Enneagram as a Self-discovery Tool

As I mentioned in a past blog post (link here to rabbit hole or flow), I’ve been exploring Enneagram. I’m definitely thinking it’s a rabbit hole, as I have explored multiple sites, listened into a full week of seminars on the topic, and done hours of information synthesis.  Every time I delve in, hours disappear! But, I was encouraged (by Kathy @ Smart Living 365 – link here) to share some insights I’ve gleaned, and so here it goes.

This is a summary of elements from multiple places. Different sites name the Enneagram Types differently and different names bring different emotions into play.  In the chart below I avoided naming the Types for this reason. Note that ALL Types have both positive (strength/gift) and negative (shadow/fear) characteristics and often your greatest strength is also your greatest fear.

Enneagram Types outline patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting.  They are considered your core (innate) gifts, fears, coping styles, and blind spots.  They do not change – it’s your hard wiring, and the behaviors patterns (coping mechanisms) they have created are deeply embedded in you. Understanding your Enneagram is about becoming more aware of who you are, utilizing (celebrating) the gifts you have, accepting your total self (managing your stress response, understanding the negative voices), and ultimately learning to love your authentic self.

An individual will usually have one dominant/ primary Type with a “harmony triad” – two other Types (one thrive /one stress) to integrate for increased awareness/authenticity. Also, a Wing is the Type directly next to your dominant one, and can also show up in your patterns. Some more recent conversations (lectures in seminar) talk about 3 main Types – one from the heart area, one from the mind area, and one from the body area, but still with one Type being dominant.  And other lecturers have even indicated that you have all Types within you, just certain ones are more dominant.  Essentially, an individual is an amalgamation of multiple aspects.  But looking at your dominant Type is a great starting point!

A big AHA for me was the concept of deeply held fears and self-limiting beliefs that each Enneagram Type uniquely has.  As awareness is always the first step of change (including growth), the articulation of these deeply held beliefs was really informative. In many readings, there are suggestions on managing the stress or unhealthy behaviors/shadows of the Type, great ideas for personal growth

For each Type, I am sharing a very brief synopsis of the strengths, the shadows, and the deeply held (and untrue) fears and beliefs.  There is a lot of depth in Enneagram and this barely touches on the insights for each type. 

Deeper insights come from delving into each Type after identifying your dominant, stress/thrive, and wing Types.    You can better understand your triggers, your stress responses, and how to work towards becoming more “healthy/balanced”.

Do you see yourself in any of these brief descriptions?  See someone else?  I have been able to see some of my friends and my husband, and understand them a bit better (via reading more in-depth descriptions and realizing what their deeply held beliefs might be). 

While there are many tests on-line (link here to site with one of the better information and tests), here is one easy tool to define primary type: Which set of words would someone use to describe you (or would you use to describe someone else)?

  1. Rational, Principled, Organized, A Perfectionist
  2. Caring, Generous, Warm-hearted, Helpful, Clingy
  3. Success-Oriented, Pragmatic, Driven, Image Conscious
  4. Expressive, Sensitive, Creative, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed
  5. Intensive, Perceptive, Innovative, Over-thinker, Isolated
  6. Loyal, Committed, Security-oriented, Prepared/Vigilant
  7. Enthusiastic, Fun-loving, Adventurous, Impulsive
  8. Powerful, Take Charge, Decisive, Confident, Confrontational
  9. Calm, Accommodating, Non-judgmental, Agreeable, Complacent

Becoming more aware of my dominant Type, and understanding my harmony triad, my wing, and my heart/mind/body Types, has confirmed some of the work I did last year on identifying and releasing self-limiting beliefs.  It supported many of the changes I am working on – stop “hearing” expectations, stop the Compare & Despair I am prone to do, be more non-judgmental (so challenging), lower my expectations in general (accept the messiness, accept less than perfect), don’t react to criticism as “lack of love/worth”, and be less hard on myself and others.  I am still a work in progress on all these changes … better, but not perfect yet! Yup, I am a Type 1.

Again, did you see yourself in the descriptions?  Do you know what Enneagram Type you are?

If you’d like more, please let me know. I have crafted short paragraphs on each Type, synthesizing much of what I have read. It’s just too much for a blog post – even short paragraphs when multiplied by nine becomes a very long document!

