Enneagram Introduction, Theory, and Research
Research and surveys
This excellent circular graphic was designed by
Rick Hogue at http://www.prosperity.com/enneagram/
The arrows point towards each type's "security point".
This 3x3 table is based on my directional analysis of the Enneagram
I. What is the Enneagram? 1. Where did the Enneagram come from? Is it scientific? The Enneagram is one of the newest personality systems in use, and emphasizes psychological motivations. Its earliest origins are not completely clear - the circular symbol may have originated in ancient Sufi traditions, and was used by the esoteric teacher George Gurdjieff (1866-1949). However, it is most likely that neither the Sufis nor Gurdjieff taught a system of personality types. The modern version of the Enneagram personalies emerged in the 20th century, from Oscar Ichazo who was a student of Gurdjieff, but whose personality system stands apart from Gurdjieff's teachings. Ichazo taught his system to many pupils in Arica, Chile, of whom Claudio Naranjo is the most prominent. In the last few decades, the system has undergone further change, incorporating modern psychological ideas in the writings of Naranjo, Helen Palmer, Kathy Hurley/Theodorre Donsson, and Don Riso/Russ Hudson.
Scientific testing of the Enneagram has a long way to go. The RHETI is a widely used test and has been subject to scientific tests that showed internal consistency, but not accuracy. Other tests may be more accurate (see comparison here). The Enneagram's underlying structure is based on testable ideas about motivations and emotions (see A Directional Theory of the Enneagram).
2. What is the Enneagram useful for? The Enneagram is mainly a diagnostic tool of one's emotional outlook on life. It will not cure one's problems, but may help point out their underlying fixations. It is also useful as a guide to how other people see the world differently. The Enneagram has become particularly popular within the self-help and personal growth movements, but other professions use it as well, including therapists, teachers, psychologists, managers, and businesspeople.
3. How do I find my Enneagram type? There are a number of tests. The most accurate (and cheapest) may be the Essential Enneagram Test, by David Daniels (see here for a comparison of tests). But ultimately the best way to determine your location on the Enneagram spectrum is to understand the system, and understand yourself. The tests will take you only a small part of the way toward that goal.
4. Don't people's personalities change all the time? I have not heard of anyone's Enneagram type changing after early childhood, though I can't rule out the possibility. Most often, what changes is one's understanding of the personality one had all along. Major life changes most often involve discovery of inner strengths, and admission of weaknesses, that one actually had all along.
5. Doesn't the Enneagram just put people into boxes? Actually it's the other way around, as Riso points out: the Enneagram shows you what boxes to get out of. Most people are not aware of their own fixations, or how powerfully they affect our consciousness.
6. What are the Enneagram Wings? The 9 types can mix like colors on a palette. However, mixtures with numerically adjacent types are particularly frequent and striking, and are called "wings". Hence, a 5's wing will either be type 4, or type 6 (or occasionally both). A 9's wing will either be type 8 or 1. It is also possible for someone not to have a strong wing, or to have elements of both wings. A small number of people I've met seem to have non-adjacent types as their wings, but this appears relatively uncommon.
7. Is one's Enneagram type inherited? Somewhat. Most twins are different Enneagram types, although many are adjacent types.
8. Is your Enneagram type your whole personality? No, even though well-meaning, enthusiastic Enneagrammers may give that impression. Tom Condon has remarked that one's Enneagram type is analogous to one's national origin - i.e. it is part of one's identity, while still leaving considerable room for individual variation.
are the self-preservation, sexual, and social instinctual variants? There are three instinctual
variants which describe different social spheres where one’s attention can
self-preservationist - focused on issues of survival and personal space.
sexual - concerned with one-on-one relationships
social - concerned with group issues.
These variants are independent of one’s Enneagram type. Any type can be any variant, and vice versa, giving 27 combinations. For example, while 9s seek harmony, peace, and reduction of conflict, self-preservation 9s seek it through solitary means (hobbies, nature, and daily routine), while sexual 9s pursue these goals through one-on-one interactions, and social 9s may seek harmony through group activities.
