How the Enneagram system Works

Introduction to the Enneagram

This explanation consists the basics that you will have to understand exactly how the Enneagram works, and will be especially advantageous for beginners. Together you will see, just a few simple principles are required to start your journey of self-discovery. The Enneagram, however, is at some point subtle and also complex, together you will certainly appreciate the more you use it in your life. For added guidelines, above Personality Types,27-55, and for further clarifications Understanding the Enneagram, 11-30.

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Index that Subjects

Your basic Personality TypeThe CentersThe WingThe levels of DevelopmentDirections the Integration (Growth) and Disintegration (Stress)The 3 InstinctsTyping Yourself and Others


The Enneagram’s structure may look complicated, although that is actually simple. The will assist you know the Enneagram if you sketch it yourself.

Draw a circle and also mark ripe equidistant points on that is circumference. Designate each allude by a number native one come nine, through nine in ~ the top, because that symmetry and also by convention. Each point represents among the nine an easy personality types.

The nine points top top the circumference are also connected through each various other by the inner currently of the Enneagram. Note that points Three, Six, and also Nine form an it is provided triangle. The staying six points are associated in the adhering to order: One connects through Four, four with Two, Two v Eight, Eight v Five, 5 with Seven, and also Seven with One. These 6 points form an rarely often, rarely hexagram. The an interpretation of this inner lines will be disputed shortly.


Your basic Personality Type

From one point of view, the Enneagram deserve to be seen as a set of nine unique personality types, v each number top top the Enneagram denoting one type. That is usual to uncover a small of yourself in all nine the the types, although one of them should stand out as being closest come yourself. This is her basic personality type.

Everyone emerges from childhood with oneof the nine varieties dominating your personality, v inborn temperament and also other pre-natal components being the main components of our type. This is one area wherein most every one of the significant Enneagram authors agree—we are born v a leading type. Subsequently, this inborn orientation mainly determines the ways in i m sorry we learn to adapt to our beforehand childhood environment. It also seems to command to certain unconscious orientations toward our parental figures, yet why this is so, we still perform not know. In any type of case, by the time children are 4 or 5 years old, your consciousness has developed sufficiently to have a separate feeling of self. Return their identification is still very fluid, at this age children begin to establish themselves and find methods of fitting into the people on their own.

Thus, the as whole orientation of our personality reflects the totality of all childhood factors (including genetics) that influenced its development. (For more about the developmental trends of every personality type, view the associated section in the type descriptions in Personality Typesand in The Wisdom of the Enneagram. Over there is a discussion of the in its entirety theory in Understanding The Enneagram,67-70).

Several an ext points have the right to be made about the basic type itself.

People do not readjust from one straightforward personality type to another.

The descriptions of the personality species are universal and apply equally to males and also females, due to the fact that no type is naturally masculine or feminine.

Not every little thing in the description of her basic type will apply to you all the time since you shake constantly amongst the healthy, average, and also unhealthy properties that comprise your personality type.

The Enneagram offers numbers to designate every of the species because numbers room value neutral— they suggest the whole selection of attitudes and also behaviors of each form without specifying noþeles either hopeful or negative. Uneven the labels used in psychiatry, numbers provide an unbiased, shorthand way of describe a lot around a human without being pejorative.

The number ranking of the species is no significant. A larger number is no better than a smaller number; it is not better to it is in a Nine 보다 a Two because nine is a enlarge number.

No form is inherently much better or worse than any kind of other. While every the personality types have distinct assets and also liabilities, some typesmay beconsidered to be much more desirable than others in any kind of given culture or group. Furthermore, for one factor or another, you may not it is in happy being a certain type.As friend learn more about all the types, however,you will watch that just as each has actually uniqueassets,each hasunique liabilities. The best is to become your best self, not to imitate the assets of another type.

Identifying Your simple Personality Type

As girlfriend think around your personality, which of the following nine duties fits you best most that the time? Or, to put it differently, if you to be to define yourself in a couple of words, i m sorry of the following word clusters would certainly come closest?


