If you ask someone who finds the Enneagram types useful, you'll probably hear that they are accurate. However, there's a difference between being "accurate" and being "useful." Accuracy is about how well the types describe reality and in particular people's experience. Usefulness is about how well the types help me understand myself and others. There are many models and theories used in psychology and other disciplines that are not completely accurate but are useful. The Enneagram types are one such model.
Although at first the Enneagram personality types can seem to simply be about nine personality types, there are many additional concepts that add to the complexity of the system. In this blog I share my experiences as I write what I hope to be a comprehensive yet easy to read book that specifically helps readers understand and apply these concepts.
One problem I have with many descriptions of the Enneagram types is that they don't zero in on the core focus of each type. Instead, they often try to describe type in terms of personality characteristics and behavioral traits. With personality being unique for everyone in the world, each person expresses Enneagram type through their personality uniquely. An individual might identify with one characteristic from the description but not another. Two people identifying with the same Enneagram type may identify with different characteristics.
The Enneagram instincts are self-preservation, sexual (also called one-to-one and intimate), and social. Although rarely mentioned, the instincts are used with the Enneagram types in two quite different ways: the subtype approach and the stacking approach.
Short answer: less than 50 years old at the time of this post. You may have heard that the Enneagram personality types are an ancient system going back thousands of years. I heard that too, but I looked for proof for the past 20 years or so. I found nothing except proof to the contrary.
I've posted in the past about using Enneagram tests in general. This post is about the methodology used in a test and it's purpose. Let's take a look at the methodologies used by the different authors and teachers in their tests (and then I'll get to my methodology and reasoning).
In my early years of learning about the Enneagram types, book after book I read would pretty much say the same thing regarding my Enneagram type. They would make a brief mention at the beginning of the book that I'm actually all nine types, but then go on to discuss how I'm only one of the nine types. This seeming contradiction was never clearly explained in anything I read or heard about regarding the types. Since my goal from the beginning was to discover all nine types within myself, I had to come up with my own understanding that explained that contradiction.
The Enneagram personality types evolved from Oscar Ichazo's ego-types. As I understood it, the whole point of identifying a person's ego-type and fixation was so it could be remedied. The remedy for the fixation involved not only the holy idea for that type but also avoidance of the ego trap. The ego trap is contrasted with the holy idea because the trap points to the false remedy which is where most people get trapped or stuck. It's where the ego fixation gets reinforced (ego trap) rather than where it gets remedied (holy idea).
I sometimes hear mention of transcending one's Enneagram type. It usually appear in two contexts: 1) someone believing they're beyond the fixation of their type, and 2) someone trying to get rid of their type.
The Enneagram personality types were derived in large part from Oscar Ichazo's ego-types which included fixations, holy ideas, traps, passions, and virtues. Ego in this sense can be thought of the sense of "I" or "self" that gets created or cultivated in our lives. While this sense of self can be useful in our lives, it can also create self-limitations and self-deceptions.
The labels used with the Enneagram types are only approximations to what they actually point to. In other words, they hint at something that can't be understood by the label alone. When people take the labels too literally they may not only miss what's being pointed to but may also limit themselves in exploring and understanding the types. Take the passions of type for example.
When Oscar Ichazo placed types onto the Enneagram symbol some 50 or so years ago he began a use of the symbol that was very different from how it had been used up to that point by Gurdjieff and his followers. Unfortunately, most people studying and teaching the Enneagram personality types seem to either turn a blind eye to this difference or are simply unaware of this difference. People continue to attempt to apply the Gurdjieff use of the symbol to the Enneagram personality types.
I've finished a rough draft of the chapter on the history of the Enneagram types. My goal was to cut through all the speculation to offer what is actually known. From early in the teachings of the types there has been a narrative that the types are ancient in origin. The best that can be said of that narrative is that elements of the symbol and types may have earlier origins but the symbol and types came together at a much more recent point in time to be used the way they are used with the Enneagram personality types.
Enneagram tests are not accurate for everyone. They simply help narrow down the candidate types for a best fit. Each test is not only a product of how well the test was designed and constructed but also the test author's bias for understanding each type (and if you haven't found out already, there are a lot of subtle and not so subtle differences in the way people interpret the Enneagram types).
I've reorganized the Enneagram User Guide a bit to include two additional chapters, one on history and another on applications.