What I'm Into (September 2013 Edition)
The First Reading

Let's Enneagram It Up

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That title is another way of saying, "I am a geek for all things Enneagram." I really, truly am. The more I've shared about it on social media, the more people ask me about it and what type they are.

A few things you should know: figuring out your type is just the first step in the journey and knowing your type just might change your life. Also, while I am definitely an Enneagram geek, I'm still learning.



The Enneagram (pronounced any-uh-gram) is the study of the 9 basic types of people and originated from Christian desert monk and medieval Sufi sources. It explains why we behave the way we do but also provides a pathway for individual growth. Understanding your type and the type of your loved ones can vastly improve relationships. It is commonly used in the Catholic tradition, especially in monasteries. When viewed from a Christian lens, it helps us identify the ways we hide from ourselves and from God. But to be clear, this is not a religious tool; our current understanding of the Enneagram is thanks to psychologists. 

The Enneagram is represented by a circle connecting the nine types. The types are also connected by arrows and are grouped into three centers. Your personality may be influenced by the types on either side of yours. These are your wing types and one is usually more dominant than the other. For instance, I'm a 4, meaning 3 and 5 are my wings. Since 5 is more dominant for me, I'm a 4w5.

One prominent theory recommends people not explore the Enneagram until they are in their mid to late 20s, with 30s being the ideal age to start.  You need to have fully developed your character and natural ways of dealing with life.

I really want to emphasize the pathway of growth. Each of the 9 types has positive and negative qualities. And trust me, the negative qualities are awful and stark. You won't like admitting to those parts of yourself. But, take heart! We are not doomed to stay there.

It's about wholeness and understanding what makes you tick. This is why I love it: it shows you how you can be a better person. Each type has some wonderful, amazing qualities we can be proud of. The goal of the Enneagram is that as we grow, we will embody more of our type's positive qualities and less of the negative qualities. We will be able to move around the circle and be our best selves.


The Types

  • One: The Reformer (The Need to be Perfect)
  • Two: The Helper (The Need to be Needed)
  • Three: The Achiever (The Need to Succeed)
  • Four: The Individualist (The Need to be Special)
  • Five: The Observer (The Need to Perceive)
  • Six: The Questioner (The Need for Security)
  • Seven: The Enthusiast (The Need to Avoid Pain)
  • Eight: The Challenger (The Need to be Against)
  • Nine: The Peacemaker (The Need to Avoid)

(Note: some of the types have different names associated with them depending on the author/researcher.)


Arrows and Centers (sounds Robin Hood-ish)

2013-10-01 13.49.18Image via Enneagram Made Easy

This tends to be the stage where people get overwhelmed by the Enneagram so don't look much into this until you've figured out your type and have gotten to know it pretty well. Besides wings, each type is connected to two other types via arrows. When relaxed, you take on the positive quality of the number connected to yours in this order: 1-7-5-8-2-4-1 and 3-6-9-3. The reverse direction shows how you respond when stressed. If you're familiar with Myers Briggs, this is similar to the concept of Shadow Types.

The types are divided into three centers, corresponding to the three centers of the body: the heart, the head, and the gut.

The Heart/Healing Center (focused around Image) contains 2s, 3s, and 4s.

The Head/Thinking Center (focused around Fear) contains 5s, 6s, and 7s.

The Gut/Instinctive Center (focused around Anger) contains 8s, 9s, and 1s.


Figuring Out Your Type

And now the fun part! Lean in close because I'm going to tell you how to determine your Enneagram type...

The best way to figure out your type is to cuddle up with the type profiles, read each one over, and then ponder and consider which one you are. Get one of these books or read through the Enneagram Institute profiles. I'm serious. Read and then contemplate. Think about how you acted in your teens and 20s and how you've matured since then. Think about what is most true of you, most of the time. You might see a bit of yourself in all the types but one of them should stand out as being the closest to who you are. Not everything in your basic type will apply. For some people, this will be a short process. For others, longer. You might go back and forth between two or three possibilities. But eventually, you'll decide.

Figuring out your type might not make you feel all that great because you have to admit to your negative characteristics, even if they're not an overt part of your life. But remember: the Enneagram provides a path to wholeness.

In fall/winter 2010, I read Richard Rohr's The Enneagram on a friend's recommendation. (Incidentally, this is not the book I'd recommend starting with, especially if you're not religious. See my recommendations here.) As I contemplated the types, I narrowed it down to two possibilities. Over a couple of weeks, I figured out I was a 4. Since then, I've grown to appreciate my 4-ness and recognize all the progress I've made, even before I knew anything about the Enneagram. Knowing my type has been a source of comfort and strength. It helps knowing why I respond the way I do, especially in terms of figuring out coping skills and boundaries. I also celebrate the great characteristics of being a 4, of which there are many, and to see which of those qualities are becoming more prominent.

No one can tell you your Enneagram type than you. As you learn about the types, it may be tempting to tell others what you think they are but the Enneagram is ultimately a process of discovery. 

That's not to say no one can help you figure it out. Counselors often use the Enneagram in their work. A close friend or family member may be a great listening board and source of insights as you figure things out.

OK, OK. I hear you. You don't really have time to read all the type profiles or you're worried you'll get it wrong. There are a couple of options.

You could hire an Enneagram coach. (Google and see if anyone is in your area. Otherwise, many offer sessions online.)

There are free tests but I can't really recommend them because they are not necessarily accurate. The Enneagram Institute has a short free test, as well as a full-length test for $10. I've also heard good things about the app EnneaApp.

Lastly, there are Enneagram flashcards. I about swooned with joy when my counselor used these. (They confirmed I'm a 4.) I was so impressed, I decided to get my own set so I can help family and friends figure out their type. There are quite a few different sorts you can do, with either yourself or someone else. 

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A special set of circumstances came up earlier this week and I FaceTimed a friend through figuring out her type. There were flashcards all over my kitchen but we made it work!


Now You Know Your Type...

Once you know your type, the journey begins. You'll want to read more about your type (resources below) and consider your wings and the aforementioned Arrows and Centers section. You'll begin to notice how it plays out in your day to day life.

This is also where the path to wholeness comes in. Each type has Unhealthy, Average, and Healthy Levels. I love that they lay it all out: here's what we can expect and aspire to, according to our type.

Here's what it looks like for a 4.

2013-10-01 20.48.20Info via Enneagram Institute on Type Four

By identifying our temptations, defense mechanisms, core struggles (root sin, per Richard Rohr), and life tasks, we normalize our experience, while also experiencing the freedom to grow and change. And that, my friends, is beautiful.



The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective- Richard Rohr

The Wisdom of the Enneagram- Riso and Hudson

The Enneagram Made Easy- Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele

Enneagram Institute (tons of free resources)



I could keep going but I'll pause for now. What else do you want to know? What Enneagram type are you?

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