These one-word descriptors have the right to be expanded into four-word set of traits. Keep in mind that these are just highlights and do not stand for the complete spectrum of each type.

Type Oneis principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.

Type Twois generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.

Type Threeis adaptable, excelling, driven, and also image-conscious.

Type Fouris expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and also temperamental.

Type Fiveis perceptive, innovative, secretive, and also isolated.

Type Sixis engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.

Type Sevenis spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.

Type Eightis self-confident, decisive, willful, and also confrontational.

Type Nineis receptive, reassuring, complacent, and also resigned.

The Centers

The Enneagram is a 3 x 3 plan of nine personality types in three Centers. There are three types in the Instinctive Center, three in the Feeling Center, and also three in the Thinking Center, as presented below. Each facility consists of three personality varieties that have in typical the assets and liabilities of that Center. Because that example, personality form Four has distinctive strengths and liabilities entailing its feelings, which is why the is in the feeling Center. Likewise, the Eight’s assets and liabilities indicate its partnership to that is instinctual drives, which is why the is in the Instinctive Center, and also so forth for every nine personality types.


The inclusion of each type in its center is no arbitrary. Each kind results from a certain relationship with a cluster of issues that characterize that Center. Most simply, these issues revolve approximately a powerful, mostly unconscious emotional response to the lose of contact with the main point of the self. In the Instinctive Center, the feeling is Angeror Rage. In the feeling Center, the feeling is Shame, and in the thinking Center, it is Fear. Of course, every nine types contain all 3 of these emotions, however in each Center, the personalities of the varieties are particularly affected by the Center’s emotional theme.


Thus, each form has a particular way of coping v the leading emotion the its Center. We deserve to briefly check out what this way by examining each type, center by Center. In the Instinctive Center,Eightsact the end their anger and instinctual energies. In other words, once Eights feeling anger structure in them, they automatically respond to it in some physical way, elevating their voices, moving more forcefully. Rather can clearly see that Eights space angry because they give themselves permission to express their anger physically.

Ninesdeny their anger and instinctual energies as if come say, “What anger? ns am not a human being who gets angry.” Nines space the form most out of touch v their anger and also instinctual energies, regularly feeling endangered by them. The course, Nines obtain angry choose everyone else, but shot to continue to be out of their darker feelings by focusing on idealizations of your relationships and also their world.

Onesattempt to control or repress their anger and also instinctual energy. They feel that they need to stay in control of themselves, particularly of your instinctual impulses and angry feeling at every times. Lock would choose to straight these energies follow to the dictates of their highly occurred inner critic (superego), the resource of their strictures ~ above themselves and others.

In the emotion Center,Twosattempt to regulate their dead by getting other people to choose them and also to think of them as good people. They likewise want to to convince themselves that they room good, loving civilization by concentrating on their confident feelings for others when repressing their an adverse feelings (such together anger and resentment at not being evaluate enough). As lengthy as Twos can acquire positive emotionally responses from others, they feeling wanted and are able to control feelings of shame.

Threestry come deny your shame, and are possibly the most out the touch v underlying feeling of inadequacy. Threes learn to cope through shame by trying to become what they believe a valuable, successful person is like. Thus, Threes learn to do well, to it is in acceptable, even outstanding, and also are often driven relentlessly in their quest of success together a way of staving turn off feelings the shame and also fears of failure.

Foursattempt to regulate their shame by focusing on just how unique and special their details talents, feelings, and personal characteristics are. Fours highlight your individuality and also creativity as a method of handling their shameful feelings, although Fours are the form most likely to succumb to feelings of inadequacy. Fours also manage their shame by cultivating a rich, romantic fantasy life in i beg your pardon they perform not have to resolve whatever in their life seems drab or uninteresting come them.

In the thinking Center,Fiveshave fear about the outer world and around their volume to cope with it. Thus, they cope v their fear by withdrawing from the world. Fives come to be secretive, isolated loners who usage their minds to penetrate into the nature that the world. Fives hope the eventually, as they recognize reality on their very own terms, they will have the ability to rejoin the world and also participate in it, but they never ever feel castle know enough to participate with complete confidence. Instead, castle involve themselves with increasingly complex inner worlds.

