enneagram as lie detector

Seeing Past the Lies We Tell Ourselves – Enneagram as Lie Detector

I’ve only seen lie detector tests in movies. I think they work by somehow measuring whether you believe what you are saying. If that is the case, a polygraph would not be helpful in revealing the lies that we believe about ourselves. Don’t worry, we have our friend the Enneagram to act as an instrument to help us uncover the lies we tell ourselves every day.


Ordinarily, people lie to cover up or defend against something they think is bad or unacceptable.  Enneatype lies are both similar and different from this.

They are similar because they formed in response to things we experienced that did feel bad and unacceptable. When we’re very young and experience a lack of support, connection, or safety (as all babies and young children do at some points), it feels horrible. These bad feelings are so strong that they compel us to form beliefs about ourselves, about others and about the world based on them. That does not mean that they are accurate in a broader sense.

Even if 95% of the time our caregivers and environments were supportive, this typically fades into the background because our focus of attention goes to preventing ourselves from touching those terrible feelings again. Of course, the more severe the deficits in our caregiver and in our environment, the more dearly we will feel the need to cling to the beliefs we formed.

An example of this development for type Four could be in feeling a lack of attunement and mirroring from a parent. At Four, when I feel “missed,” I feel profoundly untethered and disconnected.  This wracks my sensitive nervous system and I become organized around how to never feel this disconnection again, while at the same time installing the belief that the nature of life is disconnection and abandonment. I thus set out to live the lie that I am intrinsically disconnected from others and/or from a spiritual source. I set my life in service of trying to find that elusive reconnection.

Or for type Seven, I may have experienced moments of deprivation as a young one- where my needs weren’t adequately met for food, holding or movement. The feeling of deprivation was so intolerable, my system vowed to avoid it at any cost, and thus the beginning of my strategy to seek options and see my way out of any constraint was ignited.

The moments of feeling deprivation were true for the young one. The problem is that the strategy to avoid deprivation gets projected forward broadly onto most situations, even where support and fulfillment are readily available.

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”  ―  Rudyard Kipling

I am not proposing that early life experience alone creates our personality structures. I see these early moments as times where the soil is fertile and the seeds start to sprout.

The lies of my type continue to present themselves to me. Despite their constancy, the more I have personally worked to loosen my beliefs/lies, the more I have found that the universe is eager to meet me with connection, support, and fulfillment. This is even while my relationships and circumstances might seem to be failing me.

It is in this way that enneatype lies are different from ordinary lies. Yes, they are covering up something we believe is wrong or bad.  And at the same time they are obscuring deeply satisfying truths about who we are and how the world is.


The lies of our Enneagram types are not necessarily technically false in every case. Sometimes our type perspectives line up with reality in ways that most people would see as true.

For example, type One can often accurately see where there is moral injustice and need for improvement. People like Mahatma Gandhi and Ralph Nader have helped steer culture toward right action in ways that have benefitted countless people.

Or at point Five, in seeking to understand truth from an objective place, I may become a brilliant scientist (e.g. Charles Darwin, Marie Curie) whose mind can perceive principles in ways that change how humanity thinks and behaves.

But even when our type’s perception is in service to the world, it doesn’t actually mean that it tells the truth about the situation from a larger perspective.

Our ego’s viewpoint is suited to assessing life on a particular level- that of ego functioning- how we show up in daily life going about our ordinary business. Our egos aren’t built to accurately perceive what I’ll call “Big Truth.” They are built to help us adapt to the human world around us in order to meet what we see as its demands/requirements.

Our default application of type’s beliefs are “false” in a couple of ways:

  1. On the egoic level, type-beliefs are lenses that predispose us to interpret things in a certain way. In the very same situation, types Six and Eight would primarily focus on how authority is being misused, whereas types Two and Three would primarily focus on how they can be champions in the eyes of others. Any of these might be worthwhile to look at, but they can’t be trusted to see past what we usually project onto any situation.
  2. On a vaster level, type-beliefs keep us from seeing the complex and deeper nature of life and what it’s inviting us into.  Our personalities are actually good at obscuring this layer with their constant fussing about following the usual codes. At Nine I may be convincing myself that I need to go along with others’ agendas, while the universe is inviting me to cultivate my own gifts to bring forth.

