About a year ago I started to hear a word in the online spaces that I frequented: blogs, podcasts and social media. Enneagram. The people from whom I heard it sounded like they were absolutely drinking the Koolaid. One podcast duo uses the number descriptor for almost everyone they talk about. Well you know her; she’s a classic 3. There I go again; typical 4. Being of curious nature I began to investigate. Turns out, I’m a 2.
What is it?
The Enneagram is a way of defining a person as they are at their core, according to 9 types- very similar to a personality assessment- and focuses around a person’s core fears and inspirations. There are tons of online quizzes, which I began to investigate. I could never get a solid reading. Sometimes I was a 2. Sometimes a 3. Sometimes a 9. I didn’t seem to have any one number that was scoring far ahead of the others. Followers of the Enneagram believe that you are only one number, though you may have a wing in another number or have characters found in a different number. When I finally broke down and paid $12 for the assessment of the official Enneagram Institute I scored as a 2, wing 3.
The following is a breakdown of each type. I am super-summarizing descriptions from the book The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut.
1- The reformer: the rational idealistic type. Ones focus on noticing error, discerning right from wrong, and displaying reliance on rules and structure. They believe that there is a right way to do things, and that we should all try to be more perfect. They can be perceived as highly rigid and structured. Basic fear=to be evil. Basic desire=to be good.
2- The helper: the caring interpersonal type. Twos focus on relationships and gaining approval. Twos tend to be upbeat and friendly, but can repress their needs which contributes to depression. They are driven and hard-working, especially in service of others. At their best they are altruistic givers, at their worst they can play the role of martyr. Basic fear=being unwanted. Basic desire= to be loved.
3- The achiever: the success-driven pragmatic type. Threes focus attention on tasks and goals to create an image of success in the eyes of others. Threes identify with their work, believing they are what they do. They are competitive and can be workaholics, finding it hard to slow down and just be. Basic fear=being worthless. Basic desire=feeling valuable.
4-The individualist: the sensitive withdrawn type. Fours focus their attention on feelings, both of themselves and others. They feel a sense of deficiency of their own worth and their thought patterns can focus on what is missing or what is ideal and unavailable. They can be either reserved, active or both. They generally aren’t afraid of conflict. The most interesting descriptions that I have heard of this group is that they are the “woo-woos” and if you are in crowd of people the 4 is the one wearing a hat. Lol. Basic fear= that they have no identity or personal significance. Basic desire= to find their personal significance.
5- The investigator: the intense cerebral type. Fives believe knowledge is power and they like to observe what is going on around them. They may live in their head and detach from emotion. Fives are introverted and require a lot of alone time. They may spend a lot of time pursuing intellectual interests. Basic fear= being useless. Basic desire= to be capable and competent.
6-The loyalist: the committed security-driven type. Sixes focus on thinking about what might go wrong and strategizing and preparing for it. They think things through thoroughly, even to the point of getting paralyzed by overanalysis. Aside from fear, they have less access to other feelings. They are watchful and alert in many ways and share a common orientation to authority. Basic fear=being without support. Basic desire= to have support.
7-The enthusiast: the busy fun-loving type. Sevens avoid unpleasant feelings by focusing on what is pleasant. They are active, fast-paced, innovative and energetic. They usually have many interests and passions, which they pursue with enthusiasm. Sevens like planning for fun and maintaining many options. Basic fear=of being deprived and in pain. Basic desire=to be satisfied and content.
8- The challenger: the powerful dominating type. Eights naturally focus their attention and feelings on control- who has it and who doesn’t. Eights easily access anger, and avoid registering with vulnerable feelings. They typically appear fearless and intimidating to others. Eights have a lot of energy, can accomplish big things, will confront others when necessary and will protect those they love. Basic fear= being harmed or controlled by others. Basic desire=to protect themselves and be in control.
9-The peacemaker: the easy-going self-effacing type. Nines focus attention on others, on what is going on in the environment, and on avoiding conflict and achieving harmony. Nines typically tune into what other people want, but do not have a clear sense of their own agendas. Nines focusing on getting along with others and not rocking the boat. Basic fear=loss and separation. Basic desire= to have peace of mind.
In addition to these 9 types, each type has 3 subtypes that can be very different. One of the subtypes is a countertype to the majority of the group. Additionally, evenry number type has 9 levels. Levels 1-3 are healthy levels, levels 4-6 are average levels, and levels 7-9 are unhealthy. We can look to these levels to see how to grow within our natural personality.
See how deeply this woman is thinking about who she is???? Be inspired.
So why does it matter?
Knowing your type is about self-realization. Facing not only our strengths, but our weaknesses. The “now what?” is actually the most powerful part of the enneagram. What can we do with the knowledge gained to create positive change in our behaviors? For example, I am a 2. I would rate myself a level 2-4, depending on the day. A level 4 is attempting to seduce the love from others by people-pleasing. To become a level 1 I need to focus on becoming truly altruistic.
So now what?
- take the official quiz at the enneagram institute online. It costs $12, but I found it more thorough than the free online versions.
- read more about the types at the same website. It is very user friendly. There are also many books available. If listening is your jam, scroll back to episodes 11-20 of the Selfie Podcast, which I listen to on Spotify.
- start thinking about why you do the things you do, and if you are functioning at your most healthy level. Discover your passions and fears, and learn more about yourself.
So what do you think? Are you already into the enneagram? Is your interest piqued? If you don’t already know, what number do you think you are? Leave me a comment to let me know what’s going on with your thinking.