A few months ago, I went for a drink one day with a group of abnormally attractive humans, the kind of people who look good in baby fringes and low-waisted jeans. “I’m a 7,” announced a girl with a sleeve full of tattoos. “Same,” I agreed, assuming she meant the shoe size and glad we had something in common. Then a tall man proposed that it was a “4”, and I realized that we were not talking about feet.
In a second, I would learn that we were talking about the types of the Enneagram, a range of nine personalities who became sort of “What is your sign?” For the influencer, or the adjacent influencer. Someone gave me their phone and I did a 10 minute test asking me if I am “more relationship or goal oriented” and if I am “methodical and careful or adventurous and taker of risks “.
Wanting to seem totally cold to my seemingly porous new friends, I lied, insisting that I am “spontaneous and fun” and “romantic and imaginative”. According to 9Types.com, it actually made me a 7, or an “Adventurer”, known for being “energetic, lively and optimistic”, someone who “wants to contribute to the world”. (Who doesn’t? I silently objected to myself.)
Later that night, alone, my real self bathed in blue light by computer, I took the test again. With no one to impress, I was a 4, “the romantic”, essentially a needy little dog with “sensitive feelings”. Under “How to Hear Me,” read truths like “Give me lots of compliments.” They mean a lot to me “and” Do not tell me that I am too sensitive or too reactive! ”
Rude of the Enneagram to drag me like a Clydesdale on the run, but it’s true.
The Enneagram has an ancient history that is difficult to trace. The nine types of pseudoscience are said to have roots in 4th century Christian mysticism, but they really became popular after the Armenian writer George Gurdjieff, who died in 1949, traced the geometric and constellative figure. Gurdjieff taught “the fourth way,” a supposed path to enlightenment championed during the New Age by the Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo.
Jesuit scholars of the 1970s also adopted the Enneagram in their teachings, and today the practice occupies a curious place in the canon of self-help literature. Some therapists use the Enneagram to encourage self-reflection. Evangelical Christians believe that this number can strengthen their relationship with God. Many gurus use it to sell their pop psychology books.
Few things can unite the religious right and supporters of Marianne Williamson like the Enneagram, probably because regardless of politics, people like to talk about themselves.
“A lot of people will often feel like they are somehow unique and alone in their experience, they are sort of” there “and not normal,” said Kim Schneiderman, a therapist from New York. “For these people, I find that with the Enneagram, they begin to realize certain aspects of themselves in descriptions of personality types.”
Just as healing the zodiac or crystals has helped many “spiritual” nebulae find clarity in the midst of chaos, the Enneagram has also developed a very online sequel. This introduces a new cottage industry of influencers like Ashton Ober, who runs @EnneagramAshton while working his day job at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
In college, Ober lived during the days when her mother would drive her to Barnes and Noble, where she ran straight to the personality test book section. “I was a badass,” Ober, now 30, told me.
“The enneagram tells you the motivations behind your behavior. It explains why you do the things you do. It’s more a tool for self-growth instead of just like, here are your results, right “
She discovered the Enneagram for the first time two years ago, while completing her master’s program. Ober discovered that she was a 2, or “helper,” a type known for her need to give and feel love – which is perhaps not surprising, given her career in work social.
Unlike the Myers Briggs type indicator, another character assessment that Ober admits to being “obsessed”, the Enneagram provided not only an assessment, but an explanation. “The Enneagram tells you the motivations behind your behavior,” said Ober. “It tells you why you do what you do. It’s more of a tool for self-growth instead of just like, here are your results, that’s it. ”
Of course, this is only if you want to deepen what things really mean. Others, like my companions who drink a day, may well explain their behavior with “I am a 9”.
Ober publishes color-coordinated info graphics that are ripe for comment, offering advice and relationship advice for different types. The purpose of these messages is, of course, to engage, and nothing makes Enneagram fans speak more than a joke that makes them feel seen or read.
