What is the Enneagram?

What is the Enneagram? 

·      Part of the occult?

·      New Age hogwash?

·      Pagan? 

·      Tied to an Eastern religion?

·      Demonic?

·      A way to pigeonhole people?

·      Some kind of parlor game?

·      Pop-psych?

·      A fad?

None of the above.

The Enneagram is an ancient tool that some people find helpful. That’s all.

It’s a tool that can help us understand ourselves and others better. It’s a tool that helps us grow emotionally and spiritually.

No one knows where the Enneagram came from originally. There’s some evidence that it arose from the Christian desert fathers and mothers in the Scetes Desert in Egypt around the Third Century of the common era. After passing it down as a way of understanding oneself and growing spiritually, their spiritual descendants may have taken the Enneagram into the Arab world as a missionary tool. 

Ennea means nine. Gram refers to a map. The map looks like this:

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Around the circle are charted nine different types, each representing a way of viewing the world, others, and ourselves. It’s not a personality test like the MBTI. The Enneagram delves into motivations, defense mechanisms, and unconscious fears that lie beneath our personality patterns and behaviors. Its purpose is not to make us feel bad about ourselves. Its purpose is to help us see ourselves so we can become more emotionally and spiritually healthy.

How do you Discover Your Enneagram Type? 

Each of us has a fundamental way of looking at the world. Those ways are divided into nine types. How do you know what type you are? The quickest way is to pay the $12 and take the on-line test at the Enneagram Institute (https://www.enneagraminstitute.com) There are free tests also, but they are generally not as accurate. Whichever number gives you the highest score is your Enneagram number. The other numbers don’t mean a whole lot. After you find your number, read the narratives about it and see if you think it fits.

Every person is hard-wired to fall into one of the nine categories, but all of us have pieces of all nine categories in our personalities. When I say “hard-wired,” I don’t mean genetically predetermined. Instead, I mean that all of us, no matter how good our upbringings were, were wounded when we were little. It was inevitable – we live in a fallen world. It’s not anyone’s fault. We unconsciously respond to those core wounds by developing ways of coping with the world and ways of viewing ourselves and others.

What is an Enneagram One? 

Ones. Ones tend to be rational and idealistic.  They are ethical, resolute, self-controlled, and perfectionistic. They are often called Reformers or Perfectionists.

Each number is sometimes assigned an animal and a country that reflects the personality. 

Ones are like barking dogs, diligent ants, or hornets. Switzerland is a One country. The Amish culture is One. 

Some likely examples of Ones: Confucius, Plato, Joan of Arc, Sir Thomas More, Mahatma Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles, Kate Middleton, Jimmy Carter, Michelle Obama, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Martha Stewart, George Harrison, Joan Baez, Celine Dion, Ralph Nader, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, Tina Fey, Katherine Hepburn, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Julie Andrews, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, Helen Hunt, Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, “Mary Poppins,” “Mr. Spock,” SNL’s “The Church Lady, ” Angela Davis, W.E.B. DuBois, John Calvin, Caesar Chavez, Phillip Berrigan, Harry Belafonte, St. Augustine.

Ones are conscientious and honorable, with a strong sense of right and wrong. Healthy Ones are teachers, crusaders, advocates for change, striving to improve things, organized, systematic, and particular, and have high standards. Unhealthy Ones are afraid of making a mistake and become critical and perfectionistic. but can slip into being They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their best, Ones are wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. 

  • Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/evil, defective
  • Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced

What is an Enneagram Two? 

Twos. Twos are generally caring, friendly, generous, expressive, people-pleasing, and possessive.

Twos are like licking puppies. Italy is a Two country. 

Possible examples of Twos: Pope John XXIII, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan, Monica Lewinsky, Ann Landers, Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics), Richard Simmons, Luciano Pavarotti, John Denver, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, Josh Groban, Martin Sheen, Jennifer Tilly, Danny Glover, Richard Thomas “John Boy Walton,” Juliette Binoche, Arsenio Hall, “Dr. McCoy” (Star Trek), Florence Nightingale, Ken Burns, and Dolly Parton. A lot of nurses, social workers, and pastors are Twos. Mother Theresa is commonly mistyped as a Two. Those who knew her attest she was definitely a very healthy Eight.

