"The Enneagram teaches that early in life we learned to feel safe and to cope with our family situations and personal circumstances by developing a strategy based on our natural talents and abilities," explains Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele in The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People. At one time, our strategy might have felt right, might have been well thought out, might have made sense when we really had little control over what happened in our environment. But eventually, repetition would turn it into unconscious habit, even when circumstances might allow for something else.

The "something else" depends on our awareness of all the options, including the possibility of lowering our defenses. The Enneagram of personality types illuminates our strengths as well as our weaknesses and is a symbolic reminder of the whole of human potential as observed, studied, and written about over thousands of years. "By working with the Enneagram we develop a deeper understanding of others and learn alternatives to our own patterns of behavior." Baron and Wagele continue, "We break free from worn-out coping strategies and begin to see life from a broader point of view."

This broader point of view may include the idea that "we each possess an essential nature that is qualitatively different from our acquired personality." As Helen Palmer continues in The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life, "Essence has been described as what is 'one's own,' the potentials with which we were born, rather than what we have acquired through our education, our ideas, or our beliefs. In essence, we are like young children: there is no conflict between our thoughts, or our emotions, or our instincts. We act correctly and without hesitation to maintain well-being, stemming from an undefended trust in the environment and in other people." The fact that we have a personality suggests some lost aspect of that essence, the aspects being those reflected in the nine points of the Enneagram. Our personality developed as we tried to compensate for what we were missing.

Personality theory generally acknowledges temperament as each of our starting points. Our innate qualities have always been present as we interact with our environment, building character as well as ego agendas. But awareness and practice are the keys to developing the weaker aspects of ourselves. As Don Riso and Russ Hudson write in The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types, "Always remember that it is your birthright and natural state to be wise and noble, loving and generous, to esteem yourself and others, to be creative and constantly renewing yourself, to be engaged in the world in awe and in depth, to have courage and to rely on yourself, to be joyous and effortlessly accomplished, to be strong and effective, to enjoy peace of mind and to be present to the unfolding mystery of your life."

Explore the Enneagram and discover the insights it offers for personal growth. Reflect on experiences had at work, in family, and community. It's our collective effort that will make all the difference.