The Enneagram in Psychotherapy and Coaching
The Enneagram is a powerful tool for psycho-spiritual growth. It does not put any of us in a ‘box’. It helps us work with our nuanced personality differences by tapping into our unique shadows and strengths.
Do you want to know your deepest desires, drives, passions and strengths?
Are you interested in knowing your true, soulful self?
Do you want to be more intuitive, empathic and compassionate with your loved ones?
The enneagram consists of nine pointers of human psychology that help us plunge deep into our unconscious, as well as the collective unconscious.
The Enneagram is not just a personality typology but a tool for deep spiritual transformation.
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a powerful tool and typology system for personal development. It is a type of system that describes the human personality as nine specific “types,” also known as Enneatypes. The goal of the Enneagram is not to ‘box in’ anyone to a specific set of traits. The nine types are ‘archetypes’, and they represent universal qualities that all of us have the potential to exhibit. While each of us tends to resonate with one specific set of traits, that does not limit the scope of our personalities.
This unique system for personal development, spiritual transformation (if one is open to it) and potential collective healing and transformation stems from the Greek “ennea,” meaning nine, and also Greek “grammos”- a symbol. The Enneagram itself is represented by a circle connecting the nine types in a nine-point diagram. These nine personality types represent patterns of thinking, feeling, perceiving and relating to others, in addition to root struggles, predictions surrounding behavior and emotions, and virtually all aspects of one’s life decisions and choices.
History of the Enneagram
The exact origins of the Enneagram are somewhat unknown, and also a slight mystery. It is believed that this unique system for self- development stems back to Ancient Greece, mainly due to the origins of the word itself; however, it is a synthesis of a number of religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Yet, the Enneagram is not religious. It is, however, a tool for the acceleration of spiritual awakening and transformation, which naturally arise with learning about ourselves in a dynamic and holistic way.
The person responsible for bringing the Enneagram to the Western World, arguably acting as a “bridge” or messenger between ancient and modern times, was the mystic and philosopher George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. However, Gurjieff didn’t emphasize personality types. The discovery and creation of the nine enneatypes was done by Oscar Ichazo and his followers.
The Nine Personality Types
Let’s briefly explore the essence and meaning of the nine personality types.
1. The Reformer
Reformers, or “type 1’s,” are perfectionists and full of purpose. They are self-controlled and strive for integrity in all that they do. Type 1’s have a very strong sense of the “right” and “wrong” way to do things, and are idealistic with strong principles, values and morals. Positive qualities and attributes include being honest, responsible and dependable. Type 1 shadow traits? They can be very judgemental, intolerable and uncompromising! 1’s are also known for their highly critical nature (however this is mainly due to being so idealistic with high morals).
2. The Helper
Type 2’s are generous, empathic, and relationship-oriented. They have a strong desire to be loved, give love, and generally care for others. Helper/Type 2’s value peace and harmony in relationships and often find themselves taking on a mediating or diplomatic role. However, they can sometimes deny their own needs in order to make others happy, and be too self-sacrificing. Other shadow traits include being naive and severely codependent. However, Type 2’s are genuine, compassionate, good listeners, and a strong emotional support system for those they love.
3. The Achiever/ Performer
Personality type 3’s are driven to excel, success-oriented, energetic and pragmatic. They give their attention to fame, success or fortune and aren’t shy of admiration, or being in the spotlight. Highly adaptable, high-flying and generally successful in all they put their mind to, Type 3’s work well with others and can communicate effectively. A major strength is their emotional connection and intelligence, which they use and channel towards getting things done. Shadow aspects for them include being impatient, overly competitive, not knowing when to take a break from work, and focusing too much on external praise or materialism.
4. The Individualist/ Romantic
Type 4s are individualists and romantics. They can be dramatic, expressive, and forward-thinking. They can also be very emotional, sensitive, withdrawn and too focused on their own feelings, manifested as becoming self-absorbed. They have a strong sense of identity but at times can be temperamental and prone to melancholy and moodiness. Like the archetypal “hopeless romantic” and “gifted but suffering artist,” type 4’s are the sensitive souls who are usually extremely gifted artistically and creatively, yet, due to their extreme romanticism, steer towards their shadow personality traits. The sense that something is missing from their life often leads to a quest for wholeness through the healing arts, mysticism, spirituality, romantic idealism or the humanitarian wave.
