At age 16, I had a youth paster tell me he had a test he wanted me and the other kids in our youth group to take. He told us it was called the Enneagram and it would provide insight to our behaviors and motivations. I took the test, and found out I was a number 4, or The Individualist. I read about the type Four and -experienced a variation of feelings in response. I remember feeling both humbled and embarrassed but also relieved after taking the test. Humbled at the raw vulnerability of seeing my behavior and motivations on paper, and relieved because there was a reason for the behaviors and angsty feelings I’d previously felt shame about. It gave me a perspective and narrative that I could begin operating out of, with a goal for transformation and growth. I remember thinking “Ok here it all is. I can’t go back on knowing these things now.” It gave me a bit more perspective on how I was wired, challenged me to protect and honor my gifts and talents, and gave me insight to negative patterns that I turned too when I felt shame or fear.
I am ecstatic that the Enneagram is gaining more attention today. I love to talk about it and think it is a wonderful tool for personal, professional, relational. and spiritual growth. I thought I would share some FAQ’s about the Enneagram along with a link so that you can take the test yourself if you are interested.
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a personality typology tool. It is part of a model that describes human development and motivation. Suzanne Stabile describes it as “Nine ways of seeing, nine ways of being, nine ways of responding to what we see." Ennea means “nine” in Greek and gramma means “sign or figure.”
The Enneagram is a tool intended to be used for transformative work. It teaches that we are so much more than our personality, as our personality has actually been formed out of protection and conditioning. Knowing our Enneagram type raises self-awareness and answers the whys of our behavior. Our personality has caused us to go to sleep to our True Self, or our most pure way of being. When we act out of our personalities, we have fallen asleep to our true nature. Richard Rohr describes this journey as returning to “the face we had before we were born.”
As we bring awareness to the patterns of our personality, we become more in touch with the God that created us and experience our True Self more directly. No matter how painful or traumatic our early experiences were, our True Self cannot be taken or harmed. It’s actually to say, you are NOT your personality. Rohr says we are able to ask “how can we set all our energies free so that they serve life and truth.”
Where did it come from?
The roots are not clear, however, there is evidence of the Enneagram rooted in the desert fathers and mothers in the 13th century. Suzanne Stabile says “The roots of the ideas that eventually led to the development of the psychology of the nine types go back at least as far east he fourth century AD and perhaps further.” There are traces of it in Greek culture and it has been highly influenced by modern psychology.
How does it help in personal growth and relationships?
The Enneagram brings self- compassion when we can see ourselves in a more honest and organic way, with a reason behind our behavior along with a way forward. It brings others-compassion when we see how the other types are seeing and experiencing the world around them. It's almost as if we've picked up a pair of glasses to see the world through their eyes. It creates understanding, curiosity, and care.
What are the passion/sins?
For each type, one passion or sin (taken from Seven Deadly Sins) tends to crop up over and over again. Riso and Hudson state “[The sin] is the root of our imbalance and the way we become trapped in ego.” Having awareness of this helps us to see where we tend to get entangled.
How do I figure out my type?
Take a test. The one I recommend comes from the Enneagram Institute and can be found here. Be sure to click on RHETI test option. The cost s $12 and it takes around 40 minutes to complete.
Another great way to figure out your type is to listen to others describes themselves in their type. This can give you a feel for the way they see their world and if this resonates with you.
What are the nine types?
1) The Reformer or Perfectionist. At their best, they see where change is needed in the world and how to implement that change. They desire to be full of integrity, principled and purposeful. In self-defense, they can have a tendency toward perfectionism and rigid thinking.
Basic Desire: To have integrity.
Basic Fear: Being bad or defective.
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not ok to make mistakes.
Lost Childhood Message: You are good.
2) The Helper-A their best, they are organic lovers and generous. When they are operating out of their ego/defenses, they can become people-pleasing and lack boundaries.
Basic Desire: To be loved
Basic Fear: Being unworthy or unloved.
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not ok to have your own needs.
Lost Childhood Message: You are wanted.
3) The Achiever- When operating from a healthy state, they are excelling and adaptable. They want to leave a legacy behind. When operating out of their wounds, they are overly image-conscious and arrogant.
Basic Desire: To be valuable
Basic Fear: Being worthless
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to have your own feelings and identity.
Lost Childhood Message: You are loved for yourself.
4) The Individualist or Romantic- Operating from their true selves, they are creative and intuitive. They strive to be different from others and fear being ordinary. In unhealthy states, they are prone to melancholy and being self-absorbed.
Basic Desire: To be oneself.
Basic Fear: Being without identity.
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to be to functional or too happy.
Lost Childhood Message: You are seen for who you are.
5) The Investigator- Fives are curious people and love research. They are confident, independent, and clear-minded. Operating out of their ego, they can isolate and cut themselves off from their emotions and needs.
Basic Desire: To be competent
Basic Fear: Of being useless or incompetent .
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to be comfortable in the world.
Lost Childhood Message: Your needs are not a problem.
6) The Loyalist- They main motivator for a six is security, support, and stability. They are very hard working people and dependable. At unhealthy levels, they can remain frozen and indecisive in fear.
Basic Desire: To be secure.
Basic Fear: Being without support or guidance.
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to trust yourself.
Lost Childhood Message: You are safe
7) Enthusiast- Enthusiasts are often full of energy, spontaneous, and fun-loving. Sevens see the world as full of possibility and they can share this excitement with others. When they are operating at unhealthy levels, they can get scattered, avoid connecting with their true feelings, and can seek instant gratification.
Basic Desire: To be happy
Basic Fear: Being deprived or trapped in pain.
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to depend on anyone for anything.
Lost Childhood Message: You will be taken care of.
8) Challenger. At their best, they want to protect and lead. They are confident and decisive. Operating out of their ego and wounds, they can bulldoze others and be guarded with their feelings.
Basic Desire: To protect oneself.
Basic Fear: Someone else controlling their life.
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to be too vulnerable or to trust anyone.
Lost Childhood Message: You will not be betrayed.
9) The Peacemaker. Operating out of their True Self, they are optimistic, comforting, and natural healers. They are often friendly and can synthesize different schools of thought. At unhealthy levels, they can be complacent, indecisive, and without opinion.
Basic Desire: To be at peace.
Basic Fear: Loss and separation.
Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to assert yourself
Lost Childhood Message: Your presence matters.
References and recommended material:
The Wisdom of the Enneagram. Don Riso and Russ Hudson
The Path Between Us. Suzanne Stabile.
The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert
The Enneagram in Love and Work. Helen Palmer
The Enneagram Institute (website)