Each description below starts with a one-word name (e.g. Reformer, Helper, Motivator, etc.) based on the terminology of Don Riso and Russ Hudson. There is also an alternate term highlighted in red, which is a "directional descriptor" derived from the directional analysis of the Enneagram.
1. The reformer - The aggressive ideal-seeker
"Your best teacher is your last mistake." - Ralph Nader
Reformers. The underlying motivation of the 1 is to be RIGHT, and to avoid being WRONG. Reformers are the most compulsively rational of the types, and the perfectionist is another name for this type. Average 1s are driven by their "inner critic", an inner set of standards that tends to be quite rigorous, and independent of what other people tell them. Hence, the average 1 is very self-critical, and also critical of others when they expect the same high standards of others that they have imposed on themselves. Ones get much of their energy from anger, and at best, this energy is channeled into discipline, organization, a strong work ethic and a love of fairness, justice, and truth. At worst, they become rigid in their thinking, psychologically trapped by their own rules and principles and becoming self-righteous in a way that, although logically correct, is not helpful to themselves or others.
1s like to confront problems head-on, but this proactive energy may not always be immediately apparent to others. Introverted 1s may be extremely prim and proper, even rigid, because they turn their energies inward against their own impulses and spontaneity. However, other 1s can project considerable energy, even becoming abrasive, if their passions turn toward ideals, such as social justice, that involve the world as a whole.
Famous ones: Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader, Judith Martin (Ms Manners), Martha Stewart, Confucious, Aristotle, Queen Elizabeth II.
1s and 5s are occasionally confused for each other because they are both analytical, and both appreciate detailed, accurate, information. The scientific method is based on a mixture of type 1 and type 5 fixations. However, 1s think to ensure correctness, while 5s think to understand and intellectually conquer their environment. Fives are oriented toward ideas, while ones are oriented toward ideaLs (capital L for emphasis). Ones feel bound by rules and principles, while 5s do not.
Many 1s identify with type 8., probably because both types are driven by anger. However, 1s are guided by principles and logic, whereas 8s are driven more by willpower and a lust for power.
2. The helper. The embracing power-seeker
Helpers focus their lives on giving and receiving love. This personality is one of the most emotionally expressive, and one of the most focused on human relationships. At their best, healthy 2s bring a special interpersonal touch to almost everything they do, empowering others with their unrivaled desire to make others feel special, important, and loved for simply being themselves. It is uncommon (though not impossible) to find a 2 in high-profile leadership positions, or in a job that emphasizes analysis at the expense of human interaction.
Highly nurturing at their best, less healthy 2s show a darker side of their personality. When unhealthy 2s help others, it is merely to make themselves feel more important. They may offer "help" that seems intrusive and manipulative to others, or may do a "favor", only to subsequently ask repayment. Average twos are often attracted toward two seemingly opposite kinds of people: toward people with power, whose agenda they can support, and towards the needy and the outcast, who most urgently need the 2's caring spirit.
Famous 2w1s: Fred Rogers ("Mr.
Rogers"), Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Bill Cosby
Famous 2w3s: Kathie Lee Gifford
9s and 2s are often confused with each other (particularly female 9s and 2s) because both are dutiful types, with positive feelings for others that can be tinged with resentment at having their own feelings neglected. However, 2s are more assertive emotionally, while the 9 tends to be more emotionally detached. 9s tend to efface their egos when helping others, while 2s tend to magnify them.
3. The motivators. The aggressive approval-seeker
"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get." - Dale Carnegie
Being admired is very important to 3s - they are competitive, and place great value on winning and looking good while doing it. Publicly, 3s project high self-esteem, driving relentlessly toward their career and life goals. But the average 3's craving for external approval may degenerate into superficial and image-conscious behavior, as they work hard to look impressive while neglecting genuine achievement. Despite the high self-esteem they project to others, 3s may privately feel insecure about their self-worth, being as it is so dependent on what others say about them. 3s have an unusually strong inner contradiction; they project qualities of leaders: drive, energy, and success, and yet their definition of success is unusually dependent on the values of the society they belong to. Hence, they are simultaneously leaders and followers.
