We’re baaaack! After an extended break from lockdowns and holidays and all things, we’re here with an all-new Enneagram themed episode! Before the holidays, we interviewed Enneagram coach Steve Van Kleeck about his practice called The Mindful Enneagram. We discuss the spiritual approach to the enneagram, as well as the various spiritual and personal development uses that the personality theory can be used for.
Interested in the approach that Steve uses? Check out his website at mindfulenneagram.coach
If you would like to view a full list of resources that Steve mentions, check out this post
If you liked this episode, you should check out our first episode on the Enneagram for more history and theory around the Enneagram and its uses in spiritual and religious contexts!
You’re listening to Nearly Numinous, a podcast all about the religious side of life. Every week we chat about different religions, spiritualities, and other beliefs. We do roundtable discussions, deep dives into histories and religious studies theories, and interview different religious leaders or practitioners. For full transcripts and more information on each episode, you can find us at nearlynuminous.ca
Hello, and welcome to the Nearly Numinous podcast. Today, we will be continuing our discussion on the enneagram, which listeners will remember we also discussed in an episode before Christmas. With us today we have Steve Van Kleeck, who has a coaching practice in the enneagram. And he also teaches an intro to the enneagram class. So Steve, I was wondering, could you give us a little bit of a background on your coaching practice and what you sort of do with that.
Steve Van Kleeck 1:13
So I’ve been I was introduced to the enneagram, about seven years ago. And it was just kind of background noise for a little while for about a year and a half, two years. And then like happens a lot of the times when we decide it’s time to get more introspective, disaster struck in the form of, my marriage had a really rough spot that I could recognize a lot of it was my own lack of awareness, lack of ability to be present and my propensity to withdraw, feeling like I don’t have enough energy to distribute out. So I pumped a lot of energy in at work, and then I had very little energy to dispense, I felt like I had very little energy to dispense with two young children, my two oldest boys, and for my wife, which isn’t a great way to run a relationship. And as that kind of bubbled to a head and I noticed it in the background and tried to ignore it. And my wife would bring it up further and further and further, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. And I had very little tools to deal with it.
[2:21] And so around the same time as that came to a head, we started counselling, marriage counselling to try to work this out. I came across mindfulness, it wasn’t really mindfulness at the time, it was really just sitting meditation. So I came across sitting meditation, at the same time as I discovered the enneagram. And I’m a very obvious of the, like a very obvious compulsion, a very obvious kind of egoic formation as the type five on the enneagram, which laid out my whole pattern, the whole pattern that had led to right where I was at, in my marriage, and even before that, like all as a child and the why I was labelled as shy and standoffish and cold sometimes. And it blew my mind that there was a model that could hold all this. And also show me how I moved, show me how I’ve moved into unhealth and this is specifically Riso and Hudson’s model, they had the levels of health that they’ve developed. And I was blown away by that. So I played with that in my meditative practice in tandem, for the next probably three years or so and watched myself move through this pattern through withdrawing, through engaging, and repairing my relationship, my relationship with myself in a lot of regards and realizing the illusion of my, my egoic pattern, the fact that I have a lot more energy than I like to tell myself that I have was really important. And through paying attention. And using the enneagram as kind of a guidance system of what to pay attention to, I was able to move into places like a more full expression, I would say, of who I am. I took all that information.
[3:40] We moved down here to where I live now in Florida, got involved in a church and I dabbled in, I talked about this tool a lot in my small group really wanted me to teach it, they came to me and said, well, you just teach us this thing, because it sounds really interesting. And so I had them take the RHETI, which is the Enneagram Institute.com’s website, which is where I recommend people start if they want to start at all with it, and they just want a quick way of kind of, triangulating some form of their kind of egoic pattern. It’s the only there’s one of their tests I just recently found out actually has some psychometric validity, but there’s a billion little 30 question questionnaires that can be really confusing for people and we can talk about that more later if you want to. I recommended my small group start there. And then I just walked them through material for like it was like six weeks or so. And the feedback was incredible, people were talking about real debates that should have happened, fights that should have happened that were deferred for various reasons. People that were just missing each other and there’s aspects of the other person they thought they were doing just to frustrate the other but it turns out they had a completely different lens on reality from you know, their partner. And that feedback kind of turned into me being requested to teach a class at the church on it. So I’ve been doing that this will be my fourth year but I haven’t because of Covid I didn’t really want to do the zoom thing. I’d like to think of something special about being in proximity, especially when you’re talking about pretty vulnerable stuff. There’s something about the safety of proximity. I think, instead of being in separate spaces, you know, like, Can I share? Should I share? In, you know, distance from each other.
