Podcast #113 What Is the Enneagram? – Renee Rosario, Narrative Enneagram

The Enneagram is a psychological and spiritual map… and a fascinating predictor of what motivates you, drives your responses to others and shows you where your edges are as you learn to be your best self. Who doesn’t want to have insight into themselves and others? Who can tolerate a ‘peek behind the curtain’ of their own blind spots? As I say in our conversation, “I think this is an interesting topic because what we know about ourselves and about how we interact makes such a difference for what we bring to the world and what we bring to our lives… and how we live is how we die.” There are many books, websites and ways to take an Enneagram quiz and find out your ‘type.’ Let me know what you learn!

Learn more about Renee at ⁠www.enneasight.com⁠


Diane Hullet: Hi, I’m Diane Hullet, and welcome to the Best Life, Best Death podcast. Today I’ve got a really interesting guest. This is a little bit different than my sort of typical guest. Renee Rosario is a faculty member for the Narrative Enneagram, and she’s a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.

And I’ve asked her to come on today to tell us more about this thing called the Enneagram. Welcome, Renee. 

Renee Rosario: Thanks, Diane. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you. Well, I think 

Diane Hullet: this is going to be very interesting because. The Enneagram is this, it’s kind of a personality test loosely called and Renee’s going to tell us more about it.

But what I love about it is it’s something that my family and I kind of fell into last spring, one of my daughters brought it home from the school she attends and she said, Hey, we all ought to take this test on spring break, and we took it. And it kind of divides personalities into nine types, which Rene [00:01:00] will talk about.

And we found them to be just stunningly accurate for ourselves. But what mattered to me is how it changed how we began to interact and work with each other based on these pieces that we began to know about ourselves. So Rene’s been working with us a long time. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into Enneagram work.

Renee Rosario: Yeah, thank you. You know, I, I’m a psychotherapist and I went to Naropa University in Boulder, which is a very contemplative kind of university. And after that, someone gave me a set of pilfered, I will, I will admit pilfered copy of cassette tapes. That’s how long ago this was of Helen, Helen Palmer, who’s the founder of the school that I’m a trainer for.

And I was listening to them and I heard the description of a type two and her interviewing somebody who was a two, which is what the narrative piece is about. It’s really about listening to people’s stories to understand yourself and others. And I thought somebody [00:02:00] had been following me around. I couldn’t believe how much it just described my inner world.

I leave with a type two just as a disclosure and, and, you know, then Helen came and. Did like a one day workshop or something and in Boulder and just she interviewed people, three people. And I was like, that’s it. Right. Because it really is. The Enneagram is an amazing map, a psychological and spiritual map, but it’s, it’s not, it’s not the territory, right?

It’s the map. So even tests, you know, to find out your type is a data point, but then it’s like, Oh, what’s really true for me. Right. What’s going on inside. And so the Enneagram, unlike other personality typologies, Myers Briggs, all of those can be really helpful. It’s really about what motivates you to do what you do.

And that’s the difference. And only you can tell that. Right. So you can take a test or read a description, read a book and relate to that. Oh, this is my motivation. But sometimes it takes people a little [00:03:00] while to really understand why am I doing what I’m doing? Why do I feel or perceive the world like I see it?

And that when we get that, I always thought, doesn’t everybody see the world like me for years? Right? We don’t understand. So when we really get that, Oh, people are seeing the world really differently. They’re not picking up on the same kind of data that I am from my attentional stance. Then we can start to have more compassion, both for ourselves and others.

It’s, it’s like we’re both, we’re all right and we’re all wrong. Right? Everything is limited. Our perceptions are limited. They’re beautiful. But we, our types give us certain gifts. We come in with the world with gifts. And then the tendency is to overuse the gift because it’s how we start to navigate the world.

And then it often causes us challenges or suffering. So we’re trying to, when we work with our type, free the gifts. 

Diane Hullet: I love that, Renee. I love [00:04:00] that as an image. And I love this image that it’s a map. And I think that’s what my family found. It became this like way to sort of see how we were interacting with each other.

