What is the Enneagram?
Have you ever heard that there are 9 personality types? This is a common understanding of the enneagram, although you may not know it’s name as so. The enneagram of personality is a system for seeing the motivation behind human behavior. It helps us learn our values, desires, and motivations—and how that informs our actions and reactions. For instance, knowing the enneagram personality types can help with social anxiety and bottled up emotions. Continue reading to learn more about each of the 9 personality types on the enneagram diagram, how to identify yours, and why getting to know yourself (and others!) in this way can enhance your life and relationships.
The enneagram is one of many tools used to help better understand the personality traits that inform human behavior. Life coaches and psychotherapists use it to help clients build a better grasp on their feelings and reactions. In doing so, one can better understand the actions and behaviors of others. Mapping out your personality with the enneagram can help you make sense of your emotions and better handles the struggles you may face.
Origins of the enneagram
The enneagram is actually an ancient tool trace itself back to the 4th century AD, when philosopher Evagrius Ponticus described eight deadly thoughts, as well as eight remedies to these thoughts.
The modern notion of the enneagram of personality isn’t as… dramatic. However, it is important to note that these 9 personality types have both weaknesses and strengths attributed to them. This concept, known as black and white dualism, is widely accepted major parts of human personality. It is seen throughout history.
Today’s enneagram definition is largely credited to Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichaz, who in the 1950s began teaching self-development programs. His courses focused on mapping out personality traits and using them for success. He also coined the widely-used term enneagram of personality.
Enneagram of Personality: 9 Personality Types
If you’ve read this far, you might question what these 9 personality types actually are. Take a look at the enneagram diagram below, and continue reading for an explanation of each personality type.
9 personality types of the enneagram
Type 1: the Perfectionist
Type ones have a strong sense of ethics and purpose in life. Similarly, they are motivated to improve themselves and often strive for perfection. This is usually a very good thing, but it is typically quite frustrating to strive for perfection. Above all, type ones are motivated by strength in their ideals and moral superiority. Therefore, they are often uplifted by motivating others and inspiring change.
On the negative side, the strong motivation for moral superiority can make type ones judgmental of others.They risk developing a general dislike for society. In extreme cases, type ones can play the martyr and are prone to narcissism.
Type 2: the Giver
If you would describe yourself as empathetic and intuitive, then you might be a type two. Twos are hyper aware of the feelings of others. They are often people-pleasers and are motivated by feeling wanted and needed. In doing so, they risk sacrificing their own needs for the sake of pleasing others.
The strong desire to feel needed can also lead to negative perception of type twos, such as possessiveness and ‘smothering.’ Similarly, type twos can become over-involved in other people’s lives, leading to a feeling of emptiness or worthlessness within their own lives.
Type 3: the Performer
Ambitious and motivated to succeed in life, threes know that fortune favors the bold. Needing no permission, they are confident and self assured. Subsequently, they risk becoming selfish and overly involved in their own self-image.
Threes can take it a bit too far due to a tendency to favor activities that get attention and praise from others. Simultaneously, they can excel at something whilst feeling worthless if nobody recognizes their accomplishments. Ironically, type threes may not reciprocate the same attention and praise they crave from others due to their self-focused nature.
Type 4: the Romantic
Do you see yourself as different to the core? Type fours are typically introspective, honest, and expressive. They can often come across as shy or outspoken, although likely they just do not feel the need to participate in the conversation.
Type fours can, in extremes, feel they do not belong in the world around them. Contrary to this belief, they do not actually want or need isolation. Coupled with an inability to articulate these internal feelings, fours can feel deep loneliness.
Type 5: the Observer
With an insightful outlook on the world, type fives will often look at situations from a deep, analytical point of view to seek a high level of knowledge. In other words, once fives set out to do something, they become very focused and dedicated to that particular thing. Moreover, type fives tend to become quick experts in their field of study.
Individuals with this personality trait can at times feel isolated from those around them. Type fives can become deep in thought, thus removing themselves from situations as if they are observers, rather than participants. Similarly, they are typically dedicated and committed to their fields of study. Moreover, they can become defensive of their knowledge and feel personally threatened by ideas which challenge their ideologies.
Type 6: the Loyal Skeptic
Type sixes like to make things work. Above all, they are firm in their loyalty. Often employed troubleshooting type roles, they can anticipate problems and encourage group cohesiveness. Subsequently, with a strong investment in world around them, they tend to doubt their own judgement and seek validation from others.
