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Useful Notes / The Enneagram

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A trio of trios of types. Which one are you?note 

According to the dictionary, an "Enneagram" is a nine-pointed star. The Enneagram of Personality has nine inter-related personality bases.

The Enneagram is a personality model, supposedly derived from Sufi teachings and elaborated upon by George Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo. It is unique amongst personality tests in that it doesn't try to pigeonhole you based on who you happen to be at this very second; it accounts for personal evolution, both in the past and in the future, and gives suggestions for how to improve. People could use this to identify from where their own subconscious impulses stem from, and unlock their true self.

The underlying theory of the Enneagram is that, in the wise words of Magic: The Gathering's Mark Rosewater, "Your greatest weakness is your greatest strength pushed too far." Each of the nine "Enneatypes" has a core "Vice," a single root insecurity that serves as the Freudian Excuse which the entire type is thereafter built on; it is the story of nine personalities Compensating for Something. Single-Issue Psychology, played straight. But the core Vice must be let go for self-actualisation. This is also why the system doesn't try to pigeonhole you: as you read through the nine types and their vices, you'll note that you have all those fears. But one of them's probably strongest, and Enneagram theorists would assign you to that type. The types are:

Feeling Triad (a.k.a. Heart Triad) (id)

  • Twos/Helpers (superego) are kind, generous and often selfless, which is their backwards way of hoping that somebody will be nice to them and get their needs met. "Love Hungry", or perhaps "Desperately Craves Affection," is their Basic Fear. They don't just like feeling needed, but need it at a deep level, often in a Secretly Selfish way — though they'd usually never admit that. At their worst, Twos can be intrusive, manipulative or possessive of the people they care about to ensure they're depended on. They can also forget how to please themselves (Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places is a major theme of the Enneagram). On the other hand, a healthy Two is a model of altruism and unconditional love.
  • Threes/Achievers/Motivators (id) can be chameleonic in their pursuit of acceptance and status. Their Basic Fear is of being worthless, and they look for that worth externally, consciously or subconsciously becoming whatever they think will make them successful and/or popular. Think Lucy Ricardo's willingness to do anything for fame, or the plight of the Broken Ace. Despite their apparently high self-esteem, they actually feel a lot less confident than they let on, and can become Lonely at the Top. They are susceptible to public opinion, and can become so obsessed with pleasing everyone that they kind of forget what their actual personality is like. (Getting Hoist by Your Own Petard is another major theme of the Enneagram.) Paradoxically, a healthy Three is the most authentic and genuine person you will ever meet. David Foster Wallace's "Good Old Neon" is a pretty good example of what it's like to ride in the head of a Three.
  • Fours/Individualists/Romantics (ego) are the reason True Art Is Angsty. Their Basic Fear is that they have no identity or personal significance, that the world will forget them when they're gone. This fear expresses itself as a belief that something is fundamentally wrong with them and that they are inextricably different from others, and Fours make a constant source of pride and even superiority or disdain. They build their extremely particular identities around these beliefs of alienness and separation from everyone else — which can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Fours can channel this sensitivity into their creative output... or they may become the stereotypical Mad Artist who thinks no one understands them and may be Driven to Suicide. When they aren't cutting off their own ears, they are luminary and visionary creators, helping make sense of the senseless world around them.

Thinking Triad (a.k.a. Head Triad) (superego)

