Series 05: For the Love of New Beginnings | Episode 02
Finding The Way To Your True Self With Enneagram Expert Chris Heuertz
Our “For the Love of New Beginnings” series continues strong with Enneagram expert Chris Heuertz. Are you a 2 (The Helper) or perhaps an 8 (The Challenger)? Or maybe a 3 (The Achiever), like Jen? If you don’t know what the heck we’re talking about, we’re here to help. Chris has written a new book called The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth and shares why The Enneagram is one of the most powerful and insightful tools for understanding ourselves and others. Jen and Chris both share how knowing their Enneagram types has helped them embrace their strengths and their flaws and how it has enhanced understanding and compassion in their key relationships. If you haven’t taken the Enneagram, you are going to want to after you listen to this episode. Visit JenHatmaker.com/podcast for links to Enneagram Institute resources.
Narrator: Welcome to the “For the Love Podcast” with bestselling author Jen Hatmaker. Come on in, and join us for a chat with Jen and friends about all the things we love. Now, here’s Jen.
Jen: Hey everybody. It’s me, Jen Hatmaker. Welcome to the show. This is the For the Love Podcast and I’m so grateful to host you this week. Like every week, I just absolutely love our listeners and I absolutely love this series. I mean there is so much good stuff in here, you guys. We’re in a series called For the Love of New Beginnings, and we’re sort of turning our eyes to a new year, and goals, and ideas, we want to try, or conversations we’d like to finally tackle, spaces we’d finally like to excavate. Today is high on my enthusiasm level because we are going to talk with Chris Heuertz. Chris is the writer the author of the book called The Sacred Enneagram.
So you guys, the Enneagram feels like it’s been all the rage lately and it is, but it’s actually been around for a really, really long time.
It’s sort of an ancient teaching that talks about nine fundamental human characteristics–kind of archetypes. I’m kind of a newbie into the Enneagram world and I’m so here for it. I’m absolutely here for it and I am learning so much. Brandon and I are learning so much. In fact, we each have our own copy of Chris’s book, The Sacred Enneagram and they’re all marked up. We’re learning about each other, and the Enneagram is just a fabulous, fabulous tool.
Let me tell you about Chris. So he’s an activist. He’s been involved in humanitarian relief and anti-trafficking stuff for two decades. So in addition to his work as an Enneagram teacher, he’s trained under some of the greatest. He’s trained under Richard Rohr. He’s learned with Mother Teresa, you guys. So we’ll talk about all of that. He was introduced to the Enneagram like almost 20 years ago when he was working in the slums of Cambodia. So that’s how his story started. He has since become just a real expert in this space and he’s such a good guide, such a good teacher through the Enneagram and it’s helped him back to health and wholeness and he really, really believes that the Enneagram can help us get back to the heart of who we really are.
So you guys, as we look toward this new year, we’re seeking self-awareness and we want to strengthen our relationships and how we handle situations in our careers. I think this conversation is going to be so enlightening so useful even if this is your very first intro to the Enneagram. I’m so excited that you’re here and for you to hear us talk about it for the next few minutes. We’ll be sure to give you all the tools you need to sort of set on your own path. If this feels like something you’d like to explore in your life, Chris teaches workshops and leads retreats literally all around the world.
So he and his darling wife Phileena and their little puppy Basil, who we end up talking about at the end–so dear so sweet–they live in Omaha and he is just a master and I’m so thrilled that he’s going to give the podcast an hour of his time and his expertise. I’m telling you, this is a fascinating conversation, and no matter who you are or how you are, you are going to hear some information today that is incredibly enlightening and useful.
Thanks for joining today and without any further ado I bring you my really great conversation with Chris Heuertz.
Alright, Chris. It’s time. I’m so excited to talk to you today. Thank you so much for being on this show.
Chris: So happy to be with you.
Jen: This conversation with you is just incredibly timely. First of all, in the podcast, we’re in the middle of a series called For the Love of New Beginnings. It’s the beginning of the year, we’re all turning our attention toward goals or things we’d like to press into or work on or work towards. The Enneagram is such a wonderful tool. If we really, this year, want to take our emotional health seriously, our healing seriously, our relationships seriously, it’s been a revelation to my husband Brandon and I recently. I know it feels like, to some of us who are new to the Enneagram discussion and model, that this is some hot take right now. That it’s very popular and we’re hearing about it everywhere and people are obsessed with the Enneagram, but the truth is, it’s old. This has been around a really, really long time.
Before we drill in to a lot of specifics and ideas and what you have to teach us about the Enneagram, for people who’re listening and don’t know, or for some who do but would like to know more, can you just high-level for our listeners, what the Enneagram is and what you know or what you believe on how I got started.
Chris: Sure I think what the Enneagram of Personality teaches us is that our personality is essentially our ego set of coping addictions that we’ve wrapped around the childhood wounds so that we don’t have to tell ourselves the truth about who we really are.
Jen: Dang. You’re gonna go right for the jugular, aren’t you?
Jen: It’s gonna start right there.
Chris: What that means is that we all have essentially spent a lifetime building scaffolding around the projection of our ego mythology, and at a certain point, that wears out. That burns out. That’s used up. At a certain point when we’re ready for it, I think what the Enneagram shows us is that we don’t have to wear these masks, that we don’t have to tell ourselves these lies, and actually we can face our pain rather than resist our suffering and really begin to do the dirty work of excavating essence.
Chris: People have reduced this to a personality tool, and I’m afraid that we’re missing the point if we think of it as a personality tool. It’s more than personality. It’s getting to essence, but it’s getting to the hidden essence. It’s getting to the lost essence. It’s helping us recognize the disconnect from our true selves. I like to call it the “Sacred Map.” It shows us our way back home, right?
