The Enneagram, helping people’s spiritual growth

Life

A Catholic priest who provides spiritual direction and counselling for people from all walks of life uses a unique way of distinguishing personality traits.

Father Stephen Truscott SM PhD said the Enneagram is among the field of psychology that talks about personality profiles.

In his role as Fullness of Life Counsellor and Spiritual Director, Fr Truscott uses his training in the Enneagram to assist him to appreciate how better to accompany a person on their spiritual journey.

The Enneagram was part of Fr Truscott’s formation as a spiritual director at the Institute for Spirituality Leadership in Chicago and he uses it in his ‘dual practice – in person and digital‘ service at the Fullness of Life Centre.

To break it down, Fr Truscott explained to The eRecord how the psychological method is utilised to understand personality according to nine different typologies.

Those typologies are:

  • Reformer (1)
  • Helper (2)
  • Achiever (3)
  • Individualist (4)
  • Investigator (5)
  • Loyalist (6)
  • Enthusiast (7)
  • Challenger (8)
  • Peacemaker (9).

“Each looks at different ways to understand some basic personality traits of a human being. Often, people find one typology holds their experience better than another,” Fr Truscott said.

Three basic groupings are: helper-achiever-individualist (2-3-4), investigator-loyalist-enthusiast (5-6-7) and challenger-peacemaker-reformer (8-9-1).

“If we consider the post-Resurrection narratives in St John’s Gospel; three stories describe how Jesus related to Mary Magdalene (a 234 personality), Peter (a 891 personality) and Thomas (a 567 personality).”

Fr Truscott said the Enneagram offers an insight into how Jesus called each disciple to deeper conversion in their lives.

Some treat the Enneagram with suspicion, saying it is without biblical foundation. But the Christian tradition shows part of our theological process is to find a language that speaks to contemporary life.

234 personality

As an example of this type of personaliy, Fr Truscott says Mary of Magdala, was an anxious, energetic person.

Developing Mary’s 234 personality Fr Truscott observes, she organised a group of her friends to get up very early the day after the Sabbath and go to Jesus’ tomb to finish the burial rituals.

In her anxious insecurity, when she got there, she was so caught up in planning, she overlooked what was happening in the present moment and mistook Jesus for the gardener.

It was only when Jesus called her by name and said, ‘Mary!’ did she come back to herself in the present moment. She realised that it was Jesus standing there before her.

Then, in her anxiety to reconnect with Jesus, she raced to touch him.

Jesus told her, ‘Don’t touch me.’

In saying this, Jesus was not afraid of being touched, he was comfortable with physical affection. By saying, ‘Don’t touch me.’

Jesus invited Mary to move from finding false security through getting her energy from people outside of herself to moving to a place within herself in which she could find a true interior source of security.

When she became re-centred within herself, Jesus then invited her to move back into action but from a centred place of security inside her; he told her to go and to tell the disciples in Jerusalem that he had risen.

891 personality

Peter the apostle was a very different person says Fr Truscott.

Fr Truscott calls him “a feisty character who often expressed strong emotions”.

By way of example, Fr Truscotts says that before Jesus’ death, Peter held his ground.

He declared that he would not reject Jesus.

For Peter, there was no way he would lose control, yet soon after, when put in a vulnerable situation and out of fear for his own self-preservation, Peter denied Jesus not once, but three times.

When Jesus meet Peter after the resurrection, he had to ask Peter three times did he love him before Peter dropped his protective mask of self-preservation.

Peter then acknowledged from within the raw pain of his vulnerability that, even though he had denied Jesus three times, he loved Jesus.

In this, Peter moved from a place of regret about the past to a place of no regret.

567 personality

Thomas, a 567 personality, was much quieter, Fr Truscott observed.

A more introverted person by nature, after Jesus’ resurrection, even though he had heard Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas, out of fear, he took refuge in the safety of distancing himself from what had occurred.

Thomas needed to make sense of things before he felt safe to take part which took him time.

When Thomas met Jesus, in the safe company of the other disciples, Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds, said Fr Truscott.

In this, Jesus invited Thomas to move out of the safety of his observations and perceptions about life and to take part in the emotional intimacy of life itself.

In reaching out and bridging the great divide between his thoughts and his ability to move into effective concrete action, Thomas shifted from dealing with life abstractly to engaging life in a concrete enfleshed way.

Enneagram as help to a full life

Fr Truscott says the Enneagram helps him better appreciate people.

“If I’m journeying with someone in the 891 space, I’m very aware their primary life question is: ‘Who am I?’.

“The 234’s life question is: ‘How am I doing?’

“While for people in the 567 space, their life question is more about ‘Where am I?’, looking to make sense of their life,” he added.

“If I meet someone in a critical circumstance from the 891 space, they’ll often describe their difficulty in terms of: ‘I don’t know who I am any more’; 234 people will talk about themselves as: ‘I don’t know what to do’; and 567 people often will say: ‘I can’t make sense of my life any more’.

Different perspectives

Fr Truscott acknowledged that there are different views on how people perceive the Enneagram.

“Some treat it with suspicion”, he said.

“Some say the Enneagram may not have biblical foundations to it. But we can see that when we study the history of the Christian tradition, part of our theological process is to adapt contemporary paradigms to talk about our faith.

“For instance, if we live in a post-modern secular world, how do we find a language that speaks into people’s contemporary life in a way that’s relevant to them?”

He is adamant that the Enneagram is one way among many ways of trying to speak into people’s experience.

“People can find [the Enneagram] helpful to understand where the growth-points are in their own personal and spiritual journey.

Fullness of Life Centre

Fr Truscott and Celia Joyce MPS are the Spiritual Directors and Counsellors at the Fullness of Life Centre www.fullnessoflife.org.

They offer a dual practice – in person and digital service, meeting with anyone interested in their spiritual journey at the Fullness of Life Centre or online by secure video conference.

Sources

  • Matthew Lau/The eRecord
  • Photo of Stephen Truscott, by Matthew Lau

News category: Features.

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