What Is the Enneagram?

In the realm of human understanding, the Enneagram stands tall as a mosaic of personalities, interwoven with an ethereal grace. Embraced warmly in spiritual and business realms, it has found a home in many hearts. Yet, it patiently awaits recognition in the evidence-based halls of psychology.

Imagine the Enneagram, a celestial map with nine radiant stars, each a personality type, etching a symphony in the night sky. Three sacred shapes compose its portrait – a circle of wholeness, a triangle of harmony, and a hexagon of enchantment.

With the Enneagram’s guiding light, we discern nine personalities, akin to vibrant hues painted across existence. But delve deeper, and a labyrinthine journey unfolds, leading us through 27 diverse subtypes, infusing richness into each soul’s story. Within, three centers emerge as gatekeepers – the center of action, where dreams take flight; the center of emotions, where the heart finds solace; and the center of thoughts, where wisdom weaves its tapestry.

How the Enneagram of Personality System Works

Within the Enneagram’s embrace, nine splendid personality types unfurl, adorned with their distinctive patterns of behavior, inner motivations, and hidden fears. As you venture into the heart of this intricate tapestry, it unravels the essence of your Enneagram type, offering you a gentle revelation of your inherent strengths and a tender exploration of your vulnerabilities. Embrace this journey, for it shall lead you to a realm where your true potential blossoms, painting the canvas of life with the hues of endless emotions.

Your Basic Enneagram of Personality Type

Enneagram theory unravels the captivating tapestry of human nature, asserting that each person is gifted with a distinctive personality type from the moment of birth. The intricate weaving of inherent characteristics and encounters with the world emboldens the spirit, shaping the individual’s journey through life’s ever-changing landscape.

A symphony of influences orchestrates this process, where the symmetrical dance of nature’s gifts interlaces with the unpredictable strokes of life’s experiences, ultimately painting a mesmerizing masterpiece of the soul. The canvas of existence becomes an intimate space, where the colors of personality blend with the brushstrokes of time, revealing the profound emotions and intricacies of a person’s unique being.

Your Adjacent Enneagram Types

According to the Enneagram system, no one is a single type. Personality is a combination of your primary Enneagram type with at least one or two adjacent types known as “wings.” These nearby personality types may have an impact on overall personality, but they have no effect on a person’s basic Enneagram type.

People do not change from one basic type of personality to another, according to Enneagram theory. However, not all aspects of a person’s personality are always expressed—people’s personalities change based on things such as their health and habits.

Although you may identify with the features of other kinds, the Enneagram advises that your dominant type is the most important.

Enneagram Types

Welcome to the world of Enneagram, a profound system that identifies nine distinct personality types, identified by numbers and names. Within each type, lies a beautiful blend of strengths and weaknesses that define who you are at the core. Together, let’s embark on a journey of self-discovery and understand how each Enneagram type intricately weaves the tapestry of your emotions, unveiling the unique facets that make you an extraordinary individual.

Related: The Trait Theory of Personality

How the Enneagram System Works

Each of the nine personality types is characterized by a set of dominant behaviors, motivations, and fears. The goal of this system is to better understand your Enneagram type so that you’ll be able to make the most of your strengths and address your weaknesses in order to achieve your full potential.

Your Basic Enneagram Type

According to Enneagram theory, people are born with a dominant personality type that can then be shaped by environmental factors and experiences.1

These two forces also tend to influence each other. While inborn traits and characteristics help shape how people respond to their experiences, their environment also plays a role in shaping how personality is formed and expressed.

Your Adjacent Enneagram Types

The Enneagram system also holds that no one is one single type. Instead, personality is a mix of your basic Enneagram type, as well as at least one or two adjacent types known as “wings.” These adjacent personality types may influence overall personality, but they do not change a person’s basic Enneagram type.

According to Enneagram theory, people do not change from one basic type of personality to another. However, not all elements of personality are always expressed—people are always fluctuating depending on factors such as their health and habits.

