Our guest, Ian Cron, is an Episcopal priest, a trained psychotherapist, and author and expert on the Enneagram. His book “The Road Back to You” is a key resource for understanding the Enneagram. Ian recently shared how this personality tool can be part of our healing journey. Ian discovered the Enneagram in 1994 through a book written by Richard Rohr from a Christian perspective. The Enneagram started as a spiritual formation tool used by Evagrius Ponticus, a desert father, in the 8th or 9th century. Much later it began being used by Jesuits and then beyond that into more common use. In brief, the Enneagram is a personality theory that identifies nine different types, each of which is characterized by a dominant motivation or need.

The Enneagram Types in Summary

Type Ones are called perfectionists. They have an unconscious motivation or need to perfect themselves, others, and the world.

Type Twos are called helpers. They are motivated by a need to be needed, loved, and appreciated.

Type Threes are called performers. They are motivated by a need to succeed, to appear successful, and to avoid failure at all costs.

Type Fours are called romantics or individualists. They are motivated by a need to be special and unique. Fours have a perception that they are missing something essential in their core makeup and the only way they can recover it is by projecting an image of specialness or uniqueness or specialness.

Type Fives are called investigators. They are motivated by a need to conserve energy, to gather knowledge and information as a way to fend off feelings of inadequacy or ineptitude.

Type Sixes are called the loyalists. They are motivated by a need to have safety, security, and support.

Type Sevens are called enthusiasts. They are the joy bombs of the Enneagram. They are motivated by a need to avoid painful or distressing feelings by chasing after and planning adventures, escapades, and a future filled with unlimited possibilities.

Type Eights are called challengers. They are motivated by a need to assert strength and control over the environment or over others as a way to mask feelings of vulnerability or tenderness in themselves.

Type Nines are called the peacemakers, sometimes the sweethearts of the enneagram. They are motivated by a need to preserve inner and outer peace, to avoid conflict at all costs, and to maintain their connection to others.

The Enneagram as a Way to Understand Ourselves and Others 

We can use the Enneagram as a way to understand ourselves and others better and we can use it as a tool to promote healing. Sometimes people will find out their type and take it no further but it really can be used in a profound way as a powerful spiritual technology designed to help people experience deep personal healing and change.

Ian says we aren’t actually our personality type. We aren’t a “one” or a “two”, rather, the word personality is derived from the word “persona” which means mask. Our personality is made up of adaptive strategies, coping mechanisms, early childhood programming, some temperament hardwiring, but for the most part, it is the way we learn as a child to move through the world and get your needs met. Your personality is in large measure a ‘cover story”. The Enneagram reveals to you who you are behind your personality. You are not your personality. You have a personality. There is an original essence that had to adopt a mask to survive but the mask that helps you survive in childhood will kill you in adulthood. If you continue to use those survival strategies, they work against you as an adult.

The Enneagram reveals the “imposter” of our personality. When we do the personal work of the Enneagram, we remain the same person who is still motivated by the need of our type but we gain freedom from using those coping strategies in unhealthy ways. Interestingly, notes Cron, each of the nine motivations or needs is in direct opposition to the gospel. For example, the belief that I need to be perfect in order to be loved (Type One) or I need to be needed in order to be loved (Type Two) or I need to be successful in order to be loved (Type Three) or I need to be special in order to be loved (Type Four) and so on for each type.

These may have been helpful false selves that we needed to get us through childhood but says Ian, “if we drag them into adulthood, we will bang guardrail to guardrail throughout our lives”. The Enneagram helps us recognize these motivations and increase our self-awareness of our personality so we can put the brakes on some of our patterns instead of living them out on autopilot. And most people, based on the research, are living without self-awareness and on autopilot making a mess as a result.

The Enneagram and our passions

Awareness of our type and our motivations helps and so does identifying the “deadly sins” or passions of each type. The deadly sins were developed by Pope Gregory around the 8th or 9th century. For ones, it’s anger, for twos, it’s pride, for threes, it’s deceit, for fours, it’s envy, for fives. it’s avarice, for sixes, it’s fear, for sevens, it’s gluttony, for eights, it’s lust, and for nines, it’s sloth.  We are all tempted by, and commit, all of those sins, but each type has one that seems to have more strength. There is one we constantly trip over and that causes us the most suffering.

Knowing about our personal tendencies, motivations, and passions, helps us move in a direction of surrender. Ian says the Enneagram gives us a growth path. The journey for a type two is from pride to humility. Instead of pride, believing they can meet the needs of others every time, a two who has sought healing can accept their limits with humility. When we develop this self-knowledge, we no longer live on autopilot. We don’t have to look in the rearview mirror of wrecked relationships and see a common theme without any understanding of what happened. The Enneagram can give us insight into our patterns and interrupt their destructive circuit as we do the work of learning healthier ways to interact and seek out love.

Understanding ourselves and others is incredibly helpful and important. The Enneagram can give us a sense of empathy and compassion for the wounds and journeys of other people. It is not an excuse for you or them to continue in poor behaviors. A Type One has to come to face their anger and the fact that it often leaks out as shame, judgmentalism, and criticalness of other people. That motivation and sin may have worked to help you succeed in school but in adulthood, it takes on a different form. Ones need to work toward serenity, being at peace that we live in a broken world that they can’t fix or make right.

The Enneagram as a healing path

Another part of the healing path of the Enneagram is recognizing our points of stress and security, both of which cause us to migrate toward another type. When we are under stress, we move through and exhaust the resources available to us with our type and we borrow the strategies of other types. As we become aware of these tendencies, our self-awareness can lead us to different choices in how we interact with others. We can move toward health. Our personality type remains the same throughout our lifetime but as we get older or go through suffering, our experiences soften some of the excesses of our type even while our motivation and deadly sin do not go away.  As we heal and adapt, we find ourselves able toaccess different parts of each type but one number is dominant. We will always have one type hat we default to and click over to regularly.

While we each represent one dominant type, we also contain all nine numbers because all types are represented in the image of God. Because we are made in His image, we can access all nine types also. For example, in the world, ones represent the goodness of God, twos the love of God, threes the glory of God, fours the pathos and suffering of God, fives the wisdom of God, sixes the faithfulness of God, sevens the joy of God, eights the power and justice of God and nines the peace of God. When you use the “superpower” of your type in service to what God is doing in the world, this is when you are your true self. When you are using them in service to your ego’s agenda, to get what you want from others, then you are operating as your false self. Discovering these facets of the Enneagram is a valuable exercise. As you explore your type and learn your inner motivations, passions and patterns, this self-awareness can lead you on a path of growth. This is the gift of the Enneagram – far beyond just knowing your type, when used properly it is a powerful tool for personal healing.

If you are interested in learning more about the Enneagram, find Ian’s book, “The Road Back to You”. It’s a great place to start. It’s a primer that provides enough information but not so much that you are weighed down and overwhelmed. You can also take a test but not all tests are created equally. You can go to Ian’s website called the IQ9 that can help. Another way to learn more is to go to a day-long Enneagram workshop but be sure to choose a Christian perspective. Like anything else, this tool can be used wisely or foolishly, in the light of God’s truth or apart from it. When used as a resource alongside the wisdom of God, the Enneagram is a powerful tool of healing.

As you continue your journey of self-awareness, we would love to invite you to become part of our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our online groups meeting every week. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts and download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single-parent families, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at info@spsociety.com.


Get Ian’s book “A road back to you” click here