Healthy 3s often have a "cool" attitude to go along with their accomplishments - they know what is "hot" and what is not, and for better or worse, this contributes to the 3's reputation for being excellent salesmen who can win over the most reluctant audience. Because they place high value on affirmation from others, they may be very adept at reading subtle cues in others, using this information to quickly tailor their message to their audience. However, unhealthy 3s are notorious for being phony and self-promoting. Extroverted 3s can be charming smooth talkers, using their networking skills to augment their image and their career, which may be closely linked. More introverted threes may instead strut their stuff through competence and skillful performance rather than showmanship.
American culture is probably a 3-ish society, with its emphasis on appearances, success, and winning. See more on cultural topics here.
Famous 3w2s: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brooke
Shields, Britney Spears, Katie Couric
Famous 3w4s: Jimmy Carter, O.J. Simpson, Regis Philbin, Tom Cruise, Joe Montana, Christopher Reeves, Tony Blair
4. The romantic. The withdrawn ideal-seeker
More than any other type, 4s seek to understand themselves. They may probe their own emotions to an unusual depth, seeking authenticity of feeling and self-expression. They don't settle for the ordinary or shallow, and are disturbed that most everyone around them does. The importance they attach to their inner feelings makes them highly individualistic and original. 4s are unusually self-aware, sensitive, and intuitive, sometimes painfully so, and often with an intense interest in emotional and spiritual growth. Because of this emotional awareness, fours can show kindness at a very deep level (especially to those in crisis), but also know how to rile people up.
The 4's inward focus gives them an intense need for authentic personal self-expression. This may include conventional art-forms such as writing, and music, or unconventional forms such as tattoos and body piercing. The 4 has a romantic streak, and their relationships often occur at unusually high intensity. At best, this can be deeply transformative to both persons. At worst, this intensity may cause a trail of broken relationships, as the 4 continually seeks the intensity of new romances.
The 4's search for authenticity makes many 4s refreshingly candid, sometimes with a sense of drama and a sharp wit. However, they also have a self-indulgent streak. This self-indulgence typically turns inward, and away from practical reality, which may gets them into trouble with money, health, or other real-world issues. At worst, this may induce despair and brooding, accentuating the original problems and leading into a downward spiral that can be extremely dramatic.
Famous 4s: Calista Flockhart,
Wynona Ryder, Dennis Rodman
Famous 4w3s: Peter Tchaikovsky, Michael Jackson
Famous 4w5s: Franz Kafka, Emily Dickinson, John Lennon, Bob Dylan Comparisons with other types: 4s and 9s are mistaken for each other surprisingly often. In particular, self-preservation 9s can be shy and sensitive, seemingly like 4s. However, 4s seek intensity in their emotions, while 9s avoid it. 9s in pain may look like 4s, but they deal with their pain by numbing themselves, whereas the 4 is more likely to amplify their pain, hoping to find meaning in it.
5. The thinker The withdrawn power-seeker
"Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn't look up. Well, maybe once." - Isaac Asimov
5s identify more strongly with their thoughts than any other personality. To others, 5s are known for their sharp intellect, strong need for independence and privacy, and intensity of their cerebral interests. 5s are intensely interested in explaining the world and predicting what it will do next. This derives partly from scientific curiosity, and partly because they sense much of the world to be hostile and unreliable, requiring that they use their minds to defend against its threats. The 5 is the prototypical scientist "type", although not all 5s are scientists, and not all scientists are 5s. Whatever their profession, 5s bring a strong desire to investigate, observe, and understand an issue deeply and provocatively. Fives are unusually independent and self-motivated, with a strong need for privacy, and others sometimes have no idea what the five is working on until it is finished and unveiled. Some of the greatest minds in history were fives whose ideas challenged the conventional wisdom, forcing those around them to think differently.
Unfortunately, the average 5's independence often leads to social isolation, and the 5's need for intellectual control can also be off-putting to others. Many 5s develop a cynical worldview, which sharpens their perceptions but also intensifies their isolation. Their independence makes their thinking very idiosyncratic, leading to either brilliance or weirdness, or both. As with all the types, healthy 5s can transcend this pitfall of their personality, and 5s that do make this effort can become as brilliant in their social understanding as in anything else.
