The Unfiltered Enneagram

A Witty and Wise Guide to Self-Compassion

About the Book

From Instagram’s snarkiest Enneagram expert comes a hilarious and insightful book that shows how embracing our shadow side is our best path toward greater self-awareness and compassion.

Most Enneagram books focus on stroking ego rather than challenging it. Elizabeth Orr’s The Unfiltered Enneagram offers practical strategies for liberating yourself from your own garbage. It’s a humorous, no-frills reckoning with our shadow side—the ways we cope with stress or fear—that unlocks the life-changing wisdom of this popular personality typology system. Readers will discover that courageously and comically acknowledging the worst attributes of their Enneagram Type can bring out the best in themselves.

Filled with laugh-out-loud descriptions, sobering truths, and inspiring prompts, each chapter is an under-the-rug look at the nine Enneagram Personality Types:

Type One—R Is for Reformer (and Resentment)
Type Two—Self-Sacrifice with Some Serious Strings Attached
Type Three—Hall of Mirrors in a House of Cards
Type Four—Feelin’ Misunderstood (and I’m Going to Make It Your Problem)
Type Five—When Intellectual Maximalism Meets Emotional Minimalism
Type Six—Who Needs Trust When I’ve Got Projection?
Type Seven—The Paradoxical Paralysis of Making Too Many Awesome Plans
Type Eight—Large, in Charge, and Just This Side of Belligerent
Type Nine—Comfortably Numb (and Impressively Stubborn)

Insightful for long-time Enneagram enthusiasts, pragmatic for newer fans, and hilarious and accessible for everyone, The Unfiltered Enneagram shines a generous light on the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of us all—inviting us to see that the only way to find self-compassion is to embrace wholeness.
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Praise for The Unfiltered Enneagram

“This is a singular and honest view of the Enneagram that plays the necessary devil’s advocate for readers wanting to better themselves.”Library Journal (starred review)
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The Unfiltered Enneagram

Enneagram History and Overview of the Types

Look, let’s level with each other, all right? I know it’s more likely than not that you aren’t reading this chapter in the order that I intended it to be read; you’re coming back to it after having skipped ahead to the chapter about your Type or the Type of the person who finally convinced you (or wore you down enough) to read a book about the Enneagram. I’d love to think that my writing about the Enneagram is like me and needs no introduction, but I can’t go asking the Twos to practice humility if I’m not willing to give those muscles a lil stretch myself every once in a while. So, each Type’s chapter is going to make a lot more sense and land in a more practical way when you have the bird’s-­eye view as a point of reference. Now that you’ve made your way back here, the real fun can begin.

It’s hard to swing a cat around these days without hitting the Enneagram. From corporate team building workshops to dating app profiles, it feels like it’s everywhere, and there’s a good chance that someone in your life is a full-­fledged member of the Enneagram cult. If you’ve somehow managed to escape the grip of the Enneagram-­enthused to this point, well . . . welcome to the top of the rabbit hole.

A Very Brief History of the Enneagram

One of the first things that most of us hear about the Enneagram is a big ole myth. I doubt there was any intentional deception happening with the propagation of the notion that the Enneagram is ancient, but sometime during the telephone game of oral tradition, the Enneagram being as old as the mountains became canon in the narrative, and it’s been next to impossible to update the script. I’m here to tell you today, though, dear reader, that the Enneagram is only as ancient as Pyrex bakeware: old enough to be at home (and a killer find if you stumble across it!) in a charming antique shop. But to claim that the Enneagram is some ancient, primordial secret that has been passed down from generation to generation is . . . a stretch, y’all.

In reality, the first public reference to the Enneagram dates back to 1915, when George Gurdjieff, a teacher, philosopher, and spiritually curious cat, referenced the symbol in his work in psychology, spirituality, self-­awareness, and a whole host of other areas. At no point did Gurdjieff ever talk about nine distinct personality Types. Instead, he used the Enneagram symbol to illustrate the dynamism of our world, nature, daily life, and art—­showing that the world around us has something to teach us about ourselves and that enlightenment is less of a static destination or goal and more of a moving target, available to us in every moment. The most definitive DNA strand in his body of work that turns up in the genetic makeup of the modern-­day Enneagram is his work on the Centers of Intelligence.

Now, for the sake of brevity, I’m about to do the story of Gurdjieff’s travels a real injustice by trimming it down. But for our purposes, you probably don’t need the play-­by-­play nor my color commentary, so here’s the SparkNotes version: Hungry for enlightenment, Gurdjieff immersed himself in the spiritual circles of the Yogi, monk, and fakir communities, studying their holy practices of meditation, faithful religious sacrifice, and asceticism, respectively.

By committing himself to these communities and their unique practices, Gurdjieff came away with two distinct insights (at least as far as the Enneagram is concerned). First, that each of these approaches was very singularly focused on either the mind, the heart, or the body, yet he was able to attune himself to each. His experience signaled to him that every person has the capacity to do the same: We all possess active mental, emotional, and somatic ways of perceiving the world around us.

This was all well and lovely, except that each of these approaches demanded a full retreat from the world and daily life, which is inaccessible to most folks (this is Gurdjieff’s second insight, for those keeping score at home). Not only that, but enlightenment for enlightenment’s sake also ends up being an exercise in vanity. If an enlightened ego falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it and benefit from a more compassionate consciousness, then who cares?

Armed with his lived experiences of these three paths to enlightenment, Gurdjieff set off to blaze his own more accessible trail, a trail that became known as the Fourth Way. This Fourth Way allowed people to engage and remain in their regular lives by focusing their attention on their bodily felt sensations, their affective movements, and their intellectual thoughts. These three Centers of Intelligence form the very foundation of the Enneagram, which would only later be built up into the Nine Types that we know and love today. The 1960s and 1970s saw teachers like Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo integrate the Enneagram into modern psychology. The 1980s and 1990s saw the Enneagram in conversation with spiritual direction, thanks to Robert Ochs and the Jesuit order, as well as the Enneagram gaining a wider audience through formalized training programs and the publication of the first books on the topic. And of course, with the advent of social media, the almost inevitable explosion of popularity that the Enneagram is currently enjoying brings us to the present day.

So, we know the Enneagram isn’t ancient, like everyone says, but what in the heck is it, then? Most people’s understanding of the Enneagram begins and ends with it functioning as another personality typing system. In just about every Enneagram workshop I’ve ever facilitated, at least one participant is armed with a serious case of suspicion about the validity of the Enneagram. In all fairness to the Enneagram-­resistant crowd, the Enneagram deals with our personalities, and justifiably, a lot of people bristle at personality typing systems, because, at first pass, the notion that all of humanity can be reduced to just nine archetypes flies in the face of our universal terminal uniqueness. The reality is, though, that the Enneagram is not just another personality typing system.

I know, I know—­I’m still answering this question about what the Enneagram is by offering examples of what it isn’t. It isn’t ancient; it isn’t just a personality typing system. Cool, Liz, but can we land the plane? The Enneagram is a framework that reveals the places where we’ve built up brick-­wall barriers to being seen and known. It doesn’t tell us who we are so much as it shows us how we get in our own way.

About the Author

Elizabeth Orr
Elizabeth Orr serves as the associate chaplain for spiritual formation at Wake Forest and is the creator of the popular Rude Ass Enneagram Instagram account. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Stonehill College, a master’s degree in pastoral ministry, and a certificate in spiritual formation and direction from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. More by Elizabeth Orr
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