The Enneagram is a detailed tool which helps individuals recognise personality traits in themselves and others. As a result, it also allows us to understand the whys and wherefores of our own behaviour as well as those of friends, families and even strangers. Shonagh Walker dives into the Enneagram and the nine personality types.
The Eneagram is a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. The Enneagram details nine personality types and it maps each of these types on a nine-pointed diagram, which helps to illustrate how the different personality types relate to one another.
By understanding this, it is thought that we can better understand our own thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions, as well as those of others. In this regard, we can better resolve conflict and live a more balanced, well rounded life.
Is The Enneagram Legitimate?
The Enneagram Institute was created in 1997 by the late Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. It was formed to further the research and development of the Enneagram by Claudio Naranjo, who was a Chilean-born psychiatrist of Arabic/Moorish, Spanish and Jewish descent. Claudio was considered a pioneer in integrating psychotherapy and the spiritual traditions. He was one principal developer of the Enneagram of Personality theories, which is said to be one of the most powerful and insightful tools for understanding ourselves and others. So yes, as with most forms of psychotherapy or healing, The Enneagram is perfectly legitimate.
What Is It All About?
At its core, the Enneagram aims to help us to see and accept ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.
Don Richard Riso said, “Self-acceptance is a way of viewing oneself compassionately, without condemnation or justification. “It is a starting point in life which makes other things possible.It celebrates the fullness of joy of being alive and of being who we are.”
Such wise words and seemingly so simple. Why then, is it often so hard for us to embrace ourselves lovingly, flaws and all? We are all perfectly imperfect, and we all deserve love from others and importantly, from ourselves. This is what the Enneagram tries to achieve, and on a personal level, The Enneagram can help individuals reach their true potential.
“The Enneagram allows us to tap into our strengths and supports us to acknowledge and work with any weaknesses,” explains Gestalt therapist, counsellor and practitioner of the Enneagram, Lesley McPherson.
“By understanding the Enneagram and the various traits of each personality type, we build better relationships and may have improved capacity to resolve conflicts in a more peaceful manner. It’s a simple concept to grasp initially, but the more you delve into it, the deeper the complexity and the greater the benefits.
“At its core, The Enneagram is about embracing ourselves lovingly, flaws and all,” Lesley continues. “We are all perfectly imperfect and we all deserve love from others and importantly, from ourselves. Trying to find things about yourself each day that you are proud of, or that you really love, can be challenging at times. Training ourselves to recognise and be with our positive traits can be done.”
What Enneagram Personality Type Are You?
The Enneagram outlines nine basic personality types, each with its own set of distinct characteristics. It is not unusual to see a little of yourself in all nine of the personality types, however one type will typically stand out as being closest to yourself. This is your basic (or home) personality type. Reading the descriptions for each type and identifying key words that best describe you can be a hint but that is not definitive.
Once you’ve determined which type you are, you can use the Enneagram as a map of self-discovery and personal growth. The Enneagram will help you work out why you think, feel and behave in certain ways, based on your fears and desires.
The nine personality types are named The Reformer (Type One), The Helper (Type Two), The Achiever (Type Three), The Individualist (Type Four), The Investigator (Type Five), The Loyalist (Type Six), The Enthusiast (Type Seven), The Challenger (Type Eight) and The Peacemaker (Type Nine). Each personality type comes with its own strengths, weaknesses, desires and fears. Let’s look at a snapshot of each one.
Type One, The Reformer
Type ones are known to be rational and idealistic. They are conscientious and ethical, with a strong moral compass. Type Ones have a solid sense of right and wrong. They are honest and dependable and are advocates for change. They continuously strive to improve the world around them. They maintain high standards and are highly organised. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience.
“When out of balance, they can become critical, resentful and impatient,” says Lesley. “We encourage any Enneagram Type to practice self care and introduce harmony into their lives, to help brings things back to balance. If this seems impossible, of course we do suggest reaching out to friends, family or even a professional.”
Type Two, The Helper
Twos are kind, warm, empathic and generous. They are self-sacrificing and love to help others, but they can also become possessive and manipulative and may neglect their own needs. Twos have a very warm, likeable nature and generally find it easy to connect with other people. They place a lot of emphasis on personal and professional relationships. They have a strong sense of empathy and love to support others.
“Type Twos can however become resentful when they are ‘burnt out’ from helping other people as much as they do,” comments Lesley. “We encourage them to always try to put their needs ahead of others, as you simply cannot pour from an empty jug!”
Type Three, The Achiever
Threes are ambitious, pragmatic and highly driven. They like to feel valuable and are image-conscious.
“When Type Threes fall into the ‘average’ or ‘unhealthy’, they may become overly concerned about what others think of them,” says Lesley. “Again, it is important that they learn techniques that remind them how valuable they truly are and that they become less concerned of the opinions of others.”
Type Four, The Individualist
Fours are sensitive and introspective, as well as being honest and creative. Creativity is key to an Enneagram Type Four. They often produce unique and original work and aren’t overly concerned by the expectations of others, or conforming to society in general.
