You’ve most likely heard of the Enneagram or have even been asked what your Enneagram type is. It’s a popular personality test both in and out of the workplace that can reveal a lot about who you are as a person.
In this article, you’ll learn about what exactly the Enneagram is, its origins and basis, the different Enneagram Types, the advantages and limitations of the Enneagram, as well as practical applications of the test.
- The Enneagram is a test that sees categorizes personality into nine distinct types
- Each of these nine types is characterized by a belief that informs how we see the world and others
- The different types are also interconnected and can represent growth or stress based on how they are connected
- The test informs you of your type’s insecurities, motivations, key personality traits, and core values
- The test can help you in the workplace, personal development, and in relationships
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram sees human personality as an intertwined connection of nine distinct personality types. Each of these nine types is characterized by a fundamental belief about how the world works. As a result, this belief becomes the overarching influence on the basic patterns in how we see the world and manage our emotions. In essence, the Enneagram measures the role of nurture plays when it comes to your personality.
To begin learning about your type, take the Enneagram test here.
Explaining the Enneagram symbol
The Enneagram symbol pictured below has ancient origins – it can actually be traced way back to the works of Pythagoras. The symbol itself was introduced by George Gurdjieff and later interpreted by Ichazo.
Visually, the Enneagram is represented by a circle with nine points around it and arrows connecting the numbers. Each of the numbers is one of the nine types. As you can see with the lines, the personality types are interconnected.
The arrows in the diagram represent your direction of growth in black and your direction of stress in red. The direction of growth, which is positive, represents how you act when you’re experiencing growth. Specifically, it can be seen as a direction of security or possibility. In contrast, the direction of stress is seen as negative. It reveals how you act under stress or challenging times. It is seen as where you revert when you are under a lot of pressure, possibly outlining unhealthy habits.
Another aspect of the Enneagram diagram that you can see is the numbers adjacent to your dominant type. These are called your Enneagram wings. For example, if your type was Nine, your wings would be One and Eight. What does this mean? Well, usually one of these wings is more preferred by you than the other – this is your dominant wing. You may also seek a balance between both wings. Wings influence your type both positively and negatively, so knowing about them will help you understand how you are affected by other types.
Further, as you can see in this diagram, the Enneagram is also split up into three ‘triads’, which are Gut, Head, and Heart. These triads are characterized by different expressions of energy focused on the specified areas of the body. The three types, Nine, Three, and Six are the ones that represent the core of each triad, with the other types making up variations of these cores. We’ll go into these in a bit more depth when we talk about the Enneagram types.
Origins of the Enneagram
Where the Enneagram originated and how it was developed is largely debated upon. The modern-day Enneagram Personality Types are an amalgamation of several ancient wisdom traditions. It combines aspects of various systems such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
According to the Enneagram Institute, Óscar Ichazo is generally recognized as the one who put the system together. Ichazo was Bolivian philosopher and teacher, who formed the Arica School after travelling in Asia to develop his ideas on self-realization. It was through the Arica School, established in 1968, that he shared this knowledge with others, analyzing his theories on the human psyche and personality.
After learning from Ichazo’s teachings, Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo is credited as the one who brought the Enneagram to modern psychology. He was the one who expanded the theory and the nine types we use today. Since then, contributions have been made to the study of the Enneagram from various studies and drawing from other constructs of psychology, leading us to the popular model we see today.
Additionally, the study and teaching of the Enneagram is still ever popular. The Arica Institute is still around today, and numerous other resources and guides have popped up that can help you understand the bigger picture.
Basis in Science OR Spirituality?
Like any personality test, the Enneagram should be taken with the understanding that it is not an exact representation of who you are. The Enneagram is not backed by rigorous scientific research in its application – it comes from a philosophical and spiritual background. Óscar Ichazo himself was described by others as a spiritual guru of sorts. As a result, the Enneagram types are described more holistically and less structured to other tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Keeping this in mind, know that your tests results are there to help provide insights into what your personality is like, not give you any scientific results.
The Nine Enneagram Types
If you would like to read an in-depth profile of each Enneagram type, be sure to click on each title to read more, as we have a detailed article dedicated to each type! For now, let’s go into a brief description of what each of the nine types represents.
If you’re a One, you have a strong moral compass, are conscientious and ethical. You’re known to be rational and idealistic. You’re motivated by the desire to be right, to improve everything, and to strive for higher.
Type Twos are known to be sincere, helpful, generous, and friendly. If you’re this type, you likely are motivated by the desire to be loved, to be appreciated, and to express your feelings towards others.
