I wandered into my family room the other day and came upon a discussion between two of my daughters about their numbers. Their what? Did I want to hear the answer? One daughter was saying to the other one “As a four I try to be less sensitive to perceived criticism”. The other daughter nodded in understanding. They were talking about Enneagram personality types.
Enneagram means nine points in Greek. The Enneagram personality types developed from an ancient spiritual and psychological system that uses nine different types of categories of human personality. The Enneagram describes nine core personality styles that human beings fall into. It is a useful diagnostic tool for personal growth and self-awareness. Each basic type comes with a comprehensive description of inner motivations, thoughts and beliefs. The description presents a clear and accurate portrait of the type’s assets and liabilities.
The Enneagram can be a helpful source of self-knowledge. Your type reveals aspects of your personality you might not have been aware of. It allows you to understand yourself better and offers ways you can work to improve. Once a person discovers a personality type, it might help clarify certain behaviors. The insights might provide motivation to change certain behaviors that are limiting. Knowing your psychological type also gives you insights into what you are good at and your own personal powers.
When I took the test, I had two types that were in the lead but one was the clear winner, and I think it does describe me very well. It is important to note that no one type is better or worse than any other. All of the personality types have plusses and minuses, capacities and limitations. We each have aspects a core type, identified by the scoring system, and then we have aspects of other types. We are born with a dominant basic personality type that will remain for our lifetimes. It determines how individuals adapt to childhood environments and situations.
The Enneagram is not a cure or a therapy. It merely shows one’s outlook, perspectives, motivations and habits which determine how we behave. That being said, it can be a shortcut to therapy. It can make us aware of what we have to work on and how to start that work. One of my daughters is a four and one of the four traits is jealousy. She finds it helpful to remember that this is a particular liability for her when she starts going down that path. Each type offers a direction for personal growth – i.e. healthy fours look like this, stressed fours look like that. Another aspect of the Enneagram is that understanding your own and someone else’s motivations and pitfalls can be very helpful in relationships.
A basic overview from The Enneagram Institute:
Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
Type Two is generous, demonstrative, people pleasing, and possessive.
Type Three is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.
If you are interested, here is more information and links to several versions of the tests you can take to identify your personality type:
Books to read:
The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson
Anything by Helen Palmer