If you have not done so already you can determine your Enneagram type by taking the Enneagram Type Self-Assessment and you can determine your Enneagram subtype by taking the Enneagram Subtype Self-Assessment.
Briefly, the Enneagram (pronounced Any-A-Gram) is a profoundly powerful personality system that describes nine distinctly different personality types, each with unique mental, emotional and behavioral patterns that tend to become habitual over time and distort reality as it actually is. The Enneagram also describes how and why these patterns arise in the first place, although that is too big a topic to get into on this website (for more information read any books by Sandra Maitri, especially "The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram," and/or any books by A.H. Almaas). At first the Enneagram may seem like any other personality system but it gets much more subtle and deep as you probe into it. The Enneagram can act as a powerful mirror to help us see the hidden nature of our own personality structure, but more importantly, it can be used as a self-awareness tool to help us let go of our personality type's habitual ways of being that don't serve us.... or the world.
The word "ennea" is Greek for nine and "gram" means model or figure. Thus, the Enneagram is a figure or symbol with nine points, each one representing one of the nine personality types (Type 1, Type 2, ....... Type 9).
The Enneagram Symbol
(the numbers represent the 9 different types)
Although not associated with any religion, one of the primary uses of the Enneagram is as a transformational tool to help us realize our essential nature (Divine nature or Beingness) and integrate our personality. For those that have had an initial spiritual awakening experience, the Enneagram can help serve your "inner purpose" of self-transcendence. But the Enneagram can also help each of us achieve our various "outer purposes" because it has practical applications in many important areas of life - relationships, vocational guidance, business, education and parenting.
In relationships, the Enneagram can be used for improving communication, understanding, synergy and connectedness by valuing differences between people. For more information on how you can improve your relationships using the Enneagram, as well as all the other systems I use, visit my section on Relationship Compatibility. As interdependent beings, it is my belief that our happiness, in large part, depends on the quality of our relationships. And the quality of our relationships depends on our self- esteem and willingness to cherish other people's uniqueness. And our self-esteem comes from making moment-to-moment choices in alignment with our deepest values. And making moment-to-moment choices in alignment with our deepest values comes from knowing ourselves deeply and honoring the still, small voice inside (our inner wisdom). For more information on the Enneagram's use in relationships see my Enneagram References.
Another great use of the Enneagram, as well as all the other systems I use, is for Vocational Guidance. Each of us has innate talents that come so naturally to us that we don't even see them as gifts. Unfortunately, many people don't know what they are. In his book, "The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success" Nicholas Lore surveyed 1,500 people and found that only 10% of them actually felt their work fit their personality and was a vehicle for full self- expression. 20% of people enjoyed their work most of the time, 30% accepted their work without a struggle, 30% go to work because they are forced to by circumstances, and 10% feel as though their job is hell! So, perhaps as many as 70% of people don't enjoy their work. Do you think that affects their relationships? Health? Self-esteem? Enjoyment of life? Inner peace? World peace!? For more information on the Enneagram's use for vocational guidance see my Enneagram References.
In business, the Enneagram can be used for team building, managing conflict, enhancing self-leadership, and increasing productivity by maximizing each person's unique gifts. For more information on the Enneagram's use in business see my Enneagram References.
In education, the Enneagram can be used to help teachers understand the different needs of students and tailor their teaching to reflect their awareness of these different needs. It can help kids better understand themselves and others as well as help them plan their lives. For more information on the Enneagram's use in education see my Enneagram References.
In parenting, the Enneagram can help parents truly understand and nurture the individuality of their children. With knowledge of the Enneagram (and the other systems on this website) parents can increase their children's self-esteem by encouraging them to use their natural gifts and talents. The parents can also raise their own self-esteem by using these systems and thus will naturally raise their children's self- esteem too by their own happy example! For more information on the Enneagram's use for parenting see my Enneagram References.
Learning the Enneagram will help you come to see that most of humanity is imprisoned in the jail of their own personality structure struggling to find freedom and inner peace but to no avail because they don't have the key that will unlock their cell. The Enneagram offers one such key to anyone who has the strong impulse to use it. Far from putting us in a box, as many believe personality systems do, the Enneagram actually helps us free ourselves from the box we unknowingly are already in. Each of us has a limited world view, a limited perspective of reality. The Enneagram, as well as all the other universally applicable systems on this website, are designed to help us free ourselves to live more consciously.
