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What is the Enneagram and Why does it matter?

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

What Is Enneagram | Enneagram Reflections

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a typology system that categorizes human personality into nine basic personality archetypes. The Enneagram, unlike other typology systems, explores a person's core motivations (i.e. the fears, desires, weaknesses, and longings that drive their thinking patterns and behaviors) and not just their external behaviors.

This means, that the Enneagram explores more than just what each we want others to see in our socialized behavior, but our shadow side too! The Enneagram and its exploration of our shadow side can help us discover the "why "behind some of our habitual, default behaviors and give us the opportunity to choose a different way of acting or thinking that can allow for growth.

Experts are unsure when the Enneagram Type develops in children, but many agree it is determined at birth. For example, Siblings living in the same environment will create different adaptive strategies to protect their vulnerable inner self to survive and thrive. Nurture certainly plays a role in a person's self-regulating and adaptive strategies as well as their general self-mastery, but the core Type will not change.

Why do we need this tool?

Eventually, we outgrow those helpful survival mechanisms we developed as children and we are faced with the options of either doubling down into our unhealthy patterns or breaking the cycle and discovering our true selves. The problem is growing past these patterns is hard and confusing at best.

We know the first step to solving any problems is awareness, but how do we become aware of things we have spent a lifetime pushing deep into our subconscious and out of our awareness?

This is where the Enneagram comes in. The Enneagram is essentially a language for describing an inner experience based around your Type. Without this unique tool that describes our shadows, we would have to struggle to putting words to feelings we don't understand and discovering patterns we have subconsciously tried to forget. The Enneagram guides the way toward the areas you have forgotten, so you can uncover the true self hiding there.

What is the Enneagram NOT:

Before I get into the Types in brief (I'll have more in-depth conversations on the Types in following posts), it's important to get an idea of what the Enneagram is NOT. Easily said, the Enneagram is not a sword or a shield. Let me explain.

The Enneagram is not a weapon to be used against others on how they have damaged you (which they might have) or excusing yourself from culpability in your actions against others. It is not a tool to shame others for their experiences, struggles, or challenges. It is not a sword to be used against yourself as proof that you're as awful as you always thought (looking at you Type Ones).

This is a tool to expose the shadow side of yourself. If you use this, use it compassionately. Remember, you were just a little kid when you had to make the choices you made to survive in the world. You were little, you were vulnerable, you were scared, and you did the best you could. And, here's the kicker, so was everyone else. If you have the privilege of getting to know someone else's Type, treat their inner child as gently as you wish you were treated.

The Enneagram is also not a shield. It's not an excuse to act poorly based on your Type's struggles. It's not an excuse to continue to do the same things you've always done just because that's your default. I know it's scary to look at your shadow side and change your default behaviors, but don't forgo the opportunity to make better choices for yourself just because you've ALWAYS done it that way. Our goal is to do better.

Nine Type Roll Call:

Type 1: The Reformer

Fears: Being bad, reprehensible, immoral, defective

Desires: Being perfect, right, and above reproach

Struggles with: Resentment and Anger

Sees the world as: Imperfect and requires them to fix it

Hallmarks: Dutiful, hard-working, moral, and critical, with a loud inner critic

Type 2: The Helper

Fears: Being unwanted, unloved, and rejected

Desires: To be liked, loved, wanted, and significant to others

Struggles with: Pride and Shame

Sees the world as: Full of suffering and need, which they must alleviate

Hallmarks: Warm, nurturing, and a little too helpful (cough: meddling)

Type 3: The Achiever

Fears: Being a failure, insignificant, and worthless

Desires: To be admired, important, respected, and worthwhile

Struggles with: Deceit (with self and others) and Shame

Sees the world as: Lacking efficiency and flow, which they must harness for the best results

Hallmarks: Efficient, determined, hard-working, and inauthentic (even a little fake).

Type 4: The Romantic

Fears: Being ordinary, having no significance

Desires: Understand/express their unique self and create deep relationships with others

Struggles with: Envy and shame

Sees the world as: Detached from real feelings and connections, which they must re-establish

Hallmarks: Unique, creative, deeply emotional, and....moody

Type 5: The Investigator

Fears: Being incompetent, looking foolish, and being overwhelmed

Desires: To understand their world and absorb knowledge; be competent, and self-sufficient

Struggles with: Hoarding(resources, feelings, etc..)and fear

Sees the world as: Lacking enough (resources, time, energy, etc..) and requires careful conservation to survive.

Hallmarks: Intellectual, quirky, curious, perceptive, inventive, and detached.

Type 6: The Loyalist

Fears: Being without support, guidance, or unprepared

Desires: Safety, support, and preparing for all potentialities

Struggles with: Doubt (both people, things, institutions, abilities, etc.) and fear

Sees the world as: Unstable and dangerous and requires vigilant preparation to survive

Hallmarks: Loyal, practical, trouble-shooters, skeptical, and indecisive.

Type 7: The Enthusiast

Fears: Being trapped in unpleasantness (emotional or otherwise), being without support

Desires: To be satisfied and content and their needs fulfilled

Struggles with: Gluttony (excess) and Fear

Sees the world as: lacking the perfect level of stimulation to feel alive, which they must generate

Hallmarks: Enthusiastic, fun-loving, optimistic, adventurous, scattered, and restless.

Type 8: The Protector

Fears: Being blindsided, betrayed, or under another's control

Desires: Control over themselves and their environment and protect themselves

Struggles with: Anger (sometimes explosive) and Excess

Sees the world as: Power hungry and unjust to the weak, which they must be change and guard against.

Hallmarks: Energetic, assertive, protective, independent, and domineering.

Type 9: The Peacemaker

Fears: Being disconnected or in conflict

Desires: Peace (externally and internally) and mutual positive regard

Struggles with: Anger (though they are unaware of it) and self-forgetting

Sees the world as: a better place when everyone is respected and heard, which they must enable at all costs.

Hallmarks: Agreeable, understanding, patient, supportive, and stubborn.

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