Don Richard Riso, M.A. is the foremost writer and developer of the Enneagram in the world today. The most-published and best-selling author in the field, he is an internatioinally recognized authority on the subject. He is the president of Enneagram Personality Types, Inc., and founder of The Enneagram Institute. He has been teaching the Enneagram for more than twenty years, pioneering a revolutionary new approach to ego psychology through his 1977 discovery of the Levels of Development. His four best-selling books are available in British, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and French editions. Mr. Riso was a Jesuit for thirteen years, holds degrees in English and philosophy, was elected to the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu, and was a Ford Foundation Fellow at Stanford University in communications (social psychology).
1. The Multi-Dimensional Enneagram
Understanding Ourselves and Others
The Enneagram is being used daily by millions of people around the world because it works. It is the clearest, most accurate method available for understanding ourselves and those who are important to us. It helps us understand why we do not easily get along with certain people while with others we instantly feel that we are old friends. Understanding the Enneagram is like having a pair of special glasses that allows us to see beneath the surface of people with special clarity: we may in fact see them more clearly than they see themselves.
The insights the Enneagram gives us can change our lives, and those who have gotten to know it cannot imagine how they once got along without it. It is as if they had been born color blind and were suddenly able to comprehend the world in all its subtle hues for the first time. They are thrilled to uncover what had been right in front of their noses” all along but was obscure and hidden from view. The Enneagram opens up whole new vistas for us, new depths of comprehension, new levels of meaning. Knowledge such as this, however, is not obtained without paying a price: there can be no going back to our former blindness once we understand the Enneagram. The world, others, and we will be different forever.
People from diverse cultures all over the world are responding to the Enneagram because they see their experience accurately reflected in it. They are embracing it as one of the most important discoveries of their lives, something that has helped them make sense of what previously seemed impenetrably ambiguous, or worse, utterly chaotic. Once people grasp the essentials of this extraordinary system, they can participate in the noble work of deepening their understanding of themselves and their fellow humans. Who knows what benefits will accrue as new generations are able to draw on the wisdom of the Enneagram throughout their lives?
Moreover, there are as many uses for the Enneagram as there are individuals who use it. Those who are in therapy or in one of the twelve-step programs will find it an invaluable source of insight into their childhood and why they have become the people they are. Spiritual seekers will discover in it a trustworthy guide to the deeper dimensions of human experience. Those of us in intimate relationships will benefit from understanding more about ourselves and our partners. The Enneagram can help us understand what causes our partners to behave in ways that have previously baffled us and can indicate what is needed for more effective communication and conflict resolution. This understanding also helps us bring more acceptance and compassion to our relationships, as well as insight into where and when limits and boundaries need to be set. Learning to understand our partners is the best way to keep a relationship alive and growing. And compassionately understanding ourselves what we need, want, fear, and are afraid of expressing is the best way to keep our own psyches healthy.
While the Enneagram is primarily a profound psychological and spiritual tool, it is also highly practical for business applications because its insights are so on target. Many businesses and organizations are using the Enneagram in management to increase their employees’ productivity and, ultimately, their profitability. They have discovered that they can save a great deal of time and frustration for management and employees alike by applying the Enneagram as a communication tool. Corporations have been using the Enneagram for hiring the best possible person for a particular job, for teaching executives to manage their employees more effectively, for customer service, for clarifying a corporate image a corporate personality type,” so to speak or for building a more profitable sales force. Team building, executive development, marketing, corporate communication, and conflict resolution among its many applications are more effective when insights from the Enneagram are applied in the business world. Major organizations that have been using the Enneagram include Adobe, Amoco, AT&T, Avon Products, Boeing Corporation, The DuPont Company, e-Bay, Prudential Insurance (Japan), General Mills Corporation, General Motors, Alitalia Airlines, KLM Airlines, The Coalition of 100 Black Women, Kodak, Hewlett Packard, Toyota, Procter & Gamble, International WeightWatchers, Reebok Health Clubs, Motorola, and SONY.