Because it was both interesting personally for each one of us to read about our type, but then it was really interesting when we got into how the types interact with each other. So, well gosh, say more, you know, if somebody is listening and they have no idea what we’re talking about, it’s How do you describe the personality types of the Enneagram?

Renee Rosario: So first of all, it’s helpful to think, it’s a, it’s a circle, right? With nine points around it, and there’s connecting lines. But those nine points are divided into three centers of intelligence, let’s say, head, heart, and body. So different types have more of an orientation to utilize that particular center.

And I use myself as an example. And then I’m happy to have you use yourself as an example too. But so so I’m a heart [00:05:00] type as a two, it’s called the giver oftentimes, but the attention gets pulled to what other people feel what they need, because connection approval love is the core needs. It’s my core why of being in the world.

So all heart types kind of have this kind of core need to be seen in a positive light. And to be recognized, loved, approved of, connected, appreciated, but it’s this kind of connective aspect of the heart. And when those things don’t go well or they’re threatened, we can start to feel kind of distress around the connection.

Or maybe shame, like there’s something wrong with me. that I’m not feeling connected, you know, could feel sad. So those are kind of the core emotional issues. But also that center brings us compassion, understanding, empathy, right, kindness. So there’s these higher qualities of the heart. And then there’s the disturbance that can happen when, when our [00:06:00] type structures threatened the head center folks.

5, 6, and 7. They really orient towards kind of figuring things out. What’s the meaning, right? There’s all of this information and it’s like a puzzle. I want to put it together to figure out what it means because the core needs here that are so important are certainty, security. safety. So I’m kind of trying to figure out based on like what’s going to happen in three different ways so that I can be certain and secure in this world.

And for body types, the attention really goes to kind of being in control of oneself and the environment. Right? Because I want to feel like worth, belonging, respect, integrity, values, those are kind of our kind of more I think of it as the I self, right? It’s like, you know, I’m here, right? In three different ways and different ways to create more belonging or worth.

And when that gets threatened, and I didn’t say this for the Head Center, but [00:07:00] oftentimes anger is the core emotional issue that comes up. But of course, it gives us Grounded presence, the life force in our body kind of knowing, Oh, this is what’s right for me. That’s a no for me. It’s kind of a binary sort.

So quickly, I’ll go back to the head center, the core emotional issue that gets triggered when there’s a threat to kind of certainty and security is fear and anxiety. And of course, the head center is the place of visioning possibility. The big picture, often think of it as the place of awareness. So, so that’s the first sort, just to start.

Diane Hullet: Those three, those three big places. Head, heart, and body. type.

Well, I, when I took the test, which is just kind of, you can go online and click on, there’s various ways to take the test online. We just did a free one and you end up with a little pie chart. Then we snapped a screenshot of the pie chart. We didn’t pay for extra [00:08:00] information because we had a book. So I come out as an eight.

And what I love about the way that we were reading about it is that it sort of describes your personality type or your, your way of moving in the world. And then it describes like you at your best and you at your more anxious slash worst, so to speak. And that was where I really cracked up and really could see how this was so true for me because.

Because at my best, I can be a leader and a instigator and a visionary and have lots of motivation and inspire myself and inspire other people. At my worst, I can bulldoze other people’s ideas, have too many opinions, be kind of the bull in the China shop, and, you know, run ragged over people in order to get what I want, right?

And I thought, Oh wow, that really does sum me up. So it cracked us up and other family members of mine are one, [00:09:00] there’s a one, there’s a four, and there’s a six. And so what was so interesting to us was to read about ourselves and in relation to each other. And it gave us, like you said, a lot of compassion for both how we move in the world and how we interact with the others in our world.

So, so for my little foursome family, it was, it was really this enlightening experience to do the Enneagram test and then read about our types. And as you said, these kind of three general types. So. One of us is a body, one of us is a head, and two of us are heart centered. 

Renee Rosario: Well, actually, two bodies. 

Diane Hullet: Okay.

