An Introduction to the Enneagram – Part One

The Enneagram is a diagnostic tool of one’s emotional outlook on life. It is a nine sided figure in a particular system of analysis that represents the spectrum of possible personality types. It will not cure one’s problems, but may help point out their underlying fixations.

The numbers 1 to 9 on the periphery of the diagram can be seen as a set of nine distinct personality types with each number denoting one type:

1 – The Reformer:
Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic

2 – The Helper:
Type Two is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing and possessive

3 – The Achiever:
Type Three is adaptable, excelling, driven and image-conscious

4 – The Individualist:
Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed and temperamental

5 – The Investigator:
Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive and isolated

6 – The Loyalist:
Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious and suspicious

7 – The Enthusiast:
Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive and scattered

8 – The Challenger:
Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational

9 – The Peacemaker:
Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, complacent and resigned

The nine points on the circumference are also connected with other numbers by the inner lines of the Enneagram. The inner lines connect the types in a sequence that denotes what each type will do under different conditions. This will be explained next month in An Introduction to the Enneagram –Part Two.

Ones – The aggressive ideal-seeker. The underlying motivation of the 1 is to be RIGHT and to avoid being WRONG. Reformers are the most compulsively rational of the types and the perfectionist is another name for this type. The average 1 is very self-critical and also critical of others when they expect the same high standards of others that they have imposed on themselves. Ones get much of their energy from anger and at best, this energy is channeled into discipline, organization, a strong work ethic and a love of fairness, justice and truth. However, they can also be rigid in their thinking, trapped by their own rules and principles and self-righteous in a way that is not helpful to themselves or others.

Twos – The embracing power-seeker. They focus their lives on giving and receiving love. Twos attempt to control their shame by getting other people to like them and to think of them as good people. They also want to convince themselves that they are good, loving people by focusing on their positive feelings for others while repressing their negative feeling such as anger and resentment at not being appreciated enough. As long as Twos can get positive emotional responses from others, they feel wanted and are able to control feelings of shame.

Threes – The aggressive approval seekers – are competitive and place great value on winning and looking good while doing it. They try to deny their shame and are potentially the most out of touch with underlying feelings of inadequacy. Threes learn to cope with shame by trying to become what they believe a valuable, successful person is like. Thus Threes learn to perform well, to be acceptable, even outstanding and are often driven relentlessly in their pursuit of success as a way of staving off feelings of shame and fears of failure.

Fours – The withdrawn ideal-seeker – focus on how unique and special their particular talents, feelings and personal characteristics are. Fours highlight their individuality and creativity as a way of dealing with their shameful feelings, although Fours are the type most likely to succumb to feelings of inadequacy. Fours also manage their shame by cultivating a rich, romantic fantasy life in which they do not have to deal with whatever in their life sees drab or uninteresting to them.

Fives – The withdrawn power-seeker identify more strongly with their thoughts than any other personality. They have anxiety about the outer world and about their capacity to cope with it. Thus, they cope with their fear by withdrawing from the world. Fives become secretive, isolated loners who use their minds to penetrate into the nature of the world. Fives hope that eventually, as they understand reality on their own terms, they will be able to rejoin the world and participate in it, but they never feel they know enough to participate with total confidence. Instead, they involve themselves with increasingly complex inner worlds.

Sixes – The embracing approval-seeker – are the most anxious type, and the most out of touch with their own sense of inner knowing and confidence. Sixes have trouble trusting their own minds, so they are constantly looking outside themselves for something to make them feel sure of themselves. They might turn to philosophies, beliefs, relationships, jobs, savings, authorities, or any combination of the above. But no matter how many security structures they create, Sixes still feel doubtful and anxious. They may even begin to doubt the very people and beliefs that they have turned to for reassurance. Sixes may also respond to their anxiety by impulsively confronting it; that is, defying their fear in the effort to be free of it.

Sevens – The embracing ideal-seeker – have anxiety about their inner world. There are feelings of pain, loss, deprivation, and general anxiety that Sevens would like to stay clear of as much as possible. To cope with these feelings, Sevens keep their minds occupied with exciting possibilities and options –as long as they have something stimulating to anticipate, Sevens feel that they can distract themselves from their fears. Sevens, in most cases, do not stop merely at thinking about these options, however. As much as possible they attempt to actually do as many of their options as they can. Thus Sevens can be found staying on the go, pursuing one experience after another, and keeping themselves entertained and engaged with their many ideas and activities.

Eights – The aggressive power-seeker – act out their anger and instinctual energies. In other words, when Eights feel anger building in them, they immediately respond to it in some physical way, raising their voices, moving more forcefully. Others can clearly see that Eights are angry because they give themselves permission to express their anger physically.

Nines – The withdrawn approval-seeker – deny their anger and instinctual energies. This is the type most out of touch with their anger and instinctual energies, often feeling threatened by them. Nines get angry like everyone else, but try to stay out of their darker feelings by focusing on idealizations of their relationships and their world.

Several more points can be made about the basic type itself.

People do not change from one basic personality type to another.

The descriptions of the personality types are universal and apply equally to males and females, since no type is inherently masculine or feminine.

Not everything in the description of the basic type will apply to an individual all the time because people fluctuate constantly among the healthy, average and unhealthy traits that make up a personality type

The Enneagram uses numbers to designate each of the types because numbers imply the whole range of attitudes and behaviors of each type without specifying anything either positive or negative.

The numerical ranking of the types is not significant. A larger number is no better than a smaller number.

No type is inherently better or worse than any other. While all the personality types have unique assets and liabilities, some types are often more desirable than others in any given culture or group.

It is common to find a little of yourself in all nine of the types above, although one of them should stand out as being closest to yourself. This is the basic personality type with which you are born. If you look closely at the Enneagram, sometimes thought of as a New Age “mystical” gateway to personality types, perhaps you will discover the basic type that dominates your overall persona and thus encourages you to “know thyself.”

Ones: Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader, Martha Stewart, Confucious, Aristotle, Queen Elizabeth
Twos: “Mr. Rogers”, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Bill Cosby
Threes: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brooke Shields, Katie Couric, Tom Cruise, Tony Blair
Fours: Calista Flockhart, Wynona Ryder, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Bob Dylan
Fives: William Rhenquist, Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton
Sixes: Al Gore, Woody Allen, Richard Nixon, Bill Gates, David Letterman, John McCain, Monica Lewinsky
Sevens: Conan O’Brien, Warren Buffet, John F. Kennedy, Shirley Temple, Madonna, Newt Gingrich
Eights: Muhammad Ali, Pablo Picasso, Rosie O’Donnell, Carl Sagan, Franklin Roosevelt