[5:14] What I found from my classes was that I started using Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron’s book called “The Road Back to You,” which is a Christian book on the enneagram. It’s a pretty good intro as intros to the enneagram goes. And in it, they have this concept they call the snap, which is just mindfulness, it’s if you’re familiar with stop, it’s another mindfulness kind of technique. It “stop, notice, ask and pivot,” right? It’s just little moments you’re supposed to take to take inventory somatically, take inventory emotionally, right? Cognitively where your thoughts running off to, and then opt-out of patterns that aren’t working for you that you’re noticing. Well, as I had people incorporate this homework into my class, I realized how bad we just are. I think it’s a Western American thing, probably. I don’t think all cultures are this bad at being mindful. But we are just so bad at just being quiet. And taking those times. And the moment it came to a head was why we were going around the room, there were about twelve people in the room. And we were talking about a moment that we had journaled about doing, taking these moments and noticing our specific kind of egoic pattern. And one, a specific energetic type that has a hard time sitting still said, “Oh, yeah, I did that while I went on my run. I did that stop thing. When I went on my run,” I thought, “Oh, man, we really are missing this big time.” And that’s when I got really serious about finding a way to help people kind of quickly and grounded in a logic and rationality that people, every person could grasp, figure out tools by which to get still and see the instant value and see the science behind it.
[6:52] And so MBSR [Mindfulness-based Stressed Reduction] is that package for me. It’s an eight-week course, the formal MBSR training an eight-week course that runs you through all these different types of mindfulness trainings, you do a different exercise every single week. And so that’s my coaching practice, I’ve kind of learned and grown as I’ve done this myself and taught it in classes, my coaching practice now is we take the enneagram as a guidance system, and we pair up my mindfulness kind of homework with it. And as you learn to do sitting meditation, you want to do a body scan, just certain yoga kind of body awareness motions that you do, you start to kind of figure out, oh, this works for me, this helps me pay better attention to these specific things that the tool is calling out. And so that’s kind of the whole narrative, the whole story of where I came from, and then how I landed with what I’m doing now.
So you said that you tend to look at the enneagram with Christian lens. And, yeah, this use of that enneagram, in like Christian circles seems to be quite a common thing that I’m hearing for Christian circles. And I was just wondering, what are your insights in why this is so popular?
I think there’s a couple different reasons. I think, I think a big one is that modern American Christianity is missing a psychological component as a whole. I think it’s something that has existed historically in Christianity. Things like spiritual direction, that some schools and some denominations hold to still, and a lot don’t like, I never grew up in a tradition that had spiritual direction as a regular thing that I did, or a contemplative prayer practice, right. And I honestly, until probably my late 20s, early 30s, I didn’t know there are Christians that did those things. It just wasn’t the vein of Christianity that I was raised in. And I think that’s pretty widespread. And so this capacity that some veins of Christianity may have baked into their spirituality of paying attention. A lot of us don’t have that. And I think there’s an instant attraction to growing this ability to pay attention and all the benefits that come with paying attention to what’s going on. So I think that’s one layer of it.
[8:58] I think another layer of it for me, personally, is we’ve seen so much, we’ve seen a lot of oppression come out of the church, and like take your pick of the denomination or the vein of the church, where there’s pain and suffering has been generated and created because of the church itself. And I think that issue is because we have a bad psychology. I think there is a, I think there’s a lot of spiritual bypassing going on, where we call in some sort of spiritual explanation for why things are falling apart, but don’t do the practical thing of, well, what are we missing and the way we’re training or the way we’re bringing people into the clergy? Or, right, like how we’re, how is the mental capacity? What are the thought processes of these people? You know, I’ve worked at jobs that had to do like a psychological test before I got hired. And, you know, and that wasn’t near as important as a job that somebody in a position of power like a clergy would have. So and I think we’re missing that maybe in the leadership levels, but I think we’re missing that just generally. There’s like a hunger for that and a noticing that we aren’t really good at paying attention to what’s going on. And that leads to suffering and pain. And there’s kind of an innate understanding of that. And so people like me see that, and we want to help and inject it and have leaders that notice it and say, “Hey, will you come and help? Will you teach us? Will you help people understand and see this a little bit better?” So that’s two levels. And I think another is, well, maybe those are good.
[10:24] There, there’s a level that I see in particular, and one of the things from a Christian lens, the reasons from a Christian lens, I think this is really critical, is that I think when Jesus is talking about the need to die to self, like you die to yourself, you take up your cross, you follow me, I think, if we don’t know what the self is, how could we ever even start that process? And I think we are in a place right now spiritually, where we don’t even really understand the complex layers that make up what we are. And tools like the enneagram at least help do some stratification and showing that you’re a thing that’s in motion, you’re not one thing all the time, right? You’re, you’re a complex kind of multi-layered thing in flux and in motion. And noticing that and paying attention to that, you can opt into different patterns and out of different patterns, right? So we, there’s this, there’s opportunity for change in motion.
