Kathleen V. Hurley and Theodore E. Dobson
[Harper San Francisco, 186 pages]
Hurley and Dobson’s book on the Enneagram functions as both informational resource and self-help manual, guiding readers to greater life fulfillment through an understanding of their personality type.
The book’s introduction provides historical background to the Enneagram, a nine-type personality classification system, that includes its religious and philosophical origins. The next section describes the nine personality types: Achiever, Helper, Succeeder, Individualist, Observer, Guardian, Dreamer, Confronter, and Preservationist. Unlike other personality books that I’ve read, this one doesn’t provide a personality test for readers to determine their type. The authors instead suggest reading the nine-type descriptions closely then deciding which personality type they fall into. Interestingly, reading the type descriptions, I was led to believe I was a type Five, while I generally score as a type Four on traditional Enneagram tests (with Five getting a high number of points as well). I find that reading a description is a more effective means of evaluation than using a test, because the type is shown as a united whole rather than being broken into fragments of behaviour.
The authors disagree with other Enneagram theorists that people have a secondary type (a wing) as well as a primary type. They agree that there are three centres of intelligence, and believe that what is sometimes seen as a secondary type is just the individual accessing qualities from other types within their primary or secondary centres of intelligence. It doesn’t seem relevant whether there actually is an official secondary type or not, as long as all theorists are in agreement that individuals can access qualities from other types that are close to their own on the spectrum.
After describing the nine types and each of their usual positive and negative behaviours as well as the centres of intelligence, the authors explain how an Enneagram student can use their knowledge of the system to become their Real Beautiful Self. Basically, the person unites with their divine image and receives a new title; for example, an Achiever morphs into a Pathfinder, or a Helper transforms into a Partner. This process involves reflection and a willingness to continually improve. If one is willing to improve, they can ignite life within a formerly lifeless part of their personality, therefore becoming a more well-rounded and effective person. The authors use the metaphor of gardening to describe this process; each individual starts with a certain variety of soil and then feeds the soil to grow into the best person they can possibly be. Each variety of soil (personality) has certain strengths and limitations which must be dealt with on the road to growth.
Compared to other Enneagram books, I found What’s My Type? to be more spiritual and inspirational in nature, while others are more scientific. This is no surprise, as the authors describe themselves as spiritual in the introduction. This book provides the most in-depth description about how to improve ourselves. Other personality books tend to focus more on improving certain compartments of life, such as parenting or career, while this one focuses on how to make ourselves feel good throughout all aspects of life (which, in turn, should help with success in its various compartments). This wholistic approach is consistent with the presentation of the nine types as unified wholes. Although the book isn’t scientific, I believe it’s useful as a self-help book for both the spiritual and the non-spiritual. Another feature of this book that simplifies the concepts are the diagrams, which sometimes take up a whole page; other personality books I’ve read don’t contain such detailed diagrams. For someone who’s a visual learner, this component of the book should be highly effective. There are two reasons why I won’t fault the authors for the lack of scientific data to back up their ideas: the book was written almost 20 years ago, when psychological science wasn’t at the level it is now; second, it seems that the authors wanted to write a book that the average person could relate to during their quest for self-discovery and self-improvement, and may have believed that the average reader would find a multitude of scientific data unrelatable.