What Even Is The Enneagram?
The Enneagram of Personality (what most people just call the Enneagram) is a psycho-spiritual personal development tool. It is a map of your inner landscape, or even something like the owners manual for your personality. The Enneagram marks out nine basic styles of the human personality, an expression that influenced Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Homer’s Odyssey. Each personality archetype is determined by its patterned and habitual over or under use of each of the “Three Brains” or centers of a human, intellectual center, emotional center, and instinctual or moving center. (These are sometimes interpreted as head center, heart center, and gut or body center.)
By naming how each Archetype thinks, feels, and acts in habitual and patterned reactivity, the Enneagram aids in nonjudgmental self-observation and in turn opens the door for true transformation. Each one of us leads with one specific type. In psychological terms this type is a set of effective coping mechanisms turned reactive, patterned behavior. Spiritually, our types show us both the path to our truest selves and the nine different ways we block against being receptive to what the Universe (God, Allah, Supreme Being, etc) has for us. As we come to know our patterns and the shadows they protect us from, we learn to see, accept, and love all of who we are, and are given a chance to live a life full of meaning and possibility.
As with all personality systems, understanding the Enneagram can help you understand the people in your life, but the most profound thing it does is give you a deeper understanding of yourself. It may be easy to recognize your behavior, but the Enneagram dives deeper than most personality systems into the unconscious motivations that drive our behaviors. Clearly seeing your own motivation makes it easier to shift and change the behaviors and patterns that are no longer serving you.
So, what’s the first step to understanding yourself through the Enneagram? While most people assume they can learn their number through a test, every reputable Enneagram teacher will tell you that the test are ineffective at best, and harmful at their worst. No one can tell you your Enneagram type, not even a test. So, it’s up to you to discover through personal self-observation and self reporting which Archetype most resonates with you. Most people discover their number by reading the simple descriptions available in most books or on this website. Some schools of Enneagram teaching like The Narrative Enneagram, though, have developed an interviewing system that provides a space for participants to learn more about themselves and discover their number by having themselves reflected back by a trained professional. Continue reading to learn more about each type, and if you still need help finding yours, send us an email to schedule your own typing interview.
The Nine Types
find who you are really meant to be
The Reformer/The Perfectionist/The Improver
1’s are driven by the need to be right or good. Their attention is focused on correcting errors and improving themselves, others, or situations. They deal mostly with anger that shows up in their lives as irritation and resentment. 1’s are idealists at heart and are willing to put in the work to make things exactly right. They can sometimes come off as harsh or critical to other people, but that is often only because they are dealing with their own overbearing inner critic.
What They See
Type 1’s are always striving to be the best. They not only want to do the right thing, they want to be a good person. They seek to correct errors and put things in their proper place. They seek to align themselves with some sort of higher order or ideal and won’t rest until they’ve achieved perfection. 1’s critical mind and attention to detail mean they don’t settle for less than 100%, and that means these are the people we need building our bridges and doing the calculations to send astronauts into space (and really any time things need to be perfect).
What They Miss
Because 1’s are always comparing things to an ideal they hold within themselves, they often miss the ways in which things are working out more perfectly than they anticipated. They have also blinded themselves to their own anger, because let’s face it, anger isn’t good, and 1’s have to be good. Leaving their anger under wraps means that it can seep out as irritation and resentment, which promise to be far more damaging to relationships than anger expressed honestly. The real catch for 1’s is that their desire to help others be better often comes off as harsh and critical making the relationships their trying to improve more strained.
The work for 1’s starts on the inside. Self-acceptance and Mindful Self-Compassion are earth shattering practices for the 1. Being in the Body Triad, though finding enough space to practice these things will be hard with out some physical practice first. Yoga and meditation are great tools for 1’s to relax into the serenity that’s waiting for them past their judging mind.
The Helper/The Giver
2’s are driven by the need to be helpful or even indispensable. They are warm and affectionate and are keenly aware of the needs of others. They deal mostly with shame and work to overcome it by becoming helpful and endearing themselves to others. Their attention is habitually focused on other people, and often this causes them to lose sight of themselves and their own needs.