Jen: I like that because personality tests in general are a joke. They’re so easy to run on the surface as to just description that we can latch on to, superficially feel known or understood or even excused for our behavior but what you’re saying and what we’re experiencing in the Enneagram and really the deep dive into is exactly true. If you’re willing to do the work and to lean into it, it is so much more than an assessment.
Chris: For sure.
Jen: So much more. It’s almost spooky.
Chris: Right, because what’s beautiful about it, what’s complicated about is that it resists reductionism. It doesn’t tether you to your foibles and quirks and eccentricities, and actually if you know what you’re doing with this teaching, it doesn’t even reduce you to caricatures, right?
Jen: Yeah, that’s right.
Chris: It really shows the mystery of who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you’re going. I love it. 15 years ago, those things called Magic Eye? Those pixelated images that you just-
Jen: Sure…you’re unfocused ’til—then, you saw the picture?
Chris: Right. I really think the Enneagram is this “magic eye” of possibilities. When you finally relax into your belongingness, your beauty, what’s fabulous about you, all of this stuff has to come forward. All of these things have to come out. And it really is breathtaking. It really is remarkable. I think it catches a lot of us off guard.
Jen: Oh, it’s powerful is what it is, and I like what you said, because it will not be reduced, and built into it is a lot of grace and wisdom, and even flex. Brandon and I, my husband, when we first put our finger on the Enneagram and started to try to find our place in it, it was in the margins where it came clear for us. It was a little bit of what you’re saying, “this is when we’re disintegrating,” and I went, “Oh, gosh!” I felt like I’d been spied on. It was almost humiliating to hear my exact personality explained when I was healthy, and when I was unhealthy. It’s not rigid. It’s not rigid, but it does take you by the hand if you’re willing, and lead you down a path to wholeness.
How did you get started here? What’s your path to the Enneagram work and study?
Chris: Sure. It was about 20 years ago. I was in the slums in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, visiting a friend who does incredible humanitarian work there. And we were having lunch, my wife Phileena and I, and his wife. His name is Craig Greenfield, and his wife Nay. And at the end of lunch, he asked me, he said, “Hey, mate. Have you ever heard of this thing called the Enneagram?” And as he began to describe it to me, I was just like, “No way, dude. This is totally made up. I don’t believe in this.”
I couldn’t shake it, though. I was flying back to the States. I had a layover at Los Angeles, was staying over with a friend at Long Beach. Got online, took every test I could. Sent my buddy the averaged-out spreadsheet of the results and he’s like, “Man, you’re doing this wrong.” And I was like, “I think I’m close to typing.” And he shot me back a little question, that really wasn’t a question, and in particular it was a pointed statement about, “Did you relate to your mother like this? And do you still …?”
Jen: Yeah, I read that.
Chris: … And man, it wrecked me. I just saw, “Am I that obvious?” Is this-
Jen: He just read your mail exactly.
Chris: Well, it destroyed me. That changed my mind quickly.
There’s a big blue book called The Wisdom of the Enneagram by the late Don Riso and one of my teachers, Russ Hudson, and folks started to buy that for me.
I flipped through it, and back then, the intra-spiritual language was a little bit too much for me. I returned that book, I think four times in six months, before I finally realized, the fourth time somebody got it for me it was like, I think this is funny—it’s way to me.
I used it in my former community. My wife and I spent 20 years in an international humanitarian organization in Atlanta, anti-trafficking work, and the work was hard but what was harder, often, was staying together, and working things out in relationships and friendships, The deeper I got into this, the deeper I realized, “I understand why Naranjo made all these grad students sign this confidentiality statement that they wouldn’t teach this until they’d done their own inner work–that they wouldn’t pass this around until they were ready,” because, look, once you figure out the nine types, once you know your way around the circle, it’s easy to weaponize it. This is easy to become the most interesting person at the dinner party.
Jen: Oh, my gosh. It is a party trick. Literally, originally how it was used. It’s funny that you say that because the first time I ever read about the Enneagram, and then took the test just to see if that would help me source out my own space, it was not 24 hours old. I’m telling you, less than a day, and I’ve been like, “Brandon, this is so fascinating. I really want you to take the test too.” And he takes it. I’ve come up as a really strong three. He comes up as a really strong two. And I’m telling you, the very next day, I’m a 24-hour old Enneagrammer, and he says something to me that I didn’t really particularly care for, and in my mind, I was like, “You know what? Classic ‘two’.”
Chris: Oh, man.
Jen: “…just classic two.” I thought: oh, yeah, you can become a real jerk with this in your hand when you’re unpracticed, when you’ve actually not done any work at all. I see exactly what you’re saying. Speaking of the types, which you just alluded to, I’m a three. In a minute, I know what you are, I’d like to know what you and your wife is too so we can think about how you and I are gonna relate to each other. But before we start to talk about our personal numbers, can you just give an overview to everybody listening on what the nine types are? And I know there’s a lot of different ways to describe them, and there are different practices that do it differently. You do it however you want.
Chris: Sure. My first teacher is a Franciscan father, his name is Father Richard Rohr. He lives down the Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Jen: So special to so many of us.
Chris: He’s a sweet man and a confidante. He’s on my board. My wife is on his board, and, actually, I’m right now with him for the report meetings. How Father Richard put it was really how it was being passed quietly and secretly along through that early group of Jesuits, and how they taught it were through fundamental needs:
Type one was the need to be perfect;
Type two was the need to be needed;
Type three was the need to succeed;
Type four was the need to be unique;
Type five was the need to understand;
Type six, the need to be secure;
Type seven, the need to avoid pain;
Type eight, the need to be against;
And type nine, the need to avoid.
