Introduction to the Enneagram
The Enneagram is a rich resource for knowing yourself and others better.
Not many people know about it, and those who find it see that it’s not as easy to grasp as the Myers Briggs, for example.
So, it’s natural to leave it on the table.
But in fact it is wonderfully deep body of ever-expanding knowledge about human nature and self-actualization:
- It helps us understand ourselves so we can grow in all our relationships.
- It helps us genuinely understand others.
- And when we understand others, we naturally relate in a more fulfilling and wise way.
How I Discovered the Enneagram
The first time I personally heard about the Enneagram was years ago when I was on vacation in the Dominican Republic.
I met a couples’ coach who swore by it and convinced me to buy what he said was the best book available: The Wisdom of the Enneagram.
Last fall, I kept thinking about it, and so I got back into it and found another book called Personality Types.
Those books are my background for this article, which I felt was important to write.
A Fresh Angle Helps
While the Personality Types book is a bit more approachable than The Wisdom of the Enneagram, neither are particularly focused on (a) your raw potential, (b) how to live in your peak state, or (c) how your type interacts with other types.
Those are all things I’m excited to show you here in this post and beyond!
So, now let’s get into what the Enneagram is:
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a personality type model that represents nine types across three orientations to life:
- Feeling types process life primarily through the heart.
- Thinking types process through the mind.
- Instinctual types process through the gut.
The way we process life is how we orient to what’s happening, so it informs a lot!
Within each of the three orientations to life (feeling, thinking, instinctual), there are three personality types represented there.
The core of each type is the basic fear and basic desire that is unique to that type.
This is powerful because our basic fear and basic desire shape our entire outlook on life and our relationship with ourselves.
Our core fear and core desire go much deeper than what we typically think of as personality traits, because all of our thoughts and actions spring from this very deep place.
Our self-actualization comes from it, and also self-destruction, which are along a continuum of integration and disintegration.
Each type has a distinct way of moving up into integration (healthy, self-actualizing state) and down into disintegration (unhealthy, neurotic state).
This model is helpful because when we understand our core fear and our core desire as well as how we integrate and disintegrate, we have incredible objective knowledge about ourselves.
Knowledge is power.
Furthermore, when we learn about all the other types and how they interplay with ours (and with each other’s if we’re extra curious), then that is even more knowledge and power for us as self-actualizing individuals.
As you can imagine even from my description so far, this is a complex model. In fact, it is so complex that it’s not usually presented in a very accessible form often.
So below, I’ll share with you an introduction to this model, so you can get your feet wet with it and see if you want to explore more!
Overview of Different Types
Here, I’ll go over each type in brief, as they are described at EnneagramInstitute.com (EnneagramInstitute.com/TypeDescriptions).
I’ll focus on each type’s one-word working title, short description, basic fear and basic desire, possible wing types, and its directions of integration and disintegration, all of which I’ll explain after I go through these one by one.
As you read through these, you may think, “Well gosh, yeah I’m afraid of that,” and, “Well, of course, I want that.”
These are all normal fears and desires that we have as human beings.
The core of each type, though, is the DEEPEST, most central fear/desire driving us. And if you have a few that you think might be you, you may find that they are interlinked!
I’ll explain more after I share about the types.
