Brief Overview

Welcome to our website and the world of the Enneagram personality theory! Chances are that you have found our website because you already have some knowledge of the Enneagram and you are seeking more. However, if this is your first exposure, the following overview should be helpful. For additional information, see my book, The Road to Wisdom, Chapter Four.

Now, more than ever, we live in a time that requires a greater knowledge of human behavior and the ability to take control of our lives. In my professional opinion as a psychologist, the Enneagram is the single most useful, profound, insightful, powerful and practical tool available to help individuals grasp the depth and the complexity of the human personality and human behavior.

The Enneagram (pronounced “any-a-gram”) is a theoretical system for classifying human behavior--designed to help individuals understand the complexity of their behavior as well as that of others. In Greek, “ennea” means nine and “gramma” means point, hence there are nine points or styles of perceiving and responding to people and events, leading to nine distinct personality types.

The Enneagram theory of personality or individual differences is a typology system. This means that it is a system of classifying human behavioral traits into types. Personality traits are enduring (lasting, continuing) patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are exhibited in a wide range of personal and social contexts. For example, with Type One in the Enneagram system, you will typically see such behavioral traits as being conscientious, moral, or principled, or, possibly more unhealthy traits such as being judgmental, inflexible, or self-righteous.

At the heart or core of the Enneagram theory of “individual differences” lies the belief that:  the key to understanding oneself and others is the knowledge or awareness of differences in “how we view the world” or “reality” (Perceptual World Views).

Perceptual World Views are preconceived assumptions and beliefs that influence our perceptions (what we think we see or hear), our interpretations (what we tell ourselves about what we think we see or hear), and as a result, how we feel and what we do. For example, the Perceptual World View for Type One is to per-fect themselves, others, and the world, and this type filters everything through this strongly held “view”.

Different types think, feel, and act differently and tend to believe that their view of the world is “right” and the “best” or the “only” view. There are also environmental and physical factors that can influence our perceptions outside of our “type”. For example, our perceptions (what we think we see or hear) are influenced by stress (acute or chronic), sleep deprivation, substance abuse, hormonal imbalances and pain. Think of the last time that someone you know was “wasted” or “high”. How accurate was their perception of reality at that time?

Unlike any other personality system developed to explain personality, the Enneagram theorizes that we are a product of nature and nurture. That is, we are genetically predisposed to be a certain personality type. And, as a result of all of the learned experiences that we have had (adapting to environmental challenges) both positive and negative, both rewarded and punished, our genetically predisposed type either becomes more dominant or becomes more dispersed or differentiated (a created mixture of the different types).

Due to our influences from significant people in our lives and the environmental conditions, it is sometimes a challenge to determine one’s true Enneatype (referred to as one’s Essence or Core type). The Butlers Enneagram Type Assessment (BETA) is a very helpful tool for starting your journey of determining your Essence or Core type. (See “About the Assessment” on the home page of this website.)

Origin of the Enneagram

The origins of the Enneagram are open to debate. I have read several articles and books on the origins and there are many points on which the authors agree and many on which they disagree. Most authors are of the opinion that the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components of mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism and ancient Greek philosophy, particularly that of Socrates and Plato. If you choose to search for the origins of the Enneagram, you will undoubtedly come across the names of Pythagoras, the Christian desert monk Evagrius Ponticus, the Franciscan Ramon Lull, and George Ivanovich Gurdjieff.

The “traditional Enneagram,” or modern day use, goes back to the 1960’s when a psychiatrist named Oscar Ichazo first began teaching it. Ichazo, born in Bolivia, raised in Peru, and residing in Argentina, created what he called the Arica school to transmit the knowledge that he had received.

In 1970, a group of Americans, including noted psychologists and writers Claudio Naranjo and John Lilly went to Arica, Chile to study with Ichazo. The Arica school teaches a system of “inner work”--a complex body of teachings in psychology, cosmology, metaphysics, and spirituality to bring about a transformation in human consciousness. Since that time, many have studied and written about the Enneagram, including Don Riso and Russ Hudson, two pioneers in the development of Enneagram theory and applications.