When I heard it like that, I think it immediately made sense. And like I said, when you hear that, and really in that order, you probably find yourself in one or two or three of those, which shows you how this is a color wheel. How these blend from one into the other.
When I teach, I do a lot of work on object relations theory with a childhood wounds attachment theory and I help people find their way into it in the earliest memories of themselves coming forward in relationship to the protective and/or nurturing caregiver or caregivers.
Jen: Can you talk about that a little bit? Can you unpack what you mean by childhood wounds and how that’s your front door?
Chris: Sure. I’m dominant in type 8, and of course for those who are for dominant type 8, everything is a little bit of a fight, sass and hassle are our love languages. If you track with some of the stuff that I’ve done with the Enneagram, you can tell I’m sort of picking a fight with some of the traditional assumptions, and my type’s showing. Our types are always showing.
In particular, I do take issue with the language of childhood wounds because my sense is if you’re good parent, you’re doing your best and you’re not wounding your children. If you were the first born and your parents decided to have another child, and you suddenly were no longer the sole recipient of their attention, that wasn’t a wound, that was just a transition. When we are little, we don’t have the psychological construct to accurately narrate our realities. My sense is, all of us have experienced variations and versions of the traditional nine, so-called, childhood wounds but there is one that we’re more sensitive to. There’s one that we really react against. There’s one that hurts more than others. And what I think that is it’s the confirmation bias of our type. It’s the confirmation bias that we were born to bring something into the world and at a certain point we lost touch with it; we lost contact with it. We were introduced into the pain of humanity that the world isn’t fair, that just because you tell the truth you aren’t going to get rewarded, just because you work hard doesn’t mean you’re gonna get ahead.
Trying to cope with suffering, trying to cope with the brokenness of humanity, we begin to double-down on convincing ourselves that those defense strategies and coping mechanisms were legitimate. If there is a wound, my sense is that it’s the impression of our caregiver or caregiver’s shadow, that we picked up when we were little and we didn’t know how to process it. Then we began to tell ourselves that we were hurt, and the way that we were hurt began to shape who we thought we were. Then we began to act out of that pain. What that does is that fortifies whatever Enneagram type has, which is an emotional passion and a mental fixation. I’ve learned this from my own teacher Russ Hudson, he says something to the effect that, “When I’m not centered, my heart is really active, and my mind is overactive.”
Jen: What are some of the unhealthy ways that we both view who we are and how do you think the Enneagram can shine a light on that? Because it’s true, I’m 43, so I’ve told myself a story about who I am for a lot of years. I’ve got decades of receipts. This is obviously who I am, it’s largely based on behavior. I know it’s a loose and general idea, but how does the Enneagram laser into that spot and shine a light where it really could be dark?
Chris: I think it’s not tragic but it is sad, and this should elicit compassion from us. I think that this is true. Most of us don’t know that we don’t know who we are. We wear these masks and we allow masks to be put on us by society, by religion, by family. We allow ourselves to over-identify with some of the fragments that’ve laid claim to the whole of who we are. That’s either our successes, our failures, that’s our regrets, that’s our disappointments, that’s our accomplishments, our families, our vocational vitality, but you know that’s not who you are. And we all know that. Somehow, because we’re aware of that, we continue to spur wheels. We continue to wonder what’s beyond. I think the Enneagram teaches us compassion for ourselves. I think the Enneagram actually helps us learn to love ourselves. And I’ll say this, if we really don’t love ourselves, if we really don’t have compassion on ourselves, then man, we are toxic people because we don’t know how to love someone else. We don’t know how to have compassion on someone else, and suddenly it’s not safe to be human. It’s not okay to be yourself and you can’t confess your deepest darkest secrets, and you can’t struggle, and you can’t slip up. The Enneagram shows us that with this mental fixation and this emotional passion, we’re gonna keep cycling back to the same thing over and over, and in different ways and hopefully we can lessen the consequences of it.
Jen: I can listen to you talk about this for a thousand years. Everything you’re saying is so true. When I first really began to try to be as straightforward as I could about my Enneagram type and came up really quickly and decisively a three, I read through that and began to try to understand what makes a three, three. It was a little bit shame based, and I felt like this piece of my personality that I try to pretty much hide, or at least keep in check, or at least keep under wraps, or at least not display in full glory; that everybody had my number. I’m reading through it going, “How did they …Now everybody is gonna know how gross I am, way down deep in my heart, when I can be.” It’s interesting with a three. I’d love to hear your opinion on this because my reaction to being one was really strange, because if we’re gonna do a quick label over it, which as you’ve noted it’s not necessarily the healthiest way to understand any of this, but it’s called the “Achiever,” and it’s very ambitious, what people think about me matters, and success-oriented. It was interesting as a Christian because, I think specifically as a Christianity woman, I felt like upon reading the descriptions I should’ve been a two. I should’ve been. That felt like the right label to put on myself.
I really love your faith work that you apply to Enneagram. It’s powerful, it’s what it is. It’s incredibly powerful. Brandon and I are using it as such a tool right now on our marriage. Where would you say sometimes … Or do you say this? Maybe I’m making this up. Maybe this is just my experience. Do you ever see that Christians have a unique struggle with either being truthful enough to sort out their own humanity, their own essence? Or feeling inadequate for what they’ve been assigned? Or do they even struggle with the Enneagram, period? Is it too spiritual for even Christians? What’s your assessment how this interacts the Christian community?
Chris: I think Christians are becoming more comfortable with the teaching of the Enneagram right now, or it’s been really hard for them in the past because with the esoteric roots, and no clear biblical hinge to this, they have to do some work-arounds. They’re fine with math and I’ve never seen a multiplication tables in the holy scripture. I think when you see something that’s a repeating pattern that you can observe and it essentially proves itself in human experience, I think you’re gonna be okay. But look, here’s what’s funny, Christians who are suspicious or skeptical of this, I encourage them like, “Tap into your intelligence center.” The Enneagram tells us that we have these three centers; our body, our hearts, and our heads; our instincts, our feelings, and our thoughts.
