I’ve never been that interested in personality tests. Probably because I’m one of those people whose personality can be summed up in a single word: loud. I voice my opinion in meetings. I sling jokes at happy hour. I ignore the glares of my fellow brunchers at M.Henry when I’m loudly telling a story about how my dad used to needlepoint religious art while my mom drank sherry and passed out. See, when you’re a known loud person, there’s not a whole lot of mystery. People don’t leave encounters with me thinking, Huh, I wish I understood Adrienne more. Why do I need to be sliced and diced into another subsection of society when I’ve already got “divorcée” and “basic bitch” on my résumé? But because I’m barely surviving this endless quarantine with my wits intact, I realize perhaps I could benefit from a new framework for understanding what makes me tick.
The Enneagram is a system made up of nine personality types that reveal how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. I meet over Zoom with local therapist and Enneagram coach Priscilla Dean of Evergreen Counseling to get “typed” (Enneagram-speak for identifying which of the nine personalities I might be). Priscilla explains that the Enneagram is a combination of spirituality and psychology. It’s about mindfulness and inner observation — watching your behaviors, motives, thoughts, and feelings. And before I can even express any skepticism about putting people into boxes, Priscilla says that the Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box, because whether you know it or not, you’re already in one. The Enneagram helps you step out.
Priscilla asks me a series of questions, and it feels like a pleasant therapy session. Quickly she identifies that I like to be focused on tasks and goals and not be slowed down by feelings. Who doesn’t? (Apparently eight other personality types don’t.) We talk about how I want to be recognized for what I do, not who I am, and I legit do not understand that there’s a difference. She points out that when people get in the way of my goals, it makes me angry, and I’m like, YES, GIRL, I’VE BEEN MANAGING HOMESCHOOL SINCE MARCH OF COURSE I’M ANGRY, and that might be the point when I’m typed as a 3, a.k.a. the Achiever.
Hallmarks of a 3: ambitious, competent, energetic, status-conscious, overly concerned with their image and what others think of them, problems with workaholism and competitiveness. Ew! But also, sure, sounds about right. Just like Scarlett O’Hara, I focus on my image and the task at hand and only break for feelings when they’re misdirected at an unsuitable love interest! Priscilla wants me to get on a growth path and says to do this I need to get more in touch with my feelings. “Shame, grief, and loss — this is where your authentic felt experience is,” she says. “Your real life is here.” Something about this rings true, because immediately I’m filled with an uncomfortable shame, and I wonder if loudness is a sort of mask concealing my authentic self, who is, apparently, a 3. And if maybe, just maybe, quarantine is a perfect time to get quiet.