Finding Your Type
The goal of understanding your Enneagram “type” or “number”—the terms are used interchangeably in this book—is not to delete and replace your personality with a new one. Not only is this not possible, it would be a bad idea. You need a personality or you won’t get asked to prom. The purpose of the Enneagram is to develop self-knowledge and learn how to recognize and dis-identify with the parts of our personalities that limit us so we can be reunited with our truest and best selves, that “pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven,” as Thomas Merton said. The point of it is self-understanding and growing beyond the self-defeating dimensions of our personality, as well as improving relationships and growing in compassion for others.
The Nine Personality Types
The Enneagram teaches that there are nine different personality styles in the world, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type or number has a distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves.
TYPE ONE: The Perfectionist. Ethical, dedicated and reliable, they are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame.
TYPE TWO: The Helper. Warm, caring and giving, they are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs.
TYPE THREE: The Performer. Success-oriented, image-conscious and wired for productivity, they are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure.
TYPE FOUR: The Romantic. Creative, sensitive and moody, they are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings and avoid being ordinary.
TYPE FIVE: The Investigator. Analytical, detached and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others.
TYPE SIX: The Loyalist. Committed, practical and witty, they are worst-case-scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security.
TYPE SEVEN: The Enthusiast. Fun, spontaneous and adventurous, they are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences and to avoid pain.
TYPE EIGHT: The Challenger. Commanding, intense and confrontational, they are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable.
TYPE NINE: The Peacemaker. Pleasant, laid back and accommodating, they are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others and avoid conflict.
Maybe now you’re starting to get an idea of which of the nine types you belong to
But the Enneagram is more than a piddling list of clever type names, so that’s just the beginning.
Type Eight: The Challenger
Healthy Eights are great friends, exceptional leaders and champions of those who cannot fight on their own behalf. They have the intelligence, courage and stamina to do what others say can’t be done. They have learned to use power in the right measure at the right times, and they are capable of collaborating and valuing the contributions of others. They understand vulnerability and even embrace it at times.
Average Eights tend to be steamrollers more than diplomats. They are dualistic thinkers, so people are good or bad, opinions are right or wrong, and the future is bright or bleak. They prefer to lead, struggle to follow and use aggression to emotionally protect themselves. Many Eights are leaders, and others follow them with little or no hesitation. They have little patience with people who are indecisive or who don’t pull their weight.
Unhealthy Eights are preoccupied with the idea that they are going to be betrayed. Suspicious and slow to trust others, they resort to revenge when wronged. They believe they can change reality, and they make their own rules and expect others to follow them. Eights in this space destroy as much as they create, believing the world is a place where people are objects to be used and contributions from others have little or no lasting value.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Eights
Too often, your intensity and lust for life runs the show. Give a friend permission to tell you when you’re going overboard or exhibiting extreme behaviors. Remember, “Moderation, moderation, moderation.”
To recover a piece of your natural childhood innocence, tend and befriend your inner child. I know, you don’t have time for this sort of crap, but it helps.
Watch out for and avoid black-and-white thinking. Gray is an actual color.
Broaden your definition of strength and courage to include vulnerability. Risk sharing your heart at deeper levels with someone in your life.
Remember, your tendency is to act impulsively. It’s “Ready, Aim, Fire!” not “Fire, Aim, Ready!”
You don’t have a corner on the truth market. In the heat of battle, stop and ask yourself, What if I’m wrong? Say that a hundred times a day.
Your personality is twice as big and intense as you think it is, and what feels like passion to you often feels like intimidation to others. Offer an unqualified apology when people tell you that you ran over them.
Don’t always play the part of the rebel, and try not to pit yourself against appropriate authority figures. They’re not all bad people.
When you power up and get angry, stop and ask yourself whether you’re trying to hide or deny a vulnerable feeling. What feeling is it? How do you use aggression as a way to hide it or defend against it?
Don’t judge yourself or others as weak for sharing tender feelings. It takes courage to drop your guard and expose your inner child. (I know, you still hate that phrase.)
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
Healthy Nines are natural mediators. They see and value the perspective of other people and can harmonize what seem to be irreconcilable points of view. They are unselfish, flexible and inclusive. These Nines are seldom attached to their own way of seeing and doing things. They’ve learned to make decisions based on the right priorities. They are inspiring, self-actualized people.
