This is the first in a series of articles describing and exploring what the Enneagram is and how it's used. To start off, the Enneagram is above all a symbol or diagram consisting of four parts.
- The nine numbers
- The circle around which the numbers are placed
- The triangle connecting points 9, 3, and 6
- The hexad connecting points 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8
The symbol is generally used for two different purposes: 1) to understand the relationships between steps in a process (Enneagram as Process) and 2) to define nine personality types (Enneagram as Personality). The Enneagram as Process was introduced to the world around 1916 by a man named G.I. Gurdjieff who purportedly learned about it from the Sufis. The Enneagram as Personality was introduced to the world during the 1970s by a Psychiatrist named Claudio Naranjo who expanded upon the work of Oscar Ichazo after Naranjo learned about it in 1970 from a months-long retreat with Ichazo.
Both the Enneagram as Process and the Enneagram as Personality are still used today. However, when "the Enneagram" is mentioned today, people are most often referring to the Enneagram as Personality. While each part of the symbol has a specific meaning for the Enneagram as Process, the numbers are what's primary for the Enneagram as Personality, where the numbers represent nine personality types. The circle, triangle, and hexad may secondarily be used with the types to represent how they influence or are related to one another.
Sometimes arrows are added to the triangle and hexad lines with the Enneagram as Personality to indicate specific influences between the numbers (types) connected by those lines.
- Although "the Enneagram" is very often used to refer to the personality types, the Enneagram is actually a symbol that was originally used to understand processes that were placed upon the symbol (the Enneagram as Process originally used by Gurdjieff).
- The Enneagram symbol as used with the Enneagram as Process is very different from how it's used with the Enneagram as Personality.
- Often people make the mistake of applying the Enneagram as Process to the personality types (the Enneagram as Process predates and has nothing to do with the personality types).
The video below provides an example of someone conflating the Enneagram as Process with the Enneagram as Personality resulting in an unnecessarily over-complicated and confusing explanation of the symbol and the types (the video does offer an often used meal preparation example to explain the Enneagram as Process but then mistakenly conflates that with the personality types).