Exploring the Enneagram

By Lisa W.

This is the first post in our Enneagram series! Be on the lookout for more in the coming months….

Geeking out about the Enneagram 

Why are we so easily fascinated by personality quizzes and assessments? As a young girl, I remember flipping through American Girl magazines searching for the monthly quiz. What Disney princess are you? What animal represents you best? I didn’t care about the reliability or the validity of the test; heck, I didn’t even care who wrote it. I just wanted to learn more about myself and compare my findings to my friends’. 

Now that I’m older, I’ve raised my standards regarding assessments (thank goodness). The Enneagram, one of my favorites, has been around for years and is continually growing in popularity. You may have heard people say things such as:  “I’m a 3, what’s your number?” Or, “Wow, you’re totally a 5!” If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram or if you haven’t taken this assessment yourself, these can be confusing conversations. Today I will explain the Enneagram and how understanding your personality style can be used to your advantage.

Sooo… what is it exactly?

In a nutshell, the Enneagram personality assessment assists in self-awareness. Participants are instructed to answer honestly by choosing between two options for a series of questions (see link below to start the assessment). Now, let me step on my soapbox for a second: it’s entirely on YOU to answer honestly. Don’t answer the questions according to what you think is noble or right and don’t answer how you wish to be in the future. For this assessment to work, you need to answer according to your natural instinct.

Your results will be generated quickly (yay instant gratification!) and you’ll be given a main number type, along with a “wing.” 

Now, what does all this mean?

Each number represents and is referred to as a personality type. This type is defined by what drives the person and is often categorized by the subject’s biggest fear.  Your type will be given a title (for example, Enneagram Type Nine is the Peace Maker) and you’ll be given a brief description of its meaning. Below is a list of the nine themes which are divided into three main categories: The Feeling Center, The Thinking Center, and The Instinctive Center.

  • The Feeling Center 
    • Type Two (The Helper) 
    • Type Three (The Achiever) 
    • Type Four (The Individualist)
  • The Thinking Center 
    • Type Five (The Investigator)
    • Type Six (The Loyalist)
    • Type Seven (The Enthusiast)
  • The Instinctive Center 
    • Type Eight (The Challenger)
    • Type Nine (The Peacemaker)
    • Type One (The Reformer)

What’s with the Wings?

When receiving your results, you will likely be given a wing number. Your wing number will be a number adjacent to your personality type (either one number higher or lower). For example, if you are a Type Six, your wing will either be a Five or Seven, often abbreviated 6w5 or 6w7.

It is a common misconception to assume the wing is your second highest number overall. Instead, your wing is chosen by the higher score of the two numbers adjacent to your personality type. 

To help better understand how wings work, picture a teeter-totter. Your personality type will be the base of the teeter-totter and your wing will place weight on one of the ends, causing the teeter-totter to lean one direction. If the two adjacent numbers are tied, most tests will not assign a wing number.

Wings determine an additional and important influence to your Enneagram type and explain variations of your personality (6w5 individuals will have slight differences from 6w7 individuals). Wing numbers indicate tendencies to drift into another category, especially in certain circumstances. 

Note: Some Enneagram assessments disregard wings all together (which I’m okay with…).

Sounds cool, but how does this help me?

The entire point of taking a personality assessment is to gain self-awareness. The higher your self-awareness, the more capable you are of managing your emotions, utilizing your natural strengths, and cultivating healthy relationships. Think about it:  how can you expect to learn and grow if you don’t have a baseline to work with? 

We utilize the Enneagram in therapy often to help clients connect the dots. For example, if someone states, “I’m always so worried what others are thinking about me” or “I erupt in anger outbursts but can’t understand why” the Enneagram can help them better understand what’s triggering these emotional reactions. Perhaps they are prone to noticing injustices in the world or they strive to create harmony in their environments, leaving them feeling anxious about others’ thoughts and perceptions. Once they have a new level of self-awareness, they can notice triggers in their daily lives and understand where their reaction is coming from.

Where do I start?

My suggestion is to start with a strength-based mentality. First, read through your results looking for your strengths. What jumps out at you? Do they mention traits that mimic the compliments you have received? Start to consider these positive traits as an awesome part of your character. Spend a week looking for and recognizing these strengths. Maybe you’re more aware of your ability to stand up in the face of conflict or put a smile on a stranger’s face. Consider, how these strengths can be used to help other people. How can you highlight these traits to perform your best at work?

Next, review your results a second time looking for growth areas (us therapists hate the word weaknesses… way too limiting). Start to understand what makes you uncomfortable and consider healthy coping skills to help manage these emotions, allowing you to be less caught off guard when they strike. Consider ways you can start to challenge yourself to grow in these areas. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by these growth areas, therapy can be a great place to process your emotions and eventually challenge your thinking (okay, my bias might be showing a bit). 

It’s important to keep in mind your results should be read with an open mind. These assessments can highlight important themes within your psyche, but they should not be treated as ultimate truth. As humans, we have a base nature (which is important to understand), but we also have the ability to learn and grow as we gain self-awareness. 

Is that all?

No way! Today we have only scratched the surface understanding the Enneagram. 

As for now, take the assessment below and share your results in the “comments” session of this blog and share with us what you love about your Enneagram Type!

Stay tuned and look for November’s blog post to learn how your results can impact your relationships. Talk to you next month!

Here are two of the top-rated free online Enneagram assessments: https://www.9types.com/rheti/index.php & https://Enneagramtest.net/

Further instruction on interpreting your Enneagram results: https://www.Enneagraminstitute.com/interpreting-your-Enneagram-test-results

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