BY HANNAH STAPLETON, GRACE ATTENDER
I love personality tests. I’m fascinated by how a series of multiple-choice questions can help reveal who we are. From the Meyers-Brigg to Buzzfeed’s Which Office Character are You, I’ve taken just about all of them. But I’ve never loved any test like I love the Enneagram.
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is based on a symbol, a circle with 9 points around it, and each point corresponds to a different personality. While the Enneagram symbol is old, we’re talking Pythagoras-old, the current usage of the Enneagram actually began in the 1960s, with Oscar Ichazo. The Enneagram Institute has a very thorough overview of the history of the modern Enneagram, but I’m just going to give you some highlights.
Ichazo took tons of different ancient ideas about the Enneagram and consolidated them into the practice used today. Ichazo focused on the idea that each spot on the Enneagram has a Passion (used in the same way we use the Passion of Christ), a Virtue, a Fixation, and a Holy Idea. With this knowledge, the Enneagram can be used a means of transformation and connection with God. Enneagram writer Christopher L. Huertz writes in The Sacred Enneagram that the Enneagram is a sacred map back to ourselves, back to who God intends us to be. The Enneagram can be used as a casual personality test, yes, but if used properly and thoughtfully, it can help us chip away the masks of our personality to see who we truly are and how God wants to use us.
What are all those numbers and lines?
I know the image looks sort of like a pentagram, but here me out. Each number around the circle is a different personality type. While these titles can be a bit reductive, they’re a helpful summary of each type. The titles I’ve used here come from Ian Morgan Cron’s book The Road Back to You.
1 – The Perfectionist
2 – The Helper
3 – The Performer
4 – The Romantic
5 – The Investigator
6 – The Loyalist
7 – The Enthusiast
8 – The Challenger
9 – The Peacemaker
Those lines represent the connection between the numbers. When we are stressed or unhealthy, we take on some of the characteristics of another number, and the same when we are healthy. For example, I’m a One. The line that starts at One and points to Four, indicates that I take on the patterns of Fours when I’m stressed. The line that starts at Seven and points to One indicates that I take on the patterns of a Seven when I am at my healthiest.
The Enneagram is a web of connections, showing that despite our differences, we are all connected, leaning on each other’s strengths and weakness to make us whole.
I’ve heard people talk about wings. What’s up with that?
Wings are the numbers on either side of your type. Again, I’m a One. The numbers on either side of my type are Nine and Two. That means that I will tend to display a lot of characteristics of these numbers. Most people usually only have one dominant wing. My Nine wing is the most dominant—while I’m always a One and those characteristics are at the forefront of who I am, I display a lot of tendencies of a Nine. But I can display the characteristics of a Two in certain relationships and situations. I lean on and borrow traits from my wings when I need support, when I need things that my dominant type has a hard time supplying.
A quick note about Triads
The Enneagram numbers are grouped into triads—three groups of three. Each group is governed by a prevailing intelligence center, a place where we tend to react from. Each triad is governed by an emotional theme. While any type can feel any of these emotions, one tends to be dominant, the emotion that’s always at hand. As a One, I feel shame and fear, but I’m in the Anger triad and anger is the emotion always accessible to me.
Eights, Nines and Ones are in the Gut or Anger triad. This is where we react from, but in different ways. Eights externalize their anger, Nines try to forget their anger, and Ones internalize their anger.
Twos, Threes, and Fours and in the Heart or Shame triad. Twos control their shame by focusing on making sure others like them and they are seen as good, Threes deny their shame and strive for success, and Fours control their shame by focusing on their uniqueness.
Fives, Sixes, and Sevens are in the Head or Fear Triad. Fives fear the outer world and retreat into their inner world. Sixes exhibit the most fear and anxiety and turn to outside sources to help them make decisions. Sevens fear the inner world and try to escape their negative emotions.
Knowing the triads is a good way of narrowing down your number. Is fear the emotion right at the surface for you? You might be a Five, Six or Seven.
So how I do find my number?
Great question! The Enneagram Institute offers an online test that’s really good. It costs $12 but generates a five to six page report on your results, so you get your money’s worth. YourEnneagramCoach.com offers a free test that takes maybe five minutes.
The danger with taking tests is that it’s very easy to mistyped. So, I would encourage you to also do some reading. Follow along the rest of our Enneagram blog series and listen to stories from people across the Enneagram. See if any of their experiences or feelings ring true to you.
I also recommend Ian Morgan Cron’s book The Road Back to You, which explains each Enneagram number in depth from a Christian perspective. The Enneagram Made Easy by Elizabeth Waglee and Renee Baron is another great introduction to the Enneagram.
If you want something more in-depth and Christian focused, Richard Rohr is THE Christian Enneagram writer. Start with his book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.
I know this is a lot. But the Enneagram can be an incredibly beautiful spiritual practice. Since I discovered the Enneagram, I’ve been aware of how to be a better spouse and friend. The Enneagram has helped me learn when I’m being destructive and when I’m on the right path. It’s helped me lean into prayer and has been a tool God has used to help me be who He knows I can be. The Enneagram changed my life.
I’ve loved getting to talk to people about their experiences with the Enneagram and I can’t wait to share some of their stories with you throughout this series. Read more about each number here.