Tag Archives: 9w1

Mom, Me, and the Enneagram

no-one-wayI’ve written about my relationship with my mother on Nine Paths before. And yesterday I posted a portrait of her on Facebook, along with these comments:

This is a portrait of my mother as a young woman. It was taken before she married my father, so late 1930s or early 1940s. She was born 12/19/17 and died 11/05/99. We were about as opposite, temperamentally, as a mother and daughter could be. But she had a great sense of humor, so although we argued–a lot!–we also laughed a lot, which is probably what carried us through.

Temperamentally speaking, my mother and I were kind of a match made in hell. She was a 9 with a very strong 1 wing, which we both learned when she agreed to explore the Enneagram a couple of years before she died. I’m an 8 with a very strong 7 wing. To top it off, on the Riso-Hudson (RHETI) test, her lowest score was for 8 and my lowest score was for 9.

This is typically how things went between us:

Mom: Follow the rules.
Me: Well, I will if I agree with them.

Mom: What will the neighbors think?
Me: Who cares what the freaking neighbors think?

Mom: Do what I tell you to do.
Me: Why?

Mom: Why can’t you kids stop fighting? (I have two younger brothers.)
Me: Because we don’t get along–obviously!

Mom: You need to do (fill in the blank) exactly this way.
Me: Well, that makes no sense. If you want me to do it, I’ll do it my way. Otherwise, feel free to do it your way.

To say the least, I was a challenge for my mother to raise–much more so than either of my brothers. And my mother was a challenge for me to deal with. I knew nothing about the Enneagram when I was growing up, but I did pretty much figure out how to get around her. Although I didn’t know she was a 9, I was aware that she really didn’t want to know about all the stuff I was doing that I wasn’t supposed to be doing, so I just told her what she wanted to hear. When anything questionable came to her attention, her 1 wing compelled her to take action, which she did–or tried to do. But as an 8, I was willing to accept the consequences, and I knew she would eventually get over it.

I learned a lot about the upside of type 9 many years later from my friend, Donna, when we co-facilitated groups at the substance clinic where we both worked. I like to think that growing up I would have been more sympathetic to my mother and less of a pain in the ass if I’d known then what I know now.

The practical benefits of learning the basics of the Enneagram can be enormous. For one thing, they can give us a fighting chance of understanding each other, which is something the world could really use right now. That’s one reason why I support making the Enneagram accessible to a much bigger and broader audience.