Back in 1999 it was coming up to Millennium Eve; I was single and wondering how I was going to mark this momentous day in the calendar. Then on 10th December I met up with some friends in a bar and was introduced to a man.
From that point the evening really took off, the conversation flowed and the energy between us sparkled. Although coming from quite different worlds, we found many shared interests, it was like we were inhabiting our own unique bubble in an otherwise crowded bar. Despite being quite cynical about stories of love at first sight, there was definitely something afoot that night.
I left with a deep sense of knowing that I had just met the person with whom I would spend the rest of my life.
A few days after, a package arrived in the post. I’d never heard of Amazon at this point, so it was like Christmas had come early! In the package was a book sent from my new friend – The Wisdom of the Enneagram – by Don Riso & Russ Hudson.
I remember sitting in bed that morning with a cup of tea, taking up his invitation to complete the typology tests at the start of each chapter. Having not spent much time on either personal development or introspection up until this point, I excitedly reported back to him that I was a an Enneatype 7 – the Enthusiast – in Riso and Hudson’s language – aka the Adventurer or Epicure in other authors. And maybe just at that moment in my life it was true, as for the first and probably only period in my life I did seem to adopt more of the 7 traits!
Within the next 5 months, I had sold my house and bought an expensive new property jointly with my new partner.
During this brief courtship we didn’t exactly spend much time together! I was working fulltime as a director and bringing up my 10 year old daughter, he was travelling for work, so it wasn’t until the following summer when we began living together for the first time in our new house that we started really getting to know each other.
At this point in my life I did everything at high speed. At weekends, I liked to get up early, go for a run, grab a quick bite, get on with the household chores, achieve something on my never ending task list and then sit down with an air of satisfaction by early evening with a glass of wine for some R&R.
In contrast I found myself living with a man who at weekends liked to sleep in until 10.00 am, rise slowly, spend time chopping fruit and grinding coffee to create a sumptuous breakfast to be enjoyed while reading the weekend papers. Followed by maybe a little Eurosport or a walk in the sunshine depending on the weather. Then around 5.30 pm, when I was about to collapse from the day’s exhaustion, he would decide to maybe mow the lawn or tackle one of the smaller jobs on the task list.
It didn’t take long before I found myself sitting alone in the garden early one Sunday morning wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
We were clearly totally incompatible, how could I ever live with someone with such a lazy, self-indulgent approach to life?
That’s when I picked up the Enneagram book again and this time read it more thoroughly.
Taking my reading at a slower pace, I found that I was not a 7 at all; rather my habitual style was that of an Enneagram 3 – the Achiever aka the Performer. As I read the chapter it was like it had been written specifically for me – the attempts to build self-worth through constant achievement, the constant reinvention of self to try to win the approval of others, over working, burnout, the overriding of my feelings in order to continue functioning, the constant driving of self to be the best, the motto of work first and if there is any energy and/or time left, then I might be allowed to relax.
I felt physically sick reading the chapter – yes it was definitely me but it didn’t look pretty! Worst of all the practises suggested – slowing down, being part of a team not leading it, creating things but not showing anyone – all felt like the exact opposite of what I would usually do to try to make myself happy!
Not only did I not love the Enneagram at this point, I really couldn’t stand myself either!
In contrast I read the Enneagram 7, which turned out to be my new partner’s type – here it described his love of travel and adventure, his curiosity for life, his optimism and interest in everything new. His love of quality foods, his need to indulge himself in the good life, his fear of missing out on pleasurable experiences, a “play first – work later” approach to life.
I wanted to throw the book away in disgust as I realised for the first time – who was the fool here?
While granted I did get a lot done, I certainly wasn’t enjoying my weekends anywhere near as much as he did.
It was at this point that I started on the long and often arduous journey of personal development using the Enneagram personality typology as a guide. Working with both an Enneagram coach and training with Riso and Hudson to become an Enneagram Practitioner myself.
What I learned from the Enneagram : –
• That we were actually compatible life partners, but it would take a complete change of approach by me, not to see my way as right and his wrong
• An understanding that both of our Enneatypes and their approaches to life are equally valid – just different
• To actually discuss and agree how to communicate when we inevitably defaulted back to type
• How once we’ve found our Enneatype, it is common to believe ours is the worst possible type, all others look so much nicer
• About the levels of psychological health for each type and how with patience, time and effort we can transform our lived experience and start living more consciously
• How easy it is to default to habitual behaviour patterns which take us down the psychological levels of health
• That it takes years and years to recognise and work with the various aspects of our types and that the Enneagram can gently guide and support us through this life’s work
• That the Enneagram is a thoroughly well researched body of work which doesn’t put us in a typology box like many other systems, but instead is a map to help us locate ourselves and the gently guide us through the labyrinth of life into a place of greater freedom and choice
I can honestly say that during the 18 years since I first was introduced to the Enneagram there has rarely been a day when it’s wisdom hasn’t informed my life’s journey. I feel deeply blessed to have studied not only with Riso and Hudson, being in attendance at the last ever training in Europe given by Don Riso, but also with preeminent Enneagram teachers Sandra Maitri and A H Almaas.
In turn, I have introduced hundreds of clients to the Enneagram over the past 10 years and know for many of these people it has been a life changing discovery for them too.
And that is why 18 years on I am still in love, both with the Enneagram and the man who sent me the original book back in 1999, my husband Cato.
Suggested reading: –
The Essential Enneagram – Daniels & Price – a brilliant short book which contains a typology test and some excellent life practises
The Wisdom of the Enneagram – Riso & Hudson – a more in depth guide that will still be informing your journey years in to the future
The Enneagram in Love and Work – Palmer – there are some excellent descriptions in this book of how couples interact both in work and home relationships.
The Enneagram Made Easy – Baron & Wagele – a fun book of cartoons, so much easier to read while also containing pearls of wisdom
The Enneagram of Parenting – Wagele – in a similar style to book above, on understanding who are children are and how to reach them.
Which reminds me of a quote from my then 15 year old after she typed herself as an Enneagram 8 –
Mum, of all the psychobabble shit you do, this is the bit that works!!!
(Personally I would refrain from reading books by either Sandra Maitri or A H Almaas until you have thoroughly digested other material. While written by utterly brilliant minds, these books were complete gobbledygook to me for about the first 10 years!)