What Is the Enneagram?
The initial conceptions and ideas surrounding the Enneagram date back to ancient times and are thought to come from many of the world’s ancient wisdom traditions. Of course, this was a long time before modern psychology and the study of human personality. The modern Enneagram used today is based on universal human tendencies that have been observed by many people throughout history but was codified into its modern version in the 1950s by Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo.
The Enneagram diagram is designed from sacred geometry and includes a circle, equilateral triangle, and hexad. The Enneagram is made up of a series of interconnected points, which create a “nine-point circle.” Each adjacent number is connected to the previous and next by lines, linking all nine traits visually. This pattern shows types relate to the other types through movement on the diagram.
Today, when we speak of the Enneagram, we are referring to various ways we learn about or study these nine types of the illustration. Commonly, this diagram is described as the “Enneagram of Personality,” with each of the 9 points having distinct personality characteristics. These distinctions include but are not limited to ways of behaving, feeling, or thinking.
At present, we use the Enneagram as a map of the nine different personality types with arrows and numbers identifying directions and relationships between the nine types. Each of the nine personality types has its own characteristics, although a common belief is that each of us has some characteristics of all the types. Each type also has its own strengths and weaknesses. It can be a helpful tool in navigating relationships, personal growth, and spirituality. This blog post will explore what the Enneagram is and how it works for you and provide resources on how to take your first steps into making use of this powerful map.
Hold on! You may find out more about yourself than you ever thought possible!
The Enneagram Defined
The Enneagram is a personality type system that explains how individuals perceive the environment, experience and manage emotions, develop strategies, and analyze or make sense of the world. Studying the Enneagram helps us better understand the nine personalities and how the types interact with one another.
The Nine Enneagram Types
Please note that various Enneagram teachers use many names, but we have included a couple for each type.
– type one: the perfectionist or reformer
– type two: the helper or giver
– type three: the achiever or performer
– type four: the individualist or romantic
– type five: the investigator or observer
– type six: the loyalist or loyal skeptic
– type seven: the enthusiast or epicure
– type eight: the challenger or boss
– type nine: the peacemaker or mediator
Each person has a dominant personality, that is, their Enneagram Type they most relate to. Although people can have aspects of many enneagram types within them, only one is their dominant type. Each type demonstrates patterns of how they react and behave in various situations in life, how they both identify and handle emotions, and how they develop strategies or manage thoughts. Each Enneagram type has both assets and challenges. Knowing one’s Enneagram type can help one identify both positive and challenging traits and ways to work on those traits.
The Enneagram works on multiple levels: personal development (how people deal with change), psychological (what motivates a person), physical (the way that all people experience life in their body), spiritual (how we identify and experience our relationship to something we are all a part of) and others. The Enneagram also helps us understand other people and navigate social situations and interpersonal dynamics.
The following are statements that describe what each of the nine types is striving for.
Type 1: Perfectionist “I must be perfect”
Type 2: Helper “I must make others happy”
Type 3: Achiever “I must be successful”
Type 4: Individualist “I must be special”
Type 5: Investigator “I must understand everything”
Type 6: Loyalist “I must be loyal”
Type 7: Enthusiast “I must experience life to the fullest”
Type 8: Challenger “I must prove I am strong”
Type 9: Peacemaker “I must avoid conflict”
*********When someone first identifies their Enneagram type, it can bring clarity and self-awareness. Knowing your Enneagram type is a way to bring greater clarity into everyday life about yourself. i.e., this is how my type behaves, feels, and thinks. This is just the beginning, though. Landing on your type may expose patterns that you come to see as holding you back from feeling better about yourself, keeping you from improving relationships, and perhaps even exposing blind spots and the way others trigger you.
How to Find Your Enneagram Type
Trying to find your Enneagram type is a journey that takes longer for some people than for others. We only have one Enneagram type, although we may have aspects of many types on the Enneagram.
When you’re thinking about finding your Enneagram type, there are many assessments; some of them are short, some are very long, some are handwritten, many of which you can take online. Some of them are complimentary. Some of them cost money, some give you lengthy reports, and some give you a short synopsis of your type. I’m not going to recommend a specific assessment tool, but I will tell you that there is great richness in exploring your type. So many things influence your type, your childhood experiences, spiritually, what you might have come here to accomplish, i.e., your life’s purpose.