Renee Rosario: Two bodies. One, right? You know what, two bodies, a heart, and a head, so good balance. Yep. Bringing different views into the world. And that’s an important thing to remember. It’s like, we often think, oh, I want someone to be like me. But actually, no. Right? We’re stronger in so many ways with [00:10:00] diversity. Right, different opinions, different views, etc.

Yeah. So I don’t know if you want me to do a thumbnail sketch of each of the types. Yeah. Okay. I will. It really will just be a thumbnail sketch. Sure. So, I’ll start with the head center folks. Type six, which is that there’s an inner triangle, three, six, and nine, and we think of them as the core types.

The Enneagram is based on ancient Pythagorean theorem, this thing called the law of three, the law of seven. So it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, like 2000 years old is a spiritual map. So there’s a very esoteric part, but six is the core type for the head center. And the tendency here, and we often called it the loyal skeptic.

It could be the questioner, you know, these people are like, like, well, what’s going to happen? The tendency is to go to Kind of what could go wrong or worst case scenario to try to plan for it so you can get certain about what’s coming down the pike. Right. So there is this [00:11:00] and this great capacity to be very thoughtful.

I work with sixes who think of things like I never would have thought of. Right. And so that’s where the attention goes again to gain certainty. Five and seven are variations of that five is called the observer. And this is another head type that like they are. I would say the most held back relative to they have these amazing minds and go very deep into things that actually they’re very interested in.

So accumulating knowledge and also kind of wanting to have their own space, right? There’s a big, like observer. You could just by the name, you can feel it’s kind of a sitting back so they can watch out for potential intrusions to their space and what they need. My ex husband is a five and I, I knew at one point as a two, what I could do for him was leave him alone in the world of thinking.

Right. And it’s like knowing enough to gain competence because there’s a fear of inadequacy for a seven. Managing it’s all managing [00:12:00] this fear place right certainty and security and fear so sevens have a very brilliant way of doing this, which is to stay above it right so it’s the vision it’s it’s coming next it’s possibilities so they’re looking at the.

Upside, we call them the master reframers, because if I can just do that, I can stay away from the fear, the fear of limitation and just keep going to the next thing. So sometimes sevens can feel kind of superficial because again, they have brilliant minds, visionaries, but they’re often onto the next thing before you’re trying to catch up with them on the thing they’re talking about now.

Right. So for the heart types, the core three is the core type, but it’s often called a performer and threes are interesting because this is the emotional feeling types, but we often don’t notice that with threes, their attention gets pulled the task and goal, but it really is about getting recognition for their accomplishments.

Right, so it’s still about connecting, but it’s also really [00:13:00] driven and can really get things done, et cetera, but often don’t slow down enough to actually kind of know what they really want. Like, is this really what I want to be doing or am I just getting good accolades for it? I already said something about two very briefly again, attention goes to what other people feel in need to get love and approval.

And all of these. Attentional stances as I’m calling them like the mental habit or the focus of attention is also intuitional because we’ve all spent a lot of time looking at that data. So oftentimes we are right. Right about whatever our attention is, but we want to make sure because oftentimes it’s just, oh, we think that’s true.

Right. So so, and for fours, it’s often called a romantic where really it’s the idealist. So it’s like seeing how things could be in a sense, this perfect relationship where I’d feel so connected or loved. So there’s an idealization around [00:14:00] work, creativity. They feel their most deep feeling on the Enneagram.

And it often feels like something’s missing because if I have an ideal. Daily life often does not match that ideal, right? So then it’s kind of like there’s a sense of like, Oh, you know, there’s kind of can be a kind of a sense of there’s something wrong with me, or I don’t have that. So there’s this kind of longing quality.

For the body types, type 9 is called the mediator or the peacemaker. And again, this is about kind of worth belonging or primary needs here. And for the nine, who have very loose boundaries, can really be empathic, can really take in. We love our nines often because they just feel like they’re with us when they’re sharing, right?