  • Fives/Investigators/Thinkers (ego) are the silent observer types. Their Basic Fear is to be incompetent or helpless to defend themselves against the external world, and as such they retreat inward, striving to feel capable by developing keen insight and awareness of how the world works. This usually makes them come off detached, living in their heads and pursuing knowledge relentlessly and for its own sake — no matter how arcane, impractical, or incomprehensible to others. They actually tend to prefer those things. Unhealthy Fives can become Freaky Loners, insufferably arrogant, or Cloudcuckoolanders; the healthy ones revolutionize the way we see the world.
  • Sixes/Loyalists/Skeptics (superego) are one of the more confusing types, being an uneasy compromise between a creature-comforts person and a devil's advocate with an overactive Spider-Sense. Both behaviors stem from their Basic Fear of lacking security; deep down they do not trust their thinking or stability, and they constantly plan for and anticipate worst-case scenarios and attacks which will deprive them of the things and/or people they love. Sixes tend to see themselves as The Everyman and prioritize their communities, heroes, or societal roles over themselves; their fear of being targeted makes them prone to Tall Poppy Syndrome. They can be suspicious of and even lash out against authorities, but once they find one they do trust, they will show Undying Loyalty, even when it's a bad idea. The healthy ones are egalitarian salt-of-the-earth types who, to quote the old meme, "doesn't afraid of anything."
  • Sevens/Enthusiasts (id) are somewhere between the Genki Girl and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or for males the Peter Pan. They are frequently The Hedonist and love new experiences, freedom and the possibility of "the next thing," living and thinking at a fast pace and often coming off scatterbrained or impulsive. Having said that, their Basic Fear is of being deprived or in pain, and all that activity, sensation and future focus is Aimlessly Seeking Happiness deep down: a way to distract themselves from painful reality. They bury that fear or outrun that emotion by any means possible — a task that never ends, and results in an avalanche of experience with which they are never satisfied and never fully partake. An unhealthy Seven can become a Mood-Swinger whose pain catches up to them suddenly and dramatically, or a Manchild wasting their potential on self-gratification. At their best, though, they cannot be beat at living in the moment and being joyful. Many comedians are Sevens, and paradoxically, so are many Sad Clowns.

Asserting/Anger Triad (a.k.a. Gut Triad) (ego)

  • Eights/Challengers/Leaders (id) have a lot in common with the Mama Bear trope, except that the person they are trying to protect is themselves. The Eight's Basic Fear is being harmed or controlled by others, and that has driven them to be brash, self-reliant, and unapologetic. They are large, forceful personalities who want to shape the world to their will rather than vice versa, which can make them very charismatic but also very confrontational and domineering. Eights often have trouble controlling their tempers, can trample others in their need for power, and will resist deeply the idea of being vulnerable themselves. They make the best bullies, but when healthy, they're also the most likely to stand up to bullies, for others and themselves, and make great leaders. They are also by far the most likely to employ the "Taking You with Me" trope.
  • Nines/Peacemakers (ego) just want everyone to get along. Their Basic Fear, of having to undergo separation and loss, causes them to have a lot of empathy and do whatever they can to promote harmony and well-being. This includes their own harmony and calm: the Mellow Fellow describes Nines well. At their worst, this turns them into a Stepford Smiler who suppresses their own messy inner feelings and desires, or a passive-aggressive, apathetic Extreme Doormat who checks out of life and even their very personality. However, they can also be The Pollyanna, accepting, trusting and refreshingly optimistic. All-Loving Hero characters will often fall into this category.
  • Ones/Reformers (superego) are The Perfectionist, plain and simple. Their Basic Fear is to be corrupt. They have a little voice in the back of their heads that is constantly criticizing their behavior; they use this to try and stay moral and ascend beyond the criticism of others. Naturally, this also means they judge not only themselves but others for falling short of these standards, which can resemble The Snark Knight. They tend to shove under the bed anything they feel ashamed about, which can create all sorts of horrific repression problems. A healthy One leads by example and shows Incorruptible Pure Pureness. An unhealthy One can slip into hypocrisy and Moral Myopia or be a Principles Zealot or even a Knight Templar — after all, nobody said those standards had to be good.

Along with the whole "Freudian Excuse" thing, another major theme of the Enneagram is of shooting oneself in the foot: the defensive mechanisms that each type uses to keep themselves safe are also the ones most likely to alienate them from people, happiness, healthiness, life, the universe, and everything. An unhealthy person may realize their defense mechanism has taken them too far down to self-destruction: for example, Fours, as one of the more self-aware of the types, tend to be extremely self-conscious, and at unhealthy levels, their introspection results in self-hatred and depression rather than creative transformation.