Health Twos are empathetic, sincere, warm-hearted, friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing. Unhealthy Twos are mawkish, flattering, and people-pleasing. Twos are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but may do things for others in order to be needed. When their kindness is not acknowledged or reciprocated, they may become resentful. Many codependent people are Enneagram Twos. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their best, Twos are unselfish and altruistic, and have unconditional love for others.

  • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: To feel loved

What is an Enneagram Three? 

Threes: Threes tend to be success-oriented, pragmatic, achievers who are adaptable, excel at what they do, and are image-conscious. They make great sales people and CEOs.

Threes are like race horses. The USA is definitely a three nation – all about achievement and success. Likewise, Japan.

Some possible examples of Threes: Augustus Caesar, Emperor Constantine, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Prince William, Condoleezza Rice, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Lewis, Muhammed Ali, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Bill Wilson (AA Founder), Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Werner Erhard, Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Bernie Madoff, Bryant Gumbel, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Sting, Whitney Houston, Jon Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Brooke Shields, Cindy Crawford, Tom Cruise, Barbra Streisand, Ben Kingsley, Jamie Foxx, Richard Gere, Ken Watanabe, Will Smith, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jesse Jackson.

Threes are self-assured, appealing, charismatic, ambitious, competent, and energetic. They may also be image-conscious and highly driven for advancement. They are usually tactful and composed, but can also be overly concerned what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness. At their best, threes are self-accepting, authentic, and role models who inspire others.

·       Basic Fear: Of being worthless

·       Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile

What is an Enneagram Four? 

Fours. Fours are generally sensitive, introspective, expressive, thoughtful, meditative, artistic, individualistic, sensitive, self-absorbed, and temperamental. Fours are individualistic and artistic. Four is the rarest type. Fours are like basset hounds or mourning doves. France and Japan are Four countries. 

Possible examples of Fours: Rumi, Frédéric Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Edgar Allen Poe, Yukio Mishima, Virginia Woolf, Anne Frank,  J.D. Salinger, Anne Rice, Frida Kahlo, Diane Arbus, Martha Graham, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Cher, Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox, Prince, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, Ingmar Bergman, Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, Kurt Cobain, Van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Beethoven, Bach, Thomas Merton, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Sufjan Stevens.

Fours are self-aware, sensitive, reserved, emotionally honest, and creative, but may also be moody and self-conscious. Fours frequently withhold themselves from others because they feel vulnerable and defective, and they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their best, they are inspired and highly creative, able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.

  • Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
  • Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an identity)

What is an Enneagram Five? 

Fives. Fives tend to be intense, cerebral, perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated. Fives are referred to as investigators or detectives. They make great scholars.

Fives are like barn owls or burrowing foxes. Scotland and England are Five nations. 

Possible examples of Fives: Albert Einstein, Oliver Sacks, John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), Stephen Hawking, Edvard Munch, Salvador Dali, Emily Dickinson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Agatha Christie, James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre, Susan Sontag, Stephen King, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jane Goodall, Glenn Gould, John Cage, Kurt Cobain, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson, Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Alfred Hitchcock, Marlene Dietrich, Stanley Kubrick, Tim Burton, David Lynch, Jodie Foster, “The Far Side” Gary Larson, Bobby Fischer, Dr. Gregory “House,” Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Asimov, Marie Curie, T.S. Eliot, Charles Darwin, and maybe the Buddha.

Fives are alert, independent, innovative, and inventive, insightful, studious, and curious, able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. They may also become preoccupied with their thoughts, detached, high-strung, and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their best, they are visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.

  • Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
  • Basic Desire: To be capable and competent

What is an Enneagram Six? 

Sixes. Sixes are the most common Enneagram type. Healthy Sixes are loyal, committed, security-oriented, engaging, and responsible. Unhealthy Sixes are anxious and suspicious.  

Healthy Sixes are likened to deer, mice and rabbits. Unhealthy Sixes are more like rhinoceroses. Their country is Germany. 

Possible examples of Sixes (healthy and unhealthy): Johannes Brahms, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, George H.W. Bush, Diana, Princess of Wales, Prince Harry, John Grisham, Mike Tyson, Bruce Springsteen, U2’s Bono, Melissa Etheridge, Eminem, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Spike Lee, Marilyn Monroe, Robert De Niro, Mark Wahlberg, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mel Gibson, Sally Field, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Andy Rooney, Katie Couric, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, Larry David, Seinfeld’s “George Costanza,” Lord of the Rings’ “Frodo Baggins,” Hitler, Tom Clancy, Dustin Hoffman, and Meg Ryan.

