Has The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary.
In today's day and age, self care and self reflection are a high priority. The thing is, knowing where to start on your self-seeking quest can be a tough thing to figure out. Should you turn to religion or a therapist, meditation or literature?
Well, the Enneagram – a diagram that can help you reflect on your personality – is the perfect place to start. This book summary covers everything from the history of the Enneagram to descriptions of each of the personality types represented by its nine points, as well as how they interact with each other .
How will this help you to grow a further awareness of your emotions and behavior patterns? The answer is simple: you’ll only truly be able to work through your flaws and shortcomings if you truly understand why it is you have the tendencies that you do. Through learning about the Enneagram, you’ll soon be able to think more analytically, allowing you to therefore make much better life choices in the future.
In this summary of The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile, you’ll also learn
- how recognizing your personality type will help you figure out the perfect job for you;
- why perfectionists might not be so perfect after all; and
- that it’s possible for a stressful situation to alter your entire personality type.
The Road Back to You Key Idea #1: Dating back to antiquity, the Enneagram is a nine-point diagram used as a way of understanding oneself.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “Enneagram”? If your immediate response is some five-pointed symbol to be set aflame in a Wiccan ceremony, then you’ve made a forgivable blunder. That’s the pentagram. The Enneagram, in contrast, has nine points and has nothing to do with the occult. However, like the pentagram, the Enneagram does have ancient roots.
The Enneagram of personality types is an outgrowth of ancient Christian theology. No one truly knows its origins, however its thought to be connected to Evagrius Ponticus, a fourth-century Christian monk and theologian who is also often credited with having created the concept of the seven deadly sins. However, the Enneagram isn’t an idea that solely comes up in Christianity. Judaism, Sufism, and Taoism feature similar nine-pointed diagrams used for spiritual guidance.
In the 1970s, the Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo brought all of these traditions of ancient wisdom together into one to form the modern Enneagram structure. Later, it was imported to America by one of Ichazo’s pupils at the Aric school in Chile – an American psychologist named Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo, then taught the Enneagram to his students in California, one of whom was Father Robert Ochs. Ochs then, through his Catholic Jesuit teachings brought the spiritual ideas of the Enneagram to fellow clergy, spiritual leaders, and his congregation.
So, what is the Enneagram, exactly? Well, its name comes from the Greek – ennea,
meaning “nine,” and gram
meaning “drawing” or “figure.” Its nine-pointed geometric design is used as an aid to self-knowledge.
There are nine personality types that make up the Enneagram, and each of the nine points corresponds to one of the personality types. Then, each personality type of linked to a number on the diagram, and the number can then tell us more about how we see the world, including how we feel and behave. Each personality type also has links to other numbers across the diagram, and these connections can help us to understand how we act in certain situations, especially stressful ones.
Finally, each of the nine personality types has two adjacent numbers known as “wing numbers,” both of which may further influence your type.
At this point, you might be thinking, “OK, but how does this help me?” Basically, the goal of the Enneagram is to assist you in better reflecting upon your characteristic flaws, so that you can consciously get closer to your personal enlightenment. Not only that – you can also use it to better understand the behavior of your family and friends. By being able to understand and empathize with their outlook on life, you’ll be able to better communicate and have more effective conversations.
In the next book summary, we’ll look at the first six personality types.
The Road Back to You Key Idea #2: The first six personality types of the Enneagram are in the categories of Gut Triad and Heart Triads.
There are three distinct categories, or triads,
of the Enneagram. These are the Gut, the Heart, and the Head. Let’s take a closer look at the Gut first.
The link between the different personality types in the Gut Triad is actually anger.
Take type Eight, the Challenger
. The Challenger is known for being the first one to speak up when she witnesses a wrongdoing. Their forceful nature makes them natural ringleaders, and their weakness is an inability to show vulnerability, which can often hold them back from forming meaningful relationships. Often, they demonstrate anger by seeking out verbal or physical conflict.
Type 9, on the other hand, the Peacemaker
, is the polar opposite. This personality type will avoid conflict at all costs. They’re always able to look at both sides of any situation, making this amiable Peacemaker a natural born mediator. However, since they never want to upset others, they tend to suppress their own anxieties and frustrations, which results in their not asking for, and therefore not getting, what they might need from relationships.
The third type in the Gut Triad is type One – the Perfectionist
. As you might expect from their name, Perfectionists are self-disciplined, moral, and detail-oriented. Improving themselves and the world is their prime concern. They have a tendency to view everything as right or wrong: black or white. When others break these rules or abandon responsibility, Perfectionists can grow angry. This anger is often then internalized as resentment.
Conversely, the three personality types in the Heart Triad are defined by their feelings and emotions.
Just look at type Two – the Helper
. The Helper is an incredibly caring character. This personality type is super motivated by feeling needed by other people, making them self-sacrificing. On the other hand, Helpers tend to let relationships define them, often avoiding expressing their own needs. Oftentimes, they also feel that others owe them something in return for the care that they show. In general, they attend to everyone’s feelings but their own.
