Enneagram Roadmap: Beatrice Chestnut's Personal Story



JOEL MARK WITT: Hi, it’s Joel Mark Witt with Antonia Dodge, here with Personality Hacker. We’re continuing our short series with Beatrice Chestnut, Dr. Beatrice Chestnut, who is the author of two books on the Enneagram, The Complete Enneagram and Nine Types of Leadership.

She has published a program here with Personality Hacker called the Enneagram Roadmap, and in this program, it’s a deep dive into the Enneagram system, and into the different types. Into the different, what are called subtypes, which we’ll get to in a video in the future, and talking about the personal growth path of all the different types, and then how to apply this to your life.

Great program, but before we get to the specifics to the program, Dr. Beatrice Chestnut, let us know your story, your background, how did you … How did this become such a big part of your life? Where is the passion coming from, because you were in the studio with us for five or six days shooting this program and we can feel the passion of the Enneagram, the passion of the Enneagram coming from you, so just expand upon that. What’s your story?

BEATRICE: Yeah, thanks I love that question. What’s your story? I didn’t really ever intend to do this or even study psychology, but I encountered the Enneagram in 1990 from a friend of mine’s father. I had grown up with this guy, Dave Daniels that I’d known since junior high. We were best friends. I came to know his father, just from being at his house and knowing him, and his father’s name was also David Daniels.

And David Daniels, is a psychiatrist at Stanford, who in around 1988, 1989 connected up with Helen Palmer, who was someone who wrote one of the first popular books about the Enneagram when it first started coming on to the scene, at around that time.

Doctor Daniels was working with Helen Palmer to actually start one of the first Enneagram schools, and he was a Stanford psychiatrist, so it was interesting that he was getting into something that was a little bit esoteric, a little bit not mainstream psychology, but he was so passionate about it. He was calling it his life’s work.

One night at dinner, he shared it more with me, and he told me he though I might be a type 2. So, I was interested in what this meant, although, I have to tell you, I was a few years out of undergrad and I hadn’t studied psychology at all in college. I had taken one psychology class and it was actually the only class I got a C in. I didn’t really like it, because even though I’m fascinated by people, and I’ve always been really interested in people and what they’re doing and what makes them tick … I knew that about myself. I found psychology to be boring, because it seemed like it was just putting jargony names to things that were obvious.

I hadn’t really been that interested in psychology, but when I encountered the Enneagram, it totally blew my mind, because when I read the description of my type, type 2, it said so many things about me that I knew to be true, and I had always just thought that typologies couldn’t really tell you that much. They were necessarily superficial and not that interesting, but when I read the Enneagram, it opened my mind to a whole world of possibilities, in terms of, what psychology could really be about.

One of the things I really loved about the Enneagram, was that it was also connected to spirituality. You can study the Enneagram purely as a psychological tool, or even applying it in business, or a spiritual tool, or both at the same time. Or, you could just use it in a very practical way, and that’s one of the things that I like about the Enneagram.

But, when I started using it to study myself, I just learned so much about myself so quickly. For instance, not only did I read things about myself that I knew to be true, like I tend to focus on relationships, and I’m very concerned with whether or not people like me, and gaining approval from others. These are things I knew to be true and the way it described it, helped me understand it even more, but it also pointed out some of my blindspots. Like it said, twos can tend to be manipulative.

When I first read that, of course it stung. It felt like, “Ew. That doesn’t sound like a good thing,” and that’s important to know about the Enneagram, is that it highlights what you know to be true about yourself, what you can recognize. But also, things that are more in the shadow. Things that you may not want to own about yourself. Certainly, I wanted to have a good image, part of being a two, and I didn’t want to see myself as something like being manipulative, which sounded so negative.

But, when I really read more about what that meant and what I really thought more, and reflected more about what it meant, being manipulative basically means moving things around behind the scenes to get what you want in an indirect way. And, twos do that because it’s hard for us to ask for what we need in a direct way.

So, this was an example of something really big that I learned about the way I was operating in the world, that I didn’t really see and own before, and so there were many insights that flowed after that, that I learned about myself from learning and studying my Enneagram type description.

ANTONIA DODGE: So it sounds like one of the things that came from your introduction to Enneagram and figuring out your type, was there were elements of your personality that maybe you hadn’t yet owned, but when it was put in front of you as part of your personality type, not only were you able to own it, but you were also able to work with it, because when you first read the word manipulative, you had an instant reaction against it. You were like-


ANTONIA DODGE: “Oh, I don’t want that to be me,” but then over time-


ANTONIA DODGE: When you held it, you went, “Okay. What is exactly is being manipulative? What is the purpose of it?”

Then it became less personal. You were able to hold it outside yourself and study it and figure out what was going on, and then be able to, I’m assuming, work with it. Like, understand when it’s contextually appropriate-


ANTONIA DODGE: Or understand when you actually need to ask for what you want, and that’s actually the challenge. Manipulation is just a strategy to deal with the real challenge.

So, it gave you this whole world of language around something that was going on for you, that now because you had language around it, you had the ability to do something about it.

BEATRICE: Right. It helped me understand an aspect about myself that I had been totally blind to, and I think, some of these traits that we have, they’re only really negative when we’re blind to them.

I got defensive around being called manipulative, but once I really thought deeply about what that was about, I could have a lot of compassion for myself around the fact that I tended to manipulate situations to get what I want and how because it’s really hard for me to be rejected. That’s the most painful thing in the world.

So asking someone directly for something or telling someone that you want to have a relationship with them is a vulnerable thing, so not only did I learn a lot about a pattern I had that I just didn’t see, and again, when we don’t see our patterns, that’s when they can be dangerous, both for ourselves and for our relationships.

