The Enneagram (by Helen Palmer)

Having been interested in personality typing and growth for a couple of decades now, particularly in relation to the Myers-Briggs system, I was interested to learn, perhaps seven or eight years ago, of a different system called the Enneagram. This divides people into nine broad categories rather than sixteen, and bases the divisions on our major failings/besetting sins, and the ways we develop in childhood. In discussing the topic online I read several books, which were of varying usefulness; eventually, after two or three recommendations, I decided to buy the book by Helen Palmer.

I've been reading 'The Enneagram' (subtitled: "Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life"), off and on, for about a year now. it's not that it's dull, or even overly academic, but it's quite heavy going. I can certainly recognise some of the people I know in some of the Enneagram descriptions, and was quite struck when - eventually - I reached the chapter about point Nine, the one I relate to. There was much in it that I could recognise.

It's a good, solid book, well-written with clear explanations and some examples of how the different types function in everyday life. However, I'm not sure that I learned anything new about the Enneagram. There were no dramatic insights, nothing that I hadn't already read in at least one of the other books I'd previously read on the topic. That, perhaps, is why I kept putting the book down, often for weeks at a time. I had to be in the right mood to read something that was, basically, a summary of what I already knew.

I'd still recommend this book to anyone new to the Enneagram - it has a useful introduction to the system, with fairly clear explanations about how it develops and how it can be used. But, expecting something brilliantly new and inspiring, from the recommendations I was given, I have to admit to mild disappointment that it didn't strike me as particularly special.

For the most useful Enneagram introduction I've come across - including checklists for each type - I'd recommend Riso and Hudson's The Wisdom of the Enneagram; for more advanced aspects of the system, from a strongly Christian perspective, I'd suggest 'Head versus Heart and our Gut Reactions' by Michael Hampson.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 6th June 2011

1 comment:

BrendaB said...

Interesting. Have you read "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers? It has a much stronger female character for Christian literature. Sara goes through a lifetime of evil, forsakes God, but a good man is lead through God's voice to save her from herself. Sounds preachy doesn't it? But it is not.
Another book, not necessarily noted as Christian literature is "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant. She writes about the one sister of Joseph, who became the Prince of Egypt. Diamant researched the lifestyles and trials of the nomatic women of Biblical times.
Both are great reads if you get the chance.