Knowing yourself – and others

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says that ‘we cannot really love without understanding.’ This of course involves understanding and loving ourselves as well as others.

I have been intrigued by the subject of human personality for many years. Everything from psychology to spirituality, and even serious astrology can involve thinking about the ways we feel about ourselves, as well as how we react to each other and the daily situations of life. Success in life and relationships usually means bringing the very best of ourselves into family, friendships, work environments and romantic partnerships.

Personality forms partly out of habits and patterns of thought and behaviour collected through early stages of life. These can become entrenched to the point that change to habits such as fears, desires  or prejudices can only really happen by careful mindfulness towards self and others.

Through one of the recent lockdowns, I watched a series of lectures on personality by psychology professor Jordan Peterson. He told his students to approach his course (and life) as ‘an engineer of the human spirit – your own and others.’ I must admit I got goose bumps when I heard that phrase, but that may be just me! He went on to suggest that ‘a course in personality is a course in applied wisdom.’ Bringing such wisdom into everyday life may just help with our relationships, or in areas such as conflict resolution.

There are many useful practices to help us with understanding personality, my own favourite is the Enneagram (which means figure of nine) which at its basic level, explores nine key personality types. Enneagram experts recommend approaching the whole area of human personality being mindful of the three Cs. Here they are…

  1. Much better than judgement towards ourselves or others, curiosity leads us to wonder why we all think, feel and act the way we do. It also causes us to explore other ways of being and reacting.
  2. An obvious one really, but treating people and ourselves with patience and kindness is again surely a better way to be than critical.

That’s it then. Oh! Wait. I nearly forgot number 3. It’s easy to forget.

  1. Remember not to approach people (especially yourself) overseriously. Have a few little laughs when you catch yourself reacting in predictable ways according to old habits and patterns.

Enjoy the self-awareness journey.

Peace and blessings


Warwick Lydiate is a long standing Sangha House member and also a regular speaker at The Sangha House on his speciality subject the Enneagram