Intro to the Enneagram

understanding the basics

I learned something really interesting about myself when we took this trip to the mountains last year. Walking through this gorgeous park in Georgia, I literally felt like I was about to burst with excitement. I don’t really ever remember feeling that way before in my entire life. Pure unadulterated joy, no other emotions. Maybe my coffee was extra strong that morning? Maybe I had just reallllly needed a vacation haha. I don’t know.

Fast forward to a few months later, and I made the most astonishing finding! I was listening to an enneagram podcast and I found out that 9’s are actually the most connected to nature out all the numbers, they are drawn to outside, plants, flowers, landscapes, mountains, beaches, fields – literally whatever they can get their eyes and hands on. There’s definitely some explanation for why they are so connected, but it was a really special moment for me because I uncovered this beautiful connection I had been using all along, but didn’t know why, or really know WHAT to do with it.

That, my friend, is the beauty of the enneagram. You may know some things about yourself. You may have taken some personality typing tests in the past and know which character on Friends you are, but I guarantee you that you probably don’t have ANY clue as to WHAT to do with that information. Or how it spills over into the relationships in your life, or your workplace, or your personal health.

Learning about the enneagram is more about learning your wiring than your behavior. Many of us have similar behaviors but very different motivations, just for the same reason many pick the same career but for completely different motivations.

It is like having a map of yourself in your back pocket at all times. You can of course use that to berate yourself for not being further along than you think you should, but it is best used with a good dose of grace.

The best way to start learning about the enneagram is just by reading about each of the 9 types. There are tests you can take, but they vary greatly in their accuracy. Once you know which type you are, there is still more defining to do, so don’t worry. If you read through these and something from one resonates but also something about it doesn’t ring true, there’s more defining to do that will help clarify those discrepancies.

Ok enough chatter. I want to give you a brief rundown on each type.

1 – Perfectionist/Reformer : this type has a strong moral compass, full of integrity, duty, responsibility, and see the world for what it COULD be. Whether that world is that linen closet that’s a mess or working in civil rights. They have this “inner critic” that has a hard time finding the good in what they’ve done. Attention to detail is usually precise. Stuff doesn’t go unnoticed around them.

2 – Helper : this type lives to help. Many women mistakenly type themselves as this number because the role of mothering often forces them into this title, but true 2’s will find themselves helping anyone and everyone at the drop of a hat, in any season of life, young or old, man or woman, kids or no kids. To their own detriment. They are not so great at helping themselves, or assessing their own needs.

3 – Achiever/Perfomer : some people say that if America had an enneagram number it would be 3! This type makes goals and crushes them. In medium levels of health, they are very aware and focused on outward appearances and success. This can look verrrrry different based on the environment they were raised in, gender expectations for their culture, what part of the country they live in and what they were taught success looks like. 3’s are like chameleons, with the ability to sense the mood of the company they’re keeping and adapt to match it immediately. This often makes them charming and well loved. Have the most potential to be workaholics.

4 – The Individualist : this type is well acquainted with emotions. They have an intense superpower of feeling what others are feeling, aka empathy. They tend to be withdrawn, in their head/heart and feeling all the feelings. All these feelings often come out through some form of creative expression, though not always. The need to be unique and do things differently is also a driving force in their life.

5 – The Investigator : arguably has the potential to have the biggest brains of all the types! This type’s superpower is their ability to gather knowledge and file it away. Another withdrawn type, they live in their head, always thinking, always pondering, often tinkering with their latest intrigue by themselves or maybe with a trusted friend. Not the greatest at clear communication or social skills, but again that can vary. They prefer to be independent and not have to rely on anyone else for the resources they need (physical, emotional, spiritual) and they prefer others to treat them the same, so neediness is not something they do well with.

6 – The Loyalist : this type’s superpower is preparedness and would be most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse! They are natural skeptics and have a feisty rebel streak. They are usually untrusting of all authorities (and close relationships) until proven trustworthy, then they will (finally) offer their undying and unwavering support of loyalty. If you have a 6 who is a close friend or family member, they will be the one to help you bury the body should you ever find yourself in need. They are quite the paradox, as they often forsee the worst happening, but even once it has happened they will not desert. Always preparing for the worst, as you can imagine, lends itself to major anxiety, a hallmark trait of 6’s.

7 – The Enthusiast : ok. This type is so much fun to be around. They are often the life of the party, keeping things exciting and fresh so as not to let their mind get bored. Great at coming up with ideas, not so great at seeing them through. Think butterfly flying from flower to flower. 7’s are not a fan of negativity, complaining, or tough emotions. They would truly rather just skip on by all the hard stuff (wouldn’t we all) but 7’s are actually veryyyy good at keeping themselves otherwise occupied so as to keep the bad stuff away.

8 – The Challenger : 8’s are truly world changers. They don’t beat around the bush, they say what they think and though that gets them in trouble (especially in personal life) they do get things done. They get pretty fired up about fairness, of all kinds. From someone jumping ahead in line to social justice issues. Anger is a veryyyy familar emotion to them but it once it explodes out, its done and over with, no grudges left over. An alternate name for them is The Protector, and I really love that one because they are the ones to step up and protect their own at the drop of a hat. They’re not ones for hallmark cards or sap in general, but you see the depth of their affection in their action for those they love.

9 – The Peacemaker : 9’s don’t like conflict or awkward situations, so they learn to navigate out of them (like a ninja) often through humor or being great at mediating. Their mediating superpowers come from the ability to see both sides of the argument objectively. This is great for resolving conflict, but can be rather paralyzing when trying to make their own decisions. They get stuck in limbo and often wait for another person or authority to make their decision for them, if possible. They have anger like 8’s but keep it pinned up because they don’t like the way it disturbs their “inner peace” and wouldn’t want to hurt anyone with it.

That’s all 9 types! If you found one or two that sounded familiar, I highly recommend going and reading more about it over on The Enneagram Institute – there is so much over there.

Scroll down and read through what that type looks like through varying levels of health (from their best all the way down to how their type unravels into mental disorders). They also cover other helpful things like how each type interacts with other types and common mistypings.

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