Actually, if you know where your intelligence center is, this is where you actually find the best material to practice discernment. If you are confused about this or worried about this or are unsure about this, I actually think it gives you the tools to discern whether or not this is for you and this is the right time for you. In terms of our religious sensibilities in what we come at and what we come to with what’s taught in this, I do think that there is a lot of shame that religious people in particular experience here because each of the nine passions are traditional sins. They use the language of the nine capital sins. I don’t think that first and foremost your passion is a sin. I actually think it’s your best tool to get home.
Jen: I like your writing on that.
Chris: I think it’s the little keychain flashlight that you appeal to in the middle of the forest in the middle of the night. It’s completely inadequate. It’s not going to get you home. It can’t be the tool but it’s what we start with. Now, I think when Christians see that hit list of passions and the sin language described at them, you’re right, a lot of us feel shame, and a lot of us feel exposed. It’s because we don’t know what to do with our humanity. We don’t know how to actually relate to what’s flooding us but the truth is it’s our flaws and our imperfections are actually perfect. We need them to find our way home.
Jen: Yes, this is where the Enneagram fills in a gap for me, but I can tell you that I was never really taught what to do with my flaws except for “feel ashamed about them”. That was the tool handed to me; feel bad about this. I did. To see them written out in such absolutely clear language, in the Enneagram, was a little bit shocking. Notably, specifically with your work, and I love reading your book, we’re gonna talk about it next, it’s absence of shame. There’s so much grace in compassion built into your teaching, into the work, which that is to me where the road forks, in a positive way. Everything is nuanced, and everything ultimately can be a tool. Even our shadow side, and where we go when we’re disintegrating, those are still markers that can lead us back to wholeness, and to health. I think at the end of the day, if initially I felt exposed (I still do to be honest with you in a lot of ways, by the Enneagram), I think after a little bit more time with it, it’s hopeful. It feels really, really hopeful.
Jen: Let’s talk about your book. Your book is called The Sacred Enneagram. Let’s just start with that. Why do you believe the Enneagram is sacred in the first place? How can people achieve this deep place with it in their spiritual lives?
Chris: One of my teachers, Russ Hudson, who wrote The Wisdom of the Enneagram, he sometimes says that the Enneagram is less about nine types of people and more about nine paths back to God.
Jen: I like that.
Chris: And that really bent my brain when I first heard that. I spent several years trying to understand that like, “What are these paths to God? What are these paths home? What does this journey to divine love look like?” The work that I did, I spent several years trying to develop this overlay that essentially said, “If you know your type, then you know your type’s intelligence center. Your instincts, your feelings and your thoughts.” And our instincts, and our feelings, and our thoughts actually show us, our intelligence center actually shows us our most accessible emotion. If you’re in a body type, that’s frustration or anger. The body types are eight, nine and one. If you’re a heart type, two, threes, and fours. That’s guilt or shame. And if you’re a head type, five, six or seven. That’s anxiety or distress.
We know that, we feel that. That’s the static noise in the back of our heads. That’s the muscle memory of how get through our days. I took these centers and I overlaid them with contemplative prayer postures; either solitude, silence or stillness. I really suggested that solitude is where we have to go for in our heart, that if you’re dominant in type two, you cannot give yourself a way to find yourself. You have to go inward to see your beauty. If you’re dominant type three, you can’t show everyone their value and ascribe value to everybody else’s lives, without entering the emptiness of your own heart and solitude and seeing that you’re valuable. If you’re dominant type four, that solitude is really an invitation to see what’s significant about yourself for yourself, rather than needing it to be validated.
If you’re in your head, you’re five, six, or seven, I suggested that silence is really the remedy to all the noise. If you’re dominant type five, you need to turn down the noise of trying to get to the bottom of every question. If you’re a six, you need to turn the noise and stop threat forecasting, and if you’re a seven, you need to turn down the noise so that you can be present and not thinking about what’s next. And then if you’re in your body, these eight, nine and ones, it was really stillness. And that was for the eights to stop fighting with themselves or beat each other for justice, the nines to stop arbitrating in reconciling the external world so that they could actually face the stillness of what’s not being reconciled internally. And then if it was water, it was the stillness of just stopping, fixing themselves and everything else. I felt like that really added up. Now, when I do that, of course there’s obvious objection. If I tell folks who’re dominant type nine that that stillness is the contemplative of pre-posture for their inner work, now it’s like, “Awesome, then I’m already chilled out. I’ve already opted out.”
Jen: Totally. Yes.
Chris: I suggested that it was a mindfulness intention that each of us need the bring to our contemplative posture. For the two, the fives, and the eights, I suggested that was consenting. For the twos–consenting to solitude. For the fives–consenting to silence. For the eights–consenting to stillness. Saying “yes”, agreeing to it, giving yourself to it. For the threes, the sixes, and the nines, it was engaging what’s been disconnected and lost in your own heart or mind or body.” For the threes–engaging solitude, being there, interrogating it. The six is engaging silence, not being afraid. And for the nines, engaging stillness; actually, being present.
Then for the ones, the fours, and the sevens, (these are really the frustrated idealists of the Enneagram), it was rest. You are tired. Once, you’re tired of what’s broken in the world and what you perceive to be broken in yourself, you get to rest in stillness. For the fours, you’re tired, you’re aching to be known and so you get to rest in solitude. For the sevens, you’ve worn yourself out chasing your fantasies. You’ve got to rest in silence. I feel when I put those pre-postures and mindfulness intensions that came up with those nine unique combinations, it just resonated. I think it just keeps resonating. I think it’s a gentle path. It’s, “Hey, the contemplative spirituality can be intimidating. We need people to demystify it.” And I’m like, “Here is an easy start, right?”
