I’ve been trying to study the Enneagram for several years now. I’ve read highly recommended books by Helen Palmer, Don Richard Riso, and Russ Hudson but for some reason none of them really made sense. I mean, I got what they were saying and it seemed like a useful system but I didn’t feel like I understood it well enough to actually use it in my life and especially not in relating to other people.
This latest Enneagram book I’ve tried is one that my first counselor recommended over a year ago. I’ve finally been able to get it through a digital library (didn’t want to buy it if it would just sit unused on the shelf like all my other Enneagram books). I haven’t quite finished it yet, but what I’ve read is enough to know The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabileis the best Enneagram book I’ve read (please note this is an affiliate link, which means if you click on the book title and make a purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).
I’ll be talking in more general terms about the Enneagram in later posts, but today I wanted to share a personal story. I know my enneatype is 4w5, but until now that knowledge as been more depressing than helpful. Myers-Briggs® types tell you how your mind works. We can talk about healthy and unhealthy versions of each type, but overall it’s usually a fairly neutral description. Your Enneagram tells you how you’re broken. It talks about your deadly sin, your childhood wounding message, and your core fears. To me, it seemed overwhelmingly negative. Read more →
Think about your favorite novel, movie, or TV show. It probably begins with the main characters going about their ordinary lives. Bilbo Baggins lives peacefully in his hobbit hole (The Hobbit). Elizabeth Bennet is socializing with her sisters and putting up with a mother eager to marry her off (Pride and Prejudice). Luke Skywalker is moisture farming on Tatooine (Star Wars). A pastor is sailing with his family to a colony in the South Pacific (The Swiss Family Robinson).
Then Gandalf arrives with a party of dwarves. Mr. Bingley moves to Netherfield. Droids arrive carrying secret plans that must be delivered to the Rebellion. The ship crashes on an uncharted island. Something changes, acting as an inciting incident to push the main character out of their normal life and into the events of the story.
We’re currently living in a time of great change. People are talking about what the “new normal” will look like and speculating about how much things will change now that there’s Covid-19 in the world. There have been many other times of great change throughout history — pandemics, the industrial revolution, natural disasters, colonization by European powers, terrorist attacks, the falls of empires, the birth of Jesus Christ. Some are terrible, some depend on your point of view, and a very few are spectacularly good.
We have very little control over how the world changes. But we do have some control over if and how we change in response to those changes. In many ways, we get to decide whether the effects of this pandemic will be an inciting incident for personal growth, a speed bump as we continue on much the same as before, or something that derails our path.
We would not have had a story if Bilbo stayed home, Elizabeth refused to speak with Darcy a second time, Luke didn’t follow R2-D2 into the desert, or the Swiss family had been rescued after only a week on the island. Now, I’m not saying you should ignore social distancing guidelines and go running off on a grand adventure. For us today I’m talking more about an internal adventure and a commitment to positive change.
Some of the greatest journeys we can go on are those of self-discovery, and they’re often prompted by change. The biggest moments that stand-out in my mind as times that sparked personal growth were starting college, beginning a dating relationship with a man I’d been friends with for years, and then the breakup which ended that relationship. Maybe this pandemic will be another one for me, and for many other people.
Whether you’re stuck at home and have some extra time on your hands or not, the changes in the world around us can serve as a reminder to look inwards and evaluate ourselves. We might ask questions like, “What impact am I having on the people around me for good or ill?” or “How can I become a healthier individual mentally, emotionally, and physically?” or “What do I want the next part of my story to look like?”
We can’t control when quarantine restrictions lift, who gets sick, or most other things associate with this pandemic. But we can control how we respond to the changes that are happening in our lives and the world around us. Let’s commit to making sure the great changes we’re going through now spark great next chapters in the stories of our own lives.
I haven’t quite finished it yet, but even just reading the introduction and chapter on my enneatype has given me some additional clarity on a couple issues I’ve been struggling with for a while. You might want to check this book out if you’ve been curious about the Enneagram or want some ideas for personal growth. I borrowed it from a digital library, so that might be an option for those who (like me) prefer to try out a book before buying it.
I recently reread one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. And I found that he spends quite a bit of time talking about the theme of my blog — finding our true selves in the people God created us to be. I didn’t purposefully have Lewis in mind when I wrote that tagline, but I’d read Mere Christianity before and I’m sure that’s partly where the idea came from.
Yesterday, I was struggling to come up with an idea for today’s post. It’s hard to go wrong talking about C.S. Lewis, so I thought I’d share some of what he has to say about finding the truest versions of ourselves. Of course, given the sort of man that he was, it is impossible for him to talk about such a topic without pointing readers to God.