All 9 Types:
1. THE REFORMER
Type 1: The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic
- Instinctual Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/evil, defective
- Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced
- Type One’s Possible Wings: 9, 2
- Direction of Integration: 7
- Direction of Disintegration: 4
2. THE HELPER
Type 2: The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive
- Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
- Basic Desire: To feel loved
- Type Two’s Possible Wings: 1, 3
- Direction of Integration: 4
- Direction of Disintegration: 8
3. THE ACHIEVER
Type 3: The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious
- Basic Fear: Of being worthless
- Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile
- Type Three’s Possible Wings: 2, 4
- Direction of Integration: 6
- Direction of Disintegration: 9
4. THE INDIVIDUALIST
Type 4: The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental
- Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
- Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an identity)
- Type Four’s Possible Wings: 3, 5
- Direction of Integration: 1
- Direction of Disintegration: 2
5. THE INVESTIGATOR
Type 5: The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
- Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
- Basic Desire: To be capable and competent
- Type Five’s Possible Wings: 4, 6
- Direction of Integration: 8
- Direction of Disintegration: 7
6. THE LOYALIST
Type 6: The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious
- Basic Fear: Of being without support and guidance
- Basic Desire: To have security and support
- Type Six’s Possible Wings: 5, 7
- Direction of Integration: 9
- Direction of Disintegration: 3
7. THE ENTHUSIAST
Type 7: The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered
- Basic Fear: Of being deprived and in pain
- Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content—to have their needs fulfilled
- Type Seven’s Possible Wings: 6, 8
- Direction of Integration: 5
- Direction of Disintegration: 1
8. THE CHALLENGER
Type 8: The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational
- Basic Fear: Of being harmed or controlled by others
- Basic Desire: To protect themselves (to be in control of their own life and destiny)
- Type Eight’s Possible Wings: 7, 9
- Direction of Integration: 2
- Direction of Disintegration: 5
9. THE PEACEMAKER
Type 9: The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent
- Basic Fear: Of loss and separation
- Basic Desire: To have inner stability “peace of mind”
- Type Nine’s Possible Wings: 8, 1
- Direction of Integration: 3
- Direction of Disintegration: 6
Which Type Are You?
Here’s how to start discovering which type you are:
You might identify with a few types or more. It is a process to find which type you are because the truths of each type run so deep.
Also, the types are interlinked.
Since it is such a deep process to learn your type, even the best online tests out there say, “You’re likely to be one of these four,” when there are nine total options.
This only whittles your choices to about half, which you could do yourself just by reading through the short summaries!
The more you read about each type and the more you consider the directions of integration and disintegration as well as the wings, the more your own type emerges and you can see which you are.
Reason being, each type is closely linked with three other types in this way:
The main type has a “wing” which is to one number to the side of that type’s number. For example, a Four can have either a Three wing or a Five wing.
The wing also colors the personality of the main type.
So that the whole personality is…
- about 75-80% the main type,
- 15% the wing, and perhaps
- 5-10% of all the other types since we all have at least a tiny fraction of each type within us.
(This is a more-or-less approximation so you can get a sense of this.)
Also, the main type integrates (self-actualizes) towards another specific type.
This means that the healthier that type gets, the more it mirrors the type that it is integrating towards.
(For example, Type Four, as you can see above, integrates to One.)
The main type also disintegrates (self-destructs) towards a specific type.
This means that the more unhealthy that type gets, the more it mirrors the type that it is disintegrating towards.
(For example, Type Four disintegrates to Two.)
So as we can see with Type Four, it could either have a Three wing or a Five wing. It will be one or the other. Regardless of the wing, Four disintegrates to Two and integrates to One.
This means that if you’re Four type, then you might actually feel a lot of the types One, Two, Three, and Four.
But Four is the only one that touches on all the other three.
This is because if you’re a Type One, then your wings and directions of integration/disintegration are totally different (see above).
How to go deeper with this:
While I’ve developed an Enneagram program, I’ve also made an email series that goes more in-depth on this subject.
This Enneagram training is helpful because inside you will learn…
- 5-step exercise to find your Enneagram type (without relying on an online test or quiz)
- Why you might sometimes feel like your “very young, shy self” and how to overcome that
- How to express your emotions in a healthy, attractive way that helps you self-actualize
The foundation of all you’ll learn there is a combination of…
- Riso and Hudson’s The Enneagram Institute’s resources and books
- My experience teaching and coaching introverted men in how the Enneagram works for them
- Keys on moving up from the unhealthy levels to the average levels, and from there, to the advanced levels of development.
So, are you interested?
Sign up here: