(Find the link to the free Enneagram Test I created at the end of this article!)
As children, we grew up being taught that having “lots of personality” was a good, interesting, and charismatic quality to possess.
While this might be true in the context of a material society, in the context of spiritual growth too much emphasis on personality can become a huge hindrance on our journeys, especially if we aren’t first aware of the true purpose of our identities.
During our journey’s of Self-Exploration, one of the most important distinctions for us to make is the essential difference between our personalities (egos or identities), and our Souls. According to many wise traditions, the moment you die, your illusory sense of “self” (your personality) dies with your brain, but only that which remains and functions in “the other world” is your Soul.
If during your life, you didn’t make very much progress in overcoming the limitations of your personality, your Soul is said to essentially remain the same until you die, without maturing.
However, if during your life you did make sincere efforts in overcoming your individual limitations, then your soul is said to mature and grow.
Why Are We “Limited?”
It is understood that from the age of two we slowly begin to develop a sense of individuality and our personalities begin to emerge. At a very young age we go from experiencing pure consciousness—or living directly through our Souls—to forming a sense of identity that essentially separates us from the surrounding world.
Our development of a personality is, of course, a necessary evolutionary step of survival: it allows us to become self-aware, and that self-awareness helps protect us from threat. However, during this process we also begin to develop what is known as “psychological coping mechanisms” (or limitations) as a way for our personalities (or egos) to deal with the anxiety of being mortal in a very unpredictable world.
Let me give you an example of one type of psychological coping mechanism below and the way if influences life:
Let’s say that as children we have very strict parents with high expectations for us. Our parents reward us with attention and praise whenever we behave in ways they approve of. Therefore, as children we quickly learn that when we behave in ways that don’t please our parents, say, when we fail at a school test, this is a direct reflection of our worth as human beings (we are either “good” or “bad”). Gradually we begin to base our self-worth on the outcome of our actions, building the identity of a perfectionist. This is a very common form of limitation, as it essentially corrupts our ability to experience pure self-love.
When our personalities and the limitations they develop begin to excessively dominate our psyches, a disbalance or disharmony is created, stunting our ability to soulfully mature. However, when we finally decide to explore “who we are,” we can learn precisely what parts of our psyches are obscuring our ability to be more in tune with our Soul.
Why Identifying With Labels is Necessary
Our minds struggle with the abstract and non-linear. We require absolutes in order to process information, and this is why labels are necessary.
Let me give you an example of why this is the case. When we discover that we have many characteristics that align with being an “Introvert,” “Empath,” “Indigo Child,” “Old Soul,” or any other number of labels existing in life, we’re immediately filled with a sense of excitement. Sometimes we’re so overcome with relief and joy in finding a group of people to identify with that our journeys stop. Our labels become new ways for our personalities and egos to expand by finding a new team to cheer for, and a new membership to show off.
While this example depicts a common scenario that happens to almost all of us, identifying with labels isn’t all “bad.” Labels are necessary because they are ways of bringing harmony to our unconscious minds. Labels help us see that we are not crazy or alone in our feelings; they help us realize that there are other people in the world who feel, think, and behave in a similar manner to us. Labels can also be excellent sources of self-knowledge along our paths of self-understanding.
Once our minds stop being preoccupied with searching for answers, we finally have the freedom to move on and to travel deeper into our journey’s of self-understanding and inner transformation. It is only through slowly deconstructing our personalities brick by brick that we can transcend the limitations of “who we think we are” and morph into what we are meant to become. It is only though this journey of self-understanding that we can live directly from the Soul.
How Understanding the Enneagram Could Transform Your Life
Immersing yourself in the world of personality typology is a really powerful way of understanding your identity. While models such as MBTI and The Big 5 Personality Types are effective ways of understanding your psychological traits, I personally recommend exploring the Enneagram.
The Enneagram Typology was conceptualized by the mystic Gurdjieff and developed further by Oscar Ichazo and psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo. Essentially, the Enneagram helps to reveal an honest depiction of our nature by dividing it into nine different archetypes. These archetypes are said to be formed as defense mechanisms early in our childhoods.
The interesting thing about the Enneagram is that it helps us to identify: 1) what we desire more than anything else, 2) what we value the most, 3) what tempts us the most, 4) what causes us the most fear, 5) what our biggest fault is, 6) what our greatest virtue is. By identifying these essential elements of our personalities, we can aid our own soulful development by discovering what creates imbalance within us.
There are several reasons why understanding your Enneagram type is so helpful:
- It helps you to become more objectively aware of your personality “blind spots.”
- It assists you in developing more self-love by helping you to understand yourself more.
- It encourages you to consciously work on parts of your personality that inhibit your ability to live a harmonious life.
- It allows you to develop more awareness of your “higher self” (Soul) by deconstructing your personality.
Keep in mind that the Enneagram is more of a system of transformation than a means of labeling and identification. But the beautiful thing about the Enneagram is that it encourages the development and liberation of the Soul underneath.
If you are interested in discovering your Enneagram type, take our free enneagram test!
Have you explored the Enneagram? And if so, what have you found?