33 thoughts on “Enneagram as a Self-discovery Tool

  1. I absolutely ADORE the enneagram and could talk about it for hours!! Initially, I thought I was either a 1 (I have perfectionist tendencies and a highly developed inner critic) or a 5 (I am withdrawn and love nothing more than to sit in my nook, research, and write). But ultimately I discovered my true enneagram number is a 6. Yes, I am a perfectionist but my motive is because I fear the consequences of not doing it right (fear, as I am learning, is a primary motivator of a six). I also have a strong 5 wing 🙂 And then I can talk on and on about going to an unhealthy 3 in times of stress, but I will leave that for perhaps another conversation. LOVE this topic!!

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    1. Molly, I re-read your Enneagram post recently. I know I was not “ready” for the whole concept until recently. I had been exposed to it at least twice before – your blog being one. Now I totally get it… and I love your blog post about it even more because of that. Re-readng your post made me “question” my own 1-ness, again. I originally believed I “should be” a 5, so of course when you indicated your 1-5-6 questioning, I immediately wondered if I was wrong in my summation. Yeah, I go to the “I am wrong” so quickly. Anyway, no, I’m a 1, with a strong 9 wing and I go to the envy of a 4 (stress) easily (went there this morning in fact!).

      Have you explored the concept of Tri-Type yet? (Not the Harmony Triad.) The Tri-Type concept believes you bring in the three centers of intelligence – your dominant Type leading and them one type from the other two centers. This is where I think I bring in 5…. and 3 to my thinking/behaviors. Yeah… I can get caught up in this topic too!

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  2. Hello Pat,

    I don’t think we’ve met. I’m considered (I think) to be one of the old timers for the coffee share project w/ my first post arriving May of2018) and now the list of essays is longer than I ever expected. I too am in my 60s, near retirement (we’re still trying to plan that out) and one of the things I do love is trying to make sense out of complexity.

    On the other hand, if we were all at a house party, casually chatting in small groups staging strategic raids on the snacks table and such, you would likely find me hanging with your husband as one who would prefer cleaning the bathroom to taking one of the personality typing tests. It make my eyes bleed just to think about enduring one.

    Your husband (seeking new allies perhaps) might ask me why. I’m not sure how I would answer because I’ve been in pursuit of this information for both specific people and people in general for decades. Motives intrigue me. Why did in high school turn me down as a prom date? Why did I find so terribly attractive when I knew a relationship with her could only lead to disaster?

    Anyway, I love both these questions and the pursuit of their answers, but these tools always annoy me by trying to sort me out via questions with programmed answers, all of which (if forced at gun point to take the exam) to answer honestly I need to select: well sometimes it’s (A), but often it’s (B) and if I’m having a great week or am in a pensive mood it’s (C) except for after a big win at work when it’s (D), but oddly enough, my mix of all of the above which doesn’t even cover the times when I’ve been worried about a dying family member or a sick child or some feedback on one of my stories from a friend who tells me that I took him back to a place where he may have failed his family and now feels some strange kind of guilt but doesn’t know how he could have acted any different. . . and so on.

    I guess my issue is that these tests, of necessity miss so much. We are so complex even at rest, but when you add the dynamics of what stimuli is swirling around our current environment, the calculations become incapable of accuracy at best and misleading otherwise, not to mention a lot less fun than just sitting down and having a probing conversation.

    Well, I just paused to look back at my comment. I think this is way more than you were looking for from a total stranger, but you did ask.

    Anyway, I did want to welcome you to our weekend get together. One of the things I do like in people is when they ask interesting questions. You did, sort of, and I’m glad you stopped by for a visit. Perhaps we could have a few of those probing conversations and you could try to talk me of this ledge or (fair is fair) I may convince you to join me on it. I think the conversation, the exercise of stirring these questions with another clever mind would almost certainly reveal data points that a researcher might will want to build a test around.

    Welcome to our group. I hope you stop my my story blog to share a few laughs and make a new friend. If interested, here’s a fun place to start.
    https://garyawilsonstories.wordpress.com/the-indoor-tsunami-adventure/

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    1. Gary, All I can say is wow. I’ve had many people tell me why any of these types of psychological profiling are “bad news” over the years. I still however find them fascinating. Not that I think anyone is “one type”. In fact I tried to point out that we are all amalgamations of these different elements. What I found fascinating in Enneagram was its focusing on deeply held beliefs as motivators and how those beliefs are probably untrue. And yes, I think a long probing conversation on this topic and others would be grand, preferably over wine! LOL.

      I personally like when I get people to think with my blogs. I’m heading over to check out your story blog now.