What They See
2’s are deeply relational, their attention is always focused on how to make their relationships work and work better. They have an ability to sense the needs and feelings of others and work to meet those needs and tend to those feelings. 2’s works tirelessly to support those they love and often know what others need before they do. They use this skill to try and earn the love and acceptance they crave. Naturally caring and empathetic, 2’s energy is warm and inviting and they bring a positive feeling wherever they go.
What They Miss
With their focus firmly on other people, 2’s often miss out on what they feel/need/want themselves. This leads to an experience of pride, assuming because they don’t see any of their needs they must not have them. They can also experience an inflated or deflated senes of self-worth depending on their external approval rating. 2’s can lose themselves reaching towards others and even “help themselves to death”. In average or unhealthy ranges, they engage in “give-to-get” kinds of helping and end up frustrated that others aren’t holding up their end of the deal, causing rifts in the relationships 2’s value most.
2’s work lies in self-inquiry and self-examination. They need to get in touch with their own needs and turn that amazing nurturing energy on themselves for a little while, or better yet, allow someone else to help them and meet their needs for a change. (*gasp!*) This practice of humility brings a healing balance to the important relationships in the 2’s life.
The Achiever/The Performer/The Chameleon
3’s are driven by a need to be successful and achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. Their attention is focused on tasks, goals, and their own accomplishments. They most often deal with shame, although they have repressed this feeling in favor of earning their worth through success and achievement. 3’s know how to get the job done in the most efficient way possible and take little time to celebrate their own success. They are prone to burn out and, if they aren’t careful, they may cut corners to be the first to cross the finish line.
What They See
3’s are goal and task oriented, and have an ability to get things done as efficiently as possible. They have a deep desire to be seen as successful. They are image focused, meaning they are tuned in to how they are coming across to others and they want to meet and exceed the expectations of others. 3’s are extremely hard workers and know how to read a room and shift themselves accordingly to maximize success. 3’s drive and ambition show us the quickest way forward to a new and beautiful future.
What They Miss
Type 3’s have lost the message that love is not something that is earned through what you do, but is freely given to you because of who you are. They often miss out on their own personal experience and inner world because of their laser focus on the outer world and trying to be successful. 3’s are usually not available for the depth of intimate connection available to them because of their constant drive to move forward. Without these deep, intimate connections, the success that they believe will win them love and affection leaves them feeling empty.
The 3’s work is to slow down and find the connection, validation, and meaning they’re looking for in the world around them inside themselves. 3’s may never rid themselves of their goal orientation, but it can be helpful to focus on setting goals that have a benefit for more than just themselves and bring more meaning and value into their lives.
Listen here to learn more about Type 3
The Romantic/The Individualist/The Artist
4’s are driven by the need to be special or unique. Their attention is habitually drawn to what is missing in any given situation. They are deep and often moody, keenly aware of their own emotional state. They deal mostly with sadness and shame, and are comfortable sitting with their own melancholy. 4’s are creative and expressive, often talented artists, and they bring their own aesthetic into everything they do. They have trouble being present to what good things they have as they often lose themselves in nostalgia.
What They See
4’s are driven to be authentic. They have a flair for the dramatic that brings an energy and intensity to everything they do. They are keenly aware of what’s missing in any situation and they experience a deep sense of longing. Often 4’s are creative and stylish and like to be seen as such, but aren’t overly concerned with being “liked” by others. They are searching for depth and meaning in their work and relationships, and can’t stand to be stuck on the surface of things. 4’s have no trouble plumbing the depths of their darker emotions and have an innate ability to help others do the same.
What They Miss
In always seeing what’s missing in any given situation, 4’s can often miss what’s actually there. They, like their 1 counterparts, have set an internalized ideal as something to be achieved and experience extreme disappointment when life doesn’t live up. 4’s experience their emotions as the core of who they are, and can easily be swept away by the mood of the moment. Often 4’s will shy away from the happier and lighter side of the emotional spectrum because it doesn’t feel real enough, this leads them to wallow in their melancholy.
4’s work is to develop a more grounded presence, this is often achieved through getting more in touch with their bodies. As 4’s learn to identify less with their emotions and more as a holistic being, they experience a sense of equanimity. They’re emotions may still be moving and shaking on the inside, but 4’s won’t be taken for the ride.
Listen here to learn more about Type 4.