“The Enneagram is not a comfortable thing,” said Ober. “It brings out features that aren’t always that great. A few of us who take the test are ready to go further with the results, but many people do not. ”
“I’m doing my best, but I’m not a lifestyle blogger, I’m not going there and I say,” Look what I bought today from Target “”
Last summer, Ober’s account reached 20,000 subscribers. She now has over 190,000. She credits a desire to start publishing more about her personal life for this rapid growth. “I started to show myself and show my face more,” said Ober. “I reached 40,000 in September, then 100,000 in November and 175,000 in January.”
Yet Ober realizes that its content is very “niche” and difficult to monetize in the usual way of influencing partnership and sponcon agreements. “I’m trying my best, but I’m not a lifestyle blogger, I’m not going there and I say,” Look what I bought today from Target, “said Ober , although she did marketing for various life coaching companies. According to his own estimate, the following is “like, 96 percent women.”
Ginny Blake, 22, a law student in West Virginia, says the Enneagram helped her recover from anorexia. “It ended up being a useful tool to help me analyze the triggers and thought patterns that I had for years, but now through a new lens,” she said. “Anorexia is largely due to anxiety (and) I find that I am most likely to relapse when I feel like I am losing control of certain aspects of my life. Restricting becomes a default state of mind in order to restore some type of control. ”
Things clicked when she learned that she was a type 8, or “assert”, a personality who generally feared a loss of agency. “Reading how Type 8 reacts to stress has been very interesting, because it’s like having a glimpse of my brain. The Enneagram has become a tool in my belt to help me recognize and unravel harmful patterns of thought, “said Blake.
Blake now manages @EnneagramAndMemes, another popular account with over 160,000 subscribers. She believes that “it’s like gently roasting yourself and your friends.” Blake hopes that if she can make her followers laugh, she can encourage them to learn more about their types.
“Everyone carries with them a story that shaped them and shaped who they are (and) learn the type of someone, it’s like having a tiny glimpse of that story,” added Blake. “Learning that someone shares your type is also very special, because all of a sudden you realize that someone else is thinking like you.”
Sarahjane Case, 33, runs @EnneagramAndCoffee from her home in Asheville, North Carolina. She first learned about the different types five years ago, while chatting with her then boyfriend, now a husband, with a friend. After “boring” everyone she knew with facts about the Enneagram, Case began posting on Instagram in December 2018.
“We are in this season of life right now when we are asking everyone to own their stuff,” said Case. “Really look at yourself and think about what you bring to the table and what serves the world, and own it. The Enneagram basically asks you to do it directly. ”
Case said its nearly 560,000 subscribers were made up of “a lot of people in Nashville,” with New York and Texas being other major centers. Despite the interest, she is convinced that “you don’t have to be your number”.
“Often, we think the whole point of the Enneagram is that we have to be this to be loved, to be OK, and to be safe,” said Case. “So when we identify ourselves too much with our number, there is a feeling of” I don’t need to change that part of myself. “I want more for people than that.”
John Luckovich, a 32-year-old teacher at the New York enneagram, has followed the practice since a canoe trip he took as a high school student in northern Georgia. “I was friends with this woman whose father wrote personality types, and she says,” John, you’re a 4, “” said Luckovich. “It ruined my life. It is from this obsession that I did not differ at all. ”
Luckovich is deeply involved in the workshop and the speech circuit of the Enneagram, even meeting his wife at a conference held near the Italian-Swiss border. He is a researcher, someone who believes that people must spend years studying the Enneagram to truly understand it.
“I am very arrogant,” he joked. “With Instagram stuff, some memes are funny, very few are, but some are. There are a few accounts that I follow, but most of them make me cringe. ”
He attributes the new prevalence of the Enneagram to generalized generational feelings of “despair for the future”.
“I think there’s also a real interest in checking what’s going on under the hood?” How can I find something satisfying? What is really real? “
“I think people can instinctively sense that the Enneagram has a lot of substance, but that is far from recognizing that something has substance compared to the possibility of extracting this substance,” said Luckovich. “But I think there is also a real interest in checking what is going on under the hood. How can I find something satisfying? What is really real? “
And of course: “Some people are attracted to the Enneagram by pure narcissism and self-fascination, and that’s fine. If this is where you are, this is where you are. ”