For many people, their initial understanding of the nine Enneagram types comes from reading or listening to descriptions of the nine types. Although this offers a clue as to what to look for, it's not until we hear the types describe their actual experience in their own words that we truly begin to know the types by bringing them to life.
The first and most obvious way to understand the actual experience of an Enneagram type is to observe yourself. However, not everything about you is a reflection of type. The challenge is in discerning what represents your primary type and what represents something else. This provides an opportunity to compare the many descriptions of your type to your actual experience to determine what is true of your type and what is conjecture or generalization. The major difficulty here comes if you mistype yourself and think your experience is representative of a type when it's not.
The panel approach and variations of it are a popular way to experience all nine types. The panel approach simply involves several people of the same type sharing their type experience (usually led by a moderator who asks questions of the panel that are relevant to type). If you don't have access to live panels, you may be able to find video or audio recordings of panels for sale or available on the Internet. Here are some things to remain aware of however.
- Some panels will consist of one or more individuals that have mistyped themselves (there's also the opposite where you think they've mistyped themselves but they're actually revealing aspects of the type you're not familiar with).
- The moderator of the panel may, not necessarily consciously, steer the questioning toward his or her own understanding of the type (the panel can sometimes seem more a demonstration of preconceived characteristics of the types than an exploration to reveal something new).
- Some panel members who have been working with the Enneagram for a while find characteristics in their personality that are supposed to be there even though they may not be there (e.g., a type 6 that thinks he's supposed to be fearful but isn't might attribute it to being counter-phobic).
- Some experiences shared by panel members may have more to do with another dynamic besides type (e.g., instinct, wing type, etc.).
The Internet offers additional opportunites for experiencing type though video clips, audio clips, written transcripts, and other posts. Many of the video clips are available here. You can learn from both people who know their type and those who do not. People who know their type may discuss how they experience their type or simply write about experiences that offer insight into their type (the caveat here is that they may have mistyped themselves). People who have been typed correctly, though may not know anything about the Enneagram types (e.g., famous types), may reveal type by sharing their experiences in interviews, writings, performances, etc.