My study and observation over the last four years, has included reading both books and people– and in the end, cross referencing the two. As with any complex topic or system, there is much confusion and misunderstanding afoot in regards to the Enneagram. Understanding these hiccups and why people might be prone to make them is one of my favorite topics, in part because it’s a puzzle within a puzzle. True understanding has the ability to determine what something is, but also what something is not (and the why behind both).
In Biology, I imagine this looks something like the comparison between a butterfly and a moth. Seeing that both have two sets of wings and a similar body shape is not enough, and might lead a casual observer to assume both creatures are close enough to be the same. Many fall into a similar pit when trying to understand the inner workings of others– if they look, talk and behave like your friend Rob, you might assume they have a similar personality structure. Remember that adage about not judging a book by its’ cover? Whether with insects or with human identity, that advice rings true. If a butterfly is too complex to judge on sight, then certainly humans are as well– even when trying to sort out ourselves, we often miss the mark! Actions are clear, but with the Enneagram, we are looking below the surface at motivations, sin patterns and themes. That is when a butterfly and a moth become totally different animals!
It’s important to note that misidentification is a problem, not for the sake of right and wrong, but because the Enneagram is only an effective tool when we authentically identify. Because this system is rooted in sin patterns, the point is to understand that dark side of ourselves in order to move towards health– realizing these things about ourselves should be a humbling experience. Unfortunately, I have found the two main culprits of misidentification are pride/ego and lack of knowledge. Either an individual feels less threatened (or more flattered) by a type other than their actual type, or they are assigning a label to themselves with little to no understanding of what that label means– the latter is extremely common, and usually fallen into by those unfamiliar with the system. This is the main reason that I am not a proponent of test taking without follow-up study: the Enneagram was intended to further self awareness and personal growth, something that is simply not attainable by answering a fifty question test.
While many people misidentify between core types, it is also very common for individuals to mistype as their wing (a 3w4 mistyping as a 4, for example), or as one of the two points on their health spectrum. Because the possible misidentification scenarios are many, I’ll be covering the most probable and specific cases that I’ve personally witnessed. Check back on Monday for my first post on the subject, Misidentification: 3 and 7!