Healthy Sixes are excellent troubleshooters who foresee problems and foster cooperation. They are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Unhealthy Sixes are defensive, evasive, and anxious, stressed out. They can be reactive, defiant, and rebellious. Sixes typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their best, they are internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.

  • Basic Fear: Being without support and guidance
  • Basic Desire: To have security and support

What is an Enneagram Seven? 

Sevens. Sevens are enthusiastic, adventuresome, busy, fun-loving, spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered. Their representative animals are monkeys and otters. Philippines and Brazil are Seven countries.

Possible Sevens: The 14th Dalai Lama, Galileo Galilei, W.A. Mozart, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Amelia Earhart, Timothy Leary, Noel Coward, John F. Kennedy, Chuck Berry, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Fergie, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Steven Spielberg, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, John Belushi, Joan Rivers, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Mike Meyers, Bruce Willis, Robert Downey, Jr., James Franco, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Paris Hilton, David Duchovny, Howard Stern, Simon Cowell, Tom Hanks, Florence Henderson.

Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, spontaneous, playful, and high-spirited. But unhealthy Sevens can be over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. Sevens tend to continually seek new and exciting adventures, and can become exhausted. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their best, they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

  • Basic Fear: Of being deprived and in pain
  • Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content—to have their needs fulfilled

What is an Enneagram Eight? 

Eights. Eights are challengers and fighters – powerful, dominating, self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational. Eights are like bulls, rattlesnakes, or tigers. Their country is Spain.

Likely Eights: Mother Theresa, Richard Wagner, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Oskar Schindler, Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon Johnson, Mikhail Gorbachev, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Saddam Hussein, Senator John McCain, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, Serena Williams, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, Queen Latifah, Courtney Love, Jack Black, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Mae West, Sean Connery, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, Barbara Walters, “Dr. Phil” McGraw.

Eights are self-confident, strong, assertive, protective, resourceful, straight-talking, decisive, and focused on righting wrongs. Unhealthy Eights can also be narcisstic and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. At their best, eights are self- mastering, using their strength to improve others’ lives, becoming courageous, generous, and inspirational. 

·       Basic Fear: Being harmed or controlled by others

·       Basic Desire: To protect themselves (to be in control of their own life and destiny)

What is an Enneagram nine? 

Nines. Nines are easygoing, self-effacing, receptive, reassuring, agreeable, complacent peacekeepers. Nines are represented by elephants and manatees. The South Pacific Islands are Nine countries.

Possible Nines: Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Grace of Monaco, Claude Monet, Norman Rockwell, Jim Henson (Muppets), Garrison Keillor, Gloria Steinem, Tony Bennett, Ringo Starr, Carlos Santana, James Taylor, Janet Jackson, George Lucas, Ron Howard, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Kevin Costner, Jeff Bridges, Morgan Freeman, John Goodman, Matthew Broderick, Whoopie Goldberg, Woody Harrelson, “Mister Rogers,” “Homer and Marge Simpson,” Yogi Berra, Ernest Borgnine, Jeff Bridges, Matthew Broderick, Sandra Bullock, George Burns, Laura Bush, John Candy, Julia Child, Connie Chung, Perry Como, Tim Conway, Bing Crosby, and Willem Dafoe.

Nines are accepting, trusting, stable, creative, optimistic, and supportive. Unhealthy Nines will do anything to keep the peace and avoid confrontation. They may be complacent, given to over-simplifying problems and minimizing anything perceived as upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their best, nines are resolute and able to bring people together to heal conflicts.

  • Basic Fear: Of loss and separation
  • Basic Desire: To have inner stability “peace of mind”

What are Enneagram Wings? 

Wings are the two numbers on either side of your primary number. So, for example, I am an Enneagram 4. I tend to be artistic and introspective. I often lean into my 5-wing and am cerebral and perceptive as well. I have a friend who is also a 4, but with a 3-wing. He can burst forth into entrepreneurial mode in a heartbeat. Your wings are always the numbers on either side of yours. Some people are pretty much always spot in the middle, resting on their primary number, but all of us have the ability to lean into the numbers on either side. It’s there when we need it. My wife is a Six, but can lean easily into a very intellectual Five.

