The Enneagram: Integrating Values for Living

Enneagram-diagram

Countless books have been written about the Enneagram that explore the hidden dynamics between nine personality styles and approaches to life. At one time I collected a small library of such books, though I see that now in the process of “downsizing” for retirement only two remain: The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, and The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles. Though her book has slipped from my library, I really like the pioneering work of Helen Palmer.

I’m not going to try to give a lesson on the Enneagram in this blog. There are many good sources for learning about it, including the WWW. What I want to say is simply this, that the Enneagram offers integral values for living.

I’ll have more to say about this in a minute. But first I want to make an important point. None of the nine points of the Enneagram is meant to stand along in contrast to all others. As we grow in complexity toward wholeness and maturity we expand our human repertoire. We learn to cultivate more of the nine points rather than remain singularly “stuck” or obsessively “fixated” in just one. Those who teach “Enneagram Determinism” think they are freeing others from expectations by telling them to “just be who you are.” There is a truth in this, but there is also something limiting in the notion that your “soul” was born, must live, and will die in one and only one of the nine Enneagram points or personality styles.

Each point represents not only a personality style but also an epistemological perspective, that is, a way of seeing and knowing.  It also represents a metaphysical orientation, that is, what we believe to be most real and important in the nature of things. To change and grow toward the wholeness of  maturity is to expand both our metaphysical and epistemological horizons. This idea is implicit in the Enneagram teaching that we have “wing” whereby we are able to encompass other adjacent points.

The Enneagram offers us nine integral values for living. These are commitments we make to ourselves and that are expressed in our relationships with others:

1. A Commitment to Excellence

2. A Commitment to Caring

3. A Commitment to Enterprise

4. A Commitment to Creativity

5. A Commitment to Knowledge

6. A Commitment to Fidelity

7. A Commitment to Joy

8. A Commitment to Courage

9. A Commitment to Contemplation

I would add a tenth commitment which integrates all of the nine points of the Enneagram:

10. A Commitment to Wholeness

Implicit in our psychological preferences are core values that shape our lives. To grow in maturity toward unity and wholeness of being is to combine multiple perspectives. It is to cultivate what Karl Jaspers calls the Encompassing and comprehensive. This approach transcends polarizing dichotomies between various life-enhancing values. The integration of values for living is, quite simply, the way to wisdom.

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