The Investigator/The Observer
5’s are driven by a need to know or understand. They are focused on gaining knowledge and information. 5’s prefer to sit on the sidelines and observe from a distance before engaging in new activities or situations. They deal mostly with fear and anxiety, generally relating to feeling incompetent, unprepared, or depleted. 5’s have strong boundaries and are particularly averse to emotional intrusion. They are often extremely knowledgeable and come into relationships without an agenda. 5’s have trouble taking the information they’ve gathered and taking necessary action around it.
What They See
Well, what don’t they see? 5’s tend to stand on the outskirts of things and observe from a distance, and they are *very* observant. They have a strong desire to gain knowledge and expertise, and seek to “corner the market” on information about the topics they love. 5’s love systems and organizing information so they are always prepared for any intellectual gun-fight that might ensue. They are deeply concerned with their own personal autonomy and seek to be as self-sufficient as possible. 5’s embody the hermit archetype, storing up wisdom and knowledge, and at their best they are generous with them and can put them into action.
What They Miss
5’s focus all of their attention and energy into their heads, often leaving their hearts and bodies sorely neglected. In their quest for deep understanding they can become emotionally detached and lose connection with the world around them. While their need for autonomy keeps them individuated, it also isolates them. Their continued focus on gaining more and better information runs on a loop and prevents them from taking effective action with the knowledge they have. It’s been said that knowledge applied is wisdom, and 5’s thirst for wisdom, but they miss out by not applying the knowledge they already have and continually searching for more.
5’s spend their time in their heads, but they need to journey down into their hearts if they want to have the meaningful emotional experiences that make life worth living. That’s not an easy task for a 5, though. Instead of going head-first (ha! You see what I did there?) into the heart, bodywork is an amazing way for 5’s to become more comfortable in their own skin and therefore more comfortable with their emotions. Yoga is very popular among 5’s because of it’s philosophical connections. They just need to make sure they don’t become the yogi stuck in the cave.
Listen here to learn more about Type 5
The Loyal Skeptic/Devil’s Advocate/The Buddy
6’s are driven by a need to be secure. Their focus is on outer authority and they can either submit themselves to it wholeheartedly or push against it in rebellion. They have questioning minds and often seek out second, third, and fourth opinions. They deal mostly with fear and anxiety, having lost touch with their own inner guidance. 6’s are loyal and devoted friends who are always prepared in a crisis. They have trouble with overthinking and can getting caught up in worst case scenario planning.
What they see
6’s have a finely tuned eye for seeing what could go wrong in situations. They can anticipate problems and find solutions. 6’s are driven to always be prepared for any contingency. They are well equipped to both develop and challenge ideas, structures, and systems. They desire to be deeply loyal to worthy people and groups. 6’s at their best are the glue that hold organizations together and can also be effective leaders.
What They Miss
6’s have lost touch with their own inner guidance and authority, and because of this they seek out guidance and authority from others. This creates a lack of faith or trust in themselves that they project out on to other people. This leads to the 6’s pushing and testing their relationships, be it at home, work, or with friends, and can often create a self-fulfilling prophesy. The 6’s questioning mind is a wonderful asset when used appropriately, but when it’s running the show it can undermine the relationships that 6’s hold dear.
6’s have to tap into their own inner knowing and guidance. While this proves to be their greatest struggle, once they learn to tune in, listen, and follow their inner voice, everything about their life changes for the better. Before that giant goal is achieved, though, it can be helpful for the 6 to practice making a decision even if they don’t have all the answers and moving forward without the self-doubt and second guessing.
The Enthusiast/The Epicure/The Adventurer
7’s are driven by a need to avoid pain or discomfort. Their attention is focused on possibilities and positive future planning. They deal mostly with fear and anxiety, but they distract themselves from it through their many fun and enjoyable experiences. 7’s strongly dislike feeling trapped or limited in any way. They are fun and energetic and are masters of finding silver linings. They can miss out on meaningful experiences in life because of their drive to not feel pain either physically or emotionally.
What They See
7’s are all about living an enjoyable life. They keep their eyes on the future and like to keep their options open. They have an uncanny ability to see the possibilities and excellent potential in all things. They are incredible planners and want to always stay ahead of the game. 7’s are incredibly high energy and are always on the lookout for the next big adventure, sometimes even before the adventure they’re on is over. 7’s have an almost magical ability to see the positive in even the darkest of situations, and their energy and excitement for life bring joy wherever they go.