[11:19] And I also see Jesus kind of confounding people in his ministry that have very specific egoic patterns. So you have somebody like Nicodemus, who’s very high-headed, and that whole conversation goes down, like you have to become, you got to be reborn. And his first question is, “how do I get back into my mom’s womb?” Right? And Jesus is calling him out of his egoic pattern, right? This like high-headedness and calling him into this other place this like deeper, like spiritual understanding of things. And when the rich young ruler comes forward, his whole thing is different. His isn’t high-headed, it’s image consciousness, right? It’s, “I have all this stuff. I’ve done everything perfectly. Now, what do I do?” And his answer for the Kingdom was “go sell all your stuff, give all your money to the poor, and then come follow me.” Right? So there’s a lot of confounding of the self that Jesus is doing. But if you’re not paying attention to the fact there’s different types of egoic expressions, you miss some of the nuance in there. And I think we’re called to it too. I don’t think those calls stay in on those pages, I think the call is perpetual, that we’re called to not to be able to see what we have going on, what the barrier is for us, and to be able to die to it. And I think that is the process of growth in a sense, so the process of opting into patterns that serve us better, like I kind of outlined earlier in my own journey. So I don’t know if that got to all your questions, but that’s some of it.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. I have a question, more along the lines of what, in your opinion, are links that the enneagram itself has with Christian theology,
I don’t know outside of understanding… I think I’ll say this; isn’t like a specific theological position. But how we develop theology is impacted by how our personality forms. We have something like 30,000 different denominations of Christianity. And there’s a reason for that. And I suspect it comes from a psychological division around what the emphasis should be, what were what parts of this text should be emphasized in de-emphasize, what… some of them are completely different approaches to how the text should be read entirely. You’ve got literalism, right, and you’ve got sort of a more Jewish midrash, that’s even kind of emerging in Christianity a little bit more, Rob Bell loves a good midrash if you listen to any of his stuff, or read any of his books, and, and this, they’re very different approaches to the exact same text. And the reason for that is that we have different lenses for how we view reality, for how we understand even this kind of ancient tradition, and what it means for us now. And so if you can’t, if you don’t understand that you have a unique lens, and that person over there has a different lens, then you’re gonna be left kind of in this state of tension where sometimes you have to conquer them, sometimes you’re gonna have constant a constant state of doubt about whether you’re right, or they’re right. And I think the first step, theologically, is understanding there’s a foundation by which your theology, that interacts with your theology, and kind of selects the theology and working from that kind of foundational level. I think that’s where you start deconstructing in some cases, right? It’s like, well, it was this me with this handed to me, did I latch on to this because an authority figure I trusted gave this to me, am I attaching to this because it’s a theology that fits better cognitively or fits better emotionally with who I am, right? So it’s kind of more of like a meta answer than any particular theology, but I think it’s foundational to understand you are looking at the world from a unique perspective. And the enneagram helps call that out.
I really appreciate the like what you said about how different nominations have different lenses, but then that also applies on an individual level how like we as individuals see things differently. And I, I don’t know, I just find it very interesting how those two things kind of overlap.
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, we make up the dominations, right.
I’m a little curious if you have a background in psychology or theology prior to kind of coming to the enneagram.
I actually, I was like, eight credits shy of my religious studies degree. I was a double major in technology and religious studies. And I was so sick of school, I just bailed. I was like, “I’m not doing this double major thing. I’m out.” So I yeah, I’ve done a lot, took a ton of seminary classes, I took Greek 1, Ancient Near Eastern history, a bunch of different genre classes with some really, actually really stellar profs for my little Christian school that I went to, that aren’t there anymore. They were adjuncts at the time, now they have better positions at other places. But so yeah, a very real extensive theology background. Psychologically, it’s really been more of a hobby as far as theories of personality go. And it’s all been because I’ve been trying to sort myself out for a really long time. So all the way back to like MBTI, on DISC and Strengths Finder, Strength Finders, and it was kind of, in all, the fact that I have that backdrop already. And then the enneagram still stood out in such a prominent way. It was the first one that I didn’t instantly jump into the psychometric validation, right? Like, well, is this real at all? Because it hit, it landed so true to me that I was like, “What?!” This is, it actually is startling to people. The first reaction a lot of people have, when I introduce them to it is that they’re startled that these words are written down someplace because it maps them so accurately. I don’t think that means we shouldn’t have a good psychometric, good clinical data underneath it, right? That’s working. I think it’s coming. By the way, I actually think it’s in the works right now. I sent you some of that. By the way, I don’t know if you guys had a chance to look over that.
Yeah, I had a look at it earlier. And it looks like it looks really interesting. And I’m definitely going to be looking into it more. And I’m not surprised that there sounds like there’s going to be some more studies done on the psychometric validation of the enneagram.
Yeah, I think, you know, what so often happens with these things is it takes money to do studies. And if there isn’t a big push, well, we’re not going to do anything unless you can prove it. Because people you know, it’s not like they have a governing body, they have to appeal to and meet some sort of criteria. People are doing it, they’re getting accredited in different enneagram, you know, institutes, coaching styles are getting taught from different schools. And people know it works. So no one’s really asking for the clinical data. But there’s people like, I don’t know, if you looked at this study, Rachel, from Anna, think Anna Sutton was her name, she’s a PhD. Hers is really good. If you’re just going to look at one and even for your listeners, if you’re interested in this. It’s called, “But is it real? A Review of Research on the Enneagram”? It was from 2012. And that’s a good one, because it kind of collects a bunch of different ones in it because you kind of grabs a bunch of different studies done. But for me the most, the most interesting one, if you’re into the validity of it is the mapping to the Big Five, which is probably I don’t know, I think I don’t know, a few of you are work on your PhDs in psychology, right? Is that accurate?
