A Beginner’s Guide to Enneagram

The Enneagram is a typology used to determine an individual’s personality. It’s often used as a self-help or career-coaching tool. The Enneagram can determine a person’s motivations for their behaviors, including their basic fears and desires.

What is the Enneagram System?

Coming from Greek, the word ennea means “nine,” and grammos means “a written symbol.”

The Enneagram is composed of nine personality types. These types help people to figure out how they deal with all aspects of their lives, including themselves, others, and the world around them.

The nine types are placed an equal distance apart on a circle, with the number nine being on top.

None of the nine types are better than any of the others as all have both positive and negative aspects. However, some cultures value certain traits over others, so let the Enneagram be your guide on how to improve areas of your personality that you don’t like while building upon the portions that you value.

You may find that you don’t always fit into one specific Enneagram type, and that’s normal. People often express traits that are associated with different types when they’re stressed compared to when they’re feeling secure.

As you use your Enneagram to broaden your perspective, you’ll find that you might gain more of a balance between the nine types though you’ll always maintain the dominant personality traits of your Enneagram type in the process.

Additionally, you may find that you have traits similar to one of the numbers that is right next to your Enneagram type. This is often referred to as your “wings.”

As an improvement tool, the Enneagram can help you discover why you behave certain ways in a variety of situations. This understanding of why you may act the way that you do can help you to make changes that will let you grow beyond a limited perspective to better reach your goals.

The Three Centers of Intelligence and Perception

All of the Enneagram types have three centers of intelligence and perception. These are the the head, the heart, and the body. While all three centers are present in every person, one center is considered to be the strongest based on the Enneagram type of that person.

The head refers to those who are thinking centered, the heart to those who are feeling centered, and the body, or gut, to those who are instinct centered.

When considering your Enneagram type, your center is based on your given personality number. Thinking types are numbers 5, 6, and 7; feeling types are 2, 3, and 4; and instinct types are 8, 9, and 1.

Head Types

Those with an intellectual, or thinking, center tend to use logic when coming to conclusions. They take in information through the head, and they’re more likely to respond based on what they’re thinking. Leading with ideas and rational thought, head types tend to focus on security and certainty.

Those with Enneagram types 5, 6, or 7 are likely to take time to figure things out in their own minds before they act on a situation. The underlying issue for head types is fear and finding ways to deal with it.

Heart Types

Emotional, or feeling, types are typically led by their hearts or how they feel about a given situation. Often making a focus on meeting the expectations of others to develop relationships or to gain success, they have strong empathy for others. Their focus is on attention through their actions that come from the heart.

Enneagram types 2, 3, and 4 delve into both positive and negative feelings and tend to take action based on their emotions. Shame is the underlying issue for those of this type.

Body Types

When it comes to instinctual, or gut, types, they typically act for sensual experiences and the development of their five senses. Highly practical, body types value their own personal values and where they belong in a social setting. The focus for these types is autonomy as they wish to remain in control of themselves and the things around them.

Acting on their gut feelings, Enneagram types 8, 9, and 1 are very aware of their surroundings. Anger is the underlying issues that those with this type must deal with.

The Nine Enneagram Personality Types

Although some types share the same intellectual center, they each have their own motivations to how they respond to the world around them. Each Enneagram type has its own basic fears and desires. Once you get to know more about your type, you can gain a better understanding so that you can make changes to become the person you’d like to be.

Enneagram Type 1: The Perfectionist

Also known as Reformers, Perfectionists have high moral standards to which they must adhere. They value integrity and place a personal focus on self control to avoid letting themselves or others down. With a purpose to make the world a better place, type 1 individuals can be seen as organized and committed to self improvement.

The basic desire of Perfectionist types is justice. They want to be good members of society and value the contributions they can make. When it comes to basic fear, perfectionists do all they can to avoid corruption and becoming what they hate in the world.

Perfectionists will work to repress their underlying issue of anger, which often leads them to acting against what they’re feeling. They’ll do this to prove to themselves that they’re right, which helps them to maintain their identity of perfection. However, this often leads to resentment. Serenity can be achieved when they can release the anger in a healthy manner.

Enneagram Type 2: The Helper

Helpers, also referred to as Givers, spend their time focusing on relationships. This means that they work hard to fulfill the wants and needs of others over themselves. Those of this type may find it hard to look at their own needs and may even change themselves to make someone else happy. Emotionally sensitive, Helpers focus their feelings outward.

Concerned with how others perceive them, those with this type have a basic desire to give and to be appreciated for what they do. Reciprocation is important for Helpers. Having no one to provide assistance to or to care for is the basic fear of this type.

When dealing with their underlying issue of shame, type 2 personalities tend to focus their attention even more on the needs of those around them. By outwardly expressing their feelings, they don’t have to focus on their own feelings of shame. They can become prideful in feeling like they’re more special in a situation than they really are. Once they can let go of the shame they feel, Helpers are able to learn humility.

Enneagram Type 3: The Achiever

Achievers are also known as Performers. They love a good challenge, especially if it will help them to reach their goals. With a strong need for the approval, they’re able to meet the expectations that others have for them so long as this helps them to achieve their dreams.

