Enneagram Reflection and Racial Reckoning

As part of this advent season, this season of Christ coming into our lives anew, I am considering Enneagram implications of our racial pandemic. The racial reckoning of 2020 shines new light on the ways Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and all people of Color are affected by historic patterns of racism and oppression in our nation. It can be difficult to acknowledge the reality of this pain, and in order to assuage any guilt, white people can use our privilege to look away. In addition to our cultural (and racialized) responses to these realities, what are our Enneagram responses?  How do these shape one another?  

One of my pandemic pursuits has been developing relationships with Enneagram teachers of color.  I realized the almost exclusively white nature of my Enneagram circle and have learned so much from a growing network of diverse Enneagram teachers.  Of course, the Enneagram is grounded by two Hispanic founders of our modern Ennea-types, but their teaching in the U.S. was to a predominantly white audience.  As the tool has grown and expanded in recent years, so has the diversity of its teachers.

With these teachers of color in mind, as well as the white teachers who must also wrestle with the role of race and the Enneagram, I want to know more about how our number shapes our experience of and response to racism.  For people of color, how does your type shape your experience of racism?  Is there more anger from 8s, shame from 2s, and fear from 5s? This seems to hold up as I have explored the question this year, but we are all still learning.  While 8s may respond with anger, is their 2 or 5 connection shaping their experience of racism?  Their wing?  Level of health? Subtype? Unlike personality tools that put our lived experience in a box, the dynamic shifts of the enneagram point to the diverse ways people, including people of the same type, experience the pain and trauma of racism.  I am reluctant to ask anything more of our friends of color this year, but I do hope to learn more about the relationship of their experiences of racism and their personalities.

At the same time, for all of us, how does our type shape our response to racism? Here, I can reflect on my own feelings of shame and failure that have captured me as a 3 this year. (There is a significant risk of being performative here, so I must ask how I honestly and authentically share this experience.)  I hope I can share my feelings of guilt, my sense of failing as a 3, and do so less from a place of wanting attention or seeking comfort and more from a place of advent waiting and learning. The feelings are just the truth of what has shaped my responses to racism. I feel shame, and I jump into action. I feel failure and I seek a way to look successful in demonstrating my antiracist commitments. Learning to observe this experience and allow the feelings is essential to my Enneagram response.

I am grateful for others who have shared their responses of this year with me.  Two friends who are 2s, one black and one white, have shared their desire for relationships to be the way out of our racialized realities, and the way to make things better.  They are ready to protest, but their responses are measured and from a dependent stance desire for someone to help them make sense of it and to guide them through their own feelings of it.

My white, 8 wife and two students who are 8s, one a Latina and one Black, each express their anger about racism more clearly than anyone else. They do not need anyone to help guide their response, but they do offer that rare, but treasured 8 gift of vulnerability in working for racial justice, and the pain of the struggle of seeking equity and justice.

Three colleagues who are 1s have a clear and compelling desire to get this right; they are angry, but not like the 8s – their self-control and frustration with others who get it so wrong is what is most clear. Their culture does shape their responses and bring nuance, but these White, Black and Latina friends each have clear 1 tendencies to do what is right and to help us get on that path as well. A 1 friend who inspired this post shared:  “My 8 friends see all the power dynamics and just somehow know how to move around them and over them. I don’t even see them.” At the same time she expressed her passion for this work and a longing to move from being stuck to knowing how to do the right thing!

In the coming days, I want to share other experiences and responses I am hearing, and I hope you will share yours with me as well.  I hope to break down responses by stance, look at our shifts across the Enneagram lines, and explore our Enneagram virtues and vices that can shape our responses to and understandings of racism. 

Most significantly, I want these to be days of reflection and anticipation.  Rhonda Magee has inspired “the inner work of racial justice” for many of us.  May advent and the Enneagram continue to invite us to consider how God is at work within us as we seek healing and transformation in new ways.

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