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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others In Your Life
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72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Along with Don Riso & Russ Hudson's "Personality Types," Helen Palmer's "The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others In Your Life" has established itself as one of the definitive and most thorough texts available on this subject. I have been a student of the enneagram for a long time, and I frequently reach for this book as a reference.
The book is divided into two main parts. The first 70 or so pages are dedicated to an overview of the enneagram system, both from historical perspectives, as well as in terms of pratical application. The remainder (and majority) of the book's 400-odd pages provides a well organized wealth of information on each of the nine enneagram personality types. Because each of these nine chapters are laid out in a standard "template" format, expect some minor duplication from chapter to chapter.
UNlike most personality typing books, Helen Palmer's book does NOT include any kind of "quiz" to help readers determine their enneagram type. However, the descriptions of each type are so thorough that it isn't difficult to determine which one is the best fit.
The book is quite comprehensive, and goes well beyond merely examining the enneagram as a "personality type inventory," instead also covering the self-growth and life philosophy aspects of the system. Palmer goes into great depth in her decriptions of each of the Nine enneagram personality types-- starting with the childhood "programming" that influences current behavior patterns, then going on to outline the adult "preoccupations," including how they affect that type's behavior in both intimate and "authority" relationships. She relies extensively on the "oral tradition" of the enneagram; that is-- the practice of listening to, and learning from, groups of people of the same "type," talking about their lives and motivations. Many quotes and examples from Palmer's enneagram study groups are included in the book, and they add a nice "live" counterpoint to what is otherwise somewhat "academic" material. Each chapter also includes a brief description of "instinctual subtypes," and concludes with a list of actions/environments that might help each type grow and thrive.
If there is one (minor) complaint I have about this book, it is perhaps that Palmer has a tendency to dwell at length on the negative or "defective" traits of human nature while not really giving equal time to the positive-- or even how to work our way through the negative. In addition, she does not acknowledge the possibility that an "emotionally healthy" version of any type might exist-- which is one of the reasons I prefer the work of Riso and Hudson. In personal growth terms, it is certainly of great importance to identify the pitfalls of life (Our "preoccupations," as Palmer calls them), but it is almost of equal importance to be offered some guidance for self-devlopment-- and this book falls a bit short in that area. Which, in a way, is surprising, since Helen Palmer is a practicing psychotherapist. However, this is trivial issue that really doesn't detract a great deal from the book's overall usefulness.
Final thoughts: An excellent and worthwhile reference (9 out of a possible 10 bookmarks), especially for the more serious student of the enneagram. Provides a nice counterpoint to Riso & Hudson's writings. Perhaps not the best "first read" for someone just beginning to explore the enneagram-- if that's you, I'd recommend Baron & Wagele's "The Enneagram Made Easy" as an excellent introduction.
Thanks for reading!
--Peter
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94 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Helen Palmer is one of the two leading writers on the subject of the enneagram, a system of personality typing. The other leading writer is Don Riso. There seems to be a dichotomy in the field. You are either a Palmerite or a Riso follower. I find Helen Palmer's writing interesting and valuable but I am more in tune with Riso.
One of the main differences for me is Riso's division of each type into healthy, average, and unhealthy levels. Palmer accuses me and my type of faults that I definitely don't identify with, although I would be the first to admit if they were true. Riso places those faults at certain levels of the type - not my levels. He has much more accurate descriptions of me in certain specific levels of my personality type, while Palmer mushes the whole type together in one beg generic mass to the point where it is unrecognizable to me.
After reading Riso's books in depth I found it interesting to get Palmer's views. She has a lot of valuable contributions to make. I feel that I understand the types better thanks to Helen Palmer even though my basic understanding of the system comes from Riso and from my own observations.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Actually, four and one half stars. It is that good! Very thorough. A benefit is Palmer's basing the various indicator points in psychological insight. This is no popcorn and candy book. This takes some work to read and comprehend. One should read something similar but lighter before taking on Palmer's work. Her language is clinical, and may catch off guard the one who is only doing a popular-level satisfying of an interest. At times there does seem to be repetition, or re-iteration of concepts, I would guess so as to enforce understanding. One would be foolish to immediately jump into the sixth chapter, where the different Enneagram points begin to be delineated. Read the first five chapters to obtain the needed background. I recommend this work to anyone who wants a deeper comprehension of this popular tool for understanding oneself and significant others.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in 1997 and it was life changing as I discovered that I wasn't so strange after all, but rather one of many. Being an Enneagram type 8, I for the first time understood what coaches, teachers and friends had been trying to tell me for years. Helen Palmer's book helped me for the first time develop an empathy for how others view me and the rest of the world. I've now read at least 8 texts on the enneagram and attended the first International Enneagram Conference in Chicago in 1997. I always choose this book to introduce people to the enneagram. Other books I've read, including the later version of Helen Palmer's, are too objective and practical to impart the understanding and empathy for the types that this book conveys. I've enjoyed all the other books and they've had value, but always start with this one so as to not miss the beauty and warmth of the enneagram.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Approach this as a textbook, rather than as an entertaining read, and you won't be disappointed.
