If you are new to the Enneagram, it is important to understand that it is not always straightforward to identify one’s type. We can be blind to what motivates us, and tests are often ineffective at distilling what drives our behavior. I do recommend the following test as a starting place in the discovery process: The Essential Enneagram Test in online or in book form.
In other personality type systems, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and others, answering questions on the test about your behavior and feelings can tell you where you sit on a binary spectrum. Unfortunately, the Enneagram typically requires more inner scrutiny and reflection. This discovery process can sometimes be uncomfortable, because we want to understand who we are and what we can do with it. And striving to be radically honest about what’s at the core of our “way” can also be a very rich and rewarding process.
The descriptions below are condensed pictures of the nine different energies that we all have access to in our human-ness. One of these is our “home base,” the point of view we default to.
The celebrity examples below are not claiming to be accurate for or validated by the individuals listed. They are included to help give a sense of the archetypal energy of the types. The cultures listed are similarly generic, debatable, and meant to give a taste of an ethos rather than a deep description of those cultures.
Names: Reformer, Perfectionist, Critic
World view: In the world there is right and wrong, good and bad. It’s important to be good and do the right thing.
Self image: I’m a responsible, hard working person who strives for improvement.
Focus of attention: Right and wrong, good and bad, details, excellence, ethics, error
Typical assets: High standards (technical and moral), good at big picture and fine details, eager to improve self and systems, clear and conscientious
Typical struggles: Resentment of others’ “lesser” standards, extreme expectations lead to overwork, inner critic is harsh and unrelenting, hyper-responsible
Avoidance: Being wrong or bad
Paradox: My critical stance can push others away, when I really want acceptance
Transformation: Seeing that there is a greater perfection that includes all our imperfections. All our quirks are good and necessary in the big plan.
Archetypes: Teacher, preacher, activist, pioneer
Cultures: Swiss, Puritan, Japanese
Celebrities: Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Ralph Nader, Confucius, Judge Judy
Names: Giver, Helper, Mentor
World view: People need my help and support and I need their approval and love.
Self image: I am a caring person who helps others reach their potential
Focus of attention: Others’ needs, supporting and serving others, giving to get
Typical assets: Generates good feelings, supportive of others, generous, kind
Typical struggles: Overfocus on relationships, neglects personal goals or group tasks, avoids conflict to avoid disapproval
Avoidance: Knowing their own needs, others’ disapproval
Paradox: I don’t let others know my needs, but still want them to meet them.
Transformation: Knowing that relationship is a natural exchange of give and take, not something to be manipulated.
Archetypes: Mother, altruist, friend, martyr
Celebrities: Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Princess Diana, Florence Nightingale
Names: Performer, Achiever, Doer
World view: The world is a contest and I can win if I work hard. The world values a winner
Self image: I am a competent “can do” person
Focus of attention: Getting the job done efficiently. Goals, results, tasks
Typical assets: Inspiring leadership, ambition, energy, confidence
Typical struggles: Over-emphasizing activity and efficiency, substituting success for feelings, neglecting to solicit input from others
Avoidance: Failure, losing face, anything that distracts from the goal
Paradox: My skill at delivering a good image leaves me feeling not valued for who I am
Transformation: Knowing that I am valuable for who I am, regardless of what I do
Archetypes: Icon, star, leader
Cultures: USA, South Korea, Hong Kong
Celebrities: Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan
Names: Individualist, Romantic, Innovator
World view: We’re here to plumb the depths of authentic feeling
Self image: I’m a unique, sensitive person who understands the deeper meaning of life
Focus of attention: Creating something special and unique, noticing what’s missing
Typical assets: Creative flair, innovation, passionate idealism, empathy
Typical struggles: Feeling I don’t belong or am not appreciated for what I bring, discouraged by others’ “shallowness,” emotional intensity is hard for others
Avoidance: The commonplace, ordinary or mundane
Paradox: I disrupt the connection I want by focusing on what’s missing or who’s rejecting
Transformation: Realizing that my ordinary self is intrinsically special and connected to everything
Archetypes: Artist, drama queen/king, designer
Celebrities: Johnny Depp, Vincent Van Gogh, Angelina Jolie, James Dean, Prince Charles, Jackie Onassis
Names: Observer, Thinker
World view: Life is imposing and complex and understanding the complexity gives me a sense of safety
Self image: I’m a perceptive person who knows how things work
Focus of attention: Seeking understanding, defending personal space, facts and data
Typical assets: Calm in crisis, non-intrusive, thoughtful analysis
Typical struggles: Feeling overwhelmed by others’ demands, withdrawal is seen by others as rejection, protective of personal energy/resources
Avoidance: Intrusive, demanding situations, strong feelings, relying on others
Paradox: I miss out on key experience and information by disconnecting from feelings
Transformation: Realizing that I am connected to a greater source. I don’t need to defend my boundaries.
