How To Transform Your Life Through The Enneagram Of Personality
By Louise Phipps Senft
Author of the bestseller Being Relational
Chapter 3 excerpt
Here is how to take the Enneagram inventory. Below are nine paragraphs from which to choose one paragraph that is most like you. The idea is to land on one type that is most like you to further your study of yourself and to deepen your understanding of the source of your personal reactivity and your gifts for conflict transformation. Knowing your Type can also nurture your personal path towards greater human development with others. Taking the Inventory takes about ten to fifteen (10-15) minutes to complete.
The basis of my inventory is the scientific work of Dr. David Daniels’ and his inventory found in the Essential Enneagram book, from the teaching materials of the Association of Teachers in the Narrative Tradition, of which I am a part, and from the subtype learnings articulated by Peter O’Hanrahan and Beatrice Chestnut both derived from the early work of Claudio Naranjo. There are several Enneagram inventories now found in books and on the Internet. As a student and then later a teacher in the Association of Teachers in the Narrative Tradition, I had the privilege to work with and be mentored by David Daniels. Daniels and Virginia Price created the first Enneagram Inventory to help people identify their types in a simple and accurate way. I have relied on his inventory and been grateful for his allowance that his teaching students use the inventory in their teaching. I have modified the inventory based on what the thousands of my students, professional leaders, and law, business, and medical students have reported. I have also included in my inventory the subtypes of each Type that, up until recent times, either have been overlooked or have confounded many individuals and Enneagram teachers, but which help to unlock a deeper understanding of the instincts that drive all human beings which are expressed uniquely by each Type. I am indebted to Daniels not only for his original inventory but for his caring teaching and nurturing of me and of us, his students, in the Narrative Tradition. David Daniels died in 2018, and I miss him.
For more information on the validation of the nine Types and Type probability, see D. Daniels and V. Price, The Essential Enneagram (2009).
A. I approach things in an all-or-nothing way, especially issues that matter to me. I place a lot of value on being strong, honest, and dependable. What you see is what you get. I do not trust others until they have proven themselves to be reliable. I like people to be direct with me, and I know when someone is being devious, lying, or trying to manipulate me. I have a hard time tolerating weakness in people, unless I understand the reason for their weakness, or I see that they are trying to do something about it. I also have a hard time following orders or direction if I do not respect or agree with the person in authority. I am much better at taking charge myself. I find it difficult not to display my feelings when I am angry. I am always ready to stick up for friends or loved ones, especially if I think they are being treated unjustly. I may not win every battle with others, but they will know I have been there. I have a soft side but not too many people know that and that is fine with me. I have been called a bull in the china shop. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: survival with a strong need to get what is mine and an intolerance for frustration, solidarity in shielding others from unjust authority figures while moving towards power and pleasure for myself, or possession of the whole scene with my being the center of things with intensity in relationships.
B. I have high internal standards for correctness, and I expect myself to live up to those standards. It is easy for me to see what’s wrong with things as they are and to see how they could be improved. I may come across to some people as overly critical or demanding perfection, but it is hard for me not to ignore or accept things that are not done the right way. I pride myself on the fact that if I am responsible for doing something, you can be sure I’ll do itright. I sometimes have feelings of resentment when people do not try to do things properly or when people act irresponsibly or unfairly, although I usually try not to show it to them openly. For me, it is usually work before pleasure, and I suppress my desires as necessary to get the work done. I tend to be serious and can be intense to make something good or better. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: worry and a need to have everything under control, non-adaptability with needing to model the right way to do things and to be, or a zeal to reform and perfect others with an intensity to improve to connect with them.
C. I seem to be able to see all points of view easily. I may even appear indecisive at times because I can see advantages and disadvantages on all sides. The ability to see all sides makes me good at helping people resolve their differences or fix what is broken. This same ability can sometimes lead me to be more aware of other people’s positions, agendas, and personal priorities than I am of my own. It is not unusual for me to become distracted and then to get off task on the important things I am trying to do. When that happens, my attention is often diverted to unimportant, trivial tasks. I have a hard time knowing what is important to me, and I avoid conflict by going along with what others want or by seeking comfort. People tend to consider me easy-going, pleasing, and agreeable. It takes a lot to get me to the point of showing my anger directly at someone. I like a distinctive type of humor. I like for life to be comfortable and harmonious and for others to be accepting of me. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: my appetite to be totally absorbed in something I enjoy that is often physical with alone time, participation with and sacrifice for a group or family out of fear of not fitting in with them, or fusion with others so as not to be lonely on my own.