By gaining a better understanding of our Enneagram type (and our type from the other systems on this website) we can develop healthier relationships, choose more satisfying careers, learn better, become better parents, and basically lead more productive, fulfilling lives. We can live more gracefully and peacefully from our essential nature, feeling connected with one another rather than separate, working with one another synergistically rather than struggling and competing against one another.
If you have not done so already, you can determine your core Enneagram type by taking the Enneagram Type Self-Assessment. For those that are interested in learning a little about each type first, here are some brief descriptions. Clicking on any of the active links below will give you a more full description of the type.
Enneagram Type One: Ones are conscientious MORALISTS motivated by a desire to live their life the right way, which includes improving themselves, others, and the world around them. They try to avoid criticism by doing things perfectly. They have a strong inner critic/conscience and live by their internal dictates of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts." They discipline themselves to do what ought to be done. They do everything they can to avoid: showing anger, losing self-control, or making mistakes. Unconscious focus of attention: noticing imperfections; correcting errors; doing a job well; being competent; having integrity.
Enneagram Type Two: Twos are friendly GIVERS motivated by a desire to be loved and appreciated for their selfless generosity and helpfulness. They take pride in their ability to make people feel special and to anticipate and fulfill other people's needs. They like to express their positive feelings toward others and usually appear cheerful and self-sufficient. They can be so busy taking care of others that they are often unaware of their own real needs. They do everything they can to avoid: disappointing others, feeling rejected, and being seen as needy, clingy or possessive. Unconscious focus of attention: anticipating/fulfilling needs of others; making others feel special; establishing warm, heartfelt connections.
Enneagram Type Three: Threes are ambitious ACHIEVERS motivated by a desire to be productive, efficient, admired, and successful at whatever they do. Life is a series of tasks and goals to be completed and they keep pushing themselves to achieve more. Diplomatic, image-conscious Threes like to shine and want to be esteemed by others. They are often disconnected from their deeper feelings and can lose an inner sense of themselves. They do everything they can to avoid: failure and uncomfortable feelings that may arise from slowing down their pace. Unconscious focus of attention: optimal performance; achieving goals; winning; multitasking; efficient functioning; creating a successful image.
Enneagram Type Four: Fours are romantic DREAMERS motivated by a desire to understand themselves and express their deepest feelings. These sensitive individualists want to create something beautiful and unique that will communicate their authentic feelings. They want to feel special but often feel different and estranged from others. They long for emotional connection and can become very depressed when feeling all alone in the world. They do everything they can to avoid: being rejected, abandoned or seen as ordinary. Unconscious focus of attention: what's missing, lacking or unavailable; finding true love; yearning and fantasizing about the ideal (relationship, job, self, etc).
Enneagram Type Five: Fives are cerebral OBSERVERS motivated by a desire to gain knowledge and be independent and self-sufficient. They observe life from a distance, guard their privacy and space, and avoid being engulfed by others. They feel more safe and in control when thinking and analyzing than when in their feelings. They are individualistic and not influenced by social pressure or material possessions. They can sometimes feel socially awkward. They do everything they can to avoid: intrusive/demanding people, expressing strong feelings, large crowds, feelings of inadequacy and emptiness. Unconscious focus of attention: observing; analyzing; thinking; guarding their privacy of space and time.
Enneagram Type Six: Sixes are loyal STALWARTS motivated by a desire to have security, safety and predictability in their environment as well as feel a sense of belonging. They live with a constant background of anxiety and fear that something might go wrong or that they'll be defenseless against some imagined threat. Some Sixes are phobic and withdraw from fearful situations to protect themselves, whereas others are counterphobic and confront fearful situations head-on, even seek them out. They do everything they can to avoid: unpredictability, being helpless in the face of danger, getting stuck in doubt, alienating people they depend on. Unconscious focus of attention: what could go wrong; potential dangers/threats; who can be trusted/not trusted; looking for hidden meanings/messages; playing the devil's advocate; being loyal to others.
Enneagram Type Seven: Sevens are vivacious ADVENTURERS motivated by a desire to be upbeat and on the go, to keep their options open, and to plan for new, exciting experiences. They view life as a fun-filled adventure, yet they also want to contribute to the world. Sevens have fantastic imaginations and are constant seekers of excitement. They do everything they can to avoid: boredom; painful emotions and anxiety; limitations, constraints and restrictions on their freedom; the drudgeries of life. Unconscious focus of attention: planning for pleasureful activities; enjoying and experiencing life to the fullest; any new, fascinating information; seeing the interconnection and interrelationship between diverse areas of information; being spontaneous and on the go; new, stimulating people and conversations; what I want to enjoy.
