Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Yesterday I posted about the Enneagram and Penni asked a question about it. I've been meaning to write about it for a friend anyway so here we go.
The history of the Enneagram is a bit of a mystery. It is said to be based on ancient Wisdom Traditions and modern psychology of personality. Basically it explains 9 personality types.

It was taught to me in The Journey but not at the level of personality. It was taught that they are ego fixations. This is the same ego that Eckhart Tolle talks about in his book, A New Earth. The Enneagram basically breaks down the ego into 9 different types. Each of these ego fixations have core drives and fears.

To further explain it, each person has a core ego fixation. As I said, mine is an 8. We also have wings which are the numbers to each side of us. In my case that would be 7 and 9. If you look at the 8, you will see there are two lines that radiate from it. One goes to 2 and the other goes to 5. These are called the directions of integration and disintegration. Basically the premise is that under periods of growth you will move one direction and under periods of stress you will move in another. This is a bit too technical for me and I don't actually believe it goes only one way of the other.

What I do believe is that as an 8 I have times in my life when I am a 7, 9, 5 or 2. Going back over my life I have seen distinct patterns that make this very true for me. Now, of course, we all have bits and pieces of all 9 of these but it is the core fears and core drives that really can give you a sense of where you sit.

We were taught this not to pigeon hole us or our loved ones as certain personality types. We were taught to see that all of these are actually the ego's way of keeping us separate from our true nature, our true essence. We see that the games the ego plays do not give us the true happiness and joy we are seeking. Just as Eckhart teaches that the ego keeps us always wanting more, never satisfied, never truly happy. It is by realizing what drives the ego that we can learn to see the lie that it has perpetuated.

Seeing ego fixations in others allows us to see them not as their "personality" but as their essence being driven by the fears of their ego. This enables a sense of compassion and love instead of judgement and anger.
There is a whole lot more to the true teaching of the Enneagram that I cannot pretend to know. I also don't truly care to get into anymore detail with it because it doesn't serve me. I feel that simply looking at the types and trying to figure out which personality type a person is can be very difficult. In fact, when I tried to do this for myself I never dreamed I was an 8. It was only when I dove in at a deeper level that I uncovered my true inner drive.

That being said, if you are interested in learning more there is a lot of information out there on the Internet. This website seems to have a good amount of information. I truly believe that the way I learned it through the No Ego Retreat was the best, most thorough way to learn it. In fact, to me, it was the most powerful and life changing module of the entire practitioners program and the one I would most like to re-sit. We lived each ego fixation, experiencing them from all modalities. It was amazing.

Here is a list of the nine different types. This information is from The Enneagram Institute.

Type One: The Reformer
The principled, idealistic type. Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

Type Two: The Helper
The caring, interpersonal type. Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their Best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

Type Three: The Achiever
The adaptable, success-oriented type. Threes are self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, they can also be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement. They are diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness. At their Best: self-accepting, authentic, everything they seem to be–role models who inspire others.

Type Four: The Individualist
The introspective, romantic type. Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.

Type Five: The Investigator
The perceptive, cerebral type. Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.

Type Six: The Loyalist
The committed, security-oriented type. Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent "troubleshooters," they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious–running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their Best: internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.

Type Seven: The Enthusiast
The busy, productive type. Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their Best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

Type Eight: The Challenger
The powerful, aggressive type. Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. At their Best: self-mastering, they use their strength to improve others' lives, becoming heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring.

Type Nine: The Peacemaker
The easy-going, self-effacing type. Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their Best: indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts.


Ben Kaelan said...

Oh my god! I LOVE the Enneagram. When I first learned about it I went out and got a book about it and I got such a DEEP understanding about why I reacted certain ways and... whoa I can't even complete this sentence. The enneagram is intense. I remember falling into an intense depression over 2 days while reading about it because my brain literally relived a lot of traumas and detoxed them all... I was able to forgive myself, through the enneagram because I UNDERSTOOD why I reacted in certain ways.

I'm a 4 :)

- Ben

RAW FOOD R&R: Rations & Rational said...

Hi Michelle!
WOW! I can't wait to continue reading your posts. I'm impressed by your willpower, inquisitiveness and resourcefulness. A great inspiration. Im going on a Bahaman cruise with my boss so Ill have the time to read more. Congrats on your transformation and healing.