Enneagram - An Overview

In my previous post, I shared about my discovery of the Enneagram. Just to review, the Enneagram is a tool that helps you unlock and understand yourself better. Ian Cron, co-author of the book "The Road Back To You," says this: "By challenging us to bravely explore who we really are, the Enneagram helps us recognize and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior and to become our most authentic selves."


Fransican priest, Richard Rohr, explains the Enneagram like this: "The Enneagram is not just a personality typing system. Yes, there are tests and quizzes that help you identify your primary Enneagram type, but that is often just the first step. This tool is meant to help you over a life-long journey." He goes on to explain, "While self-discovery is important, it is not the Enneagram’s final objective. The Enneagram’s purpose is to help us uncover the traps that keep us from living fully and freely as our True Self so that we will use our unique, authentic gifts for the good of others and the world."

Heavy stuff, huh?

It would seem that way, especially when you consider that the first time you ever see the Enneagram it looks quite simple. It's really just a circle with numbers and arrows. Some people think it looks mystical, ancient or even demonic, because it looks like a pentagram. In fact, the Enneagram is quite literally a 9-sided polygon (enneagram).  As you dive into the meaning of the numbers and arrows you discover that the Enneagram accomplishes what Cron and Rohr describe by introducing the student to nine human archetypes or as I like to think: nine different ways that we interact with the world around us.

But, it's much more than just nine numbers. Each point on the Enneagram is associated with a personality type. The number has a corresponding title which describes the role that number type plays out in life. (i.e. looking at the graphic above, it's easy to see that a Type 1 on the Enneagram is titled "The Perfectionist or The Reformer"). Depending on the source of your study, you can also discover that each number on the Enneagram also contains a basic fear, a basic desire, a virtue and a vice. Do I have your interest piqued yet? Wait, there is even more...

Each number on the Enneagram is also related to the numbers on each side. Those are called wings. (For example, looking again at our graphic. The Perfectionist/Type 1 either has a 9-wing or a 2-wing). I'll get into this eventually, but for now it's important to know that very few people are dead center. The truth is we probably lean from our number to one of our two neighboring wings.

If that isn't enough, each number has two more corresponding points. On the graphic above, this is depicted as arrows pointing to and from the type you identify with. These arrows indicate where you go in stress and security. If we keep with the example of The Perfectionist/Type 1, you will see an arrow that comes from Type 7 and an arrow pointing to Type 4. What this means is that when a Type 1/Perfectionist is stressed, they begin behaving like an unhealthy Type 4 and when a Type 1/Perfectionist is seeing secure growth, they will begin to behave like a healthy Type 7.

Lastly, the Enneagram types are split into three triads. Types 2, 3 and 4 live in the Feeling/Heart Triad. Types 5, 6, and 7 live in the Thinking/Head Triad. Types 8, 9 and 1 live in the Reacting/Gut Triad.

This is way more than some of you need to know as an introduction, but my point is that the Enneagram is way more than just a number. Finally, the more you study these connections, the more you will understand how the Enneagram does not tell you what you ARE, but what you ARE NOT. It describes the masks you use to interact with the world. It exposes your phoniness and the ways you bury who you really are. It is a tool on your path to self-discovery.

In the next post I want to share how a simple one-day conference not only convinced me of the power of self-discovery, but how it started to undo me personally. Any guesses as to what number/type I am? Let me know in the comments below.

Quietly making noise,