Enneagram Type Eight: Eights are assertive BOSSES (figuratively speaking) motivated by a desire to be powerful, self-reliant, strong, and to have control over their lives. Being respected for their strength is more important to them than being liked. They are no-nonsense, lusty, robust people who go after whatever they want. They are natural leaders who want to make an impact on the world. They do everything they can to avoid being: weak, vulnerable, controlled, or dependent on others. Unconscious focus of attention: wielding power and taking charge; being in control of my space; correcting injustices; protecting the weak/innocent; action and assertiveness.
Enneagram Type Nine: Nines are easy-going PEACEMAKERS motivated by a desire to keep the peace, harmonize with others, and create a comfortable life. These nice people (who can have difficulty saying "no" and making decisions) can easily become distracted and then get off task on the important things they were trying to do. Although they rarely get angry and will accommodate others to avoid conflict, they can be stubborn at times. They like to merge with others and their environment, and they gain their sense of self through these connections. They do everything they can to avoid: confrontation, conflict and discomfort. Unconscious focus of attention: all the things in the environment that beckon attention; keeping life comfortable, peaceful, harmonious, stable; being sensitive to others; doing the less essential, comfortable activities rather than the more important, disturbing ones.
Now that you've had a chance to learn what the Enneagram is, what some of its practical uses are, and what each type is like, it can be extremely helpful to understand how the system works. There are six aspects of the Enneagram system that will help you better understand how it works: (1) Your Core Enneagram Type, (2) Centers of Intelligence, (3) Wings, (4) Arrows, (5) Levels of Development and (6) Subtypes. But before I get into those, it will be helpful for your learning to draw the Enneagram symbol yourself.
Draw a circle and put 9 equidistant points around the perimeter, starting at the tip top of the circle. Put a "9" outside the circle at the tip top point and then continue to number the other points 1 - 8 in a clockwise direction with 1 following number 9. See example below.
Draw a line between points 9 and 6, 6 and 3, 3 and 9. You will notice that it forms an equilateral triangle. Now draw a line between points 1 and 4, 4 and 2, 2 and 8, 8 and 5, 5 and 7, 7 and 1. You will notice that each type has a type on either side of it and each type is connected to two other types by straight lines. This will be significant when I talk about "Wings" and "Arrows" shortly. But first I want to talk about your core personality type.
Everyone has one core Enneagram type with which they can most identify, once they learn about the key differences between all the types. However, most people, including myself, can see some of themselves in most of the Enneagram types. This makes sense since each of us is multidimensional and ultimately have free will to grow and change if we so choose. Although we can change our personality characteristics if we so choose, the Enneagram system states that we can not change our core Enneagram type at any point during our lifetime. In fact, the Enneagram partially explains HOW our personality is likely to change as we become psychologically healthier or unhealthier. This is talked about shortly in the section "Levels of development."
Enneagram theory asserts that our core Enneagram type is inborn (we're born with it) and as soon as we are old enough to have sufficiently developed a conscious sense of self (usually age 3-5) separate from the environment we begin to perceive reality through the lens of our type.
Of course, our parents, childhood environment, experiences, genetic predispositions, etc. all affect the uniqueness of who we are but the Enneagram is one powerful system for understanding how we are very similar to other people of our same core type because of similar subconscious beliefs and perceptions of reality.
Each Enneagram type is universal. That means the Enneagram system applies to all people throughout the world regardless of gender, religion, race, nationality, culture, sexual orientation, etc. This universality helps foster understanding and compassion for each other the world over and gives us all a common bond.
It is also important to remember that there are no "better than" or "worse than" types and the numbering of the types is completely arbitrary. Every type has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Some Enneagram types can seem to have an easier time fitting into the culture of their country, such as Threes in the United States. But that does not make them a better type, just more socially rewarded for their strengths. The gifts of every type are valuable and necessary. Use this website to learn who you were designed to be and then be that person!
If you have not done so already, you can determine your core Enneagram type by taking the Enneagram Type Self-Assessment.
The Enneagram teaches that there are 3 basic components of the human psyche or, put another way, 3 centers of intelligence that all human beings have: (1) the instinctive center of intelligence, (2) the feeling center of intelligence, and (3) the thinking center of intelligence. These have also been referred to as the: (1) belly center, (2) heart center, and (3) head center, respectively.
While each Enneagram type is completely unique, the 9 Enneagram types are interrelated in numerous profound ways that add depth and subtlety to the system. Since there are 9 personality types in the Enneagram system and 3 types of intelligence that all humans have, it probably is not surprising to learn that:
The Enneagram Symbol
(the numbers represent the 9 different types)
Keep in mind that each type has greater or lesser capacities to use all 3 intelligences.
