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  • Writer's pictureJessica Morgan McAtee

How Enneagram Changes You

There are a handful of things in life that really fascinate me. Four of the biggies are butterflies, financial independence, theology and Enneagram.

I may not be an expert in any of them, but I spend hours every week studying, thinking on and practicing these topics. I read books about one or more of them every single day, without exception.

If you are around me for any length of time, Enneagram will exude out of me. For me, the most exciting thing about it is that it helped me recognize some unhealthy ways of dealing with life and it taught me more constructive paths to take. Of course, change takes time, so most of these were not overnight, but to get this kind of inner guidance without paying for a therapist is nothing short of miraculous.

Enneagarm theory does not just focus on our behaviors, it gets to the motivations behind them. This is why it's so intimately effective. We may know some of our motives, but Enneagram fast-tracks us to awareness of those that are hidden even from ourselves.

When somebody first learns their number, and their wing (sort of like their co-pilot number) and begins studying it, that person starts to recognize the unconscious drives and blind-spots they have been living with their whole lives. There were things that I thought nobody knew about me. There were other things that I didn't know but Enneagram told me. It is absolutely uncomfortable.

It is even more awkward when we realize that other people can see these in plain sight. But, there is some comfort in knowing that we are not alone and that multitudes of people who share our same number can relate. We are human.

Here is the best part about how the Enneagram heals us. It only asks that we recognize these things and have a willingness to let them go. It does not ask us to force anything or burden ourselves with a to do list. Once we see our folly, we will naturally begin catching ourselves in the act. In the future, when we carry out the unhealthy mindsets and subsequent behaviors of our past, we notice them as they are happening. Simply noticing them makes them automatically start to fall away.

Each number struggles with its own pitfalls but in short this is what we each learn.

Each one of us has a primary "home-base" number. We have been this number since childhood and it never changes. Ever. What does change is how we learn to grow and change our behaviors. Of course, we can also choose to continue in our worn paths and become more entrenched in unhelpful patterns. It's our decision.

Aside from our main number, we all have a "wing". Your wing is either the number before or after yours. So if you are a Five, your wing is either a Four or a Six. If you are a Nine, your wing is either an Eight or a One. Some people have a heavy wing, meaning they have a significant bend to that side. Other people have more balanced wings which means they regularly pull from both about equally. Everyone is different, but generally speaking, we will have commonalities with both wing numbers to some extent.

For me, the negative behaviors of my wing have been easier to chip away first. Some of them practically disintegrated once I became aware of them. It's like when somebody is trying to get out of debt and experts advise that they pay off smaller bills first. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and builds momentum for the larger debts that will take more effort.

For example, I am a Seven with a heavy Eight wing. Of all of the numbers, Eights can be the most powerful, energetic and forceful. Their physical presence is strong and they resemble bulls in a china shop. They are intense, loud and not gentle. My father is an Eight and sounds like a freight train being derailed every morning when he enters the kitchen to make his first cup of coffee. Cabinets bang, silver-ware clangs, micro-wave beeps, things get knocked over, mugs clink, doors slam. It's like a breakfast tornado everyday.

Enneagram showed me the apple didn't fall far from the tree. It says that Eights use more force than necessary when completing everyday tasks. You may think this is blatantly obvious, but it was a revelation to me! I used more force than necessary all the time! Eureka! Scratching my head, scooting my chair away from the table, tightening my shoulders, closing cabinets, gripping my fork, watering plants, washing dishes, and so much more.

Once I became aware of this, I improved immediately. I became more mindful and it was as if delicacy and gentleness had been patiently awaiting this moment my whole life. They alighted on me like a (wait for it)... butterfly. What a relief.

This is a surface example. Many of them are more psychological and profound. From there I realized that if I was being so forceful in tangible things, what was I forcing on other levels?

Stuff gets real with Enneagram.

Another thing that Sevens do is panic when we feel even the slightest tinge of "boredom." It's a bad word to us yet it seems to be lurking around every mundane corner. I have learned this is because our minds work very quickly and have a compulsive need to be entertained, interested and having fun at all times. It turns out that we have anxiety or at least a fear that we believe we will experience if we ever have to slow down. Things could get painful. So we stay on the move and distracted by excitement.

Now, when I begin to feel myself getting agitated, I know the best solution is to slow down and try to connect to what it is that is bringing me anxiety and making me want to vanish into escapism.

Though Enneagram reveals our dark sides, it also celebrates our assets. Every number has superpowers. One of the gifts Sevens have is joyfully connecting things or ideas that other people may not see as related. This really gets us excited. Whether it is Kevin Bacon connecting to Tom Hanks or including a butterfly analogy in an Enneagram blog, new correlations light us up.

So there you have it. Enneagram points out our old, ineffective patterns and teaches us how to mindfully address them and exchange them for better practices. This happens naturally once we become aware.

Plus, it shows us where we shine,

Jessica Morgan McAtee

For more on this topic check out The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz or The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stablie.

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