When I was in law school, my dad was in graduate school to become a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). To learn how to administer various personality tests, he utilized the six (6) of us kids as guinea pigs and thus I was introduced to the MMPI, the Myers-Briggs testing and others. As I got more familiar with the testing, I utilized some watered down versions of the testing to help me with managing employees and creating job descriptions. Through ongoing personal development and my experiences with Arete, a professional women association, I did further testing, looking at my patterns and out of pattern strengths/weaknesses.
For those of you who are wondering, I test strongly as an ISTJ on the Meyers-Briggs, but have quite a few out of pattern behaviors in that while I am strongly an introvert, I have learned to network and communicate in an outgoing way in certain situations; additionally, while I typically lean more towards concrete facts, I often test as more intuitive than fact based. As with everyone, there’s no one size fits all box that neatly explains who I am or really anyone. I’ve recently discovered the term “ambivert” as one who is able to sustain energy in people interactions more than perhaps a “typical” introvert.
And then I was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) and so much of what I knew about myself and how I make decisions and fit professionally wasn’t so relevant any longer. As I worked to find my niche in advocacy (and most days I’m still working on this), a fellow MBC-haver who has since died, introduced me to the Enneagram.
As with so many different structures to explain personality or the way that we interact with the world, the Enneagram has been around in some form for quite a while. At its basic form, the Enneagram is “a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions” according to Truity.com. One of the things that drew me to the Enneagram is that it teaches that each of the nine types have certain core beliefs about the world, which underline and influence behavior. Understanding these core beliefs (or instincts) helps a person understand how they fit in the world and why there are different behaviors or emotions that occur over and over.
As with learning about breast cancer and the ways that this disease affects me, learning about personality and how to better understand myself has helped me to cope with much of what has occurred in my life. At some points, it is a little unsettling how predictable so many of my reactions are and tracking patterns has helped me anticipate when I will struggle or react badly. From a more practical perspective, I’ve also worked with my medical team to utilize medication to help manage some of the situations where my anxiety peaks.
For those of you who are wondering, based on the testing and discussions with those who know me best, I believe that I am solidly an 8 a/k/a The Challenger/Leader. When I showed my husband the description of the Type 8, he asked if the person who drafted it knew me since the descriptions fit so well. Additionally, there is an addition layer to the Types wherein the numbers next to the type influence one’s type. Here’s a picture to hopefully make that make sense:
As you can see, Types 7 and 9 are on each side of Type 8. I lean more towards a 7 than 9, so that means in the vernacular, that I am a Type 8 with a dominant wing 7. Type 7s are also sometimes known as Enthusiasts and these tendencies influence that amount of energy that often underlines my efforts.
Here’s some descriptions of a Type 8 that resonate with me:
One of the things that has really helped me is the acknowledgement from many different coaches and experts in the Enneagram that those of us who are Type 8 are often misunderstood, especially those of us who are women and especially within the context of religion. I’ve written before about how intense I can be and how expressing anger along with the tools I’ve obtained as a litigation attorney can often be intimidating and off putting to others. As I work towards expressing my emotions and needs in a more healthy way, I am getting better at softening my approach while still advocating for myself and others effectively. What most people don’t understand or forget is that those of us who identify with Type 8 are utilizing anger/intensity/passion and a direct communication of that emotion to mask/protect a very soft and generous heart. It takes some time and effort to see that at times.
This learning about myself and looking unflinchingly at those areas of my life that need work, that are in progress, that aren’t my best has led to a lot of self-reflection and effort to address those areas. Accepting that I am a work in progress and that’s ok has been a process as well.