D. I am sensitive to other people’s feelings. I can see what they need, even when I do not know them. Sometimes it is frustrating to be so aware of people’s needs, especially their pain or unhappiness, because I’m not able to do as much for them as I’d like to. It is easy for me to give of myself. I sometimes wish I were better at saying no, because I end up putting more energy into caring for others than into taking care of myself. It hurts my feelings if people think I am trying to manipulate or control them when all I’m trying to do is understand and help them. I can see what they need, often when they cannot see it for themselves. I like to be a warmhearted and good person, but when I am not taken into account or appreciated, I can become very emotional, pushy, or even demanding. Good relationships mean a great deal to me, and I am willing to work hard to make them happen. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: me first attitude to gain privileges and affection by acting childlike, ambition as an adult leader with influence and advantages, or seduction to inspire the attraction of others.
E. Being the best at what I do is a strong motivator for me, and I have received a lot of recognition over the years for my accomplishments. I get a lot done and am successful in almost everything I take on. I identify strongly with what I do, because to a large extent I think your value is based on what you accomplish and the recognition you get for it. I always have more to do than will fit into the time available, so I often set aside feelings and self-reflection to get things done. Because there is always something to do, I find it hard to just sit and do nothing. I get impatient with people who do not use my time or my resources well. Sometimes if I care about it, I will rather just take over a project someone is completing too slowly or incompetently. I like to feel and appear “on top” of any situation. While I like to compete, I am also a good team player and cheerleader. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: creating security by being self-reliant and virtuous having vanity for not having vanity, creating prestige to project the right image to be successful to get things done, or being attractive as masculinity/femininity to attract, support and promote others.
F. I would characterize myself as a quiet, analytical person who needs more time alone than most people do. I usually prefer to observe what is going on rather than be involved in the middle of it. I do not like people to place too many demands on me or to expect me to know and report what I am feeling. I am able to get in touch with my feelings better when alone than with others, and I often enjoy experiences I’ve had more when reliving them then when actually going through them. I am a sensitive person, but I tend to experience my emotions in my head. Some people might experience me as aloof. I am almost never bored when alone because I have an active mental life. It is important for me to protect my time and energy and, hence, to live a simple, uncomplicated life and be as self-sufficient as possible. I am a good systems thinker and can make sense of large complicated data sets more easily than other people. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: creating a sanctuary and boundaries so I can withdraw, searching for the super ideal and the extraordinary person socially but losing direct contact with the everyday, or having confidence in and passion for one ideal person making me quite romantic with a vibrant inner life.
G. I have a vivid imagination, especially when it comes to what might be threatening to safety and security. I can usually spot what could be dangerous or harmful and may either experience as much fear as if it were really happening, or just question or challenge the situation and not experience fear. I either tend to avoid danger or tend to challenge it head-on. In fact, sometimes I do not experience much fear since I go into action with little hesitation. My imagination also leads to my ingenuity and a good, if somewhat offbeat, sense of humor. I would like for life to be more certain, but in general I seem to doubt or question the people and things around me. I can usually see the shortcomings in the view someone is putting forward. I suppose that, therefore, some people may consider me to be very astute. I tend to be suspicious of authority and am not particularly comfortable being the authority. Because I can see what is wrong with the generally held view of things, I tend to identify with underdog causes. I can easily assume the worst and find it difficult to be positive. Once I have committed myself to a person or cause, I am very loyal to it. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: being warm and humorous with others for protection, being dutiful to others bringing black and white thinking to know the good guys vs the bad guys, being bold and fierce through strength or intimidation or beauty.
H. I am an optimistic person who enjoys coming up with new and interesting things to do. I have a highly active mind that quickly moves back and forth between different ideas. I like to get a global picture of how all these ideas fit together, and I get excited when I can connect concepts that initially do not appear to be related. I like to work on things that interest me, and I have a lot of energy to devote to them. I have a hard time sticking with unrewarding and repetitive tasks. I like to be in on the beginning of a project, during the planning phase, when there may be many different options to consider and a clean slate for creativity. When I have exhausted my interest in something, it is difficult for me to stay with it, because I want to move on to the next thing that has captured my interest. If something gets me down, I prefer to shift my attention to more pleasant ideas. I believe people are entitled to an enjoyable life. I am attracted to egalitarianism and freedom of expression. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: banding together with others to create advantage and networking to make good deals at every opportunity, sacrificing my own needs by viewing myself as an anti-glutton so that I can be good, or dreaming and imagining to embellish my reality including being suggestible for fantasy.