No, both Rachel and I looked at psychology a fair bit in our undergrad. But yeah, we’re we’re not qualified as PhDs in psych.
I thought there was background. There’s, there’s some sort of background in psychology or counselling or something. Is that true? Or no?
I do have an undergraduate degree in psychology.
Yeah, so the Big Five is typically considered the most valid personality, you know, typing system. But it’s, um, it’s like, the more valid it is, the less useful it kind of is to apply, because you can figure out how neurotic or not you are, but like, “Well, what do I do with this information?” And the enneagram is more.
That’s a very good point. And I, I saw some I’ve seen some articles on the enneagram. Like it’s because it’s so applicable and rings so true with so many people. That means it’s kind of hard to test its psychometric validity, just because it’s kind of hard to match those two up. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Yeah, well, there’s just a thousand, there’s a thousand challenges to doing, I think, to accurate, all of these, all of these models I just listed off MBTI, DISC, the enneagram. They’re all just trying to model some, some data of reality, right? And the ones that we can apply and work probably are modelling certain aspects of reality accurately one-to-one because we can apply it and we see the thing that it documents is going to happen, right? But inside of that, there’s all this dynamic stuff internally happening, like what how do you map all the things that I did to see this thing, work on paying attention to it, right, in, I have a unique environment, I have a unique physiology, I have a unique mental health construct, and then this and then I can say this work for me. I don’t know how you’d ever actually model that in a clinical setting. But there’s so much dynamism in that flow. I don’t know if that’s what you’re saying, Rachel. But it’s,
It’s not easy to do any of this work. Trying to map personalities is complicated. But I don’t, again, I encounter plenty of people who just want to stay at pseudoscience and toss it out. And occasionally, one of which, well, it was sort of the stance of my brother who might listen to this. And he really was not a fan. I just dropped it. And I think that’s an important piece to mention, if people aren’t interested in the enneagram, I tell people this all the time that I teach, we aren’t recruiting people for the Church of the Enneagram here. That’s fine. If they’re not into it, you know, I think I when we did our off-air setup, this concept of ennea-annoyance, right where it’s just like, non-stop, all it can do is talk about enneagram about people, and it just turns people off like crazy. And my brother Tim was kinda, I don’t think I was annoying him with it. I just kept little, he would say little things and say, “You know, I think this would be useful to help you understand that a little bit better.” And he’d be like, “I’m not in a box. That’s not gonna work for me.” It was literally like two years later, he called me and said, “so I took this thing. This is crazy. You know, how is this true? How is this real?” And so and now he’s he actually called yesterday, he left me a voice memo and said, “I think I’m like an enneagram fiend now, and I don’t know how this happened.” And so again, my advice is don’t annoy people with it. It’s kind of one of those things. It’s sort of like trying to tell someone they should go to counselling, or do any kind of inner work, like, would you really badger someone like, “Hey, like, you should go and see a professional, you really should see professional about that,” eventually, if they don’t want to do it, they’re just gonna cut you out and be annoyed with you, right? So it’s important to know when just to drop it and let it be for you. That’s words of wisdom to anybody out there who’s in that stage of wanting to shout it from the rooftops, it can be just for you, that’s good enough.
That’s very true. I remember this very specific situation where I was kind of stuck at a table with people who were just talking and talking and talking about the enneagram. And they were using all the lingo and stuff. And I didn’t really know much about the enneagram at this point. And so I was just really, really annoyed because it was an exclusive conversation. I was like, there was no way out of it. And so you’re right, like I did get very annoyed. And then I didn’t look up the enneagram for a while after that, because I was so annoyed. And so then any use it could have had for me at that point, like was just void because I was so annoyed with it. And then now, I do quite appreciate the enneagram. But it took a while for me to get over that initial annoyance.
Yeah. Like, why would you want to join that group?
Yeah, the language is very exclusionary, because you’re talking in numbers, right? It’s like, “Oh, that’s very four of you. That’s very eight of you.” And like, you have no basis for what that means unless you know the enneagram.
Even then you don’t. Like, another soapbox. I’ve been doing this for a while now. And I’ve read, even people who are into the enneagram probably haven’t read as many books as I have or done online courses like I have. And that’s not like I’m not being braggadocious it’s actually part of my ego fixation. I go bonkers with data when I get obsessed with something. And I’m bad at typing people. Because there’s so much nuance in this whole thing, why it’s useful is it starts at motivations. And all you’re seeing is behaviours. You can have the same behaviour from a lot of different motivations. It’s actually one of the things that’s useful about the enneagram. If you actually dig into it, that you realize, “Oh, this is a lot more nuanced than I thought it was.” And people who just have been on Instagram and seeing a couple memes and now that all of a sudden they’re gonna start telling people and the thing that I hate, Steph, is that they use that as a derogatory thing. It’s so almost always some sort of negative little like jab as if having a certain personality is a negative thing. I hate it, drives me crazy.