What They Miss
With their energy always moving forward, 7’s have maybe the hardest time being present of any of the types. If they overuse their gift of finding silver linings, they can come off as shallow, aloof, and emotionally distant, making it hard to sustain the more meaningful intimate relationships that emotional presence facilitates. In their search for more (of basically everything) they can miss out on the beauty and value of what’s in front of them, ensuring that they always feel that looming sense of lack and limitation. Their ever-positive outlook leaves little room for the darker or heavier side of the emotional spectrum, which can keep them from developing into emotional maturity.
7’s have to learn and experience that sadness won’t kill them. Neither will pain, discomfort, or any of a long list of less than happy emotions. To do this, though, they need to slow down and funnel some of their energy into their heart space. This is difficult without consistent, disciplined practice, and since those are not the 7’s strong suit, finding a way to make their practices like yoga and meditation fun and enjoyable. Often having someone to keep them accountable makes the largest impact.
The Challenger/The Protector/The Boss
8’s are driving by a need to be strong. Their attention is habitually turned to their own personal empowerment and expressing their power in the world. They deal most with anger and are often seen as aggressive or overbearing. They are deeply intolerant of injustice and are defenders of the underdogs. 8’s are powerful, charismatic, and natural leaders. They can be emotionally insensitive to others and are often out of touch with their own softer emotions.
What They See
8’s are tuned into power, who has it, who doesn’t, and how it’s being used. They have a an eye out for the underdogs and have no tolerance for injustice. 8’s preoccupied by their own personal empowerment, and then seek to empower others. They are deeply motivated to have an impact on their surroundings and are always ready to take action, even it it means engaging in conflict. 8’s are always ready for a battle, but they’re going to make damn sure it’s a level playing field for everyone involved. At their best 8’s are magnanimous and heroic leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves for those they love.
What They Miss
With their focus so keyed into their own personal power, 8’s tend to shy away from acknowledging any of their softer, more vulnerable parts. This often means the 8’s are out of tune with their own emotional landscapes and therefore have difficulty dealing with other’s emotions as well. This lack of emotional connection is the 8’s biggest challenge. If 8’s aren’t careful, they end up leading groups to suppress the feeling that they can’t *truly* be apart of them. This is also where the greatest miscommunication happens, 8’s see themselves as loving and dutiful while the ones they love can see them as demanding, controlling, or bullying.
8’s need to slow down enough to get in touch with their own emotions, and make the time and space to be present to other’s emotions as well. Rigorous but mindful exercise is often necessary to burn off excess bodily energy before they can move into the stillness and softening they desperately need.
The Peacemakers/The Mediators
9’s are driven by a need to be peaceful and harmonious. Their attention is often diffused, and they can have trouble focusing on any one particular thing. They are brilliant mediators and have a gift for seeing and understanding both sides to any argument. They struggle most with anger, forgetting it for months or even years at a time only to have it resurface in an explosive way later. 9’s are kind, gentle, and easygoing. They often have trouble speaking up for their own needs and desires, keeping quiet in favor of “keeping the peace.”
What They See
9’s, having their place at the tip-top of the Enneagram, have a knack for seeing all sides of an issue. They are driven to create and experience peace and harmony in their lives and in the world around them. 9’s are gifted therapists and mediators because of their ability to create space for other people and make them feel seen, heard, and validated. They have a belief that all conflict can be resolved. Honestly, if it weren’t for the 9’s in the world right now, we probably would have all died in a nuclear holocaust already.
What They Miss
With their keen focus on keeping the peace, 9’s often miss out on their own thoughts, feelings, and desires for fear of creating or experiencing conflict. 9’s avoid conflict like the plague, and since conflict is an inevitable part of life on this planet, they will often remove themselves, either emotionally or physically, from their own life. In their haste to smooth over the conflict they do experience they can short-change themselves and those they love by not letting the real desires and emotions of the situation surface.
The real work for 9’s is first getting in touch with what they really want and need. This often looks like getting in touch with their long-dormant anger. Getting comfortable with anger is a slow and scary process for 9’s, but once they make friends with their anger, they can channel it to fuel real and meaningful engagement in their own lives. 9’s need to know what they want, and stand up for it in order to know the true meaning of harmony.