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Why The Enneagram Is So Powerful At Breaking Your PatterNs.

Updated: May 4, 2023

Changing behaviour doesn't happen overnight.

At first, we might not even consider changing behaviour. Then, we start thinking about it, followed by planning how to make the change. Finally, we try out different approaches before actually making the change.

But before any change can take place, we need awareness.

Woman who experiences the freedom of breaking free from her patterns with the Enneagram.

Awakening Awareness

Without awareness, we're basically a hamster enjoying the merry-go-round. A life lived in ignorance.

Awareness shatters the bliss of ignorance.

(A short digression on the word 'awareness' before we continue. Derived from the Old English "gewær" it means to be cautious, weary, and circumspect. I find it interesting that in my mother tongue, Afrikaans, the word for awareness is "gewaar", a cognate of the Old English. Gewaar simply means, to see, or perceive. Coincidentally (or not), removing the prefix 'ge' leaves you with the word 'waar' in Afrikaans, which also means 'true' or depending on the context, it could mean 'where'.)

Awareness could be understood as realising the truth of where you are in your life.

The Johari Window of Awareness
The Johari-window of Awareness

Mostly, because of the pain, fear and disappointments we experience in life, our ego's create a hamster wheel of escapism. Our default mode is to be unaware of our reality. That's why, before any true change can occur, we need awareness.

The Johari-window helps us with this. All 4 windows are true for us, all the time. Most of the time we fluctuate between the tension of windows 1 and 3.

In window 1, we need to decide what we let others see or know about us, and we frame the picture in such a way. Also, who we are here is pretty much public knowledge.

In window 3, we decide what to suppress and not make known to others. The secrets we walk and live with.

Window 2 is interesting. It's already public news. Just not for us. Normally, this is where transformation and awareness begin. We realise there are things we repeatedly do that always deliver the same results. We end up in the same broken relationships. The same unbearable financial debt. The same failed health goals, and so forth. Other's see this, but it takes us a while to notice reality.

Window 4 is a mystery. But, mystery doesn't mean unknowable. It's an invitation to live deeper and know yourself like never before. When we're able to uncover, or discover, the mystery of our persona and essence, we become empowered. And the empowerment is a choice. We begin to choose between a scripted ego reaction or an authentic essential response.

The Enneagram symbol
The Enneagram


This blog post's headline makes a bold statement - the Enneagram can help you break patterns. I'm totally convinced - through personal experience - that that's true.

Few things has the ability to awaken awareness like the Enneagram has. It's like taking a peek at the clever coding that make up our personas, involving our well-developed defence systems, our core fears, primary avoidance, go-to escapisms, and habitual stumbling blocks.

What differentiates the Enneagram from other psychometric tools is instead of measuring personality traits, it cuts through persona to get to essence. And mostly, not in a very nice way. Precisely because it comes to you via negativa, it slashes the ego's intentions wide open. Like a damp and musty room, filled with suffocating carbon dioxide and stuffy air, the Enneagram rips the curtains off, opens wide the windows of the soul, and lets in the fresh air and sunlight of freedom. Aaaaaahhhhh. Smell the coffee.

But, as I said...via negativa.

Richard Rohr likes to say 'the ego hates losing, even to God'.

And when it comes to the Enneagram, the ego loses.

But what exactly does the Enneagram expose that is so powerful it can break our patterns?

Our defences.

Put very simply, our defences are clever strategies the ego developed to protect itself.

For example, Type 1's would defend against being wrong, meaning their lived patterns would include striving for constant improvement and correction (of self and others). Anger runs deep.

Or Type 3's would defend against any form of failure. To the point of putting up appearances of success. Deception runs deep.

Or Type 6's, would defend against being rejected. Their lived patterns would include being loyal to authority to the point of it being unhealthy, lethal even. Fear runs deep.

So each Type creates its own set of defences based on its own strategy of protection. These become the patterns.

In terms of the Johari-Window, the Enneagram starts at Window 1. Normally your default operating system, or ego pattern.

The Enneagram makes easy work of shattering Window 2. Realising your blind spots is usually a jaw-dropping kind of experience.

It cuts to the heart of Window 3. This is where deep exposure of our dearly-held defences and protection strategies are laid bare. Our secrets revealed. Thoughts decoded. This is where the real work begins.

Then, Window 4. Hidden to us and others. Not to God. This is where the Enneagram truly shines. It becomes an invitation to accept grace. To let go of fear. To begin to trust. To accept our essence, without the need to protect or defend against. This is where we begin to embrace the mystery of who we truly are. And mystery doesn't mean not-knowing, rather, infinite knowing.

It is this knowledge of our essence, that empowers us to choose. It matures us. Shifts us. And draws us to a place of honesty. Having awareness of how and who we truly are.

Then we can change. We can respond instead of reacting. We can create new empowering patterns and see the old limiting ones for what they were: desperate, childish tantrums.

Now we know, this operating system we've been developing since we were kids, is due for an update.


I'll be presenting the Enneagram on 19 & 20 May 2023 at Hoogeind Manor, Somerset West. Join me for this introductory course and embark on a journey of deep discovery like never before. More info here.

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