I. I am a sensitive person with intense feelings. I often feel misunderstood and lonely because I feel different from everyone else. My behavior can appear like drama to others, and I have been criticized for being overly sensitive and overamplifying my feelings. What is really going on inside is my longing for both emotional connection and a deeply felt experience of relationship. I have difficulty fully appreciating present relationships because of my tendency to want what I cannot have and to disdain what I do have. The search for emotional connection and meaning in life has been with me all my life, and the absence of emotional connection has led to melancholy and depression. I sometimes wonder why other people seem to have more than I do—better relationships and happier lives. I can push away the very people I want to be close with. I have a refined sense of aesthetics, and I experience a rich world of emotions and meaning. I must work hard at living a life of acceptance and joy. I am motivated by one or all of these things on a regular basis: having endurance to feel pain without wincing, having others noticing me as suffering so they can better understand me, or rebelling against shame while envying others so I stay driven to stay ahead and competitive.
This is the end of the Inventory. Wow, right! Once you choose your top three paragraphs, rank them in order of most like you. Now translate your chosen Paragraph Letters to Numbers.
Having a tough time choosing one paragraph? That is ok. As you are reading the paragraphs, try to recall yourself in your twenties. Or try to recall yourself as you are with others close to you in your life. It can also be indicative of Type itself if you are not able to decide, or if you see yourself in more than three paragraphs, or if you see yourself in most of the paragraphs, or you don’t want to commit to any because you don’t want to be boxed in or you’re not sure about this Enneagram stuff. It is Ok. Just be aware of that.
Try and narrow your selection to three paragraphs. Go ahead and choose! You can do it! You will be that much closer to discovering your one Type!
If one Type really leaps out at you, as if the paragraph has known you for years, note that and still see if you are able to find two other paragraphs that describe you some of the time.
Get ready and anticipate the benefit of identifying your Type. You are about to jumpstart your living a relational life by leaps and bounds. When you discover your Enneagram Type, it will help you change the way you relate to yourself and others in your life. It will also help you learn how to bring positive lasting change into your life. And, if you are interested in living a life that is integrated mentally, emotionally and spiritually, it will propel you on that journey as well.
Congratulations, you are on your way to living a more Grounded and a more Relational Life!
With great gratitude, I am sharing with you what I have learned and taught others and learned again in a new way day after day, year after year. I am indebted to learnings from David Daniels, and also to my longest Enneagram mentor, Helen Palmer, and the fellow Enneagram teachers in the Bergamo Enneagram Community which Palmer leads, of which I am part, along with other lead teachers Terry Saracino and Marion Gilbert.
I scoured the works of others to understand the phenomenon of what I would witness repeatedly as the “as if for the first time” personal growth emotional shifts that can happen in the blink of an eye and seem to cut through years of mental health work, all as a result of the development of the self-observer. What I found was that other authors and researchers had written about and described some of what I saw in the mediation room at the negotiation table, but none of them had fully captured everything I saw and witnessed. I am speaking about some of my favorites: Stephen Covey, Adele Faber, Byron Katie, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Seigel and so on. They each had a perfect slice of a large picture, but it was just a slice. I wanted the whole cake.
I wanted to amalgamate their writings and see if all together, they could explain what I witnessed in my transformative mediation practice weekly, daily. Much to my surprise and delight, that study and synthetization yielded something new. What emerged was what we now call Relational Practice and Being Relational.
Thanks to those who helped with my previous book, Being Relational, which is a whole system, with seven ways to be in interaction, the easy interactions, and the difficult and complex interactions, I was informed by the writings and research of many, and I tested those insights in the social science laboratory at Baltimore Mediation with thousands of people experiencing conflict. What emerged was a way to be: Being Relational. It covers the gamut.
Discovering your inner-observer and developing your Awareness increase the likelihood of your being relational, daily. Welcome and enjoy!