What Is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a geometric figure that delineates the nine basic personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships. Each of these nine types has its own way of relating to othhers, its own set of perceptions and preoccupations, its own values and approaches to life. Each relates to others in different but understtandable ways. The Enneagram helps everyone understand that there are nine different points of view, nine distinct sets of values, nine different communication styles, nine ways of solving problems and so forth that are all equally useful and valid. All of the types have something necessary to contribute to a thriving, balanced world.
As a typology, the Enneagram helps people recognize and understand overall patterns in human behavior. External behaviors, underlying attitudes, one’s characteristic sense of self, conscious and unconscious motivations, emotional reactions, defense mechanisms, object relations, what we pay attention to, our spiritual barriers and potentials and much more are all parts of the complex pattern that forms each personality type. While the Enneagram suggests that there are nine basic personality types of human nature, there are, of course, many subtypes and variations within the nine basic categories. Even with all of these subtle distinctions, however, the Enneagram cannot account for every aspect of human nature. Always remember that the Enneagram does not put you in a box it shows you the box you are already in (but don’t know it) and the way out!
Further, while ideas about psychological type cannot tell us everything about people, they help us make meaningful distinctions that are extremely useful. For instance, people generally believe that others think the same way they do. They often believe that others have the same motivations, values, and priorities although this is usually not the case. However, when personality type is properly understood, communication becomes exponentially more effective because people begin to recognize and make the most of human diversity. We learn to respect others who are not the same as we are and to treat them with tolerance and compassion.
How Was the Enneagram Developed?
The Enneagram as a symbol was first brought to the attention of the modern world by the Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff around the turn of the twentieth century. The typology now associated with the symbol was developed by Oscar Ichazo, the founder of the Arica school of self-realization, in the 1950s and 60s. In developing the basic principles of Enneagram theory, Ichazo drew on classic Greek philosophy and ancient spiritual ideas from mystical Judaism and early Christianity. Ichazo taught a number of students the basics of his theories of the Enneagram in Arica, Chile, in 1970, and some of them, notably gestalt psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, brought the Enneagram to the United States soon thereafter. Within a few years, awareness of this powerful typology had quickly spread around North America. In 1973, Don Riso began developing the Enneagram in the light of modern psychology, adding his own insights and discoveries to the original body of knowledge. He was joined by Russ Hudson in 1988, and both have been writing and teaching about the system ever since.
One central aspect of our work with the Enneagram has been the endeavor to bring our findings into alignment with modern psychological research. In Understanding the Enneagram, we saw that the Enneagram adds cohesion and significant insights to the theories of modern psychology with its specificity, comprehensiveness, and elegance (284311). It organizes observations about human nature by consolidating what has already been discovered as well as by suggesting new avenues for investigation. By cleaving the diamond” of the psyche along its proper internal lines, the Enneagram presents us with the categories that we actually find in everyday life. What is particularly intriguing is that this system, based on ancient philosophical ideas and empirical observations, anticipates many of the findings of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (the DSM-IV), of the American Psychiatric Association and other typologies.
What Creates Our Enneagram Type?
One of the primary things to understand about the Enneagram is that we find ourselves reflected in the whole of it. From one point of view, the personality types are metaphors for the various psychological functions operating in each of us. (See Chapter 7 for more on the Functions.)We develop into one of the nine personality types because our consciousness has developed in certain ways as a result of our heredity and childhood experiences. Nevertheless, our personality type is largely inborn and is the result of what psychologists call temperament. Any woman who has been a mother is aware that children are quite distinct from one another even when they are still in the womb. The child then uses the strengths of his or her temperament as a primary way to cope with stresses in his or her environment. But in the process of adapting, a variety of unconscious mechanisms and structures come into play that help the child feel safe but that also limit his or her sense of identity. In a sense, the development of the personality is as much a defense against...