The Enneagram

What is the Enneagram?

What makes us tick? Why do we do the things we do? What did I observe across 30+ years as a clinical therapist? What have I observed as a facilitator of hundreds of self-development workshops?  Well, all of these questions can be answered by my sharing with you an AMAZING, ancient system of typologies rooted in, I believe, our own evolution and is one that describes the human condition from the inside out.

It’s a system I stumbled on years ago. of which I had no knowledge of prior, and one that profoundly changed my life once I had encountered and understood it. At first it was difficult for me to publicly own this remarkable system because of its connections to spiritual life and paucity of research backing. Since I had come from a heavy academic, medical background steeped in empirical science and its methodologies, I remained a “closet” follower for a good 18-months before “coming out.” Because this system is so powerful, so deep, so life enhancing, I just could not do anything else but finally own it publicly.

This ancient system I am talking about is called the “Enneagram.” I believe it’s truly the MOST PROFOUND tool I’ve ever come across in my 50+ years as a doctor, therapist, professor, lecturer, teacher and author to help people find, build, and sustain amazing, loving, intimate and fulfilling relationships.

It’s been many years since my first encounter, nonetheless those years have been filled with exploring how each Enneagram type helps or hinders each of us and the important relationships in our lives.

So now, What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram gifts us with a powerful and dynamic personality system that describes nine distinct and fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling and, acting. “Ennea” means nine in Greek. As the Penta-gon has five sides then its easy to follow that an Ennea-gon would have nine. “Gramma” is the Greek word for drawing. Hence Ennea-gram: The drawing of a nine-pointed figure.

What’s so interesting about this system is that it diagrams for us the possibility that human nature is comprised of nine complex styles. It teaches us that the way in which we are organized, individually and collectively, might not be as random as we may have thought. The Enneagram defines for us that there are nine distinctive views of the world as seen from the human perspective. This perspective is channeled through a set of lenses if you will that are relatively specific. While providing an interesting chance for specialization, they can also greatly limit our experiences and perceptions. With this system in place, we are each looking for a definitive slice of reality, and are not sensitive to nor are we searching for the full 360-degree view.

As we were growing up, one of these nine sets of filters developed in us and patterned the way our mind, heart, and body adapted and strategized to as best it could, assure a satisfactory, rewarding life and to protect the aspects of our essential self that felt threatened. Underneath each patterned filter, Enneagram type, is something I have coined “The Basic Proposition.” It’s a belief, THE SET of beliefs about what we need in life in order to have our three basic needs for love, security, and self-worthiness, met. These underlying beliefs shape and then drive our focus of attention (in Enneagram terms we call this “habit of mind”), which drives how and where we direct our energy. In Enneagram terms we call this “the driving emotion of type.” While the development of The Basic Proposition is a necessary and very organic process in our personality’s development, these patterns and their not-so-expansive, all the way down to limiting qualities don’t tend to naturally audit themselves (and expand) as we grow and make our way into the world. Instead, woven into the fabric of our very being, they tend to continue to operate, mostly non-consciously and automatically, in their rudimentary, elementary form. Despite where we go, who we meet, or what we may now need, they by and large tend to not serve us as well, left to run automatically, as they were originally intended.

Lastly and before we embark on getting to know the types, remember that we, as human beings, all share in common having put a structure or type in place. When we forget this shared, mutual reality, we invite stereotyping and finger-pointing — the bane of the darker side of human existence, whether it be doing so using race, religion, nationality, or in this case, type. This has been enough reason for some to refute typologies altogether. However, wisdom applied in context and for the purpose of building self-awareness, understanding, and compassion for self and other, is in my book, an application well purposed and much needed.

A personality typology that has this capacity is worth checking in to. I’ve bet my career on it.

If you are new to the Enneagram or somewhat familiar, but unsure about your type, purchase a copy of the Essential Enneagram or take the Essential Enneagram test online. This user-friendly paragraph assessment is accurate, validated, and reliable. It provides a process for self-discovery and includes all of the key type discriminators in order to distinguish each type from every other type.

Since the Enneagram is about the internal structure of our world, self-discovery is key. It really is an “inside job,” as my colleague, Helen Palmer (author), often reminds us. Enjoy the process!

 


LEARNING ABOUT EACH OF THE NINE TYPES
Please visit the individual pages on this website for more definitive descriptions of each of the nine types, grouped here by their center of intelligence:

HEART CENTER

TYPE 2
TYPE 3

TYPE 4


HEAD CENTER

TYPE 5
TYPE 6

TYPE 7


BELLY CENTER

TYPE 1
TYPE 8
TYPE 9