Average Nines, while they come off as sweet and easygoing, are stubborn and out of touch with their anger. These Nines overlook themselves. Though they generally feel unimportant, they occasionally wake up and realize they have to work on investing in themselves. They are willing to stand up for justice on behalf of others but would not likely risk doing much to stand up for themselves. They don’t ask for much though they appreciate what others do for them.
Unhealthy Nines have trouble making decisions and become overly dependent. To dull feelings of sadness and anger they engage in numbing behaviors. Struggling to maintain the illusion that all is well, they can vacillate between acquiescence and open hostility.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Nines
Journal on the question “What is my calling or life’s program? Am I pursuing it or postponing it to keep the peace?”
Ask someone to help you find a task-management or to-do system to help you stay on task. There are lots of great apps out there just for this purpose.
Practice saying no when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to.
Be aware of the numbing strategies you use to avoid having to deal with life, whether that’s a glass of wine or shopping or Girl Scout cookies.
Don’t be afraid to have opinions and express them. You can start with small things and build up to important ones.
Resist the urge to fall back on passive-aggressive behaviors like procrastination and avoidance. If you feel angry, be honest and open.
Understand how important and unique your voice is. People deserve to hear what you think, not have their own views mirrored back to them.
Remember that what feels like intense, terrible conflict to you might just be a typical disagreement for someone else. Take a breath and engage.
Realize that your tendency to merge with others can be a beautiful gift if directed toward God. Other types envy this spiritual advantage you have. But don’t fuse with another person and miss out on the chance to become your own person.
When you feel paralyzed in the face of a decision, consult someone who won’t tell you what to do but rather will help you tease out what you want to do—then do it!
Type One: The Perfectionist
Healthy Ones are committed to a life of service and integrity. They are balanced and responsible and able to forgive themselves and others for being imperfect. They are principled but patient with the processes that slowly but surely make the world a better place.
Average Ones have judging and comparing minds that naturally spot errors and imperfections. They struggle to accept that imperfection is inevitable while fearing the tyranny of that critical voice in their head.
Unhealthy Ones fixate on small imperfections. These Ones are obsessed with micromanaging what they can. Asserting control over something or someone is their only relief.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Ones
To awaken self-compassion, try to capture in a journal the typical things your inner critic says to you and then read them aloud.
When your inner critic activates, smile and tell it you hear it and appreciate how it’s trying to help you improve or avoid making mistakes, but you’re taking a new path to self-acceptance in life.
Resist the urge to give other people to-do lists or to redo their tasks if you think they haven’t met your standards. Instead, catch the people you love doing things right—and tell them how much you appreciate them for it.
When you are ready to dive right in to correct an injustice or right a wrong, first ask yourself whether the passion you feel for that issue is really misplaced anger about something else.
Let your Seven and Nine friends help you learn how to relax and have fun. The work will still be there tomorrow.
If you find yourself procrastinating, think about the reason why. Are you reluctant to get going on a task or project because you’re afraid you won’t be able to accomplish it perfectly?
Pick up a hobby you enjoy but are not especially good at doing—and just do it for the love of it.
Forgive yourself and others for mistakes. Everyone makes them.
See whether you can catch yourself measuring yourself against others to see who does a better job, works harder or meets your definition of success.
Be aware of how you receive criticism from others, and try to accept it without being defensive.
Type Two: The Helper
Healthy Twos can often name their own needs and feelings without fear of losing relationships. They are generous in their efforts to love well and care for others. These happy, secure Twos also have appropriate boundaries, knowing what is theirs to do and what is not. They create a comfortable, safe space for others and are often considered to be a friend to many. Loving and lovable, they adapt well to changing circumstances and are aware of the true self that exists beyond their relationships.
Average Twos are convinced that the expression of their own needs and feelings will automatically threaten the stability of their relationships. They are generous people, but they often consciously or subconsciously expect something in return for their efforts. They have poor boundaries and generally only know themselves in relation to other people. They are attracted to powerful people, whom they expect to define them, and they’ll use flattery to pull them in.
