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How the Enneagram Works

Introduction to the Enneagram (ennea = 9, gram = diagram)

Oscar Ichazo (1931–2020) was the originator of the Enneagram Personality Types, and he came up with the concepts of Ego Fixations, Holy Ideas, Passions and Virtues. However, Ichazo only shared his Enneagram theories with his students verbally. It was the former Fulbright Scholar and psychiatrist Dr Claudio Naranjo (1932–2019) who articulated Enneagram in Western psychological terms after learning from Ichazo.


In the early 1970s, Dr Naranjo began developing and teaching his own understanding of the Enneagram in the United States, and his work included the setting up of Enneagram Panels for gathering empirical information on each Enneagram personality type.  


The Enneagram Personality Profiling System is a powerful tool for life coaching, team building, strengthening communication and problem-solving skills in the workplace. Unlike the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that provides helpful information as to specific personality traits and how a person relates to people and the environment, the Enneagram outlines the core (and often hidden) motivation driving each personality type, and provides a map for transforming personality traits that are not in line with such higher values as honesty, compassion, and courage.  In other words, the Enneagram offers the direction and opportunity for functioning from the highest potential of the personality.

Visually, the Enneagram is a circle encasing nine equidistant points associated by nine crossing lines. Each point in the Enneagram model represents a different perspective of relating to others and interpreting life events. 

Identifying Your Core Enneagram Type

The Enneagram

Brief Description of the Enneagram Types

Enneagram Type 1: Idealistic, principled, dedicated, perfectionists, deep-seated sense of justice and fairness

Enneagram Type 2: Warm, generous, caring, eager to please, demanding someone's total attention and love

Enneagram Type 3: Driven, success-oriented, efficient, image-conscious, cut off from their true feelings

Enneagram Type 4: Creative, dramatic, liable to unreasonable changes of mood, motivated by a need to be unique 

Enneagram Type 5: Analytical, detached and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others.

Enneagram Type 6: Committed, security driven, fearful, plans for worst-case-scenarios

Enneagram Type 7: Fun seeking, spontaneous and adventurous, distracted, runs away from pain 

Enneagram Type 8: Commanding presence, makes decisions quickly and effectively, intense and confrontational, they want to dominate, do not want to feel vulnerable

Enneagram Type 9: Lacking own agenda, seeks to merge with others, does not exert their own presence, avoids conflict

The Three Centers of Intelligence

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There are three centers of intelligence in the Enneagram and these they are directly aligned with the three centers of intelligence.

We have three basic aversive reactions when our three basic needs are not met:


1) Fear/Anxiety – This reaction occurs when the Enneagram Types 5, 6 and 7 experience threats, challenges, or dangers to their security. Those in the Thinking (a.k.a. Head) Center of intelligence are preoccupied on what makes life safe and really trustworthy.


2) Shame – This reaction occurs when the Enneagram Types 2, 3 and 4 did not measure up to what they are supposed to be with others and themselves. They are most concerned with their image in the eyes of others. Those in the Feeling (a.k.a. Heart) Center are seeking emotional connection and love. 


3) Anger/Rage – The Enneagram Types 8, 9 and 1 react almost immediately when they feel they are being treated unfairly, extremely disrespected, their freedoms curtailed or that their needs or wants are not met. Those in the Instinctual (a.k.a. Body) Center want to take action to correct things or fulfill themselves when things around them are going awry. Essentially, they want autonomy over their worlds.

Advice for The Thinking Center

Enneagram Type 5s Regarding Fear

Enneagram Type 5s should learn to express their thoughts even though they feel they don't have all the information. They should put in effort to include others into their plans, and to become good friends to others too.


Enneagram Type 6s Regarding Fear

Enneagram Type 6s need to develop their self-confidence, learn how to calm down, and not scare themselves with scary narratives and images. 


Enneagram Type 7s Regarding Fear

Enneagram Type 7s need to stop running away from all the difficulties that affect them emotionally. They need to slow down and deal with their troubles, otherwise they will just keep following them.



Advice for The Feeling Center

Enneagram Type 2s Regarding Shame

Enneagram Type 2s need to learn to prioritize their own needs too. Learning to communicate their expectations and needs are important in enrolling others to help 2s meet their needs.


Enneagram Type 3s Regarding Shame

It's because the Enneagram Type 3s have a successful image to uphold, all the more they need to learn how to open up and be vulnerable with those they love instead of shutting them out.


Enneagram Type 4s Regarding Shame

Enneagram Type 4s needs to learn to be more compassionate and empathetic towards others and be a pillar of support. They also need to stop being overly sensitive or overreacting, and to stop saying things they’ll regret later.



Advice for The Instinctual Center (aka Body Center)

Enneagram Type 8s Regarding Anger

Enneagram Type 8s need put aside their need to dominate and to accept others vulnerabilities while expressing their own. This will help prevent a lot of unnecessary misunderstandings.


Enneagram Type 9s Regarding Anger

Enneagram Type 9s need to be alone and discover their own needs rather than prioritizing the needs of others. They also need to learn how to express their feelings and not let it build up and explode.


Enneagram Type 1s Regarding Anger

Enneagram Type 1s need to relax their high expectations of themselves and others, especially their spouses. It'd be better to accept mistakes and to overcome them rather than be chastise themselves and their loved ones for having them to begin with. Also they can still make the world a better place with their deep understanding of complicated issues rather than treat those who don't agree with them with displeasure. 


Harmonics Group

The Enneagram can also be viewed from the perspective of the Harmonic Group describes how each Enneagram Type handles conflict, adversity, and situations where their needs are not met, including their coping mechanisms.


The Positive Outlook Group denies they have any problems. When the going gets tough...

Enneagram Type 2s are people focused. They have a reassuring presence for those in trouble.


Enneagram Type 7s are focused on happiness. They constantly keep the environment happy.


Enneagram Type 9s maintains their tranquil presence throughout difficulties, acting as a soothing presence for others.



The Reactive Group reacts strongly and need response from others.  When the going gets tough...

Enneagram Type 4s are more withdrawn in their reaction, often in an artistic or symbolic form. They want others to empathize with their pain and help take care of it.


Enneagram Type 6s are more selective in their reactions, using the emotional release as a way of assessing people or situations. They want to appear as the authority but at the same time needing someone who will go to battle for them.


Enneagram Type 8s will want their anger and opinions known. They want others to see the injustice in the situation.

 


The Competency Group cuts off feelings and solve problems logically. When the going gets tough...

Enneagram Type 1s will focus on principles and ethical fairness.


Enneagram Type 3s will want to resolve things smoothly while maintaining their image.


Enneagram Type 5s will step outside of the systems they are part of to get a better perspective of things.

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