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The Enneagram of Personality (or simply the Enneagram, from the Greek words ennea [nine] and grammos [something written or drawn]) is a model of human personality which is principally used as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. Principally developed by Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, it is also partly based on earlier teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff. The typology defines nine personality types (sometimes referred to as "enneatypes"), which are represented by the points of a geometric figure called an enneagram,[1] which also indicates some of the connections between the types. As there are different schools of thought among Enneagram theorists about some aspects of how it is understood, its interpretation is not always unified or consistent.[1]

The Enneagram of Personality is not a typology that is commonly taught or researched in academic psychology. It has been widely promoted in both business management and spiritual contexts through seminars, conferences, books, magazines and DVDs.[2][3] In business contexts it is generally used as a typology to gain insights into workplace dynamics; in spirituality it is more commonly presented as a path to higher states of being, essence and enlightenment. It has been described as a method for self-understanding and self-development[2] but has been criticized as being subject to interpretation, making it difficult to test or validate scientifically.[4]


The origins and historical development of the Enneagram of Personality are matters of dispute. Wiltse and Palmer[5] have suggested that similar ideas to the Enneagram of Personality are found in the work of Evagrius Ponticus, a Christian mystic who lived in 4th century Alexandria. Evagrius identified eight logismoi ("deadly thoughts") plus an overarching thought he called "love of self". Evagrius wrote, "The first thought of all is that of love of self (philautia); after this, [come] the eight."Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many In addition to identifying eight deadly thoughts, Evagrius also identified eight "remedies" to these thoughts.[5]

G. I. Gurdjieff is credited with introducing the enneagram figure to the West.[citation needed] He did not, however, develop the nine personality types associated with the Enneagram. Oscar Ichazo is generally recognized as the principal source[citation needed] of the contemporary Enneagram of Personality. Ichazo's "Enneagon of Ego Fixations", together with a number of other dimensions of personality mapped on the enneagram figure, forms the basis of the Enneagram of Personality. Bolivian-born Ichazo began teaching programs of self-development in the 1950s. His teaching, which he calls "Protoanalysis", uses the enneagram figure among many other symbols and ideas. Ichazo founded the Arica Institute which was originally based in Chile before moving to the United States[1] and coined the term "Enneagram of Personality".[2]

Claudio Naranjo is a Chilean-born psychiatrist who first learned about the Enneagram of Personality from Ichazo at a course in Arica, Chile. He then began developing and teaching his own understanding of the Enneagram in the United States in the early 1970s, influencing others, including some Jesuit priests who adapted the Enneagram for use in Christian spirituality. Naranjo's student Helen Palmer has written a number of books that focused the Enneagram on self-analysis, family and workplace relationships. There is no unified school of thought among proponents regarding the interpretation or use of the Enneagram. Ichazo disowned Naranjo, Palmer and the Jesuits on what he felt were misinterpretations and uses of the Enneagram.[citation needed] Among Naranjo's early students there are also differing understandings of Enneagram theory.[1] Numerous other authors, including Don Richard Riso, Richard Rohr and Elizabeth Wagele, also began publishing widely-read books on the Enneagram of Personality in the 1980s and 1990s.

Enneagram figure

Template:Refimprove section The enneagram figure is usually composed of three parts; a circle, an inner triangle (connecting 3-6-9) and an irregular hexagonal "periodic figure" (connecting 1-4-2-8-5-7). According to esoteric spiritual traditions,[6] the circle symbolizes unity, the inner triangle symbolizes the "law of three" and the hexagon represents the "law of seven" (because 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 is the repeating decimal created by dividing one by seven in base 10 arithmetic[7]). These three elements constitute the enneagram figure.[8]

Nine types

The table below gives the principal characteristics of the nine types along with their basic relationships. This table is based on Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types (revised edition) by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.[9] Other theorists may disagree on some aspects. The types are normally referred to by their numbers, but sometimes their "characteristic roles" (which refers to distinctive archetypal characteristics[10]) are used instead. The "stress" and "security" points (sometimes referred to as the "disintegration" and "integration" points) are the types, connected by the lines of the enneagram figure, that are believed to influence a person in more adverse or relaxed circumstances. According to this theory, someone classed as a One type, for example, may begin to think, feel and act more like a Four type when stressed, or more like a Seven type when relaxed.

Type Characteristic role Ego fixation Holy idea Basic fear Basic desire Temptation Vice/Passion Virtue Stress Security
1 Reformer Judging Perfection Corruptness, imbalance, being bad Goodness, integrity, balance Hypocrisy, hypercriticism Anger (Resentment) Serenity 4 7
2 Helper Flattery (Ingratiation) Freedom, Will Being unloved To feel love Deny own needs, manipulation Pride Humility 8 4
3 Achiever Vanity Hope, Harmony, Law Worthlessness To feel valuable Pushing self to always be "the best" Deceit Truthfulness, Authenticity 9 6
4 Individualist Melancholy (Fantasizing) Origin Having no identity or significance To be uniquely themselves To overuse imagination in search of self Envy Equanimity (Emotional Balance) 2 1
5 Investigator Stinginess (Retention) Omniscience, Transparency Helplessness, Incapable, Incompetent Mastery Replacing direct experience with concepts Avarice Non-Attachment 7 8
6 Loyalist Cowardice (Worrying) Faith, Strength Being without support or guidance To have support and guidance Indecision, doubt, seeking reassurance Fear Courage 3 9
7 Enthusiast Planning (Anticipation) Work, Wisdom, Plan Being trapped in pain and deprivation To be satisfied and content Thinking fulfillment is somewhere else Gluttony Sobriety 1 5
8 Challenger Vengeance (Objectification) Truth Being harmed, controlled, violated Self-protection Thinking they are completely self-sufficient Lust (Forcefulness) Innocence 5 2
9 Peacemaker Indolence (Daydreaming) Love Loss, fragmentation, separation Wholeness, peace of mind Avoiding conflicts, avoiding self-assertion Sloth (Disengagement) Action 6 3