But, I could also understand myself at a much deeper level, because I could understand my motivation and where that came from. Again, a lot of our motivations come from these early survival strategies and they help us get along in the world, so there’s a reason why were doing them.

As a therapist, often times people will talk about something they do when I’m working with them and they’ll be very negative about themselves. They’ll say, “Oh, it’s really bad that I’m doing this.” And, what I always try to do is just open up some space to, “Can we reflect and think about why you’re doing that? Because there’s a reason why you’re doing it.” I’m always saying, “There’s a reason why and if you can understand the reason why, you can have a lot more compassion for yourself, and then you can have a lot more consciousness about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it and how you want to do it.”

And so, I think that’s what the Enneagram helped me do and it launched me on a personal growth journey, at a level, which I really hadn’t been doing and I wasn’t really thinking about that, you know, working on myself and doing inner work. I was in my twenties. I was just trying to find my way in the world. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, but the Enneagram really helped me to know myself better.

Which was the beginning. I got into therapy eventually and used the Enneagram as a therapeutic tool. As a client in therapy, to learn more about myself and to understand that, for one thing, when I got into therapy and was looking at myself and using the fact that I was a two, as a big help, what I realized is I was really not in touch with myself.

Twos tend to lack a sense of self, because they are so focused on others. And again, their strengths lie in meeting others needs and tuning into others, aligning with others, creating connections, being liked, but what I wasn’t very connected to was my own feelings and my own needs, like what I wanted to do in the world. So the Enneagram was a huge support to me in finding my own path, learning who I was and finding my career. Which ended up being becoming a psychotherapist and working with the Enneagram.

JOEL MARK WITT: You use the Enneagram in your practice with your clients? People you work with?

BEATRICE: Right. Yeah, I got certified to teach the Enneagram in the mid ’90s through the Helen Palmer, David Daniels Enneagram school. And, as I learned … I was actually finishing a dissertation at the time, when I was getting into therapy and doing all of this work, and struggling to finish the dissertation and that was for a degree in mass media and communication.

When I finished my dissertation, I immediately decided to go back to school to study psychology because I had gotten so interested in the Enneagram and all it had to teach me and I became … On the one hand, I really saw how my path in life, what really did it for me was engaging with people and helping people understand themselves the way that I was learning to understand myself, and allowing people to gain all that you can gain from inner work and the way I was.

Also, I think it was intellectually fascinating, but it was also around the idea that I wanted other people to have the same huge insights that I had from the Enneagram. So I wanted to be someone who was helping bring the tool out in the world, so that other people could have the growth insights that I had through it.

JOEL MARK WITT: This is why I love working with you. I think this is one of the keys, here. That if you’re watching, I want you to pay attention to. Is this is not a … I mean, there’s a lot of theory here that Beatrice talks about in this program, but there’s a lot of practical things that through her work as a therapist, through her work with people, coaching. It allows you to calibrate, to get feedback from real people in real life, through various walks of life.

As Beatrice has worked with people, she’s given them recommendations based on her understanding of the Enneagram and then she’s seen those people implement that in their lives, and the feedback of the results they got, she’s been able to calibrate her advice.

I think one of the great things about partnering with you, Beatrice, is you come to the table with a lot of real world practical advice, tips, and tools that people can actually apply to themselves in a pretty significant way. So, I’m very excited about that. I think that’s really a powerful part that I’d like to take notice of if you’re watching.

ANTONIA DODGE: Yeah, and it sounds like you, kind of, almost lucked out by having somebody who was part of what established the popularity of Enneagram in the United States, having him sit across the table from you and go, “I think I know your type.”

BEATRICE: Yes. I feel really lucky that I stumbled into the Enneagram study and I had such an amazing man being my first mentor and my teacher and such a great example of how one could use the Enneagram.

I remember the moment I decided to be a therapist was watching the way he facilitated panels of people talking about their type, and the gentle way that he would use the Enneagram to help ask just the right question or challenge someone just a little bit, in a way that they were ready for, to open a whole new world of understanding.

He was a big inspiration and it’s been really great to be in a community where he was one of the leaders and he just passed away, by the way, so that’s feels really special to talk him now.

ANTONIA DODGE: Absolutely. I didn’t have that same experience, I went between three different types for probably two years, before I eventually settled on my type.


ANTONIA DODGE: Thank you for sharing your experience, by the way. I can tell that-

BEATRICE: Yeah. Sure.

ANTONIA DODGE: It’s hitting you. Yeah.

BEATRICE: Yeah. It’s moving. And, I’m glad you’re saying that about the fact that you had a longer journey to finding your type, because I think that’s really common. I think, I had the experience of someone said, “I think you’re this type,” and I read about it and I’m like, “I am that type,” but not everyone comes to their type that way, and so I think that’s a really important piece.

I think we’re gonna talk about how you find your type in a later piece, but it’s important to say at the outset that there are different … Sometimes, it’s a little bit more of a journey to finding your type.

ANTONIA DODGE: Absolutely. I actually think we should talk about it in the next video.


ANTONIA DODGE: So, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna wrap up this video. Thank you for sharing your experiences, especially with David Daniels, and I know that something that is, kinda hits you right now, so I appreciate you being willing to share it and be vulnerable.

What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna talk about if you’re more like me and didn’t have an established person sit across the table from you and diagnose your type, if you’re somebody who it took a while or it was a journey, we’ll talk a little bit about some principles for discovering your type and maybe some of the reasons why it’s difficult to find your type.

So, stick with us and meet us at the next video.