Jenna Avery, CLC, MCP, MLA Creative Vision & Life Purpose Breakthrough Coach Sensitive Living Expert


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On the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a personality typing system that I have found to be extremely useful in my own personal growth work. It is organized around a system of numbers, 1 through 9, that are each associated with a "home-base" personality or temperaments. While some Enneagram references can focus heavily on the more negative personality characteristics of each of the numbers, there are others that propose a system of "levels" that can give you a sense of where you might be headed in a positive sense - as your highest and best self.  The information compiled here is from my own study of the Enneagram through books and attending panel discussions, and through discussions with others, including the "HSPbook" Yahoo Group.


All of these personality types can be seen as "fixations," or habituated patterns of behavior, that keep us from accessing our most essential selves.

Some Enneagram books include self-tests that can help you to determine what number you might be. Look over the list below to see if anything jumps out at you as a possible fit - if you're interested in pursuing this as a resource, this might give you a little kick start.

The Triads
There are three triads in the Enneagram. Each triad has similar tendencies, though each type expresses them differently.

  1. The Gut/Body-Self-Forgetting-Anger Triad includes the 8, 9, and 1. These types are most centered in their bodies, and have tendencies towards forgetting themselves and anger.
  2. The Heart-Image-Feeling Triad includes the 2, 3, and 4. These types are most concerned with how things appear to others and to themselves, and tend to be focused in their feelings and heart.
  3. The Head-Fear-Thinking Triad includes the 5, 6, and 7. These types tend to focus in their heads and are oriented around fear.

The nine personality temperaments are:

  1. The Perfectionist, Moralizer, Reformer - a One is someone who tends to focus on doing things the "right" way and is always striving for perfection.  Ones have excellent analytical ability and a good eye for details.  Ones are always striving to improve themselves and can see the possibilities for excellence.  Ones avoid anger at all costs, and seek perfection.
  2. The Pleaser, Giver, Helper - the Two is primarily focused on meeting other's needs and often has to learn to say no.  Twos are empathic, supportive and make excellent caregivers.  Many Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are Twos (see column at right).  Twos avoid needing others at all costs, and seek being needed.
  3. The Performer, Organizer, Achiever - a Three tends to focus on doing and on accomplishments and appearances - Threes can get caught up in how things "look"/image rather than reality.  Threes are often highly self-assured and competitive, and make natural authority figures.  Threes avoid failure at all costs, and seek prestige.
  4. The Dreamer, Individualist, Romantic, Tragic Romantic - Fours are always aware of what is missing, and are often longing for what they don't have.  At the same time, Fours are often highly creative and unique, and make excellent problem-solvers since they can always see how to make things better.  Fours focus most on connection and feeling.  Many HSPs are Fours.  Fours avoid the ordinary at all costs, and seek uniqueness & originality.
  5. The Thinker, Observer, Investigator - Fives tend to hang out in the background and watch what's going on.  They are the thinkers of the group.  Fives are rational, calm and objective.  Many HSPs are Fives.  Fives avoid greed at all costs, and seek knowledge and intellectual understanding.
  6. The Risk Assessor, Loyalist, Devil's Advocate, Questioner - Sixes have a strong focus on the potential for danger or unsafe circumstances and therefore always liked to be prepared.  There are actually two kinds of Sixes - phobic and counter-phobic.  Most Sixes tend to have some kind of conflict or struggle with authority issues.  Sixes are also highly loyal, responsible and protective.  Sixes avoid feeling vulnerable or unsafe at all costs, and seek security.
  7. The Enthusiast, Epicure, Entertainer - Sevens are youthful, optimistic and idealistic and tend to focus most on playtime.  They often have problems with making commitments and tend to escape their own lives by retreating into fantasy.  Sevens are visionaries and entertainers.  Sevens avoid pain at all costs, and seek ease, play and fun.
  8. The Challenger, Boss, Protector - Eights are very protective - a safe harbor - and yet can be confrontational when the situation demands it.  Eights are natural leaders (along with threes) and have the ability to "take charge" of a situation.  They utilize their anger as a source of power in their lives. Eights avoid weakness at all costs, and seek strength and power.
  9. The Peacekeeper, Mediator - Nines tend to forget themselves and allow themselves to succumb to the agendas of their loved ones.  Nines have a tendency to "go to sleep" to their own lives and might have trouble prioritizing.  Nines are brilliant "peacekeepers" because they have learned to minimize conflict.  Nines love unconditionally and are excellent listeners.  Nines avoid conflict at all costs, and seek tranquility, peace and harmony (both inner and outer).

The Points
Each type also has a point of integration or security and a point of disintegration.  The Direction of Integration is 1-7-5-8-2-4-1 and the Direction of Disintegration is 1-4-2-8-5-7-1.  For example, a Four "moves" to a One in security, and to a Two in disintegration security.  There is more information about the points at the Enneagram Institute. Some teachers believe we can move in either direction in stress or security.

The Wings
The Enneagram is actually significantly more complex than it first appears, and includes "points" (see column at right) and "wings."  Each personality has a wing, which is a tendency to "lean" towards the one of the adjacent types in terms of temperament.  A Four might have a Three or a Five wing, for example.

What Each Type Avoids "At All Costs"
I think that the phrase "avoid at all costs" is actually quite illuminating, because it illustrates that the extreme lengths to which a type will go to avoid experiencing that which they disdain or feel discomfort around.  We can develop all sorts of coping mechanisms and strategies to deal with these issues. For example, as a Four, I have had to unlearn some relatively complex procrastination *skills* to get to the more "mundane" aspects of my life.  I also know a Nine who literally gets sleepy (many Enneagram books say that Nines "go to sleep") when faced with difficult issues or perceived conflict.

1 = anger
2 = needing others
3 = failure
4 = the ordinary and mundane
5 = greed
6 = feeling vulnerable or unsafe
7 = pain
8 = weakness
9 = conflict

What Each Type Seeks
The other side of the coin, of course, is what each type is striving for, or seeking.  In some cases, it is a very direct and clear opposite, in others, it is not often so clear.

1 = perfection
2 = being needed
3 = prestige
4 = uniqueness, originality
5 = intellectual knowledge and understanding.
6 = security
7 = ease, play, fun
8 = strength, power
9 = tranquility, peace, harmony



What Number Are YOU?

Click here to take an Enneagram personality test at the Eclectic Energies website.  I personally have taken several Enneagram tests, and have found this one to be the most accurate and most consistent with my own studies of the subject.  Author Janet Levine also offers a short parenting personality Enneagram-based quiz at her website.


Highly Sensitive Souls & the Enneagram

I recently participated in an informal poll to find out where HSPs tend to fall on the Enneagram.  The results were very interesting, despite the small sample (24 HSP participants).

Here is a summary of the results, as a percentage of total votes:

Ones - none*
Twos - 25%
Threes - 4%
Fours - 33%
Fives - 29%
Sixes - 12.5%
Sevens - none
Eights - none
Nines - 8%

That most HSPs tend to be twos, fours, and fives is consistent with my experience with and understanding of the Enneagram. 

* Sept 5, 2003 - I've just heard from an HSP who says she's a One!


Books on the Enneagram

Please explore my book recommendations page for books on the Enneagram, including my favorites by Don Riso & Russ Hudson, and Janet Levine, who along with Helen Palmer, coined the names for each of the numbers.


Jenna Avery, CLC, MCP, MLA
2721 Shattuck Avenue, #245, Berkeley, California, 94705
tel: (510) 984-3474
Please contact me on my new website here.
© Jennifer Avery, 2002, 2011, 2012.  All Rights Reserved.
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