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Enneagram Basics: The Nine Types

Our journey begins with a brief look at the nine distinct Enneagram "types" or "styles".   Each of these ways of being in the world comes with its own patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, with its own gifts and challenges.  As integral beings we all have each of these types within us, but one of them will be tend to be dominant, and your dominant style is known as your "Enneatype".

Different schools of the Enneagram use different descriptive names for the same type (for instance a Two might be called "The Giver, The Helper", etc.), so don't get too hung up on the labels.  Instead, as you read through the descriptions, try to get a general feel for the nine styles and how they differ from one another. 


Let's take a look at the nine types...


Type One - "The Reformer"

Rational, Idealistic, Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, Perfectionistic

  • 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.

  • Ones typically have issues with anger, resentment and being judgmental.

  • At their best Ones are wise, discerning, realistic, noble, morally heroic.

  • Core Desire: To be right, to be good, to have integrity


Type Two - "The Helper"

Caring, Interpersonal, Generous, Demonstrative, People-Pleasing, Possessive    

  • Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, people-pleasing and codependent.

  • They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed or to gain attention.

  • Twos typically have issues with pride, flattery, and with acknowledging their own needs.

  • At their best Twos are unselfish and altruistic, with an unconditional love for others.

  • Core Desire: To feel loved, to feel wanted


Type Three - "The Achiever"

Success-Oriented, Pragmatic, Adaptable, Excelling, Driven, Image-Conscious

  • 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.

  • Threes typically have issues with vanity, deceit, workaholism, and competitiveness.

  • At their best Threes are self-valuing, authentic, everything they seem to be - role models who inspire others.

  • Core Desire: To feel valuable, to feel successful


Type Four - "The Individualist"

Sensitive, Introspective, Expressive, Dramatic, Self-absorbed, Temperamental

  • Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved.  They are emotionally honest, deep, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious.

  • Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective - yet unique and special - they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. 

  • Fours typically have issues with melancholy, envy,  self-pity, and being self-absorbed.

  • At their best Fours are inspired and highly creative, able to to renew and transform themselves..

  • Core Desire: To feel uniquely oneself, to feel authentic


Type Five - "The Investigator"

Intense, Cerebral, Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, Isolated

  • 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 mental constructs, and can become detached and withholding.

  • Fives typically have issues with eccentricity, stinginess, and isolation.

  • At their best Fives are visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in new ways.

  • Core Desire: To be competent, to be capable


Type Six - "The Loyalist"

Committed, Security-Oriented, Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, Suspicious

  • Sixes are reliable, hardworking, responsible and trustworthy.  Excellent troubleshooters, they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but they can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious.

  • They can be more cautious, indecisive and accommodating (known as"phobic Sixes"), or more challenging, defiant and rebellious (known as "counter-phobic Sixes"). 

  • Sixes typically have issues with fear, self-doubt and suspicion.

  • At their best Sixes are internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.

  • Core Desire: To be safe, to be secure, to be supported


Type Seven - "The Enthusiast"

Busy, Variety-Seeking, Spontaneous, Versatile, Acquisitive, Scattered 

  • 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 and mental stimulation, but can become distracted and exhausted by either (or both) of these. 

  • Sevens typically have issues with over-planning, impulsiveness and gluttony.

  • At their best Sevens focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

  • Core Desire: To be happy, to be content, to be satisfied


Type Eight - "The Challenger"

Powerful, Dominating,Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, Confrontational

  • Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive.  Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, they can also be egocentric and domineering. 

  • Eights feel they must control their environment, including people, sometimes being confrontational and intimidating. 

  • Eights typically have issues with anger, lust, vengeance,  and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.

  • At their best Eights are self-mastering, and can become heroic, magnanimous, and empowering.

  • Core Desire: To be independent, to protect oneself


Type Nine - "The Peacemaker"

Easygoing, Self-Effacing, Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, Complacent

  • Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable.  They are usually 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. 

  • Nines typically have issues with self-forgetting, inertia and stubbornness.

  • At their best Nines are self-possessed and all-embracing, bringing people together and healing conflicts.

  • Core Desire: To be at peace, to be harmonious, to be whole

**Type descriptions 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.
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In oneself lies the whole world
and if you know how to look and learn,
the door is there and the key is in your hand.
Nobody on Earth can give you
either the key or the door to open,
except yourself.
                                                - Krishnamurti
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Next Steps on Your Journey:
1. Considering the nine types briefly described above, what is your first reaction?  Does one of the types feel more familiar to you than the others?  Maybe you have the feeling of being seen or recognized, perhaps for the first time?  Record in your journal what it is about at least two or three of the styles that resonates with you.  Are there any styles that don't resonate at all?  Record them as well.  
2. Take a simple Enneagram Test.  Here are links to preliminary tests (and results) from two prominent Enneagram schools, The Enneagram Institute (founded by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson) and The Narrative Enneagram (also known as The Enneagram Worldwide, founded by Helen Palmer and David Daniels, M.D.): 
Enneagram Preliminary Test 1   (from The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson)
Enneagram Preliminary Test 2   (from The Essential Enneagram, by David Daniels, M.D. and Virginia Price, Ph.D.)
Record your results in your journal.  What do you make of the results?  Do they confirm your possible types, or open you up to more or different possibilities?
3. By now you will likely have narrowed your search to 2-3 types that could be yours.  It's time to increase your understanding of these possible types by checking out some expanded type descriptions.  Follow these links to type descriptions at The Enneagram Institute and The Narrative Enneagram  
The Enneagram Institute Type Descriptions
The Narrative Enneagram Type Descriptions
4. At this point you might want to pick the most likely of the types you've been considering and move forward on our journey with that type in mind (you can always change your mind as you learn more about yourself).  Or you may want to do another round of testing.  If so, here are links to the official test sites (for a fee) from The Enneagram Institute and The Narrative Enneagram:
The Enneagram Institute Test   
The Narrative Enneagram Test   
Record your results in your journal.  What do you make of what you're learning?  
5. Now let's take the style that you have decided (at least for now - there is no right or wrong place to start) is your most likely Enneatype, and put it to a test drive with the next stop on our journey, the Centers...     
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