The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey To Self-Discovery, by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
As someone with a great personal interest in personality theory and its larger implications to my own life and how it works , I can say without any exaggeration that this book was surprising and unexpected to me as a reader on a variety of levels. For one, I was struck by the fact that I was familiar with the author before , having read his excellent contribution to the genre of memoirs of crappy childhoods (as an aside, it is probably not too surprising that I have my own contribution to this genre as well). The real surprise of this book for me was in a combination of elements. One was the way that the authors forthrightly admitted the somewhat dodgy origins of the Enneagram itself in the haze of history and Christian mysticism. This level of honesty is in stark contrast to the salesy approach one sometimes gets from this sort of work. Additionally, the book was less about discovering one’s strengths as I expected but exploring the more shadowy elements of one’s personality and the difficulties faced by people as a result of their characteristic approaches to life. If you are looking for a book to pat you on the back and tell you what a good boy/girl you are, this is not going to do the trick. If you are looking for a book that will tell you some of the darkest secrets of how you cope with life’s unreasonable demands and essential absurdity in ways that make you want to hide, and may also encourage you to show yourself and others a bit more empathy and understanding, this will be a worthwhile read.
Despite the surprising nature of the book’s contents, the authors have a disciplined and organized way of getting their message across. The book opens with a discussion of the curious history of the Enneagram’s unknown origins and the task of finding one’s type and not being the sort of person who puts others into a box by announcing their own types to them, which few people appreciate. The next nine chapters deal with the Enneagram in a somewhat curious order, starting with the triad relating to anger/the gut (type 8: the challenger, type 9: the peacemaker, and type 1: the perfectionist), then moving on to the triad relating to feelings (type 2: the helper, type 3: the performer, and type 4: the romantic), and then going to the triad relating to fear/thinking (type 5: the investigator, type 6: the loyalist, type 7: the enthusiast) before closing with a brief chapter that explores how we can deal more lovingly and more thoughtfully with others after having understood them and their motivations a bit better, along with the usual acknowledgments and notes at the end. Likewise, each of the chapters within the book dealing with the various types are organized in a similar fashion as well with an illustrative quote, a discussion of the healthy, average, and unhealthy members of their kind, an introduction to the author’s own experience with the type as well as its workings in history and culture, the characteristic deadly sin of that type, some famous people of that kind in history, the most notable traits of that type, the type as children, in relationships, at work, as well as their “wings” and matters of stress and security as well as spiritual transformation.
For a bit of full disclosure here, in reading this book I thought it was pretty clear that I would fit as a type 5 with a 6 wing, which refers to someone who is somewhat socially awkward and prone to voracious reading but who engages well with others despite being somewhat private about emotional matters and considerably prone to anxiety and a desire for independence of thought and action. Likewise, it was fairly easy to place other people within the scheme based on what I knew about them as any good type watcher would tend to do. Ultimately, though, this is a book that is about self-knowledge with the goal of prompting reflection, repentance, and a commitment to move beyond what we are to what we could be as children of God fully connected to Him and to our fellow brethren. The title of this book therefore has some sort of larger aspect of unity in diversity with other people, all of whom have been wounded and broken by life in some respect, and all of whom have characteristic and usually self-defeating strategies for love and respect in how they deal with the world around them. For all of my book learning, I am no different in this regard from the rest of humanity, and so my takeaway from this book is a sense of wise compassion for others understanding our own quirks and the quirks of others and our common need for understanding and graciousness as we walk on our own spiritual journeys. For those who enjoy personality theory and exploring self-knowledge, this is a worthwhile book to read at 230 or so pages of thoughtful and deeply personal writing about the spiritual aspects of personality theory that many may not easily recognize.
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