The Enneagram of Personality Types
The Enneagram is a system of nine personality types combining traditional wisdom with modern psychology - a powerful tool for understanding ourselves and the people in our lives - with three major applications:
- Personal and spiritual growth
- Successful relationships at home and at work
- Leadership development, team building and communication skills for business
Enneagram Work supplies the tools and knowledge to:
- Increase your personal and professional effectiveness
- Increase your self awareness and emotional intelligence
- Understand your patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving
- Build successful relationships at home and at work
- Support your strengths, identify your blind spots and manage personal reactivity
- Develop your inner life
A Brief History
This nine-pointed diagram (Ennea is Greek for nine) has apparently been used for centuries in esoteric Christian and Sufi traditions as a map of human consciousness and archetypes.
It was first brought to the public in 1915, in Moscow, by George Gurdjieff, a philosopher and teacher who used it in his program of human development. Then in the late 1960s, Oscar Ichazo, the founder of the Arica School, placed nine types of personality on the Enneagram. Shortly thereafter, Claudio Naranjo, MD, and other psychologists in Berkeley combined the Enneagram with the latest developments of modern psychology.
While each personality type can be found in psychological literature, the Enneagram brings them together in a unified system and shows their inter-relationships. This combination of ancient symbol and modern psychology continues to be developed today by psychologists, business consultants, educators and spiritual directors.
A Non-Denominational System
From its early roots in Berkeley, the modern Enneagram has spread around the world with more than a million books sold and Enneagram programs orinstitutes in most countries in Europe and East Asia, as well as parts of Africa and South America. While the Enneagram itself doesn't suggest a particular ideology, theology or set of techniques, it serves as a very effective conceptual framework for both secular practitioners and religious clergy in their work with clients or congregants.
Unlike most psychological systems and diagnostic tools which focus on the neurotic or problem side of people, the Enneagram not only talks about the problems that people face, it also describes the strengths and potentials of each personality type. No personality type is any better or worse, and the highs and lows of human development can be found in every type.
While most people know the Enneagram as a profound system of personal or spiritual growth, in recent years it also has been adapted for use in the classroom and the business environment. In addition to providing crucial "people skills," the Enneagram supports self awareness, good decision making, and continual learning which is vital for success in today's workplace.
Personality and Essence
A key idea underlying the Enneagram is that people have two important aspects - essence and personality. Each person has a unique "essential self" that can't be reduced to a number or category. However, the Enneagram describes nine patterns or themes by which people form a personality, and a social persona, to meet the challenges of love and work. Ideally, personality is an effective way to express ourselves in the world. But problems arise when personality covers up the inner self, or our point of view becomes stuck and rigid.
Three Centers of Intelligence
The Enneagram describes three centers of intelligence and perception: Head, Heart and Body. While every individual has all three of these centers, each of the nine personality types has a particular strength in one of them. Our internal character structure as well as our way of being in the world is based in this leading, or main center. Understanding our primary center is an important key to developing our personal and professional potential and overcoming our blind spots.
- The Intellectual Center: using the mind for language and rational thinking, ideas and images, plans and strategies. Located in the head.
- The Emotional Center: using the "heart" for positive and negative feelings, empathy and concern for others, romance and devotion. Located in the area of the chest and diaphragm.
- The Instinctual Center: using the body for movement, sensate awareness, gut level knowing, personal security and social belonging.
Working with the Enneagram
The Enneagram offers a way to manage personality through the practice of self awareness. It supports us in becoming more effective in our lives, and it offers a path of opening our hearts and developing personal presence.
One of the most practical ways of using the Enneagram is in our relationships at home and at work. By understanding our own patterns, defensive reactions and blind spots we are able to become more flexible and skillful with the people in our lives. When we understand how others think and feel, we become more tolerant and compassionate. (And we don't have to take it so personally when we bump into other people's edges.)
The Enneagram describes both our higher potentials and our limitations. It makes specific suggestions for how each personality type can become more skillful in love and work.