Enneagram & Music: My Journey So Far

Last week I published my introduction to Enneagram & Music, a series in which I intend to use this fascinating tool in order to better understand some differences in our behaviors and motivations. Whether you know about the Enneagram or not, I highly encourage you to at least take a look at my previous text.

Today, I’d like to talk about how I got here in the first place, and who are my biggest references when I talk about this system. In the process, I also hope to clarify any possible misunderstandings in regards to my intentions with this series.

The main reason I thought it would be useful to share my own journey so far is because I believe that it says something about how this system has evolved over the last decades. So, if you’ve been into the Enneagram for a while, it’s very possible that you may see at least a little bit of yourself in the next paragraphs.

Discovering and sorting things out

I’m not so sure about when was my first contact with the Enneagram, but it was probably in my late teens (about 15 years ago). By then I was a kind of a typology junkie, being already at least reasonably familiarized with other systems, particularly the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Probably that’s why, when I first learned about the Enneagram, it took me a while to see that it was much more than a way to discriminate between different people’s characters. As a result, I wasn’t mature enough to give the proper attention to its most fundamental aspect, namely, its potential as a map of growth.

To use the jargon of personality typology, we can say that the Enneagram is actually more of a vertical model than a horizontal one. After all, it is believed that this is how it was taught from its ancient origins, and only much more recently (as I outlined in my previous text) has it been used differently.

Although this vertical dimension wasn’t kept hidden from me when I started reading about it, I would only start to really apply this knowledge as a set of diligent practices for my own life when I finally read Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson’s seminal 1999 book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

I can’t tell you how important it was, and how painfully grateful I felt, to see my most unhealthy tendencies so elegantly exposed in that book. Because, at the same time that I was presented with a very humbling reality check, I could finally see that there was a clear — although not necessarily easy — way out.

That being said, there was a section in my type’s chapter that never really struck a chord with me: that of the three different subtypes (which the authors prefer to call instinctual variants). Because of that dissonance, my first reaction was to simply consider this topic as something inessential.

But, as I continued to read about the Enneagram, I eventually came across other interpretations for the subtypes. For the most part those descriptions were short, but they were also powerful enough to make me consider that this subject was even more relevant than the study of wings (which by then was given much more prominence).

This feeling grew even stronger when I read some articles from Urânio Paes (of whom I talked about in my introductory text) on his website Mundo Eneagrama, in which he gives a lot of weight to the discernment of one’s own main instinct, and how it modifies the way that each passion expresses itself.

And it was because of Urânio that I came across his teaching partner’s Bea Chestnut amazing 2013 book, The Complete Enneagram. Drawing from the teachings of the great Claudio Naranjo, Bea offers her own unique perspective (as a therapist, coach and business consultant) into all of the 27 different subtypes.

This was, to put it simply, like a second revelation. So much so that I can’t get over the fact that this book hasn’t yet been fully recognized as the classic that it is.

But, at the same time that it’s opened a whole new world to me, it turned many of my presuppositions about what I believed was true about each of the nine types upside down. And these presuppositions continue to be challenged to this day.

Which brings me to this series of texts.

A few words of caution

First and foremost, there is not doubt in my mind that no benefit I may offer to those who read about my perspectives will be greater than the benefit I’m offering myself right now by writing them and refining my own understanding of this system.

Such deliberate focus is particularly valuable to me because, otherwise, I could very easily fall into two very specific traps which seem to be quite common among enthusiasts of this tool.

The first of those is that the Enneagram can be so much fun, and there are so many layers to it, that it’s very tempting to lose track of its most important aspects and forget to approach it with a proper growth mindset both in regards to ourselves and others.

I’ve already talked, in my introductory text, about the essential concepts of the Enneagram. So, all I want to say about this matter today is that, if we’re able to constantly remind ourselves that motivation is always more important than behavior, at least our hearts will be in a good place.

The second thing I wanted to avoid in exploring the nine types was to spread myself too thin. That’s why I intend to limit my analyses to the lives of people with whose struggles I’m more familiar with: musicians.

Although I (half-jokingly) prefer to call myself a “non-musician”, the fact is that, for me, one of the most unique benefits of learning about the Enneagram was that it gave me a much deeper perspective about my own creative process and artistic vision.

Finally, one more thing: if it hasn’t become clear by now, I’d like to emphasize that I’m far from being an expert on this system. Not only that, but my interpretations of other people’s types and subtypes may differ considerably from some that you may see elsewhere.

If you disagree with what I’m about to share (starting next week), that’s totally fine by me, and I would actually love if you shared your views as well. The more we can enrich this conversation on what makes people really tick, the more we can help to fulfill the potential of this amazing tool.

I don’t claim to have any answers whatsoever (far from it, actually), but I hope to be asking the right questions. If that happens, I’ll be more than happy if they help whoever reads these texts to reflect on those same questions themselves.