The major positive aspects of 4’s is their advanced creativity and ability to express universal human emotions through music, art, poetry and dance. They are highly compassionate, empathic, and idealistic with emotional depth and maturity.
5. The Observer
Type 5’s are also known as Investigators and are innovative, intelligent, original thinkers and highly perceptive. They have a tendency to become isolated and detached, secretive and the victim of chaotic or difficult emotions, but they simultaneously possess a unique ability to become detached, which allows them to thrive in all matters of reason, logic, and problem-solving. Unfortunately, people often misinterpret their quiet and thoughtfulness as arrogance or conceit, and this is what can ironically lead to their isolation or over-intellectualism. However, type 4’s thrive in scholarly or creative pursuits and can achieve great levels of self-reliance.
6. The Loyalist
Type 6’s are responsible, committed and attentive to people’s problems. Because they are so loyal, they often enjoy long-lasting relationships and can be very trustworthy and devoted, also aware of what is going on around them. Type 6’s shadow aspects? They can be very worrisome! Due to a Type 6’s need for security and connection, they may sometimes become anxious and suspicious or tend to dwell on the negative. Despite these traits, type 6’s make wonderful friends, lovers and team- players and often focus and direct their energy towards community projects and groupwork. They can thrive in a crisis and possess unique courage and strength which comes with their innate loyalty to self and others.
7. The Enthusiast
Type 7’s, or Enthusiasts, are spontaneous, fun-loving, and versatile. They are forward-thinkers and rely heavily on their mental abilities and communication skills. People with this personality type tend to be extroverted, social, fun-loving, and enjoy staying busy. However, they can also be easily distracted and unfocused. They might start things without finishing them or become scattered and self-absorbed- they have a tendency towards fear of commitment. However, they can make up for this through their fun- loving, optimistic and joyful nature. Type 7’s enjoy travel, adventure and intellectual pursuits and interests.
8. The Challenger
Type 8’s are bold, dominating, decisive and self- confident. They love to take charge, and often thrive in business and entrepreneurial matters. Leadership comes naturally to them and they have a strong inner power which, when channeled wisely and constructively, can manifest great change in the world. Their shadow side is that they can often appear domineering and aggressive, or at the very least highly confrontational. This “dark” aspect of self has its light, however, as type 8’s will always defend an underdog or use their strength and inner power to protect someone in need. Great success can come to 8’s, combined with their intense energy, ambition and aspirational nature; type’s 8’s are one of the most successful personality types on the earth plane (in the material/physical world). They are generous, enthusiastic and sincere, but sometimes impatient, competitive and over-bearing.
9. The Peacemaker
Type 9’s are Peacemakers and Mediators, who love harmony, cooperation and an easy-going life. Defined by their easy-going nature, inner balance and personal sense of harmony, type 9’s thrive in any counselling, mediation or diplomacy role. People with this personality type tend to avoid conflict, and when they use this character trait productively and in an action-oriented way (as opposed to, for example, through avoidance or escapism) they can accomplish great things. The type 9 personality is balanced at the top and center of the Enneagram, meaning that they have a highly grounding quality to them and are often people’s gem, or rock. They are receptive, agreeable, compromising and understanding, and they are also highly compassionate and empathetic. Their only down- side is that they can become lost in inertia (lack of momentum and “moving- forward!”), complacency, indecisiveness and facing responsibilities, the latter due to their extreme avoidance of conflict.
How is the Enneagram A System for Healing and Growth?
Let’s look at the benefits and effects of using the Enneagram for self- exploration, healing, personal transformation and growth.
- At the heart of each person lies unique strengths that enable us to thrive. The Enneagram helps you to become more objectively aware of your personality “blind spots,” recognizing your shadow aspects and further learning to overcome them. We all have a shadow or dark side, and a light side; hence why so many traditions, teachings and schools of thought speak of “enlightenment.” Enlightenment is literally finding the light within, yet just like day flowing into night and darkness and light existing simultaneously, the shadow self is integral to our core personality and inner nature. Knowledge is power, so the Enneagram brings great wisdom regarding your flaws and areas for self-development.
- The Enneagram assists you in developing more self-love by helping you to understand yourself deeper, better, and more profoundly. This can help you self-evolve, and expand your unique talents, gifts and abilities. Strength and personal empowerment can arise through “knowing thyself”- a term and state of awareness often associated with systems for growth and self-evolution. This encourages you to work consciously and with mindful self-talk (self- communication, transparency and honesty) on parts of your personality that may inhibit your ability to live a harmonious and healthy life.