The Instinctive Center allows us to fully inhabit our bodies, since that is what always exists in the present. When we are fully aware of our bodies and are in tune with the strengths of this center, we easily access our innate inner authority, inner strength, vitality, groundedness, stability, peacefulness, connection with life and acceptance of things as they are. When we are out of touch with this center we put up ego boundaries to defend ourselves, experience tightness, tension or numbness in our bodies, get scattered and dissociated easily, feel lethargic and lazy, become inefficient and unproductive, are too independent, have a short fuse and easily get frustrated or overwhelmed by the practical demands of life.
Types 8, 9, and 1 are the instinctual (belly) types who have issues with aggression and repression. These 3 types seek autonomy. They are primarily concerned with resistance to and control of their outer environment and inner impulses. In the average to unhealthy range, these three types create ego boundaries between themselves and others to give them a false sense of autonomy. The virtues of the instinctive center - inner strength, groundedness and stability - come from connection with our essential nature. These three types attempt to affect their environment without being affected by it. Each of these types does this in a different way, as will be discussed next. The fundamental underlying emotion (mostly unconscious) of these types because of the loss of contact with Essence (our essential nature) is RAGE.
The Feeling Center allows us to love ourselves and others unconditionally. When we are fully aware of our feelings and emotions and are in tune with the strengths of this center, we naturally experience love, openness, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, intimacy, connectedness and kindness toward/for ourselves and others. We are truthful, authentic, inner-directed and deeply grateful for our life. When we are out of touch with this center we present a false self-image to ourselves and to others, we tell stories about who we are, we get overly emotional and dramatic, we hold onto certain moods and feelings, we alter our personality to affect others, we people-please and flatter, we become dependent on others or feel estranged from others, and we want approval and recognition.
Types 2, 3, and 4 are the feeling (heart) types who have issues with identity and self-image. These 3 types seek attention. They are primarily concerned with how they come across to others and what others think of them. As children, they developed a false self-image to compensate for not feeling valued or loved for who they really were. This narcissistic wounding causes 2s, 3s and 4s to question their value and worth. Unconsciously, they know that this false self-image is not who they really are so they have issues with their identity, with not knowing who they really are. When we are in contact with our essential nature we feel loved and valued and can be ourselves naturally. In the average to unhealthy range, all three of these types lack a true love of self so they present an image to others in an attempt to feel valuable. Each of these types does this in a different way, as will be discussed next. The fundamental underlying emotion (mostly unconscious) of these types because of the loss of contact with Essence is SHAME (or HUMILIATION).
The Thinking Center allows us to create mental spaciousness and a quiet mind. When we are fully aware of our minds as a helpful tool to be used and are in tune with the strengths of this center, we experience mental clarity, lucidity, inner knowing, inner guidance, profound imagination and creativity, openness to new ideas, trust in ourselves and others, and unwavering faith in the universe to support us. When we are out of touch with this center we can't quiet our chattering mind, we're indecisive, fearful, doubtful, anxious, pessimistic, trying to figure everything out in our minds and anticipate the future instead of living in the present.
Types 5, 6, and 7 are the thinking (head) types who have issues with anxiety and insecurity because at the core they feel unsupported and without inner guidance. These 3 types seek security. They are primarily concerned with preventing themselves from becoming fearful and anxious. In the average to unhealthy range, these three types can't get their minds to quiet down. Inner guidance and knowing can only arise from a quiet mind. Feeling truly confident, safe and supported in the world can only arise from a quiet mind. But when these qualities are blocked by a "noisy" mind the result is a profound feeling of anxiety. Each of these types responds to anxiety in a different way, as will be discussed next. The fundamental underlying emotion (mostly unconscious) of these types because of the loss of contact with Essence is FEAR.
One of the ways that the Enneagram system accounts for variations in behavior between two people of the same type is by a concept called "wings." Every Enneagram type has two wings, which are nothing more than the Enneagram types on either side of a type. For example, the types on either side of type 6 are type 5 and type 7. Type 5 and type 7 are the wings of type 6. The types on either side of type 2 are type 1 and type 3. Type 1 and type 3 are the wings of type 2.
