The Enneagram is a model of personality designed to help us practice an embodied sense of self through the collective integration of our head, heart, and body. The Enneagram, as a practice, continues to evolve and shift as those who teach it, experience it. It is a fluid system and is not meant to be a rigid set of static beliefs about the behaviors of the human experience. It should be influenced by your personal experiences and unique circumstances.
The Enneagram is a symbol of a nine-pointed star within a circle, which provides a framework for nine primary behavioral patterns of motivation. While there are nine primary types within the Enneagram, it also captures twenty-seven distinct personality subtypes.
The type we primarily identify with helps us identify the resources we use (or overuse) as a way to manage our lives. The Enneagram is more than simply a personality system used to identify our behaviors (or the “what” of how we move in the world). It is meant to help name the often unconscious motivations underneath our behaviors (or the “why” of our movements in the world) that influence how we think, feel, and behave.
Our Enneagram type is complex and nuanced, including our primary type, wings, subtypes, instinctual patterns and how we use other types, all adding color and flavor to the behaviors we use to orient ourselves to the world around us.
By identifying our Enneagram type, we can see more clearly what motivates our thoughts, feelings, and actions, so we don’t have to live at the mercy of these unconscious forces. Seeing clearly behind the curtain of our inner world, we have the opportunity to live with intention and from a place of our wholeness. By softening the attachments to our patterns, we can find freedom and peace for our old and tired responses to coping.
The Enneagram is full of such depth that we can’t possibly cover everything there is to know about it within a single article. Understanding the intention behind the Enneagram model helps us step into knowing our type as a practice of self-awareness and transformation, instead of simply naming our behaviors through a typology system.
Our work with the Enneagram is to shed light on what motivates a person who is dominant in a particular Enneagram Type. While one type may resonate more profoundly with you personally, learning about each of the types is key for at least two reasons:
1. The people you love and interact with daily are likely dominant in a type and patterns different from yours. By understanding their motivations, it will help you have more understanding for the way they think, act, and feel and this is crucial in loving someone well.
2. While we each might be dominant in a particular type, we likely have pieces of each type within us. As you learn about the motivations and behaviors of the other types, I challenge you to be curious where you see these present in your own life.
Once we can name our patterns, we can utilize the fullness of the model (and all nine types within us) to integrate more of our healing and have grace for all of who we are. We can use this information to begin to name, and then soften, the attachments of the patterns that speak to you as a way to deepen awareness and access our full selves more frequently.
When we learn to integrate what we know about our Enneagram type, we embrace it as a tool for our continual growth and transformation.
Not sure of your own type? Check out this free digital typing guide as a way to walk through the more complex parts of self-identifying your type.
Want to better understand the motivations within each primary Enneagram type? Here’s some language to get you started:
Type One: I am not accepted for who I am.
Type Two: I must meet the needs of others.
Type Three: I am rewarded for what I do.
Type Four: I am afraid of being abandoned.
Type Five: Too much gets asked of me.
Type Six: The world is unsafe and unpredictable.
Type Seven: Life can be limiting and painful.
Type Eight: I need to protect my vulnerability.
Type Nine: To be safe, I need to be comfortable.
Type One: I am unable to stop improving myself.
Type Two: I make you feel good/meet your needs.
Type Three: I seek your recognition to feel loved.
Type Four: I stir my feelings, positive or negative.
Type Five: I withhold so I have enough for myself.
Type Six: I seek certainty to feel safe and secure.
Type Seven: Freedom creates a sense of safety.
Type Eight: I objectify myself and others.
Type Nine: I learn to prioritize others, only.
Does a particular motivation resonate most with you? If so, start your self-exploration there.
Erin Baute helps entrepreneurs, business owners, managers, and influential people find their way back from the personality burnout experienced when our coping strategies get overused and our intuition ignored. She is a skilled business coach and behavioral strategist with over 20 years of experience in behavior change and professional development with individuals and teams. Erin earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Development, Master of Public Health and is finishing her PhD in Organizational Psychology, with a focus on personal and professional development using personality as a framework.
Erin has been studying and using the Enneagram for almost 13 years. She is a Certified Enneagram Teacher and Trainer, and an Accredited Enneagram Professional from the International Enneagram Association.
She is working toward her Somatic Experiencing practitioner certification to help her clients make lasting body-based changes and improve her ability to help them find holistic coping strategies for who they are, today.
YouTube: Living the Enneagram
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