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The Importance of Introspection: A Daily Examen for Each Enneagram Type

Written by: Rev. Andrea “Ani” Vidrine, LCSW

The Enneagram Personality Typology System

Over ten years ago now, a dear friend of mine kept asking me to take the enneagram personality assessment. I was resistant at first. You see, I work as a psychotherapist, as well as a spiritual director, and didn’t want to look at a new client or directee and think, “Here comes a Type X.” I didn’t know it at the time, but that attitude demonstrated my lack of knowledge about the point of the enneagram system. My friend’s persistence won out, though, and I am so glad that it did.

Knowing my enneagram type has proven to be one of the most important tools of awareness that I have ever experienced. Unlike in the popular media, the point of the enneagram is not to recognize and celebrate a set of qualities that make you like a certain group of people. Rather, the system is based on the concept of personal transformation through conversion of your core defense mechanism to its opposite virtue.

The word enneagram literally means nine-pointed figure. While this symbol was first introduced to the modern world through the work of George Gurdjieff in the early part of the 20th century, the enneagram personality system originated in its present form in the early 1970’s through the work of Bolivian-born, Oscar Ichazo, and Chilean-born, Claudio Naranjo. The nuances of the system are still evolving to this day.

Each point on the enneagram symbol corresponds with a personality type that is associated with a basic human vice (anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust, and sloth) and with the opposite virtue (serenity, humility, authenticity, equanimity, non-attachment, courage, sobriety, mercy, and decisive action). Identifying your type helps you to see how you have been employing your vice (passion in enneagram language) to cope and also shows you how to embody your virtue. In other words, knowing your enneagram type is important because it reveals your blind spots and helps you to live into the highest version of yourself.

The enneagram is based on the idea that humans have a split mind, a True self/false self. Your unchanging True Self is a state of flow, traditionally called Essence, and it represents a higher state of consciousness. When your body is relaxed, your mind is calm and present, and your heart is open, you join the flow of Essence and cannot help but make skillful choices. This is called the enneagram type in its maturity.

Your True Self is masked by your persona or false self, which feels insecure, defensive, and self-absorbed, and asks, “What about me?” When you are trapped in your type box or insecure persona, you step out of the flow of Essence and cannot help but make unskillful choices. This is called the enneagram type in its immaturity.

The idea of a True Self/false self is not new and is seen in different spiritual traditions. For example, Thomas Merton wrote in New Seeds of Contemplation, Chapter 2, “It is then the false self that is our god, and we love everything for the sake of this self. We use all things, so to speak, for the worship of this idol which is our imaginary self.” And in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (translation by Stephen Mitchell; chapter 23) the concept of Essence is explained well, in accordance with the Tao:

“If you open yourself to the Tao, you are at one with the Tao and you can embody it completely. If you open yourself to insight, you are at one with insight and you can use it completely. If you open yourself to loss, you are at one with loss and you can accept it completely. Open yourself to the Tao, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place.”

The journey of letting go of your persona to live from the openness of loving presence, which Essence represents, begins with identifying what kidnaps your awareness and makes you scramble for love in unhealthy ways. Knowing your enneagram type can be an important tool for this trip of a lifetime.

The Daily Examen

Ignatius of Loyola, Catholic saint, and mystic, developed brilliant psychology of introspection and discernment. He noticed how the moods of people fluctuate on a continuum of what he called consolation to desolation. St. Ignatius observed that consolation is the time when one experiences faith, hope, and love. Whereas desolation is characterized by emotions such as confusion, apathy, and despair.

This master psychologist advised that consolation is the time to prepare for desolation, a normal part of the human condition, by engaging in practices that bolster our resilience. He also suggested that when in desolation, we don’t make big changes but stay consistent in the positive habits that we have cultivated.

One of the foundational faith practices advocated by St. Ignatius is the daily exam, a brief time of regular introspection. The format that St. Ignatius recommended is as follows:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

Building upon the wisdom of St. Ignatius, a daily exam may be tailored to the particular passions and mental fixations of each enneagram type. I offer suggestions below on how these may be crafted, invite you to develop your own, and encourage you to commit to this practice for 30 days. The fruit in your life from this introspection will be self-evident. My own experience has yielded an increase in self-awareness, self-compassion, self-empowerment, empathy for others, peace, and clarity. I predict that after only a few days you will be hooked and want to utilize this new life skill indefinitely if you are not already doing so.