While your deepest motivations and personality traits come from your core personality type, secondary motivations and personality traits often come from one, or both, of your wings. Most often one of the two wings has a greater influence on a person's personality than the other wing. Sometimes a wing can have a strong, even contradictory, influence on a person's personality and behavior. For example, 2s are usually known for being outgoing, friendly, personable, emotional, social, adaptable, demonstrative, relationship-oriented, etc. Ones are usually known for being serious, purposeful, self-controlled, unemotional, principled, rational, self-critical, etc. Some of those traits are contradictory and yet can coexist in the same person. If a 2 has a strong 1 wing, especially if they are an introvert in the Jungian-Keirsey system, they can seem more like a 1 than a 2. Most descriptions of 2s are of 2s with a 3 wing (3s are usually known for being self-confident, charismatic, success-oriented, charming, hard working, image-conscious, status seeking, etc.). Mother Teresa is a good example of a 2 with a strong 1 wing (shorthand, 2w1) and Richard Simmons is a good example of a 2 with a strong 3 wing (2w3). The inner motivation for both of them came from being 2s - the desire to love and help people in a caring, compassionate, hands-on way. However, their personality's were as different as night and day in their expression of their 2-ness partly because of the difference in their secondary motivations from having different wings. Another good example of contrasting types because of their wing differences is an 8 with a 9 wing (8w9), such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and an 8 with a 7 wing (8w7), such as Donald Trump.
Please keep in mind that every Enneagram type can potentially express both wings, when they are psychologically healthy. However, one wing will usually be dominant since the traits of the wing types for any given Enneagram type are so different, as we saw between 1s and 3s for Enneagram type 2. It is unlikely that someone will have personality traits from both wings equally strong even if traits of both wings can be recognized. The wing that flavors the person's personality the most is called the "dominant wing."
Occasionally, some people will seem more like their dominant wing type than their actual type so it is very important not to assume you KNOW what type someone is by their outer behavior. Even highly skilled and intuitive Enneagram teachers can (and do!) have differences of opinion about the actual type of a person. Ultimately, no one can KNOW a person's type except the person him or herself (unless you've asked the person in question but even then they could be unsure or lie. How would you KNOW?).
If you would like to learn more about all of the Enneagram type-wing combinations click here.
The arrows (see the Enneagram Symbol below) are an important part of Enneagram theory. They explain how a person might behave when they are defended against or stubbornly opposing reality, such as under stress, and when they are open and receptive to reality, such as during times of relative security OR extreme distress, when a crack in the ego's armor occurs and we are brought closer to our essential nature through tragedy or suffering. The arrows (of a type) are literally the two arrows going from and coming toward a type. The arrangement of the arrows on the Enneagram symbol is not arbitrary.
I will use type 2 as an example to explain the use of the arrows. You will notice that type 2 (number 2 on the Enneagram symbol above) is connected to type 8 going in the direction of the arrow from 2 to 8 and you will notice that type 2 is connected to type 4 going against the direction of the arrow from 2 to 4. Thus, the types connected to the arrows for type 2 are type 4 and type 8. These "arrow" types have been given various names. Continuing to use our example of type 2, type 8 can be called the type in the "direction of disintegration" and type 4 can be called the type in the "direction of integration." Type 8 has also been called the "stress point" and type 4 the "security point." Lastly, type 8 has been called the "defensive point" and type 4 the "heart point." I use the latter names because I feel they are more descriptive of what is actually going on with the arrows because heart defendedness versus heart openness to inner exploration seems to me the important variable.
According to Enneagram theory, if we become more defensive and fortified in our ego we will move further away from our inner depths, further away from our essential nature. This occurs when we move in the direction the arrow is pointing because it is the path of least resistance for the personality. As just mentioned, type 8 is the defensive point for type 2 so if 2s take the path of least resistance and become more ego-identified they will take on more of the characteristics of type 8, being more controlling, possessive and even aggressive to get their needs met. If, instead, we become more open and receptive to whatever is occurring in our experience, our essential nature will have an opportunity to reveal itself. Type 4 is the heart point for type 2 so if 2s are willing to do the "inner work" of mindfulness and making conscious choices they will be able to move against the arrow (go against the grain so to speak) and, in time, open up to their deeper truth, their essential nature.
One way to remember the arrows of a type is that it takes "work" to move against the arrow and "inner work" produces greater openness, thus this is the heart point direction. Likewise, it takes very little "work" to go with the direction of the arrow (to go with the grain) and no work produces no results and causes us to become more hardened and defended, thus this is the defensive point direction.
If you would like to learn more about the heart and defensive points for each Enneagram type click here.
Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, two pioneering Enneagram authors, determined that there is an internal structure within each Enneagram type that could be used to measure the psychological healthiness of a person along a continuum from pathologically destructive (psychotic) all the way to liberated (enlightened). The levels of development are revolutionary and account for many of the differences between people of the same type as well as what kinds of behavioral and attitudinal changes can be expected if someone becomes more or less healthy. This has been a real breakthrough for therapists, counselors and other health care professionals who often rely on the levels of development to diagnose and then help their clients.
Don and Russ determined 9 internal levels of development for each Enneagram type. Levels 1-3 pertain to "healthy" people within a type, levels 4-6 pertain to "average" people within a type, and levels 7-9 pertain to "unhealthy" people within a type. The following diagram illustrates the levels they theorized:
|Level 1||The Level of Liberation|
|Healthy||Level 2||The Level of Psychological Capacity|
|Level 3||The Level of Social Value|
|Level 4||The Level of Imbalance/Social Role|
|Average||Level 5||The Level of Interpersonal Control|
|Level 6||The Level of Overcompensation|
|Level 7||The Level of Violation|
|Unhealthy||Level 8||The Level of Obsession and Compulsion|
|Level 9||The Level of Pathological Destructiveness|
Each level represents a major paradigm shift in awareness. Here is a brief explanation of the 9 different levels:
Level 1: The level of liberation. This is a state of ego-transcendence where the person begins to actualize their essential nature. Spiritual capacities arise, the ego self is transparent and malleable, allowing more balance and inner freedom. Level 1 marks the end of the journey to essence and the beginning of the journey as essence.
Level 2: The level of psychological capacity. This is an extremely healthy person but the ego's defenses begin to develop due to anxieties created by succumbing to the type's Basic Fear (different for each type). The person has a sense of self and strives after an ego-ideal (when I become this....., or when I achieve this......, or when I have this....., then life will be perfect!). The ego is still trying to achieve the Basic Desire (different for each type) and perpetuating disconnection from essence.
Level 3: The level of social value. The person's ego becomes more active, creating a persona with characteristic social and interpersonal qualities. The ego and persona are protected by defense mechanisms but this person is still healthy and highly functional, contributing to other's welfare. By relaxing ego activity and overcoming the Basic Fear this person is capable of moving up the levels.
Level 4: The level of imbalance/social role. The shift from the healthy to the average level is a big shift. Clear shift into the fixation and passion of the type. The person seems relatively high functioning but violates his/her own best interests and development. Ego is reinforced, defenses are increased and imbalances are introduced. Diminished capacity for self-awareness and presence.
Level 5: The level of interpersonal control. The personality traits are noticeably more problematic at this level. This level is a turning point because deterioration from here becomes much more egocentric, defensive and conflicted. From here it is more difficult to work one's way up the levels because of so little inner awareness. The person tries to manipulate the environment and others to get their Basic Desire met. Defense mechanisms are more active and cause interpersonal as well as intrapsychic conflicts.
Level 6: The level of overcompensation. The person overcompensates for interpersonal conflicts and anxieties caused by increasing ego inflation. Self-centeredness arises (different for each type) as well as overcompensated, extreme behavior (neurosis) to get needs met. Anxieties and aggressions are prone to being acted out at this level to maintain ego inflation. The person tries to defend against painful underlying feelings of rage (types 8, 9, and 1) or shame (types 2, 3, and 4) or fear (types 5, 6, and 7).
Level 7: The level of violation. This is the beginning of the unhealthy levels and marks another major shift. This level occurs if a person suffers a major life crisis or grew up in an abusive environment as a child. Ego defenses break down, survival tactics emerge. Self-protective response. Desperate attempt to bolster ego and defend self from intolerable feelings. Serious anxiety. Violation of self and others causing serious interpersonal conflicts. Unhealthy but not pathological yet.
Level 8: The level of obsession and compulsion. Serious intrapsychic conflicts occur. Attempts to remake or escape from reality rather than succumb to anxiety. Delusional thinking and perceiving. This is the pathological state of fully developed DSM personality disorders. Highly compulsive behavior.
Level 9: The level of pathological destructiveness. Extreme pathology (psychosis). Destructive behavior. Out of touch with reality. Willing to destroy others, self, or both to spare themselves from enormous pain and anxiety. Serious psychotic breakdown, violence or suicide possible.
A person's personality is not static but fluctuates constantly, especially under increased stress or good fortune. A person may be happy, clear thinking, relaxed, emotionally open, more balanced, more peaceful and more free one day. At another time the same person may be depressed, indecisive, uptight, emotionally closed off, unbalanced, frantic and less free. The fluctuations in personality are minimized at higher levels and at level 1 the fluctuations are barely noticeable because there is so little identification with the personality and its self-image. Most people live within a range of 1 - 3 levels most of the time. This can be especially helpful to understand when someone is under a lot of stress.