So they can often kind of merge with others and kind of lose themselves. And again, it’s kind of like I have to create like harmony and making sure everyone’s comfortable to belong. That’s kind of the gig. And so then there can be a [00:15:00] forgetting about themselves. So for AIDS, you mentioned yourself, called the protector often, again, the attention often goes to power and control, and some of the things, injustice, actually, is also another big thing.

It’s like, where’s the power, AIDS can be fine, followers, as long as the leaders are good, but otherwise, not so much, right? But they’re willing to just step up and take a risk, they have a big, they have big energy, and again, respect, having autonomy. Being in control of oneself is really important from an aid point of view.

And for ones, the attention goes to what’s in error. So it’s around correcting things. It’s like I feel like it’s really important for me to be good and right. So the attention gets pulled and all of these things are not chosen, right? This is automatic survival strategy adaptive patterns. So the attention goes to what’s in error, what needs correcting to try to create kind of perfection.

We often called it the perfectionist. That’s more like the reformer, [00:16:00] right? They want to reform. Oh, things could be better. And then I will, you know, if I can be right and not make too many mistakes, then, then I can, then I’m good. Right. There’s a brief overview. 

Diane Hullet: I love it. I like how you are both, you know, talking about how it has to do with what their motivation is and also where their attention goes and also what their fears are.

And I think those are some of the driving forces underneath. Our interactions and our personalities, right? I think what floored me was realizing how that these nine categories, these nine archetypes could really hold an enormous number of people. And my daughter and I went out to dinner with some people that we didn’t know well.

And we just cracked up because partway through the meal, we were like, wait. Do you guys know about the enneagram? And they were like, Oh, yeah, yeah. And they started telling us their types. And I immediately found myself softening, because, like, for example, the husband was a three. And I was like, [00:17:00] Oh, that explains him like he felt very Competitive to me and like he wanted to tell me how fabulous he was, which on the one hand, I was just thinking, Oh, well, he’s a guy, you know, whatever middle aged wanting to prove something to me, but really, it was more his personality type.

Yeah. And one of the daughters was another four. And so my, the four and the four kind of. Oh, now they knew something about each other that was a little different. They understood each other in a different way. So it was fun to me that even in just kind of a simple social situation, it actually had this, this way that it played out.

I, I think the reason I think this is an interesting topic is because what we know about ourselves and about how we interact makes such a difference for what we bring to the world and what we bring to our life, which also then, Impacts how we die, right? How we live and how we die. So these are ways that we can understand [00:18:00] ourselves better so that we can communicate with those around us so that we can have conversations with our loved ones that are satisfying and meaningful and genuine.

And we can communicate what we want because that’s what it boils down to, right? 

Renee Rosario: Right, right. Absolutely. And you know, I’ll add something. I love that you said that because understanding ourselves again, gives us choice. And how we respond versus just maybe reacting in the habitual way and when, as we age and as we’re, you know, going through the many transitions of aging and dying, you know, it’s, it’s like, boy, really being able to understand, okay, this might be my, My belief or something that’s gotten triggered, but what else could be happening here?

Like there, it is about freeing ourselves. People often say with the Enneagram, I don’t like the Enneagram, it puts me in a box. And I often say, you’re in a box. You just don’t know you’re in a box. 

Diane Hullet: Because, [00:19:00] right, this is about seeing the box so that you can understand the box and Use it when it’s useful and see the limitations of it.

Renee Rosario: Right. Totally. Totally. And be really curious about what other people, like you said, it’s your dinner. It’s like, Oh, how they’re seeing the world. Right, so that level of understanding that can come and the kind of more depths of conversations we can have because it’s really easy when someone demonstrates a type that’s kind of really not really how we are, we can start to get into judgments about that versus curiosity.

Right. And passion. 

Diane Hullet: Or seeing those like underlying motivations instead of the surface. You know, the other thing I really liked about the Enneagram is that I feel like it was, you know, it was sort of interesting to us at a superficial level to talk about. Like, I mean, you know, we had our little pie charts and we were like reading some descriptions and then we bought a couple of books and then we’ve read the books.