The Daily Examen in the Context of Enneagram Types

Type One:

I begin by coming into contact with my Serene Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life in this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and serene and the times when I felt frustrated, agitated, resentful, ashamed, guilty, and/or angry. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, from whom am I desiring acknowledgment? Whom am I judging?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to defend myself and/or to have a sense of control in the situation, to make everything correct or as I think it should be?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently good enough?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent perfection, the understanding that life is unfolding as it should. I rest in integrity and embrace a sense of serenity. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Two:

I begin by coming into contact with my Unconditionally Loved Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life at this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and humble and the times when I felt entitled, prideful, angry, rejected, embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, from whom am I desiring appreciation? To what am I feeling entitled?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to promote myself, to be liked, and/or to receive attention and validation in the situation?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently important or loved enough?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Ideas of inherent will and inherent freedom, the understanding that I am not the Source for others, that every being has a will of its own, and the freedom to act on its own behalf. I rest in unconditional love and embrace a sense of humility. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Three:

I begin by coming into contact with my Authentic Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life at this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and authentic and the times when I felt overwhelmed, impatient, driven, rejected, embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, unable to be myself, or afraid to be honest. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, from whom am I desiring approval? In what ways am I feeling discounted or devalued?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to promote myself and/or to receive attention and validation in the situation?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently valuable enough?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent hope, the understanding that I do not have to create my own value or identity. I rest in hope and embrace a sense of authenticity. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Four:

I begin by coming into contact with my Calm, Balanced Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life at this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and composed and the times when I felt anxious, fatally flawed, envious, rejected, embarrassed, hyper-vigilantly self-conscious, emotionally unstable, guilty, or ashamed. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, by whom do I feel abandoned? What do I think was missing? For what am I longing?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to promote myself and/or to receive attention and feel special?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently included?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent belonging, the understanding that I have my own place in this magnificent universe. I rest in the personal significance of being and embrace a sense of equanimity. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Five:

I begin by coming into contact with my Wise, Benevolent Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life in this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and sufficient, and the times when I felt anxious, vulnerable, bereft, insufficient, detached, indifferent, guarded, unwelcoming, ashamed, or fearful. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, in what situation did I feel ill-equipped and lacking understanding or sufficient information, or by what person did I feel encroached and/or pressured?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to protect myself and/or to detach and secure resources in the situation?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently sufficient?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent omniscience, the understanding that I have all the wisdom I need within me. I rest in clarity and embrace a sense of benevolence. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Six:

I begin by coming into contact with my Courageous, Trusting Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life at this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and secure and the times when I felt skeptical, suspicious, guarded, untrusting, vulnerable, bereft, insecure, worried, or afraid. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, in what situation did I feel threatened or in danger, without support or guidance? Of whom or what am I skeptical, suspicious, and untrusting?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to protect myself and/or to plan and secure a bright future in this situation?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently strong?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent strength, the understanding that within me is the Source of all strength. I rest in faith and embrace a sense of courage. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Seven:

I begin by coming into contact with my Joyful, Content Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life at this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and mindfully present and the times when I felt distracted, self-absorbed, preoccupied, impatient, agitated, nervous, unempathetic, or driven. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, in what situation do I feel like my options are limited and my freedom is being threatened? By whom do I feel like I am being limited or confined?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to protect myself and/or to chase the next high and distract myself through planning for grand projects or adventures?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently free?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent design, the understanding that my life is unfolding as it should, that I can join in that work, instead of managing it. I rest in joy and embrace a sense of mindful presence. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Eight:

I begin by coming into contact with my Innocent, Merciful Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life in this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and merciful and the times when I felt frustrated, agitated, nervous, anxious, powerless, weak, and/or angry. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, in what situation or from whom am I desiring justice? Whom am I judging and seeing as the bad guy?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to defend myself or someone else and/or to have a sense of control in the situation by forcing the issue?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently innocent enough?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent truth, the understanding that all is One; there is no duality. I rest in innocence and embrace a sense of mercy. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

Type Nine:

I begin by coming into contact with my Proactive, Decisive Self and offer gratitude for the gift of life in this moment, the people and resources. As I review the recent past, I notice the times when I felt grounded, open-hearted, and decisive and the times when I felt resistant, numb, paralyzed, annoyed, irritated, unsettled, unmotivated, stressed, pressured, indecisive, stubborn, and/or angry. I choose the event that seems to have the greatest charge for me and ponder it.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I experience a sense of freedom or feel constricted in the circumstance that I am examining?
  • If I was triggered, in what situation or by whom am I feeling pressured or stressed? What am I trying to avoid?
  • Am I experiencing a craving/desire to defend myself and/or to have a sense of control in the situation by checking out?
  • On a subtler level, in what ways am I not feeling inherently lovable enough?
  • What do I need right now to step out of the confines of my type box (if I am experiencing constriction) and align with Essence (the free flow of life in this moment)?
  • What virtue/s might support me in coming back to or going with the flow of Essence?
  • I imagine what it would be like if I embodied the highest version of myself in this situation or simply in moving forward at this time.
  • I close my examen by affirming the Holy Idea of inherent love, the understanding that I am lovable just because I exist. I rest in peace and embrace a sense of decisive action on my own behalf. I offer gratitude for this time and all of the resources that are abundantly available to me in my life.

About the Author

Rev. Andrea “Ani” Vidrine, LCSW serves as a licensed clinical social worker, spiritual director, enneagram mentor, and interfaith/interspiritual minister. She has provided continuing education for counselors through TPN, the NASW/Louisiana chapter, the Louisiana Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling, and dietitians through the Council on Renal Nutrition. Ani currently serves on staff at The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, D.C. in their Spiritual Guidance program. For more information, please visit her website at www.alovecenteredlife.com.

 

Rev. Andrea “Ani” Vidrine, LCSW