      Thanks for welcoming me to the group… I’ve followed Natalie on/off for a while now, but this is my first foray into a link like this one. I’m trying to see if I “fit”, although in 2 weeks, I did enjoy reading a few new bloggers.

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  3. Pat, I find this interesting although like Myers-Briggs or True Colours, most people are too quick to conclude and label. Thank you for sharing your insights of Enneagram and linking up with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

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    1. Natalie, while some folks might use it to label, I find it helpful to recognize and accept/appreciate peoples differences. Myers-Briggs years ago helped me appreciate people who were all about possibilities, instead of them driving me crazy with “what ifs”!

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  4. Hi Pat, is a rabbit hole to go down! I have been teaching workshops on the Enneagram for the past year. I love the inishgts people have when they recognize their patterns. I think recognizing your patterns is the most valueable part. I also like the way it helps you see your gifts and also your challenges. I am a five, and I find mine number is very acurate for me.

    If you want a list of my favorite resources with links to videos and articles and even one of me teaching, send me an email and I will send it to you.

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    1. Michele, My husband (who will never take any of these test things) is most probably a Five as well. When I first explored Enneagram, I was sure I would be a Five, but I continually tested out as a One. And delving in this time, my patterns do fit more to a Type One. In the Tri-Type, I’m probably a 1-3-5. I’ve noticed that the more recent tests give you full range of scores (all Types); year’s ago when I took the tests, they only gave you dominant. I’m wondering if I should take the quiz again to see. And I will email you for those additional links! Rabbit hole, here I come.

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  5. Hi Pat, I haven’t stopped by for a while. i had heard about Enneagrams but this is the first thing I have read about them. I appreciate your ability to read a lot of information and synthesize it. Maybe I will check it out. Thanks a nd blessings, Michele

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    1. Nice to hear from you again and hoping all is well with you. I’ve found this Enneagram work fascinating, more for the ideas on how to improve myself…. which is my continual retirement goal I think!

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      1. I sent your link to a friend who is in the midst of preparing for retirement. We talked about about preparing and processing and although I don’t visit your site often enough I told her how helpful it has been to me. You may not hear from her directly but I am sure she will stop in and browse.

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    1. Jo, The “Tri-Type” was the most recent area I looked at and that’s probably what your 3 numbers represent. Seven dominant, but bringing in elements of 4 and 9. Here’s the brief write up on that Tri-Type. Lyrical, see wonder in beauty, and original … that does sound like you!

      794 -The Gentle Spirit
      If you are a 4-7-9 combination, you are intuitive, innovative and accepting. You want to be original, positive and peaceful. You are identified with the defense of optimism and tend to hide your painful feelings and pessimism for fear of being rejected. You see the wonder in beauty and are tenderhearted, lyrical and idealistic. You are attracted to the healing arts.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this brief explanation. It did pique my curiosity. I see myself in a couple of these to some degree. I suspect my perception might be affected by the coping skills and tools I’ve developed. I caught myself thinking, “That used to be me.” I might take the quiz just to see if that brings more clarity.

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    1. Christie, To be honest, I didn’t believe my dominant Type at first, as I had aspects of many as well. It was through deeper exploration that I had to admit it was my dominant… with others adding into the amalgamation that is me – my wing, stress, thrive, and Tri-Types. I do use insights from all to understand my triggers and potential growth areas.

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  7. Hi Pat!

    Thank you for the “shout-out” to my blog where I wrote about the Enneagram last year. I really appreciate all your research and background about it–so fascinating huh? When I first took a couple of the tests and read about my number I was amazed at some of the “recognitions” within myself. The same with my husband. One thing I learned is that we should resist trying to guess what anyone else is. Really the best way to locate a number is through testing. I also like to think of the numbers what “motivates” me or others. Motivates make them different than personality style don’t you think?

    According to the test (and my own understanding) I am a 7 with an 8 wing and what motivates me truly is a search for adventure and happiness (very 7 don’t you think) But then my 8 kicks in which keeps me organized and also makes me motivated toward justice so that sometimes I can be quite assertive when I see injustice and need to speak out about it. My husband meanwhile is a 9 which makes him a perfect compliment to my 7.8!

    Anyway, it has been very helpful to explore what our personal numbers are for our lives and our relationship. And it’s fun (of course that is the 7 in me!) I am not at ALL surprised you identify as being a 1 because I can see so much of that motivation in you too. Thanks for reminding me of all this. And I would love some links to all the classes and things you listened to that you found most helpful. ~Kathy

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  8. On Kathy’s recommendation, I took the test… twice… and came up with the same result. Honestly, although I don’t put too much stock in these things, as I read each of the descriptions, it’s pretty clear to me which one is my primary. I always find these interesting but no one should let the results define them.