Sixesexhibit the most are afraid of all 3 types, greatly experienced as anxiety, which reasons them to be the most out that touch through their own sense of within knowing and confidence. Unequal Fives, Sixes have actually trouble trusting their own minds, so they room constantly looking external themselves because that something to do them feel certain of themselves. They might turn come philosophies, beliefs, relationships, jobs, savings, authorities, or any mix of the above. Yet no issue how plenty of security structures they create, Sixes still feel doubtful and anxious. They may even begin to doubt the an extremely people and also beliefs the they have actually turned to for reassurance. Sixes may also respond to their fear and also anxiety by impulsively confronting it— defying their are afraid in the initiative to be complimentary of it.

Sevenshave fear about their inside world. There are feelings of pain, loss, deprivation, and also general tension that Sevens would choose to continue to be clear the as lot as possible. To cope with these feelings, Sevens save their minds populated with exciting possibilities and options— as long as they have actually something stimulating to anticipate, Sevens feel the they can distract themselves from your fears. Sevens, in many cases, do not stop just at thinking about these options, however. As much as possible they effort to actually do as many of their alternatives as lock can. Thus, Sevens deserve to be uncovered staying top top the go, pursuing one suffer after another, and also keeping themselves entertained and also engaged with their numerous ideas and activities.

The Wing

No one is a pure personality type: anyone is a unique mixture of his or she basic kind and commonly oneof the two species adjacent to it top top the circumference of the Enneagram. One of the two types adjacent to your basic type is called your wing.

Your basic form dominates your all at once personality, while the wing complements it and adds important, periodically contradictory, facets to your total personality. Your wing is the “second side” of her personality, and it should be bring away into factor to consider to far better understand you yourself or who else. For example, if you space a personality kind Nine, you will certainly likely have actually either a One-wing or an Eight-wing, and also your personality together a totality can finest be construed by considering the properties of the Nine as they uniquely blend v the traits of either the One or the Eight. In ours teaching endure over the years, us have additionally encountered some people who it seems to be ~ to have actually both wings, when others are strongly affected by your basic form and show tiny of either wing.

There is disagreement among the various heritages of the Enneagram about whether individuals have actually one or 2 wings. Strict speaking, everyone has actually two wings—in the restricted sense that both of the varieties adjacent to your basic form are operative in her personality due to the fact that each human possesses the potentials of every nine types. However, this is no what is usually meant by “having 2 wings,” and also proponents of the so-called two-wing theory believe that both wing operate much more or much less equally in anyone personality. (For example, they think that a Nine would certainly have about equal quantities of his or she Eight and One wings.)

Observation of human being leads united state to conclude that while the two-wing theory applies to some individuals, most civilization have a leading wing. In the vast bulk of people, while the so-called second wing constantly remains operative to some degree, the leading wing is far more important. (For example, Twos through Three-wings space noticeably different from Twos through One-wings, and while Twos v Three-wings have a One-wing, it is not nearly as essential as the Three-wing.) that is therefore clearer come refer just to a type’s “wing” as opposed come its “dominant wing,” due to the fact that the two terms represent the same concept.

One other observation around wings is worth mentioning. In the food of to teach the Enneagram in workshops and Trainings, many civilization in the latter fifty percent of your lives have actually reported the development of their so-called “second wing.” and also in individuals who have actually been pursuing psychological and/or spirituality work, we have actually seen evidence that this is true. We execute not know, however, whether these students were merely seeing every one of the optimistic potentials that the nine varieties unfolding in them together they matured—their 2nd wing being one of the other seven types—or even if it is this was a details development the the second wing type. We will proceed to inspection this idea in our occupational with ours students and colleagues.

It is, of course, important to identify your basic form before you deserve to assess which wing you have. Besides indicating your straightforward type, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram form Indicatormay likewise indicate her wing. Even so, the best way to recognize the affect of her wing is to check out the complete descriptions that your form and its wings in Personality Types. Girlfriend can likewise read the descriptions of the two types adjacent to your basic form and decision which best uses to you.

