I've been interested in individuality as long as I remember--fascinated by what makes people special, unique, and one-of-a-kind. I became curious about the the enneagram during the mid-1990s because of its focus on nine personality types and the relationships between them. It seemed like the kind of system that might offer additional illumination on the nature of individuality.
But it took me years to personally investigate the system because most of the literature seemed to focus on the types as barriers to transformation. Every time I would pick up an enneagram book, I would put it back without buying it; the descriptions focused too much on the negative aspects of the types. The positive aspects were de-emphasized to the point where it seemed like even having a personality was a problem.
Still, I kept hearing about the system from friends. So my curiosity finally got the best of me and I began exploring it in a tentative fashion, despite the negative tinge of the type descriptions. I became more and more impressed with the potential of the system to help people gain self-insight, develop better relationships, and contribute to the larger community.
It finally dawned upon me that it was possible to use the enneagram system without seeing the nine enneagram types in a negative light. But it took me years to understand the system well enough to develop a positive approach that was truly integrated. Since I understand things by writing about them, I started by writing articles to myself--articles I would occasionally share with friends or people at enneagram events. Later, I taught myself HTML and developed a web site to serve as home to the articles. I also added additional content designed to introduce visitors to the idea of a positive enneagram. Later, when I started teaching the enneagram with a colleague, I developed an online enneagram test to provide people attending the class with a test to help them discover their type. The idea was to make a test that was more positive than most existing tests. I also made the test free because I didn't want to overstress the importance of tests for determining a person's type. It's my belief that any sort of self-discovery process should rely more on our personal engagement and reflection than on the results of any sort of quantitative test. I like tests and enjoy taking them myself, but I don't see them as substitutes for personal involvement.
After setting up the web site, I returned to my primary goal of deepening my understanding of the enneagram, its history, and its potential applications. I was a subscriber to the Enneagram Monthly, which had been printing articles on the enneagram since 1995--just about the time that the field really got organized. It was established by Jack Labanauskas and Andrea Isaacs just after the first big enneagram conference held at Stanford University and the formation of the International Enneagram Association (IEA). As I looked through the current issues of the periodical, I wondered whether there was a subject index that would enable me to access articles since the inception of the paper in 1995.
So I phoned up the office; Jack was at the other end of the line. I asked about a subject index and he said, no, there was no such index--just an author index. But he said he would be happy to have one and promised to send me all the old issues if I wanted to index them.
I was ecstatic. You have to understand--I'm a researcher by training (I Masters degrees in Information Science and Technical Communication and a Ph.D. in Cognition and Perception). So having somebody just hand over the old issues of the EM was like finding an archeological treasure. I couldn't wait to see what I would find.
I wasn't disappointed. Doing the index was a lot of fun. I admit that I got a little weary toward the end, because it took a lot of time and energy (by the time I was done, I had a 33-page index with over 3500 annotated entries). Generating the index gave me a much better picture of how the field had developed, what issues had been discussed through the years, and what changes in perspective had occurred between 1995 and the present.
Sometime in the middle of the process, Jack discovered I was not only an indexer but a writer. I made the mistake of mentioning my web site and he took a look at a couple of articles. Of course, he wanted to print something; telling a magazine editor you've got articles is like telling a fundraiser you're got investments; they want to know more.
But at the time, I felt like the Not-Ready-For-Primetime writer. I was passionate about my ideas and eager to share them via the web site. But I wasn't eager to share myself in the process; I just wanted the ideas to catch on, mostly so that I would have a community of fellow enneagram enthusiasts with whom to swap ideas.
Jack wanted an article, photo, and bio to put in the Enneagram Monthly. While I wasn't exactly horrified, I wasn't all that eager to publish in the EM. That was not part of my plan when I offered to create an index. But upon reflection, I felt it was an opportunity I shouldn't turn down. So I told him yes, but said I would write a new article for the paper--one suitable as an "umbrella" for my ideas. The result was "Let's Depathologize the Enneagram!", a call to work with the enneagram in a new, more positive way. I followed it with a two-part scholarly article linking the enneagram to Ken Wilber's Integral Theory. Soon after, I became the staff writer for the EM and have been writing articles--both scholarly and popular--ever since.
I never planed to write a book on the enneagram. But one day I was listening to an author on Book TV who had been a prolific article writer early in his career. The interviewer asked him why he'd started writing books. He said it was because he realized that writing books was the only way to ensure that his ideas would gain a wider audience and have an impact over time. That made sense to me.
But I still wasn't quite ready to try it myself. I did write a sample chapter once, but immediately realized it was too soon; I found myself writing in circles. A year later, I heard that the next IEA Conference keynote speaker was Robert Holden, author of the book Happiness Now! and an advocate of positive psychology. Something told me, "Now is the moment." So I made the 2009 IEA my deadline for the book.
I met the deadline, despite the vicissitudes of writing, editing, and publishing a book for the first time. I made a lot of mistakes, learned a lot, and ultimately generated a book I really like. I made the decision early on to create a book that would be simple enough to appeal to newcomers but innovative enough to satisfy people quite familiar with the enneagram. I knew it would be controversial in some quarters, because of my determination to create a positive framework for describing the nine types. But I also suspected that there were other people like me out there--people who liked the enneagram but wanted to work with it from a more positive perspective. These are the people I hoped to reach with the book.
As of this writing, it has been out less than a month. So far, I'm pleased and excited by the response--not just to the book itself, but to the idea of seeing the nine enneagram types as sources of inspiration and guidance. The book was never an end in itself but more of means of supporting a new and innovative way of working with a truly wonderful system. The great thing about having a book to work with is that it makes it much easier for people to grasp the nature of the approach--and much easier for me to explain it!
So my next task is to make sure that the book gets to the audience for whom it was intended: people interested in discovering themselves in order to discover better ways to live--better ways to resolve stubborn interpersonal conflicts, find their path in life, and become more creative thinkers and "livers." Creativity isn't about being an artist or writer--it's about being the kind of person who sees every passing moment in a fresh light. This is a goal to which we can all aspire.
I'm a shy person, more happy in my home with my books and flowers than in a room full of people (even people having fun!). Now I've written a book that I hope will sell. At the same time, I rather wish it was written anonymously, so that people would focus just on the ideas, not the writer! But I realize that understanding the writer is often helpful for understanding the book itself. That's why I took the time to explain my journey with the enneagram and as an enneagram writer. To explore further, please see my web site (www.enneagramdimensions.net) or contact me directly (email@example.com).