Famous 5s: William Rhenquist,
Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, Helen Keller, Wittgenstein, Arthur C. Clarke
Famous 5w4s: Sigmund Freud, Nikola Tesla
Famous 5w6s: Charles Darwin, Frederich Nietzsche, David Lynch, Isaac Newton
Comparisons with other types: See 1.
6. The loyalist The embracing approval-seeker
Chris Magruder (exasperated): "There
is a word for people who think everyone is conspiring against them."
C.W. Briggs (played by Woody Allen): "I know, .... perceptive!"
- From the movie Curse of the Jade Scorpion, by Woody Allen.
Average 6s place safety and trust above all else, making them among the most loyal of the Enneagram personalities. Of course, each type's greatest strength is also their greatest weakness, and the 6s capacity for loyalty can be devastating if they put their faith into something malicious or unreliable. A 6 that has been "burned" by someone they trusted can become permanently wary of others, or of their own judgment. They may react strongly to this betrayal, either retreating into fear or lashing out. 6s often seek safety in groups of like-minded, trustworthy people, and among them they can be fun-loving, playful, and very good company. But outside of such a protective environment, 6s feel less secure and more exposed, and more beholden to their fears.
The average 6 is a somewhat difficult type for many other types to understand. The 6's thoughts can range widely, often in strongly self-contradictory ways, which can lead to problems with indecision and doubt. They simultaneously like people and fear the power others have over them. They value trust, but are afraid of putting their trust into someone that will hurt them. They would like a strong authority to make them feel safe, but often question the competence of these same authorities. 6s often develop good "bull-shit detectors" because of their lifelong habit of reading between the lines of what people say. Because 6s are both analytical and people-oriented, they may have very good insights into the motivations of others. Despite their mental acuity, 6 are fearful about taking action on their own, and work better in teams where a common goal and safety in numbers makes the 6 feel protected. Although 6s do not usually consider themselves natural leaders, they can in fact be brilliant leaders when faced with an external threat or enemy (even if the "enemy" is just a looming deadline).
6s are extremely loyal to those they trust,
and may fight for them more strongly than they would for themselves. Like
the 2, who also orients their lives toward others, 6s can be unusually
self-sacrificing, perhaps even more so because they are unlikely to have the
2's confusion between helpfulness and self-aggrandizement.
Famous 6s: Al Gore, Mel Gibson, Harry Truman,
Woody Allen, Andy Rooney, George H.W. Bush (Senior)
Famous 6w5s: Richard Nixon, Adolph Hitler, Bill Gates, Alicia Silverstone
Famous 6w7s: David Letterman, Ross Perot, John McCain, James Carville (Democratic strategist), Monica Lewinsky
Comparisons with other types:
Many people find 6s rather difficult to understand. They are often confused for a great many other types, particularly 1s, 2s, and to a lesser degree 8s. The ambivalent, reactive nature of the 6 often means they can oscillate between a wide range of behaviors, from compliance to aggression to withdrawal, thus emulating a lot of other personalities at different times. A particularly hard distinction is between 1s and 6s, who can both be rule-oriented, meticulous, and prone to powerful feelings of guilt. However, 1s and 6s differ a great deal emotionally - average 1s feel anger as their driving emotion, while 6s feel anxiety, affection, and guilt. 1s also have more internalized, intellectualized, principles than 6s, whose attachments are more often interpersonal than academic. From a distance, famous 6s are also frequently confused with 2s, because both can show caring, emotional qualities and are strongly people-oriented. For example, princess Diana, a 2, is often typed as a 6, whereas Monica Lewinsky, a 6, is often typed as a 2.
7. The Enthusiast The embracing ideal-seeker
"Seize the moment." - Theodore Roosevelt
To an unusual degree, 7s live a life of action that is based on seeking experience, pursuing plans, dreams, and visions. At best, this makes them extremely exuberant, multi-talented, diverse, curious, and experienced, with a strong appreciation for beauty, style, and aesthetic flair. At best, 7s exude a youthful spirit, viewing the world as a giant playground, but at worst, they may become childish with their need for instant gratification.
