Enneagram Anyone?

I don’t know about everyone else, but the first week of this shelter at home craziness made me feel very discombobulated and out of sorts.  I didn’t have a routine, I was constantly worried about messing up a new system, and I was anxious. Anxious about being able to do my job well and connect well with all of you.  Anxious about going to work in the hospital. I found myself constantly on edge, waiting for the ball to drop.  

I got a similar vibe from my patients.  It was just a universal uncertainty. Although I found a little of that this week, it seems to me that most of us have adapted and found a new version of normal.  It might change again (hopefully for the better – hopefully soon), but we’ve made the big huge transition and survived it. Woo hoo!

Although I was initially fascinated with all of the pandemic news at first, I quickly realized that scrolling through social media and listening to podcasts were increasing my anxiety.  A lot. I’m now giving myself 10 minutes a day to browse and learn. Enough to feel caught up but not enough to take me down a rabbit hole of terror.  

Instead, I’m focusing on other things.  I have some lectures coming up and working on those makes me feel productive and optimistic.  I’m spending more time with my kids. I’m reading more books. I’m working outside in the yard (when it isn’t icy and ridiculously cold!).  I’ve already managed to acquire my first case of poison ivy – which means it’s officially spring!  

One of the things that I recently revisited is something called the Enneagram.  The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that teaches that there are nine basic personality types.  Although we each carry traits of all nine types, we all have one type that we naturally gravitate to and use to cope and navigate the world and relationships.  Each Enneagram type has an observable different type of thinking, feeling and acting that arises from a powerful unconscious motivation. 

Unlike a lot of other personality tests or classifying systems, the Enneagram doesn’t try to put us into a box.  Instead, it usually tells us about the box we are already in – and how to get out of it. By understanding our type and recognizing the characteristics of it, we can learn to stop the repetitive, self-defeating behaviors that hurt us and others.  

Do you have a little voice inside your head that says things like:

“I’m just so emotional all the time”  or

“I hate it when I’m a jerk”  or 

“I wish people understood me more” or 

“Why do i always let people take advantage of me”?

The Enneagram helps us understand why we react to situations and people the way we do.  By becoming self aware, we can learn how to create patterns that are less reactive and more productive.  We can become more enlightened people!  

We can also use our knowledge of others’ Enneagram type to have more productive interactions with them.  Some businesses have all of their employees take an Enneagram quiz – then they display their Enneagram type on their desk or their badge or their office door – so that others can use that information to communicate with them as well as possible.  

I am not an expert on the Enneagram but it’s been something that I’ve wanted to learn more about for a long time.  It has been my dream to have all of my patients’ Enneagram types listed at the top of their chart – along with their height and weight and drug allergies.  I like to think that it would help me individualize treatment plans and recommendations better.  

There’s no great way to simply figure out your type by consulting a chart.  It’s not like a horoscope. You have to take a test. Thankfully, there are a lot of different Enneagram tests available online.  The paid ones obviously go much deeper than the freebie ones – but you have to pay for them! However, this one is pretty darn good and is priced at only $12

https://tests.enneagraminstitute.com/  (make sure and do the RHETI one – not the instinctual variant questionnaire)

If you don’t want to spend the money (I get it, it’s a pandemic!), you will likely have to give a site your email address to get results.  The site will then bombard you with marketing emails until you unsubscribe, but we’ve all done that before and lived through it, right?

Here are some of the decent freebie ones:

https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

https://enneagramtest.net/

http://enneagramuserguide.com/enneagram-tests

https://app.trueself.io/landing?testName=enneagramv2&enneagramdaily=1

If you are sticking with the free tests, I would recommend taking several of them to make sure your results are fairly consistent across the board.  And, keep in mind that whichever test you take, you want to answer honestly, not with how you wish you actually behave and think.  These tests (even the fancy paid ones) can only give you meaningful results if you’re honest with yourself!

Here’s a really simple, basic snapshot of each of the nine types:  

  1. Reformer – The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic
  2. Helper – The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive
  3. Achiever – The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious
  4. Individualist – The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental
  5. Investigator – The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
  6. Loyalist – The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious
  7. Enthusiast – The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered
  8. Challenger – The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational
  9. Peacemaker – The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

I’ve taken a bunch of these tests and I always come out as an Enneagram one.  It makes sense – ones are typically conscientious, sensible, responsible, idealistic, ethical, serious, self-disciplined, orderly, and feel an obligation to improve themselves and their world.

That’s probably how I ended up where I am today.  Trying to improve the world by helping others overcome excess weight.  Trying to undo all of the terrible misinformation that has destroyed people’s confidence and faith in their ability to improve their health.  Trying to fight big food and big business. Trying to reclaim the patient-doctor relationship in medicine. Trying to help all of you be the best version of yourself that you can be!  I hope it helps. Doing what I do certainly feeds my soul in a very positive way!

be strong – be healthy – be happy
Courtney Younglove, M.D.