Book Review by Sapphire Ng
Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types
by Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson
Copyright January 2000
Paperback, 416 Pages
Fundamentally empowering, this book excellently surveys the masterpiece of the Enneagram. The rudiments of the Enneagram is presented in a methodical, systematic and highly accessible manner, promising to deliver a fulfilling and pleasurable reading experience. Insightful explorations of the complex and comprehensive system of the Enneagram situate the reader on a cherished journey of self-understanding and self-discovery, along with an increased appreciation and comprehension of the behaviors and personalities of others in one’s life. Beyond the psychological realm, the book also encompasses meaningful spiritual lessons in itself. A must read for all members of the human race; the knowledge acquired from perusing this book will prove invaluable in the very precious act of living.
The book terrifically covers the basic principles of the Enneagram—the personality triads consisting of the Thinking Center, the Feeling Center and the Instinctive Center; the significance of the Directions of Integration and Disintegration; the functionality of the nine Levels of Development incorporating the stages of Healthy, Average to Unhealthy, and more.
The dynamic nature of the Enneagram and the interconnectivity between all 9 personality types is deeply profound. Analogous to this is the formula the authors consider germane to “a full analysis of any individual”—the need for examining a total of 4 personality types, namely the basic type, the auxiliary type or the wing, and the types in the respective Directions of Integration and Disintegration.
Of the more fascinating material covered in the book includes the relating of the Enneagram to various personality disorders. For example, the association of types 2 and 7 with histrionic personality disorder, type 4 with avoidant personality disorder, and type 8 with antisocial personality disorder. Also notably outstanding involves the concise positioning of bite-sized and memorable pieces of information in Enneagram form that allows easy comparison between the 9 types, for example the Enneagrams of Basic Fears, Basic Desires, and Characteristic Temptations, or in another chapter, the Enneagrams of Psychological Capacity, Social Value, and Overcompensation. These clear visual references could certainly help in information retention.
As one would expect, the book contains a type-identification questionnaire. More unusual perhaps, but surely helpful is a following chapter that prudently addresses “misidentifications.” The venturing into greater subtleties and further clarifications make the overall Enneagram learning experience all the more compelling, for instance by ascertaining the different styles of perfectionism or differing degrees of linearity in thinking, the contrasting expressions of similar ideals or dissimilar feeling-tones, and even the divergence in the nature of the sense of justice—embodied as “an extremely important value” versus being otherwise “more of a visceral response.”
In direct and explicit service to readers, the book also includes a handful of type-specific content focused on self-improvement. The succinct presentation of certain pieces of information, on the other hand, also eases the process of self-help, for example the unambiguous identifications of the Cognitive Errors and Characteristic Temptations of the respective types.
Appropriate elaboration could have been included to illuminate and to promote greater understanding of the relevance of a particular concept in the book, namely the notion of internal symmetries residing in each personality type. For type 2 for example, it was said that “Generosity (at Level 3) parallels self-sacrifice (at Level 6) and the feeling of victimization (at Level 9)” without further explication. To cite yet another example, for type 3 it was said that “Internal symmetries include those between inner-directedness (at Level 1), performance (at Level 4), and deceptiveness (at Level 7).” Sans any meaningful elucidation, the reader is mostly left in the dark on the actual significance, implications and applications of such a concept.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.