Threes tend to be self-assured, charming, ambitious, and energetic. If you’re a Three, you are motivated by the desire to be affirmed, be distinguished from others, and to impress or be admired by peers.
If you’re this type, you are sensitive and introspective. You tend to be self-aware, emotionally honest, and personal. Motivations include wanting to preserve their self-image and take care of emotional needs above all else.
Fives are intense and cerebral. Traits of this type are perceptive, secretive, and insightful. If this is your type, you are motivated by the desire for knowledge and to have everything figured out as a defence mechanism.
If you’re a Six, you are committed, security-oriented, hard-working, and responsible. You are good at problem-solving and tend to be cautious. You are motivated by a need for security and feeling supported.
Sevens are generally busy, spontaneous, extroverted, and acquisitive. You are motivated by the desire to maintain your freedom and happiness, to keep yourself excited, and to avoid painful situations.
Type Eights are powerful and dominating. If you’re an Eight, you’re characterized by being self-confident, decisive, protective, and sometimes egocentric. You’re also motivated by the need to be self-reliant, to prove your strength, and to stay in control of situations.
If you’re a Nine, you are easygoing, self-effacing, agreeable, and optimistic. You like when things go smoothly, prefer to remain conflict-free, and are motivated by creating harmony in your surroundings.
All of these are categorized into three overarching types based on the triads mentioned before:
- Gut (or Body) types (Types 1, 8, and 9): This group relies on their instinctual intelligence and their “gut feelings” to tackle threats and opportunities.
- Heart types (Types 2, 3, and 4): This group relies on their emotional intelligence to navigate the world.
- Head types (Types 5, 6, and 7): This group relies on their intellectual intelligence to understand themselves and others.
These triads give you a good understanding of what guides you in your life.
How the Enneagram Types are measured
The test is made up of statements such as “I seek out experiences that I know will make me excited” and “I am not afraid to tell someone when I think they are wrong”. For each statement, you will indicate whether you feel it is inaccurate, neutral, or accurate to your own personality.
After answering all of the statements, you will then be provided with a visual chart and summary of your results. Note that the Enneagram system states that no one is solely one type, but everyone is a unique mixture of the nine types. Therefore, the summary will show you which level of each of the nine personality types you have, as well as which one stands out as most representative of you.
You’ll then be able to read a comprehensive report of each type on The Enneagram Institute website and use the information to learn more about yourself. You can also upgrade your personalized report to get even more insights for an added fee.
Essentially, the report will outline your key personality traits, your wings, motivations, and fears, giving you an overall outlook into various aspects of your personality. It will tell you growth tips for your personality type, what you’re like in relationships, and what healthy versus unhealthy types look like.
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The Enneagram in Daily Practice
Overall understanding your personality is not only fun but useful. The Enneagram can be useful in many aspects of your personal and professional life.
In personal development, understanding your Enneagram type allows you to hone your emotional and thought processes, which you can apply to lifelong learning. It can help provide direction for you in various ways, such as in your spirituality.
Further, in your personal relationships, the Enneagram is important to improving communication. It can strengthen relationships by helping you understand you and your partner or friends’ needs, insecurities, and strengths. The Enneagram platform can also provide insight into which other Types you get along with best on a friendship or romantic level. Lastly, it’s also fun! Talking about Enneagrams and connecting with others over your type can be a great icebreaker or way to learn more about each other.
When it comes to the workplace, many teams are using the Enneagram as a tool for team building, effective communication, and leadership development. Similar to your personal relationships, the Enneagram can inform your workplace relationships for the better. The Enneagram is also utilized in the organizational psychology field, as a way to improve employee motivation and productivity.
Advantages and Limitations of using the Enneagram
There are several reasons you should want to learn more about your personality, and personality tests are a fun way to do so. As mentioned before, the greatest advantage of the Enneagram is that it allows you to understand more about your personality. By thinking about all the questions in the test, it forces you to be more introspective. This helps with your own self-reflection and exploration. It also allows you to learn new ways to approach problems and how you can leverage your own traits to do so.
A limitation that applies to any personality test is the self-reporting element. Since test takers are asked to evaluate themselves, the results aren’t always accurate. They can be biased or may reflect what the individual wants to be rather than what they truly are.
Further, the largest criticism of the Enneagram is that it is a pseudoscience. It is seen by some as being vague and difficult to test in a scientific manner. With this in mind, the Enneagram should be treated as a holistic personality test and less of a psychological test.