One of the major accomplishments of the levels of development is that it measures our capacity to be present, meaning our capacity to get out of our heads and be here right now without any thought of ourselves in any way, just responding naturally to the unfolding moment. The more present we can be the more internal freedom we have as well as access to all the virtuous qualities the ego is busy trying to achieve. Our minds are clear and lucid, our hearts are fully open and receptive, and our bodies are grounded and relaxed. As we deteriorate down the levels we become more identified with our ego, our separate sense of self, and all of our fears, doubts, insecurities, defenses, self-images and negative habitual patterns. Self-awareness is diminished and there is very little internal freedom to make positive, conscious choices in the moment because we are reactive, obsessive, compulsive, defensive and habitual. The levels of development can serve as a guide to gauge where you are in your psycho-spiritual development at any given time. As we become more present, through constant mindfulness and self- observation, we can stand apart from our personality and make wiser choices more in alignment with our highest values and inspiration. We feel freer and less run by compulsive, unconscious drives. The whole purpose of the Enneagram system is to help us become less identified with our personality so that we can relax into life and enjoy the journey as we really are, essence.
Instinctual subtypes, usually just called subtypes for short, are an extremely important concept in the Enneagram because they profoundly influence our personalities. They are no less significant for being last in the list of "How the Enneagram system works." They are last to tie in some of the other concepts.
There are 3 survival drives or instincts that all animals (i.e., biological beings) have, including humans. These 3 instinctual drives can support our lives when we are healthy but they can compulsively run our lives if we are not. These 3 instincts are:
As biological beings we are hard wired with certain survival needs. Our instincts help us humans survive individually and collectively, as a species. The self-preservation instinct is quite obvious - it is for preserving our body and all of its needs. The sexual instinct is for procreation and proliferation of our species so that we can survive as a species. The social instinct is for wanting to belong and have fellowship with others. It can also stir within us a desire to benefit our species rather than just ourselves.
Everyone has all 3 of these instincts but in varying degrees. One of these instincts dominates our attention and our behavior and is called our "dominant subtype." It gets first priority in our psyche, meaning it is the aspect of life we attend to first. For some the aspect is security and well-being, for others it's intimate relationships and for yet others, it's a desire to belong and fit in to the group. Unfortunately, if we are operating from the lower levels of development, our personality interferes with our dominant instinct. One of the other 2 remaining instincts will be next in importance to us and the third instinct will be significantly less important to us and often a blind spot in our capacity to fully experience life as a whole human being.
For any given Enneagram type someone might be a self-preservation subtype, a sexual subtype or a social subtype. These instincts are called subtypes because two people of the same Enneagram type but with different dominant instinctual drives can behave so unlike each other that they can seem to be different types, but they're not. Hence, the term subtypes. For example, all 7s have a passion for "gluttony" (this is not just a passion for food but a hedonistic bias and an insatiable desire for more) but social 7s can seem quite different from sexual 7s. Social 7s (at least healthy ones) are known for sacrificing some of their own desires to be responsible to their family, career or a cause they believe in. Social 7s can experience inner tension between wanting to act on their good intentions vs. not wanting to give up their freedom. Sexual 7s, on the other hand, are seductive and tend to become infatuated easily and fascinated by new people and situations. Like 4s, they really want a magical, extraordinary relationship. Sexual 7s are intense and passionate; concerned about their one-to-one relationships. Social 7s are open and engaging; concerned about the groups to which they belong.
Each of the 9 Enneagram types expresses the 3 instinctual drives very differently. Thus, there are 27 unique subtypes total (9 x 3 = 27), each with tremendously different ways of thinking, feeling and acting in the world. But there are also two different wings for each Enneagram type, as we learned in the "Wings" section above. Using our example from the wings section, we know that 2s can have a 1-wing or a 3-wing. That means that there can be 6 different wing-subtype combinations for each Enneagram type. Continuing with our example, here are the 6 wing-subtype combinations for Enneagram type 2:
|• Self-preservation 2 with a 1-wing||• Social 2 with a 1-wing|
|• Sexual 2 with a 1-wing||• Self-preservation 2 with a 3-wing|
|• Sexual 2 with a 3-wing||• Social 2 with a 3-wing|
(6 wing-subtype combinations for each Enneagram type) x (9 Enneagram types) = 54 different type-wing- subtype combinations in the Enneagram. And, if we take into account the 9 levels of development, which account for huge variations in behavior within each type, then there are 9 x 54 = 486 fundamentally different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that the Enneagram can account for! I'll be the first to admit that each of us is completely unique but if you were to ever meet someone with your same Enneagram type-wing-subtype combination and at the same level of development also, you would be amazed how much you have in common, even if you had different Jungian-Keirsey types, aura colors, dosha types, lifetime archetypes, astrology charts or numerology charts, to name but a few systems.