Most, but not all, Enneagram of Personality theorists teach that a person's basic type is modified, at least to some extent, by the personality dynamics of the two adjacent types as indicated on the enneagram figure. These two types are often called "wings". A person of the Three personality type, for example, is understood to have points Two and Four as their wing types. The circle of the enneagram figure may indicate that the types or points exist on a spectrum rather than as distinct types or points unrelated to those adjacent to them.[citation needed] A person may be understood, therefore, to have a core type and one or two wing types that influence but do not change the core type.[11][12]

Stress and security points

The lines between the points add further meaning to the information provided by the descriptions of the types. Sometimes called the "security" and "stress" points, or points of "integration" and "disintegration", these connected points also contribute to a person's overall personality. There are, therefore, at least four other points that can significantly affect a person's core personality; the two points connected by the lines to the core type and the two wing points.[13][14]

Instinctual subtypes

Each of the personality types is usually understood as having three subtypes. These three subtypes are believed to be formed according to which one of three instinctual energies of a person is dominantly developed and expressed. The instinctual energies are usually called "self-preservation", "sexual" (also called "intimacy" or "one-to-one") and "social". On the instinctual level, people may internally stress and externally express the need to protect themselves (self-preservation), to connect with important others or partners (sexual), or to get along or succeed in groups (social).[15] From this perspective, there are 27 distinct personality patterns, because people of each of the nine types also express themselves as one of the three subtypes.[16] An alternative approach to the subtypes looks at them as three domains or clusters of instincts that result in increased probability of survival (the "preserving" domain), increased skill in navigating the social environment (the "navigating" domain) and increased likelihood of reproductive success (the "transmitting" domain).[17] From this understanding the subtypes reflect individual differences in the presence of these three separate clusters of instincts.

It is generally believed that people function in all three forms of instinctual energies but that one usually dominates. According to some theorists another instinct may also be well-developed and the third often markedly less developed.[18]

Roman Catholic criticism

In 2000, the United States' Committee on Doctrine produced a draft report on the origins of the Enneagram to aid bishops in their evaluation of its use in their dioceses. The report identified aspects of the intersection between the Enneagram and Catholicism which, in their opinion, warranted particular scrutiny and were seen as potential areas of concern, stating that "While the enneagram system shares little with traditional Christian doctrine or spirituality, it also shares little with the methods and criteria of modern science... The burden of proof is on proponents of the enneagram to furnish scientific evidence for their claims."[19] Partly in response to some Jesuits and members of other religious orders teaching a Christian understanding of the Enneagram of Personality, a 2003 Vatican document called Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life. A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age' says that the Enneagram "when used as a means of spiritual growth introduces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith."[20][21]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 (2008) Personality theories: critical perspectives, SAGE.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Clarke, Peter Bernard (2006). Encyclopedia of new religious movements, Psychology Press. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Clarke" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Kemp, Daren (2004). New age: a guide : alternative spiritualities from Aquarian conspiracy to Next Age, Edinburgh University Press.
  4. Kaluzniacky, Eugene (2004). Managing psychological factors in information systems work: an orientation to emotional intelligence, Idea Group Inc (IGI).
  5. 5.0 5.1 Wiltse, V., Palmer, H. (July 2011). Hidden in plain sight: Observations on the origin of the Enneagram. The Enneagram Journal 4 (1): 4–37.
  6. Palmer, The Enneagram, p.36
  8. Wagele, Enneagram Made Easy, pp. 1–11
  9. (2000) Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  10. Baron, Renee. What Type Am I: Discover Who You Really Are, 162.
  11. Riso, Wisdom of the Enneagram, p.19
  12. Wagner, Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales, p.26
  13. Riso, Wisdom of the Enneagram, pp. 87–88
  14. Wagner, Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales, p.30
  15. Palmer, The Enneagram in Love and Work, p. 29
  16. Maitri, The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram, pp. 263–264
  17. Sikora, M, "The Instincts: Taking a Broader View", The Enneagram Monthly, June 2007.
  18. Riso, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, pp. 70–71
  19. "A Brief Report On The Origins Of The Enneagram", Draft from the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, 10 October 2000, corrected 23 October 2001
  20. Richard Smoley, Jay Kinney (2006), Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, Western Mystery Tradition Series (revised, illustrated ed.), Quest Books, p. 229, ISBN 978-0-8356-0844-2, 
  21. "Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life. A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age'", Pontifical Council for Culture, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

Further reading

  • Almaas, A. H. (2000). Facets of Unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas, Shambhala.
  • Goldberg, Michael J. (1999). 9 Ways of Working, Marlowe & Company.
  • Ichazo, Oscar (1982). Interviews with Oscar Ichazo, Arica Press.
  • Maitri, Sandra (2005). The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues: Finding the Way Home, Tarcher.
  • Naranjo, Claudio (1997). Transformation Through Insight: Enneatypes in Life, Hohm Press.
  • Palmer, Helen (1996). The Enneagram in Love and Work: Understanding your Intimate and Business Relationships, HarperOne.
  • Riso, Don Richard; and Hudson, Russ (1999). Wisdom of the Enneagram, Bantam.
  • Wagele, Elizabeth; and Ingrid Stabb (2010). The Career Within You, HarperOne.
  • Riso, Don Richard; Hudson, Russ (2000). Understanding the Enneagram; the practical guide to personality types, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Fauvre, Katherine Chernick (1995). Enneagram Instinctual Subtypes, Enneagram Explorations.
  • Daniels, David (2000). The Essential Enneagram, HarperOne.

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