If you have not yet discovered the wonder of the Enneagram, buckle up my friend. The Enneagram is a personality typing system made up of nine interrelated personality types, all stemming from unique motivations and drives. It is likely that everyone will relate in some way to each of the types, but one should stand out as the primary. Experts agree that we are born with one dominant type, though it seems to be a mixture of nature and nurture.
I first learned about the Enneagram about five years ago, and it has progressively impacted my life in some profound ways. Self-awareness for starters. Hypothetically, one might began to understand where one’s passive aggressive tendencies originate (cough cough). Also, I find I have a greater understanding and grace for the people in my life. Where before I might have (internally) punished someone for a frustrating response or habit, now I can see a little clearer from where things stem.
Here’s a little overview for the beginners out there. Please know that we are by no means experts on the Enneagram, not even close. We are learning, and realizing how helpful and useful it can be. So, of course, we wanted to share this model with our fellow MossyBrainers and dive deeper together!
A Few Basics
Each type belongs to a particular triad or center – gut or instinctive (8,9,1), heart (2,3,4), and head (5,6,7). In reality, we need all three centers to be fully integrated and awake to ourselves. The center that includes our personality type is our dominant center. With the three types in each center, there is a dominant emotional theme. For the gut triad the emotion is anger, for the heart triad it is shame, and for the head triad- fear. Each type in the triad has a different way of coping with said emotion.
Every person has one dominant type and a wing, which means you lean into one of the adjacent numbers (i.e. If you’re a One, your wing would be either Nine or Two). The wings are like another side to our personality and help bring balance. Some people are so firmly entrenched in their types, they don’t display much of either wing. Some people have one very strong wing and relate immensely to that number. Others have two strong wings and are quite balanced with both. Usually it is one wing for your personality type but any of these can occur.
Integration and Disintegration
Each type disintegrates in times of stress to a different number and integrates in times of growth to another number. This is where things can feel complicated, but once you see it, it’s easier to understand (See diagram below).
I’ll quickly lay out the paths: type One will integrate to a Seven in times of growth and disintegrate to a Four in times of stress. Twos will integrate to a Four and disintegrate to an Eight. Type Three will integrate to a Six and disintegrate to a Nine. Fours will integrate to a One and disintegrate to a Two. An integrating Five goes to Eight and disintegrating Five goes to Seven. Type Six will integrate to a Nine and disintegrate to a Three. Sevens will integrate to a Five and disintegrate to a One under stress. An integrating Eight goes to a Two and a disintegrating Eight goes to a Five. Type Nine will integrate to Type Three and disintegrate to a Type Six.
There are levels of health that will affect how the number is developed in each individual; our personality will not be static, but will reflect how we change over time. We are often in a state of flux as to our level of health – unhealthy, average, or healthy. As you learn more about it, it becomes more clear, but the well of Enneagram information goes very deep. There is so much to it, and as time passes, I uncover more and more wisdom. Now let’s get into the different types!
The Nine Types of the Enneagram
Type One, The Perfectionist
Ones are the improvers of the Enneagram; not only do they see what needs to be improved in the world around them, but also within themselves. They are logical, ethical, and principled, with very high standards. (Ahem – I don’t like to point out others faults, but Ones can also be perfectionistic and self-righteous).
Type Two, The Helper
Twos are interpersonal, warm, and generous. They focus on the needs of others, while also needing to be loved and appreciated for all the help they offer. (I hate to say this; Twos can also be incredibly manipulative and possessive).
Type Three, The Achiever
Threes are success-oriented, driven, charming, and image-conscious. They are productive and ambitious, and will try to avoid failure at all costs. (This is getting awkward, so I’m just going to come right out and say it- Threes can be narcissistic and deceitful).
Type Four, The Romantic
Fours are creative and sensitive, with a need to be unique and to find meaning in everything. They desire to avoid the ordinary and be one-of-a-kind. (I really love Fours. But, just to give a full picture, they can also be self-absorbed and temperamental).
Type Five, The Investigator
Fives are the thinkers of the Enneagram. They need to know and understand the world around them, and tend to be independent and incredibly insightful. (Um. Isolated and cynical. Sorry Fives!)
Type Six, The Loyalist
Sixes are responsible, committed, likable, and security-conscious. They are faithful and dependable and want to feel taken care of. (The word on the street is that Sixes can also be anxious and suspicious. Supposedly.)
Type Seven, The Enthusiast
Sevens are fun-loving, spontaneous, optimistic, and accomplished. They are always planning their next adventure and would like to avoid pain and suffering. (One of my favorite people ever is a Seven, so it pains me to say that Sevens can also be scattered and excessive. Love you, Honey).
Type Eight, The Challenger
Eights are powerful, assertive, resourceful, and in-control. They need to be strong and self-reliant, and to avoid weakness. (I would never say this, but some say Eights can be aggressive and combative. That doesn’t seem right to me, though. You’re perfectly delightful, Eights!).
Type Nine, The Peacemaker
Nines are receptive, reassuring, easy-going, and stable. They need to keep the peace and avoid conflict. (As a Nine, and as we are known for being self-effacing, I would have to agree that we can also be complacent and resigned. Whatever).
I found an incredibly helpful book for me was The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It contains a comprehensive overview of the Enneagram and is a great place to start the journey of understanding. There is also an accompanying podcast that interviews various people of each type, quite entertaining and informative! An online resource I use that is a wealth of information is The Enneagram Institute.
The Enneagram is a useful tool to help us understand ourselves and each other, but it’s not the end-all-be-all or an excuse to pigeonhole people. There is a mystery to the wisdom of the Enneagram, and it offers compassion not only to others, but to ourselves. It helps us understand our motivations, but encourages us not to stay trapped in our struggles and habits. The Enneagram can offer illumination and grace for how each of us relates to the world, and help us discover who we were created to be.
Share your Enneagram journey with us and let us know what number you are by emailing us or commenting below!