Knowing Your Type

There is great freedom that comes from knowing your type.  In the spring of 2011, I took my first Enneagram Workshop in New Orleans with my mom.  She and I love to talk about personal growth.  (Side note: One of our favorite movies is “When Harry Met Sally,” and we love the scene in the bookstore when Marie [played by Carrie Fisher] says to Sally [Meg Ryan] referencing Harry [Billy Crystal]: ‘There’s a man staring at you in Personal Growth.’)  Anyway, we often trade new books we’ve read, articles we’ve perused, and practices we’ve heard about with each other.  The Enneagram Workshop seemed right up our alley!  

Before the workshop began, I had had difficulty determining my type.  I had taken some of the very lengthy quizzes in various books and online, and kept coming up with different possibilities.  At the start of the workshop, I decided I was a Type Two: The Helper or The Giver.  
I was going through a somewhat stressful time in my life in New York City.  I was working as a waitress in a restaurant, I was frustrated with the lack of acting job opportunities, and my days were structure-free.  I was going home whenever I could get a ticket.  I had no stable romantic relationship in my life.  All in all, I was having trouble committing to myself, and my life in New York. 

I was boundary-less.  If a friend wanted to meet me for coffee or lunch, I would go to their destination of choice.  If I had plans to work on an audition, and got invited to see a movie with someone, I would drop my plans.  I would be overly available to my loved ones, putting my needs aside in favor of others.  It even went so far that when I would sit down for a meal with a friend, I would measure my eating with hers, eating the same quantity and at the same pace as her, in an effort to be on the same page and stay connected.  Relationships were (and still are) pivotal to me…they are my life-blood.  But it was at this time of stress when I went towards my Type Two point.
So, at the workshop, I spent the entire time thinking I was a Two.  The workshop I attended is taught in the Narrative Tradition, meaning we learn about Type by hearing panels of people telling stories of what it means to be their type.  As I sat on the Two panel, I felt the urge to take over, wanting to make it about me, “my stories are so interesting!  Listen to how and why I think I am a Two!”  I noticed that the others on the panel didn’t seem to have that same amount of self-absorption or need to stand out.
Then, it was time for the Type Four Panel: The Individualists.  I looked at them and noticed that they were all wearing similar colors: black and cream, chartreuse, and cherry red.  I looked down at what I was wearing, black jeans, and a cream shirt with geometric designs in black and red.  As they started sharing their stories, I could see in their faces and hear in their voices that little bit of self-satisfaction I recognized in my own sharing.  I also felt drawn into them and the way they described suffering and melancholy, and the ease at which they could hold a space for other’s pain.  A little light bulb went off in my head: That’s where I belong!  With the Fours!
This is not to suggest in any way that all Fours are self-satisfied, self-absorbed sadists.  It has more to do with the Fours desire to stand out, to be different and unique, in order to feel that they are worthy and alive.  After the workshop, I did a little more reading about Type Fours, and my synapses were firing.  Everything seemed to fall into place.  I felt seen and understood.  Parts of me that I’ve known at my subconscious level came flying to a conscious surface. 

A few years ago, I was talking to my friend Lisa, who happens to be a Five.  I was saying to her, “You know how right before you go to bed, you daydream about your ideal life,” assuming she’d jump right in with a resounding, “Oh, totally!”  Instead she said, “No, what are you talking about?”  I was shocked and tried to explain it to her more fully, certain that it would resonate with her.  “You know that moment before you fall asleep, and you close your eyes and think about your perfect future.”  I went on to describe the romantic moments I would daydream about, the beautiful romantic handsome man with dark hair and blue eyes, myself looking like a lithe ballerina in a lovely ethereal dress, the way we would come together in an filmic embrace on a faraway exotic land, complete with fresh, succulent food and warm breezes next to picturesque vistas. Again, she didn’t connect.  It was one of the first wake-up calls I had as to how different other peoples inner worlds could be. 

Once I was finally able to determine my type, I felt known.  It allowed me to truly understand the perspective I was operating from, awareness being the first step towards self-acceptance, self-acceptance being the first step to freedom.