Introduction to the Enneagram
Introduction to the Enneagram, and its nine personality types.
The Enneagram system
The Enneagram is a personality typing system that consists of nine different types. Everyone is considered to be one single type, although one can have traits belonging to other ones. While it's uncertain whether this type is genetically determined, many believe it is already in place at birth.
The nine types (or "enneatypes", "ennea" means "nine") are universally identified by the numbers 1 to 9. These numbers have a standard way of being placed around the Enneagram symbol. Enneagram authors have attached their own individual names to these numbers. On this site the type names by authors Riso and Hudson are used. They are:
- The Reformer
- The Helper
- The Achiever
- The Individualist
- The Investigator
- The Loyalist
- The Enthusiast
- The Challenger
- The Peacemaker
People of a particular type have several characteristics in common, but they can be quite different nevertheless. It depends among other things on their level of mental health. Unhealthy (neurotic) people from a particular type can look quite different from healthy ones. Riso and Hudson distinguish 9 levels of mental health (see their book Personality Types) and have type descriptions for each level of each enneagram type.
Usually one has characteristics of one of the types that lie adjacent to one's own that are more prominent. This is called the wing. So someone who is a type 5, might have a 4 wing or a 6 wing. This may be abbreviated to "5w4" and "5w6". If one doesn't have a dominant wing, it is said that the wings are balanced.
To find out which Enneagram type you are, see which description fits you most, or do the free Enneagram Test on this site.
Enneagram type descriptions
Perfectionists, responsible, fixated on improvement
Ones are essentially looking to make things better, as they think nothing is ever quite good enough. This makes them perfectionists who want to reform and improve, who desire to make order out of the omnipresent chaos. Read more - enneagram type 1
Helpers who need to be needed
Twos essentially feel that they are worthy insofar as they are helpful to others. Love is their highest ideal. Selflessness is their duty. Giving to others is their reason for being. Involved, socially aware, usually extroverted, Twos are the type of people who remember everyone's birthday and who go the extra mile to help out a co-worker, spouse or friend in need. Read more - enneagram type 2
Focused on the presentation of success, to attain validation
Threes need to be validated in order to feel worthy; they pursue success and want to be admired. They are frequently hard working, competetive and are highly focused in the pursuit of their goals, whether their goal is to be the most successful salesman in the company or the "sexiest" woman in their social circle. Read more - enneagram type 3
Identity seekers, who feel unique and different
Fours build their identities around their perception of themselves as being somehow different or unique; they are thus self-consciously individualistic. They tend to see their difference from others as being both a gift and a curse - a gift, because it sets them apart from those they perceive as being somehow "common," and a curse, as it so often seems to separate them from the simpler forms of happiness that others so readily seem to enjoy. Read more - enneagram type 4
Thinkers who tend to withdraw and observe
Fives essentially fear that they don't have enough inner strength to face life, so they tend to withdraw, to retreat into the safety and security of the mind where they can mentally prepare for their emergence into the world. Fives feel comfortable and at home in the realm of thought. They are generally intelligent, well read and thoughtful and they frequently become experts in the areas that capture their interest. Read more - enneagram type 5
Conflicted between trust and distrust
Sixes essentially feel insecure, as though there is nothing quite steady enough to hold onto. At the core of the type Six personality is a kind of fear or anxiety. Sixes don't trust easily; they are often ambivalent about others, until the person has absolutely proven herself, at which point they are likely to respond with steadfast loyalty. Read more - enneagram type 6
Pleasure seekers and planners, in search of distraction
Sevens are essentially concerned that their lives be an exciting adventure. They are future oriented, restless people who are generally convinced that something better is just around the corner. They are quick thinkers who have a great deal of energy and who make lots of plans. They tend to be extroverted, multi-talented, creative and open minded. Read more - enneagram type 7
Taking charge, because they don't want to be controlled
Eights are essentially unwilling to be controlled, either by others or by their circumstances; they fully intend to be masters of their fate. Eights are strong willed, decisive, practical, tough minded and energetic. They also tend to be domineering; their unwillingness to be controlled by others frequently manifests in the need to control others instead. Read more - enneagram type 8
Keeping peace and harmony
Nines essentially feel a need for peace and harmony. They tend to avoid conflict at all costs, whether it be internal or interpersonal. As the potential for conflict in life is virtually ubiquitous, the Nine's desire to avoid it generally results in some degree of withdrawal from life, and many Nines are, in fact, introverted. Other Nines lead more active, social lives, but nevertheless remain to some to degree "checked out," or not fully involved, as if to insulate themselves from threats to their peace of mind. Read more - enneagram type 9
In addition to the Enneagram type, people are also considered to be one of three instinctual variants. The self-preservation instinct (dealing with oneself), the sexual (dealing with another person) and the social instinct (dealing with a group) can be most pronounced.
See the page about instinctual variants.