Personality vs Essence
When I coach I find it helpful to explain the terms Personality and Essence. A vital part of my process is helping my clients reconnect with their Essence. This does not mean that the Personality is something bad we have to work hard to fix or get rid of. We need to remember the truth however; our personality is something we have and our Essence is who we really are at our core. It is your home – your true being, underneath any mood, self-image, belief or behaviour.
The Enneagram system clarifies the relationship between Essence and Personality. The Essence of each Enneagram type is it’s own sacred expression or unique facet of Source/Divine Love. Essence is what we are born with – before we assume personalities. During infancy, before we even learn to speak, we begin to loose contact with our Essence, our true nature. This loss causes each of the nine personality types to develop nine different strategies to compensate and try to recreate our experience of Essence. These strategies form our personalities.
Our personalities continue to develop in response to the external world, based on the Enneagram blueprint we’ve been imprinted with. A healthy development of our personality is important, as we need it to function, survive and thrive. Many of us become so wholly identified with the Personality however, that we forget our authentic nature, our Essence. The more we disconnected from our Essence the more distorted our strategies to compensate become and the more we suffer. Even if we’re not always aware of our suffering, our lives run on automatic patterns based on recycled impressions from the past rather than a fresh engagement with the present.
When I began my journey to self-discovery I thought my personality was all that there was to me. Worse yet, I figured that I had lost out in the personality-lottery and ended up with a lesser version. I felt self-conscious, flawed and found myself constantly comparing myself to others; longing for my life to be different. So I desperately wanted to fix what was wrong with me and at the same time I didn’t really believe that changing was possible for me. I also thought that there was some sort of magic key I had to find to unlock what was blocked in me so I could become more like I “should” be.
I still sometimes get caught up in my old personality patterns of comparing, fantasizing and longing, but instead of getting stuck dwelling in them they have become red flags that help me uncover and shed new levels of limiting beliefs. I have also gotten to know my true Essence intimately and I have learned tools to return back home to the truth of who I am.
When we are in touch with our Essence, we feel alive, connected, peaceful and at one with everything. We can only experience our Essence when we are truly present in the moment. In other words, when we experience Presence, it is our true nature that is present. Our personality is not involved in presence as it is based on memory and habit.
Knowing all this, we can better understand that our self-development practice is not to get kill off our Personality, but to integrate Essence and Personality more intimately. When our Essence has a more active role in our experience and a more central orientation in our lives, we can let go of habitual patterns and strategies that no longer serve us. Ideally, our sense of self comes from Essence, our authentic home.