"It is your birthright and natural state to be wise and noble, loving and generous, to esteem yourself and others, to be creative and constantly renewing yourself, to be engaged in the world in awe and in depth, to have courage and to rely on yourself, to be joyous and effortlessly accomplished, to be strong and effective, to enjoy peace of mind and to be present to the unfolding mystery of your life."
- Don Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types

Enneagram of Personality Types

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Patterns of behavior, feeling, and thought have been observed and documented over the centuries and around the world. Among the resulting theories is one describing nine distinct personality types. The prefix "ennea" means "nine" and is used to name the figure called the Enneagram. The Enneagram of Personality Types helps us more easily remember the nine types, their descriptions, and the possibilities for character growth and decay. It illuminates our strengths as well as our weaknesses and is a symbolic reminder of the whole of human potential.

"We each possess an essential nature that is qualitatively different from our acquired personality," Helen Palmer writes in The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life. "Essence has been described as what is 'one's own,' the potentials with which we were born, rather than what we have acquired through our education, our ideas, or our beliefs. In essence, we are like young children: there is no conflict between our thoughts, or our emotions, or our instincts. We act correctly and without hesitation to maintain well-being, stemming from an undefended trust in the environment and in other people."

Personality suggests some lost aspect of that essence, some movement away from the strengths reflected in the nine points of the Enneagram. Our personality developed as we lost trust, as we tried to compensate for what we were missing, as we put our innate qualities in service not for the building of character but for the construction of ego agendas.

Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele explain in The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People, "The Enneagram teaches that early in life we learned to feel safe and to cope with our family situations and personal circumstances by developing a strategy based on our natural talents and abilities." Our strategy at one time might have felt right, might have been well thought out, might have made sense when we really had little control over what happened in our environment. Eventually, however, repetition would just turn it into unconscious habit.

But habits don't require a great deal of presence. Circumstances might call for and actually benefit from other strategies, strategies including the lowering of our defenses! "By working with the Enneagram, we develop a deeper understanding of others and learn alternatives to our own patterns of behavior," say Baron and Wagele. "We break free from worn-out coping strategies and begin to see life from a broader point of view."

The descriptions of the types provide mirrors that help us begin the self reflection process, something sorely lacking in an age where so many of us are just sleep walking through life. This awareness and practice are the keys to developing the weaker aspects of ourselves, something not only in our best interest to do, but something that is our birthright.

Additional information can be found on the Wikipedia page on Enneagram of Personality.


Baron, Renee, and Wagele, Elizabeth
The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People
New York: HarperCollins, 1994

This overview gives light-hearted coverage of the essential components of the Enneagram of Personality Types. Complete with cartoons!

Chestnut, Beatrice
The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge
Berkeley, California: She Writes Press, 2013

For each of the nine Enneagram types, Chestnut offers an expanded view on the three subtypes (instinctual biases or goals): self-preservation, social interaction, and sexual (one-on-one) bonding. The widely held premise is that though all three instincts operate in all of us, usually one will be dominant in an individual. This idea consequently contributes to the explanation for different "flavors" of an Enneagram type.

Palmer, Helen
The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life
New York: HarperOne, 1988

One of the foremost instructors of the Enneagram utilizes narratives gleaned from panel discussions to not only present an overview but to focus on type-based patterns of attention and intuition.

Palmer, Helen
The Enneagram in Love & Work: Understanding Your Intimate & Business Relationships
New York: HarperOne, 1995

Palmer gives another fairly comprehensive overview with a focus on how types come together in love and work.

Riso, Don, and Hudson, Russ
Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996

Two internationally-recognized scholars and writers offer a comprehensive coverage of the Enneagram, including an expansive discussion of its origins and history.

Riso, Don, and Hudson, Russ
The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types
New York: Bantam Books, 1999

The authors offer another overview of the Enneagram along with an emphasis on awareness, presence, and the Spiritual Journey.

Riso, Don, and Hudson, Russ
Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types
Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000

The authors offer another overview of the Enneagram along with misidentifications, Levels of Development summaries, imbalances of the centers, psychological categories (DSM), each type's "missing piece", and recommendations.

Wagele, Elizabeth, and Stabb, Ingrid
The Career Within You: How To Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality
HarperOne, 2009

The authors suggest that the inherent qualities and acquired traits of the Enneagram personalities can be used to determine "good fit" work solutions.

Wyman, Pat
Three Keys To Self-Understanding: An Innovative and Effective Combination of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment Tool, the Enneagram and Inner-Child Healing
Gainesville, Florida: Center for Application of Psychological Type, Inc., 2001

Wyman offers abbreviated explanations of both the MBTI and the Enneagram (one chapter each) and an interesting perspective on how both are integral in understanding self. Discounting any emphasis on wings, subtypes, or degree or level of mental health or spiritual state, Wyman presents her own theory on why individuals operating out of the same Enneagram number can appear to be so different: differing Core Selves as profiled by the MBTI assessment. She proposes that internal tension and conflict results from incompatible qualities of one's Myers-Briggs type and Enneagram type. As a psychotherapist working almost entirely with women, she believes the only way to resolve the tension and conflict is through Inner-Child Healing (which she discusses at greater length). Wyman presents many tragic case studies, but manages to remain witty as well as pointed in her overall writing style.

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