Deeply aware of their internal anxieties, type sixes tend to build strong support networks with those around them. Relying on this ‘social security’ as reassurance against their internal doubts, they often fear abandonment or loss of support from others. Type sixes, can, in extremes feel they do not possess the tools on their own to overcome life’s challenges. Subsequently, they are vulnerable to lack of self confidence and loss of their own identity and beliefs.
Type 7: the Epicure
Would you describe yourself as having many interests and talents? Extraverted and excitable, type sevens like to meet new people and try new things. As excellent brainstormers, sevens thrive in situations where they are able to take on many tasks at once. This is much preferable to focusing on one task in-depth. Like sixes, they are able to quickly pick up and learn new skills.
Sevens can face difficulties with overextending themselves, impatience and impulsiveness. Subsequently, they are often easily distracted, and prone to exhaustion and burnout. Moreover, sevens bore easily and may struggle with completing long-term commitments like college degree programs. For instance, the ability to easily learn new skills—combined with the interest in a wide range of things—makes it easy for them to struggle with choosing one thing to pursue.
Type 8: the Protector
Do you prefer things said and done straight to the point? Type eights are confident, assertive, and like to get to the point of things right away. They are self-reliant and strive to do important things, therefore focusing their time on meaningful tasks. Eights tend to challenge the status quo. Above all, eights are independent thinkers and thrive in autonomous roles.
Eights don’t like to waste time. They can become restless or ‘stuck’ if they feel a task is not useful. Eights dislike controlling situations. For example, they can get irritated if someone tells them how to do their job. Above all, they are headstrong, which on the negative side can lead to them an unwillingness to accept input from others or differing points of view. Type eights are very factual, but on the flip-side are prone to struggling with the with the emotional side of things.
Type 9: the Mediator
Trustworthy and accepting of all people, nines can see the good in all people and find the silver lining in every situation. Type nines tend to want to minimize problems over solving them. In other words, they ‘choose their battles wisely.’ Above all, nines are deeply optimistic, respectful, and open to new friendships and ideals.
A nine’s tendency to see goodness can, unfortunately, lead to a distorted view of the world. In doing so, minimizing problems can manifest negatively as ignoring problems. In extreme cases, nines can accept problematic situations as normal. In other words, they can become very pessimistic as if ‘nothing can help’ to remedy the problem.
You can find more details about the 9 personality types on this website.
The 9 personality types of the enneagram fall into three categories: head, heart, and body. Known as the enneagram triad (as illustrated below), the enneagram tritypes describe how you make decisions and respond to situations in life.
- Head tritypes favor rationality and approach problems through reason. Logic and fear are the main motivators in this enneagram triad.
- Heart tritypes are strongly informed by their emotions. For this enneagram triad, either self-affirmation or affirmation from others is huge motivator.
- Body tritypes are motivated by instinct. Anger and impulse are strong emotions for personality types within this triad.
You would have one personality trait within each of the three enneagram tritypes: a main trait, and two secondary traits. These are influenced by your enneagram subtypes described in the next section.
If you’ve read through each of the above personality types, you probably feel as though more than one of them apply to you. That is actually expected because nobody has just one personality type. Each person actually holds the potential to manifest any of the 9 personality types. They typically have one main trait and two secondary traits informed by the three enneagram subtypes described in this section. The subtypes refer to three basic instincts in life: social, self-preservation, and sexuality.
- The social enneagram subtype is how you manage integrating yourself into a community.
- The self-preservation enneagram subtype is how you manage your basic needs for shelter and food—including how you work and make money.
- The sexuality enneagram subtype is all about managing intimacy and romantic relationships. This includes close friendships that are not sexual or romantic.
Each of the 9 personality types of the enneagram has variants within these three categories. In other words, there are actually 27 enneagram subtypes—and your instinctual subtypes would typically fall under three different personality types.
How the Enneagram of Personality can Help You
The enneagram was the first step I took in my journey in self discovery and development. It helped me learn about myself and pay attention to my behavioral patterns—and adjust them as needed. I also felt a bit disorganized and chaotic before I learned how to understand my personality using the enneagram model. I am primarily a type 9, a mediator, with my secondary traits type 5, an observer, and type 4, a romantic.
Knowing where your personality traits fall on the enneagram diagram can help you learn how to get to know yourself. Knowing yourself and your patterns can help you understand your emotions and predict your reactions. Through my online life coaching program, I can help map your personality traits on the enneagram model, answer any questions you may have, and give you advice on how to use this knowledge as a tool to empower yourself in your life.