Jen: Yes, I’d love this so much because it will not be a surprise to you, as a person who’s a three, I’m not contemplative. I struggle with introspection. I’m a doer. I live outside of myself. I’m achieving all time. When I read that path for me towards wholeness, I know it’s right because I’m defensive against it, because I automatically know, “Oh, that is work for me.” That’s not natural. That’s not what I naturally reach for. That’s not easy for me. I think what I appreciate the most about your approach is that typically, when you reduce something like the Enneagram or any of the others to a personality assessment, a lot of the instruction on the backend of it, it feels like behavior modification. Work these new systems into your life. Or here is a script for you to start practicing your relationships or whatever it is. It feels like all this is more external work to do that really just changes what I’m saying; it doesn’t really change my heart. This one is the exact opposite. It is quiet, and it is inward. And it is private.
Which to me, it makes so much spiritual sense. That’s where God goes his best work with any of us, truly, but why is it so hard? You’re so right. It’s a gentle path. You have laid a gently path down for us, and I still find it so incredibly challenging. I don’t know what it is. It’s all of it, really.
Chris: Well, it’s a resistance, and honestly, we know this. Our resistance to our suffering just causes more suffering. Our resistance is, I think, triggered in a contemplative practice. I usually say this, if you know your Enneagram type, then you’ll know your intelligence center. When you begin your inner work, when you give yourself to a practice, it will trigger that most accessible emotion. So that guilt or shame– “I’m not good at this. I’m doing this wrong. I’m beating myself up.” That anxiety or distress,” what’s in there? Am I really ready for this?” Or that frustration or anger like, “This is not happening fast enough. I’m not seeing the fruit.” I think when you experience those somatic resistances, that’s enough. That’s the invitation to listen to what they’re telling you. I also think that you’re right; for three, this is hard for us in nine different ways, right?
Jen: Yeah, that’s a great point.
Chris: For three in particular, it can be really hard. The three is right there in the middle of the heart center, and if you look at the drawing, and if you can see it as a color wheel, then you see that the wings, the numbers on either side are two and a four. You know what? Those are both also in your heart center.
Jen: Exactly. There’s no escape. I’m all heart.
Chris: In one way you’re all heart, but in another way your heart’s unaccountable because you don’t have a reach outside it. You don’t have the clarity of an alternative perspective. What they say about the three, the six, and the nine, which are the three types in the center or the middle of your intelligence centers, is that they’re the most disconnected from their centers.
Jen: That makes perfect sense.
Chris: This should bring such compassion for everyone who knows a three or somebody dominant type three, and there should be compassion in it, self-love for it if you are dominant type three. The three is the most disconnected from their heart. This is a confirmation bias of the inadequacy of imperfect holding environments as children. Look, it’s not that your parents were terrible. In fact, I imagine they were incredible, and I imagine that they did their best, but they couldn’t love you perfectly and we also have to know this: we couldn’t receive love perfectly. Little kids with dominant type three had this confusion. They attached to the nurturing caregiver as a way of trying to fill their own heart, and they relied on that external nurturing energy to say, “You have this. You can feel it. It’s just a reach for you.”
Kids with dominant type three then grew up was, how do I feel my heart? I just wanna be loved. I just wanna be seen. I don’t know how to feel my heart but I’ll tell you what, when I’m seen, when I’m acknowledged, when I’m affirmed, it feels pretty good. If it feels pretty good then that might my heart. That feeling might be my heart. Threes chase that. They chase the accolades. They chase the attention. They chase the rewards. They’re only doing this to feel love. The thing is they’re smart enough. They’re smart enough to know that that’s not real love. In fact, when you’re bad at something, when you fail in something, and you can press into your inner solitude and still see your value, then you know what love is.
It causes these aches in us, and like I said, these aches really lead, I think, to the compassion. They have to.
Jen: Yeah. It’s interesting. I’m in a trance listening to you talk. I feel like everybody is getting to listen in on my therapy session. Right behind a three for me, just a couple of points down is a nine. When I read that description as well, I do see that when I’m feeling unworthy or overwhelmed, or when I’m not operating out of a healthy space, those are my behaviors. I go quiet. I go still. I withdraw, and for some time, I’ve got this piece in me that,( I cannot believe that I’m just saying this on my podcast as if we’re just having a private conversation) but I’m a withholder, and this is a tool that’s helping me understand that a little bit, ’cause it’s just been a source of shame for me. Why do I do that? I feel like in my core I wanna love and I wanna serve well, and then the minute I start getting disintegrated, I clam up and withdraw and withhold.
As hard as it is to admit that, and to read it so plainly, it’s also helping me right now. It’s helping me learn what to do with those feelings, and they’re a little flag waving for me saying, “Hey, hi, this is where we’re at right now. How do we get back? How do we get back to health?” You’re an eight, and what’s your wife? I’m interested in talking about this, ’cause this is incredibly useful in a marriage or an important relationship. How we relate to one another, and what it teaches us about our spouse or our partner, you’re an eight and Phileena-
Chris: Phileena is dominant in type two.
Jen: How does that fall in your marriage?
Chris: Yeah. That can be good and bad if you know much about these types. The two is sometimes called the helper or the giver, the eight is sometimes called the challenger. I like to refer to the eight as the contrarian. The two’s inadequate holding environments where really this feeling of rejection around the protective caregiver. Now, the two is really this essence of love, this open-armed… they’re safe, they’re kind, they’re compassionate. They know everybody’s feelings and emotions before we even do, and they know instinctively and intuitively how to love us and what to give to us. As little kids, folks with dominant type two just wanted that protective caregiver to mirror that nurturing love that they were offering. The problem is protective caregivers are only gonna protect.