Obviously, every Type is numerically adjacent to two other types, and the more dominant of the adjacent type becomes a "Wing." Simply put, that wing is your secondary personality: an Eight with a Nine wing (8w9) tends to be more reserved and lets anger build up in themselves, whereas an Eight with a Seven wing (8w7) is more gregarious and impulsive.

The real complexity comes from the "Direction of Integration" and "Direction of Disintegration." This theory states that, when a person is under stress, they start displaying the negative traits of the type they "disintegrate" to. For instance, Ones fall to Four, meaning that an unhealthy One will start to brood, wallow in self-pity, and question their identity the way a Four does. Conversely, the Direction of Integration describes which type a happy person starts integrating the positive traits of. Ones rise to Seven; a One who has managed to make peace with own flaws will not only feel joyful and optimistic, but give themselves permission to enjoy life more. The Direction of Disintegration is simply the Direction of Integration backwards. Thus the lines you see in the Enneagram circle diagram. Integration for each type is as follows (there are two circuits):

  • 2 → 4 → 1 → 7 → 5 → 8 → 2 …
  • 3 → 6 → 9 → 3 …

A hallmark of the Enneagram is that it does not try to insist that only one enneatype can achieve a certain type of interaction. In fact, every person has all nine enneatypes in play to varying degrees, often subconsciously, which may make it hard to figure out what type your base is even with a measuring test. And no one type has a monopoly on any given trait or facet. If you like to lead, for instance, the stereotypical answer is that you are an Eight (from their urge to show their strength). But any type can lead. Sixes, Threes, and Ones are often especially drawn to it — Sixes out of their loyalty and community-orientedness, Threes for the associated prestige, and Ones for the power to get things done right, their way. Even easygoing types like Nines can lead — Abraham Lincoln being one often cited example. For another example, Fours can be wildly creative, drawing from their introspection and self-awareness, but so can Fives from their iconoclastic perceptions of the world, Nines from their daydreaming imaginations, and Sevens from their colorful nature.

Enneagram is often discussed in conjunction with other theories of personality typology, most notably Myers–Briggs. While there is debate on whether any MBTI type and any enneagram type can co-exist, the general consensus is that there are some pairings which are significantly more likely than others:

  • Type One is often found in xSxJ types
  • Type Two is often found in xxFJ types
  • Type Three is often found in ExTx types
  • Type Four is often found in IxFx types, being marginally more common in intuitives
  • Type Five is often found in IxTx types, being marginally more common in intuitives
  • Type Six is often found in ISxx types
  • Type Seven is often found in ExxP types
  • Type Eight is often found in ExTx types, being marginally more common in judgers
  • Type Nine is often found in IxFx types, being marginally more common in perceivers

One further breakdown of each type are the instinctual variant stackings. These pertain to where a person directs their energies, and is what typically separates people within the same type from each other. The three instinctual variants are Self-Preservational "sp" (pertaining to keeping one's own psyche and headspace safe from others), Social "so" (pertaining to maintaining harmony and good standing within a larger group or society), and One-on-One/Sexual "sx", (pertaining to ensuring loyalty and love from those close to you). People are typed by stacking how they prioritize these three areas of their lives, usually denotated by listing only the top two in order (ex. if someone prioritizes Social instincts over Sexual instincts over Self-Preservation instincts, their instinctual stack would be written so/sx). And each of these instinctual types behave differently within each Enneatype, but you can look up how those differ on your own, because this is already a heck of a 101 crash course.

Finally, there's wide bunches of other stuff we haven't talked about, like the directional scales, Tritype theory, what your childhood was probably like, and other interesting-but-unwieldy trivia. More information can be found at:

Alternative Title(s): Enneagram Of Personality