After taking an Enneagram test, respondents learn which basic type best describes their personality. Depending upon the test, respondents may also discover one or two additional Enneagram types that also contribute to their overall personality. 

 Types of Personality Tests

Enneagram of Personality Types

Each of the nine Enneagram types is known by both its number and its name. Each also has its own set of potential strengths and weaknesses. Here’s what each Enneagram type means, and what it would say about your personality.

1. Reformer

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • Is highly principled
  • Can be judgmental and uncompromising
  • Is perfectionistic, purposeful, and self-controlled
  • Strives for integrity
  • Fears corruption
  • Has a strong sense of what is the “right” and “wrong” way to do things

2. Helper

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • Is generous and people-pleasing
  • Has a strong desire to be loved, sometimes denying their own needs to make others happy
  • Puts a lot of energy into their relationships, which is sometimes interpreted as neediness
  • Is genuine
  • Is a good listener
  • Tends to overlook their own needs

3. Achiever

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • Is successful, adaptable, and hardworking
  • May sometimes be an overachiever or workaholic
  • Is driven to excel
  • Is image-conscious
  • Is adaptable
  • Is more focused on success than feelings, but good at communicating

4. Individualist

This Enneagram of Personality:

  • Is creative, forward-thinking, and highly expressive
  • Can sometimes be self-centered
  • Has a strong sense of identity
  • Can be temperamental or self-absorbed at times

5. Investigator

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • Innovative and highly perceptive
  • Smart, logical, and likes to think deeply about things
  • Quiet and thoughtful
  • Objective and logical
  • Detached and unemotional

6. Loyalist

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • This individual is truly a beacon of responsibility and unwavering dedication.
  • They are skilled at nurturing and maintaining long-lasting, meaningful connections.
  • Dependability and trustworthiness are ingrained in their very being.
  • While their caring nature is admirable, they also have a tendency to let worries and negative thoughts take hold from time to time.

7. Enthusiast

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • Embracing spontaneity and fun, they thrive in versatile environments.
  • They embrace social interactions with open arms, cherishing the joy of meeting new souls.
  • Fueled by an insatiable appetite for adventure, they seek pleasure in every moment of life.
  • Their agile minds race with thoughts, making them quick on their feet.
  • Blessed with creative intuition, they navigate through life’s challenges with flair.
  • Radiating positivity, they illuminate the lives of those around them, leaving a trail of optimism wherever they wander.

8. Challenger

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • Empowering, impactful, and unyielding in the face of adversity.
  • Exuding self-assurance in every choice they make, firmly believing in their abilities.
  • They naturally thrive in leadership roles, motivating others with their unwavering resolve.
  • Occasionally misunderstood due to their intense drive, they are simply resolute in their pursuit of goals.
  • Their candid communication and proactive approach ignite a spark of inspiration among those they interact with.

9. Peacemaker

This Enneagram of Personality type:

  • Is polite and laid-back.
  • Is sometimes self-effacing and complacent. Avoids conflict whenever feasible.
  • Promotes group harmony
  • Disagreements are disliked.
  • They may disregard their own desires and needs in order to maintain harmony.

Uses of the Enneagram

The Enneagram system categorizes individuals into nine distinct types, not only offering valuable insights into their own personalities but also providing guidance on building meaningful connections with others.

Though scientific validation is still underway, the Enneagram has captured hearts as a potent tool for fostering enriching relationships. By gaining self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses, individuals are empowered to navigate their interactions with greater empathy and understanding.

Interestingly, the Enneagram has also found its place in the world of industrial-organizational psychology, where it contributes to employee motivation and productivity by enhancing teamwork and communication within organizations.

Beyond its formal applications, the Enneagram has taken social media by storm, becoming a shared experience where people openly discuss their results, embracing vulnerabilities, and celebrating unique qualities. It has transformed into a digital journey of self-exploration and connectedness, binding people together through shared experiences of growth and discovery.

Related: HEXACO Personality Test: History, Facets, Benefits, Drawbacks

Impact of the Enneagram

Despite critics noting its ancient and mysterious origins, the Enneagram continues to captivate hearts, offering a profound journey of self-exploration that goes beyond scientific validation.

