The Enneagram is a test used to understand and describe personality that has been around since the 1900’s—though it is certainly becoming trendier lately. I wrote a paper on a book called The Road Back to You, by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, during grad school. It peaked my interest in learning more about the different types and how the test can be applied in our daily lives. I frequently make reference to the Enneagram with clients, and even talk about it when I’m having discussions about personality with friends. There are a few different facets to understand about the Enneagram:
The Enneagram includes 9 types, each with their own characteristic strengths and weaknesses. Type 1, or The Reformer, tends to be rational, ethical, and perfectionistic while Type 2, or The Helper, tends to be empathetic, sincere, and people-pleasing. A Type 3, or The Achiever, tends to be ambitious, energetic, and image-conscious and Type 4, or The Individualist, tends to be creative, sensitive, and introspective. An Enneagram Type 5, or The Investigator, tends to be innovative, perceptive, and cerebral and a Type 6, or The Loyalist, tends to be responsible, committed, and engaging. A Type 7, or The Enthusiast, tends to be optimistic, spontaneous, and excitable while Type 8, or The Challenger, tends to be assertive, protective, and decisive. Finally, a Type 9, or The Peacemaker, tends to be easygoing, stable, and reassuring.
According to the Enneagram, each of us instinctually tends toward one of these types, though our personality characteristics likely overlap into several. The idea is that we are each born with a dominant type and this simply continues to develop as we grow into ourselves—our type does not change. That being said, all characteristics of our type will not apply to us at all times because we are continuing to grow and change. We likely embody different degrees of the “healthy” and “unhealthy” traits of our type at different times throughout our lives. For example, I am a Type 4 and I can certainly tend toward moodiness and over-indulgence when I’m in an unhealthy place mentally and emotionally. However, in my healthier times I can be incredibly self-aware and much more even-tempered.
The 9 Enneagram types are separated into 3 categories or “centers”. A center describes the driving force that is at the root of our type. Types 8, 9, and 1 are at the Instinctual Center, meaning they are driven primarily by their gut and anger reactions. The Types 2, 3, and 4 are at the Feeling Center, meaning they are driven primarily by emotion and a sense of shame. And Types 5, 6, and 7 are at the Thinking Center, meaning they are driven primarily by reasoning and a sense of fear. This is an interesting way of categorizing the types, because each type within the 3 centers are vastly different and interpret and apply these driving forces completely differently within the same category.
As a Type 4, I obviously prefer to think that I am a completely unique individual—I tend to reject the idea that all of us can be placed cleanly into 9 categories. Thankfully, this is where “wings” come into play, giving many of us a more accurate look into the unique characteristics we possess. A person’s wing would be one of the two types that is adjacent to their main type.
For example, I am a 4 wing 3, meaning that I am a Type 4 who also has some strong Type 3 characteristics. A 4w3 tends to be more extroverted, competitive and driven than other Type 4s, which explains my lack of identification with the typical description of a Type 4 being more reserved.
Although no personality test or evaluation should be taken as absolute truth, I do find them to be fun and helpful tools to use both in my work with clients and in my interpersonal relationships. For even more in-depth and the most accurate information about the Enneagram, visit www.enneagraminstitute.com.