What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is an ancient, powerful typing system. The origins of the Enneagram are somewhat elusive, and some sources say that it finds its root in Christianity. The background is not quite unimportant in comparison to what it is and the wealth of information it can provide to anyone interested in gaining more knowledge about themselves.
It is a tool that can provide a wealth of information about an individual. The Enneagram is a diagram that identifies 9 distinct points. Each point is representative of a type of individual. So, an individual is associated with a type/point on the Enneagram.
As a tool, it can be used to gain self-knowledge and offers valuable insight into understanding our behavior and the behavior of those around us.
Ennea is the Greek word for nine, so Enneagram is a Greek word roughly meaning “a nine diagram.” The Enneagram is a nine-pointed system that represents nine distinct types. Each type highlights what it is unique to a person in how they relate to themselves, to others, and to the world.
Knowing your type and those of your family members can be insightful because it will explain so much about yourself and them that you would not have understood.
In the book Wisdom of the Enneagram authors, Don Riso and Russ Hudson use the following sentences to describe what happens to an individual when they discover their type – “Waves of relief and embarrassment, of elation and chagrin, are likely to sweep over you. Things that have always known unconsciously about yourself will suddenly become clear, and life patterns will emerge.“
Every individual carries the essential and typical traits of their type. As people have adopted the Enneagram and built it in depth, it has become a powerful psycho-spiritual typing system.
The Enneagram helps the individual not only understand the traits of their type but also adds additional spiritual dimensions of personal growth like no other system.
There are many aspects that the Enneagram offers that make it wise psychology and a path to genuine spirituality.
The Enneagram is a tool that can guide an individual in understanding their deeper motivations more accurately. It can help us insight into our lives that can, in turn, help us make better decisions and view ourselves from a place of objectivity and truth.
The Enneagram offers an individual a starting point in terms of understanding how they view or approach life by default, left to their own devices. In a way, it can be considered as the egoic/false self way of approaching life. It reveals our defensive living and how we go about getting our perceived needs met.
Each individual has a personality and it is the orientation that determines how the person perceives the world. With personality, we as humans use coping strategies that help us navigate life and make the world more understandable, as well as how we get our needs met. These fundamental needs include the need to feel loved, seen, understood, cared for and secure. The personality is related to the familiar patterns we exhibit that lead to the roles we play. These include the role of parent, teacher, friend, mother, father, boss, etc. So, in the language of the Enneagram, each person has a type that is closely tied to their personality which defines their innate needs, drives, and motivations. Knowing one’s type can help people understand their personality (as a starting point), and explain many of their behaviors in terms of why they do what they do. Every individual has a personality.
Type: The Number on the Enneagram
The number on the Enneagram is referred to as the type. The type reveals habits and patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. It also reveals our default plans, the reactive patterns as well as underlying motives and beliefs which are largely hidden from conscious awareness. It is the box we choose to live out of in order to make sense of the world. While each of us is born with a type we are not only our type. The strength and power of the this system are that it offers the starting point (our type) and many additional ways we can grow and expand beyond our type and our reactive patterns. The growth is towards the True Self, the true embodiment of Divine Essence.
The Figure below is the Enneagram. The names assigned to the nine points are based on Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson’s naming convention.
In the table below, the different names that the types are identified by are mentioned. Different teachers of the Enneagram use different names and this table is a handy reference.
|Enneagram Institute||Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition||Enneagram in the Healing Tradition|
|Type One||The Reformer||Perfectionist||Achiever|
|Type Two||The Helper||Giver||Helper|
|Type Three||The Achiever/Status Seeker||Performer||Succeeder|
|Type Four||The Individualist/Artist||Tragic Romantic||Individualist|
|Type Five||The Investigator / Thinker||Observer||Observer|
|Type Six||The Loyalist||Troopers/Devil’s Advocate||Guardian|
|Type Seven||The Enthusiast / Generalist||Epicure||Dreamer|
|Type Eight||The Challenger / Leader||Boss||Confronter|
|Type Nine||The Peacemaker||Mediator||Preservationist|
Points of Growth and Stress
Going beyond the type, the Enneagram also indicates how an individual might grow and become stressed and how that would be manifested. Arrows connect various numbers that reveal where we go when we are stressed and when we are secure.
In the figure above there is the Enneagram of Growth and beside it is the Enneagram of Stress. Each point in the growth moves towards another point on the Enneagram. For example, point 1 in growth will display the characteristics of a person who is a healthy 7. A person of type 7 in growth will display the healthy traits of type 5. So the path of growth follows the order 1-7-5-8-2-4-1 and 3-6-9-3. The path of growth is also referred to as the path of integration.
In the figure above there is the Enneagram of Stress. Each point in the growth moves towards unhealthy aspects of another point on the Enneagram. For example, point 1 in stress will take on unhealthy traits of type 4. Type 4 in stress will take on unhealthy traits of type 2 and so on. The path of stress is referred to as the path of disintegration.
It is important to note that we don’t become the number on the path of integration/disintegration. In integration, the secure aspects of the number on the path become available to the type.
We can further consider that both points reveal ways that a person can become flexible, evolve and become adaptive.
Each type has two wings that are adjacent to it. Type 1 has wings of 9 and 2. Type 2 has wings- 1 and 3, and so on. Wings complement the type as the second-side of a person’s personality. The basic type, however, dominates our overall personality.
Normally, there is a strong dominant wing and at other times it is more of a balance. It can be said that the less developed wing is a place of potential integration and exploration.
Two people can have the same personality type and have very different personalities depending on the wing and the degree to which the wing influences the type.
The wing influence can be heavy, moderate or light. A heavy influence indicates the wing is very pronounced and strong. With a moderate influence, the basic type dominates, however, the wing’s influence can be detected. With the light influence, the influence can be barely detected. So, depending on the wing and its degree of influence a person will come across different.
Core Wound of each Type
According to the Enneagram, each type has a core wound around which they build their personality. The core wound is the one thing that keeps us living in egocentricity.
This wound reveals our defensive stance and how we do whatever it takes to barricade ourselves from being hurt. The type and the core wound are set from birth and we live it till we work on ourselves sufficiently to open ourselves up to live in integration.
The work of integration is a crucial part of learning and growing using the Enneagram. According to the work of Enneagram experts, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, there are three levels of growth – Unhealthy, Average and Healthy.
The Different Intelligence Centers of the Enneagram
There are three Intelligence centers that form the basis of how we as humans perceive ourselves in relation to ourselves and the world around us. These Intelligence centers are the Body (instinctive or gut), Heart (feeling or emotion) and the Head (mind, thinking or rational).
The types of the Enneagram are each associated with one Intelligence Center. In the table below are the different intelligence Centers and their associated types.
|Body||xxxxxxxxxxxxxx||1, 8, 9|
|Heart||2, 3, 4|
|Head||5, 6, 7|
The Enneagram Types
To learn more about each type select the link
Who will find the Enneagram Useful?
The short answer is everyone. It is one of the most self-revealing tools available. Why would one want to know their type? Because it not only offers knowledge about oneself, but it also provides various facets that impact an individual other than the traits of their type.
In addition to being very beneficial to oneself, it also offers excellent value in understanding relationships. Parents can better understand their children. People can understand their spouses. People can understand their co-workers. Managers can understand their team members.
In my personal experience, knowing my Enneagram type was one of the most self-revealing things I had ever come across. It helped me understand my personality and insecurities through a lens like no other. Knowing my Enneagram type helped me to realize that many of the vulnerabilities that I experienced were stemming from my unique Enneagram type. It explained why certain situations made me so unstable, while others remained unaffected in similar situations.