Have you heard about the Enneagram?
Do you feel a difficulty in understanding the triggers and demanding behaviors of others, as well as how you may be projecting your own shadow onto someone else? There’s a powerful tool for understanding these behaviours called the Enneagram.
The Enneagram is a typology system that describes human personality as a number of interconnected personality types. It’s a 3 x 3 arrangement of nine personality types in three key centers. Beyond the basic nine personality types, the system grows much more complex and includes 27 different subtypes as well as three key “centers” focused on action, feeling, and thinking. The diagram is made up of three elements. The outer part is made up of a circle, which then contains a triangle and an irregular hexagon. There are three types in the Instinctive Center, three in the Feeling Center, and three in the Thinking Center. Each Center consists of three personality types that have in common the assets and liabilities of that Center. For example, personality type Four has unique strengths and liabilities involving its feelings, which is why it’s in the Feeling Center. Likewise, type Eight’s assets and liabilities involve its relationship to its instinctual drives and it’s in the Instinctive Center, and so forth for all nine personality types.
The inclusion of each type in its Center isn’t arbitrary. Each type results from a particular relationship with a cluster of issues that characterize that Center. Simply put, these issues revolve around a powerful, largely unconscious emotional response to the loss of contact with the core of the self. In the Instinctive Center, the emotion is Anger or Rage. In the Feeling Center, the emotion is Shame, and in the Thinking Center, it is Fear. Of course, all nine types contain all three of these emotions, but in each Center, the personalities of the types are particularly affected by that Center’s emotional theme. Thus, each type has a particular way of coping with the dominant emotion of its Center.
We can briefly see what this means by examining each type.
1. Enneagram Type 1 – Strict Perfectionist
Enneagram Ones value principles and integrity, and are driven by the motivational need to be good and right. Their name comes from their striving for perfection and self-control. Integrity and quality will also be important to them. Ones tend to appreciate standards, principles and structure. At their best, Ones are tolerant, self-accepting and serene, offering dignity and discernment to themselves and the world around them.
2. Enneagram Type 2 – Considerate Helper
Enneagram Twos have a motivational need to be liked and appreciated. Twos value relationships and as a result kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice are important to them. Twos strive to make the world a more loving place, primarily by offering support and attention to those they care about. At their best, Twos are unconditionally supportive, able to practise self-care and offer the gift of humility to themselves and the world around them.
3. Enneagram Type 3 – Competitive Achiever
Enneagram Threes are likely to value achievement and want to be the best. As a result, efficiency, results, recognition and image are very important to them. Threes strive for success in their chosen field and tend to be highly flexible and willing to adapt to achieve their goals. At their best, others will experience Threes as driven, hard-working, principled and receptive, offering the gifts of hope and integrity to the world.
4. Enneagram Type 4 – Intense Creative
Enneagram Fours have the motivational need to express their uniqueness and be authentic. Fours value individualism and as a result, feelings, self-expression and purpose will be important to them. They are quite romantic at heart and appreciate beauty and creating meaning for themselves and for others. At their best, Fours are experienced as sensitive yet content. They offer the gift of equanimity and authenticity to themselves and the world.
5. Enneagram Type 5 – Quiet Specialist. Enneagram Fives have the motivational need to know and understand. Fives value making sense of the world around them and, as a result, objectivity and knowledge are important to them. Fives strive for independence, appreciate privacy and tend to conserve their resources to ensure future independence. At their best, others will experience Fives as visionary and mindful. They offer the gift of non-attachment to themselves and the world.
6. Enneagram Type 6 – Loyal Sceptic
Enneagram Sixes value security and belonging, as this style stems from the motivational need to be safe and prepared. As a result, loyalty and trust are important to Sixes, who strive to be responsible and prepared at all times. At their best, Sixes are courageous and connected to a sense of inner knowing, offering the gift of devotion and trust to themselves and the world around them.
7. Enneagram Type 7 – Enthusiastic Visionary
Enneagram Sevens have the motivational need to experience life to the fullest and avoid pain. Sevens value a sense of freedom and focus on optimism, being inspired and taking opportunities as they present themselves. Sevens approach life as an adventure and appreciate being playful and spontaneous. At their best, others will experience Sevens as content and serene, when they’re able to embrace sobriety and become present to themselves and the world around them.
8. Enneagram Type 8 – Active Controller
Enneagram Eights have a motivational need to be strong, independent, decisive and avoid showing vulnerability. They value having a sense of control and being direct and impactful. Eights love challenges and will embody a need for justice which enables them to protect others. Healthy Eights are experienced by others as strong, deeply caring and approachable. They offer the gift of innocence to themselves and the world around them when they align with the flow of reality.
9. Enneagram Type 9 – Adaptive Peacemaker
Enneagram Nines are motivated by a need to be settled and in harmony with the world and, as a result, being accommodating and accepting will be important to them. They strive for a peaceful existence and appreciate stability, preferring to avoid conflict. At their best, Nines are experienced as self-aware and vibrant. They offer the gift of right, sustainable action to themselves and the world around them.
Although the Enneagram is probably the most open-ended and dynamic of typologies, this doesn’t imply that the Enneagram can say all there is to say about human beings. Individuals are understandable only up to a certain point beyond which they remain mysterious and unpredictable. Thus, while there can be no simple explanations for persons, it’s still possible to say something true about them. For instance, you may test as a 7, or the Enthusiast, but also have a high score in a 6, the Loyalist. This is called a “wing.” Your wing is an adjacent number on the diagram that influences your dominant type.
Enneagram has an effect on all the five components of emotional intelligence, which are self-awareness, self‐regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Enneagram helps us identify our own and other people’s patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, building healthier, more stable, and more loving relationships with great accuracy.