The Enneagram shows us our lens for the world: what is most important to us as we grow spiritually and what we need as we heal from religious trauma.
Quick Enneagram 101
If you're new to the Enneagram, or need a refresher, here are the 9 main types:
- Want to be responsible, be better, to make things right
- Want to be connected and helpful
- Want to succeed and be recognized
- Want to be unique and understood
- Want to know and understand
- Want to be loyal and safe
- Want to make life interesting and fun
- Want to have control over their lives
- Want to have inner and outer harmony
For more basics about the Enneagram - what it is and how to find your type, read my article here.
Enneagram and Deconstruction
There are several layers of the Enneagram that I think are helpful for understanding your changing relationship with god/religion/spirituality, as well as healing from religious trauma.
I am including A LOT of information in this article. Feel free to take as much as you want and come back for more later. You can also reach out to me with questions, or to schedule a session to talk through what this means for you personally. I may also create a mini-course around this content in the future to break it down into more manageable bites.
*I want to emphasize that the information about each style in relation to deconstruction are hypotheses I'm exploring, and I would love to hear from you what it's actually been like for you to provide the most accurate information. You are the expert on yourself. These frameworks are just to give you clarity about what you already know is true. Anything that doesn't feel like it fits, doesn't fit.*
Each number fits into one of the main 3 ways of interacting with the world. Thinking, Feeling, and Doing. We all have all three. We all need all three to be balanced. And at the same time, we each have one that feels the most natural and that we go to first to understand and interact with ourselves and the world around us.
Types 8,9,1 are Body or Doing Types
I hypothesize that people in this triad are more likely to deconstruct in their bodies first. With embodiment work, healing from purity culture and embracing sexuality and erotic energy. Healing the body is the first step to healing.
Anger is primary emotion
Embracing anger as medicine rather than an emotion to be suppressed may also be an important part of this healing since anger is a primary emotion in processing their experiences.
Autonomy is primary need
These types may emphasize the need for space, self-determination, and boundaries in their spiritual transition.
Types 2,3,4 are Feeling or Heart Types
I theorize that these types start their healing with their emotions - reclaiming all emotions as good, living and embracing all their emotions. Healing their inner child, their identities, and the shame they feel is key to starting the healing process.
Shame is primary emotion
These types internalize shame as their core wound and core state. Knowing that they are good at their core and can shed the shame may be a key factor in their healing and growth.
Attention is primary need
In this triad, grieving relationships and communities they've lost may be the focus. And needing to restore their relationship with self is going to be a huge part of their healing. It is also helpful to think through how their attachment with god/religion/spirituality is changing.
Types 5,6,7 are Thinking or Head Types
I am guessing that these types start their healing by examining and deconstructing their beliefs. When the beliefs of the evangelical/fundamental system no longer make sense, they start questioning and pulling on the thread that unravels their rigid belief system. Confronting the fear of the high-control system and letting it go may be the primary way of starting the healing process.
Fear is primary emotion
In this triad, there is a focus on avoiding or neutralizing fear. Because they are head types, the fears may have taken the form of fear of eternal torment, thinking/believing something wrong, and conflating beliefs with identity. These types may need to re-establish personal authority instead of looking for outside authority and credibility, or find healthier, less rigid information sources to inform their changing beliefs.
Security is primary need
These types may need to re-establish where their security comes from and find a new equilibrium. They may need to focus on establishing eternal and external security as a main part of their healing process.
The Social Style is the strategy each type uses to get it’s needs met.
Types 3,7,8 are the Initiator/Assertive Style:
Stereotypically they might think: I am the center of the activity, I’m what’s important here. I take action first instead of waiting for others.
In deconstruction, these types may be louder about their deconstruction and take action quickly once they've decided about the changes they want to make.
Types 1,2,6 are the Cooperator/Dutiful Style:
Stereotypically they might think: I am here to be of service - How can I meet others’ expectations? How can I be responsible?
These types may have to release responsibility for others' feelings about their faith transition, and focus on cooperating with and being loyal to themselves first over their evangelical community.
Types 4,5,9 are the Soloist/Withdrawn Style
Stereotypically they might think: I am not a part of what’s going on, I’m different, I don’t fit in, I need time away before I can reconnect.
In spiritual growth, these types may need time away in quiet, contemplative practices, and the freedom to not have to explain themselves yet.
The Harmonic Groups show how each person copes when they do not get what they want. They reveal the fundamental way our personality defends against loss and disappointment. They show the way we cope with conflict and difficulty.
Types 2,7,9 are the Positive Outlook Group
They focus on their good intentions (2's), positive experiences (7's), and the good in their environment (9's).
