27 May 2020

WHAT’S THE ENNEAGRAM?

I’ve been mentioning the Enneagram in every article for at least two months, are you curious to know what it is and why I’m so passionate about it?

The Enneagram is a “map” for self-comprehension and inner transformation that describes nine personality types and the relationships between them. Each personality represents the crystallization of our childhood defenses: each of us has had a “primary lack” and our personality is formed around it. The child creates behaviors to deal with this primary lack, then these behaviors tend to fix themselves in a coherent and structured way of acting, or rather based both on a substrate of thoughts and values.

By describing the nine different types of personality, each with its own mental, emotional and behavioural characteristics, the Enneagram reveals our uniqueness, as each of us, regardless of the enneatype in which we recognize ourselves, manifests itself in a personal, unique and unrepeatable way. The peculiarity of this character map lies in its dynamism: the various types of personality in fact are not static. According to my experience there is time to understand its dynamism.


It takes time first of all to recognize oneself in an enneatype. I’ve heard about the Enneagram around 2005, always from that wise friend of mine whose name I never mention, not that all of you go to disturb him! I heard about it and it fascinated me a lot, until I read the first book The Enneagram by Helen Palmer, then I took part in SAT1 with Claudio Naranjo in 2011. At the beginning I was very busy recognizing myself in an enneatype, first on a cognitive level, then through comparison with the working groups. As soon as I arrived in Titignano, the beautiful village in Umbria where the path takes place, they had directed me to the group of enneatype TWO. I always talk willingly, I always have something to say: do you believe me that in the group of TWO I could not express myself? We were working on specific themes, that day on love. I didn’t understand and I couldn’t speak! Of course, it wasn’t my group! At lunchtime the tutor from another group approached me, he smiled and said: “come with us this afternoon”. Since that afternoon I felt at home.

That doesn’t mean that I can only talk and compare myself with the SEVEN, on the contrary, but that feeling of understanding each other quickly, of not having to struggle to explain to the other what you mean, that total lack of concern about understanding the other I had never experienced before. An open exchange both on resources and limits, light and dark. For a couple of years I concentrated on the neurotic aspect of my character, coming to accept its features, its nuances and the less pleasant parts, the ones I was trying to hide.

Each character is described just starting from the neurotic traits, and reading the descriptions is immediate the fact that there is no one better than the other: nine points placed equidistant on a circumference, each one marked by many defects and many merits. Ennea is nine in Greek, gramma is sign and Enneagram means approximately “diagram of nine”.

One of the reasons that led me to choose the three-year training in Biogestaltic Counseling was to find the Enneagram in the curriculum. I then deepened my knowledge of the map last year, with a training course held by Alessandra Callegari, expert and passionate about Enneagram.

Coming now to its origins.

The Enneagram is a map of human nature: it has very ancient origins and at the same time it is very current, as human nature has not changed.

The exact origins of the Enneagram are unknown: nobody knows exactly by whom and where it was discovered. Some authors speak of a possible origin among the Sufi orders, a mystical sect of Islam that was formed in the tenth and eleventh centuries; others would trace its origin back to 2500 B.C. in Babylon or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Apparently the Enneagram was part of a secret teaching until the spiritual master Georgij Ivanovic Gurdjieff (c. 1877-1949) brought it to Europe in the 1920s.

In parallel in South America, Oscar Ichazo deepened his studies of the Enneagram, beginning to use it as a psychological tool. Ichazo began teaching the Enneagram in Bolivia; in the 1970s he taught in Arica, Chile. He moved to the United States in 1971 and founded the Arica Institute, continuing his teaching.

The teaching arrived at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, where world-renowned doctors and psychiatrists benefited from the teaching, including Claudio Naranjo, whom I had the immense good luck to meet during the SAT in 2011 and at a couple of conferences. Naranjo was very important in translating the Enneagram from spiritual discipline to modern psychology.

history of enneagram

A few years ago we were in California and I remember the excitement of when we found ourselves in front of the “Esalen Institute” sign! I was glad to take a picture as the entrance is reserved only for course participants.

The knowledge of the Enneagram has also passed from the Christian world. When I will speak to you about the nine passions that characterize the nine personalities, it will become clear that they correspond to the seven capital sins. It seems that the Christian Church has not considered adding vanity and fear among the deadly sins, the reasons can be guessed right?

It seemed fundamental to me to start from the beginning, from the origins of this map that fascinates me so much. I do not consider myself an expert at all, so I will go in small steps and give you the sources so that you can deepen with readings and seminars.

Next week I promise to describe the enneatypes!

Suggested bibliography:

-Palmer H, The Enneagram

-Naranjo C., Character and neurosis