On the Enneagram
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.
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.
There are three triads in the Enneagram. Each triad has similar tendencies, though each type expresses them differently.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Head-Fear-Thinking Triad includes the 5, 6, and 7. These types tend to focus in their heads and are oriented around fear.
nine personality temperaments are:
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.
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.
Performer, Organizer, Achiever - a Three tends to
focus on doing and on accomplishments and appearances - Threes
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
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.
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.
The Risk Assessor, Loyalist, Devil's Advocate, Questioner -
Sixes have a strong focus on the potential for danger or unsafe
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
Type Avoids "At
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
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.
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
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
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