In deconstruction, these types defend against disappointment by avoiding seeing certain things clearly:
- 2's: their own neediness, disappointment, and anger
- 7's: their pain and emptiness
- 9's: problems with their loved ones and environment
To find full healing, each type will need to face what they've been avoiding and give themselves space to grieve.
Types 1,3,5 are the Competency Group
Each type in this group wants to be competent in different ways:
- 1's by being correct, organized, reasonable, sensible
- 3's by being efficient, capable, and outstanding
- 5's by being the expert and maintaining detachment and clarity
In deconstruction, each type tries to manage feelings by:
- 1's: repression and denial. This leads to rigidity in the body. 1's tend to want to work within the system and be good in the system's eyes. To heal they will want to focus on their innate goodness apart from a system or rules, or at least finding a healthier, less rigid system to evaluate themselves by.
- 3's: repression and focus on achievement. They look to others for feelings cues. 3's want to work with the system to a point. They may want to take some time away to go inside and check out their own feelings as a part of their healing.
- 5's: abstracting feelings, emotional detachment, cerebral processing. 5's like to be outside of the system's rules. Paying attention to the feelings and body cues they have will help them process through not only the doctrinal changes but the way their transition is impacting them.
Types 4,6,8 are the Reactive Outlook Group
They look for a rescuer, understanding, support, and self-reliance.
- 4's especially want someone to understand and see them.
- 6's want to both be the strong one and have support.
- 8's want to need others as little as possible.
In deconstruction, each type tries to deal with their fears:
4's fear they will be abandoned so they try to hold on to supporters, possibly playing hard to get. In their healing they may want to strengthen and embrace the level of support and allegiance they have in themselves.
6's fear they will be abandoned but also fear becoming too dependent on others. 6's can struggle with self-doubt, and can learn in their healing to trust themselves as a credible authority and a loyal self-supporter.
8's fear they will be controlled. Intimacy and vulnerability by caring too much can feel scary. 8's healing can include welcoming, or at least making peace with, their need for connection and support for full healing. Finding a new, supportive, low-control environment may be a big part of their healing.
The 3 instincts and what they focus on:
- Health & Wellness
- Resource Management
This instinct is the most cautious. People with this instinct may take longer to examine things, think through cost/benefits, and make decisions. They may avoid taking the risk of making changes in their community and beliefs until it is necessary. It may also feel to this instinct like people who are changing quickly are making "rash decisions." However, when they do decide to take action, they are excellent at being prepared. They may need to focus on their personal wellness, and making their home a comforting place as part of their healing process.
- Reading & Interpreting
- Bonding & Affiliating
- Contributing to the Group
This instinct will focus on how the community around them is interacting. Is everyone meshing and working together? Is this social system working, fixable, or broken? They may be aware of the power structures in the community - how authoritarian it is, and if power is being misused, for example. They may also be attuned to each person's roles in the social system. Leaving this system and starting from scratch may feel like a huge relief or terrifying, when that is how you know your place in the world. People in this instinct are especially equipped to begin and support new healing communities because they are so good at creating bonds among a group.
This instinct is the most likely to take risks and move quickly. They may be the first to leave an unhealthy system or be willing to question or try on new beliefs. They can let those that need more time know what it's like on the other side. They also need to be cautious of jumping into similar groups with charismatic leaders. This instinct can learn from the other two how to take enough time and listen to their inner cues of safety before they commit to another group/community.
Healing Core Wounds
We all have certain beliefs about ourselves that we formed in childhood. Part of the way we form our personality is by reacting to these beliefs in such a way that we feel better about ourselves. Here are the core wounding messages for each number and the lost messages that bring healing.
In healing from the religious wounds we've experienced, these core beliefs can inform some of our journey. I think we all need to recover the lost childhood messages of healing, but the one that matches your type may be especially important to pay attention to.
- It's not okay to make mistakes > You are good
- It's not okay to have your own needs > You are wanted
- It's not okay to have your own feelings and identity > You are loved for yourself
- It's not okay to be too functional or too happy > You are seen for who you are
- It's not okay to be comfortable in the world > Your needs are not a problem
- It's not okay to trust yourself > You are safe
- It's not okay to depend on anyone for anything > You will be taken care of
- It's not okay to be vulnerable or to trust anyone > You will not be betrayed
- It's not okay to assert yourself > Your presence matters
(Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram p. 31, 34)
Making Sense of Your Healing Journey
What was it like to see that others are walking through their deconstruction in similar ways? To have some clarity about why you've experienced a certain kind of pain through your envolvement with evanglicalism, and have a specific path for healing? I hope it is comforting and enlightening. I would love to support you in your journey. Email me to share your experience and schedule a session to work through this more.