I’ve always been a little skeptical of personality assessments. Knowing thyself is a virtue, there’s no doubt. But I’ve always felt uneasy about the idea of placing a static label on something as seemingly fluid as a personality type.
I’ve especially felt this with the Enneagram. I know that it’s one of the most respected assessments among many — especially in mystical Christianity (Fr. Richard Rohr, one of my favorite mystics, has devoted much of his work to it).
As I’ve written about before, I register as a 9 (‘The Peacemaker’).
Maybe you know what I’m talking about when I say that there’s a special kind of existential dread when you read about your type. There seems to be an emphasis on shortcomings with Enneagram typing. In my case, the ‘Peacemaker’ can quickly devolve into a ‘people-pleaser’ or ‘pushover’.
They have my number, those Enneagram people (literally).
As I’ve long seen it, sure, sometimes I feel like a 9. I generally disdain conflict and obsess over creating harmony in my environment. But there are plenty of times (particularly on this blog, but also in-person) where I get fired up and call people out on their nonsense. I’d even say I have a bit of a temper (not a good thing) under certain external and internal conditions. That’s never seemed very 9 of me…
Anyhow, I was at the gym the other day, searching for a podcast to listen to when I came across an Enneagram typology podcast called The Enneagram Journey hosted by a lady who brings people of different ‘types’ on the show to chat with them about life. I scrolled down to type-9 and listened.
What I heard blew me away (hence the reason I write this to you, dear fellow 9 — or someone who knows/loves one)…
First of all, I learned about my 8-wing (‘The Challenger’) which explains my dark, firey underbelly (okay, I thought, so maybe this whole Enneagram thing was more accurate than I’d thought).
But what stopped me dead on my tracks (or, on my seat in the rowing machine) was this…
The host mentioned what she called the ‘two messages’ (1) the ‘lost childhood message’ and (2) the ‘unconscious childhood message’ (she referenced this book if you find this interesting).
The unconscious childhood message is a message that you picked up in childhood that motivates you but you don’t need to know where you got it. The lost childhood message is a message that you needed but you didn’t get.
She said that, in her opinion, the type for whom the two messages have been the most costly is for 9’s. And here’s what she said ours are…
- The unconscious message for 9’s is it’s not okay to assert yourself.
- The lost unconscious message is your presence matters.
If you’re a 9, this might be hitting home for you in a big way. I know it did for me.
I heard so often — from my teachers, friends, parents, etc. — that it was not okay to assert myself.
And if you’re not a 9, you might have heard the same thing. But you didn’t absorb it as much as we 9’s did.
(See, I’m starting to see Enneagram typology as an internal filtering mechanism. My filter lets certain things in that yours might not.)
And for me, when I was told — or when people insinuated — that I was not to assert myself, I shriveled up and submitted to them. And I’ve been doing it unconsciously ever since (but not now — thanks awesome Enneagram podcast lady*).
Hearing that my presence matters is like lighter fluid to my internal flame. Seriously. It’s necromantic in its effects.
And so, there you have it. For all the 9’s out there, I hope this kicks open some doors and lets a nice, refreshing, enlivening breeze through your soul as it did for me.
*Her name is Suzanne Stabile and you can read about her here.