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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

The Enneagram and Spiritual Practice: Part 3 of a 3-part Series

Aug 01, 2020 09:00AM ● By Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe
Part 1 of this series provided a high-level introduction to the Enneagram system and its ability to help expand awareness. Part 2 expanded further on the intelligence centers, types and instincts of the Enneagram—the “continents,” “countries,” and “dialects” within the global map of the Enneagram, respectively.

Many behavioral systems and personality typing models dive deep into the what and the how of what people do. In contrast, one of the most useful things about the Enneagram is its ability to succinctly and accurately describe what motivates us and why we each engage the world in our unique ways.

Part 3 offers ways to explore one’s “efficiency” within each type of the Enneagram; that is, how easily and naturally one can express each type. It also provides some practical and valuable methods to help one continue to discover more about their unique way of engaging in the world.


As mentioned in Part 2, the question, “What is your number?” is perhaps the most frequently-asked question pertaining to the Enneagram. But the brain-based model helps one recognize that they can see themselves as all nine numbers simultaneously—not just people. Instead, they can consider how efficient they are in each of the nine numbers.

For example, if someone tested as a 1, instead of thinking of themselves as a 1, they might think they have a high efficiency in 1, plus a strong 7 nature as well. Then, they can further inquire into their relationship to the rest of the numbers/natures in the Enneagram. All around the circle can explore the efficiency or inefficiency with which they utilize each number and paint a more holistic picture of their personal neuropsychology.

These are the other articles in this series.

The Enneagram and Spiritual Practice Part 1 of a 3-part Series

The Enneagram and Spiritual Practice: Part 1 of a 3-part Series

The Enneagram is most commonly known as a system of personality types as it draws from ancient wisdom and insights from modern psychology to assist personal and collective transformation. Read More » 


The Enneagram and Spiritual Practice Part 2 of a 3-part Series

The Enneagram and Spiritual Practice: Part 2 of a 3-part Series

Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the Enneagram is its set of nine numbers that offers a language and a system for understanding and discussing ourselves as human beings. Read More » 


Atlanta Enneagram Resources

Atlanta Enneagram Resources

A listing of Enneagram resources based in Atlanta. Read More » 

Efficiency with an Enneagram number means there is an ease of relationship with the nature of that number and so engages it often. It is important to understand this is not an indication of health, but ease of use. Someone who enjoys autonomy is going to have high efficiency in 8, but that doesn’t mean they are an 8. They’re multi-faceted. For instance, perhaps they also value clarity and authenticity, so they’re efficient in 5 and 4 natures as well. The analysis should be applied to all nine numbers for a more integrated perspective of the whole.

If someone is inefficient in a number, on the other hand, they will require a significant amount of energy to express that nature. For example, someone who is efficient in 8 but struggles to see the value of serenity will likely be inefficient in 6 and 9. Instead of turning 6 and 9 away as irrelevant, they can instead expand their capacity for greater efficiency.

Thesaurus Exercise

Everyone has experiences that shape the language and trigger associations with the words they use. I remember the first time that I heard that a 2 was known as “the helper” and that a 2 with a 1 wing was known as a “host.” That meant that a 2 not only wanted to help, but when they did it in a goal-oriented way, like a 3, it meant they modeled a person similar to a “host.” 

From that, I couldn’t help but conclude that if I wanted to be a “host” who “helped” folks, I should probably work at a chain restaurant. But I didn’t want to be described in that way at all. Of course, that was my ego talking; but, I also understood that I was being triggered by language in a way that felt patronizing. It did not feel life-giving. So, I started searching for words that felt more relevant, connected, inspiring and true to me personally.
That’s how I came up with the Thesaurus Exercise, a process that can eliminate trigger words and create a language that invites positive engagement and support optimal growth. Whether you are brand new to the Enneagram system or an experienced expert, the exercise is both practical and effective. I encourage people to come up with their own set of Enneagram-related words, words that feel more inviting and empowering to them and are more effective at supporting them on their journey of self-discovery.

1. Using an online thesaurus, type a word expressing the nature of each number.
For example:

8 -- Disrupt
9 -- Peace
1 -- Reform
2 -- Nurture
3 -- Achieve
4 -- Individuality
5 -- Investigate
6 -- Loyalty
7 -- Enthusiasm

2. When the list populates with synonyms, notice how many of the words feel unsafe, and how many feel safe. Then, click the word that feels safest or most enjoyable to you.

3. When the list populates again, click the word that feels safest or most enjoyable to you again.

4. Repeat step 3 once more.

5. Now review the list. If all or most of the words feel safe and enjoyable to you, you’re done! Because it has positive associations for you, the word at the top of the page can be integrated or substituted into your personal Enneagram vocabulary instead of, or in addition to, the original “nature” word for that number. 
For example, when searching for the word “disrupt,” I might choose “shake,” “move,” and then “act,” as the words that feel the best to me in each step. Then I can replace the word “disrupt” with “act” for the purposes of the Enneagram without changing the nature of the number.

6. Repeat this process for each number until you have a lexicon of positive terms. Feel free to use this exercise for any word that stimulates a negative response.

As you do this exercise, be sure to only select relevant words that are helpful substitutes for the original nature word. For best results, select words that evoke strong positive responses or that feel personally connected to your lived experience. If necessary, click through the tabs at the top of the lists to select the term that most closely resembles the nature of the original word.


I recommend that people treat the Enneagram as if it were a new language they are learning. Begin with the basics. Learn the alphabet, the vocabulary, common phrases and sayings. Every language has its own unique structure and use, and the Enneagram is no different. And, just like any language, it has its dialects, accents and nuances, which is why talking to others about it—for example, teachers, mentors, coaches, colleagues and friends—is critical to deeply understanding it. It is not designed to be an exercise in isolation, but rather a profoundly helpful tool for understanding ourselves and others. 

Jerome D. Lubbe DC, DACNB, is CEO and founder of Thrive Neuro Health, where he uses functional neurology, neuroplasticity and other tools to improve patient well-being. His book, The Brain-Based Enneagram, offers a first-ever neuroscience-based model of the Enneagram. Contact him at [email protected].

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