I Made Everyone I Know Do The Enneagram And You Should Do It Too
by Laura Taylor
I can’t believe I haven’t written about this yet, but here it is - the Enneagram! A lover of personality tests, I was ‘enneagramed’ last year and since seemed to have made myself an unofficial ambassador of the typing system, slapping numbers on every person I meet (sorry). So once and for all, I’ve popped it down on paper to, hopefully, get it out of my system. In the smallest of nutshells, the theory is based off your core fear and desire, with some instinctual drives thrown in for good measure. It identifies you as one of nine types (I can hear you already - “don’t put me in a box!”), and from there you can dive into a rabbit warren of your strengths, weaknesses, levels of health and a whole bunch of fun (and occasionally confronting) shit. It can be painful to read, and of course is not gospel, but, if nothing else, it’s a truly interesting self-analysis tool you can use to start probing around your psyche and asking questions you otherwise wouldn’t have. Kim and I have both found it freeing more than anything – to help understand and normalise your thought patterns and start seeing the ways your core drivers can affect you daily.
So here is a beginner’s crash course in the Enneagram and my very loose interpretation of each type. If you are fresh to it – I’d recommend you have a read through the types below and dive further into what resonates here (PSA the one that’s the most confronting is often the most accurate haha). You can also do a quick test here – just make sure you are really honest with yourself (not answering with who you want to be ...we’ve all done it). And for ya extra for experts I’ll pop a wee list of resources at the end, because this is a maaaassive topic and the deeper you dive - the more you’ll get out of it!
Type 1: The Reformer
Nobody has a deeper desire to distinguish wrong and right quite like a one. Born with a built in moral compass, they are crusader for change and have a deep sense of mission in the world. They wish most of all to be useful, and are incredibly principled in both action and thought. This control can mean they have a tendency to seek perfection, desiring to improve everything but terrified at the idea of making a mistake, or doing the wrong thing. This can lead to a build up of intense emotions, as they seek justification of their feelings, and ultimately themselves.
Basic Fear: Being corrupted, turned off the track.
Basic Desire: To have integrity, to be balanced.
Centre: Reformers have strengths and weaknesses in relation to their instinctual drive.
Dominant Emotion: Anger, Reformers love to feel in control of everything, including their impulses and angry feelings, so it’s not unusual for them to repress their anger.
Stress: When under pressure, the reformer goes to a four (the individualist) and can become moody and irrational.
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, the reformer goes to a seven (the enthusiast) becoming spontaneous and joyful.
Type 2: The Helper
Hello it’s meeee - although I am in deep denial, but as they say with enneagram the type that hurts the most is normally yourself, lol. Empathetic, social and generous, two’s have open hearts - making friends easily and desiring to really see, understand and know people, encouraging them and loving them deeply. However, unhealthy two’s can seek validation of their worth by obeying the notion they must sacrifice for others, causing them to help others as an attempt to get their own emotional needs met - which can lead to a cycle of bitterness and resentment.
Basic Fear: Of being unwanted or unworthy of love
Basic Desire: To feel loved
Centre: Helpers have strengths and weaknesses related to their feelings.
Dominant Emotion: Shame - Helpers try to control their feelings of shame by being seen as good, and focusing on the good in other people and being liked which can lead to them suppressing negative emotions.
Stress: When under pressure, the helper goes to a eight (challenger) and can become manipulative and domineering.
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, helpers become like well-rounded fours, becoming self-nurturing.
Type 3: The Achiever
The ultimate role-models, threes are here to achieve great things in the world. Charming, admired and successful in whatever field they pursue, they are incredibly driven and they love nothing more than to develop themselves, and other people. Healthy threes embody authenticity and ambition and are able to energise a room with their hopes and dreams and get everyone on board for the ride. However, three’s can fear that their value comes only from their success, and seek affirmation to ward off feelings of inadequacy. For this reason, when unhealthy they can become obsessed with self-image and dependent on receiving attention, losing sight of what they really want and falling victim to self-deceit.
Basic Fear: Feeling worthless
Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile
Centre: Achievers have strengths and weaknesses related to their feelings.
