The Enneagram, a personality typing system with origins traced to South America in the mid-20th century, is having a resurgence in popularity, and Chattanooga is embracing it.
"If you look at social media, and just in general conversation, it's a very hot-button topic," says Chattanoogan Kat Smith, who co-hosts a podcast, "Enneagram + Yoga," with fellow yoga teacher Christy Bonner.
The Enneagram comprises nine personality types, each represented on a nine-point diagram that demonstrates how the personality types interact with one another.
Helpful to understanding the self and others, the Enneagram can be applied to any number of subjects from business to religion to yoga.
In addition to hosting Enneagram + Yoga, Bonner uses the Enneagram in her practice as a marriage and family therapist.
"I think that we live in a world right now that is hungry for more compassion," says Bonner, as to why she believes people are so interested in the Enneagram now. "We're very polarized in the world we live in, and this is a system that can be used to say, 'I want to understand you, I want to see you.'"
Plus, people are generally drawn to systems that tell us who we are and who we can become, she says.
Like the Myers-Briggs personality typing system, there's always more to learn about the Enneagram, Bonner says.
Bonner was introduced to Enneagram while studying theology in graduate school, and she continued to explore it further.
"It was a way to explore myself, my shortcomings, my strengths," she says. "Enneagram's always inviting you to do 'shadow work,' to look at the areas where you need to grow and become more."
Smith became an avid student of Enneagram after attending a workshop Bonner taught at Yoga Landing, and both women are now certified Enneagram instructors.
"Very much like yoga, it is a lifelong process of learning and growth and expansion," Smith says of her study of Enneagram. "The beauty of the Enneagram and yoga is that the trajectories are very similar. It brings you back home, so to say. It makes you whole, it connects all the dots for you, but it is something that you grow with."
To get started with your Enneagram journey, you need to take an Enneagram personality test to determine which of the nine Enneagram types describes you best.
Bonner recommends the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator, a 144-question test available for $12 on the Enneagram Institute website that gives you a score for each of the nine personality types and expanded descriptions for your top three types.
Another test she suggests is the Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales, for which you rate 200 words and phrases on a five-point scale to generate a report including your core Enneagram style, your preferred "wing" or neighboring style, how you may have learned that style and how you can be more in balance. That test is available for $15 at wepss.com.
Both of those tests meet professional standards for psychological testing, but you can find other, typically simpler and often free tests online.
You could also sign up for a workshop that includes testing, often offered at places such as Chattanooga learning collective The Chattery or local yoga studios and churches.
Once you know your type, there are boundless layers of Enneagram study and work to delve into. While you are a specific type, the goal is to develop and integrate the positive aspects of all nine types into the self, Bonner says.
In March and April, The Chattery hosted at least a half-dozen classes on the subject, including how to use the Enneagram to deal with stress and burnout, developing compassion through the Enneagram, and yoga poses, meditations and mantras for the nine Enneagram types.
Local Enneagram instructors include Enneagram Chattanooga (enneagramchattanooga.com) founder Wesley Nichols, who leads workshops intended to help foster team culture by using the Enneagram to maximize the strengths of team members and encourage better communication and understanding among members.
Chad and Shelley Prevost use the Enneagram in their Big Self School coaching method (bigselfschool.com) focused on reducing stress and burnout and have authored books on the Enneagram.
Kristen Moore (kristenmoorecounseling.com) offers Enneagram-integrated counseling for women, and psychologist and "Never Perfect" mental health podcast host Beth Capecchi teaches a class on the subject.
Bonner and Smith also have a website, mindbodyspiritcare.com, that includes multiple articles on the Enneagram.