Yeah, I think we, we talked about that a lot in our last episode, that kind of idea that these hese personality tests, whether it’s the enneagram, or anything else can oftentimes if you don’t know a lot about it, it can oftentimes put you in a box. So I was complaining about the fact like I’m a four and fours are highly emotional. So then does that mean that everybody that finds out that I’m a four thinks that I’m just this neurotic emotional mess, right?
Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good point. And there’s a lot of misunderstanding as well about what it means to be an emotional person. Right? And a lot of people don’t understand it doesn’t mean you’re gonna burst out into tears or into rage at any given moment. As a matter of fact, you can be very plain-faced, very straightforward and have a lot of emotion under the hood happening. And yeah, I think that the general issue with it is people that, is just the stereotypical kind of surface-level understanding, not just of the concepts, but about what words like “emotional” mean, right or what’s a good one… like for me, like my withdraw, right? Just because I’m withdrawing, sometimes it’s a sign that I need to be engaging and I’m opting out of engaging, where the healthier thing to do would be to stick it out and engage. Sometimes I need to actually recoup some energy, because that’s just how I operate. Right? I’m in this kind of extroverted way of operating in the world, right. And so if somebody says, “oh, fives withdraw, that’s kind of their, their thing that they need to watch out for.” And they’re watching me move, if they don’t understand the motivation underneath that action, and they come at me and say, “Hey, you really should be engaging right now and not withdrawing.” It’s like, you don’t actually understand how much more nuance there is to what you’re talking about. And again, it leads to that same kind of annoying type of a person that understands just enough on the surface to use the lingo and to kind of be obnoxious but not enough to know that this is for you, in the first place. If anybody listening just takes anything, it’s for you. It’s not for the parlour trick, As tempting as that is to type people. And if you want to type celebrities, I guess go for it. But if you’re doing that, instead of applying it to yourself, then you’re just missing a lot. You’re missing a lot of value in it. Don’t be annoying.
Rachel, you’re a five too, do you have any questions that you would like to ask from a mutual five experience?
Yeah, I was just listening to you talk earlier about, like, how people view you as shy or like cold sometimes. And you like tending to withdraw or being worried about not having enough energy to give people when really you should be telling yourself like “you have enough energy to give people” like I really resonate with that. So like, that’s just another thing about the enneagram, like it connects with you so, so completely, and connecting with other people, it sounds, so that’s good to hear.
Yeah, that’s actually one of the really beautiful things that happens in my classes, when I kind of got hooked on teaching it as like, just like an intro class, as much as it can be difficult because that means I’m setting up a bunch of these people that want to go around and preach it, even though I tell them after every class for six weeks, please don’t do this. It always happens. I hear it happening in the class, I have to call people out on it. It’s in there, it’s good-hearted, but it’s like come on, you know, it’s just not what it’s for. But what the beautiful thing that comes out of it is people sitting around the table that all kind of have emerged as different types of personalities. Most of them realize they’re not alone. There’s other people that experienced it something like they do some around some kind of core set of if there’s nuance to it, whether on the same core set of kind of experience I’ve had people tell me that they were terrified of stepping into the class, their wife told him, it’s almost always men, too, it seems like they’re terrified to come in women come all the time, I have way more women in my classes, and then and then the men show up and like I was so terrified of being exposed. And then I realized, the reason I feel so poorly about myself is an expression of this personality that has emerged. And it maps it It talks about it right here, it’s showing it to me. And so they already are catching some of that negative self-talk or some of that, like self desert, like that self-degradation, they just carry with themselves, and realizing, oh, there’s a whole subset of people that experienced life this way. And there’s something about I never didn’t anticipate that being such a cool part of it. But there’s a sense of I’m not alone, in my unique experience and all of our unique experiences, and is there suffering incorporated in it. Something about being conscious means that we suffer is just there can be different lenses that lead to different kinds of suffering. And to know you’re not alone is a huge comfort to lots of people. I love that about doing my class and seeing light bulbs go off with people. It’s cool,
I’d be really interested to hear more about what you think about the connections between the enneagram and mindfulness and meditation because as someone who has both a personal and academic background in mindfulness and meditation, and Buddhism, like I noticed you were just talking about like, to sort of like be conscious of suffering. That’s very Buddhist, I would love to hear more about what you think about that connection.