Type Three is the Performer
. Performers are known for setting huge goals and getting immense satisfaction when they achieve them. The more successful, productive, and efficient they are, the greater their sense of self-worth. The weakness of a Performer is self-delusion and an inability to own up to their own mistakes. Performers often struggle to identify emotions in themselves and others, and are highly conscious of their image.
Completing the Heart Triad is type Four – the Romantic
. This personality type is known for their natural tendency to be incredibly in tune with the beauty and tragedy in the world, making it so that they’re able to appreciate the entire spectrum of the human experience. Their weakness is a tendency to isolate themselves from others, which can lead to melancholy, unpredictability, and self-absorption.
We read dozens of other great books like The Road Back to You, and summarized their ideas in this article called Life Purpose
Check it out here!
The Road Back to You Key Idea #3: The final three Enneagram numbers are categorized under the Head Triad.
Have you found a personality type that you identify with yet? If not, you’ll probably find yourself under the Head Triad.
The three characters represented by the Head Triad are all motivated by fear.
In this category, the first is type Five – the Investigator
. People in this personality type find great pleasure in sharing their wealth of knowledge with each and every person they meet. These are fiercely independent people who are capable of logical and objective opinions. Their downfall, however, is a fear of having to depend on others. This means that they come off as defensive and cynical with a tendency to judge others.
Type Six is the open and dependable Loyalist
. Loyalists have a commitment to serving others in their families and communities. People in this personality type feel safe with rules and order, seeking out security and stability. They often worry about losing this security. They’ll regularly think about the worst that might happen, sometimes so much so that small anxieties can turn into extreme paranoia. Instead of displaying true fear during an actual crisis, type Six will turn every nagging fear into its own crisis.
Completing the Head Triad and the Enneagram is type Seven – the Enthusiast
. This type is the life and soul of the party, coming at life with a glass-half-full attitude. Type Sevens are people who are incredibly popular with their peers, but like the other types, they have their downsides. Enthusiasts struggle to commit to anything. They tend to chase pleasure in an attempt to avoid any negative emotions, and are known as being the type most susceptible to addiction. Motivated by a fear of negative emotions, they have a tendency to completely fill their calendars with social events and fill their homes with material objects. They often continuously set goals so that they can keep themselves distracted from reality.
Now you’re familiar with the three triads and each personality type within them. But, if you still don’t feel that you fit within one type, don’t worry. The Enneagram is unique in that it allows for a more nuanced approach. To do that, we need to turn to the wing numbers.
The Road Back to You Key Idea #4: There is always a dynamic relationship between each numbered personality type and two wing numbers.
You might feel like a Romantic at your core, but perhaps you don’t think you’re eccentric enough to fully fit into Type Four. The key to the perfect fit may be in your wing numbers.
Just as a wingman stands behind you, providing moral support, the wing numbers stand on either side of your number, and act to strengthen your personality type with some of their own characteristics.
To find your wing numbers, look to the right and left of your own Enneagram number. A strong understanding of all three of these types will allow you to truly tune into how you might define your own personality.
To fully understand this, let’s return to the beginning of this book summary, and take a peek at type Four, the Romantic – in more depth. Romantics tend to be creative souls, such as actors, writers, artists and filmmakers: these are people who thrive on storytelling and melodrama. As children, they often feel misunderstood, but learn to make the most of their differences to help them stand out. Unfortunately, they often realize that this doesn’t lead to the thing they truly strive for: the sense that they belong.
On either side of type Four are types Three and Five – the Performer and the Investigator.
A type Four with a Three wing is called a “4w3.” As you’ll remember, Performers are competitive people, driven by goals. A Romantic who adopts these characteristics often feels that they must be the best at what they do, as well as being unique and special. Being image-conscious, 4w3 types will hold themselves in a way that tends to be more socially acceptable than a pure Romantic’s quirkiness, while their fixation on goals makes them more likely to bring ideas to fruition.
Now, let’s look at a “4w5” – a Four with a Five wing. This type tends to be more reserved and introverted. They’ll often embrace the more eccentric side of their personality, and are proud of their uniqueness, but they don’t have the same need for recognition as the 4w3. Under the influence of the Investigator personality, a 4w5 often finds that too much socializing is exhausting, needing alone time after a long time interacting with others. They also tend to choose to deal with their emotions on their own instead of sharing them, or even acting upon them.
Are you ready to go even deeper? Good. Because your type may be influenced by yet more
numbers. In the next book summary, you’ll discover how stress can turn even a Perfectionist into a Romantic.
The Road Back to You Key Idea #5: Each number on the Enneagram also takes on the characteristics of their security or stress number.
By now, hopefully you have a decent understanding of what your main personality type may be, and which wing number may best compliment it. That’s good, because it’s now time to look at your security and stress numbers.
In situations where you feel safe and secure, your security number will give you its positive characteristics.
