What is your enneagram?

A more reliable personality scale than Myers-Briggs for mapping your emotions and relationships has its origins in Islamic mysticism

MARGARET  COCHRAN — The Enneagram grew out of the teachings of the great Sufi mystic, G. I. Gurdjieff, whose memoir of early 20th-Century pilgrimages, Meetings with Remarkable Men, became a landmark movie in spiritual cinema. But today we care more about the Enneagram than the movie because it is an amazing tool for developing self-awareness.

The Enneagram helps us to realize what motivates us, and how to better understand the sometimes confusing behavior of our friends, family and co-workers — and possibly the most confusing person of all, yourself!

Have you ever looked at the people you know and work with, and wondered why they behave the way they do? Why one person would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it, and another would argue about the importance of needing to wear a shirt? Why would yet another type of person be chronically over-committed and habitually complaining about it, and yet persist in cramming still more things into their already overflowing calendar? What do these very different kinds of people want, and how can they be reached?

The answer to these questions can be found in the nine points, or personality types, in the Enneagram.

The 9 basic types

  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Giver
  3. The Achiever
  4. The Romantic
  5. The Observer
  6. The Doubter
  7. The Dreamer
  8. The Leader
  9. The Diplomat

To determine your Enneagram type you simply need to read the descriptions of each one, and select the number that best describes you and your behavioral style. For a quick and easy reference guide to help you get started I refer you to my website.

As you explore this system, know that we each possess all nine types of Enneagram energy within us. However, there is one ‘home’ point in which we spend the majority of our ‘psychological time’.

The Enneagram is traditionally displayed as a diagram that takes the form of a clock face with the number ‘nine’ in the customary twelve o’clock position, the number ‘one’ in the customary one o’clock position and with the numbers two through eight spread out evenly in clockwise order around the circle. There are intersecting lines inside the circle that actually form a nine pointed geometric figure, or an enneagram, hence the name.

Which ‘wing’ are you?

These lines direct the Enneagram user to the interconnectedness of the various points such as the ‘wings’, which are the numbers on either side of your ‘home’ point. They also indicate the ‘heart point’ and the ‘stress point’, which are the places where people’s energies go when they are cathected in something, or someone, for better or worse.

Let’s profile point ‘One’, The Perfectionist, as an example of the Enneagram matrix at work.

‘Ones’ have extremely high expectations and very specific ideas and ideals about what’s right and what’s not. With such exacting standards they are not at all shy about telling those around them how they are ‘doing it wrong’. ‘Ones’ have a powerful internal critic — and as hard as they can be on ‘us,’ it’s nothing compared to the demands that they make of themselves.

‘Ones’ have ‘wings’ of Nine, The Mediator, and Two, The Giver.

As a result, ‘Ones’ want to help others ‘do it right’ — and at the same time they may find that they have difficulty letting go of unused objects, prioritizing tasks and knowing exactly who ‘they’ are. The ‘heart’ point of ‘One’ is Seven, The Dreamer, so when they interact with someone or something that is important to them they want to have fun!

The ‘stress’ point of a ‘One’ is Four, The Romantic. So when a ‘One’ is unhappy, they are intensely, dramatically and over-the-top unhappy!

Do you know a “One’ in your life?

Nine harmonic talking points for the UN

Understanding why people behave as they do goes a long way to averting misunderstandings and promoting compassion. If you can laugh about your disparate ‘habits of attention’ and find ways to productively interact with any psychologically-healthy individual, no matter how different your ‘styles’ of reaction and expression may be, this kind of empathy can seal a business deal, cement a friendship, sensitively shape your parenting style and foment your most intimate relationships.

Margaret Cochran is a transpersonal psychologist and licensed social worker with more than 30 years of clinical experience. She has a joint-practice with her partner, medical doctor David J. Waggoner, MD, at the Saratoga Family Health Center, where she takes a whole-person approach to mental health and wellness.

She is also the host of two radio shows: Wisdom, Love and Magic and A Mental Health Moment. This is her second column for Soul’s Code.

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