Well, my running theory, which is why I’m pairing my Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction stuff up with this is that the enneagram has good information. But if you don’t have the conscious awareness to pay attention, and apply it, I don’t know that it’s doing a whole lot of good for you. And again, I think that kind of highlighted when I paired, the Snap process up are really Suzanne Stabile did it. I just emphasized it in those classes that I did after my first class, that people didn’t even know how to do the first part and doing and doing the different parts of becoming mindful, even like stopping, being able to feel your body, right, you’d be able to even go to your breath, being able to pay attention to the thoughts that are arising and the emotions that are arising. All of that’s learned stuff. I just started at the same time I started the enneagram and I didn’t realize I was doing both at the same time. And so when I, once I realized that if you don’t have the capacity to pay attention, then you can’t actually take the enneagram in and carry the information with you and notice.
[30:12] A great example for me is when I withdraw. I, when I was in my late 20s, I withdrew drew into my basement when we lived up in the Midwest, and I play video games or watched Netflix down in my office and like, just chill away from everybody. That was a really, once I realized I was withdrawing, it was so obvious, I’m in a different space in the house. I mean, like, for hours, sometimes it took me until the kids went to bed, so home from work down there, and I was like, wow, that’s horrible. I got this wider angle lens, and it was so obvious, I was withdrawing. Now, I withdraw onto my phone. And it’s subtle, because I’m still sitting near people, the proximity thing has disappeared. But if I’m not paying attention, and realizing that I’m escaping my consciousness, my awareness escaping into this other space, then I’m not going to realize that I’m still slipping into my withdrawal mode, it’s just changing form. Right? The reason I can pay attention to that is because I’ve spent the last five years trying to pay attention to myself through you know, different types of practices. And so I think the enneagram is great. I think if you’re not able to pay attention to the cool stuff that it shows you then I don’t know, I think it just turned you into a meme, or whatever, a meme maker on Instagram or something. Because I just think you don’t have the capacity to apply it.
So you use the enneagram as a part of, like spiritual direction and in the Christian church. And I was just wondering, is there a difference between psychological growth and, and spiritual growth, in your opinion?
I think, kind of deferring to earlier when I was talking about the psychological underpinnings of how we even approach your holy texts or your theological understanding that they are, I would say, they’re inextricably linked. Your psychology and your spirituality both inform each other. It’s like, I think it’s a feedback loop. And I don’t think you can correct one or move one without the other, right, maybe, maybe they’re two sides of the same coin, something along those lines. So if you don’t have the, the understanding of your own psychology, that you have a psychology for the first place, which is surprising to some people, that you have a specific lens that you view the world through, then you want to understand why your spiritual path was selected in the first place. ‘Cause there’s kind of this mode, the enneagram talks about this, where we’re asleep. Where we don’t even really realize that there’s a pattern that’s emerged, right, we’ve, we’ve, we had these formative years as children when our personalities kind of firmed up. And then there’s a couple more years somewhere in there, where there’s more details fleshed out, maybe through your 20s, right. And we don’t even really realize that we’re making decisions based on the output of that process, because a personality has emerged based on you know, some mixture of nature and nurture, right. And I think if you don’t wake up to that, then you don’t realize you’ve selected things like even like your political party, your spiritual path, your religious stuff, all of this, right, your friends, your career, all of these things, right are outputs of that function. And so if you don’t have that foundation, you can’t even begin to really understand why you made certain decisions. And then as you can opt into things the way that you actually want to not in this kind of a sleep pattern that you’ve been in. I think that’s where the real magic actually happens. And then your spirituality counselling informs your psychology, right, like, learning… I think it should. I think that’s kind of part of the deal. I think a good spiritual practice does impact the way we think about the world, the way we think about ourselves. Right? So it’s like, maybe there’s a kickoff with a psychological understanding as a formation, and then there’s a more, you’re actually starting to select your spiritual path instead of just waking up into it, if that makes sense.
There’s a lot of books I’ve come across and other resources that very distinctly tie the enneagram with spiritual development specifically. So we’re seeing this kind of trend beyond like your work that you do, but it also seems to be kind of pervasive. And I’m wondering if there’s any resources that you’ve come across that you’ve really appreciated, and if there’s other links between Christianity and the enneagram that you found from other people that have kind of been guiding to you.
The first one, the first two that come to mind are, I’ve mentioned already here. “The Road Back to You” is a really good intro from a Christian perspective. Suzanne Stabile has a really awesome organization enneagram organization that she runs out of Texas. Ian Morgan Cron is a, was a pastor, he was a Lutheran pastor for a long time. He’s not anymore. I think he exclusively does enneagram work now. So there, that book is really good. It’s a great intro, and I actually use that with the study guide. The study guide has a lot of the Snap, the mindfulness stuff built into it. And I built, I kind of have my own curriculum that I paired up with that to teach my classes at my church. They have a second book called “The Paths Between Us,” which is about relationships, interconnection with the enneagram backdrop, which is really good. I haven’t taught that yet. I think I might do like a more advanced class, at some point. I have enough people that have taken it now that maybe I can put twelve people together across three or four years of classes.
