Imagine that you meet someone who has never seen an apple before. Maybe an alien who finally proved conspiracy theorists right and landed from some faraway planet. Now this newcomer asks you to describe an apple to him, and since you are a nice, friendly person, you are happy to oblige.
Since this alien has no idea what an apple looks like, you will need to give vivid descriptions so that he can visualize the apple and understand what you are describing.
“An apple is round and often red,” you might explain. “It is about the size of a tennis ball. Its skin is smooth and shiny and the flesh is white and crispy, with a sweet, juicy taste.”
If you think about it, the above explanation is little more than a list of “stereotypes” that will allow your student to recognize an apple. In the same way, the Enneagram personality system, a fascinating method that allows you to understand the various types of personalities that exist in our world, begins by listing descriptions about each type. This stereotyping is necessary to allow you to recognize the behaviors and motivations of each number in the system.
But learning about the Enneagram does not simply put people in boxes.
Say you want to reward your student for his attentiveness during the apple lesson. He has listened closely to all your descriptions and can now perfectly describe an apple to you. You invite him to your home and serve him a slice of freshly-baked apple pie. With a glass of ice-cold apple juice, of course!
“Delicious!” he exclaims.
“I’m glad you enjoyed my apple pie,” you say. “In fact, that drink is made of apples too!”
“That’s ridiculous!” the alien exclaims. “How can this be apple pie? It’s doesn’t look or taste anything like that crispy red apple that you described. And apple juice? That’s preposterous! Since when are apples liquid!?”
So you patiently explain: “The apple that I described is the fruit in its simplest form. However, that apple can be developed into many interesting and tasty dishes. We can take the apple and cut it, grate it or squeeze it. We can add different ingredients to enhance the taste. Once you will understand the essence of the apple—you will become familiar with its unique taste—you will be able to recognize it even when it appears in different forms. You will know you are eating an apple even if it’s in the form of a baked apple, an apple pie, or even apple juice!”
Indeed, the same is true with Enneagram types. Though the stereotypes are necessary to learn about the different personalities, they are in no way meant to limit you. You can choose to read the Enneagram type descriptions and simply enjoy the thrill of recognizing yourself. However, a true student of the Enneagram understands that this system is meant to provide you with the awareness you need to grow out of the box that limits you. The Enneagram is a wonderful tool for guiding you in the areas you need to develop so that you can become a healthier, more balanced person.
As you grow and add different “ingredients” to your personality—you integrate traits that bring balance to the rigid stereotype—you will turn into apple pie, applesauce, or some other enhanced form of the original “apple.” True, you will retain the basic characteristics of your number, but you will behave very differently from those of the same type who have achieved little growth.
(Adapted from Chapter One of Out of the Box)
This, folks, is why the book Out of the Box is not merely a fascinating read (though it is that, too!), but a positively life-transformational tool for the thinking person. Not only will this book teach you who you are, but also who you can be—how you can use your own individuality and personality to be the best friend/spouse/parent/employee/etc. possible.
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