The levels of Development

There is an inner structure within each personality type. That structure is the continually of behaviors, attitudes, defenses, and motivations created by the ripe Levels of breakthrough which make up the personality form itself. This exploration (and the working out of all the characteristics that make up each type) was initially made by Don Riso in 1977, and was further occurred by Don v Russ Hudson in the 1990s. They room the only Enneagram teacher to encompass this essential factor in their treatment of the Enneagram. The level are an essential contribution not just to the Enneagram however to ego psychology — and also the personality types of the Enneagram can not be adequately defined without them. The level account because that differences between people that the same form as well as how people adjust both for much better or worse. Thus, they deserve to also help therapists and counselors pinpoint what is actually going on v clients and suggest services to the difficulties they space having.

The level of Development administer a structure for seeing how every one of the different traits that comprise each type fit right into a large whole; they are a way of conceptualizing the basic “skeletal” structure of each type. There is no the Levels, the species can seem to be an arbitrary arsenal of unrelated traits, with inconsistent behaviors and also attitudes often component of the picture. However by understanding the Levels for each type, one deserve to see how all of the traits space interrelated—and how healthy traits have the right to deteriorate right into average traits and possibly into unhealthy ones. As pioneering consciousness theorist Ken Wilber has noted, there is no the Levels, the Enneagram is reduced to a “horizontal” set of ripe discrete categories. By including the Levels, however, a “vertical” dimension is added that not just reflects the intricacy of person nature, however goes far in explaining numerous different, important elements within personality.

Further, v the Levels, a dynamic facet is presented that mirrors the an altering nature the the personality trends themselves. You have probably noticed the people readjust constantly—sometimes they are clearer, much more free, grounded, and also emotionally available, when at various other times lock are much more anxious, resistant, reactive, emotionally volatile and less free. Expertise the Levels provides it clear that when people change states within your personality, they are moving within the spectrum that motivations, traits, and defenses that consist of their personality type.

To know an separation, personal, instance accurately, that is vital to perceive where the human being lies follow me the continuum of level of his or her form at a offered time. In various other words, one should assess whether a person is in your healthy, average, or unhealthy variety of functioning. This is crucial because, for example, two people of the exact same personality kind and wing will differ significantly if one is healthy and also the various other unhealthy. (In relationships and in the company world, understanding this distinction is crucial.)

The continuous is made up of nine interior Levels of Development—briefly, there room three levels in the healthy section, three Levels in the typical section, and three levels in the unhealthy section. It may help you to think the the continuum of Levels as a photographer’s gray scale which has actually gradations native pure white come pure black color with many shades that gray in between. ~ above the continuum, the healthiest traits appear first, at the top, so come speak. Together we relocate down the continuous in a spiral pattern, we significantly pass through each Level of breakthrough marking a distinct change in the personality’s deterioration to the pure black of psychological malfunction at the bottom. The continuum because that each the the personality varieties can be watched in the following diagram.

At every Level, far-reaching psychological shifts happen as is indicated by the title we have offered to it. For example, in ~ Level 5, the Level the Interpersonal Control, the human is trying to manipulate himself and others to get his or she psychological needs met. This invariably create interpersonal conflicts. By this Level, the person has also fully identified through the ego and also does not see himself together anything more than that: the ego must as such be significantly defended and inflated for the human being to feeling safe and also to save their identity intact. If this task does not meet the person, and also anxiety increases, the or she might deteriorate to the next state, Level 6, the Level of Overcompensation, where their behavior will become much more intrusive and aggressive together they proceed to purse your ego-agenda. Tension is increasing, and also the human is progressively disruptive, and also focused on getting his demands met, regardless of the affect on people around them.

One of the many profound means of knowledge the level is together a measure of our volume to be present. The more we move down the Levels, the more identified we space with our ego and its increasingly an adverse and border patterns. Our personality becomes more defensive, reactive, and also automatic— and we consequently have actually less and also less genuine freedom and less actual consciousness. As we move down the Levels, we become caught in an ext compulsive, terrible actions i beg your pardon are at some point self-defeating.

