The Essential Enneagram, Lynette Sheppard
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Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

1. Why should I learn about my Enneagram point? How can it help me?

As we learn about our habitual way of being in the world, we can transform our habit from a stumbling block (albeit one that has aided us as children) to our greatest gift. In other words, we move from unconscious behavior to conscious behavior. We run our habit, rather than it running us. The most compelling reason is to become our best self, to live and love to the fullest of our abilities.

2. How does it help me to learn about the other points on the

As we begin to learn the very different ways of perceiving the world, without judgement; we learn to listen carefully to others point of view. We gain tremendous compassion for all the ways of perceiving, including our own. We begin to experience others "as they are to themselves" and to see the tremendous beauty of each way of being. It's almost like being in someone else's skin for a short time. Our relationships improve by leaps and bounds when we begin to listen carefully for a tune other than our own. Whether we "nail the point"or figure out someone's Enneagram type is completely unimportant. We simply begin to truly hear other viewpoints and value them as we do our own. We all want to be heard and valued for who we are. The Enneagram gives us a framework for doing just that. We find a way to honor and love the diversity of ourselves and others.

3. Aren't people likely to start putting people in boxes, pigeonholing them, or sticking them in categories with the Enneagram?

Any system, even a good one, can be misused. However, we all categorize every day. Man/woman; black/asian; small/large; quick/slow; athletic/sedentary. Of course, we try to look beyond our simple categorizations to the human being beyond them. Categories are our way of making sense and order out of our world. But we need to hold them loosely, seeing them for the very incomplete picture that they are. So it is with the Enneagram. No 2 snowflakes are alike, though they have much in common. No 2 people are alike in all ways, ever. At first, your enthusiasm for the Enneagram may cause you to "run rampant" typing people. Relax. Hold it lightly. It's just a phase that will pass when you begin to learn more about the complexities of the Enneagram or look past the point to the individual. One word of caution: this phase of typing people or "speaking in numbers" can be extremely annoying to friends and family who may not share your enthusiasm.

4. How do I change my behavior to become my best self?

While there are exercises that are helpful for each point, change happens gradually as a result of activating and strengthening our inner observer. We become aware of our patterns and that very awareness changes them to their best expression. There is no effort involved. In fact, psychological and spiritual growth cannot be forced or rushed. It's similar to Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty ( I know you all have this on the tip of your tongues!) "The mere act of watching [subatomic particles] changes behavior. The observer changes the observed." So it is with the Enneagram. By watching ourselves, our thoughts, deeds, feelings; we begin to unravel the mystery of why we do and see as we do. We open ourselves to a greater vision and a larger self. We move toward wholeness and fulfillment.

5. Which Enneagram Point or type is the best to be?

No point is better or worse than any other. Like us, they are just different. And as you continue to explore, you find that there are many flavors of each point, and subtypes, and on and on. Soon, we can see beyond the Enneagram to the snowflake experience.

6. Where did the Enneagram originate?

Some scholars have traced it back as far as 10,000 years. This oral tradition has been thought to be intricately woven into the Kabbalah, and most recently believed used by Sufi mystics.. This sacred information was given to the West only recently and refined by psychologists (1960's and 70's), who synthesized it into its present form. Although many books have been written about the Enneagram, most teachers believe it can still only be learned through the oral tradition. However, books can give helpful background information to augment oral teachings.

7. What is a Wing?

Each point also accesses the energy of one of the two points next to it on the diagram. For example, a Seven may have a Six Wing or an Eight Wing. While they will still have primarily Seven views and behaviors, their personality will be flavored by Six or Eight and they will look quite different. Most people have one Wing point that is dominant, although at some time in their life, they access the energy from the other wing point.

8. Explain the movement to Stress Point and Heart Point?

When habitual behavior is not effective in relieving stress or anxiety, we move to our stress point (the arrows on most Enneagram diagrams). This allows us to take action to alleviate the stress. Stress points are not bad per se, they help us by giving us other resources to deal with life's issues. However, accessing the less desirable traits of our stress point can lead to unwanted consequences when we are totally unconscious of them. As we become more conscious, we may find ourselves utilizing more of the gifts of our stress point without being run by it.

When we are secure, we move to our heart point (the opposite direction on the diagram). Often we take on the more positive, beneficial traits of our heart point as we grow and evolve. It is possible to experience the "low side" of your heart point. Again, all we need do is notice. The inner observer makes it possible for us to live consciously and joyfully, with full access to our gifts and strengths.

9. What if I can't figure out what point I am?

Often, people can narrow it down to one or two, even three points they feel describe them. Take your time. Most of us have little experience with the inner observer in our culture (unless we are long time meditators). As you observe more, you'll be able to identify patterns and come closer to your point. It's less important that you know your point right away than that you observe your feelings, thoughts, and habitual ways of acting and perceiving. You can also have a trained Enneagram teacher/counselor help by conducting a typing interview to help illuminate your point with you. See resources section for listing of teachers.



Lynette Sheppard & Associates

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