The Enneagram and Neuroscience: Growing New Neural Pathways

About 6 years ago, I began my training and certification in a coaching framework called Conversational Intelligence®, exploring the neuroscience of conversation and its impact on trust and transformation. Through this training, I learned a bit about the ever evolving science of brain development. When I started the training, there were five areas of the brain. When I completed the certification about 3 years later, another brain area had been identified, the gut brain.

As I began my recent coaching certification in the iEQ9 Integrative Enneagram tool, I was intrigued to see that neuroscience has offered evidence to validate the key elements of the Enneagram framework. Early Enneagram theorists argued for the existence of three centers of intelligence (head, heart, gut). Now, neuroscience has proven that we have multiple centers in our brain that influence how our personality develops and how the brain responds to change and pressure.

By understanding the brain, we can interpret behavior more accurately and therefore build better strategies to help shift how we behave. This deeper understanding allows coaches to better support clients on their journey of change. For example, an Enneagram Types’ worldview and defense mechanisms are neurological patterns that are formed through developmental experiences in childhood that create a comfort zone. These patterns direct our “focus of attention” to specific aspects of our world and life. This wiring underpins our personality, forming a set of deep beliefs, motivations and filters intended to keep us safe.

Growing New Neural Pathways

Image Credit: Integrative9.com

We also know that the brain is capable of incredible adaptation and change, called neuroplasticity, the ability to rewire, adapt and respond differently within a given situation. This ability to transform allows the brain to grow new neural pathways, which can break through old patterns and defenses to unlock personal development.  

In coaching, we support clients to make changes (otherwise, they wouldn’t hire a coach)! Often at first, the brain will bring forward a set of defenses and triggers to avoid changing. If a client is more aware of the triggers and defense patterns, understanding the deeply programmed neurological responses, they are more able to pause, take back control from unconscious reaction to move forward with intentional action.

Through exploring the Enneagram, clients become more aware of their pathways, assumptions and how they may be limiting themselves.They can step back from the knee-jerk reactions, addressing their shadow areas to move toward a greater integration of their full self. 

The Enneagram illuminates strategies for clients to stretch and release themselves by exploring “Wings and Lines”  to shift to a new level of awareness, grow new neural pathways and establish a more integrated range of behavioral responses. 

Check out my blog series below on the Enneagram, or get in touch for coaching on how to begin the journey of moving toward your full potential.

Blog Series

Creating a Championship Team with the Enneagram

The Enneagram: Nine Points of View and Core Motivation

The Enneagram: Connecting Ancient Wisdom to Global Transformation

The Enneagram and Neuroscience: Growing New Neural Pathways