By contrast, the movement toward health,up the Levels, is simultaneous through being an ext present and awake in our minds, hearts, and bodies. As we become more present, we come to be less fixated in the defensive structures of ours personality and also are much more attuned and open to ourselves and also our environment. We check out our personality objectively in action rather than “falling asleep” to our automatic personality patterns. Over there is because of this the possibility of “not doing” ours personality and of gaining some real distance native the an unfavorable consequences the getting captured in it.

As us become much more present, we watch our personality traits an ext objectively and also the Levels become a consistent guide come self-observation, a map that we can use to chart where we room in our psycho-spiritual breakthrough at any kind of given time. Together we relocate “up” the Levels, we discover that we are freer and also less thrust by compulsive, unconscious drives and also therefore able to act more effectively in all locations of our lives, including in ours relationships. As soon as we are less determined with our personality, we find that we respond as necessary to everything life presents, actualizing the optimistic potentials in every nine types, bringing genuine peace, creativity, strength, joy, compassion, and also other positive characteristics to every little thing we are doing. (For more, view Personality Types, 45-51, 421-6; 465-93;Understanding the Enneagram, 136-66, and The Wisdom the the Enneagram.)

Directions the Integration (Growth) and Disintegration (Stress)

As we have seen with the level of Development, the ripe personality varieties of the Enneagram room not static categories: lock reflect our readjust over time. Further, the succession of the varieties and the setup of the inner currently of the symbol are not arbitrary. The inner present of the Enneagram connect the types in a sequence the denotes what each form will carry out under different conditions. There are two lines linked to every type, and also they connect with two other types. One line connects with a type that represents just how a human being of the an initial type behaves as soon as they are relocating toward health and growth. This is dubbed the Direction that Integration or Growth. The various other line goes come another form that represents just how the human being is likely to act the end if they are under enhanced stress and pressure—when they feel they room not in regulate of the situation. This 2nd line is called the Direction of anxiety or Disintegration. In other words, different cases will evoke different kinds that responses from her personality. You will respond or adapt in various directions, as suggested by the lines of the Enneagram from your straightforward type. Again, we watch the flexibility and also dynamism of the Enneagram.

The Direction that Disintegrationor Stressfor each form is indicated by the sequence of numbers 1-4-2-8-5-7-1. This method that an typical to unhealthy One under stress and anxiety will at some point behave like an average to unhealthy Four; an median to unhealthy 4 will act the end their stress choose an mean to unhealthy Two; an mean to unhealthy 2 will act out under stress favor an Eight, an Eight will act out under stress favor a Five, a 5 will plot out favor a Seven, and also a 7 will action out favor a One. (An easy method to mental the sequence is come realize that 1-4 or 14 doubles to 28, and that doubles come 57—or nearly so. Thus, 1-4-2-8-5-7—and the sequence returns to 1 and also begins again.) Likewise, top top the it is provided triangle, the sequence is 9-6-3-9: a stressed out Nine will act out prefer a Six, a emphasize out six will action out like a Three, and also a emphasize out three will plot out choose a Nine. (You can remember this sequence if friend think of the numerical values diminishing as the species become more stressed and reactive. For a longer explanation and examples, check out Personality Types, 47-52, 413-8.) You can see exactly how this works by following the direction that the arrows on the following Enneagram.

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The Direction of Integrationor Growthis shown for each kind by the reverse of the sequences for disintegration. Each kind moves toward integration in a direction that is the contrary of that unhealthy direction. Thus, the sequence for the Direction of Integration is 1-7-5-8-2-4-1: an completely One goes to Seven, an integrating seven goes come Five, an integrating 5 goes come Eight, an completely Eight goes come Two, an integrating 2 goes come Four, and an integrating four goes to One. ~ above the it is intended triangle, the sequence is 9-3-6-9: an complete Nine will certainly go come Three, an integrating three will walk to Six, and an integrating 6 will walk to Nine. You have the right to see exactly how this functions by adhering to the direction of the arrows ~ above the adhering to Enneagram.