Response to Wounds

Because we live in a fallen world, we have all been wounded to one degree or another. Typically, our childhood wounds correspond to our Enneagram numbers:

·      Ones felt criticized, not good enough

·      Twos were loved only when pleasing others

·      Threes were rewarded for what they did

·      Fours felt abandoned by both parents and used imagination to cope with isolation

·      Fives lacked meaningful emotion and interaction with both parents

·      Sixes were raised in unpredictable homes void of safe places

·      Sevens were deprived of nurture

·      Eights usually had unsafe homes, grew up too soon, and their weaknesses were used against them

·      Nines felt overlooked, neglected, and lost

Threes, Sevens and Eights tend to take an aggressive stance to make sense of their worlds. They see the big picture and take control.

Twos, Sixes, and Ones tend to have a more dependent stance – relying on others and thinking relationally.

Fours, Fives, and Nines tend to withdraw and look within to cope and understand.

How We Perceive the World

The nine types fall into three triads: head, heart, and gut. 

·      Types 8, 9, and 1 are in the gut triad. 

·      Types 2, 3, and 4 are in the heart triad.

·      Types 5, 6, and 7 are in the head triad. 

Gut people feel the world in their bodies. Gut people live in the now in a shocked way, carrying unfelt and unprocessed emotion. They may appear brisk, harsh, or absolute to others. 

Heart people are highly sensitive to feelings. Heart people are reacting to and trying to please everyone else’s concerns. They have hard time with silence; they like to serve and do. They often find it hard to forgive, have anxiety about future, and feel trapped in other’s feelings. They can appear manipulative, intrusive, high maintenance, and needy.

Head people are rational, focused on understanding. Head people are stuck in present; love to sit quietly but in an informational way, trying to make sense of data; they resist by being aloof and withdrawn. Sometimes, they can come across as intellectual snobs, dogmatic, and driven by fear.

Gut people (8,9,1) need to learn to trust their guts. They are like the lion in the Wizard of Oz looking for his courage.

Heart people (2,3,4) must learn to trust their feelings. Freeze. In the Wizard of Oz, the tin-man is looking for his heart.

Head people (5,6,7) need to learn to trust intellect, like the scarecrow looking for his brain.

What is Your Besetting Sin? 

Once you’re thoroughly convinced God loves you unconditionally, you can hear the truth that each number on the Enneagram has a passion, or besetting sin. That shouldn’t lead to guilt, it should lead to connectedness with God and freedom.

·      Ones: Resentment and anger. Pray for serenity.

·      Twos: Pride. Pray for humility

·      Threes: Deceit, embellishing the truth. Pray for integrity and truth.

·      Fours: Envy of taste, class, beauty. Pray for equanimity.

·      Fives: Avarice for knowledge, information, details (not stuff). Pray for detachment, to become a minimalist.

·      Sixes: Fear. Pray for courage.

·      Sevens: Gluttony for fun and adventure (not necessarily food). Pray for contentment. 

·      Eights: Lust, passion for life, energy. Pray to direct anger into social justice.

·      Nines: Sloth. Pray for decisive action. 

Times of solitude, silence, and stillness are good for all of us. Without them, we’re not waiting on the Lord.

Solitude is crucial for heart types (4,3,2). Solitude brings us into God’s presence.  The temptation is to rule empires, prove God is pleased with you. We are not what others think of us. Solitude helps us learn that God’s way is the way of self-sacrificial cruciform love. Jesus would only accept the kingdom on God’s terms.

Silence is crucial for head types (7,6,5) The temptation is to jump, see how loved you really are. We are not what we have. Silence makes it plain that we do not need to do anything to get God to prove God loves us. Jesus refused to tempt God.

Stillness is crucial for gut types (8,9,1). Listening to God produces engagement with God.  The temptation is to do something, prove your power. In stillness we learn that we are not what we do. Our worth is not dependent on our actions. Jesus refused to turn rocks to bread.

Each number also has a corresponding fear and desire. Each number has a healthy side and an unhealthy side. The enneagram is valuable in identifying the unhealthy tendencies so we can pray about them and work on eliminating them. 

More information:

The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher Heuertz

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on December 16, 2022, in Life Coaching, Spiritual Direction, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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