Their basic desire is success, which includes maintaining a positive image in the eyes of others. Because this image is so important, the Achiever’s basic fear is to be insignificant or to lose the positive reputations that they’ve made for themselves.

The underlying issue of shame is hard for Achievers to deal with. They’ll tend to deny that they have this emotion at all in an effort to avoid feeling this way. They can become vain in their successes and in the images that they create of themselves. Once they accept their shameful feelings for what they are, these types can learn to be truthful to themselves and live a more authentic life.

Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist

Individualists seek meaning and often feel like something is missing in their lives. Developing meaningful relationships is important to Individualists, which may be why they’re sometimes referred to as Romantics. Expressing their authenticity in creative ways is at the heart of what those with this type use their energies on.

When it comes to their basic desire, type 4 persons want to be known and appreciated as unique individuals. They’ll go to great ends to maintain this image. Perhaps their basic fear can be described as lacking a well-defined identity of self.

Since their underlying issue is shame, Individualists will often focus their feelings inward. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it helps them to avoid feeling deeper shame by preventing others from seeing this portion of their personalities. They’re then prone to states of melancholy and feelings of inadequacy. Once they learn that all feelings are valid, they’re better able to maintain an emotional balance.

Enneagram Type 5: The Observer

Frequently referred to as Investigators, Observers enjoy gaining knowledge. Those with this type are often seen as scholarly and can become experts when it comes to technical know-how. Maintaining an open mind, Observers attempt to make connections and determine patterns in the information they gain.

Life is complex, and no one wants to understand it better than Observers. Their basic desire is to increase their knowledge in every areas possible. Their basic fear is to feel useless or incompetent when it comes to facing challenges.

Observers are likely to deal with their underlying issue of fear by isolating themselves. This keeps them from developing anxiety over the outside world and the potential dangers that may lurk there. They also fear shortages, so they may begin to hoard out of their fear. A great goal for Observers is to learn to let go and lose their attachment to things.

Enneagram Type 6: The Loyalist

Loyal Skeptics, or simply Loyalists, often view themselves as protectors. Often wavering between certainty and skepticism, those with this type are good at anticipating problems, which allows them to come up with solutions often before the need even arises.

Safety and support are the basic desires of Loyal Skeptics. It’s important for them to feel accepted by those that they care about most. Although they often fluctuate between confidence and insecurity, their basic fear is instability.

As the underlying issue for Loyal Skeptics is fear, they tend to play out worst-case scenarios in their heads. The internalized anxiety over this issue can actually bring relief when the bad scenarios don’t happen. Left unchecked, this fear can lead to distrust. Once these types can learn courage, they can move forward regardless of any obstacles.

Enneagram Type 7: The Epicure

Sometimes called Enthusiasts, Epicures see the whole of life as an adventure. Living for the thrill of things, these types are optimistic and energetic when it comes to engaging in new experiences. Detesting limits and constraints, they always like to keep their options open. They focus on possibilities rather than what is.

The basic desire of Epicures is to have fun and excitement in their lives. Becoming trapped in something that they don’t enjoy is the basic fear of those with this type.

Because Epicures tend to deny that they have an underlying issue of fear, they like to keep themselves occupied either mentally of physically to avoid having to face the issue at all. This fear can lead to the excessive pursuit of excitement or even substance abuse. Facing fear is a way they can live in the moment and limit their consumption.

Enneagram Type 8: The Protector

Great leaders, Protectors love power and control. Also referred to as Challengers or Leaders, these types are often seen as brave and may even be intimidating. While fairness is a priority, they like to do things their own way rather than by following set regulations. They’re not afraid to explore new territories and are effective at meeting their goals once they set their minds on a plan.

Intrinsically motivated, the basic desire of Protectors is to control nearly every aspect of their lives and their surroundings. Weakness and a lack of power are the basic fears of these types as they despise being controlled by others.

Protectors deal with their underlying issue of anger by expressing it when it arises. Though not always easy, they do this in an attempt to control the rage so that it doesn’t build up and erupt at the wrong time. Without acknowledging this anger, they’re likely to become vengeful towards others. Once their fears are handled properly, they can face life without cynicism.

Enneagram Type 9: The Peacemaker

Also called Mediators, Peacemakers focus on harmony and the avoidance of conflict. If conflict should arise, it’s highly uncomfortable for those of this type. Because they can see all points of view in a situation, they’re handy at mediating conflict situations for others. Often forgetful, Peacemakers often having trouble starting something new or changing their energy levels when circumstances change.

Peace is the basic desire for type 8 personalities in both their internal and external environments. They wish to feel whole and at one with everything and everyone. This makes their basic fear that of disconnect or feeling like there is consistent conflict that can’t be resolved.

Since Peacemakers don’t like to make anyone upset, they won’t show their underlying issue of anger. In fact, those with this type will often deny that they’re angry even when it’s obvious to others that they are. They may become lazy or avoid dealing with priorities in their lives. By facing anger head on, Peacemakers are better able to care for themselves and to get any necessary work done.