Monday, March 28, 2011

Preview of Coming Attractions: The A to Z Challenge

For many years, I’ve been a student of the Enneagram, which is a personality typing system. If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs, it’s a little like that, except I find using the Enneagram to be about 100 times better in terms of understanding myself, others, and for understanding how to create characters.

The Enneagram sorts personality into Nine basic styles. From there, each type has two wings—the styles on either side of the number, a stress point and an integration point. Besides all of that, people fall into one of three Instinctual Subtypes.

It’s the 27 Instinctual Subtypes that I’ll focus on in the challenge.

If you’re interested in determining your own Enneagram style, there are various online tests for the Enneagram. Each type has good traits, bad traits, and downright ugly traits. Each type also has a potential for greatness, a particular gift that your type best bestows upon the world.

While you might be thinking the purpose of knowing your style is to become a better example of your style, that is NOT why we study the Enneagram. We all have ALL styles within us. The problem is, in stressful situations, we fall back on a certain paradigm, or Enneagram style, of reaction. You probably know that a definition of insanity is trying to solve a problem the same way, time after time, and getting the same result? Well that’s what we do. We use habitual reaction styles—and get the same results. It’s a recipe for self-defeat.

A sound knowledge of our own reactions, which also known as self-awareness—which is gained through intense scrutiny of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors—gives us a baseline for change. From there, if we thoroughly understand other Enneagram styles, we can step out of our paradigm, or box, and choose a behavior from one of the other styles that serves us better in a given situation. That’s known as transcendence, or growth.

The Enneagram also helps us to understand where someone else is coming from. You might think that everyone thinks and feels and reacts to things the same as you do, but if you do, you are dead wrong.

We all focus on different things in the environment, and use different means to try to gain control, depending on our Enneagram style. Nor is everyone the same within a style. An Enneagram style is like a nationality.

The Enneagram is a map of personality and the State of the Art in personality studies. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and coaches everywhere use it to better understand and help their clients. Lord knows how many books there are on the Enneagram, how many Ph.D. dissertations, and so on. I’ve read 21 books on the subject (nowhere near all of them) and have listened to 78 CDs.

For help in understanding human personality, the Enneagram is second-to-none. For help in understanding characterization in a novel, you couldn’t find a better place to start and end your studies. But it's not a quick study. If you become a student of the Enneagram, expect to go through layers of understanding and growth. It will take a long time to understand your own style. From there, a long time to understand other styles.

But once you have an excellent grasp of it, you will often be able to read someone, or even their blog! like a book.

If you want to start studying the Enneagram, you should first determine your type. For a great overview and introduction to types and a list of online Enneagram tests, click here.

Tomorrow, I’ll give a general introduction to the Instinctual Subtypes, and on Friday, Arpil 1, I'll start rolling out the Enneagram Instinctual subtypes in A to Z format.


  1. OHH this is fascinating. I've never heard of this before. I can't wait to see your post.

  2. This sounds so interesting. I love this stuff. I can't wait to read your post during the A-Z challenge.

  3. I'm going to have a lot of fun with it, too. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Whoa, never heard of this system, but it sounds fascinating. I'll have to test myself, and then use it to understand my characters better! Thanks so much, and good luck with the A to Z challenge :-)

  5. Thanks, Kenda. It would be fun to know what style you are. Let me know the results! Thanks.

  6. Sounds very interesting, Catherine. Looking forward to reading more about it in your upcoming posts!

  7. I'm so excited to learn more about this in April, Cathy!!!

  8. Sounds, interesting, Catherine! I use MBTI a lot, but I've never looked into the Enneagram.

    This might be the perfect occasion to do so.

  9. Hi Catherine - WOW, this is some interesting stuff. I'm definitely looking for an online test tonight! Good look on the A-Z, I look forward learning more! Good on ya for getting it done early - I'll be scrambling every night around midnight to slop something together. :)


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