Archetypes: Academic, philosopher, expert
Celebrities: Bill Gates, Buddha, Georgia O’Keefe, Marie Curie, Alfred Hitchcock
Names: Loyal Skeptic, Devil’s Advocate, Questioner, Guardian, Hero
World view: The world is unsafe and unsupportive, truth is hidden, appearances suspect. We all need trustworthy allies
Self image: I’m realistic. I probe until I find the trouble. I see things others don’t.
Focus of attention: Checking for congruence, seeking certainty, discovering hidden dangers/pitfalls
Typical assets: Troubleshooting, detectives, loyalty, team player, forethought, insight
Typical struggles: Magnifying worst-case scenarios. Others see me as a wet-blanket when I feel I’m taking reasonable precaution. Doubting my own power/authority
Avoidance: Feeling fear directly
Paradox: Looking for downsides makes me insecure and untrusting
Transformation: Relaxing into the support that is the foundation of all of life.
Archetypes: Guardian, soldier/warrior, detective
Celebrities: Meg Ryan, Malcolm X, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, George HW Bush
Names: Enthusiast, Generalist, Epicure, Planner
World view: The world is full of exciting possibilities, concepts and experiences. I intend to explore as many as I can.
Self image: I’m an up-beat renaissance person
Focus of attention: Best-case scenarios, 0ptions, possibilities, and pleasure
Typical assets: Enthusiastic, optimistic, inventive plans and ideas, charming, egalitarian style
Typical struggles: Losing interest after project’s initial phase, impatient with limitations, unaware or uninterested in others‘ positions
Avoidance: Pain, deprivation
Paradox: By not wanting to miss out, I miss the good that comes from sticking with things
Transformation: Realizing that it is limiting to only seek the positive. The fullness of experience can be richer than the “highs.”
Archetypes: Peter Pan, entrepreneur, charmer, jester
Cultures: Australian, Thai
Celebrities: John F Kennedy, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, DaVinci, Brad Pitt
Names: Protector, Boss, Challenger
World view: The world is a battleground where the powerful take advantage of the innocent
Self image: I am a powerful and just person who empowers and protects others. What you see is what you get.
Focus of attention: Power and control, justice/injustice. Who has the power? Are they using it justly?
Typical assets: Can make important things happen, zestful, forceful energy, directness, generosity
Typical struggles: Impatient with deliberation, disrespectful of “weak” or incompetent leaders, pushing themselves too far
Avoidance: Being weak, vulnerable, uncertain or dependent
Paradox: By hiding my vulnerability, I make it hard to experience others’ support
Transformation: Realizing that vulnerability is a strength, and that avoiding it makes me feel more harm-able
Archetypes: Champion, king/queen, victor
Cultures: Spanish, ancient Roman, oppressed cultures
Celebrities: Martin Luther King Jr, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Joan Jett, Tony Soprano
Names: Peacemaker, Mediator, Diplomat
World view: Everything will work out if we stay calm, amiable and connected
Self image: I’m easy going and low maintenance. I don’t rock the boat
Focus of attention: Others’ agendas and requests, comfort, harmony, and flow
Typical assets: Flexibility, empathy, seeing things from many angles, steady, amiable presence
Typical struggles: Difficulty with prioritizing, shuts down when conflict is with them, gets “foggy” when opinions are asked for
Avoidance: Conflict, confrontation
Archetypes: Sidekick, mystic
Paradox: I act like “nobody special” which encourages others to see me this way
Cultures: Canadian, Balinese, Indigenous cultures
Celebrities: Walt Disney, Dalai Lama, Ronald Reagan, Jennifer Aniston, Dave Matthews
To get support in finding which type is at your core, schedule an Enneatype Exploration Interview, click HERE.
I have learned the Enneagram from many teachers, and specifically want to thank the following for their contributions to my understanding the essentials of the types: Vision Point Associates, David Daniels, Helen Palmer, Don Riso, Russ Hudson, Sandra Maitri, Tom Condon and Richard Rohr.