We are all trying to make sense of the world around us. We analyze events, categorize people, and try to predict their future behavior. This need for control has led to the creation of a subfield in psychology called Personality Psychology. This field of psychology studies the building blocks of personality. In an effort to quantify findings, several tests have been developed to analyze people and categorize them according to certain personality traits. Josie has been intrigued by the popularity of one such test called the Enneagram, and has decided to review this test for her Senior Thesis.
The Enneagram and the Dark Side of Typifying the Soul
by Josie Shurba
Question: What is your thesis about?
Josie: My thesis explores a popular personality typing system, the Enneagram, and whether it is an edifying or reliable source of information for Christians to use.
Question: How did you narrow down your topic?
Josie: I noticed that a lot of Christians today have a fascination with personality tests, particularly the Enneagram, because it has a lot of spirituality surrounding it. I thought unpacking this topic could be really helpful to believers who are interested in the Enneagram because it can be pretty daunting to explore the nitty gritty aspects of this personlaity theory since a lot of the real details can't just be found on the first page of Google.
Question: What was the hardest part of writing your thesis?
Josie: The hardest part was definitely getting the confidence to sit down and write about my topic. I had a lot of anxiety about it at first, because it's pretty intimidating to take on such a popular and potentially controversial topic. I started off really unsure as to whether what I was defending was actually correct, but over time and with a lot of research (and prayer!), I really felt that the Lord was calling me to take a stand on this topic.
Question: What surprised you most about the process or the findings?
Josie: I think the thing that most surprised me about what I've been researching was how a lot of Christian authors leave out the more controversial details about the Enneagram. The Enneagram is pretty spiritual (not necessarily in a good way), and a lot of books either don't go into detail or completely leave the creepier mystical-type details out. You would think that would be something they would mention! However, it almost felt like that was getting waved off as if it weren't a big deal.
Question: What resource was most helpful or made the biggest impact on your research or conclusion?
Josie: I think the resource that helped me the most was The Road Back to You, by Ian Cron. It takes the opposite view of the enneagram that I do, but that actually made it even more helpful. It helped me form a better argument!
Question: How will your findings impact your life personally?
Josie: It definitely changed the way I look at personality as a whole. It's not something you can just put a label on. Everyone is unique and people change often and that's a good thing!
Question: How does faith inform your conclusion?
Josie: The Enneagram focused primarily on me and how I can be a better person, when as believers, our desire should be to grow in Christlikeness. As I pursue Jesus, the Lord does the changing.
Question: How did you experience the process of writing the thesis?
Josie: If I'm being entirely honest, I was absolutely terrified at the beginning. I've never written such a long paper over such a long period of time, and getting up in front of people and presenting is really scary for me. The whole process seemed almost impossible at first, but over the course of this year I've learned so much, and if I could do it all again I would! I feel far more prepared for college after this.
Question: How are you preparing for the defense?
Josie: At this point, I'm just finishing up my paper and making sure that I know all of my facts backwards and forwards. The defense is pretty intimidating, so I want to have my thoughts as organized as I can!
Question: What advice do you have for next year's seniors?
Josie: Don't let yourself fall behind! This may seem sort of obvious, but procrastination is your worst enemy when it comes to this paper. Pace yourself, write for 30 minutes every night or something like that.
Question: The social distancing mandated by the COVID-19 response has changed the way we have traditionally defended our theses. Did this cause you to adjust your delivery of your defense at all?
Josie: Doing the thesis defense over Zoom definitely took some of the anxiety of presenting out of the project. However, it was also a little disappointing at first, since I was expecting a formal defense. Thankfully, I don't think that giving my presentation over Zoom will affect my delivery too much!
Interested in more? Check out these Senior Thesis previews: Compassion and Discretion: Evangelical Principles for Charitable Giving, Stabilizing the Pendulum: Finding the Balance between Collectivism and Individualism, Heads In The Clouds: The Growing Threat Of Vaping In Our Modern World
Josie Shurba has attended Clapham since her Freshman year of high school. She enjoys painting, spending time with friends and family, and anything to do with coffee. Josie will be attending Cedarville University in the fall, and studying Graphic Design.