- The Enneagram can help you achieve health and vitality and lead to unification and harmony of all the aspects of your self. We are more than just a physical body, we have a mind, emotions, a spirit and a soul, and subtle versions of ourselves also exist. On the spiritual, etheric and astral planes there is a part of ourselves- our true selves- that exists and interacts with our daily selves. This is often strongly related to the Higher Self, the part of us which recognizes our connection with the divine beyond our 3-dimensional plane of existence. Learning about the Enneagram and your personality traits opens you up to new ways of perceiving, thinking and feeling.
- Linking to the last point, the Enneagram can also help align you with your true path, soul service, or sense of life purpose/destiny. We all have a calling in the world- a unique “soulprint”- and overcoming our shadow aspects and integrating our strengths and qualities is an essential step towards attaining this. New heights can be reached, new opportunities can arise, and advanced or evolved levels of awareness can be attained.
- Finally, through learning about your core struggles, passions, holy ideals and virtues (explored below) you can come to terms with those parts of yourself that you may not want to accept, and the most brilliant and beautiful aspects you have yet to fully embody and balance.
It is also important to note that having or resonating with a “type” doesn’t mean you are boxed into that one personality. You can be one type but share aspects of another, or many others, simultaneously; resonating with a type means that the tendencies from that personality manifest stronger, and that you are more prone to its positive and negative aspects than the other Enneatypes. Your type is your “basic personality type” acting as a foundation and core aspect of your true nature.
The Virtues, Passions, Holy Ideas, and Fixations
The Enneagram was created and adapted from spiritual and religious tradition, and with this come the concepts of Virtues, Passions, Holy Ideas and Fixations. These concepts are based on the idea of there being a “divine form” and “holy essence” to life itself, and to our core natures.
The Holy Ideas are the higher aspects of yourself relating to your higher mind, or Higher Self. Each Holy Idea has a corresponding Virtue, which is a quality of the heart and usually symbolized by pure and positive emotions. When we lose self-awareness and presence, the positive attributes of the Holy Idea transform into an Ego-Fixation, also known as the Fixations.
Losing touch with your Virtue can create the associated characteristics of Passion. Passions is our untamed, primal and animal nature and is often described as the “lower self,” or at least aspects of it. Instinct replaces intuition- a quality associated with the higher self- and all aspects of divine higher connection and spiritual contact are replaced.
This diagram from https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/the-traditional-enneagram (Copyrighted material) helps better show the relationship between these essential Enneagram aspects.
It is our innate and fundamental connection to the soul that allows us to connect to the Holy Ideas and Virtues, whereas it is our natural tendency and drive towards our “inner animal,” our instinctual, primal and human self, which equally creates the Fixations and Passions. Being aware of this can help you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment, self- development, personal growth and transformation. Knowing your “type” allows you to increase your presence and higher awareness, so you can learn to contemplate and embody the higher qualities of your true self.
Let’s look at the specifics of each personality type. The order expressed is HOLY IDEA – VIRTUE – PASSION – FIXATION:
Type 1: Perfection, Serenity, Anger… Resentment
Type 2: Will/Freedom, Humility, Pride… Flattery
Type 3: Hope, Truthfulness, Deceit… Vanity
Type 4: Origin, Equanimity/Calm, Envy… Melancholy
Type 5: Transparency, Non- attachment/Selflessness, Greed… Stinginess
Type 6: Faith, Courage, Fear… Cowardice
Type 7: Wisdom/Plan, Sobriety, Gluttony… Planning
Type 8: Truth, Innocence, Lust… Vengeance
Type 9: Love, Action, Slothfulness… Indolence/Laziness
Spiritual Awareness and Emotional Maturity/ Intelligence
In addition to the profound effects the Enneagram has on your personality traits, physical life- in terms of choices and life direction- and in understanding our shadow (Ego- Fixations and Passions), it can also be used as a spiritual healing tool, and route to understanding emotional habits. This subsequently can lead to greater and evolved levels of empathy, emotional intelligence, and intuition.
If you are interested in knowing more, here are some great resources:
The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson
The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram, by Sandra Maitri
Facets of Unity, by A.H. Almaas