Defining your life: The Enneagram

If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new popular way to define your personality: step aside StrengthsQuest, we have the Enneagram. The Enneagram Institute defines personalities with types ranging from 1 to 9, with each type having a unique personality, and each person having one type as a basic personality and others as “wings.” 

Of the many different personality tests that can be found online, the Enneagram also has a standing social media following from meme accounts to personalized enneagram artistry to go along with each type. But in order to understand the jokes about personalities, and to better understand many of the people at Hope College who enjoy talking about the Enneagram and saying things like “that’s such a 7 thing to do!” you must also understand all the different types.

The Enneagram Institute defines each type with a few words as follows:

 

Type One: principled, purposeful, self-controlled, perfectionist

Type Two: generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, possessive

Type Three: adaptable, excelling, driven, image-conscious

Type Four: expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, temperamental

Type Five: perceptive, innovative, secretive, isolated

Type Six: engaging, responsible, anxious, suspicious

Type Seven: spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, scattered

Type Eight: self-confident, decisive, willful, confrontational

Type Nine: receptive, reassuring, complacent, resigned

The Enneagram’s basic relationship types are oriented in a three by three relationship, grouped by the “instinctive center” (types 8, 9 and 1), the “feeling center” (types 2, 3 and 4) and the thinking center (types 5, 6 and 7). The arrangements shows the general strengths of those types, but each of these generalizations of strengths come with their own weaknesses. 

People in the instinctive center tend to have difficulty with anger or rage, while people in the feeling center deal with deep-rooted shame. Often, people in the thinking center may struggle with fear. Each Enneagram type has different, distinct ways of dealing with these feelings that correspond to their type, and the Enneagram Institute attributes these struggles as a deep rooted, unconscious “emotional response to the loss of contact with the core of the self.” These coping mechanisms can range from healthy to unhealthy in each type, described succinctly in descriptions given by the Enneagram Institute. 

Along with a main type, each person has a “wing” type in an acknowledgement that each person has a unique personality that can vary among the Enneagram’s type descriptions. Some people may have wing personality traits that are contradictory to their main type, and some people may have two wings instead of one. Some controversy exists between the one or two wing theories, but again in recognition of diverse personalities that exist, both theories can be seen as correct with different people. Most people appear to have one dominant wing instead of two.

The Enneagram Institute actively teaches and gathers information about the Enneagram, and have noted that many older people have mentioned that in the latter half of their life, they have noticed a development of the “second wing” mentioned above. While they are unsure if this development is due to being aware of the positive benefits of the different personality types or the actual appearance of a second wing, they continue to discuss the possibilities. 

Along with a description of the types, the Enneagram Institute provides a scale of development for each type. You may assess yourself and your type along the development levels to see if you are “healthy” or “unhealthy” in your main type and how the personality traits in the type are interrelated and work together. Each of the levels has to do with psychological need and whether that is being met in the individual. 

Another way to think of the main type levels would be as “a measure of our capacity to be present,” as the Enneagram Institute puts it. When going downward in the levels, someone may be focusing more on themselves and become destructive and unhealthy, and likely unpleasant to be around. Moving upwards in levels happens as a person becomes healthier and better able to be present and relate with their surroundings positively. 

Not only does each main type have levels, but they have directions for disintegration (stress) or integration (growth) towards specific different types. Your main type, wing type and your types of disintegration and integration all blend together to create a unique personality that describes you. The lines in the above Enneagram diagram show what types are usually connected for disintegration and integration. Picking one type as a base, the two lines connecting to it point to its corresponding types for strength and growth. 

What is most unique about the Enneagram as a way to assess personality is its flexibility and representation of how personalities can change over time with the levels for each main type and the directions of disintegration or integration. The purpose of the Enneagram is not only to identify your main personality type, but to enable people to better control their emotions and realize their potential to become a healthy, multi-functioning person who can span over all the Enneagram types. In other words, the Enneagram encourages people to develop themselves to overcome the difficulties their main type faces to embrace all the positives each type has to offer.

This article simply goes over the basics of the intricate and complex social understanding that is the Enneagram. The Enneagram Institute’s website allows viewers to best understand best type encouraging all to become more aware people, friends, and family members.

 



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