Development "vs" Awakening

awakening development inner work Aug 18, 2023

The Enneagram world has a blind spot to human development.

This may sound overly provocative. “Aren’t Enneagram schools trying to help students develop into healthy versions of their type?”

Yes. But we need to clarify how we are using the word “development.” In our language universe, “development” refers to a process that begins at a point of origin and advances through a sequence of stages that build upon each other.

In 1987, Don Riso published Personality Types, which articulated the attitudes and behaviors that arise at 9 distinct levels within each type. For example, a type 6 manifests different qualities “at level 2” than “at level 5.” Don Riso called this the “Levels of Development. We are claiming, however, that they would better be called “Levels of Awakeness."

Ken Wilber distinguishes between “Growing Up” and “Waking Up.” Waking Up is about shifting one’s identity from being anchored in individual ego to being anchored in infinite presence. Growing up is about advancing through discrete stages of increasing psychological maturity, each with more expanded ways of making meaning than prior stages, as per Constructive Ego Development Theory (see also: the work of Susanne Cook-Grueter, Robert Kegan, Jean Gebser, Jurgen Habermas). 

Waking Up is becoming aware that you are presence. Growing up is about exposing your assumptions and integrating more sources of truth. They are linked, but distinct.

Riso originally posited the levels as spectrum from identification with Essence to identification with Personality. In other words, it’s a “Waking Up” framework, not a Growing Up framework, and it functions as a way to measure how “awake” you are at the moment. The Enneagram needs a Growing Up framework.

Luckily, a number of them already exist. We like Susanne Cook-Grueter’s Constructive Ego Development Theory, which outlines the shifts in how we make meaning from one stage to the next. Spiral Dynamics, Integral Theory, and others are also useful.

Theoretically, it would be possible to map how each Enneagram type shows up at each stage of ego development. We have not undertaken that task yet, but we position ourselves as a school that uses the Enneagram to help students to cultivate presence and advance through stages of ego development — that is, to wake up and grow up.

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