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    1. Janis, What I found helpful in this exploration was recommendations on how to become a more “healthy” version of myself – managing the stresses (seeing early trigger points) and being more aware of the shadow behaviors. It’s given me a few new things to “try on”. And an awareness of other folks behaviors being more about their own coping mechanisms has helped me be less judgmental – something I continue to work on. I guess that is kinda ironic – the constant need for personal improvement is part of my primary Type!

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    1. LOL. There are many just like you! I am also a Type 1. When I was focusing on understanding my self-limiting beliefs last year, many of the same insights came out that Enneagram reiterated. I’ve been working on reducing the time I spend in the shadows – trying to stop the should, not setting high expectations, and trying to be less judgmental. None of that is easy, but I do think I get less stressed about things now.

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  9. Hi Pat!

    Thank you for the “shout-out” to my blog where I wrote about the Enneagram last year. I really appreciate all your research and background about it–so fascinating huh? When I first took a couple of the tests and read about my number I was amazed at some of the “recognitions” within myself. The same with my husband.

    One thing I learned is that we should resist trying to guess what anyone else is. Really the best way to locate a number is through testing. I also like to think of the numbers what “motivates” me or others. Motivates make them different than personality style don’t you think. I am a 7 with an 8 wing and what motivates me truly is a search for adventure and happiness (very 7 don’t you think) But then my 8 kicks in which keeps me organized and also makes me motivated toward justice so that sometimes I can be quite assertive when I see injustice and need to speak out about it. My husband meanwhile is a 9 which makes him a perfect compliment to my 7.8!

    Anyway, it has been very helpful to explore what our personal numbers are for our lives and our relationship. And it’s fun (of course that is the 7 in me!) I am not at ALL surprised you identify as being a 1 because I can see so much of that motivation in you too. Thanks for reminding me of all this. And I would love some links to all the classes and things you listened to that you found most helpful. ~Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kathy, I would not have “pegged” you as a 7, I think because I certainly don’t know you that well. Which does lend itself to your insight in trying not to guess. But your description of search for adventure now makes me see it in you! I do love your insight into what “motivates”. I think it also helps me accept others behaviors more, as I realize they have much different motivators. Can you hear the “9” is my response? That’s my wing. 🙂

      The most recent area I’ve been reading about are “Tri-Type”, which says you have 3 core types, although one dominates. One from each of the centers (head, heart, body). Since your main (7) is a head type, you should have another 2 Types in the other 2 centers (body is 8-9-1, and heart is 2-3-4). That might give you some additional recognitions if you figure those types out as well.

      Yes, this stuff is fascinating, and you (I) can easily can get lost in the stuff. I’ve emailed you some links as well!

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  10. Haven’t had time to dabble in this again with the holidays. Ready to get a new book to read more. I think I am a two with a one wing. You know, I was back and forth, not knowing if I was more one or more two but I think two. I have been pinning all kinds of Enneagram things on Pinterest. Now to go back and look at it all.

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    1. Leslie, I’ll be very curious to see what you decide to do once you’ve delved in more. As Leanne noted, and I agree, Enneagram can get vey complex very quickly – a big rabbit hole! But I think it’s been super interesting.

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  11. Hi Pat – I’ve never really delved too deeply into the Enneagram stuff – it always seems a bit too complex for what I gain from it. I think from your chart I’m probably a “6” and I can see my strengths and weaknesses. Atm I’m busy reading Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and I realize that some of those weaknesses are my shields I put up to protect myself. Learning to be braver and learning to accept that there will be risks in life is what I’m taking onboard right now. I love that retirement gives us time to read and discover and learn more about ourselves and those around us.

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    1. Leanne, Your insight into our “shields” is so true. Our coping mechanisms are so deeply ingrained and hard to change. Awareness is always the first step, and that’s what I like about the Enneagram. it has helped me “see” my triggers, my coping mechanisms, and even suggested some ways to help grow away from those things as they are often limiting. Since you mentioned a 6, I went into my notes to see what I had noted as recommendations…. 1) Incorporate meditation into life, 2) Downplay issues as opposed to maximize them (they are molehills, not mountains; inconveniences not evil intentions) and 3) Be courageous, not fearful. Really, not making that up – fits with your own “be braver, accept risks”. Oh, and yeah… I agree that Enneagram gets complex fast. But I love trying to make sense out of complexity!

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