The Enneagram…what does it mean and where did it come from? The word is Greek in origin, with the prefix “ennea” meaning “nine” and the suffix “gram” referring to a figure or diagram. The Enneagram can be described as an ancient symbol that details nine distinct personality types, each consisting of unique strengths and weaknesses. It provides an awareness of who you are in the present and a path towards healthy change.
Various versions of the Enneagram symbol have been around for thousands of years, intersecting between ancient systems of psychology, mathematics, religion, and astrology. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the Enneagram made its way into western spheres by a few key individuals known as George Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo. Gurdjieff was a philosopher, and traveler, who introduced the enneagram as a dynamic, “living” symbol.” Following Gurdjieff’s teachings, Ichazo—a Bolivian author and spiritual teacher— wrote and taught about the traditional Enneagram’s key virtues, fixations, and wings. Ichazo then passed his wisdom onto Naranjo—a Gestalt psychologist—who expanded the Enneagram to contemporary presentations in psychology and personality typologies. Today, the Enneagram has been taught at academic institutions such as Stanford, is used by mental health professionals to assess personality typologies, and is used as a tool to explain leadership styles in workplace settings.
The 9 Types
The Enneagram explains nine dominant and unique human character archetypes that are interconnected and dynamic. Each Enneagram type has unique core motivations, fears, and virtues. The Enneagram helps you to understand why you behave in certain ways and empowers you to grow into a healthier version of yourself.
Type one: The Perfectionist. Motivated by the need to be perfect. Key fears include messing up and believing they are not good enough. Virtue is serenity. Growth considerations include accepting and embracing imperfections, cultivating self-compassion and self-love, and finding ways to express irritation or anger in a healthy way.
Type two: The Helper. Motivated by the need to be loved and needed. Key fears include being rejected, alone, and unwanted. Virtue is humility. Growth considerations include intentional self-care and self-love, understanding inherent worth, and to communicate needs and set boundaries.
Type three: The Performer. Motivated by the need to be successful and productive. Virtue is truthfulness and authenticity. Growth considerations include practicing presence and stillness, identifying and acknowledging emotions, and self-acceptance.
Type four: The Romantic. Motivated by the desire to be understood and unique. Key fears include being ordinary and not loved for who they are. Virtue is emotional balance. Growth considerations include accepting oneself as a unique and whole person, living in the present moment, and emotional awareness.
Type five: The Investigator. Motivated by the need to obtain knowledge and reserve energy. Key fears include being inadequate, lacking what they need, and invasion of privacy. Virtue is detachment. Growth considerations include taking meaningful action, realizing you are more than your thoughts, and taking risks.
Type six: The Loyalist. Motivated by the need for security. Key fears include being unsure and making the wrong decisions. Virtue is courage. Growth considerations include self-trust, embracing uncertainty, and mindfulness.
Type seven: The Enthusiast. Motivated by the need for adventure and to avoid pain. Key fears include feeling unhappy and unsafe. Virtue is sobriety. Growth considerations include sitting with emotions, living in the present moment, and awareness of overconsumption.
Type eight: The Challenger. Motivated by the need to be strong and independent, and avoid vulnerability. Key fears include looking weak and being wronged. Virtue is innocence. Growth considerations include cultivating gentleness, using the breath to pause before actions, recognizing vulnerable emotions, and self-care.
Type nine: The Peacemaker. Motivated by the need to avoid conflict and have inner peace. Key fears include creating stress, discord in relationships, and being unimportant. Virtue is action. Growth considerations include voicing your opinion, taking time to know yourself, and cultivating inner peace.
Interconnection: Symbol, Wings, and Stress/Security
The Enneagram symbol is made up of three distinct parts — a circle, triangle, and hexagram. The circle is said to represent oneness with all of creation, and the essence of love. The triangle indicates the law of three, which delineates that the whole of anything is composed of active, passive, and neutral parts. The hexagram illustrates the law of seven, which is considered to describe spectrums of light, sound, time, and energy. The diagram overall illustrates the dynamic relationship between each number.
Wings: Stress and Security
Wings are the numbers on either side of your dominant Enneagram type, and bring nuance and balance to your number. One typically leans towards one of two wing numbers. The stress number is what you move towards during stressful or insecure moments, and is represented by the arrow pointing away from your dominant number. Individuals move toward security during times of health and self-awareness, and is represented by the arrow pointing toward your number
Want more info?
If you are interested in learning more about the Enneagram, two very informative books include The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz, and The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron. Free Enneagram testing can also be found through Truity.com. Lastly, I always like to encourage others to speak with an Enneagram-informed therapist. Blessings on your journey!
Cron, I., 2016. The road back to you. Illinois: InterVarsity Press.
Heuertz, C., 2017. The sacred enneagram. Harper Collins.
IRB MEDIA., 2022. SUMMARY OF GINA GOMEZ'S THE ENNEAGRAM & YOU. [S.l.]: IRB MEDIA.
Miltenberger, L., 2021. Enneagram empowerment. New York: Mike Sanders.