Chris Heuertz’s book is good. He has a lot of my hit list. The last half of his book is around mindful application. So it really is a good book from a Christian perspective. Richard Rohr has a book that’s a little bit older. But it is a sort of diving into the enneagram as actually being sourced from the Christian mystics, I believe it’s called “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective,” or something along those lines. I think it was maybe written the 80s, there was a really big surge of popularity in the 80s. And then that kind of died down again until fairly recently, like the last five years or so I’d say. And that is him saying that the desert fathers and mothers, the original contemplative mystic Christians, actually, this was one, this was a concept that they developed. And it points to like the Seven Deadly Sins, maps them plus two, there’s always these little modifications, you’re like, “Oh, was it really that then?” But, there is some interesting correlations, right, that are made that kind of talk about the system origins, maybe having been from the, from an actual Christian origin initially, or early on, the Christians found it and modified it and adapted it. But that’s a whole nother debate, the actual origins of the enneagram. It could be like its own podcast, and there’s so many weird twists and turns with that. So yeah, I think those are a couple of good resources.
You mentioned a little bit about the origins, origins of enneagram. And I was wondering, I know that some, like some more conservative Christians have a bit of a problem with having, with enneagram and it’s kind of more esoteric beginnings. And I was wondering if you’ve experienced that at all, in your practice?
I haven’t had anybody get concerned around that. I’m kind of anticipating that somebody will, at some point, do, you know, dig into it and really want to know where it actually came from? And the truth is, it’s gone through a lot of iterations. And it depends who you ask around how old it actually is, and where it actually came from. There, as far back as we know, it was Gurdjieff, right, which is like a turn of the century, you know, dude, died, I don’t know, like 1915, or something like that, I think. And he was the first one that actually had the symbol, but didn’t use it as a map of personality, it was a different type of thing. And where he got it, even from up to that far is unclear. These are like little pockets of secret schools, right? So there’s only a select few people that got to go in and learn any of this stuff. Obviously, way pre-internet, so. So it wasn’t supposed to go far and wide. That was the whole point of it. And I think just because something is esoteric doesn’t make it, it doesn’t make it inherently evil or bad, right. As far as like being secret, being information that everyone doesn’t have access to necessarily. I think you could argue it’s not anymore because lots of people have access to it. Right? For better or for worse. And so yeah, all those annoying enneagram-ites, you starting to wonder if maybe it should have stayed a secret for a little while longer.
Especially all the Instagram accounts. I always get a laugh at like all of the Instagram accounts dedicated solely to the enneagram
I think so. Yeah. Claudio Naranjo is probably rolling in his grave. So yeah, there’s so there’s Gurdjieff and then there’s the schools that came after Gurdjieff. And there’s all these little tweaks and modifications that were made. And so was it Oscar Ichazo? Was it Claudio Naranjo? Was it? You know, was it there’s Jhansi Lilly was another one that came out of Oscar Ichazo school. There’s a group that popped up in Berkeley, and then it kind of started the secret started, like slipping out, I think around like 1950, 60ish, somewhere in there. So I get the concern a little bit, I guess. I’m, I’m not, I’m not that concerned. So from a Christian perspective, all truth is God’s truth. So if, like, my understanding of God is like ground of being, right, but everything is held together, for, through, by, right. So if this thing plays and it works and it’s mapping reality then it’s mapping a piece of the Divine or of the Divine’s creation. So I’m, I’m not really spooked by that. I know there are Christian veins that are much jumpier around information like this, and they hey anticipate sort of like demonic activity around every corner and under rocks. I don’t mean that to disparage them. But it’s not how I operate. I don’t see that coming out of my tradition as something to hold on to, I don’t see it coming out of the text as something that I should be obsessed about. I think if people are understanding themselves better, understanding the world better, and moving into these more full expressions of who they can be because of what they’re learning, then this is a good thing. And I, I just don’t spend a whole lot of time. Soon as it starts doing bad things for people, I’ll, you know, I’ll rethink the whole thing. But so far, it’s all the fruits been good. So I’m gonna keep doing that.
Yeah, the only bad thing is the excessive Instagram accounts.
I mean, yeah, that’s true. That’s the only bad thing. And I’ll be fine for that bad fruit to wither up and go away. I sound like such a miser, people are gonna listen to this and be like “wow this guy’s a jerk, why would I ever want to work with this guy?” I don’t actually hate the Instagram accounts or the memes.
Oh, just easy to make fun of.
I just want I would like to equal amount of time spent on like, the deeper work, the deeper, and I wish there were more groups talking about, “hey, today, I noticed this thing. Today, I did my body scan meditation. And it’s like actually working. I’ve been doing this for last week on paying attention better. I’m noticing I’m withdrawing more in these spaces.” And like having those; I wish those were the conversations boiling to the top, and not the silly stereotypes and memes. We can do both. But I just, equal time. That’s what I’d like to see. I’m trying to contribute to equal time, we’ll see if it works.
Strange thing I’ve noticed, just while we’re on the topic of Instagram, something I’ve noticed, and I don’t know if this is just me. But all of the Instagram influencers that I follow, are all type fours. And I don’t know if that’s because like I identify more with them, because that’s what I’m like, or if it’s because people who are type fours are more likely to get super into Instagram. That was just a thing I noticed.
