Have you heard of the Enneagram? Utilised in modern psychology and with roots in Universal wisdom drawn from many ancient traditions, the Enneagram is a geometric figure that maps out the nine fundamental personality types. As a non-denominational concentration of human knowledge, it cuts across all boundaries, offering individuals access to deeper levels of understanding of self, shadow self, and others.
I first became interested in it many years ago when I was in a relationship with a previous boyfriend who knew a lot about it. It offered deep insights into my motivations and behaviours and really helped me overcome some of the unhealthy aspects of my perfectionism and achievement orientation. It also proved a valuable companion as we attempted to navigate some of the complications of our partnership.
In 2017, by chance, (as one of my own retreats got cancelled at the last minute) I ended up attending a six-day Enneagram retreat at the Esalen Institute in California with Russ Hudson, one of the leading lights on the subject. When he explained that the Enneagram was initially designed to allow people to overcome the barriers to meditation I knew I was in the right place. Although I wasn’t expecting it – I learned a huge amount from Russ about mindfulness and his wise teachings have stayed with me ever since.
Back to the Enneagram – here is the symbol:
Each point on the circle corresponds to one of nine types, so read the descriptions and choose one which best describes you. Each type has strengths and weaknesses, none being better than any of the others. If you are torn between several, pick the one that has most resonance today or ask for help from people who know you well.
ENNEAGRAM PERSONALITY TYPES
1. THE REFORMER
The Reformer type has a keen sense of duty and feels the burden of seeing things through where others fail. Ones are rational, principled, self-contained, conscientious and ethical, with a powerful sense of right and wrong. They are always trying to improve things, whilst afraid of errors. They can suffer from resentment and impatience as well as perfectionism and whilst they strive to act with integrity, they fear being evil, wrong, and corrupt.
2. THE HELPER
The Helper type seeks to take care of the pain and suffering of the world by tending to their friends, family, and connections with abandon. Twos are generous friendly sincere empathetic and kind almost to a fault. Beneath the people-pleasing exterior, they may have a fear of being unwanted and unworthy of love. As a result, they often struggle to express their needs and compensate for this by drawing attention to their over-giving with pride.
3. THE ACHIEVER
The Achiever type prizes success and being seen to do well. Threes are confident, attractive, and charming individuals who have likely risen to the top of their field. Whilst appearing diplomatic and poised they can be over sensitive to what others think of them and suffer from overworking and ruthless competitiveness. Threes desire to be acknowledged as worthwhile whilst fearing the opposite, that they are worthless.
Not often found in corporations, the Individualist type is absorbed in depth, mystery, beauty, and intimacy. Fours experience the world through their emotions, and may mistake the reactivity of their heart for truth. Whilst over-sensitive, melancholy, artistic, self-absorbed, temperamental, and self-conscious they can be brilliantly creative and inspired. They desire being significant in some way whilst fearing the opposite.
5. THE INVESTIGATOR
The Investigator type is brainy, innovative, intense, solitary, eccentric, and secretive. Fives have a powerful curiosity which often leads to seeing the world in new ways – they can be visionary pioneers, whilst sometimes getting lost in their own thoughts, preoccupations, ideas, and innovations. They fear being useless and incapable whilst hoping to be effective and competent.
6. THE TROUBLESHOOTER
The Troubleshooter has a ‘yes…but’ mindset. Sixes are responsible, courageous, self-reliant, security-focussed, anxious, and suspicious. Excellent at foreseeing problems and engaging others in solutions, they can also be defensive and evasive, struggling with stress and low confidence. Instead of a single inner critic, they have an inner committee of critics. They desire safety, security, and support and fear being left alone without guidance.
7. THE ENTHUSIAST
The Enthusiast type is always busy looking for new and exciting adventures and experiences. Fun-loving, spontaneous, scatty, and extroverted, Sevens can over-commit becoming distracted and exhausted by their own disorganised choices. Often impatient, and impulsive, they fear being deprived of something and seek a deeper level of satisfaction and contentment.
8. THE LEADER OR CHALLENGER
The Leader type powerfully and boldly takes up space. Just standing silently in the room, their energy declares – I am here. Eights can be confident, assertive, confrontational, and dominating. They exert control over others and can be perceived as intimidating. Healthy eights exhibit heroism, magnanimously inspiring others to greatness. They desire controlling their own destiny and fear being controlled and harmed by others.
9. THE PEACEMAKER
The Peacemaker type is agreeable, pleasant, creative, receptive, trusting, stable, and reassuring. Nines dislike conflict and work hard to keep the peace, sometimes bending too far to the needs of others. Suffering from stubbornness and inertia, they can also harbour a deep unexpressed anger which scares them. When faced with problems, their desire to smooth them over, can lead to glossing over important details.
If you would like to take your exploration further, complete this sentence:
Today I resonate most with Enneagram Type __, the archetype of The ____ because I notice that although I am ____ I can be _____ and I am working towards being ____.
Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson
The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson
The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul Paperback by Sandra Maitri
By Neil Seligman
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