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Basic Mechanics of the Enneagram Personality system

Updated: Apr 28

The Enneagram blends psychology and spirituality to help you get in touch with your Essential nature (who you are when your ego/personality isn't calling all the shots). Our personalities become "fixed" on certain traits based on emotional defense strategies that we adopt early in life, and hence we form a personality type.


The spiritual growth elements of the system are really the goal of the system, but here I'm giving a simple blueprint for the mechanics of the personality typing side of things. And before you start diving into the personality traits themselves, it's important to know how those traits are used and organized.


So with that said, here are the basic mechanics of the system:


Everyone has a primary type, a wing type, and an instinctual variant stack. With all the pieces pulled together and written in one place, your type will look something like this:


9w8, SX/SO/SP


- Every individual has a "primary type", labeled by a number between 1 and 9, the first number in the example above. That type represents our primary emotional defense strategy. Each type has a "direction of growth/integration", which is essentially a set of positive thought patterns and behaviors that lead them to less stress and more balance, and more self acceptance. Likewise, each type has a "direction of resistance/disintegration" which represents behaviors that lead them to more stress, less balance, and more self rejection.


- In addition, a majority of people have a "wing type" which can only be one of the adjacent types to the primary type. For example, a primary type 3 can only have a wing type of 2 or 4, for example. Type 9 can have a wing type of 1, and 1 can have a wing type of 9. This is shown by the "w8"that follows the primary type in the example. The wing type influences the individual's personality but not as strongly as the primary type.


- Every primary type also has three instinctual variants of Self Preservation (SP), Social (SO), and Sexual (SX). Everyone has all three instincts and uses them in a different order of priority, regardless of which primary type they carry. For example, you may be a type 4 with the instinct stack of SP/SO/SX, or a 4 with a stack of SX/SP/SO, the stack is independent to the type but will manifest differently in the personality depending on the type.


Now, below is a basic overview of each primary type!


The Heart Triad


Type 2: The Helper


2s are people who generally proactively help others in practical, concrete ways. In their direction of growth/integration, they give themselves the same respect they give others. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they give to others and hold the expectation that others "should" take care of them in return.


Type 3: The Achiever


3s are generally practical and dedicated workers who enjoy working towards accomplishing their goals. In their direction of growth/integration, they set their own goals realistically and accomplish them, and help others do the same. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they pursue goals set by others in order to gain recognition and status, and aim to elevate themselves above others.


Type 4: The Individualist


4s are emotionally open and honest people who tend to seek deep meaning in life. In their direction of growth/integration, they are creative, expressive, and comfortable with themselves. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they feel melancholy and misunderstood, and withdraw from others.


The Head Triad


Type 5: The Investigator


5s are thorough, inquisitive people who enjoy spending time exploring the full depth of their topics of interest. In their direction of growth/integration, they are grounded, clear-headed, and visionary. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they are detached and obsessive, fixating on their thoughts and withdrawing from reality.


Type 6: The Loyalist


6s are committed and responsible people who create safety and security, keep communities together. In their direction of growth/integration, they are practical and accepting, often happy to work for the greater good of their community. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they become suspicious and insecure, often seeing threats where there are none.


Type 7: The Enthusiast


7s are fun-loving, creative, and expansive, focused on having and sharing positive experiences. In their direction of growth/integration, they appreciate what life has to offer and look to expand their horizons in a grounded, accepting way. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they are impatient in all things, finding it difficult to focus or say no to themselves.


The Gut Triad


Type 8: The Defender


8s are strong, direct, and confident people who value independence for themselves and others. In their direction of growth/integration, they feel light and free, pursuing their goals and connecting openly with others. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they feel bitter and angry that others do not respect their desires, and become dominant or aggressive in order to gain independence at any cost.


Type 9: The Peace Seeker


9s are calm, peaceful, independent people who enjoy the simple things in life. In their direction of growth/integration, they are confident and serene, finding what they need and sharing their peace with others. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they become highly avoidant, minimizing issues rather than dealing with them and rejecting responsibility for what happens to them as a result.


Type 1: The Reformer


1st are principled, idealistic people who see the world through a lens of what could be. In their direction of growth/integration, they communicate openly and advocate/work for the positive changes they care about. In their direction of resistance/disintegration, they become angry at others for not meeting their expectations and can become aggressively perfectionistic.

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