And so. It can be interesting both at a light level, like, you know, [00:20:00] listeners, you could get a lot out of this in 30 minutes, but it can also be a real deep dive and the deep dive the books that are out there, the websites, the trainings, the information. There’s a lot out there. I don’t know if you have a particular favorite or favorites of what you would share as resources, Renee.

Do you mind if I get up and walk? I do not. Renee is getting up to grab a book. 

Renee Rosario: Yeah, and just to tag on before I say that, it’s like, it’s one of the gifts of the Enneagram, is you can kind of enter at a pretty easy level to understand things. And I’ve been studying it for almost 30 years. And I’m always learning something new, and especially when we actually engage in conversation.

So in working, the group that I train with, the Narrative Enneagram, narrativeenneagram. org, has a typing test that’s also in this book, has tons of resources, and it’s all based on, really, there’s didactic understanding, but then it’s people sharing about themselves in the trainings that we [00:21:00] do. And that changes everything, right?

It’s like when you were sitting at dinner, Diane, right? It’s just like… Yeah. So this little book, look how big it is. Not very big. Not very big. It’s got a lovely typing inventory. I prefer this test, which is nine paragraphs. And then it has a couple pages of great summary material on each of the types.

It’s a really way, easy way. You can get it on Amazon or the local. 

Diane Hullet: And read us the whole title and the authors. 

Renee Rosario: It’s called the essential Enneagram and it’s by David Daniels, who’s one of the founders of the narrative Enneagram and Virginia Price. 

Diane Hullet: I love it. So the narrative Enneagram. In addition to looking at the Enneagram as it’s evolved also focuses on people’s stories.

So it almost takes it another. Kind of just another level in terms of communication and connection. 

Renee Rosario: Yeah. It’s, it’s amazing what can happen. We interview panels of people of a particular [00:22:00] type, et cetera, and they share their stories and, you know, the audience online or in person in the past, you know, is actually receiving that.

And we’re changed as we hear each other’s stories and we share our, our own. And, you know, we work spiritually, psychologically and somatically because it also means you have to pause. And actually notice what’s coming up in your body because we can build new neural pathways, right? So I don’t want to get into neuroscience too much, but it’s possible to keep growing at all age and to have those things get more wired in.

So it’s not so hard, but yeah, and it’s really about observing yourself, being curious and compassionate about your type because it’s brilliant. There’s a lot of things out there that like dis the ego or the type or the archetype or whatever. And it’s like, Oh no, it’s a gift. It’s an amazing. 

Diane Hullet: Well, it’s almost like things try to just pass over that as though we could just ignore it or skip it or bypass it or [00:23:00] something.

But this is what we’re dealing with here in this life on earth. You have your personality, you have your relationships, you, you can change. Some, I totally believe in growth and growth mindset and change over time, but, but really there’s some fundamental pieces of who we are that come from our, our family of origin, our spiritual path, whatever they come from, here we are.

So how do you work with that rather than either accepting it blindly or fighting against it? 

Renee Rosario: Yeah, really good points. Really good points. It is what’s here. So, you know, and being friendly towards things actually activates more growth than pushing against them or fighting against it or feeling bad about yourself, which actually doesn’t help promote because yeah, we don’t ever get another type.

We think it’s temperament based primarily. And then the nature component, the nurture component comes on that, but we don’t switch types. Right. But it, but it becomes a lot [00:24:00] looser, do you know, it’s just, Oh, I have more choice. There it is. And I don’t have to go there. You know, 

Diane Hullet: I tell you, it was so much fun for my husband and I to read each other’s and to kind of read it together and just start chuckling.

Like that is so you, you know, like. I’ll just, I’ll just go ahead and say he’s a one. So like at his best, he’s got this like incredible integrity, truth telling perfectionism. Like things need to be a certain way. He is the person you want on your team because he is like a hundred percent there. Yeah. On the other hand, he can be overly picky.

He can be neurotically nitpicky. He can be. overly critical of himself and of others. And so like reading that and just kind of laughing about it was just such a treat for us. And, and then there are pieces in these Enneagram books or, you know, places that extrapolate more where you could read about the relationship of two numbers [00:25:00] together.

