Enneagram Overview

I am obsessed with the Enneagram – but it wasn’t always that way. When I was first introduced to the concept of nine (ennea) personality types, depicted as a symbol (gram), I was mildly intrigued. The triads of being within the symbol are what really made the Enneagram come alive for me. We all are made up of body, head, & heart – yet how these components are expressed, ignored or otherwise experienced by each individual person is compelling to me, as it is constantly changing. Just like nature itself, we are dynamic, even if we can’t always see it. My hope is this Enneagram overview will help you tune into some interesting patterns in your world.

enneagram symbol with centers of intelligence

Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.

Alan Watts

How I identified my Enneagram Type

Quizzes and books helped me identify as a Nine. The description felt more accurate to me than my Meyers-Briggs, zodiac sign, birth order, or any other personality or psychological sorting system. That’s actually common for Nines – we have a tendency to merge with others in order to avoid conflict. We do it so well that we often have no idea that we are doing it, and therefore see bits of everyone in us. Other Nines have told me that they, too, tend to defy categorization.

the enneagram feeling thinking and doing
Feeling, thinking and doing are essential qualities in all human beings. The Enneagram maps out how we lean on our various strengths differently.

Scratch that – all humans defy categorization, as well they should. The Enneagram is just a useful way to exploring our personalities and where we tend to get stuck. It is helpful to know that whatever challenge you have within yourself, you are not alone. People of your Enneagram Type all share the same “flavor” of experience in life.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin

I love this quote. The quote also drives me nuts, because the positive police like to use it as a weapon ( i.e. if you don’t see beauty, its because you’re ugly). That’s not my point here. My point is that if we pay attention to where we are reactive (she annoys me! he’s so greedy!) then we can ferret those things out in ourselves. Only then can true gratitude, joy, love – all the good stuff – arise.

You are not uniquely messed up – or magically free from afflictions of the ego. All people have their issues.

Less than seven billion, as the Enneagram overview shows

And yet, it is not all chaos! You don’t have to throw up your hands in defeat, as so many “enlightened” people do, under the guise of nonattachment. There are patterns underlying human behavior. Understanding these patterns makes it possible for us to be effective in how we show up for others.

You cannot change someone’s basic Enneagram Type or outlook – nor should you try. The world needs all types of people. Yet, what do we waste our lives doing if not trying to “help” (read: change) people into what we want them to be, and/or sticking our heads in the sand and claiming (irrationally, delusionally) that what other people do is of no concern to us.

The Enneagram is just a model, an overview of personalities. It isn’t perfect. But it is a damn useful! It helps discern whether the direction we’re heading is healthy or unhealthy, so we can support what’s good and useful rather than creating more hurt.

And more than one. Reality is diverse.

Of course, every single person is unique and no system could possibly explain everything about their behavior. That’s not what the Enneagram is about. It is just a practical framework. Nine is a manageable number. If you can wrap your head around the premise that there are nine distinct ways of seeing the world, it only follows that your way is not the only way.

This is so important, it bears repeating: Your way of seeing the world is not the only way.

Yeah, yeah. We all know everyone is different. But a blank “tolerance” of our differences and a professed appreciation for “diversity” is not the same as a true understanding of what life looks and feels like for other people. Developing true empathy and compassion requires you to pay attention. The reasons *why* people do what they do is so much more interesting than the thing itself. Studying the Enneagram naturally shifts your awareness to this unseen realm of mystery – and brings you deeper into yourself. Why do you do what you do?

There are many comprehensive and detailed Enneagram websites out there. This isn’t meant to be one of them. What I will do is share my take on what I am learning, and create some visuals. It’ll be fun. I hope you’ll join me.

My (somewhat sad) first attempt at an Enneagram Chart

I am not a graphic designer, but I do like to do everything by own damn self. Here is my not perfect but perfectly serviceable depiction of the Enneagram:

the enneagram symbol
The Enneagram chart.

The lines between numbers mean something. The colors I’ve assigned mean something, too – many things. More will be revealed in future blog posts.

Update: Thanks to wiki commons, I found a more geometrically correct drawing to base my images on. Thanks, humanity! I would be nothing without you. I’m leaving my first attempt up for fun – progress isn’t always pretty.

enneagram symbol with numbers and intelligence centers labeled