Enneagram: The Basics of Personality

enneagram-map

The Enneagram of Personality is a personality typing system which divides human personality into nine distinct yet interrelated types. The types are numbered from 1 through 9. Each type is defined by a major concern or mindset which forms the basis of a person’s larger personality, behavior, and actions. It is believed that a person’s type is formed in childhood and stays with them for the rest of their life, unchanging.

The Enneagram system derives from ancient teachings which were re-introduced to wider society by psychiatrists and spiritual teachers in the 19oos. It is used by people, schools, and employers to better understand personality in order to understand how it influences interpersonal dynamics. However, some still use it as it was originally presented: as a path to self-understanding and spiritual awareness.

The Three Centers

The nine types are divided into three centers, with each center containing three types. These centers are known as the Heart, Head, and Gut. Knowing which center your personality falls in will help you in determining your type and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

  • Heart Center: This center is also known as the Feeling Center and contains types Two,Three, and Four. The Heart Center is emotion-based and types in this center focus on relationships — with themselves or others. They are constantly aware of their relationship to the world. They are either being affected or are affecting others.
  • Head Center: The Head Center is s0metimes called the Thinking Center. The primary concern of types Five, Six, and Seven which make up the Head Center is thinking and reflecting on the world and their experiences. These types can be anxious or withdrawn due to their inward focus on understanding. In contrast to the Heart Center, those of the Head Center approach themselves and others with the mind first.
  • Gut Center: Those belonging to the Gut or Instinctive Center react first, reflect later. The three types of this center are Eight, Nine, and One and each shows a way of reacting to stimuli from the outside world. Those of the Gut Center can be direct and confrontational, or withdrawn and compliant depending on their orientation.

The Enneatypes 

The nine types or Enneatypes are as follows. The numbers are insignificant; no type is better than the other but represent a certain personality drive:

One — The Perfectionist and Reformer: Ones are realistic, self-controlled, and purposeful. They strive to live up the standards they set for themselves. On the negative side, they can be self-righteous and morally rigid.

Two — The Helper and Giver: Twos are nurturing and concerned with the needs of others. They desire to give love and receive love from others, and on the downside can unknowingly manipulate others.

Three — The Performer and Motivator: Threes are motivated to succeed and shine — they are concerned with their image and how they come across to other people. Threes excel in whatever arena they are driven. On the negative side they can be overly focused on their persona to the detriment of their inner selves.

Four — The Individualist and Romantic: Fours are intuitive and sensitive. They tend to be warm and receptive to the emotions of others. Their downfall is being temperamental and falling prey to negative moods.

nine-enneagram-typesFive — The Observer and Thinker: Fives are detached, analytical, and commonly introverted. They can be creative and original but tend to isolate themselves.

Six — The Skeptic and Loyalist: Sixes are responsible and committed, but can be suspicious and anxious. Their personalities range from introverted to the most extroverted. Sixes’ negative side is worry and fear.

Seven — The Adventurer/Enthusiast: Sevens are versatile and energetic. They are generally optimistic about life and dive headfirst into experience. On the downside they can be scattered and fail to finish what they start.

Eight — The Leader/Boss: Eights are confident, decisive, and direct. They are self-reliant and stand on their own two feet. However, Eights can become overly aggressive and are sometimes perceiving as dominating and bullying.

Nine — The Peacemaker: Nines are easygoing and tolerant; they accept life as it is. They seek to be in union and good terms with the people around them. On the downside, Nines can be overly complacent, passive, and indecisive.

In addition to the basic type, most people have a wing — a number on either side of their type which colors their essential type. For example, a Seven with a Six wing (7w6) will be less outgoing and more cautious than a Seven with an Eight wing.

The Instinctual Subtypes or Variants

Each type has a subtype or variant which corresponds to the basic instincts of mankind. The instinct shows where the most energy and attention is spent.

The self-preservation instinct (sp) is focused on survival and essential needs such as security and comfort. Those of this subtype respond to perceived threats in their environment.

The social subtype (so) is concerned with their place in the world and social structure. This subtype sees the group as necessary to the individual’s survival.

The sexual or one-to-one subtype (sx) is centered on close, intimate relationships. These can be of a sexual kind, but sexual subtypes are concerned with forming intimate relationships of any nature. The sexual subtype sees relationships and coupling as necessary to their survival and happiness.

Do you know your basic personality? What is your Enneatype?

See also:

  • Enneagram Test — find out your type with a portion from a short, fully validated personality test

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21 thoughts on “Enneagram: The Basics of Personality

  1. The first test says I’m either 4 or 6.

    According to the second one, I am type 4 with 3 wing (whatever that means).

    In any case, not much of a surprise.

  2. The first test says Im a number 4. Second one, Im type 4 with a 5 wing. Seems pretty accurate.

  3. On the first test I got 1,3 and 5 all tied at 6 points apiece with type 7 getting 5 points. So now I don’t know how to start the second test because it makes you choose one type.

