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The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types Paperback – June 15, 1999
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--Ken Wilber, author of The Marriage of Sense and Soul
"I highly recommend this book, not only to anyone on the path of personal transformation, but to anyone who wants to understand the complex inner world of others, whether a spouse, family member co-worker or friend. The questionnaires were fun and illuminating. I received some very helpful information about myself, felt challenged to grow and experienced a deepening of compassion. Perhaps the most profound contribution of The Wisdom of the Enneagram is reflected in the word "Wisdom." The authors clearly communicate the complexity of human nature, the spiritual yearning resonant in all of us, and the ascending levels of our possibility. But they do not leave us there. They offer a clear path for personal and spiritual evolution."
--Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of Getting the Love You Want
"Don Riso and Russ Hudson thoughtfully engage the richness and depth of the Enneagram, and conjure with its power as a tool of transformation. The Wisdom of the Enneagram is filled with its own wisdom and depth. You'll find yourself returning to it over and over again and discovering new treasures."
--Tony Schwartz, author of What Really Matters
"The Wisdom of the Enneagram is not only a clear and comprehensive description and discussion of this ancient personality typology, but also a major and original contribution to its use and further development. Don Riso and Russ Hudson have designed simple practical guidelines and tests that make it possible to determine one's own personality type and use this knowledge for healing and psychospiritual transformation."
--Stanislav Grof, M.D., author of The Adventure of Self-Discovery
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Part I-- "The Inward Journey"-- approaches the enneagram from a historical and general informational perspective. This section includes a brief-- but quite accurate-- self test, as well as thumbnail descriptions of each of the nine enneagram types. The rest of the section covers topics to help the reader understand the basics of personality, essence, ego and awareness. The authors also explain the interactions and parallels between the enneagram and other personality theories. The section concludes with a primer on the "mechanics" of the enneagram, including the concepts of "Wings," "Instinctual Variants," "Levels of Development" and "Integration and Disintegration."
Part II consists of nine chapters, each one covering a corresponding enneagram type, in depth. For those who don't already know their type, each chapter begins with a fairly detailed set of questions to help the reader determine if he/she resonates with that type. The authors then describe the type and its associated issues in considerable detail, with separate sections to show the differences caused by a predominant "wing," and by a person's "instinctual variant." Although self-tests (and even online "quizzes") can be helpful in determining type, by far the most accurate and reliable way to be certain is to read detailed type descriptions to see which has the strongest feeling of "rightness." The descriptions offered here are quite comprehensive, and are expanded through adding Riso & Hudson's system of "Levels of Development" for greater "granularity." Each type-chapter then progresses to describing the underlying "issues" facing that type, along with guidelines to the "paths to growth." Whereas these sometimes feel a bit "mechanical" to me, and perhaps are not the most thorough I have seen, they are certainly quite adequate to start readers on a path of personal development.
Part III-- "Tools for Transformation"-- is somewhat brief, but does a respectable job of introducing the spiritual aspects of the enneagram. The section includes "type-appropriate" considerations in choosing and following a spiritual practice, and talks about ways in which each type can get trapped by their fixation. There is also a brief discussion of transcending ego and personality, and how to find our essence, which will lead to a state of inner peace.
Final thoughts: Highly Recommended (9 out of a possible 10 bookmarks) as an excellent introduction to the enneagram, with enough in-depth material to help students quite a long way along their journey to self-actualization. Whereas the authors' backgrounds in the more psychological traditions of the enneagram (as a "personality typing tool") are often evident, the inclusion of spiritual material makes this a highly worthwhile read.
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Correctly identifying one's personality type is often difficult because the same traits can stem from very different, largely unconscious, inner dynamics. Both theorizing Fives and practical Ones, for example, can appear detached and logical. Based on matching two choices drawn from each of 2 sets of 3 descriptions, the new QUEST tool (pp. 13-18) is both simpler and more effective than their detailed RHETI questionnaire. The first group actually distinguishes Horney's assertive, withdrawn and compliant styles; whereas the second (or Harmonic) group corresponds to the authors' positive outlook, reactive and competency categories (pp.60-68). (It would be worth the effort to polish the wording of these 6 descriptions further to make them as accurate, neutral and balanced as possible.) You can then confirm your initial diagnosis by jumping to your specific Type Attitude Sorter (TAS) which rates your responses to 15 attitudes characteristic of your suspected type.
By distinguishing 9 (= 3 grades of healthy, average and unhealthy) levels in each type, Riso's 'vertical' analysis explained how an empathetic, people-pleasing Two, for example, could disintegrate into its seeming opposite, namely a domineering, self-centered Eight. This classification made it difficult to account for the curious ways in which healthy and unhealthy traits from different levels often combine to create contradictions characteristic of each type. In this regard, Helen Palmer's more 'intuitive' approach offered more colorful descriptions of the 'trap-door' mechanism through which principled Ones flirt with their repressed desires (compare p.114 on 'escape hatches'), or of the push-pull attraction that makes for the stormy relationships of tragic romantic Four. Now, by disassembling each type into a cluster of well-defined 'signatures' and focusing separately on each trait in turn, Riso and Hudson have largely recovered this lost territory. Such welcome nuances are seen in the application of new concepts such as Acting Out and the Security Point. Under stress, cerebral Fives act out, in the manner of unhealthy Sevens, the neglected appetite for sensory stimulation. The tough domineering Eight reveals its hidden vulnerability and tender feelings within the familiar circle of loved ones. This is a positive addition to Riso's previous critique and synthesis of Freudian, Hornevian, DSM-III(R) and other mainstream psychological theories. Riso was a Jesuit for thirteen years, and Hudson is an accredited specialist of East Asian religions. While endeavoring to demonstrate the centrality of the Enneagram to work, love and other sustained personal relationships (in books to be released soon), they never lose sight of the ultimate goal of self-fulfillment, of transcending one's type and thereby unleashing its full potential.