by Liat Rubin and Rachel Salisbury
According to the Enneagram, a psychological theory that claims everyone can be sorted into nine different personality types, a type one personality is giving, charitable, and outward-looking. For example, Gandhi was a type one. Los Gatos mother Susan Olesek, founder of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), classifies herself in the type one category, and her life’s work is a testament to the qualities this personality type exhibits. El Gato News had the opportunity to hear Olesek speak on Jan. 28 at the Los Gatos Theater, where Olesek delivered a presentation on her work with the Enneagram in prison systems.
Watch an interview with Olesek:
The Enneagram system has helped people discover themselves and deal with the aspects of their personality that they do not understand. By introducing these concepts to prisoners, Olesek believes that prisoners will be able to understand the nature of and motivation behind their crimes. On the Enneagram Prison Project website, Olesek attests, “I have personally witnessed the effect of self-awareness training on the incarcerated. I know in my heart this is the only path for all of us, as a collective society that wants a better future for all involved.”
While many other personality-sorting methods exist, and there is considerable doubt surrounding all systems, the work that Olesek has been doing in prisons supersedes any misgivings regarding the Enneagram theory.
The EPP Facebook page posted a quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” that reflects their mission: to rehabilitate prisoners so that they can be productive members of society upon release, hopefully decreasing recidivism. In an effort to help prisoners rehabilitate and come to terms with their crimes, the EPP teaches classes on the Enneagram within prisons.
While working in prisons, Olesek “became downright convinced that the benefit of self-understanding through the lens of the Enneagram is a critical missing piece for real criminal reform.”
The Enneagram also helped Olesek through personal difficulties. One of Olesek’s motivations for teaching the Enneagram, especially to younger audiences, is her desire to have had the Enneagram at her disposal when she was younger.
Olesek elaborated in an interview with El Gato News, “My mother committed suicide when I was young, and I think that’s so formative for me… I believed that it was because of me.” Once she discovered the Enneagram, she felt as if she had been given a map to understanding her personality and has since been able to understand her emotional responses.
To help out with the EPP through donation or volunteering, or to learn about the EPP and the Enneagram theory behind it, check out the links below. Olesek will be leading Enneagram workshops on Sat., Mar. 1 at the Adisson-Penzak JCC and on Sat. Mar. 15 at the History Club of Los Gatos.