Unhealthy Twos are codependent. In their desire to be loved they will accept almost any substitute: appreciation, neediness, companionship and purely utilitarian relationships. These Twos are insecure, manipulative and often play the role of the martyr. They don’t give so much as invest, trying to earn love by meeting others’ needs—but always expecting a high return on that investment.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Twos
Ten Paths to Transformation for Twos
Rather than hinting at your needs or leaving it to others to figure them out, try telling them directly.
Internally take a deep breath and start over when you catch yourself trying too hard to present a likable image or flattering others to win their approval.
Don’t reflexively say yes to everything. When someone asks for your help, say you’ll get back to them with an answer once you’ve had time to think about it. Or just experiment with saying the word no. It’s a complete sentence.
When the urge to rescue or help overwhelms you, ask yourself, Is this mine to do? If you’re not sure, talk it over with a trusted friend.
When you realize you’ve fallen back into the typical behaviors of your number, gently ask yourself, What would I have to feel if I wasn’t flattering or meeting this person’s needs right now?
Whenever possible, perform acts of anonymous service.
Twos toggle back and forth between having overly inflated and overly deflated views of themselves and their value to others. Remind yourself you’re neither the best nor the worst. Just you.
Don’t push away feelings of resentment or entitlement when they arise. Instead, view them as invitations to look inwardly with kindness and ask, What most needs attention in my life right now?
Don’t beat yourself up when you catch yourself moving too aggressively toward others or overwhelming them with your emotions. Congratulate yourself for spotting it, and dial it back.
Two or three times a day, ask yourself, What am I feeling right now? and What do I need right now? Don’t worry if you can’t supply an answer. It takes
time to develop self-care muscles.
Type Three: The Performer
Healthy Threes have transcended the goal of merely looking good and are moving toward being known and loved for who they are, not for what they accomplish. They still love to set goals, rise to challenges and solve problems, but their self-worth is not tied to these things. They try to balance their abundant energy between work, rest and some kind of contemplative practice, recognizing the importance of being instead of doing. They feel valuable, which unleashes a tender benevolence that is focused on the common good.
Average Threes push achieving to overachieving, spending too much time at work or the gym. Highly driven, their need to perform even extends to the time they spend coaching the children’s soccer team or volunteering at church. They see love as something to be earned, so they quiet their inner convictions, valuing what others define as success and striving to do more and do it better. They are confident in their abilities but also image conscious, constantly worrying that a poor performance will cause them to lose standing in other people’s eyes.
Unhealthy Threes find failure unacceptable, which renders them unable to admit mistakes and causes them to behave as though they are superior to others. Desperate for attention, these Threes may turn the deadly sin of self-deceit into the sin of intentional deceit, telling others fabricated stories about themselves and their accomplishments in order to maintain their image. At their worst, unhealthy Threes can be petty, mean and vengeful.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Threes
It’s important for every number to develop a practice of silence, solitude and meditation, but it’s particularly essential for Threes since you place such high value on activity and productivity.
Find a spiritual director to accompany you on your journey to reclaim your authentic self. It’s hard to walk the path alone.
Challenge your definition of success, and craft a new one based on your feelings, desires and values, not those inherited from family or culture.
Don’t wait until you have an affair, become an alcoholic or are the youngest person in your family to have a heart attack before you ask the question, “Who am I if I’m not my persona?” Do it now.
Material success and being real are not mutually exclusive. Success is great if the person responsible for it is the real you.
Take an inventory of who and what gets sacrificed while you’re frantically racing to cross the finish line first—spouse, kids, health, friendships.
Take a vacation and do not bring work with you.
Try being just another bozo on the bus. Resist the temptation to take the leadership rein or to be the center of attention. Instead, try being a collaborative team member who wants to help others shine and succeed.
Have at least one close friend with whom you can be real and vulnerable. As a Three, you probably have a lot of friends, but make sure some of them are people who can love you when you’re a complete disaster, not just when you’re projecting an image of success.
Read Richard Rohr’s books Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life and Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.
Type Four: The Romantic
Healthy Fours have a considerable emotional range, and they manage it by not speaking or acting on every feeling they have. They know they don’t have to be special to win God’s unconditional love. These Fours have found a way to live, for the most part, outside the pattern of shame and inferiority. They are deeply creative, emotionally honest and connected, and attuned to beauty.