Not only are you influenced by the dominant subtype of your Enneagram type but you are also influenced by the same subtype classification of your dominant wing type. For example, let's assume for the sake of argument that Mother Teresa was a Self-preservation 2 with a 1-wing. Not only would Mother Teresa have attributes of the self-preservation 2 but also the self-preservation 1 because that was her dominant wing type. Healthy self-preservation 2s are known for being: the caretaking kind of 2; people who like to help others with their material and physical needs; loving; attentive to others; generous; nurturing; service-oriented, etc.
Very Healthy 2s with a 1-wing are known for being completely altruistic with a strong sense of mission and purpose. If Mother Teresa was a self-preservation 2 with a 1-wing she would also have had attributes of the self-preservation 1: responsible and security conscious; good at planning everything out; interested in physical and material well, for self and others; orderly; organized; neat; clean; disciplined, regimented, etc. If you ever meet another very healthy self-preservation 2 with a 1-wing you will see similar attributes in them as Mother Teresa.
You can learn about your Enneagram subtype by taking the Enneagram Subtype Self-Assessment.
What follows are generic descriptions of the 3 instinctual subtypes:
Everyone has self-preservation needs but self-preservation subtypes are preoccupied with having the resources they need to survive. If they have a partner and/or kids they are also preoccupied with providing resources for their survival too. Self-preservation subtypes tend to be concerned with: physical comfort, food, money, room temperature, health, housing/shelter, and all around well-being of their body. They tend to think about their health, well-being and physical condition. Self-preservation subtypes might well have a fulfilling intimate relationship and be active socially but if their self-preservation needs are not being met they will feel ill at ease and uncomfortable.
Everyone has a need for one-to-one relationships but sexual subtypes have a preoccupation with one-to- one connection with people, especially intimate connection with their partner. If they are not in a relationship they are preoccupied with being in one. If they are in a relationship they frequently think of ways to get closer to their partner. Sexual subtypes instantly sense their attraction or repulsion to someone and are acutely aware of the chemistry and degree of stimulation between themselves and others. Just as self-preservation subtypes are preoccupied with their physical well-being and survival needs, and social subtypes are preoccupied with belonging and fitting in to their community, sexual subtypes are preoccupied with their need for deep intimacy in their primary relationships and they feel ill at ease and emotionally unsatisfied without it.
Note: Many people who have a preference for "Introversion" in the Jungian-Keirsey system erroneously type themselves as having a preference for "Extraversion" because they are sexual subtypes in the Enneagram system who are deeply interested in and enjoy relationships. In the Jungian-Keirsey system, extraversion does not measure how relationship-oriented we are or how much time we spend with other people rather than by ourselves. Likewise, many sexual subtypes who are "Thinkers" in the Jungian-Keirsey system erroneously type themselves as "Feelers" because they are passionate and emotionally intense, like "Feelers." Please keep this in mind if you take the Enneagram Subtype Self-Assessment.
Everyone has a need to belong but social subtypes are preoccupied with their sense of connectedness (or disconnectedness, as the case may be) to their community and what other people think of them. In prehistoric times it was safer to flock together. Social subtypes understand this. They have an instinctive desire to be part of the culture they identify with (which could be a subculture or counterculture group) and this drives them to adapt themselves to serve the needs of the culture so that they will be accepted, and thus protected from harm. Being a social subtype does not necessarily mean that someone always loves being involved with groups and going to social gatherings, although many do. But, social subtypes are extremely alert to how they are being viewed and perceived by others. While self-preservation subtypes like their alone time and sexual subtypes like their exclusive intimacy, social subtypes like to be involved with people.
Note: Just as for the sexual subtype, it is quite possible for social subtypes to have a preference for "Introversion" in the Jungian-Keirsey system yet believe they have a preference for "Extraversion." Most social subtypes believe that they are extraverts because they do like spending time with others and identify strongly with their groups. But that is not the definition of extraversion in the Jungian-Keirsey system. Please keep this in mind if you take the Enneagram Subtype Self-Assessment.