Find your Enneagram Type by number, not name

I may have lost count of how many Enneagram books I’ve read, but I feel like I’ve learned at lot. It is both surprising and helpful to find that different authors apply different names to the nine personality types. My stance is that it is much better to find your Enneagram type by number, not by name – even though you’ll come across many, many names.

number of enneagram type books from library
Thank you, library, for the never-ending stream of reading material.

Here’s why:

  • Numbers are value neutral here. There are no points. It is no better to be a One than an Eight or any other number.
  • The Enneagram is not personal: that’s kind of the whole point. You are not claiming an identity to cling to when you discover your type. You are simply identifying a pattern in your personality structure. It is not the whole story of you. Not even close.

Each type is defined by an emotional habit, a characteristic pattern of thought, and a style of relating to others, which together produce a distinct point of view.

Helen Palmer
  • Name types cater to stereotypes. They can be helpful when you’re first learning what the different personality patterns are like, but if you stop there, you’ll be sorry. Each Enneagram number has three subtypes based on their primary instinct (self-preservation, social or sexual), and just to keep things interesting, one of these three types always runs counter to the type. This means 1/3 of all Enneagram Fours will look *nothing* like the stereotype summed up by the names Romantic, Artist, Individualist, etc.
  • The most popular and accepted Enneagram names overlap with titles and roles that we all fulfill as humans at different points and in different ways: The Helper, The Artist, The Achiever. This can make it easy for us to choose a type based on how we *want* to see ourselves, or who other people see us as, rather than who we actually are. For example, not all artists are Enneagram Fours. Not all Enneagram Fours want to be artists. Not all Enneagram Eights show up in life as The Boss, etc.

Labels are hurtful and limiting – even when they appear positive and affirming! So limit the hurt and limitations by looking at your Enneagram type as just a number. Of course, the more people refer to Enneagram numbers, the more they become a shorthand or stereotype in culture. Resist the urge to think you can know someone just because you know their number.

Still looking for your Enneagram number?

Find your Enneagram type by number by reading lots of different descriptions of the Enneagram Types. The audio and video clips on Helen Palmer’s website are super helpful. Pay attention to how you react. Strong feelings of like or dislike are excellent ways to learn about yourself, even if finding your Type is not as quick and easy as taking an online quiz. (It might be. But don’t worry if it raises more questions than answers.)

There are many people you can consult with to determine your type, but since that isn’t the path I took, I can’t offer you recommendations there. However, if you’re looking for a book to read, I’m your pal. (I hate, hate, hate the term “gal.” WTF does it even mean? Part of a gallon?)

The Power of Threes

The world is full of opposites: light or dark, good or bad, wet or dry. These categories are simple and easy to understand – but they aren’t the whole story. What about all those shades of gray? The neutral? The moist? Seeing the world as either/or means we often get ourselves trapped between a rock and a hard place, when to an outside observer, it looks like we should be able to climb out pretty easily. The power of threes is like a mental rope we can use to haul ourselves to a more expansive viewpoint. But first, you have to know what obstacle you’re facing. Enter the Enneagram.

enneagram chart

The Enneagram divides people into nine archtypes. Each type also has a wing (one of the adjacent numbers on the Enneagram circle). For many people (me!), this explains an inner conflict or confusion since the pattern of the dominant type is often very different than that of the wing. For example, I am a 9w8. Nines are all about going with the flow and avoiding conflict – but Eights like to take charge and challenge the status quo. I have often felt trapped between my two habits – either I ignore my feelings so I can avoid upsetting anyone, or my Eight wing takes over, and I am too forceful in asserting myself. Friendly or fierce. It feels like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. But thankfully, that false dichotomy isn’t the whole picture. The power of threes, as I’m calling it, means there is a third choice.

What’s behind door #3

As a Nine, that third option is to really pay close attention to how I feel. Sounds simple, and it is, but it isn’t always easy. I’d rather not be bothered by uncomfortable feelings. It takes a conscious effort to stay present to my own experience and not get swept away by other people’s (often louder, or more insistent) needs. Anger scares me – I had some pretty amazing “what not to do” role models in my life. But anger is my friend, now. I finally see that anger is just an invitation to pay attention, and when I do, I get to solve the puzzle. How do I stay true to myself and allow other people that same freedom?

Harness the power of threes

The real wisdom of the Enneagram is when you are able to see the patterns within yourself – your typical type response, the wing you turn to when needed AND – the hard part – your third and least developed type of intelligence. The part of you that might as well not exist, for all the attention you’ve paid it. When you start to see that third option, it can feel miraculous. It isn’t. It is just how we are meant to live, as fully functional humans, with our heads, hearts and bodies all communicating within ourselves.

When we learn to use all three, magic happens. You can call it whatever you like: thinking, feeling, doing. Mind, body, spirit. Mental, emotional, instinctual. Head, heart, gut. If you look into the Enneagram in any detail, and I hope you will, you’ll find that each teacher uses a slightly different framework. In this blog, I’ll explore different perspectives – not to decide which one is “right” – but to make connections and expand my own understanding of myself and the world.

If you don’t know your Enneagram number, reading over the type descriptions on Enneagram Institute website is a good place to start.