Dominant Emotion: Shame, Achievers perhaps avoid feelings of inadequacy the most, pursuing to personify what they believe a successful person looks like to starve of feelings of shame/failure.
Stress: When under pressure, achievers can become like unhealthy nines (peacemakers) and become disengaged and apathetic.
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, achievers move to a six (loyalists), becoming increasingly committed and cooperative with others.
Type 4: The Individualist
I am SURROUNDED by fours, which is a joke in itself as they love nothing more than to be unique (lol sorry Kim xx). Nobody is more creative, expressive or self-aware as an individualist. They have this incredible ability to cultivate beauty around them, expressing themselves and their individuality. They are very aware of their flaws and will happily identify and reveal them - and in turn are able to process painful experience with a quiet strength. Fours are searching for their true identity, and can often feel like they are missing something, never really ‘together’ and longing to be truly understood. They fall victim to their feelings and can become overwhelmed by their ever-changing emotional reactions.
Basic Fear: Having no significance, loss of identity.
Basic Desire: To find their true selves, and be significant.
Centre: Individualists have strengths and weaknesses related to their feelings.
Dominant Emotion: Shame, Individualists are the most likely to succumb to their feelings of inadequacy – and can try to manage their shame by focusing on how unique they are, dreaming up a fantasy life where the mundane does not exist.
Stress: When under pressure, individualists can become over-involved and clingy like an unhealthy two.
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, fours can become like ones, principled and objective.
Type 5: The Investigator
Fives are on a life-long mission for, why. They are intense wee souls that take everything in, contemplating and listening, knowing and understanding. They always have something different and insightful to say, and gravitate to having one area of expertise that makes them feel capable, secure and able to tackle the challenges of life. Their desire for competency can sometimes be self-defeating, as they become so engrossed in the process of collecting ideas or developing skills to feel competent - that they neglect their ‘real’ needs and relationships, in turn becoming more isolated.
Basic Fear: Being incapable, or useless.
Basic Desire: To be competent.
Centre: Investigators have strengths and weaknesses related to their thinking centre.
Dominant Emotion: Thinking, Investigators can fear their capacity to cope with the world, instead withdrawing in the hopes to understand it from a distance and becoming increasingly involved with their complex inner-worlds.
Stress: When under pressure, investigators can become scattered like a seven (enthusiast).
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, fives become like eights (challengers), decisive and confident.
Type 6: The Loyalist
It took me a long time to wrap my head around the Loyalist, which is surprising as they are one of the most common types people identify with. Reliable, committed and security-oriented, sixes want to to know they can trust you, and will subsequently be 100% there until the end, championing both themselves and their selected others. However, very vulnerable to anxiety loyalists look for security outside of themselves, in beliefs, authority figures or structures. If these outward entities let them down - they can become fearful, aggressive and suspicious of the very thing they looked to for support (see such a paradox!).
Basic Fear: Being left without guidance or support.
Basic Desire: To have security and be supported.
Centre: Loyalists have strengths and weaknesses related to their thinking centre.
Dominant Emotion: Thinking - perhaps the most fearful, the Loyalist attempts to control their feelings of anxiety by looking for reassurance outside of themselves, in structures, relationships, beliefs, authorities as they have little trust in their own thoughts.
Stress: When under pressure, loyalists can become arrogant and competitive like an unhealthy three.
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, sixes can stretch like a peacemaker (nine) and become increasingly optimistic and relaxes
Type 7: The Enthusiast
A seven is your dream dinner party guest. As their namesake suggests - they are enthusiastic about literally everything. Spontaneous, optimistic and energetic - they are constantly anticipating the next new thing they are going to experience. As you can imagine - this also means they can be impulsive and distracted. On of the reasons for this is they are wanting to avoid any kind of deprivation or pain at all costs. They aim to stay forever occupied to keep away anxiety about knowing what to do actually with themselves.
Basic Fear: Being in pain, or deprived in any way.
Basic Desire: To have needs filled, and be satisfied.
Centre: Enthusiasts have strengths and weaknesses related to their thinking centre.
Dominant Emotion: Thinking - fearing their inner world and feelings of loss and deprivation, Enthusiasts distract themselves with endless possibilities to always have something to anticipate.