A little, little two couldn’t realize that. That was confusing for them, and it felt like rejection. That aching rejection caused little twos to double down on that nurturing stance and really run with it, and live with it. Now eight, were also rejection types. Some rejection types around the other parent or caregiver, and that was the nurturing parent. My mom was 19 when she got pregnant with me. I was the first born. My mom, I think, is also dominant type two and she just loved me so much. She just smothered me and cared for me. The basic fear of the eight is really of not being in control and if I feel too smothered or too controlled, I resist. Even in my childhood, I look at this pattern. I resist that nurturing reach towards me. My poor mom–this helps us heal our relationships with our folks–caused me to double down and double down on this protective stance.
Eights and twos were looking for someone to protect and looking for someone to nurture, and eights don’t nurture themselves well so we need that help, and twos don’t protect themselves well. They’re always giving themselves well. They’re always giving themselves away at their expense. They need to be protected. So it can be really healthy or it can lead to really toxic fusion. You just have to watch that. You have to watch your patterns. You have to watch how you’re enabling each other. But there’s a resonance. We understand that, I think, that the Enneagram has helped us at least come to terms with those quiet, quiet memories and feelings of rejection, and so when we can find ourselves really in each other’s embrace, there’s a deep acceptance in there. That’s the safety that allows us to be free to bring the good and the bad of ourselves forward.
Jen: I love that. Frankly, there’s always an upside to every type, to every combination. Health is always possible. I love that because as you’ve mentioned, none of these are better or worse, or one is more right or more wrong; that doesn’t exist here. There’s something very beautiful that every single type of person brings to bear on the earth, and can bring to bear in any given relationship. Again, for me, that goes back to the hopefulness of it all. Nobody is doomed. Absolutely nobody. Even if our shadow sides are dark, well, there’s a dark side to every single type. I love that no matter who you are, or who you’re married to, or what kind of kid you’re parenting, there’s always a path to beauty, and to health, and to wholeness. I’m a three, and I’m married to a two. When we read about that combination, it’s creepy. It’s creepy how well it describes us, both what’s great about our marriage, and also the same exact places that have always rubbed. They have rubbed since the beginning, and when we are off, or when we’re wobbly, I can guarantee you that we’re gonna circle the drain around those exact spots again. How would you talk to a “three” girl married to a “two” guy?
Chris: Yeah, there’s a little gift in that. The first obvious gift in that is just being freed into who you are, and the environment and the community, and probably even in the religious space where you’ve been socialized. Because like you said, to be a female dominant type three and really driven and really successful, you may feel like there’s this assumption that you can’t be all of yourself. That you can’t bring all of this forward, that you actually have to hold some of this back and play into the dated, religious gender roles that are really unhelpful. And it’s saying; for a man who’s dominant in type two, that, in North America, is maybe the hardest type for a man to have permission to be because it is such a nurturing embrace, and a sensitive soul. But look, it’s strong in its determination and in its will. The clarity of a centered two is really, maybe one of the most powerful people around the Enneagram circle.
I would say, first of all, the real gift in a healthy relationship between a male two and a female three is the affirmation that it’s okay to be you.
Again, in this relationship, a two married to a three is really going to be the support that that three needs to touch their own feelings and emotions; to actually know that they’re real, and can be trusted. Because two believes their feelings. The two is led by their feelings.
One of my little sisters, I think, is dominant type two, and I remember when I was younger, adults told you, “Hey, don’t trust your feelings,” but it’s like, “Hey, this is your intelligence center.” And her feelings are gonna tell her something that her head or instincts can’t. The two knows that. If the three is distrustful of them, the two can be a huge support for you in that.
Jen: It’s true. I can’t tell you how many times he has said it, and I have said about him that, I think, nothing in the whole world can make my husband happier than if I just talk to him about my feelings all day. He wants to live and say all the feelings, and what’s interesting is I have feelings, but they’re in my head. I don’t say them. And I struggle to say them. And this is why I told you that I see within me something that withdraws or withholds, like a nine. I told my husband too, how I experience him a lot is his disintegration path as an eight. I experience him as an eight a lot, but at his absolute core he’s a two. These are, again, helpful, helpful, helpful tools because sometimes I think you are just being mean, and you’re withholding to punish me, and neither is true.
Chris: We’re just afraid. All of us are afraid. I don’t know what point in our lives we feel like we finally grow up and become the adult that matches our age. I think most of us are still a version of our inner child wondering like, “Am I getting this right? Am I doing this right? Am I gonna be okay?” I think why we do this is because we’re afraid that it’s not okay to be myself or I’m not allowed to live into this. Again, with a two-three in a relationship, your fears are gonna be really different but you’re gonna understand them because these fears are also rooted in your hearts, and his fear may be that he’s not loved for who he is but what he gives. Your fear may be that you’re not loved for who you are, but what you do. You’re going to be able to tell each other the truth about the lies around those fears.
Again, in the two-three relationship, to be able to tell each other the truth. You know what? Your husband is lovable and in fact, the most lovable of the nine types. Your husband will show us how to love. He just needs to be honest with what he needs, and not take what we’ll give him, because that’s how the two quietly suffers. “Well, they’re doing their best.” Well, no we’re not doing our best. We don’t know. Show us, tell us, help us. We need you to. And then the three, your husband can constantly remind you that you’re better than your worst mistake, and you don’t have to be afraid of allowing those fragments to lay claim to the whole of who you are. For folks who are dominant three, I’d just say, how you find the sense of humor with your own shadow is doing things that you’re bad at.
Jen: Ah, nice.
Chris: Just start something that you’re gonna fail and find the humor in it. Be okay with it.