In the extreme, 7s can go crazy with activity, juggling many different activities and plans in their heads at the same time. They may seem unusually lucky, although in reality their "luck" happens because they are unusually perceptive of opportunities and quick to grab them. 7s are unusually good problem solvers in a pinch, improvising clever solutions out of whatever is at hand. Even though their work style seems rather chaotic they are often extremely prolific and productive. Their improvisational ability makes some 7s quite entertaining and comedic, but with a tendency to disappear when slower, boring tasks need to be done. 7s are also called "generalists", because they can quickly master several areas of expertise, and cross-fertilize between them. But they may also become dilletantes, slow to finish or follow through. Healthy sevens also have an egalitarian streak - spreading their own joy and stimulation to everyone around them. Less healthy sevens often seem to be in a desperate battle against boredom, leading to breakdowns if boredom should temporarily win out.
Famous 7s (no wing or both wings): Richard
Feynmann, Conan O'Brien, Warren Buffet
Famous 7w6s: John F. Kennedy, Shirley Temple, Al Roker
Famous 7w8s: Howard Stern, Newt Gingrich, Madonna, Theodore Roosevelt, Jesse Ventura
Comparisons with other types: See 4.
8. The confronter The aggressive power-seeker
"Power is the virtue that makes all other virtues possible." - From the movie Enter the Dragon, starring Bruce Lee
8s come across as the toughest of the Enneagram personalities. At work, average eights can be assertive to a fault - they like to speak their minds bluntly, make quick but forceful decisions, and respect others who do the same. They demand and need a high degree of autonomy, and when they feel controlled by authority, they often show an unmistakable defiant streak. They are often shrewd in using circumstances to their material advantage. They do not like threats to their dominance, or people who hide information from them, and may force confrontations with others to get the truth, however uncomfortable it may be. 8s like to have the final say on things, but they may also give tremendous autonomy, within certain absolute limits, to subordinates they trust, which others find very empowering. Eights may show a softer side at home, where their strength is used not to dominate, but to protect. 8s are the prototypical "father figures", (even if they are women). When eights are secure in their dominance, they may expand their caring side by becoming magnanimous and generous. However, insecure 8s are the most tyrannical, destructive, and self-serving types. Many historically great world leaders are 8s, but so are many ordinary people who project a strong sense of being their own person, refusing to be used or led by others.
While some types dislike conflict (notably 9s and 7s), eights are energized by it. This ability helps them overcome obstacles that would crush a weaker person. For better or worse, during periods of historical crisis, it is often an eight (or someone with a strong eight wing), who comes to the forefront as a political or military leader.
Famous 8s: Joseph Stalin, Henry Kissinger,
Mick Jagger, King Henry VIII, Muhammad Ali, Julius Caesar, Vladimir Putin, Zhu
Famous 8w7s: Pablo Picasso, Rosie O'Donnell, Lyndon Johnson
Famous 8w9s: Sean Connery, Carl Sagan, Bruce Lee, Franklin Roosevelt
It is surprising how many 1s score as 8s on Enneagram tests. This is understandable: both 8s and 1s have a lot of core anger, and both tend to see the world in black-and-white terms. Both may set rules for others to follow. However, 1s feel guilty when they break their own rules, while the 8's feel much less bound by limits, even their own. 8s are much less prone to guilt than 1s, and more likely to delegate responsibilities, as opposed to 1s who often become overwhelmed with responsibility.
Motivators (3s) and 8s are both competitive, and both push others to get get things done. But 3s goals tend to be oriented around building their positive self-image, while 8s prefer to be respected, even if this means being disliked or even hated.
8s with 9 wings are an interesting subtype. The 9 wing considerably softens the traits of the 8, making the 8w9 much harder to recognize and understand than a pure 8. Don Riso notes that the 8w9 often holds their power "in reserve". 8w9s are often underestimated, because they can look like mild-mannered 9s one day, only to unleash their aggressive 8 side the next.