Palmer presents the Enneagram as a systematic map of 9 different personality types that can help people understand and develop their own intuitive styles. An important lesson conveyed is that no single model of psychological health fits every individual. Rather, every type has its own challenges and opportunities. With self-awareness, a person can transform weaknesses and preoccupations into constructive ways of understanding situations.
In her attempt to be systematic, Palmer is often repetitive. She sometimes presents advanced information before she gives the basics. Don't skip the intro, but do read with your own questions in mind.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
The enneagram is based on the concept that there are nine basic personality types and that we all are essentially driven by one of nine basic sins. As children our personlities are formed, using natural talents and predispositions, in order to create a safe place to live and a safe style of coping with life's hardships and stresses.
This volume, while profoundly comprehensive, is a bit hard to follow for the casual student. I also discovered that many of the "types" have very similar characteristics, making it difficult to differentiate between them. I also finished reading with the sense that Ms. Palmer prefers certain types to others. For instance, what inspired the seemingly random discussions of pairs in love and at work? Some types got a lot more ink that others.
Interesting book for the reader with a serious interest in enneagrams, but a chore for the simply curious.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Actually I think this book is pretty good, and in the future I may write another review for the paper edition, but I feel it necessary to write this one-star review to draw attention to a massive defect of the Kindle edition.

The problem is that a substantial portion of this book consists of quotations; self-descriptions of people of the various enneatypes during what she calls "panel interviews". It must be the case that in the dead-tree version of this book the voices of the interviewees are distinguished from Helen's using some kind of typographical or formatting conventions. In the Kindle edition they are not... there is no change of type-face, no indent, not even quotation marks. The result is a mishmash of voices that completely disrupts the flow of the narrative. One paragraph it's Helen Palmer talking, the next it's a panellist and the reader only realizes the shift when a first-person reference in the middle of the paragraph is clearly not to the author.

The Kindle edition of this book should be withdrawn until it is fixed. I hope Helen Palmer will see this and complain to her publisher about it. I will certainly complain to Amazon, but that's not likely to have any effect.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2001
Format: Audible Audio Edition
This audio series offers an incredible description of both the enneagram and the nine different survival types. I've read a lot on the subject and have not seen anything this comprehensive to date. Plus, being audio, makes a fantastic way to pass the time commuting, working, walking, whatever.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
I first encountered Helen Palmer's "The Enneagram: Understanding Youself and the Others in Your Life" a few years ago and it still holds up fairly well. The Enneagram is an interesting tool for self understanding, and this book presents the nine Enneagram points in a clear-cut way. I found it somewhat disorganized, however, and not partiuclarly well-written. The prose rambles quite a bit. Although there's some good information here, it's sometimes hard to find, and I could think of a number of people who did not quite fit any of the categories, at least as the author describes them. Nonetheless, it led me to learn more about the Enneagram, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
Here's a book that people seeking happiness in their careers should definitely read. It's the first step for career planning.
Palmer gives clear, concise explanations of an intricate personality system making reading intriguing and exciting. Her understanding of the delicate nuances of the types makes her a trustworthy and solid guide. Additionally, she is particularly respectful to the limitations of categorizing people and avoids any hint of such. We wouldn't expect anything less from this top expert of the Enneagram.
Part I gives an excellent summary of the theory; including numerous diagrams that define the passions and perspectives of the types. Part II gives explanations of each of the nine types.
In particular, presenting the dilemma at the beginning of each chapter immediately gives us insight. If any doubt surfaced about where you fit in the Enneagram world her descriptions of the dilemmas clearly helps us understand ourselves, bringing a deep comfort. Palmer also provides a unique blend of personality characteristics and psychological perspectives. Such topics as major issues, intimate relating patterns and intuitive style are covered. Most importantly much of her knowledge and insights were gathered from twelve years of interviewing thousands of students learning the work.
And all of these details are why Helen Palmer's book is so crucial to our development. Those wanting greater love in their relationships will find the book meaningful. Those in transition in love or career will find great insight into their desires and strengths. Whether we apply the understanding of personality to our professional or personal lives it is a benefit. While most of our time is spent in some type of relationship, it's amazing that discovering who we are is not a mandatory course. This book clearly would be the required reading.
Helen Palmer has written the bible of the Enneagram -- a first choice for anyone desiring deeper self-understanding.
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