So Why the Enneagram
for Development?

SYNOPSIS OF THE ARTICLE: The most vital reason for the Enneagram work is its role in human development and the survival or our species. Here I present the simplified four levels of development from lowest to highest: (1) Pre-conventional, impulsive and self-protective (=ego centric); (2) Conventional, conformist (= ethno centric); (3) Post-conventional, self-aware, autonomous (=world centric); and (4) Non-conventional, integrated and unitive (=universe centric). The Enneagram work is all about increasing our level of development especially in becoming more world centric wherein we appreciate and honor differences.

So, Why the Enneagram? | Increasing Our Level of Developmental Well-being


By David Daniels, M.D.


“The need is not really for more brains,
The need is now for a gentler, a more tolerant people
Than those who won for us
Against the ice, the tiger, and the bear.”

– From the “Immense Journey” by Loren Eisley

This is one of my very favorite quotes. For me, it represents our crucial human need to develop past our earlier developmental levels of well-being, meaning, how we’ve grown into who we are since being on the planet. It’s about developing into an expanded and integrated form of ourselves, allowing us to grow into more of the positive possibilities for our species. Learning the Enneagram offers a foundational way to evolve ourselves into more potentiated and more expansive levels of presence, of consciousness, and consequently, emotional intelligence.

The Enneagram is all about understanding ourselves and others. It’s about appreciating our vast and critical differences. It’s all about developmental individuation, where we grow into who we were meant to be, designed to be, which is what fosters a sovereign, separate self, one from which we can truly join in union with others. And the Enneagram, so beautifully, fosters the opening of our hearts to ourselves and others in non-judgmentalness. This allows us to own and then appreciate as well as integrate our essential, higher qualities of being into our functional, day-to-day personalities. This is the process that takes us beyond our hurt and defendedness, and beyond the limitations of a singular focus of attention. All of this is the work of personal development and ultimately, is the basis for our own emotional and spiritual transformation.

In terms of working to increase our Level of Developmental Well-being, we will, thanks to a development process, become less self-centered and less defended and more openhearted and response-flexible. To learn more about the Level of Developmental Well-being, please read, The Enneagram, Relationships and Intimacy: Understanding One Another Leads to Loving Better and Living More Fully, now available on Amazon.

Another way to view our level of personal, emotional intelligence and development is to study Integral Psychology’s ego system’s hierarchy. As we develop, we increase our chances of becoming more of what’s called, “world centric.”  I have simplified the levels of personal transformation from integral psychology into four basic levels. We can readily understand these as follows, tracking from a lower developmental level to higher ones…

  • Pre-conventional: Impulsive and Self-protective (ego centric). We all know that we can do destructive behaviors when upset. But this impulsive, totally self-referenced level explains why we as a species can so readily kill and pillage others who don’t give us what we want or need. Others are simply objects, basically nothing more.
  • Conventional: Conformist (ethno centric). Here we can love those with whom we are identified – our religious group, race, culture, and even team. But we can denounce and even annihilate those who aren’t in our group. They are children of a lesser god so to speak. We all know this from “ethnic cleansing” and the daily news. This explains how mothers (and fathers too) send off their sons into battle for the sake of the church, country or whatever.
  • Post-conventional: Self-aware to Autonomous (world centric). Here there is an ability to include diversity, to expand the boundaries of inclusion and see other groups’ point of views. In the process we become more accepting and generally less destructive. The down side results from belittling the “lesser” levels.
  • Non-conventional: Integrated and Unitive (universe centric). This is a rare “species.” This is life beyond ego and ethnic identifications. Very, very few of us have reached this level, certainly less than 1%. Yet it remains a possibility.

The Enneagram is a map of understanding that helps us move into the world-centric stance, thus providing each of us with hope for the future, with hope for all who embrace a personal development path. I believe personal development work represents a much shared core value of the various Enneagram schools available today. May the Enneagram and its continued study bring hope to Loren Eisley’s words “…of our need for a gentler, a more tolerant people than those who won for us against the ice, the tiger, and the bear.”

Alexa Seleno
@alexaseleno