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Enneagram Types: More than simply personality and behavior

Enneagram Types

People new to the Enneagram types see a symbol with nine numbers on it and are told that they are one of those numbers. What do those numbers represent and what exactly are Enneagram types?

The Enneagram types don't simply describe personality or behavior. They get underneath personality to explore how a person interprets the world and interacts with the world through that interpretation.

A number of terms have been used to describe this such as ego fixation, trait structure, worldview, focus of attention, basic desire/basic fear, core focus, etc.

Let's explore the Enneagram types further by first looking at the Enneagram symbol (also called the Enneagram diagram).

The Enneagram symbol predates the types


Enneagram as Process

The Enneagram symbol was originally used by G.I. Gurdjieff during the 1st half of the 20th century to understand a process as it moved around the circle of the symbol. The numbers represented steps or influences in that process and the inner lines revealed relationships between those steps and influences.

This use of the symbol can be thought of as the Enneagram as Process to distinguish it from how it is commonly used today to represent personality types.

The Fourth Way approach to self-development evolved out of Gurdjieff's teachings. As such, Gurdjieff's use of the Enneagram symbol may also be referred to as the Fourth Way Enneagram.

Although some teachers of the Enneagram types bring Gurdjieff's teachings into their own teaching of the types, today's Enneagram types didn't exist in Gurdjieff's time.

Ego-types get added to the Enneagram symbol  


During the 1960s Oscar Ichazo introduced ego-types that he associated with the nine numbers on the Enneagram symbol. It was a new way of using the symbol, very different from how Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way used the symbol. The Enneagram symbol was no longer used to understand the movement of a process but used to identify nine types of people. This use of the symbol can be thought of as the Enneagram as Types.

The ego-types represented nine different ego fixations and passions among other things.

  1. Ego-Resent
    Fixation: Resentment
    Passion: Anger
  2. Ego-Flat
    Fixation: Flattery
    Passion: Pride
  3. Ego-Go
    Fixation: Vanity
    Passion: Deceit
  4. Ego-Melan
    Fixation: Melancholy
    Passion: Envy
  5. Ego-Stinge
    Fixation: Stinginess
    Passion: Avarice
  6. Ego-Cow
    Fixation: Cowardice
    Passion: Fear
  7. Ego-Plan
    Fixation: Planning
    Passion: Gluttony
  8. Ego-Venge
    Fixation: Vengefulness
    Passion: Lust
  9. Ego-In
    Fixation: Indolence
    Passion: Sloth

The purpose of knowing "your ego-type" or "your ego fixation" isn't simply to identify with it but to work on freeing yourself from it. It's not who you are, but the habit of being you're caught in, a limited sense of self to transcend.

The Enneagram types meet modern psychology


During the 1970s a psychiatrist named Claudio Naranjo evolved Ichazo's ego-types into the Enneagram personality types we know today. He did this primarily by expanding upon the fixations and passions using modern psychology and other sources.

A key way in which Naranjo defined these enneatypes, as he called them, was by trait structure (what follows is from his book Ennea-type Structures).

  1. Angry Virtue - Anger and Perfectionism
    • Anger
    • Criticality
    • Demandingness
    • Dominance
    • Perfectionism
    • Over-Control
    • Self-Criticism
    • Discipline
  2. Egocentric Generosity - Pride and Histrionism
    • Pride
    • Love Need
    • Hedonism
    • Seductiveness
    • Assertiveness
    • Nurturance and False Abundance
    • Histrionism
    • Impressionable Emotionality
  3. Success through Appearances - Vanity, Inauthenticity, and the "Marketing Orientation"
    • Attention Need and Vanity
    • Achieving Orientation
    • Social Sophistication and Skill
    • Cultivation of Sexual Attractiveness
    • Deceit and Image Manipulation
    • Other-Directedness
    • Pragmatism
    • Active Vigilance
    • Superficiality
  4. Seeking Happiness through Pain - Envy and the Masochistic Personality
    • Envy
    • Poor Self-Image
    • Focus on Suffering
    • "Moving Toward"
    • Nurturance
    • Emotionality
    • Competitive Arrogance
    • Refinement
    • Artistic Interests
    • Strong Superego
  5. Seeking Wholeness through Isolation - Avarice and Pathological Detachment
    • Retentiveness
    • Not Giving
    • Pathological Detachment
    • Fear of Engulfment
    • Autonomy
    • Feelinglessness
    • Postponement of Action
    • Cognitive Orientation
    • Sense of Emptiness
    • Guilt
    • High Superego
    • Negativism
    • Hypersensitivity
  6. The Persecuted Persecutor - Fear and Suspiciousness
    • Fear, Cowardice and Anxiety
    • Over-Alert Hyperintentionality
    • Theoretical Orientation
    • Ingratiating Friendliness
    • Rigidity
    • Pugnacity
    • Orientation to Authority and Ideals
    • Accusation of Self and Others
    • Doubt and Ambivalence
  7. Opportunistic Idealism - Gluttony, Fraudulence, and Narcissism
    • Gluttony
    • Hedonistic Permissiveness
    • Rebelliousness
    • Lack of Discipline
    • Imaginary Wish Fulfillment
    • Seductive Pleasingness
    • Narcissism
    • Persuasiveness
    • Fraudulence
  8. Coming on Strong - Lust and Vindictive Arrogance
    • Lust
    • Punitiveness
    • Rebelliousness
    • Dominance
    • Insensitivity
    • Conning and Cynicism
    • Exhibitionism (Narcissism)
    • Autonomy
    • Sensorimotor Dominance
  9. Going with the Stream - Accidia, the Passion for Comfort and the Overadjusted Disposition
    • Psychological Inertia
    • Over-Adaptation
    • Resignation
    • Generosity
    • Ordinariness
    • Robotic Habit-Boundedness
    • Distractibility

People who learned of the Enneagram personality types directly or indirectly from Naranjo began to teach and write about the Enneagram, adding their own take on the types.

