What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a personality typology system that gets at the core of who we are: our deepest fears, desires, and motivations. The system is based on 9 fundamental human archetypes that are interrelated but distinct. Every person has characteristics from all 9 types, but one type will be dominant.
Let’s start with a quick introduction to each type. Types can be identified either by number or by a name. I prefer to use numbers to identify the types because this feels more neutral, but the names can be helpful as you are learning the system and coming to find your best-fit type. The type names can feel like they carry value-based judgements, but no type is better than any other type. Each type has unique strengths and weaknesses, struggles and virtues.
Type One is called the Reformer, Perfectionist, or Idealist. People who are dominant in this type are driven above all to be good: to be good themselves and to make the world a more perfect place. Type Ones see the world as it can be and work to achieve their vision of perfection. At their best they are wise, principled, strategic, and responsible. When they are not healthy, they can be critical, resentful, and controlling.
Type Two is called the Giver or Helper. People who identify as type Two are driven by love and relationships: to build connections and nurture others. Type Twos see the needs of the world and give of themselves, their time, and their resources to meet these needs. At their best they are loving, supportive, generous, and likable. When not healthy, they can be unaware of their own needs, become resentful and manipulative, and give past the point of exhaustion.
Type Three is called the Achiever or Performer. People who are dominant in this type are driven above all to accomplish their goals: to be seen as successful and to avoid failure. Type Threes see the potential of the world and themselves and work to achieve in any situation they encounter. At their best they are confident, high achievers, goal oriented, and high energy. When not healthy, they can be hyper competitive, work to exhaustion, and believe they are what they accomplish.
Type Four is called the Individualist or Romantic. People who identify as type Four are driven by beauty and authenticity: to be unique and to create beauty in the world. Type Fours see the richness of emotional experience in the world, including pain and sorrow, and seek to communicate the depth and beauty of this experience to the world. At their best they are creative, compassionate, intuitive, and enable access deep emotions in other types that are not so emotionally attuned. When unhealthy, they can be self-focused, moody, and envious.
Type Five is called the Investigator, Observer, or Thinker. People who identify as type Five are driven by learning and observations: to gather information for a complete understanding and to be an expert. Type Fives see the essential nature of the world and work to collect enough knowledge to put new ideas together. At their best they are wise, insightful, observant, and objective. When unhealthy, they can be detached, aloof, and overly independent.
Type Six is called the Loyalist or Loyal Skeptic. People who are dominant in this type are driven by safety and loyalty: to be dedicated in their beliefs and to be prepared for any possibility. Type Sixes see the potential dangers in the world and work to be prepared and stay safe in every scenario. At their best they are trustworthy, loyal, warm, and excellent in an emergency. When unhealthy, they can be stuck in over-analysis, anxious, and project their fears onto others.
Type Seven is called the Enthusiast or Epicure. People who are dominant in this type are driven by stimulation and joy: to experience what the world has to offer and to avoid boredom. Type Sevens see the inherent wonder in the world and seek to experience as much as possible without getting stuck. At their best they are joyful, quick thinking, fun-loving, and bring others into their enthusiasm. When unhealthy, they can be unfocused, impulsive, and pain avoidant.
Type Eight is called the Challenger, Boss, or Leader. People who identify as type Eight are driven by strength and truth: to make an impact in the world and to be in control. Type Eights see the power and vibrancy of the world and work to empower others and experience the intensity of life. At their best they are courageous, protective of the weak, action-oriented, and passionate. When unhealthy, they can be controlling, intimidating, and avoidant of vulnerability or weakness.
Type Nine is called the Peacemaker, Mediator, or Harmonizer. People who are dominant in this type are driven by peace and harmony: to be at peace internally and externally and to reach consensus. Type Nines see the connections and underlying similarities in the world and seek to reach a state of harmony with the world and those around them. At their best they are accepting, diplomatic, adaptable, and supportive. When unhealthy, they can be passive-aggressive, indecisive, and conflict avoidant.
All 9 types bring something essential to the world. By understanding how our lens and focus in the world is different from others, we can develop empathy and patience for our differences and cultivate appreciation for the gifts of others and the wholeness that we create together.