That’s a good question. Here’s the other thing. There’s a really popular free test online, I think overtypes people as fours.
We didn’t really talk about this, if you guys want to go into good test, bad test, I think there was a question on psychometric validity. So there are tests that are enneagram tests that have actually passed psychometric rigour, meaning if you take them enough times, you’re actually going to come back around the same scores, right? The RHETI 2.0, which is from the enneagram Institute, it’s Riso and Hudson’s test that they’ve made is one of them. I just learned about another I know very little about, but it’s called the IE-9. And it looks really interesting. The RHETI has, there’s a certain score they have to pass, I think it has to be 70%, like the recurrence rate has to be 70%. So if you don’t get the results back, like two-thirds of the time, the same results, then it’s probably not something’s designed poorly with it right? In the distribution, there’s a certain type of distribution that you should be getting consistently as well across the different outcomes. The IE-9 looked better from what I was looking at their report, it actually looked like it was more accurate than the RHETI, it looked like it was more expensive too, so I guess probably the research that goes into building those accurately is probably kicks back out. But if you don’t take those, and you almost always have to pay for them, because they spend research money to build those, then you, I’m not saying you can’t get typed properly.
[43:14] But the ability to get mistyped goes up significantly, especially if you have a really strong wing, or you’ve lived in stress a lot, because different energies show up when you’re in stress more often. Some people have really strong wings, and they can’t tell if their wing’s their core, their core is their wing. And then what happens is you go take the other one and you go take the other one. And there are all these free tests that you keep taking that have no real validity to them. And you’re six tests deep. And you’re like, “Well, this says I’m a nine and this says I’m a six. And this says…” you know, and you’re actually more confused, having gone down that path and not less. And I’ll tell you this from teaching classes now for four years, and now having about a solid year of coaching under my belt. I’ve never had anyone come to me and say “I was confused but I took my eighth online free test and now I got my clarity.” It’s never ever happened. So if you’re in that boat, don’t feel bad, like a lot of people fall in that position. But this is why coaching exists and why there are good, they’re pretty well-designed tests that… I use the RHETI with my clients. And it gives us at least a ballpark place to start talking through if they’re not clear. And in about four sessions, usually we can lock it into where their like mind’s blown, like with across their core type their wing and the instinctual variant, which is a really critical point as well. So, and usually I can do it.
[44:36] I just had a session with the woman from Portugal, I think it was and it was like 45 minutes. And she’d already done a lot of work. So it wasn’t that complicated. It was like “am I this or am I this” and we just talked through it and then I read her my favorite book is my reference manual is Riso and Hudson have this book called “Personality Types.” And it’s got great definitions about page and a half write-ups of the type with the wing. So when the core type is like kind of it but there’s nuance to it that’s not there, that’s not you. The wing incorporation usually provides a ton of clarity. And the write-ups are really comprehensive. It talks about the different stages of health and how it might show up. And usually, if we get close, and I read that with the type I watch people like, including in this last one last week, the types of careers they typically orient themselves towards. It was he was like, “What? How in the world is…” You know, again, a lot of people get freaked out, once you really get placed, there’s kind of a measure of being weirded out a little bit. For most people.
That’s a really, that’s a really good point about the difference between like free tests and more official tests where you have to pay for them, because obviously, money and research has gone into them. I think the very first test I took the very first enneagram test I took was a free one. And I think I got eight, the Challenger and like I can, I can see some of myself in that, but it’s definitely not my core type and then when I took the RHETI test that’s when I got five. And that’s when like I really was like, “Okay, yeah, I definitely can see that.”
Was your eight score pretty high when you took the RHETI still?
I don’t remember, honestly. I might have to go back and look at my results again, but I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was high.
That’s usually a good sign. According to a good chunk of enneagram teachers, that’s the line of growth for the five. So going from that withdrawn collecting information to actually applying information and kind of shaking things up moving things within information, which is that type eight, kind of lust for moving and shaking and challenging. So it could be a good sign if you showed up strong there.
If you’re looking for more information on all the resources that Steve mentioned, check out our website, nearlynuminous.ca. There, you’ll find full transcripts of the episode and also a post including all of the books and other resources that Steve has mentioned. That’s nearlynuminous.ca.
So first off, we talked a lot about a Christian lens here. And if I’m sure you have listeners from all over the spiritual or non-spiritual spectrum, so I don’t work exclusively with Christians, I actually work with a lot of deconstructing Christians from different veins. But you don’t have to be anywhere in that ballpark to work with me, you can check my work out if anything that I’m talking about here resonates with you at mindfulenneagram.coach. And there’s a lot of information there, ways to connect with me. And I do a free explorer session. So if you just want to talk for 15, 20 minutes and see if there’s a fit there, we can just do that over zoom. It’s free. It doesn’t cost you anything but a couple minutes. So that’s it.
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