Review: The Path Between Us

The Path Between Us

The Path Between UsSuzanne Stabile. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press – Formatio, 2018.

Summary: Using the tool of the Enneagram, this explores how each “number” interacts with the other numbers, how each number relates in stress, and security, and what is helpful for other “numbers” to understand about relating to a person with this number.

In The Road Back to You(review) Suzanne Stabile and her co-author Ian Cron give one of the most accessible explanations of the Enneagram that I have read. In this sequel, Suzanne Stabile builds on the insights of how each of the nine “numbers” on the Enneagram views and engages with the world uniquely and how this shapes the ways we build and maintain relationships with others, both those who share our “number” and those who differ (Enneagram types are summarized by the number for that type).

She begins by reviewing briefly the different numbers, the different Triads (Gut – 8, 9, 1; Heart – 2, 3, 4; Head – 5, 6, 7), the Wings (adjacent numbers to ours), and our Stress and Security numbers (those whose qualities we may draw on when we are under stress or feeling secure) and the three Stances (Aggressive – 3, 7, 8; Dependent – 1, 2, 6; and Withdrawing – 4, 5, 9). These are elaborated much more fully in The Road Back to You but also covered in the context of relationships in the following chapters.

Before discussing relationships for each number, Stabile offers very helpful advice for those concerned about the misuse of the Enneagram:

“First, please don’t use your Enneagram number as an excuse for your behavior. Second, don’t use what you’ve learned about the other numbers to make fun of, criticize, or stereotype, or in any way disrespect them. Ever. Third, it would be great if you would spend your energy observing and working on yourself as opposed to observing and working on others. And going forward, I hope you will share my desire that we all grow in our ability to accept, love, and walk beside one another on the path with loads of compassion and respect” (p. 13).

The next nine chapters are devoted to looking at each number beginning with Eights (the Gut Triad). Each chapter begins with a story of an interaction involving a person with the number being considered. This is followed by a description of the world of this number, how they respond in relationships under stress and security, and the path together with this number. A sidebar in each chapter considers relationships between this number and each of the other numbers, including those sharing the same number. The chapter concludes with two summaries, one focused on key things a person with this number need to remember that they can, and can’t do in relationships and what they need to accept; and one focused on what others need to keep in mind in their relationships with a person with this number.

I found this book extremely helpful both for self-understanding, and understanding the ways I relate with others. In my case, I’m a Five. I value competence that comes through knowing, independence, privacy, and guarding my energies. I listen and observe well, but I’m not always good at communicating my feelings. Instead, I will tell you what I think. I learned that I’m not always good at picking up innuendo or indirect communication (true). Being laid up for a couple of months at the end of 2016 told me how hard it is for me to let others care for me, and the truth that the best way to live is neither dependent nor independent, but interdependent. Stabile’s title for my number really fit: “My Fences Have Gates.”

One critique I would offer of this book is that it assumes that a person knows their Enneagram number and doesn’t give much direction to the person who does not. There is a resource advertised at the end of the book on knowing your number but little guidance given about how one may go about discerning this. Stabile has been trained by Fr. Richard Rohr, whose approach is that one discerns one’s number as one reads the different types and finds one that makes you uncomfortably squeamish, saying “how did you know that about me?” That one is probably yours.

I know there are some who are critical of the Enneagram. I won’t try to defend this tool, except to say it has been useful for me and those I work with. Those who work with the Enneagram often like to say that the purpose of the Enneagram is not to put us in a box, but rather to help us understand the box we are in. Often, I’m tripped up by the things I don’t understand about myself. As I grow in self-understanding this opens up new dimensions in relationships with both people and God, and frees me to more skillfully use my gifts and pursue the things I care about. Only Jesus fully knows me, and can form me to be the person he envisions, both fully who I am, and in his image. The Enneagram has been one way among many he has used in this process. Stabile’s work is a great introduction to this way, this tool.

The Path Between Us Study Guide is a companion guide for both individuals and groups who want to pursue this material further. The six studies are titled:

  1. The Best Part of You Is the Worst Part of You
  2. What We Want
  3. What We Fear
  4. What We Offer
  5. Keeping Each Other Forgiven and Free
  6. Ways to Help Ourselves and Others

There is a section for those facilitating group discussions with a plan for each session. I have not used this guide so I cannot evaluate it. It appears that it can be used independently of reading the book, though I’m sure the book content will enrich discussions and insights.