  4. Tony,

    The second test doesn’t make you choose. I mean, they ask for your type, but you may skip that question if you don’t know your type.

  5. This is way too complicated for me! How does it compare to the attachment system you posted earlier?

  6. The second test scores me with type 3 with a 2 wing and a self preservation style. But type 7 came in second by points so not sure why I’m not a wing 7. This is a little complicated. What is your score Alee?

  7. Well I only took the 1st one and came away with I’m either a type 1, 3, 5, or 9. I read them all and although 1 doesn’t sound anything like me, the rest do. But I’m too tired to take the other test, it seemed long. Anyway I’m okay with who I am and have accepted, it’s who I’m supposed to be. I am aware of the negative and positive parts of my personality and try my best not let the negative ones run rampant.

  8. Mira,

    I’m a type 4w3 as well. And sexual subtype (sx), so 4w3 sx.

    Jessica,

    You’re a 4w5? I didn’t know you were so emo. Lol. 😀

    @ Everyone, what are your subtypes/variants?

  9. Tony,

    “But type 7 came in second by points so not sure why I’m not a wing 7.”

    Your wing can only be one of the number on either side of your essential type because of the way the system is set up: the numbers are connected. So if you’re a 3 you can only be a 3w2, 3w4, or if none really applies or both apply equally then just a 3.

    This is a little complicated.”

    It can be. I might further explain some of the types and the way it works in later posts.

    “What is your score Alee?”

    As I mentioned to Mira, I’m 4w3 sx. I’ve studied Enneagram for a while and I think that describes me quite well, especially the sexual subtype.

    Sherry,

    The attachment styles are completely different from Enneagram! The attachment styles show your needs and desires in a relationship and the way you show your love. Enneagram is about personality (note, attachment styles say nothing about personality) and what basic concerns drive your entire personality.

    So one is just about relationships while the other is more holistic.

  10. Nikisha,

    I’m not surprised. Every day I understand more and more about your personality. Which is a good thing. 🙂

    Eugenia,

    “Well I only took the 1st one and came away with I’m either a type 1, 3, 5, or 9. I read them all and although 1 doesn’t sound anything like me, the rest do.”

    Oh wow, is the first test really giving that many type results? That’s not narrowing things down much. And it’s giving types that aren’t anything alike: there is a huge difference between a 3 and a 5. I might switch the first test out for another.

    I really can’t say for sure but out of the remaining types I’d say type 3 for you. Even though that doesn’t sound exactly right either…

  11. I got Self Preservation Variant but I dont know how accurate that is considering my biggest interest is romantic relationships and has always been. I might be a combination of Self Preservation and Sexual. Im very much an individual and not incredibly social. I prefer working alone than with a group but when it comes to romantic relationships thats totally different. Im very passionate and show my emotions.

  12. Jessica,

    “I got Self Preservation Variant but I dont know how accurate that is considering my biggest interest is romantic relationships and has always been. I might be a combination of Self Preservation and Sexual.”

    Yes, I didn’t include in the article that instinctual subtypes are stacked in twos: in other words, you have the primary subtype, then the secondary. I didn’t add that because the post was getting too long and complex anyway, and it’s more important to focus on your dominant types.

    But if you’re a self-preservation variant it’s possible you’re sp/sx (self-preservation primary or dominant, sexual secondary). And it’s also possible the test is wrong/you didn’t choose the answers that are most accurate of yourself, and you’re actually sx primary.

    You should read this: The Instinctual Stackings of Enneatype Four. It describes the Four type in combination with the various subtypes (the other type stacks are on the left-hand side). You might be better able to figure out your variant that way.

  13. Nkosazana,

    With your baking cinnamon rolls all day for an overworked husband and other happy-homemaking activities, it makes total sense. You do give me a Type 2 vibe. 🙂

  14. Mira,

    “Oh yes, I forgot to mention, I’m a sexual subtype.”

    OMG, twin. 😀

    We both have an anxious attachment style, both 4w3 sx (are you sp secondary?)… I think we score the same on every personality assessment. I always knew you “got” me. 😉

  15. Okay Alee, I got to do the other one b/c I’m all over the map and confused and although a lot about type 3 is me. I’m not image conscious and I’m definitely no workaholic in fact I’m kinda lazy but only with other ppl’s stuff LOL.

  16. Jasmin,

    A Type 2? What, no way. I would have guessed Type 1 or 8. Even 7 makes more sense than 2… That is odd, indeed.

    Eugenia,

    “I’m not image conscious and I’m definitely no workaholic”

    Then never mind. Hey, maybe you’re 9w8? I was thinking 9 was too compliant for you, but with a 9 wing they maybe more aggressive. But “lazy” anything seems to indicate 9. 😀

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