This year the Missouri Conference’s Soul Connections retreat embraced a tool that many people have used for growth for decades: the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a personality system that combines both psychology and spirituality in the search for self-awareness and self-acceptance. It describes nine different ways of thinking, feeling, behaving and seeing the world.
The workshop at the Lake of the Ozarks was led by Marci Madary, who has looked at the world around her through the lens of the Enneagram for all of her adult life. She describes it as a tool of intersection that helped her learn how to be the best version of herself.
“It’s using like side mirrors on car, I learned to see my blindspots,” she said. “It helps me understand why we do what we do. It also helps me move from compulsion to choice. It taught me to ask myself, ‘Is that behavior going to get me to where I want to go?’”
It’s not a cure for personality traits that can cause conflict, but it can help. One person told Madary it helps her identify her quirks more quickly and apologize faster.
For example, a one is a perfectionist.
“They don’t strive for perfection in as much as avoid imperfection,” Madary said. “A one will keep poking you in the same spot, over and over and over. They don’t realize how critical they are. They are very sensitive to criticism because they are so hard on themselves.”
A nine is a mediator, or peacemaker, and just wants to get along. Most people love nines, but they can have their pitfalls when they hide in excessive behaviors to dodge conflict.
“Even positive activities, like reading and exercise, can be negative if they are done to the extreme in order to avoid life,” Madary said.
Another example is a five is an observer or leaner. A five loves information, sends out an agenda a week ahead of time and knows all sides of an issue. Fives tend to be protective of their time and resources.
“If you choose to use the enneagram as a tool you have to lean into some really hard stuff,” Madary said. “Like for a five, you might ask ‘What is hard for me to give away?’”
When asked about matching numbers, Madary said there are no bad pairings with Enneagrams – all types can learn to work together. One person said she could immediately identify many people in each category, but she couldn’t place her husband, whom she has known for 20 years.
“The healthier you are, the more these look alike,” Madary said. “The less healthy, the more these traits really come out.”
Madary offered two prohibitions: 1. You discern your own number but don’t try to tell other people what their number is or how they have it wrong. 2. You don’t get to blame your own bad behavior on your Enneagram type.
“You can’t just say, ‘I might be loud and obnoxious, but I’m an eight so get over it,’” Madray said.