“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs,’ all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented—as an author invents characters in a novel—all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. … I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” — Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
It’s an interesting concept. That no matter how hard we might try on our own to be an individual, authentic self we will actually be moving away from our real personalities if we are not moving toward God. As the inventor of personality, God is the one best qualified to tell us what we are meant to be. It’s the potter and clay analogy — that God is the potter who decides what sort of vessel He is making us to be (Is. 29:15-16; Jer. 18:1-6).
A choice to be different
Perhaps this sounds like it goes against free will. It does not. The very fact that we can reject God and try to be something other than what He intends attests to Him giving us a choice. But choosing anything other than Him just means we’re crippling our self-expression and rejecting the greatest path to personal growth. Finding ourselves shouldn’t be our focus, though. In fact, getting too caught-up in the self is a good way to lose track of our truest personality. Read more →
Most of us know that we can change. In fact, since you’re reading a blog where I talk about personal growth and development from a Christian perspective, I dare say most of you are actively trying to change for the better. We believe we can grow. We believe we can become better versions of ourselves. We believe in change and new beginnings.
But do we believe the same thing of other people? Do you think everyone you meet is capable of the same level of change that you are? Maybe you can say “yes” to these questions as an abstract idea. But if other people are changing and growing, do you suppose that you would notice?
I’m sure most of us would like to think that we hold space for others to grow. We probably also like to think we’d recognize change when we see it, but research indicates that most of us aren’t very good at this. To quote Psychology Today, “People tend to get attached to their initial impressions of others and find it very difficult to change their opinion, even when presented with lots of evidence to the contrary.” We tend to size people up quickly and then stick with our initial impressions even if we see proof that we were wrong. Read more →
What do you do with your emotions? A lot of us bottle them up and pretend they don’t exist because we’ve grown up thinking it’s not okay to express problematic feelings like anger, or that strong people don’t cry, or that being too happy makes you look ridiculous. There are also people who swing to the opposite extreme and give all their emotions free reign, but that’s a different issue than the one we’re talking about in this article.
Emotions are a complicated subject. We all have them, but what are they really? And what’s the best way to deal with them? Those are questions typically answered by trial and error or by whatever messages regarding emotion we were targeted with as children. As such, we can make several mistakes when approaching emotions. We might see them as something that’s pesky and distracting rather than a core part of being human. We could make the mistake of thinking everyone has (or should have) the same emotional temperament as us. Or we might decide all emotions are negative and it’s better to hide our feelings than to process them.
As someone struggling with anxiety and depression, I often find myself stuck in negative emotions instead of working through them. In many cases, I also react to situations that could be positive in a negative way. But even people with great mental health can still struggle to process emotions effectively. And the more we bottle up emotions (particularly negative ones) without processing them, the greater the risk that we’ll reach a point where they’re released by something like a burst of out-of-place anger or by collapsing into tears for no apparent reason. So how do we avoid such problems and learn to process our emotions in a healthy way?Read more →
Every personality type has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. For ISFJs and INFJs, their favorite strengths have to do with an internally focused way of learning new information and conceptualizing the world. But introverting isn’t the only thing these types are good at. They also have an extroverted “co-pilot” that goes by the name Extroverted Feeling. It’s a judging function that we use for making decisions and interacting with the world around us.
While Extroverted Feeling isn’t as strong as our dominant functions of Introverted Sensing (for ISFJs) or Introverted Intuition (for INFJs), we can learn to use our co-pilot function very well. It just takes a little extra work. Personality Hacker calls the co-pilot our growth position because developing it can jump-start our personal growth and give us fuller access to the strengths of our personality type. This sort of development isn’t easy, but when INFJs and ISFJs start to grow their Extroverted Feeling they often find that they have an easier time making decisions, feel less pressure from others, and are overall happier with their lives.
Extroverted Feeling (Fe) is a rational, decisions making process. Like the other Thinking and Feeling functions, Fe prompts “us to note how things usually happen and to organize our behaviors accordingly.” It’s called a rational function because “Rational behavior is always based on predictability — things we know to be true because they happen regularly in the same way” (Lenore Thomson, Personality Types, p.39).
When making decisions, Extroverted Feeling types tend to focus on specific, personal criteria such as shared beliefs, values, and moral sensibilities when weighing their options. They also identify with others, readily pick up on unspoken social cues, and prioritize maintain social harmony. Fe types’ primary concern when making decisions is with meeting everyone’s needs and keep relationships working well. That’s why Personality Hacker gives this function the nickname “Harmony.”
Tip 1) Process Your Feelings Through Journaling
FJ types aren’t all that great at processing their own feelings or arriving at decisions in an internal way. We are external processors who need to get our thoughts and emotions outside us in some way before using our Extroverted Feeling to make sense of them. For me personally, there are times I’m not sure what I’m feeling, let alone how to process it, until I’ve extroverted my emotions in some way. Read more →