Stress: When under pressure, enthusiasts can become critical like unhealthy ones.
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, scattered sevens can become fascinated by life like healthy fives (investigators).
Type 8: The Challenger
Strong, assertive and overflowing with will-power, eights have no issue with challenging both themselves and other people to exceed in any given area. They want to leave their mark, be independent and gravitate naturally to being charismatic leaders - thriving in the role. Their take-no-prisoners attitude and decisiveness is a huge asset, but if they feel like they are being controlled or losing autonomy - challengers tempers can quickly flare - becoming domineering and isolating themselves to resist being indebted to anyone.
Basic Fear: Being controlled by other people.
Basic Desire: To be in control of their own life, and protect themselves.
Centre: Challengers have strengths and weaknesses related to their instinctual drive.
Dominant Emotion: Anger – terrified of being controlled, The Challenger tries to manage this fear by controlling in turn what they retain and trying to increase this power – which can lead to them lashing out, rejecting others and becoming isolated.
Stress: When under pressure, challengers can become secretive and scared like unhealthy fives (investigators).
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, Challengers become like healthy twos (helpers), more open-hearted and caring.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
Called the ‘crown’ of the enneagram, nines encompass a lil bit of all the types together. A healthy peacemaker is someone you want to keep around - they are fun like a seven, creative like fours, kind like twos, and a overall calming presence. Nines at the end of the day are searching for peace - for themselves and others. They want to bring people together, heal conflicts and be fully connected to themselves and others. However, their desire for this is so strong - that they can have a tendency to ‘bliss out, trying to transcend and avoid inner turmoil and conflict, rather than face it.
Basic Fear: Separation and loss
Basic Desire: To have peace of mind and inner stability
Centre: Peacemakers have strengths and weaknesses related to their instinctual drives.
Dominant Emotion: Anger (lol!). The Peacemaker, Nines are susceptible to getting out of touch with their instinctual drives and denying their anger, instead idealizing their world.
Stress: When under pressure, Nines can become like sixes, anxious and worried.
Growth: When moving in a healthy direction, peacemakers become energetic and focused on self-development like achievers (threes).
Stress & Growth Arrows: Each type will ‘go’ to another number in stress or growth, as different situations will evoke different emotions from each type. This is called area so integration or disintegration, and can be useful to know if you feel yourself spinning out and repeating a similar behavioural pattern each time.
Levels of Development: I loooove these. There are nine (of course) levels of development, depending on how ‘healthy’ you are at whatever stage you are in. The spectrum ranges from healthy to unhealthy, and warning, these get v depressing to read at the bottom levels. I find the levels particularly interesting if you can pinpoint in your life when you have been particularly low or troubled and identify your corresponding behaviour - and how far you have come!
Wings: Everyone is a mix of types, never purely one or another (see not in a box!). While you have one base type, your wing is directly adjacent to your number and can add a somewhat contradictory element to your type. For instance I am a two with a three wing, so my desire to love and be loved sometimes can directly compete with a desire to achieve and be seen.
Instincts: Each person has a dominant instinct - sexual, social or self-preservation. While we contain a mix of all three, one will prevail and will be prioritised above the rest. Self-preservation the need to have enough resources to cope with life’s demands, prioritising themselves and their well-being. Sexual is the desire for relationship and stimulation and intimacy between themselves and others, and social is a heightened awareness of other people and how they are affected in any given environment.
Basic Fear & Desire: The enneagram categorises you based off your core fear and desire - which is why it can be so brutal to read! One reasoning behind it, is at some point (most likely in childhood) your core desire was ‘corrupted’ and your fear is a direct response to this.
Centre: There are three centres, the feeling centre, the instinctive centre and the thinking centre. Each type has a designated centre, that its assets and liabilities revolve around. Their dominant emotion will also relate directly to the nature of the centre.
Enneagram Institute, The Liturgist Podcast (highly recommend!), The Road Back To You, Life Through the Lens of the Enneagram, The Sacred Enneagram, The Liturgists Tackle The Enneagram, The Heart of the Enneagram.
We would LOVE to hear what number you are/ya thoughts - slide into our DM’s!