top of page
Enneagram Basics: Levels of Development
By now you will have noticed that people of the same Enneatype can look very different from one another. For example, one Type Three (The Achiever) might look like an inspiring example of excellence and authenticity, while another might look like they're in blind pursuit of success and power (with many shades of grey between these two extremes). What accounts for differences in people of the same Type?
The Levels of Development (among other things we are exploring) is one way of accounting for these differences. Each Enneatype has a range of behaviors from very high functioning to very low functioning, and the levels help us understand where we (and others) are functioning at any give time. We tend to operate from around the average levels most of the time.
Riso and Hudson describe the Levels of Development as a "measure of our capacity to be present". Under stress, however, we can begin to lose contact with our Essential Selves and find ourselves moving unconsciously down the levels. And extreme or ongoing stress can send us tumbling down the levels into increasingly unhealthy patterns of behavior.
Each type has nine distinct Levels of Development (a topic for more advanced work). My object at this point in our journey is simply that you are aware that there are healthy, average, and unhealthy levels of functioning within each Enneatype.
Let's take a brief look at examples of Levels of Development for each Type...
Healthy Levels - High Functioning
Average Levels - Normal Functioning
Unhealthy Levels - Low Functioning
Type One: The Reformer
Higher functioning Ones can lead through integrity and discernment, or at lower levels be hindered by perfectionism and resentment.
Type Two: The Helper
Higher functioning Twos can shine with generosity and healing power, or at lower levels struggle with people-pleasing and codependence.
Type Three: The Achiever
Higher functioning Threes can become inspiring examples of excellence and authenticity, or at lower levels blindly pursue success and status.
Type Four: The Individualist
Higher functioning Fours can model creativity and aesthetic sensibility, or at lower levels be held back by moodiness and self-consciousness.
Type Five: The Investigator
Higher functioning Fives can demonstrate innovation and visionary intellect, or at lower levels become increasingly eccentric and isolated.
Type Six: The Loyalist
Higher functioning Sixes can exemplify courage and commitment, or at lower levels struggle with anxiety and rebelliousness.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
Higher functioning Sevens can become highly accomplished and spirited, or at lower levels be waylaid by impulsiveness and impatience.
Type Eight: The Challenger
Higher functioning Eights can be powerful, magnanimous leaders, or a lower levels control and intimidate others.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
Higher functioning Nines can bring people together and heal conflicts, or at lower levels be held back by passivity and stubbornness.
**Based on material from The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types, by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson (1999). Please see Resources page.
If you are irritated by every rub,
how will you be polished?
Next Steps on Your Journey:
1. Thinking about the Enneatype that you are currently working with, what examples can you give of high (healthy) functioning behavor? How about normal (average) behavior for your type? How about low (unhealthy) functioning behavior?
2. Stress, reactivity and negativity can sending us spiraling down the Levels of Development. What specifically does that look like for you?
3. What creates upward movement for you?
4. How do you interpret Riso and Hudson's statement that the Levels of Development are a "measure of our capacity to be present"? How would you define your "Essential Self"?
5. Let's move on to our Stress Point or Point of Disintegration...
bottom of page