion; motivating force] allows us to see that certain things make us mad, sad or glad. Above all, it allows us to ask the all-important question, “Why?” […] If we’re trapped in a compulsion, addiction or fixation we’re really in a kind of psychological prison. Eilis Bergin & Eddie Fitzgerald
Interested in learning more about your Enneagram pattern? Reading any of the books below will increase your self-awareness as long as you are willing to remain open.
For more on transformation and self-discovery tools, you can also click here.
Baron, Renee & Wagele, Elizabeth. 1994. The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People.
Bergin, Eilis & Fitzgerald, Eddie. 1995. An Enneagram Guide: A Spirituality of Love in Brokenness.
Riso, Don Richard & Hudson, Russ. 2003. Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery.
Riso, Don Richard & Hudson, Russ. 1999. The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personalities.