As an internationally recognized Enneagram expert, Suzanne Stabile has conducted over 500 Enneagram workshops in the past 25 years. Stabile co-wrote with Ian Morgan Cron the bestseller “The Road Back to You.” Her most recent release is “The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships.” Stabile lives in Dallas with her husband, Joseph. They have four adult children.
What is the Enneagram?
Simply put, the Enneagram is a personality type system.
“The Enneagram shows you exactly where you are inadequate in relationships to yourself and other people,” Stabile said. “At the very same time, it tells you how to address that inadequacy and what to do with it. For myself, I need to be able to look at the parts that are not who I was created to be and know what to do about that.”
The Enneagram includes nine interconnected personality types (numbered one through nine) that look past behaviors and focus on motivations.
“My description is that it’s one of nine ways of seeing,” Stabile added. “Those nine numbers could have been different kinds of trees, flowers or anything else.”
How can someone find their Enneagram type?
There are many online tests available, but Stabile suggests staying away from those as they could be incorrect.
She suggests reading a book or attending a talk on the subject. After studying the Enneagram, she recommends spending some time on your own figuring out your personality type.
“Think about when you were 20 and how you currently behave at home,” Stabile said. “Prior to 20, you were far more personality. You didn’t have to change any of your behavior. When I teach on college campuses, freshmen and sophomores get their number faster than any segment of the population. They’ve just left home and ... they’re going to do things the way they’ve always dreamed things should be done. But when you get a job … you have to adapt to the expectations of the world. At home, you get to just be you.”
Why is the Enneagram a useful tool for personal rediscovery?
In the midst of busyness, life changes and circumstances, we can cover our true selves without realizing it.
Stabile said her nine grandbabies helped her understand that we all layer on coats of character over the years.
“I hold that baby, aware they are pure humans that God created until they start adding personality to make their way in the world,” Stabile said.
One of Stabile’s sons is an introvert and the other is an extrovert. While they were growing up, Stabile told her quiet son to talk more and the loud one to listen more in social settings.
“My introvert who doesn’t want to talk didn’t see it as rude, it’s just who he is,” Stabile added. “My extrovert who wants to make friends with everybody didn’t see it as wrong, it’s just who he is. In order for the two of them to please me, they had to put on another layer of personality. By the time you’re 25, you have spent your life pleasing your parents, schoolteachers, Sunday school teachers, neighbors and friends. We add and add and add.”
Thus, the Enneagram helps us “rediscover” who we are so that we can recover our real selves.
“The second half of life is about allowing that personality to fall away,” she said. “That way you can get back to who God is and who you are and who you are in relation to God. Essentially, I spend my time teaching people who they’re not so they can recognize their true selves when they see it.”
How does the Enneagram help us have healthy relationships?
Each of us is wired uniquely. We respond differently to similar situations, and, though we can have similar behaviors, our motivations for those behaviors can be different.
Thus, studying ourselves isn’t selfish, but a selfless act of making ourselves aware of how we can appropriately relate to others’ personalities.
“The thing that keeps us from being compassionate is the natural, but limited idea that we’re all the same,” Stabile said. “We’re not all the same.”
Is the Enneagram dangerous?
Within both Christian and non-Christian circles, some debate the merit of the Enneagram.
“In the last three or four years there has been a lot of excitement about the Enneagram,” Stabile said. “The downside is it’s becoming water cooler talk, and it’s a spiritual growth tool. That’s good, because at least people are interested. The danger is that the Enneagram can be taken to be more than it is. It’s just one piece of spiritual wisdom. By itself, I’m not sure it’s very helpful, but if you put it in the context of prayer, self-observation, Scripture study and daily devotionals, then it has far greater value.”