Average Fours struggle daily with learning to accept themselves as they are. Such efforts are complicated as they seek their identity by exaggerating their uniqueness. These Fours are coy; they want you to want them but they play hard to get. Their melancholy often goes unchecked, causing painful distance between themselves and others. Average Fours are moody, melodramatic, needy and self-pitying.
Unhealthy Fours tend to be manipulative, playing the role of victim in order to create or maintain relationships. They find themselves lacking when compared to others, which only exacerbates their self-debasement. These Fours feel so much shame they are unable to connect to the very part of themselves that believes they can change and be better.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Fours
Beware of self-absorption. Listen to others when they share stories about their own suffering, and realize it’s not just you.
Watch out you don’t instigate a drama or crisis with family or friends when your emotions start to feel run of the mill. All the world is not a stage, and you’re not Shakespeare.
Go out of your way to find and express appreciation for what’s present and unique in the people you love rather than always focusing on what’s missing.
Offer yourself the gift of unconditional self-friendship as you work to unwind lifelong feelings of shame and inferiority. Never give up on yourself!
Don’t wallow in suffering, but figure out what’s causing it and do what you can to heal it.
Keep an eye out for envy! You never come out ahead when you compare yourself to other people.
Stop fantasizing about the ideal relationship, career or community and getting stuck in longing for it. Instead, work hard for what’s possible and see it through to completion.
Don’t look for beauty and meaning only in the extraordinary or unusual but in the ordinary and simple as well.
When the past calls, let it go to voicemail. It has nothing new to say to you.
Don’t embellish and get swept up in your feelings. In the words of Jack Kornfield, “No emotion is final.”
Type Five: The Investigator
Healthy Fives have a long view of things. They manage an appropriate balance between participation and observation, engaging with others comfortably and demonstrating true neutrality. These Fives are likely to have depth in knowledge in several areas of their lives, and they willingly share their findings with others. They live in a world of abundance, seeing themselves as part of the whole environment instead of separate from everyone and everything.
Average Fives hold to a scarcity mentality, which leads to hoarding time, space and affection. They feel more at home observing rather than participating in the external world, and thinking substitutes for feeling. Fives in this space tend to rely on themselves rather than faith, and they carefully measure how much time they spend with others. They struggle with anything that makes them feel incompetent or incapable.
Unhealthy Fives don’t want to depend on anyone for anything. They have a defensive personality that is preoccupied with security, independence and privacy. These Fives are trapped in believing there is not enough and often express that way of thinking with judgment, cynicism and sarcasm. When they do participate in family or social gatherings, they stay separate from others.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Fives
Allow your feelings to arise naturally and experience them in the present moment, and then you can let them go.
Recognize when you’re succumbing to a scarcity mentality by hoarding affection, privacy, knowledge, time, love, money, material possessions or thoughts.
When something occurs that seems to elicit emotions in other people, try to feel with them in the moment rather than saving those feelings to process later.
Try sharing more of your life with others, trusting they won’t misuse that information.
Venture out of your comfort zone and share more of who you are and what you have with others.
Try to remember that you don’t have to have the answers for everything. You won’t look foolish, just human.
Call a friend and offer to hang out, for no reason at all other than to enjoy each other’s company.
Allow yourself some material and experiential luxuries. Buy a new mattress! Travel!
Take up yoga or another activity that will connect you with your body. Overcoming the disconnect between your body and head will be life changing.
Even when you’re unsure of yourself, jump into a conversation rather than withdrawing from it.
Type Six: The Loyalist
Healthy Sixes have learned to trust their own experiences of life. They are aware that certainty and accurate predictability are not likely in most situations. They are productive, logical thinkers who almost always organize their thoughts and actions around what would be most advantageous for the common good. Loyal, honest and reliable, healthy Sixes are clear-eyed judges of character. These Sixes have come to believe that in the end everything will be all right.
Average Sixes question almost everything. They struggle to get out of their heads and the pattern of worst-case-scenario planning. They are overly focused on authority and can be either subservient on the one hand or rebellious on the other. They find the world to be an unsafe place, and they respond with fight or flight. These Sixes, while managing all of their anxiety, are committed to education, church, government, family and social service organizations.