Jen: That’s such great advice. For people listening, if they’re brand new here, we’re talking about words and ideas they’ve never even heard, and they’re interested in taking the Enneagram or starting their exploration, how would you encourage them to, let’s just say, approach the online test in order to get the best most authentic results. How would you instruct them?
Chris: There’s a number of ways to bring your type forward. And I’ll say this at the very beginning. I’ll caution people to type anyone including your children.
Jen: Yeah, I appreciate your instruction on that, ’cause I was already doing that.
Chris: I’ve seen a lot of folks who have grown up who have been typed. These children realize in their 20s and 30s that they weren’t the type that their parents put on them. And it was devastating and it led to real existential crisis of identity. Don’t type your kids. If you wanna use this for parenting, then learn about your type, and parent out of the health of you at your best. Don’t type your friends. Don’t try to correct somebody who you think has been mistyped. This is really a sacred rite of passage. This is coming to terms with your essence. And look, I’m not an “Ennea-evangelist.” I don’t think everybody needs to go out and figure this out right now. I think it’ll find you right on time. I think it’ll find you when you need it, and when you’re ready for it.
When you are ready for it, the easiest accessible way to bring type forward is through a variety of online tests. I think the RHETI out of the Enneagram Institute is probably the best one, just because it’s time tested and I think it’s been proven out pretty well. The thing is as most of the tests online they bum me out super hard, because they’re asking personality questions. They’re back-loaded with inherent racial cultural bias.
You have to be careful with some of those. Of course, don’t test the test, don’t test how you want to be, how you want to be perceived. Just test who you think you are. If that doesn’t work then you know usually what they say is, “Get online or pick up a book and read the descriptions of each of the nine types. And if you’re honest, I think one will be a mirror right back to your soul.
Jen: That’s absolutely true for me. I could’ve not taken a test and still found my space for sure.
Chris: If I don’t say this that means I haven’t said it enough. That if we can’t self-observe, we can’t self-correct. And that takes the courage to be truthful in self-observation.
Jen: I can’t agree more because I’ve got good friends who love the Enneagram and they’ve been yammering about it in my ears literally for years. Years and years and years, my good friend Shauna Niequist, she loves the Enneagram, she’s been talking about it for years. It’s just been this year that, for whatever reason, it felt time. My husband Brandon and I, right now, are simultaneously on a healing path for other reasons. Right now, we’re doing the work of health. All of a sudden, here comes the Enneagram in the middle of this other work we’re doing, and it’s so timely, and it’s so useful, and it builds in almost an instant compassion for one another. Almost instant. Right away, I can see not only why he does what he does, but why I do what I do. There’s a bit of a kindness towards yourself, and toward the people that you love. I think you’re just so right that it’ll find you when it finds you.
Before we wrap the show, I think you’re so wise, and you’re so good in this area. I really want everybody to read your book because it’s such a kind guide through all of this material and healing path of contemplation. It’s really, really beautiful. At least, part of your presence and who you are, comes from being mentored by …you’ve had amazing spiritual teachers. You’ve obviously talked about Richard Rohr who’s so special in our time. We’re so lucky to share the planet with him, but you worked with Mother Theresa. What in the world? Can you talk about working with Mother Theresa? What was that?
Chris: Yeah. I was a boy. I did not realize the access I had and I probably only sat with her a dozen or 15 times. Of course, the things that she shared were so simple but because of the credibility of how she embodied that, it was profound. I lived in India for a few years. I lived in the south working with kids with HIV and AIDS. I’d go up to Calcutta three or four times a year. And whenever she was around, she was available. She was accessible. Just purely humble. Just purely kind-hearted. She gave me all of these little trinkets, Mary medallions and crucifixes, and she signed these little prayers for me. Like I said, I was a kid. I was, I think, in my mid-20s and I didn’t have a scope of who she was so I gave a lot of that stuff to my mom, and I’ve lost a lot of that stuff. When I go home, when I see that little note from her on my mom’s wall, I’m like, “That’s mine.” I want that back now.
Chris: She was fierce. And on one hand you would see her holding a half-starved child or carrying a man who’s dying from tuberculosis across the street with such tenderness and care. Then on the other hand, she was a ball buster like, “Get out of my way,” and don’t stop her, and don’t try to slow her down. I’ll say this; the things that we learn from all of our mentors are less the words they tell us, and more how we watch them live.”
Jen: That’s right.
Chris: I watched her, and five times a day, along with the other sisters, they would stop for prayer, for adoration from mass for solitude, silence, and stillness, and of course we’re still like, “that’s interior. Solitude, and silence, and stillness.” And what that thought me was all the years that I was around her and all the works that I did in India, we used to think, “Man, they have to pray. They have to pray five times a day to support their efforts.” But I think it dawned on me, “You know what? They built their lives around practice, and the work is simply the fruit of the practice.” And I think that’s something I’m still trying to internalize to really live into the responsibility of that witness.
Jen: Absolutely. I think that’s how you are instructing us. I think that’s how you’re leading us home. I so deeply appreciate the authenticity of turning a still and silent in word and into prayer. It feels so truthful, and it feels healthy and as hard as all of that is for me, I know that that’s the work. I know that’s in front of me, and it’s really exciting to think about what lies on the other side of that, ’cause honestly I don’t know, I’ve never done any of this work before. I’ve just lived out of this caricature of me; the one that I assumed was true and built a life upon. I’m not there yet. I’m still not near the beginning of this, but I look so forward to feeling free in those spaces where I’m bound, and allowing other people to be free as well. I think that’s a big part of it.