Each type has essential qualities that we have lost sight of after birth as we try to navigate being human by developing a personality. Personality is developed to manage life, our individual life, and life circumstances. This includes how we suit up and put on a set of armor to defend ourselves against a perceived threat. Or the glasses that we look through as we gaze out into the world. Of course, what we see may not look the same as what others see.
If you are trying to find your type and having difficulty, I encourage you to take more than one assessment, especially if you think you may have been mistyped or come out with several characteristics of many types. Try on that type. Walk around in that type for a day or two. See what it feels like. Because when you have actually landed in your type, and you really resonate with it, it is not just a snapshot of what you’re doing at this present point in your life. Your type is something that you have carried with you all along.
All people of the same type don’t always look alike because we each have accumulated differing life experiences. Some of us have come away from those experiences changed or learned to express our types in healthier ways than others. One good tip when taking a Personality Typing inventory, like the Enneagram, if you are older, is to consider what you were like in your early 20s, mid-20s, or maybe early 30s. This is generally what the assessments use when attempting to determine the type. Many of the type assessment tools have been set within the average development of that particular type.
Why Knowing Your Enneagram Type Is Important
Knowing your Enneagram type can have a huge impact on both your personal and professional life by allowing you to:
– better understand yourself (your core motivations, thought processes, feelings, and patterns of behavior)
– strengthen relationships (by understanding what other people seek in their close relationships; it is easier to appreciate where they are coming from and why they behave the way that they do)
– reduce stress (recognizing how you react in challenging situations provides valuable insight into how to avoid future difficulties)
– decide if a job or career is right for you (you may learn what activities and environments you enjoy and those that you do not)
– avoid the wrong job or career (knowing what types of activities and work environments to avoid is just as important as finding out what you should be doing)
For many years, people have misunderstood who they are, what motivates them, and why they behave a certain way. No wonder so much unnecessary stress has been created in their lives!
Perhaps you can see how knowing your Enneagram type can help you lay the foundation for deeper exploration to understand yourself better. There are both personal and interpersonal gifts in exploring the Enneagram. It is likely to help with your professional development too.
Knowing yourself and others offer great relevance for you in your workplace.
For example, the first step to improving your performance at work is acknowledging areas that need improvement. An individual’s Enneagram type makes up a large part of who they are, so understanding it can help recognize both strengths and weaknesses. If someone knows their primary motivations, thought processes, and behaviors, they can play to their strengths while improving the aspects of themselves that need work. So knowing your Enneagram type is important for healthy relationships or personal development and professional as well.
Changing Your Enneagram Type
Is it possible to change your Enneagram type? It is difficult to change your type, and attempts at doing so are often met with cynicism from other members of the Enneagram community. What you can do, though, is become more aware of how your type influences your behavior and, over time, begin choosing ways of behaving that help reduces its more negative effects in your life. In this way, it’s possible to be more in control of your type rather than having it control you.
Learn More About The Enneagram
It’s time to take your first steps towards understanding the Enneagram. The more you learn about yourself, the better able you will understand and respect others around you. The Enneagram is a powerful tool. It has helped me understand myself and others better and more effectively navigate all relationships in my life. The more knowledge you have about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, etc., the easier it will be for you to make choices that align with who you are at your core.
This ancient personality system is a map that can help lead us on our spiritual journey through life with greater peace and joy in all we do. I invite you to explore the Enneagram further by listening to my podcast series Enneagram Conversations, where I cover what the Enneagram is, how it works for each of us differently, its history as well as resources available online for those who want to learn more or even begin working with an Enneagram coach like me. Listen to the podcast here!
The Origin of the Enneagram
The term Enneagram is derived from the Greek words Ennea, which means “nine,” and Gramma, which means “something drawn or written.” The origin of the system lies in ancient Greek philosophy as described by Plato and Aristotle, but was first popularized in the modern West by the book written by Oscar Ichazo, called “The Enneagram” (1983). The system has been explained in numerous books and articles since then, most notably A. H. Almaas (‘The Enneagram’ 1991), Claudio Naranjo (‘Psychology of the Enneagram’ 1971/2002), Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson (‘The Enneagram’ 1995), Helen Palmer (‘The Enneagram’ 1992) and Helen Rowland, whose articles have been collected in her book “What’s My Type?”