“Type Fours can however occasionally withhold from others, especially when they feel vulnerable,” says Lesley. “They may also become moody and self-conscious.”
“At their best, Fours have the ability to connect deeply with their own emotions. They display empathy and are typically sensitive to the feelings of others. They are pretty self-aware when it comes to their own shortcomings and are imaginative and deep-thinking.”
Type Five, The Investigator
Type fives are intense, smart and insightful. They have strong levels of concentration and are able to develop complex ideas.
“Fives are extremely curious and can often become pioneers in their fields of work or interest,” says Lesley. “They are incredibly independent and have clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives. They have the capacity to share their wisdom and discoveries generously with others.”
On the flip side, they can become detached from others, hoarding their knowledge, highly-strung and even eccentric.
Type Six, The Loyalist
Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible and trustworthy. They like to feel secure and supported by those around them. They can also be cautious, indecisive, defiant and rebellious.
“Enneagram Type Six people are typically great trouble-shooters,” explains Lesley. “They have the ability to foresee potential problems and as such work well with others to find solutions. Type Sixes like to have a predictable, safe environment both at work and home. They may at times be plagued with self doubt and suspicion, so they have a need to feel valued, reassured and supported. Type Six individuals can be cautious and indecisive.”
Type Seven, The Enthusiast
Sevens are extroverted, spontaneous and fun-loving. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, which can result in them feeling over-extended and scattered. They can also be impatient and impulsive.
“Enneagram Type Seven people have a child-like enthusiasm for everything they do,” explains Lesley. “They are generally very upbeat, with a positive outlook on life. They are capable of multi-tasking and managing many different projects and activities. Type Sevens are usually very well liked personally and professionally. Their positive energy is infectious and they’re fun to be around.
“However, this ‘work hard, play hard’ nature can see them burn out easily. Sevens have an inherently restless nature, which can make them impatient and impulsive. At their worst, they may give in to cravings for stimulants, alcohol and drugs. Sevens often struggle with the limitations, boundaries and routines of everyday life.”
Type Eight, The Challenger
Type eights are powerful, confident, decisive and strong. They like to feel in control of situations, but can sometimes also be ego-centric, domineering and confrontational. They are protective, resourceful and very direct in their approach. They like to take charge and are natural leaders. However, they frequently clash with authority and dislike being told what to do. Impatient with rules and regulations, they prefer to do things their own way.
“At their best, Type Eights are self-confident, strong, capable and assertive,” says Lesley. “They can be highly successful and also a great support in helping others achieve their goals. Type Eights are often generous and inspirational, and can be a champion for worthy causes. The downside of this type often sees them being labelled a “bully’ and more often that not their passion is misunderstood as aggression.””
Type Nine, The Peacemaker
Enneagram Type Nines are easy-going, stable, accepting and trusting. They are creative and optimistic, but can self-sacrifice in order to keep the peace. Their chief desire is peace of mind while their fears are of loss and separation.
“Nines value their inner peace and harmony above all else,” says Lesley. “They veer away from conflict and emotional upsets as much as possible. They are typically calm, trusting, stable and easy to be around. Nines like everything to go smoothly and can bring people together and heal rifts.”
As ‘Peacemakers’, Type Nines can see many different sides to any issue.
“They can be complacent and humble and will often go the extra mile to avoid rocking the boat,” explains Lesley. “They’re appreciative of little things others do for them, and the simple pleasures in life. Type Nines are accepting of other people and have a healing, calming influence. They need to be careful that they don’t compromise themselves to minimise problems and appease others or avoid conflict. Type Nines may even say yes to things they don’t want to do, thus compromising themselves and their integrity. It is important they stay mindful of this or they can quickly become out of balance.”
How do I work out which type I am?
I paid a small $12 fee to take the quiz on The Enneagram Institute website, because I wanted to learn about my personality type quickly. I discovered I am a Type Two, also known as ‘The Helper”.
Now, there is really no need to pay a fee to work out your Enneagram Type, you can simply study and research the descriptions of each personality type and work out which one you identify most closely with.
The more you read about The Enneagram, the more you realise it can also guide and support you in recognising when your behaviour may become negative or at times even dangerous.
The Enneagram runs on a behaviour scale for each Personality Type of ‘Healthy’, ‘Average’ and ‘Unhealthy”.
Interestingly, when reading the outcome fo the test I took, I recognised past behaviours that were indeed unhealthy or dangerous. I remember looking back at these times with a feeling of unease – a surefire indicator that I wasn’t functioning from a place of balance and things needed to shift to bring me back to healthy behaviour.
I have only recently discovered The Enneagram in the past few years, but the more I delve into it, the more it resonates with me. It has allowed me to understand why others behave in the way they do and thus has given me insight into- and the ability to cope with – situations that may have otherwise erupted into conflict or feelings of despair.
The Enneagram is by no means a religion, a cult, or any kind of mind control. It is simply a peaceful tool that allows us to diffuse potentially harmful behaviour to ourselves or others. Likewise, it doesn’t have to permeate every minute of every day. You can simply draw on it in times of upset of strife to help bring a sense of balance and clarity to any given situation.