The Enneagram, Therapy, & Relationships

We get attached to our stories about ourselves, about our partners and friends and family, and about the world. What happens when that story changes? Paradigm shift.

If you have never taken the Enneagram, I strongly encourage you to do so. You can find a free (unvalidated) test here (that website also offers a scientifically validated test for $10).

This website offers another $10 validated test; the instructor I had for a Enneagram workshop this week prefers this test- he actually said that this is the only test that has accurately reflected his personality (all other Enneagram tests says he is an 8, but “knows” he is a 4; this test says he is a 4).

So. I have always scored as a 2. Called the Helper, Giver, Connector, the 2 is concerned with giving (their attention goes to other people’s needs), which is lovely, but the underbelly of it is, giving in order to receive. At their best altruistic and at their worst emotionally manipulative. Tend to try to perform for others really well in order to get approval, love, and appreciation. When stressed out, they become more assertive and aggressive and when in good space, they become independent and creative.

Up until yesterday, J has identified as an 8- the Challenger, the Protector. Strong energy, concerned with fairness and justice, afraid of someone else or something else controlling them, desire for autonomy. At their best powerful and fair leaders, at their worst aggressive and maybe even violent. Trying to figure out how and if they matter. When stressed out, they become withdrawn and secretive, and when in good space they become compassionate and open-hearted.

This is all interesting to me because these are the stories that I have been telling myself about J and I: this is me. This is him. And because of how we are, we relate to each other in these ways. This has meant telling this particular story:

J (as an 8) is afraid of someone else controlling him. So when I (a 2) am most afraid of not being loved, try to illicit more love by getting clingy, J hides and withdraws, and we enter into a downward cycle. 

But more recently (and especially yesterday when I came home from my workshop) J has been questioning his 8-ness. A lot of the characterization around force and anger doesn”t resonate as much with him. Taking the second test I provided above led him to realize that he thinks he is actually a 3 (which years ago in college he determined to be a close second to being an 8).

I think the result for me might be a similar experience to someone extremely identified with their astrological sign finding out that they were actually born in a different month. You mean I’m not all of these things that this map says I am?

The truth is, we have all of these characteristics and tendencies within us. Identifying prominent traits and worldviews can be quite helpful though in figuring out how to relate to other people.

So now, I am adjusting to thinking about J as a 3. Which actually makes quite a bit of sense to me. 3s are often concerned about goals, tasks, image. They become apathetic and withdrawn when stressed out and committed and security-oriented when in good space. This description also sounds like J to me. And really, the story that I told above about our downward cycle, still applies: when I get stressed out and try to “get love” from him, he shuts down and becomes apathetic, which further stresses me out. We have learned how to stop this cycle if we can, but it’s work. I thank this tool for providing some much needed insight into our relationship dynamics, even if J is a 3 and not an 8 like he/we originally thought.

Anyways, I think the Enneagram is a super useful tool for self-growth, self-awareness, and I think it can add a really awesome dynamic to relationship growth if all people involved are willing to look at both their light and dark parts of self. And, for all of my personal friends out there reading this, if I keep talking about the Enneagram and I start to bug you, just tell me. I’ll shut up about it eventually :)

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