The first books on the Enneagram types appear

Narrative Enneagram Enneagram Institute

It was in the mid-to-late 1980s that the first books on the Enneagram personality types appeared. Notable among those books were Helen Palmer's book "The Enneagram" and Don Richard Riso's book "Personality Types". Those authors went on to found the two most influential schools on the Enneagram personality types: The Narrative Enneagram and The Enneagram Institute respectively. The worldview and focus of attention come from Helen Palmer and basic fear/basic desire from Don Richard Riso.

  1. The Perfectionist, The Reformer
    • Worldview: The world is an imperfect place. I work toward improvement.
    • Focus of Attention: What is right or wrong, correct or incorrect
    • Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/evil, defective
    • Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced
  2. The Giver, The Helper
    • Worldview: People depend on my help. I am needed.
    • Focus of Attention: Others’ needs, feelings and desires
    • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
    • Basic Desire: To feel loved
  3. The Performer, The Achiever
    • Worldview: The world values a champion. Avoid failures at all costs.
    • Focus of Attention: Tasks, goals and recognition for accomplishments
    • Basic Fear: Of being worthless
    • Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile
  4. The Romantic, The Individualist
    • Worldview: Something is missing. Others have it. I have been abandoned.
    • Focus of Attention: What is missing
    • Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
    • Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an identity)
  5. The Observer, The Investigator
    • Worldview: The world is invasive. I need privacy to think and to refuel my energies.
    • Focus of Attention: Intellectual understanding, accumulating knowledge, and potential intrusions from others’ agendas, needs and feelings
    • Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
    • Basic Desire: To be capable and competent
  6. The Loyal Skeptic, The Loyalist
    • Worldview: The world is a threatening place. Question authority.
    • Focus of Attention: What could go wrong, worst-case scenarios and how to deal with them
    • Basic Fear: Of being without support and guidance
    • Basic Desire: To have security and support
  7. The Epicure, The Enthusiast
    • Worldview: The world is full of opportunity and options. I look forward to the future.
    • Focus of Attention: Multiple options and idealized future plans
    • Basic Fear: Of being deprived and in pain
    • Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content—to have their needs fulfilled
  8. The Protector, The Challenger
    • Worldview: The world is an unjust place. I defend the innocent.
    • Focus of Attention: Injustice, not being controlled by others, and getting things moving in work or play
    • Basic Fear: Of being harmed or controlled by others
    • Basic Desire: To protect themselves (to be in control of their own life and destiny)
  9. The Mediator, The Peacemaker
    • Worldview: My efforts won't matter. Don't make waves. Keep the peace.
    • Focus of Attention: Other people’s agendas and the external environment
    • Basic Fear: Of loss and separation
    • Basic Desire: To have inner stability "peace of mind"

Many more books quickly appeared about the Enneagram types in the 1990s. By the time the Internet became widely used around the turn of the century, the Enneagram types became popularized as an alternative to the Myers-Briggs types. The effect was that many people began seeing the Enneagram types as just another way to describe personality.

Going beneath personality and behavior

Enneagram Core Focus

Although the Enneagram types have a strong influence upon personality and behavior, they are not directly about personality and behavior. Describing personality and behavior using the Enneagram types only offers possibilities for how someone might express type; what it might look like from the outside. Enneagram type is really pointing to something underneath that which can be thought of as a core focus.

Core focus describes the internal experience of Enneagram type. Although we have access to all nine types of focus, we habitually use some types of focus more than others and one type of focus primarily. When seen as core focus instead of personality, Enneagram type is not who we are but a specific way of approaching life. The goal then is not to define ourselves in terms of personality but to see how our habit of focus limits us and how to move beyond that.

Each type of focus can be thought of as a compensation triggered by an initial self-concern. This compensation then takes on a life of its own in shaping how we operate in the world and how we experience ourselves.

  1. Acceptability through Behavioral Correctness
    • Self-Concern: I am not acceptable as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find acceptability through behavioral correctness.
  2. Appreciation through Emotional Attentiveness
    • Self-Concern: I am not appreciated as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find appreciation through emotional attentiveness.
  3. Esteem through Emotional Affirmation
    • Self-Concern: I am not esteemed as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find esteem through emotional affirmation.
  4. Significance through Emotional Authenticity
    • Self-Concern: I am not significant as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find significance through emotional authenticity.
  5. Knowledge through Mental Objectivity
    • Self-Concern: I am not knowledgeable as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find knowledge through mental objectivity.
  6. Assurance through Mental Questioning
    • Self-Concern: I am not assured as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find assurance through mental questioning.
  7. Enthusiasm through Mental Anticipation
    • Self-Concern: I am not enthused as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find enthusiasm through mental anticipation.
  8. Empowerment through Behavioral Assertiveness
    • Self-Concern: I am not empowered as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find empowerment through behavioral assertiveness.
  9. Harmony through Behavioral Accommodation
    • Self-Concern: I am not harmonious as I am.
    • Compensation: I can find harmony through behavioral accommodation.

Core focus is an approach to using the Enneagram types that's being introduced for the first time on this website. A book offering a more complete explanation of this approach is planned for release sometime in 2022.

Exploring each Enneagram type more thoroughly

This page provides an introduction to the Enneagram types in general. Click on a link below to find more on a specific type. 

Enneagram Guide

This page is part of the Enneagram Guide available on this website. For more information about any particular Enneagram type or the many concepts and origins/history of the Enneagram types visit the Enneagram Guide main page.