9. The mediator The withdrawn approval-seeker
9s come across as patient people who are good listeners, adaptable and accommodating to others. 9s have an unusual ability to "go with the flow" of their surroundings, and a desire to be connected with their surroundings. This ability is both their biggest strength and weakness; at best, 9s are very accepting and supportive of others as they really are, but at worst 9s forget who they themselves are, passively agreeing with others and afraid to assert their own desires. 9s learning the Enneagram may take a long time to figure out their type because they identify more with others than with their own true selves.
The passivity of average 9s can make it hard for them to assert their needs or make decisions. 9s can have a particularly hard time making painful decisions, like firing someone, because they also see the other person's predicament, and hate to force confrontations. Average 9s may distract themselves from tough problems with soothing but trivial tasks (e.g. web-surfing, aimless chatter). 9s with an 8 wing are less likely to have this problem because the 8 wing has a lust for action and challenge, while 9s with a 1 wing are more likely to become creatures of habit, because of the 1's compulsive qualities. Inertia is in fact a chronic problem for 9s, who often find it hard to get started on things. However, this inertia can also work to their advantage, because once started 9s can make slow-but-steady progress, becoming surprisingly relentless in their pursuits. The old Aesop's fable about the slow-and-steady tortoise who beats the faster rabbit aptly describes the work habits of healthy 9s.
Famous 9s: Bill Clinton
(has both wings)
Famous 9w1s: Carl Jung, Nelson Mandela, Warren Harding, Tiger Woods, Prince Charles, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Nealon, Bob Costas, cultural aura of Ancient China.
Famous 9w8s: Walter Cronkite, Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, The Dalai Lama, cultural aura of Ancient India.
Riso, Don Richard and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, (Bantam) 1999. The latest, greatest, book from this pair of authors.
Riso, Don Richard, Personality Types, (Houghton Mifflin) 1987. Riso, Don Richard and Russ Hudson, Personality Types (revised), Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Very well written and accessible, with the most detailed descriptions of the types. These books pioneered the idea that there are many levels of psychological health within each type, and that each type can be unhealthy (trapped within one's type) or healthy (liberated from one's type).
Palmer, Helen, The Enneagram, Harper San Francisco 1988. Although I initially found this book a little harder to read than the Riso/Hudson books, I have come to appreciate it more and more because it offers different insights into the types. She uses many quotes that allow the types to describe themselves in their own words, and also has many observations on the interpersonal interactions of the types.
Palmer, Helen, The Enneagram in Love and Work, Harper San Francisco 1995. Among other things, this book contains a major gem: the "Directory of Relationships", an analysis of all possible pairs of type combinations in romantic and work relationships.
Riso, Don Richard, Understanding the
Enneagram, Houghton Mifflin 1990. This book contains suggestions for growth
and for distinguishing between commonly confused types.
I also like the books by Kathy Hurley and
Theodorre Donson, who books reach a remarkably wide range of topics, from
Enneagram theory to religion. You can visit their website at http://www.9types.com/writeup/www.hurleydonson.com,
or read the books below:
My Best Self: Using the Enneagram to Free the Soul (Harper San Francisco, 1993). Contains detailed analyses of how the types use and become distorted by the three centers (thinking, feeling, doing), as well as in-depth discussions on spirituality.
What's My Type? Use the Enneagram System of Nine Personality Types to Discover Your Best Self (Harper San Francisco, 1992). A basic introduction with a nomenclature that is refreshingly different from the other books. Also contains an excellent 3x3 model of the Enneagram's underlying structure, which relates the Enneagram to Karen Horney's triad ("approaches to problem solving"), and to the three "approaches to life".
You can find an online Enneagram test, message boards, dynamic flow charts, and much more at www.9types.com: http://www.9types.com/.
Kathy Hurley and Ted Donson's site is at: http://www.hurleydonson.com This site lists their many great books, articles, and training sessions. They are also some of the best theorists in the field.
The Enneagram Monthly's site is at: http://www.ideodynamic.com/enneagram-monthly/ They publish monthly, and have an extensive archive of fascinating articles (including a few by yours truly. ;-).
Don Riso and Russ Hudson's site is at: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/ They are in my opinion the best teachers in the business. Their site contains a lot of good resources and information.
There are many other Enneagram web pages that I have not indexed here. If you would like me to link your page, please e-mail me your request.