As with any tool, we can use the Enneagram well or not. How well we use any tool will determine how it shapes our growth and development. There is massive opportunity for deep growth from the Enneagram, but it’s complexity and depth can also create confusion. Add to that how popular it has become in recent years and how many people are claiming to be “experts” or “teachers”, and we have a recipe for potential disaster…ok, disaster may be a strong word choice, but I am a type 6. I talk about this in my previous post on how to grow with the Enneagram, but correctly typing yourself is a critical first step in using this tool. I still stand by the fact that a typing interview with someone knowledgeable is the best way to uncover your dominant type, so if you are interested in this, click the “book an appointment” button at the top of the page. But in this post, I want to hit on a few key ways people misuse this tool.
1 – The Wrong Focus
It’s easy to get distracted with the many facets of the Enneagram. The beauty of the tool is it’s depth and variety, but our biggest growth opportunity lies in the passion and fixation of our dominant type. I’ve seen people get wrapped up in discussing and analyzing wings and arrows; they actually start using those as a way to distract from the growth opportunities associated with their dominant type. For example, I most associate with type 6 on the Enneagram, but my 5 wing is very strong. I can easily get distracted from potential growth by explaining away my behavior as my 5 wing showing up, when in reality, it’s just another coping mechanism I have developed to avoid facing my fear. We can do the same thing with the arrows. I can run to structure (type 3) to avoid my fear or I can run to harmony (type 9) to avoid my fear, but the point is that I’m still avoiding my fear and embracing my ego structure instead of allowing awareness of that ego structure to fuel my growth. For a 6, that looks like moving away from fear and into courage.
2 – The Wrong Identity
The other thing I have seen people do is embrace their ego structure as their identity, instead of understanding that the ego structure of their type is not their true self. I’ll use type 6 as an example again. Type 6 ego structure says, “I will always be afraid, I will always doubt myself, I will always look brave on the outside by following the rules or doing brave looking behaviors, but on the inside I’m really afraid.” When in essence, type 6 are the most courageous and most confidant of the 9 types. If I embrace fear as my identity, then I cut myself off to the growth and development that the Enneagram provides.