EVER WISHED you could react differently? Or that other people frustrated you less? The Enneagram might just be your light-bulb moment. A self-discovery guide to the human psyche, it’s been around for decades but is getting ever more popular in settings as diverse as churches and corporations. Here, down-to-earth life coach SALLY BINGHAM gives us all the lowdown
Light-bulb moment? The Enneagram appears to have stood the test of time in pinpointing what makes people and those around them react in certain ways, enabling positive change | Photo: Nanine Steenkamp
SALLY AND THE ENNEAGRAM
Life coach Sally Bingham began her career studying nursing and psychology. She is married to Graham who works in education technology. They have three adult children and live in Cape Town
I HAPPENED UPON THE ENNEAGRAM in the early 90s, before it was hip, while navigating early motherhood. It sounds a bit dramatic, but 25 years on, I’ve seen it bring about profound change in family and friends and hundreds of clients.
It has also facilitated meaningful change in myself, helping me dial down my harsh inner critic and dead-end pursuit of perfection to produce a calmer, more balanced version of me!
I’d go as far as to say that if you’re ready for personal development and upping your relating game, the Enneagram’s an accessible way of fast-tracking you. By explaining your subconscious motivations, it helps to unpack your hidden fears, innate virtues and vices!
Then and now, life coach Sally Bingham: ‘I’ve seen the Enneagram bring about profound change. Personally, it has helped me dial down on my dead-end pursuit of perfection. More than a personality profile, it offers deep insight as well as practical pathways to growth.’
The word Enneagram comes from the Greek words ‘ennea’ (nine) and ‘gram’ (points). Crucially, there’s no better or worse Enneagram type to be, but working out your type does shed light on …
- What makes you think, feel and act as you do
- Why you might be resistant to important/positive change
- Why some people are offended by your words or actions, and others not
- What stops you doing some things but gets you leaping into other things
- How some people thrive on jumping from one activity to the next, while others are drawn to the safe and predictable
- How to understand the behaviour of others
BUT SALLY, WHY BOTHER WORKING THIS STUFF OUT?
‘Knowing your core centres of expression and instinct (or subtype) offers you the possibility of growing as a person and enables you to access different parts of yourself, thereby cultivating balance in life,’ says Sally.
‘I’m a get things done person. My action centre fires on all cylinders and my emotional centre comes in a close second. But my husband’s dominant centre is a thinking one. Discovering this about each other means I no longer get irritated with the amount of research he’ll engage in about things that I think require a two-minute read! And he, too, is kind and gracious about my insatiable desire to get things done when a quiet read seems more sensible to him!’
There are so many layers to the Enneagram. Start with identifying your centre and main type and explore that just a little. You’re likely to understand yourself and others better.
Rev Duncan McLea, St John’s Parish, Wynberg, Cape Town
‘I’ve found the Enneagram to be a most useful tool that has helped me look in the mirror, as it were, and understand myself. It’s alerted me to my blind spots and the areas in which I need to grow. It’s also helped me be more appreciative and understanding of others so I can receive the gift God is giving me in their friendship, or as team members as we collaborate together. There is, of course, the danger of boxing people which we must guard against. But the Enneagram has helped open my eyes to value the richness of diversity and the strength we gain by being different and complementing one another.’
BEGINNER’S GUIDE: TWO KEY ENNEAGRAM ELEMENTS
1. CENTRES OF EXPRESSION
Each of us predominantly engages with life from one of three ‘centres’. Think about this for a moment. In most situations, do you
a) respond from your gut with action,
b) have feelings and heart matters dominating your mind,
c) or are you more about thinking, information and logic?
- If you come from a body/gut or action centre, your challenge will generally be anger and control
- If you come from a heart or feeling centre, your challenge will generally be shame and sadness
- If you come from a head or thinking centre, your challenge will generally be fear and cynicism
We access different instincts, depending on our situations but we all have a ‘go-to’ instinct. One way to discover yours is to think of how you used to feel when at a pre-Covid social gathering. Would you be primarily concerned with:
a) physical safety, material security and comfort? For example, on entering, did you look for a comfy spot to sit during the speeches? Or maybe you ate a snack before leaving home in case dinner’s served late. If yes, your primary instinct is likely to be self-preservation
b) one-on-one encounters that result in deep connection? For example, on entering, were you all eyes for someone with whom you could connect intently? If yes, your primary instinct is possibly one-to-one instinct
c) gravitating towards a group, shared purpose and recognition? For example, you’re aware of where the groups are gathered and which one you’ll join. If yes, your primary instinct could be social
‘Our counsellor… posited careful questions intended to get us to think hard about why [Barack and I] felt the way we felt. Slowly… the knot began to loosen… It was possible that I was more in charge of my happiness than I was allowing myself to be’
– Michelle Obama, in her autobiography Becoming Michelle Obama, tells how understanding why she and husband Barack reacted in certain ways brought them happiness at a difficult marital time in his early career
‘IT’S HUMAN NATURE TO PROTECT OURSELVES’: WHY WE DEVELOP PERSONALITIES AS ARMOUR, AND HOW THE ENNEAGRAM CAN HELP
Which type are you closest to? If you work out the triggers motivating you and others, you can end up with profound personal and relationship change, say Enneagram fans
KEY TO YOUR BEST SELF? HERE’S WHAT SOME CAPETONIANS SAY ABOUT THE ENNEAGRAM