Unhealthy Sixes find danger around every corner. Their anxiety borders on paranoia, as they fear that the world is unfair and that most people are not who they say they are and cannot be trusted. Unable to trust themselves either, they look to authority figures and experts to make decisions on their behalf. These Sixes find fault in others and tend to fall into patterns associated with the mental mechanism of projection.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Sixes
A regular centering prayer or meditation practice is vital for every number, but particularly for Sixes. Your mind never stops working. It’s filled with voices expressing vacillating opinions, doubts about other people’s trustworthiness, imagined worst-case scenarios and questions about your own ability to make good decisions.
Be alert for unhealthy tendencies in your relationship with authority. Are you blindly following or reflexively rebelling? You’ll want to find a more nuanced and conscious middle way.
To develop self-confidence and trust in your inner guidance system, keep a record in your journal of those times when you made and enjoyed the fruit of good decisions or survived the fallout of bad ones. Either way, you’re still here!
Practice accepting compliments without deflecting them or being suspicious of the motivations behind the praise.
When playing the role of devil’s advocate and pointing out the potential flaws in other people’s ideas and plans, be sure to acknowledge the positive dimensions of it as well. You don’t want to develop a reputation for being a wet blanket.
Limit your exposure to the twenty-four-hour news cycle or to books and films that unnecessarily reinforce your anxious or pessimistic view of life. (Frankly, let’s all do this.)
Be alert in the early days of a relationship to see whether doubtful thoughts and feeling arise about your partner’s commitment to you. What’s causing you to alternately question or cling to them?
Learn to recognize the difference between legitimate fear and free-floating anxiety, and ascribe different values to them.
Memorize and repeat Julian of Norwich’s beautiful prayer, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
The contrary virtue to the deadly sin of fear isn’t courage but faith, which is a gift. Pray for it.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
Healthy Sevens know that often “less is more.” They are aware of the energy they have invested in manufacturing happiness and they know that joy is a gift or grace that can only be received. They have embraced a full range of human emotion and they are growing in their ability to accept life as it is rather than as they want it to be. They are able to incorporate pain and disappointment into the whole of their lives, rather than merely avoiding it. When Enthusiasts are in a healthy space, they are not only fun and adventurous but also spiritually grounded, practical and resilient.
Average Sevens reframe almost everything that is sad, limiting or could be perceived as failure, changing the narrative so that even the most negative events are recast in an affirming way. They find most of their happiness in anticipation and much of their sadness in the reality that their expectations are seldom realized. These Sevens entertain to feel safe and to claim their place in a group. Though they are very popular, they find commitment to be a challenge and have great trouble finishing projects, often jumping from one thing to the next.
Unhealthy Sevens see themselves and their environment as inadequate, feeling sorry for themselves and often believing they’ve been dealt an unfair hand. They try to avoid pain at any cost, which leads to irresponsible behavior and seeking instant gratification. These Sevens are often reckless, risking more than they can stand to lose, and are more prone to addiction than any other number.
Ten Paths to Transformation for Sevens
Practice restraint and moderation. Get off the treadmill that tells you more is always better.
You suffer from “monkey mind.” Develop a daily practice of meditation to free yourself from your tendency to jump from one idea, topic or project to the next.
Develop and practice the spiritual discipline of solitude on a regular basis.
Unflinchingly reflect on the past and make a list of the people who have hurt you or whom you have hurt; then forgive them and yourself. Make amends where necessary.
Give yourself a pat on the back whenever you allow yourself to feel negative emotions like anxiety, sadness, frustration, envy or disappointment without letting yourself run away to escape them. It’s a sign you’re starting to grow up!
Bring yourself back to the present moment whenever you begin fantasizing about the future or making too many plans for it.
Exercise daily to burn off excess energy.
You don’t like being told you have potential because it means you’ll feel pressure to buckle down and commit to cultivating a specific talent, which will inevitably limit your options. But you do have potential, so what career or life path would you like to commit yourself to for the long haul? Take concrete steps to make good on the gifts God has given you.
Get a journal and record your answers to questions like “What does my life mean? What memories or feelings am I running from? Where’s the depth I yearn to have that will complement my intelligence?” Don’t abandon this exercise until it’s finished.
Make a commitment that when a friend or partner is hurting, you will try to simply be present for them while they are in pain without trying to artificially cheer them up.