The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that's been around for centuries and is uncannily accurate in describing human behavior patterns. In recent years, it's been gaining in popularity for its insights that can help anyone become more self-aware and potentially overcome self-defeating behaviors. In The Road Back to You, Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile offer a comprehensive and accessible approach to understanding yourself and others using the Enneagram, while exploring the connections of the Enneagram to Christian spirituality, which can help the reader get in touch with God by discovering their true selves in Him. In doing so, the Enneagram can help you become a wiser and more compassionate person.
I've been studying personality typing for more than twenty years, primarily the Myers-Briggs-Jung typology via the Kiersey Temperament Sorter. When I first discovered it all those years ago, I couldn't believe how uncannily accurate it was in describing me and my behavior patterns. Since then I haven't found any other personality typing system that was nearly as accurate. Until now. Our pastor, who is also the leader of our church book club, suggested The Road Back to You for our December book club read. When I heard that the subject of the book was personalities, I was interested in trying it out, but since I'd never heard of the Enneagram before and had never had much luck with personality typing systems other than Myers-Briggs-Jung, I perhaps approached it with a slight bit of skepticism as well. I have to say that the book almost immediately blew away any misgivings I might have had and sucked me into this new way of looking at personalities.
This is a little different sort of book than what we've discussed in our book club before, and so the question was raised as to how our members felt about self-help books. In general, I've found that self-help books tend to focus in on a particular topic, which may or may not be of interest to or actually help someone unless they or someone they love is experiencing that issue. Also the way in which the author approaches the topic may or may not resonate with the reader, because everyone has a different way of dealing with things. However, it's my fervent belief that personality typing can help everyone. After all, every person on the planet has a personality and learning more about how individuals think and behave can be immensely helpful, not only for understanding ourselves but also for understanding our fellow humans, especially those who are different from us. It can also help us in all our relationships, whether it's a marriage/romantic relationship, a parent/child relationship, friendships, boss/employee relationships, or basically any capacity in which we interact closely with another human being. It's for this reason that I highly recommend every person study some kind of personality typing at some point in their lives, whether it's Myers-Briggs-Jung, the Enneagram, or some other system that makes sense to you.
As for The Road Back to You, it's basically a primer on the Enneagram. It delves into the basics of what the Enneagram is, where it came from (although admittedly the origins of it are ancient and uncertain), the triads, and each of the nine numbers or personality types. Each chapter takes a closer look at a single number's general traits, what they're like in childhood, at work, and in relationships, the deadly sin of each number (more on that in a moment), their wing numbers, their stress and security numbers, how that number can make a spiritual transformation, and ten suggested steps toward that transformation. Even if you think you know which number you are and are eager to find out more about your number by skipping ahead, I'd encourage you not to. Reading about each number and seeing if it's a good fit is part of the self-discovery of the Enneagram. In simply reading the basic description of each type in the introductory chapters, I honestly didn't know for sure which one I was. I was able to narrow it down to a few, but I didn't know for sure until I read my type. Then I had a major lightbulb moment. Not to mention, reading them all is a good way to get a feel for the personalities of those around you. As I read each type that I knew wasn't my own, I found myself saying, Oh, that's my husband, or daughter, or mother-in-law, or friend, etc. In so doing, you'll get a feel for how they think and why that behave in the ways that they do.
Given its sketchy origins, it's hard to say exactly who discovered or invented the Enneagram. However, in looking at the known history of it, I'd say there's definitely a spiritual element given that several faith traditions are said to contain some aspects of it and that several faith leaders have added to and tweaked it over the years. The authors of The Road Back to You are respectively an Episcopal priest and the wife of a Methodist minister, who regularly teaches the Enneagram and runs spiritual retreats where attendees can learn more about it. This being the case, the book has a definite spiritual foundation. As I mentioned each number is related to one of the seven deadly sins with the additions of fear and deceit. This is considered the number's primary weakness. As I also mentioned each number has a section on spiritual transformation, which is how you can strive to become an emotionally healthier version of yourself. But throughout the book, there are various references to how each number relates to a characteristic of God and how we can use our gifts in service to Him. I didn't find anything to be over the top or at all preachy, but anyone who has a serious aversion to religious references of any kind may not care for the book. But I think anyone who at least believes in a higher power and/or believes that at our hearts, we are spiritual beings will be OK with it.
The Road Back to You is a very well-written book that's done in an engaging style that's quite easy to read and understand. It appears that Mr. Cron was the primary writer of the book, as many of the anecdotes from real-life people come from those in his own family and sphere of acquaintances, with Ms. Stabile probably acting as an expert resource on information relating to the Enneagram. I can say without hesitation that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would certainly be interested in checking out anything else that the authors have written. But most of all it's given me a new way of looking at myself and my loved ones, and I'm very eager to delve even further into the Enneagram and learn even more about it.
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