This is how they’re linked:
Perfectionists borrow the security traits of the Enthusiast; the Helper takes from the Romantic; the Performer from the Loyalist; the Romantic from the Perfectionist; the Investigator from the Challenger; the Loyalist from the Peacemaker; the Enthusiast from the Investigator; the Challenger from the Helper; and the Peacemaker from the Performer.
To look further at how this works, let’s take the self-disciplined type One Perfectionist, with their internal critic. Perfectionists’ security number is Seven – the Enthusiast. Perfectionists are able to relax when they’re free of responsibility, for example, when they’re on vacation or when they’re hanging out with friends, allowing them to take on some of the traits of the Enthusiast. When they feel secure, Perfectionists become gregarious, self-confident, and adventurous.
But, just as your number can borrow positives during the good times, it can also take on negatives during hard times. These negative characteristics come from your stress number, as follows:
Under stress, the Perfectionist takes on the traits of the Romantic; the Helper takes from the Challenger; the Performer from the Peacemaker; the Romantic from the Helper; the Investigator from the Enthusiast; the Loyalist from the Performer; the Enthusiast from the Perfectionist; the Challenger from the Investigator; and the Peacemaker from the Loyalist.
Now let’s take a look at how this works. For example, if Perfectionist has to stay late at the office, or is having relationship problems, under the influence of borrowed traits from the Romantic personality type, their self-esteem may suffer, and they will often fall into depression and grow incredibly sensitive to criticism. They’ll find themselves thinking that they’re simply not as good as other people.
It may sound depressing, but knowing and understanding how your stress number influences your behavior is incredibly useful in evaluating which things you may find overwhelming. It’s a good idea to think about why it is you’re feeling the way you are so that you can stop yourself from spiraling into bad habits. The more self-aware you are, the easier it’ll be for you to make good decisions.
To explain it as simply as possible: your security number represents how you would act on payday. Your stress number, on the other hand, is how you act when you check your account and find it’s all gone toward rent.
The Road Back to You Key Idea #6: Each number on the Enneagram corresponds to a specific deadly sin.
While the characteristics of your stress number and your corresponding deadly sin might be similar, they’ll often manifest in different ways. Your stress number is a negative reaction, whereas your deadly sin is a negative motivation.
You can’t escape it. Every personality type has a deadly sin – a shadowy side that needs to be tempered.
The Perfectionist’s sin is anger
. Because they hold themselves and others to such high standards, failure to meet these standards is simply inevitable. However, when something does fall short of what the Perfectionist was expecting, they often manifest this reaction in anger, or sometimes slow-burning resentment, which they often hold onto.
For the Helper, pride
is their downfall, as they often think they know what’s best for everybody else.
Performers often risk losing their sense of self, as they become so used to projecting an image they want others to see. Their deadly sin is deceit
– both of themselves and of others.
The deadly sin of the Romantic is envy
. Romantics are so eccentric and melancholic, so they often struggle to fit in with others in the crowd. Often, they find themselves jealous of people who are able to easily discover their place in society and happiness.
As you know, Investigator types are highly self-sufficient. Life as this personality type requires a huge amount of energy and resources. However, in keeping this energy for their own use, they commit the sin of avarice
Loyalists, on the other hand, who crave safety and security, are guided by the sin of fear.
is assigned to the Enthusiast, since this is a type who will often gorge themselves on pleasure so that they can distract themselves from any feelings of negativity. They often go so overboard with this that they develop damaging addictions.
The Challenger personality – aggressive and confrontational – is guilty of the sin of lust
due to their desire to have power and control over the people around them. They often lean toward this tendency so as to distract themselves from their own weaknesses.
Finally, the sin of sloth
typifies the Peacemakers. Since this personality type is often concerned solely with the problems of other people, they’ll often grow slothful when it comes to dealing with their own issues.
If it seems daunting to have to confront the most negative aspects of your personality, it’s important to keep in mind: every type has its own shadowy side. Simply recognizing your own shadowy behaviors is already half the battle. The other half of this involves ensuring that you keep this “bad side” in check, so that you’re able to be your best self. When you understand each side of your personality type, you’ll be able to get better at being compassionate toward others: compassion being the foundation of any close relationship.
In Review: The Road Back to You Book Summary
The key message in this book summary:
The Enneagram is an ancient diagram whose roots reach back into Christianity. Through understanding it and your type, you’ll be able to gain greater self-knowledge, and understand the behavior of those around us. Through identifying your own Enneagram personality type, and learning how your type responds to certain situations, you’ll be able to make progress toward making better and more informed decisions in your life.
Help your coworkers find joy in their work using the Enneagram.
A wide range of workplaces, including Motorola, the Oakland A’s baseball team, the Vatican clergy, and the CIA have used the Enneagram to help their employees find greater satisfaction in their careers. So, why not get your colleagues to identify their type? This often does a lot of work in helping employees understand their personal work habits and therefore figure out what tasks they’ll be naturally great at. For instance, if someone is a type Five Investigator, she’ll naturally excel at analytical tasks, whereas a type One Perfectionist will work best when focusing on a single project.
Suggested further reading:
Find more great ideas like those contained in this summary in this article we wrote on Life purpose