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Who to Blame for My Problems and How to Fix Them

I began reading Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson's Understanding the Enneagram: the Practical Guide to Personality Types and came upon the following quotes in Chapter 1.

". . . the Enneagram indicates what is necessary for our real growth and transformation." (p. 4)

"The Enneagram is not only about understanding and transforming ourselves . . . " (p. 7)

"Because they (our parents) had to protect themselves from experiencing their own developmental gaps and losses, it was not possible for them to fully support the unfolding of all of the aspects of our spirit, no matter how much they loved us." (p.12)

"Our parents unintentionally sent 'messages' to us as children to hide ourselves." (p12)

". . . it is the quality of presence that restores the proper balance between them (our real self and our personality) and allows us to embody the expansive qualities of our true nature." (p. 15)

How absolutely delicious! Right there in Chapter 1, Riso and Hudson have explained the cause of my problems and the key to transformation. Hurrah! I am not to blame for my misgivings! I shall be a beautiful butterfly in no time at all!

I'm pretty sure that absolutely nobody on planet earth feels capable of doing life "right." (Those who do have a problem of an entirely different sort.) I'm also pretty sure that everyone feels they need to explain why they can't do life right. One of the popular explanations is this one right here: "It's not my fault! My growing up environment did this to me!"

Allow me to repeat the above quotes with my own commentary now.

". . . the Enneagram indicates what is necessary for our real growth and transformation." (Hudson & Riso, 4) The Enneagram is just a tool, and many people use this tool as they would any self-help. However, the Enneagram doesn't explain how our broken relationship with God led to our deficiencies. It also doesn't call our problem sin, nor does it show how God completes us and makes us whole again. Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert in The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective does. So does Marilyn Vancil in Self to Lose - Self to Find. But Riso and Hudson seem to be using the Enneagram with a purely humanistic world view.

"The Enneagram is not only about understanding and transforming ourselves . . . " (Hudson & Riso, 7) I cannot agree that we ever transform ourselves, with or without the Enneagram. If transformation is change from the inside out, I don't think we have that. I don't think we have the ability to change our desires and wants and values all on our own.

"Because they (our parents) had to protect themselves from experiencing their own developmental gaps and losses, it was not possible for them to fully support the unfolding of all of the aspects of our spirit, no matter how much they loved us." (Hudson & Riso, 12) This quote implies that if our parents had been able to support all the aspects of our spirits, we wouldn't have developed these false egos. This is not true. No one can support all the aspects of our spirit but God. And because no one is born in that totally life-giving relationship with God, everyone ends up protecting themselves with false selves with or without parents.

"Our parents unintentionally sent 'messages' to us as children to hide ourselves." (Hudson & Riso, 12) Well maybe, but even if we didn't have parents, we would've gotten that message from the world and from within ourselves. We would've got this message even if we were born on a deserted island. Ever since the fall of man, we've been hiding ourselves from God whose very presence we feel compelling us to act rightly.

". . . it is the quality of presence that restores the proper balance between them (our real self and our personality) and allows us to embody the expansive qualities of our true nature." (Hudson & Riso, 15) Riso and Hudson seem to believe that the practice of presence is the cure. Unfortunately, I don't think they mean practicing the presence of God, which is the only presence that can allow us to be fully present in the way that Riso and Hudson mean. 

It's just such a shame that these Enneagram authors can get so close to the truth and then miss it entirely. 

"The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of men. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner." (Bonhoeffer, 119)


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together. Translated by John W. Doberstein. New York: HarperCollins, 1954.

Hudson, Don Richard and Hudson, Russ. Understand the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000

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