Thursday, August 30, 2012

Myers-Briggs vs. Enneagram: A Self-Typing Story, Part 1

My first exposure to personality typing came one day in 2009.  My then-husband had gone to Potomac, Maryland to attend an ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) leadership course.  He called me on the phone and told me about a test he'd been asked to take during the course to determine his Myers-Briggs type.  The results had described him quite accurately, so his interest was roused and he wanted me to take the same test and find out my type.  He read me the questions over the phone and I answered them, and at the end of the test he looked up my results.  They said I was an INFJ.

When my husband read the description of the INFJ to me, I was flabbergasted.  My first reaction was to feel a little ego-deflation: I thought I was unique!  How is it possible for me to be described so perfectly by these test results?  This means that there must be MANY other people out there who are basically just like me!!!  But soon, I rode a rising wave of excitement up and over that feeling and left it far behind.  WOW!  This was AMAZING!  This was SO COOL!  I had found a new obsession. 

My husband had rushed me a bit on answering the questions and I was not 100% satisfied with that testing experience (I like to take my time and be totally sure I'm answering each question with perfect accuracy), so a year or year and a half later when I had some time on my hands, I looked up some more Myers-Briggs tests online.  I took several of them, and 2/3 of them concurred with the first one I had taken in saying I was an INFJ.  The other 1/3 told me I was an INFP.  On every test that showed percentages, I was extremely close to the middle on the J/P qualities.  In one case, I'd filled out every question but one on a forced-choice test, but that one I simply COULD NOT make a decision on, so I opened the same test again in another tab, filled out all the questions the same way but for that one, and then answered it one way on one test and the opposite way on the other test.  Then I submitted both tests and waited for my results pages to load.  And lo and behold... one of them said INFJ, and the other said INFP!! 

So after all this test-taking, I engaged in some in-depth thinking and self-analysis, which led to the conclusion that I thought INFP really fit me better for sure.

Then came the next frontier in typology: the Enneagram.  My marriage counselor was the first one to mention it to me.  She told me about it in glowing terms after I informed her of my progress in figuring out my Myers-Briggs type.  She, too, appreciated the Myers-Briggs system, but she said that the Enneagram was vastly more helpful and amazingly accurate, sometimes explaining things that couldn't be explained by any other system she knew of.  She was already convinced that she knew my Enneagram type: Type 9.  I was open-minded to the possibility that I might be an Enneagram 9, and I listened to whatever she had to say, but I'm the kind of person who often feels the need to research things myself and make up my own mind about them before I become convinced, and this was one of those cases.  I didn't feel I could go around telling people I was a Type 9 on the Enneagram until I had done my own research and come to that conclusion myself.  And at the time I first heard about it, somehow or other, in spite of my counselor's enthusiasm for the system, I wasn't able to conjure up enough interest to pursue further knowledge of it.  I was still too enamored of Myers-Briggs typology.

Later, however, while in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, I had the chance to see another counselor (or "life coach") regarding my troubled marriage, and she also told my husband and me that the Enneagram was a wonderful and important system.  She didn't stop with telling us about it, but actually gave us the assignment to figure out our Enneagram types by reading nine paragraphs and choosing the one that we felt reflected us best.  The paragraph I chose, which stood out from the rest as being by far the most like me, turned out to be that of Type 7.

Whatever tidbits the life coach read to me about Type 7 from a book on the Enneagram seemed to perfectly fit me, so I assumed that I had been correctly typed.  However, some months later, at my parents' house in North Carolina, I had the chance to read the same Enneagram book myself, because my mother owned it.  The book was The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.  And what I discovered surprised me.

To be continued...