Formerly incarcerated individuals engage in a dialogue with high school students about their shared experience studying the Enneagram
Jeff Limon had envisioned a “perfect life,” but those plans were derailed when he began struggling in graduate school. Eventually he dropped out, became deeply depressed, and turned to drugs to numb the pain. His addiction ultimately landed him in Santa Clara County Jail, which is where he first learned about the Enneagram — an incisive psychological tool that teaches people how to identify entrenched patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that underlie our actions.
While in prison, Limon became a student of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), a nonprofit dedicated to serving the incarcerated and their potential future. Limon became an Ambassador for EPP upon his release, and on Thursday, January 23, he and other formerly incarcerated individuals who learned the Enneagram in prison spoke at Los Gatos High School (LGHS) alongside students participating in the Enneagram Teen Project (ETP) — a pilot program of EPP.
“I truly believe that had I discovered the Enneagram in my youth, the ensuing insight I would have gained from it would have better prepared me to navigate the trials and trappings of my life. The wisdom I have gained through studying the Enneagram has allowed me to make sense of and be at peace with my 17 years of addiction and all its associated tragedies,” says Limon. “Imagine being able to appreciate and be proud of the best things you like about yourself, while at the same time accepting and having compassion toward and the ability to work on what you find most challenging. My study of the Enneagram has afforded me this.”
During Thursday’s event, high school students navigating the stresses of youth found common ground with men and women who have served years in prison, ran with gangs, battled decades of addiction, and still found freedom — on the inside — before they even got out of prison.
“The Enneagram has allowed me to see the parts of me that have grown from all the things I have endured. It’s also taught me to accept every part of me and to better understand how I react and behave in situations and to learn to love all of myself as much as I love my strengths. Because once we accept ourselves, we can share that feeling of love with others,” says LGHS student Sara, an ETP participant.
Funded through a grant from Los Gatos High School’s New Millennium Fund, the Enneagram Teen Project is introducing self-awareness education to more than 200 high school juniors and seniors through a modified version of EPP’s program.
For the last decade, EPP Founder Susan Olesek has been on a mission to help people understand why we do what we do through the Enneagram Prison Project. She’s also an LGHS parent, which inspired her to launch the Enneagram Teen Project.
“EPP’s vision has always been to free people — all over the world — from the prisons of our own making. Enneagram Teen Project emerged from this vast vision quite organically,” says Olesek. “Personality is a survival strategy that starts in childhood. Equipping youth with the tools to foster a deeper sense of self-connection, self-compassion and self-awareness is a necessary progression to helping adults who seek to understand what’s been driving them since they were kids. As a pilot project of EPP, ETP is advancing dialogue around social justice issues related to mass incarceration in our country by empowering the next generation with the most important thing there is: self-knowing.”
ABOUT THE ENNEAGRAM AND EPP
The Enneagram is a profound psychological tool that acts as a roadmap to our ego-structures and has been gaining pop-culture status in recent years. This tool cuts across cultures and languages, as well as ages.
EPP offers self-awareness training programs to those in jails and prisons from California to Minnesota, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and France with unprecedented success. Learn more about EPP at www.enneagramprisonproject.org