So when read about the relationship of eights and ones, We were just laughing. We were like, well, 35 years. And there’s the history of our arguments right there. So I mean, it was really a tool for us to kind of have some perspective, have some joy together and have some compassion for how the other one sees the world.

Which is really different than how the other one sees the world. So yeah, what a, what a wonderful tool. 

Renee Rosario: I want to say one other thing, cause I’m so appreciating your lightness and humor in working with it. Cause that is a great, great way to work with your type structure. It’s just like, Oh, well, there it is again.

Yep. Do you know, we contend to take things so personally, and I think understanding it’s a pattern. You have a pattern, you have a type, but it’s not who you are. Right. And we can actually treat it a little bit more lightly and have humor. It’s just a great way to work with the system. So I love that what you’re doing there.

Diane Hullet: I love that. Yeah. When I read the line, like [00:26:00] AIDS can sometimes bulldoze other people with their opinions. My whole family was like yeah, mom, you’re definitely an eight.

I that. Yeah, we are. We are who we are. But when they all laughed about it and I could laugh about it. I tell you what, in the six months since I started working with Enneagram, I now chuckle when I start to do that. I go, Oh, here I go, bulldozing other people with my opinion, lo and behold. What else, what else would you want listeners to take away about the Enneagram?

Anything else? 

Renee Rosario: You know, if people are interested based on your podcast and kind of what you’re working with as a theme, I’m just thinking that it’s a spiritual map to underneath it. So that’s where it came from originally, and it describes different things about however, spiritual in a sense, not a particular religion, but just that there’s something greater.

So you could have any kind of relationship to that. It could just be, oh, awareness is greater than my pattern. [00:27:00] Could be that simple. You might call it God, the divine, the great mystery. You could call all sorts of different things. But it’s interesting as we work with that too, it describes how that greater reality kind of works.

functions and what our relationship is to it. So for each of the types, there’s this kind of higher idea or traditionally called the holy idea underneath that. So if people are interested in the spiritual aspects, I just want to just drop that in, just plant a little ripple in case you’re interested in the books like Facets of Unity or the Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram are two books that actually go more into that.

And this can help us recognize, oh, there’s something larger that I can relax in, because the type really feels so urgent, often, about taking care of its tasks, whatever its task is. If it’s letting people know and taking a leadership position, if it’s, I know what you need for me as a two, like, I know what you need, [00:28:00] you just need to do this, right?

That often doesn’t work so well, just saying. Anyway, that there’s actually something bigger that I can relax into, you know, that there is some other intelligence, let’s say. So I’ll just plant that seed as the part of the deeper dive for folks. 

Diane Hullet: That’s beautiful. That’s a great place Renee to kind of wrap up.

Well, tell us again how we can find find out more about you, the narrative 

Renee Rosario: Enneagram. It’s narrative Enneagram. org. So there you can see our trainings we train, we have people just. You know, there’s classes just for the public, but then there’s also classes if you want to learn to teach in the narrative tradition, or you’re a practitioner, spiritual director, coach, therapist, where we train people to work with the system.

So that’s, it’s a wealth of knowledge on that beautiful and then I have a, a local website that’s kind of old. So anyway, and I, I’m also doing this fall in Boulder, actually a class on working with the [00:29:00] embodied enneagram. So inner resourcing for a more just world working with white dominant culture and the things we need to work with to create more equity, diversity, and inclusion in the world.

So Beautiful site. com. E N N E A S I G H T dot com. That’s going to be a small in person class. Well, 

Diane Hullet: thank you so much, Renee. Thanks for your time and your insights. And I hope, you know, people will take away from this kind of a sense that there’s a map that they can learn more about themselves and others.

That could be a tool. Yeah, you can find out more about the work I do at Best Life. Best death.com. Thanks to my guest, Renee Rosario, and thanks to all my listeners for listening to another episode of the Best Life Best Death podcast. 

Diane Hullet

Diane Hullet

End of Life Doula, Podcaster, and founder of Best Life Best Death.