  • The pages of the Journal of Adult Development unfold a heartfelt narrative—a tale of personal growth and ego development through Enneagram training. It’s a story of metamorphosis, where individuals blossom like flowers, embracing their unique qualities and self-awareness.
  • In the year 2004, Saville and Holdsworth embarked on a profound quest, discovering the Enneagram’s power to resonate with people’s souls. This insightful system found kinship with well-established theories like the MBTI and the Big Five, connecting on an emotional level that other tools couldn’t replicate.
  • Within the pages of Contemporary Family Therapy lies a touching case study, showcasing the Enneagram’s role as a compassionate counselor. Through its guidance, individuals find solace, healing, and a deeper understanding of themselves, creating a profound bond between the seeker and the Enneagram.

Sample Enneagram Test Questions

Some Enneagram tests require you to answer questions on a sliding scale, with “1” indicating disagreement and “5” indicating agreement. Examples of such questions include:

  • It’s critical that others like me.
  • I aim for perfection.
  • I am quite emotional.
  • Others will never comprehend me.
  • It is critical to me to prevent pain and suffering at all costs.

In contrast to most other Enneagram tests that restrict you to just two opposing options, let’s explore a more nuanced approach with examples:

  • When confronted, do you usually: confront the situation head-on or try to avoid it altogether?
  • In your usual demeanor, do you find yourself: deeply focused and intense, or do you embrace spontaneity and love for fun?
  • Do you tend to react strongly to situations, or is it usually challenging to provoke a strong emotional response from you?
  • When it comes to your interactions with others, do you prefer expressing affection openly or maintaining a certain level of distance?

Tips for Using Enneagram Test Results

The Enneagram’s popularity has soared, largely thanks to the surge in online personality tests. This remarkable tool doesn’t just focus on our strengths but also bravely confronts our faults and weaknesses, making it a powerful instrument for self-reflection and personal growth. Embracing these aspects allows us to embark on a profound journey of self-discovery and ultimately attain a sense of true fulfillment.

When engaging in any personality assessment, such as the Enneagram test, there are several crucial considerations to bear in mind:

  • Personality is multifaceted, and a short online test will not reveal all of your personality traits, motivations, behaviors, strengths, and flaws.
  • Such exams might be entertaining and interesting, but don’t take your results too seriously.
  • A personality test can provide insight into your own personality and can serve as a beginning point for deeper personal insight and self-awareness.

Should you be eager to uncover your Enneagram type, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) can be found on the Enneagram Institute’s website. With a mere $12 investment, you’ll receive a unique, single-use code to take the enlightening test.

Potential Pitfalls of the Enneagram of Personality

When it comes to the Enneagram and Enneagram types, there are a few mistakes to avoid.

The Enneagram has grown in popularity in some circles, although it has also been attacked as pseudoscientific. It is frequently regarded as highly ambiguous and impossible to test scientifically.

Enneagram type descriptions have been chastised for being overly vague, almost Barnum-effect style comments that can sometimes appear more like horoscopes than experimentally verified personality descriptions. (The Barnum effect is a psychological phenomena in which people perceive personality descriptions as being very accurate and individualized, even when they are so imprecise they can apply to virtually anyone).

Nobody agrees on how the system works. Some Enneagram theorists believe that personality is made up of a dominant type and one nearby wing, but others believe there are two wings. According to the official Enneagram website, this is an issue that needs more research.

History of the Enneagram

The Enneagram’s beginnings are shrouded in mystery. It may have originated with the ancient Greeks, though this is debatable. It is a blend of various spiritual traditions, including parts of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, a philosopher and mystic, is credited with bringing the Enneagram figure to the world’s notice, albeit he did not utilize it to define personality types. Oscar Ichazo, the founder of an Enneagram school, attributed various personality types to each of the nine spots in the Enneagram diagram.

Later, psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo developed the theory in psychological terms to include the nine categories.

Related: Reasons to Learn More About Your Personality Type