“Sometimes I go about pitying myself when all the time I am carried on great wings across the sky.”  – Ojibwe song

It’s exciting to know that there is, without fail, an aspect of us that can see beyond our type structure and get a taste of how the world looks when we can soften our particular filters. We can feel into this aspect of our being through our Inner Observer, our compassionate and witnessing consciousness, which can both acknowledge our type’s perspective, and see through, past and beyond it.

To access this capacity, it of course helps to want to see beyond our filters.  And when we want to, it helps to know what to watch for.  The Enneagram maps out common themes and stories we tell ourselves.


Below are listed six common lies/beliefs of each Enneagram type for you to consider.  These are certainly not exhaustive, and individuals of each type would likely emphasize different themes, or word these statements differently.  I’d love to hear your additions or changes in wording in the comment section below.

I invite you to pay attention to what happens inside when you read these lies- especially those for your own Enneagram type.  Notice if one or two stand out especially to you.


  • Something is wrong here. I have to correct it.
  • Others won’t do as good a job. I can’t relax until it’s correct.
  • If I’m not perfect, I’m wrong or bad.
  • What I’m supposed to do is more important than what I want to do.
  • The way to goodness is through discipline, hard work and responsibility.
  • What happens to me in life is a reflection of my moral goodness.



  • I am indispensible. Other people need me to care for and help them.
  • The world works on a “tit-for-tat” basis. You get back what you put in.
  • I can get what I want if I please people in the right way.
  • I’m worthy of love when others see me as kind, giving, helpful.
  • I need to steer things to get my needs met.
  • I am powerful when I’m giving, not when I’m in need or receiving.



  • I’m valuable when others admire me.
  • Action and results are what count.
  • Others love me when I succeed at delivering what they want.
  • Life is a contest; you can win if you put in enough effort.
  • My action creates and affects what will be or not be.
  • Shelving emotions allows me to act more effectively.



  • When I’m suffering, it’s somehow my fault.
  • I am a victim of my circumstances and relationships.
  • I am uniquely tortured. Something is missing/defective in me.
  • I can’t be ordinary. I’ll be loved for being distinctive, unique, creative.
  • Others can be shallow and conformist, missing the deeper meaning of life.
  • I feel things more deeply than others.



  • Life is demanding and complex. I need to pull back to cope.
  • I shouldn’t act until I have complete understanding.
  • I need to hold onto what I have because resources are scarce.
  • Other people’s needs can deplete me.
  • Understanding will make me safe.
  • Self-reliance is ideal.



  • Doubting and being prepared for trouble keeps me safe.
  • There is always a hidden downside.
  • Others have more power than I do.
  • It’s good to test trustworthiness. You’re either with me or against me.
  • I need to either defy or obey authority.
  • There’s no intrinsic support in the universe. We need to get each others’ backs. I’ll be your rock and your ally.



  • Life won’t provide what I want and need; I need to go after it.
  • Keeping things “up” always helps.
  • Staying with pain is intolerable and will destroy me.
  • I need to strategize to get pleasure and fulfillment.
  • Planning for positive possibilities will allow me to escape distress.
  • The world tries to limit people, but I won’t let that happen to me.



  • Life is a battle where the powerful take advantage of others.
  • I’m not the bad guy. I must call out and confront the bad guys.
  • Strength and power are what matter. Weakness is anathema.
  • I sense the real truth.
  • I will make things right. Revenge works.
  • Guts and gusto are where it’s at. No vulnerability allowed.



  • Rocking the boat will result in disconnection.
  • Erasing my opinions and needs will create harmony.
  • I am not that important; what I do doesn’t make a big difference.
  • I must love, accept, and understand others.
  • Conflict is destructive and to be avoided.
  • Others’ wishes are more important than mine.

What happened in your mind, heart and body as you read these?

Can you sense how intrinsically they inform your perception of your life, yourself, and others?

What happens when you consider them to be lies? These beliefs are so fundamental to how we see things, it can feel disorienting or disturbing to suggest that they are not the truth.

Can you consider what might be more true if these are indeed lies, or at least incomplete truths?


Being asked to let go of our platforms, sometimes we feel defensive- like someone’s trying to knock out our legs from under us. Or we might feel frightened- like there’s an earthquake undermining what we’ve relied on as solid.