The author has also recorded eight short YouTube clips accessible via the publisher’s website or through this link. I have to confess that the author photo gave me the impression of a stern school principal, an impression immediately dispelled in listening to her on the videos!

Stabile’s book and accompanying guide are the best resources I’ve seen for extending the framework of the Enneagram to our relationships and giving practical insights for relationships between the different numbers. As she has written, we all probably have much room to “grow in our ability to accept, love, and walk beside one another on the path with loads of compassion and respect.” In her work, we have a wise and gracious guide for the journey.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

Review: The Road Back to You

the-road-back-to-you

The Road Back to YouIan Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.

Summary: Describes the Enneagram and each of the nine types, and how these may be helpful in Self-discovery, uncovering one’s true self and experiencing spiritual growth.

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Enneagram Diagram

John Calvin, and many others have observed that knowledge of God and knowledge of self often go hand in hand. Often, what we do not know or knowledge that has been colored by the wounds of our upbringing deflect us from knowing God and ourselves truly. One of the tools that has been found increasingly helpful by many spiritual directors and others who work with spiritual formation is the Enneagram. It’s roots go back to a fourth century Christian mystic, Evagrius, who developed a system based on the seven deadly sins, plus an overarching sin of self-love. G.I. Gurdjieff first developed the Enneagram figure and two personality psychologists, Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo developed the modern theory that underlies the Enneagram. It was introduced into spiritual formation circles by Catholic retreat leader Richard Rohr and several other Jesuit priests.

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile provide a readable and witty introduction to the Enneagram with chapters on each of the nine types. They begin by giving some of the background of the Enneagram and list each of the nine types and the corresponding deadly sin each type is most susceptible to. They are

  1. The Perfectionist (Anger)
  2. The Helper (Pride)
  3. The Performer (Deceit)
  4. The Romantic (Envy)
  5. The Investigator (Avarice)
  6. The Loyalist (Fear)
  7. The Enthusiast (Gluttony)
  8. The Challenger (Lust)
  9. The Peacemaker (Sloth)

They explain that these come in three triads of three: Anger or Gut: 8, 9, 1 ; Feeling or Heart 2, 3, 4; and Fear or Head: 5, 6, 7. Also each type is modified by one or both of their wings (the types adjacent to them) and have a type the gravitate to under stress and when they are secure. Sound a little confusing? Cron and Stabile walk us through all this both in introduction and the survey of each type.

Starting with the Anger or Gut triad and Type 8, they devote a chapter to each type, beginning with a list of 20 points of what it is like to be that type, describing the type in its healthy, average, and unhealthy expressions, and talk about its deadly sin. Then they give a more detailed description, talk about the type as a child, in their relationships and at work. Then they explore how the “wings” and the types they tend toward when feeling stressed or secure shape the expression of their type. They conclude with what spiritual transformation looks like for the type and ten steps for each type to take in transformation.

Throughout, they give examples of the type from people they know (including themselves and their families) as well as famous individuals (I discovered that Oliver Sacks, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were/are likely the same type as I am–except they are all far more intelligent!). I found myself laughing as they describe the different types, until I got to my own, where I found myself alternately saying “yes” and “ouch!”

Like other writers like Richard Rohr, they don’t offer a test to find your type. Rather, here is what they recommend:

“If while reading a description you begin to feel squeamish because it’s captured your inner world in a way only someone who hacked into the server where you back up your personality could know about, then you are probably zeroing in on your number. When I first read my number I felt humiliated. It’s not pleasant to be the rat in a dark kitchen who is so focused on devouring crumbs that he doesn’t hear the stealthy homeowners approaching and therefore doesn’t have time to take cover before they suddenly switch on the light and catch the rat in the act with a bagel in its mouth. On the other hand I felt consoled. I didn’t know there were other rats like me. So if this happens, don’t despair. Remember each number has its assets and liabilities, blessings and blights. The embarrassment will pass, but in the words of novelist David Foster Wallace, ‘The truth will set you free, but not until it’s done with you.’ “

That gives you a pretty fair picture of what you are in for, both in terms of writing and your experience as you read this book. The one thing worse than knowing this stuff about ourselves is for it to be present in our lives and to not know it. Knowing helps us pursue paths of growth along the lines of who we are rather than who we aren’t. And it helps us to be gentler with all those other types, whose unique predicament parallels our own. Most of all, it begins to help us understand the depths of the grace of God that meets each of us uniquely and in the depths of our own deadly sins. If you are ready for and hungry for that kind of knowledge, then this book is a good place to begin.