Sunday, July 23, 2017

When is Personality "Set"?

Question: I recently began learning about the Enneagram through coworkers. I strongly identify with my 2 mentor, and test as a 2 myself, although I am under the age of 25. Therefore, I understand my personality to not be quite “set” yet. Either way, it leads me to consider the popular nature vs nurture question. My mother is a strong, religious, 1 and my dad is a 2. I feel like my childhood gave me lots of messages about people serving, and as a female, I get this message culturally anyway.
As I continue to consciously grow, how can I practice growing that both honors the things that have influenced me, as well as define my Self? It seems like a bigger question for a 2, or a 9, for example, who may tend to take on many aspects of the people they are surrounded by. Can I utilize the Enneagram before my personality has stabilized? Will I be left with my truest self regardless of these aspects?
I think you've misunderstood when the personality is "set." That happens quite young. David Daniels and Daniel Siegel have quoted studies from Harvard that infants are born with one of three energies that can be correlated with three Enneagram personality patterns each. It's possible the environment (nurture) then fine-tunes the infant toward one of those three patterns. Of course no one can know, for sure, but many of my clients see evidence of Enneagram style in their children quite young, and most are really clear by the teen years. In fact there are Enneagram programs (and at least one book) for teens. 

In 2013, Ginger Lapid-Bogda wrote on The Enneagram in Business blog:

Even 10 years ago, the prevailing “wisdom” (really, more urban legend!) was that you could not use the Enneagram with people under 40 because they did not have sufficient life experience to “know who they are.” In fact, people often thought the lower age range should be 50. Even more, it was thought to be unethical to use the Enneagram with children; this included 10-year-olds, adolescents, and even young adults. The thought was that helping younger people use the Enneagram to understand themselves would harm them in deep ways such as having them stereotype themselves, or something like that.

All this seems silly in the year 2013, just 10 years later. At the 2003 IEA conference, we did a children’s panel led by David Daniels, which was extremely controversial among Enneagrammers and, after the fact, a huge success. This event shocked many people, but changed the urban legend. But I was fully aware that my then 10 year-old son was using the Enneagram really well. It helped him understand himself as a type 3 and he was using it in several ways. With his friends who were interested, he would help them type themselves and learn how to develop and understand themselves and others. At other times, he used the Enneagram behind the scenes. For example, he would analyze his elementary school basketball team and how to make it more successful. “Mom,” he would say, “the team has four 8s, three 5s, and two 3s. The 8s are ball-hogs, the 5s are just waiting for someone to pass them the ball, and the two 3s can’t get them to work together. What can we do?”

In fact, most Enneagram tests suggest you consider how you were in your early twenties when answering the questions, because we all loosen some of our programming as we mature and might be less of a fit for the typical patterns of one point or another.

You're right, of course, that we can have an overlay of parents' Enneagram styles even if different from our own. Tom Condon teaches this, and doesn't limit the possibility to styles Two and Ninealthough I think it could be true that Twos and Nines adopt those external qualities more readily.

Also remember the tests are necessarily based on conscious awareness and observable behaviors, whereas much of our personality's drive is unconscious. So explore more deeply to confirm your primary Enneagram style.

It's definitely not too early for your own work, and I suggest
observing your urges toward service (which can show up in any Enneagram style). Each time pay close attention to what triggered the urge, what you say to yourself, how you feel both physically and emotionally, and how the service plays out. You'll begin to see what's your truest self and what's an automatic, programmed response of style Two, or Nine, or perhaps another point.


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