I recently read a book about different personality types called, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, by Ian Cron. It is a book that uses an ancient personality typing system to try to categorize people according to 9 major personality types. You can read it for free at archive.org or buy it on Amazon.
Cron mixes Christian spirituality into the personality type system. He claims that by understanding your personality type, you can understand your true self and live the life God intended you to live.
I’m not a fan of personality typing in general, but I decided to read the book because several people in my family recommended it to me.
After reading the book, I’m still not a fan.
The problem I see with personality typing is that it is far too narrow of a framework for understanding the vast differences in people. Those who seek to categorize and label tend to typecast people. Once the expert (usually a psychologist), gives a person a label, they then use that label going forward to try to understand everything about the person.
Whether it is Jordan Peterson’s “scientific” five type personality system, Gretchen Rubin’s four types, or some other system, they all fail to capture the extreme differences between people and why we act in particular ways.
Those who insist on categorizing humanity according to personality types cannot accept that people have idiosyncratic reasons for acting as they do. We will never understand why a person behaves the way he does unless we spend a lot of time getting to know him and his particular way of viewing the world.
Getting to know a person is difficult and takes a lot of time. Categorizing people is quick and easy. Sure, you can cram people into silos and pretend that gives you understanding. But, we need to remember that the map is not the territory.
Even the best map cannot tell you what the territory is really like. You must be on the ground, analyzing the details for long periods to get to know a place. How much more so is it with understanding a human being with all our complexities, wants, dreams, and desires?
There aren’t just nine personality types — there are infinite personalities! There are as many personalities as there are people who’ve lived.
When we categorize people, we forget that a person doesn’t have a personality; he chooses a personality. We choose to behave in specific ways because we’ve learned that those ways of behaving fit us best. We’ve decided to move through the world in a way that suits us. We can choose a different way of living if we so desire.
Change is never easy, but as humans with free will, we can adopt new ways of living and thinking if we want to.
Personality typing systems do not accept the idea that humans have free will. They see our personalities as unchanging. I believe people have an incredible amount of ability to change who they are if they so desire.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Personality?
At the beginning of each chapter, Cron gives a list of questions for the reader to consider. If the reader answers “yes” to most of these questions, that is his personality type. Cron then explains the differences between each personality type’s healthy, average, and unhealthy versions.
I reject entirely the idea that a personality can be healthy or unhealthy.
This way of thinking is based on the modern idea that health must be everyone’s ultimate aim in life. In today’s therapeutic society, being unhealthy is the ultimate sin. Or, in today’s scientistic language, living in a way others classify as unhealthy might even count as a bonafide mental disease.
But what if a person finds meaning and excitement in the thrill of free solo climbing? For those unfamiliar, free solo climbing is climbing rock faces without a rope.
The solo climber, Alex Hannold, believes that life isn’t about living as long as possible. He climbs huge rock faces with just a bag of chalk and climbing shoes as his only aid.
For Hannold, a life of adventure is more important than being healthy.
My Final Take
The book is littered with references to pop-psychologist Brenè Brown. This is not my cup of tea.
The one good thing about the book is that it gives the reader a glimpse into the thinking of different people. While it only highlights nine different people, or perhaps more if you count the blended “wing” personalities, it still gives you an idea of how other people think.
For those who find it difficult to contemplate other people’s points of view, this book might help you understand that not everyone sees the world as you do.