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Break free from the trappings of identity with the Enneagram



Do you know the host with the most? A travel master? The person who knows exactly what the parking situation is at the restaurant five days before your reservation? 

I’m talking about your friend who throws the perfect barbeque and spends the afternoon running around making sure everything is going smoothly so you can dance the night away on the patio without a care in the world. 

Maybe you’re that friend!

I’m willing to guess that host is an Enneagram type 6, and they’ve gotten really married to the idea that they’re the Responsible One. Their identity was probably created a long time ago, back in childhood, when identity is first formed, and now it’s so deeply ingrained that it’s the iceberg under the water. 

What ends up happening is once you begin to think of yourself as responsible (or helpful, powerful, right, whatever it is you think of yourself as), the opposite becomes less and less of a possibility. You’re not going to be the one twerking on the patio at the barbeque without sunscreen on or showing up to the airport 30 minutes before your plane takes off. You’re going to be the one who shows up to the casual barbeque and starts finding the risks to mitigate.  

Then the whole world begins to organize itself around you being responsible because you have continually demonstrated you’re not dropping the spinning plates. Now everyone around you is seeing you as the Responsible One, so it’s becoming further reinforced in your mind. 

Now your identity has become a self-fulfilling prophecy and this is now the lens through which you see and interact with the world. 

Your instinct becomes to ask where you need to be responsible in regards to your career, your partner, or your children versus empowering them, relaxing, having fun, or any of the other ways you might choose to be, which in turn broadcasts to the world with a neon sign and arrow that that’s the kind of person you are. It becomes a feedback loop where those around you reinforce the declaration you’ve made about yourself.  

The problem arises when you’ve become so tied to that identity that you begin to burn out. You become so fearful about forgetting to be responsible that you inevitably drop the ball, and now that you’re ‘irresponsible’, who are you really? 

There’s an innate risk of dissatisfaction and internal struggle when you’re constantly trying to fulfill the expectations of a certain identity.  As a result, you may struggle to empathize with those who prioritize different values or approaches.

Detaching from your identity, even if only temporarily, allows you to broaden your perspective and gain a deeper understanding of yourself and others. It enables you to step outside your preconceived roles and explore different aspects of your personality. By doing so, you can open yourself up to new experiences, ideas, and ways of being.

Identity detachment does not mean abandoning our responsibilities or core values. It means cultivating a mindset of openness and curiosity that acknowledges the diversity of human experiences.

By detaching from our identities, we can also liberate ourselves from the pressures and expectations associated with them. The fear of failure or disappointing others becomes less overpowering when you embrace the fluidity of your self. You can learn that making mistakes or deviating from our designated roles does not define your worth or identity. Instead, that deviation becomes an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.

One of the best ways to begin the process of detangling yourself from your identity is through the Enneagram, a personality typing system. 

Each of the nine points on the Enneagram is a personality archetype that has its own motivations, fears, and identity.

Throughout your life, you will likely dabble in all nine points, but you tend to find a home base with one. 

Exploring the Enneagram helps you understand your dominant personality type and its influence on your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

One of the Enneagram’s benefits is recognizing the patterns and tendencies associated with your dominant type. By recognizing these patterns, you can begin to detach yourself from the rigid constraints of your identity and explore alternative ways of being.

Let’s take the example from up above. 

Someone who identifies strongly with being the responsible one (Enneagram Type 6) may constantly seek to mitigate risks and fulfill their perceived or self-imposed obligations. By understanding the motivations and fears associated with their type, a type 6 can begin to detach from this identity and explore different facets of their personality. They can consciously choose to embrace empowerment, relaxation, or having fun instead of guilt or anxiety.

The Enneagram encourages personal growth by highlighting areas for development and integration. It acknowledges that each Enneagram type has both strengths and areas of potential growth.

By identifying your dominant type and understanding its associated patterns, you can consciously work towards developing the qualities and behaviors associated with other types. 

This process of integration allows you to transcend the limitations of your identity, resulting in a  more holistic and flexible approach to life.

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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