These enneatype beliefs/lies are true in the sense that we’ve built our house-of-self on them, and it’s a real enough house as far as houses go. These ideas give us principles to base our worldview on.

Over time though, through life experience, we come to find that they don’t hold up with the same sense of security that we originally relied on them for.  

While sometimes it can feel devastating to lose them as our pillars, what if this is how it’s meant to be?  What if our ego-structure was meant to be scaffolding that allows us to mature? What if we could use this structure to allow us to build a dwelling based on sound materials and on a more solid foundation?  I believe this to be the case.

So when your house is shaking and you worry that your world is lost, what if you considered that you are not your house?  Your house offers you shelter— a sense of comfort and protection.  But what you can see in your home, and even through your windows, is not the fullness of life.


If you, like most people, have been taking your house to be the ground, of course you’d be frightened if it’s cracking and trembling. Yet there are many who will tell you of the profound support and relief that can arise when your house finally, if reluctantly, contacts the real ground and relaxes into it.

How would your life be in this moment if you set these lies down beside you? Or even just one of them?

What happens when you consider that even the opposite of these beliefs were true on a more profound plane?


“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ―  Søren Kierkegaard

Below is an attempt at naming more fundamental truths for each type. As you review them, notice whether some part of you knows them to be true, whether you could entertain the possibility of this.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that these truths are truths of the soul, not of the ego. It may be more or less difficult to mine your own life experiences to find evidence of their truth. The statement for your type may be particularly hard to believe or understand. That’s all part of the deal, and a place of rich exploration.

While certain of these statements will likely resonate more strongly with you, I invite you to consider all of them as truths for you, regardless of your type.

More Complete Truths


There is a perfection in nature and life that includes me just as I am. I love continuing to develop- enriching my participation in this mystery.


Life has an inherent flow which wants both to give to me and give through me. I don’t have to manipulate anything to be cherished and in contact with this animating love-light.


All I need to do is be here and be real. When I do this, life can use me intelligently to be and do what is needed.


I am always particularly and directly connected to the profound depths of life. Even in my ordinariness, I am a treasure.


There is plenty to go around. Following life’s natural contraction and expansion, I am both personal and profound, rooted in my body and heart while nested in cosmic truths.


I can trust that the ground of support is there for me. My essential nature is strong and capable even when times are hard.


Life offers me a full palate of experiences and invites me to freely experience them all, including those I perceive as limiting or painful.


I can come to life freshly, and in my innocence understand a profound kind of truth that includes everything.


Life is an expression of love and I am personally included in it.  No conflict, no discomfort can alter this.


Notice how these statements strike you.

Can some aspect of you understand them as true?

Do they penetrate you or do they bounce off and onto the floor?

No matter how attached you are to your type pattern, 

no matter how hard your life has been, 

no matter what lies you tell yourself, 

now matter how strongly you believe them, 

isn’t there somewhere inside yourself 

that knows better?  

Thanks for sharing your reflections below.

We all benefit from hearing about one another’s journeys. 

9 Responses

  1. Wow! For most of my life I operated out of the “lies” understanding of the world. It felt both a relief and shaky to read the “truths”. I could really see my type clearly as I considered the lies and the truths. Very helpful.

    1. I appreciate what you’re saying about the relief and the shaky-ness. It can feel vulnerable or disorienting to wiggle what we’ve built our houses on. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I found this particular mapping of the types very informative both for my own type and for those I love…a kind of “oh, THAT’S what they are thinking!” And “oh… I see that I might be exaggerating”. And I like seeing my type’s truth. It helps me to imagine. Also, that great photo of the house with the tilting foundation is brilliant!

  3. I can SO relate to Type 1 Lies.

    But I can also understand Type 1 Complete Truth.

    Very insightful. More people should understand this subject – the world would be a better place for it!

    1. I’m glad they rang true for you! I agree that if we all got a handle on this, we could see things very differently.

  4. The type 7 lie of life not giving what I want or need, I need to go out and get it, has been my go-to. The corresponding truth of life inviting me to a full palate of experiences, inviting to to experience them all, including those I perceive limiting or painful, is something I want to be true, yet resist. It is disorienting and disillusioning. Seems tempting and forbidden. Slow down, breathe, lean it to it, let life come It it’s terms and pace. There is an eery, alluring stillness and quiet – like something new, generative, wants to emerge.

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