A Brief Overview of the 9 Types

Type 1 is driven to per-fect: self, others, and the world. They go about this by having high standards and expectations; being honest, moral, and ethical; being self-disciplined and conscientious; being logical, rational, and objective; being factual, accurate and precise. They are vulnerable to being too blunt, too direct, too honest; giving constant criticism and finding fault; condescending sarcasm; being impatient and inflexible; being intolerant of others beliefs and behaviors. Think about the life of Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.

Type 2 is driven by the need to love, be loved, and be needed. They go about this by being kind and compassionate; caring and empathic; thoughtful; generous; and sacrificing for others. They are vulnerable to telling others want they want to hear rather than what they need to hear; having trouble giving criticism or feedback; creating dependencies; choosing dysfunctional, emotionally needy people; having trouble setting boundaries. Think about the life of Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa.

Type 3 is driven by the need to succeed, be respected, and be admired. They go about this by making the most of their abilities; having goals and working very hard to reach them; being energetic and efficient; being flexible and adaptable; being good at multi-tasking. They are vulnerable to being overly concerned with “style”, rather than substance; bragging about their achievements; displaying indicators of their importance; using others to accomplish their goals; blaming others for their shortcomings. Think about the life of Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton.

Type 4 is driven by the desire to be unique, yet understood. They go about this by being introspective/self-aware; trusting what their intuition tells them; being in touch with their feelings; being authentic and true to self; being creative, imaginative, original. They are vulnerable to being preoccupied with what is missing in their life; idealizing individuals and relationships; engaging in “push-pull” relationships; living life at the extremes of the emotional spectrum; brooding about how bad their life is. Think about the life of Steve Jobs and Angelina Jolie.

Type 5 is driven by the need to know, understand, and make sense of. They go about this by being curious, observant, open-minded; pondering why and asking questions; challenging existing beliefs; looking for patterns and trends; thinking strategically and using the scientific method. They are vulnerable to being preoccupied with acquiring information and knowledge; avoiding superficial discussions and emotional issues; having trouble communicating clearly; becoming argumentative and condescending; taking extreme, unorthodox, radical positions that alienate them from others. Think about the life of Albert Einstein and Jane Goodall..

Type 6 is driven by the need to be safe and secure. They go about this by being responsible, reliable, and dependable; being loyal and trustworthy; being predictable and seeking predictability; having and living by rules, regulations, guidelines, and procedures; being prepared and on-guard. They are vulnerable to worry, anxiety, fear, and doubt; being unduly suspicious; magnifying problems out-of-proportion; feeling incompetent and worthless; having panic attacks. Think about the life of J. Edgar Hoover and Princess Diana.

Type 7 is driven by the need for adventure and fulfillment. They go about this by having fun and enjoying life; being optimistic, positive, and upbeat; being spontaneous; being charming and charismatic; and by inspiring and empowering. They are vulnerable to demanding instant gratification; needing to be free and unencumbered; being the center of attention; engaging in risky, indiscriminate, impulsive behavior; ignoring negative, unpleasant feedback. Think about the life of John F Kennedy and Lucille Ball.

Type 8 is driven by the need to influence and impact. They go about this by seeking challenges--the bigger, the better; being in charge and taking control; being tough-minded and tough-skinned; not being weak or vulnerable; being resilient – bouncing back stronger than ever. They are vulnerable to being aggressive and confrontational; being too blunt and tactless; hurting others feelings without even recognizing it; becoming proud and impressed with themselves; threatening, bullying and intimidating. Think about the life of Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell.

Type 9 is driven by the need for inner peace and harmony with others. They go about this by being easy-going and laid-back; humble and unpretentious; accepting and nonjudgmental; diplomatic and tactful; compromising and accommodating. They are vulnerable to avoiding confrontation; avoiding setting priorities; subordinating themselves to others; backing down to those less capable; being too agreeable – peace at any price. Think about the life of Gandhi and Princess Grace.

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