Enneagram of Personality

“Enneagram of Personality,” or Enneagram, is a modern form of depth psychology. The Scientology-like image conjured by the word “Enneagram” has kept it away from the mainstream. While its origins are esoteric, it doesn’t require you to be spiritual at all or take anything on faith. It’s just a theory about how people work, one that regularly surprises people with its incisiveness, depth, and complexity. Believe it when you see it, not because I told you to! An enneagram is the symbol it uses to illustrate its structure. Some therapists and other professionals use it to better understand patients without ever using the terms out loud.

Enneagram theory uses personality types, but the purpose of them isn’t to define who you are. It’s to reveal how you limit who you are. Instead of using the types to delineate people who think like you, you’re encouraged to understand the roots of other mindsets and your own, and thereby loosen your own perspective and see things in new ways.
The symbol of the Enneagram predates the system of personality types and is used to illustrate their relationship to each other.

Wings
Your type can be thought of as a point on the circle. Maybe you’re right around the Type 9 marker, or maybe you’re almost in Type 1 territory. In other words, the types’ issues are interrelated. At that point would be a “9 with a strong 1 wing.” People often abbreviate this as “9w1.” You might notice a significant wing in yourself or a particular person, or you might not. Either way is okay.

Inner Lines
While wings are completely part of you and your core type, types connected by the lines in the middle of the circle are loose connections. If you are, for example, a Type 1, the line going to Type 7 doesn’t mean you have more Type 7 qualities than some other type does. If anything, these are rejected qualities that sometimes emerge or can be accessed, but most of the time are in opposition. My view is along the lines of Voice Dialogue: “Whenever we identify with a primary self then on the other side, equal and opposite, is its opposite. We called this the disowned self.” In Voice Dialogue, “learn[ing] to stand between the opposites (of the primary and disowned selves) clearly feeling both at the same time” is key to transformation.

Read about Enneagram type 1, The Perfectionist

Read about Enneagram type 2, The Helper

Read about Enneagram type 3, The Achiever

Read about Enneagram type 4, The Individualist

Read about Enneagram type 5, The Observer

Read about Enneagram type 6, The Loyalist

Read about Enneagram type 7, The Enthusiast

Read about Enneagram type 8, The Challenger

Read about Enneagram type 9, The Peacemaker

A note about the temptation to judge types as “better” or “worse”
It’s not a surprise that people do this. After all, it’s a result of the same process by which our personalities differentiate. Something in us, not necessarily conscious, has decided that, in some way, some ways to be are preferable. A habit of writing off some sets of priorities helps us focus and specialize. Conversely, a lionized view of particular qualities helps us develop them. However, the dangers of evaluating and ranking types are:
1) Viewing yourself as a type you would like to be rather than a type you are.
2) Using type as a shorthand to form opinions about others.
3) When value judgments begin to color a communal perception, as can be seen in some Enneagram communities.
4) Being unhappy that you can’t change your type to one you would prefer.

An Enneagram type is a set of obstacles we face and an orientation we developed in response to them. Unlike what you might find in Myers-Briggs typology material, it’s not a set of skills or cognitive abilities. These obstacles can teach strengths, but it’s a loose relationship. As an illustration, have a look at this article arguing that Einstein was a 9w1. It’s healthy for personalities to undergo a process of differentiation, but it’s also healthy to integrate what we’ve developed with what we’ve ignored. You may eventually feel a desire to integrate the perspective of types you had disdained.

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