Let me ask you three quick questions. These are question we’re asking every guest in the New Beginning series. We’ve obviously talked a lot about figuring out who we are in the context of the Enneagram. Can you just tell the listeners about any time in your life, and this could be big or small, where you just made, like, “Boom,” a 180-degree turn in your life? You completely blew something up and started over.
Chris: Well, I feel like that’s every day. Honestly. I think that’s what the Enneagram shows us, is that every day, the loop that we’re stuck in, this “passion fixation” is what we have to come to terms with. What we have to own. What we have to lament and grieve. What we have to confess, and then eventually what we have to have a sense of humor about.
Like you said, getting to work, doing the hard work of our contemplative practice, can be intimidating. We’re not gonna be good at it. In fact, it’s just practice. Sorry, but I hate to say this, but if you’re little kids play a sport or play a musical instrument, I don’t want to watch them practice and I don’t want to hear them practice, but if there is a match or a game or a recital or a show, sure I’ll be there. That’s exciting.
It’s practice. We’re gonna be bad at it. It’s practice. It’s okay to get it wrong. Every day, I have to watch my passion fixation loop, to watch myself overdoing it again, beating myself or overdoing it again, and every day I have to reset on … “I’m not very good at these practices–20 years later–I’m not very good at these practices.”
Jen: I actually appreciate you saying that. Thank you for taking some of the gravity off a little. It’s okay to fail forward, if you will, as we do this work. If you’re still having to do this 20 years in, then it takes some pressure off to not imagine that, “Well, this is gonna be six-week process,” or whatever timeframe a “three” loves to put on things with deadlines.
Chris: That’s true, actually.
Jen: Thank you for saying that. I know it is. I like endings. I like completion. I like, “this is what happens, these are our measurables.” Again, just the mere practice of it all is good for me, and blows up a lot of mine things that I’m conditioned to value.
Here’s the next question. We’re talking about New Beginnings, new year, do you have anything at all in your life that you personally wanna tackle in 2018; to work on, do better, try, attempt or go somewhere? Any of it.
I’ll say this, in particular, the last couple of years working on this book has been really hard for me. Just seeing what’s been unearthed and having to come to terms with telling myself the truth about my illusions, my lies, my addictions to these passion and fixation loops. It’s been a little bit of a tough goal this past fall too, ’cause I’ve been doing a bunch of these Enneagram workshops and it’s like–you know this–every time you share some of the stuff, you’re sharing it to yourself.
In 2018, I pray for the courage to keep at this process of escalating essence.
Chris: I wanna keep at it. I know there’s a lot to be done in that.
Jen: Last question. Another one of my favorite teachers, you probably love her too, she’s in your world, Barbara Brown Taylor, she has a great question that I love: What’s saving your life right now? It could be anything. Could be coffee.
Jen: It could be coffee. It could be Jesus. It could be whatever you say.
Chris: Well, I’m embarrassed to say this, but we got a rescue dog last year, and my wife says that he’s rescued us.
Chris: It’s funny to even use this word but I love this dog.
Jen: No, it’s not funny.
Chris: It’s like all he has is us, and all he reminds me to do is be in the present moment and to be kind.
Jen: Listen, all of us who love animals understand what you’re saying.
Chris: He is just a sweetheart and he’s beautiful.
Jen: I love it. I love that Basil is saving your life right now.
Chris: It’s weird to say that.
Jen: It’s not weird at all. It’s fabulous. Okay, Chris, thank you. Just for your kindness, for the gift of your time and your knowledge today, so helpful. Half of the time I wasn’t even prepared to ask you the next question, ’cause I was just listening so hard to what you were saying. I couldn’t even think of where we were in the scope of the interview. Thank you for who you are, and this work that you’re bringing to bear on the world, it’s so useful to so many of us, and I will have all your links; links to your books, links to your spaces, your favorite sites on the Enneagram over on my website. Thanks for your time today. I’m just so grateful.
Chris: Well, thanks so much. Hopefully, some of this has been helpful, and if there’s anybody out there listening who’s just getting started, it’s a long, slow, undramatic and mundane path back home, so be patient and compassionate with yourself, and really learn to find a sense of humor about yourself.
Jen: Perfect on that note, we’ll wrap it up, okay?
Chris: Thank you.
Jen: Thank you, and have a fabulous day, Chris.
Chris: You too. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
Jen: So good, right? Gosh, I wish you guys could have seen me during that conversation just kind of sitting here glazed over, listening to all of Chris’s really smart words just like a student. Like a student who is mesmerized by a really, really good teacher. I’m so grateful for Chris. What a gift he is to those of us who really, really want to work on some of the darker parts of our psyche, our character and our behaviors. It’s just time to excavate and really, finally once and for all address some of the same places where we just circle the drain, circle the drain, circle the drain.
The Enneagram is such a fabulous tool. Guys, over on my Web site JenHatmaker.com. Going to have all this up—everything–all the links that Chris talked about. Links to his book and his website and some other goodies around the Enneagram that might be useful to you if you are sort of kicking the tires of the Enneagram for the first time, or if you’re all the way deep in and you just can’t get enough. One way or another, it’ll all be over there for you.
You guys, thank you for listening. Thanks for being here. Thanks for always downloading this podcast and giving us such great feedback. We care so much about everything you have to say and I think this series is just fabulous. We’re bringing you some of the best guests who really are great teachers and masters to help set our feet on the path of new beginnings this year, in a hundred different ways. So come back next week because we just continue with some really fabulous content that I think you’re going to find useful and inspirational. Can’t wait to bring it to you. Hey guys thanks for listening. Thanks for your reviews. Thanks for subscribing. All that is so great for podcasts and I am so, so, so grateful.
OK. Have a great week everybody. See you next time.
Narrator: Thanks for joining us today on the For the Love Podcast. Tune in next week, when we sit down again with Jen and friends to chat about all the things we love.
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