The Enneagram: The basics of personality

I’ve taken tons of personality tests in my life. I’m an INFP on the Myers-Briggs personality test. I’ve taken the DISC test, though I don’t remember what my letters were. I’m pretty sure I’m a “Blue” on one of the personality tests I’ve taken. I’ve even been sorted into Hufflepuff, and I don’t read, watch, or even like Harry Potter (controversial opinion, I know, but I digress). All of this to say, I don’t remember most of the personality tests I’ve taken. Myers-Briggs has been the most helpful for me, but I don’t even remember what the four letters of my type stand for half the time, much less what those four letters mean for my type and personality.

It was about a year ago that I was first introduced to the Enneagram of Personality by the Liturgists Podcast. Without knowing anything about it, I listened to Michael Gungor and Science Mike go into detail with two guest hosts on the nine personality types of the Enneagram, very confused as to what was going on and being described. After listening to the podcast and doing some research of my own, I discovered a lot of interesting things about the Enneagram, some of its history and how it’s benefitted people’s lives. So I decided to figure out my personality type.

And it changed everything for me.

Like I’m prone to do when I write blogs, let me make something clear here: I’m not an expert. I don’t particularly care to do a ton of research into things I don’t particularly care to know everything about. My personality typing will help explain why that is. I will give some very basic explanation of what the Enneagram of Personality is and how it functions, but I would strongly encourage you to do some of your own research on its history and look into the typing of yourself, your friends, and family in your own time. I’m serious when I say that the benefits are well worth it.

What it is

The Enneagram Institute website calls the Enneagram “a modern synthesis of ancient wisdom traditions.” The Enneagram is a personality typing method based not purely in analytic or scientific research, but based on observations of humanity, of real people. The Enneagram holds a belief that people are two parts: Essence and ego, the essence being a person’s ideal, true self, and the ego being the subjective personality that develops throughout life and its trials. The Enneagram is a tool to help people identify their essence and their ego and the difference between them, so that they can identify factors and stressors in their lives preventing them from reaching their true selves.

The Enneagram is divided into nine individual personality types. Here are some incredibly basic snapshot descriptions of the nine types, taken from the Enneagram Institute website (which I will link to below):

1 The Reformer – The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic

2 The Helper – The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive

3 The Achiever – The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Drive, and Image-Conscious

4 The Individualist – The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental

5 The Investigator – The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated

6 The Loyalist – The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious

7 The Enthusiast – The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered

8 The Challenger – The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational

9 The Peacemaker – The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

How it works

What is unique about the Enneagram is that it also involves sub-types, personality types on the spectrum that people operate as in times of stress and in times of health. So, for instance, I am a 4 on the Enneagram, which tends to be a more withdrawn but artistic and expressive type.

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When I am mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy, I act more like a 1, the Reformer. So, in health, I use my creative passions and pursuits in a way that functions in such a way as to improve the environments I’m in and act in more of a leadership role. On the other end of the spectrum, I function more as a 2 – the Helper – in stress. When I am not mentally, emotionally, or spiritually healthy in one way or another, I function in such a way as to assist other people in their pursuits. 2’s can go out of their way to help people in such a way as to make themselves feel needed, which is often how I operate in times of stress, focusing more on supporting others’ pursuits than using and pursuing my own artistic, creative endeavors. Not that these are necessarily bad things in and of themselves, but they are deviations from the way I would normally operate when I am in a healthy place. Each type has a “home base” type as I tend to call it, with two sub-types that a person tends toward in times of health or stress. Each of these nine types can also have “wings.” These wings are slight deviations from the normal type, either to the left or the right on the scale. So, for instance, as a 4, I am able to have either a 3 or a 5 wing, based on subtle intricacies in my personality. I don’t have a strong leaning toward either of these types, so I’m a “normal” 4.

So those are the basics of personality typing. But that’s not all there is to the Enneagram. From this point is where the real benefits of the Enneagram come into play. Each of the nine types has very detailed descriptions, and each has both a basic fear and a basic desire that motivates its actions in life, as well as key motivations to pursue this basic desire. When I have reached moments of conflict or gone through trials in my life, I’ve read through my type description and found a precise, and oftentimes exact explanation of why I’ve felt depressed, stressed, or anxious, and it has been followed up with things that I can do to help get myself out of my head and into action to help myself reach a healthy headspace again. For instance, my basic fear as a four is that I have no identity or personal significance. The most stressful, trying times in my life have been when I feel I have no purpose or that my life is without its own individual meaning. Simply recognizing this feeling has helped me more than you realize, and I’ve been able to take steps to combat these feelings of worthlessness that have crippled me in the past. Each type description contains this information, and can be incredibly beneficial in times of stress.

Each of the nine types also has a comparison chart for compatibility with each of the other nine types, and clearly defines any problem spots or reasons for conflict with other types. I’m in an interesting position where I am surrounded by 2’s in my life: My fiancé, my best friend, my mother, along with a few others. 2’s and 4’s can, if they are not able to sort through their differences, find each other too emotionally needy to really function in a healthy way. Knowing this has helped me navigate my relationships in such a way as to pursue forward motion rather than stagnating in unresolved emotional turmoil, and I’m happy to say that my relationships have only benefitted from knowing my Enneagram type and how I interact with others. Oftentimes if I meet someone new, I’ll ask them if they know their Enneagram type so that I can know how to interact with them better, but also so that they can reap the benefits from knowing their type for themselves.

All of this to say, I really can’t completely put into words how beneficial the Enneagram has been for me in my life and in the lives of many people around me. There are so many personality tests out there, but this is the one that has benefitted me more than anything else. It has, quite frankly, changed my life in multiple ways.

Finding your Enneagram personality type

So how can you find your own type? Well, since it isn’t as well-known and since it is incredibly detailed, there aren’t a bunch of free tests out there that you can take. However, there are a couple of options, though you will have to pay some money for them.

enneagraminstitute.com has the RHETI test that you can take on their website. This is a 144-question test that will rank your best-matched types and send you a detailed description for your top 3, all in one PDF sent to your email so you can save it. This is also the website I use for all of my Enneagram needs. The test on this website costs $12 to take: https://tests.enneagraminstitute.com/test/1/code

There is also an app on the Apple App Store that has a full Enneagram test. This one doesn’t create a PDF for you or anything, so I’d recommend taking a screenshot and then looking up the descriptions of each of your types on enneagraminstitute.com. This app is $7, and you can use it as much as you want. So you can have your friends take the test, too! Find it here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/enneagram-personality-full-test/id365310605?mt=8

There are some “free Enneagram tests” out there, but I haven’t found any that I would recommend. I took three of them at one point in time and got a different type for each of them, only one of which I think was my actual typing. I really cannot stress the benefits of finding your Enneagram personality type. It’s played an incredibly important role in my life over the past year or so, and I know that you, your friends, and your family can benefit from it as well.

Resources

All of the information I used in this post was taken from this website in one place or another. I’d encourage you to explore this website and find your own type and description, as well as the types of others in your life: enneagraminstitute.com

The podcast that first introduced me to the Enneagram can be found here: http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2016/8/23/the-enneagram-episode-37 It’s a great resource for descriptions of all nine types, as well!

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