Enneagram of Personality Theory

Enneagram of Personality Theory According to followers of this philosophy, each person fits into one of nine personality types, and can strive to achieve personal harmony by learning about and transcending his or her type.
Enneagram of Personality Theory is most commonly known by the shorter and simpler "Enneagram." Followers of Enneagram believe that every human being matches one of nine different personality types as modeled by a nine-point geometric enneagram.

By knowing one’s type, according to this theory, one can learn one’s strengths and also learn to overcome one’s weaknesses, and strive for a higher plane of existence.

Most credit the birth of Enneagram to Oscar Ichazo, a Bolivian man who claims to have received a vision in the 1950s about how different personality types could be determined by the kinds of "stuck" behavior people exhibited, and explained in this nine-point form. According to Ichazo, individuals begin as pure essence, and through growth and life experience become separated from their true selves and devolve into "personality." Ichazo felt that by understanding the obstacles these personality types presented, one could potentially transcend them and become reconnected to pure essence.

Ichazo said that the Enneagram was only part of a larger theory of human behavior called Protoanalysis, and he later distanced himself from his successors in teaching the Enneagram, saying that they were not being true to its origins.

During the 1970s, a student of Ichazo’s Claudio Naranjo, was credited with disseminating what is primarily the foundation for today’s version of Enneagram.

The philosophy has gained popularity in recent years because of best-selling authors Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson and their development of the questionnaire-based Hudson-Riso Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI). The authors reference the history of Enneagram, including its roots in the Jewish Kabbala and the philosopher Plotinus’s work, "The Enneads." But the modern incarnation of Enneagram remains at heart a personality-type test, which can be used for fun, or to access deeper truths about oneself.

While devotees of the philosophy claim that its insights have led to enlightenment for them, critics compare the Enneagram system to astrology, or say it is derivative of other psychologists’ theories. Others say it is merely another one of many different personality-typology systems, like the better-known Myers-Briggs psychological assessment tool.

It doesn’t matter, say followers. They believe that the system is accurate and can lead to profound healing.

The International Enneagram’s website claims that "Many feel it is the single best tool for enhancing self-awareness in that it provides a highly accurate map of personality patterns…The Enneagram can function as an access point for meaningful and challenging journey of personal growth." (http://www.internationalenneagram.org/).

The following are the nine personality types. While people are usually said to have "wings," or secondary personality traits that reflect other numbers, most will fit into these nine types:

Ones: Ones are also called "The Reformer." This type is rational, perfectionistic, controlled, and principled. These people can be idealistic, and their quest in life is to be perfect. Their greatest fear is that they are imperfect, flawed, or bad. As children they felt that they had to be "good" in order to be loved.

Twos: Twos are also called "The Helper." People with this primary type are people-pleasers, generous with their time and resources, and will step forward and help out. Their fear is that they are not lovable. They can tend to be manipulative and clingy, and feel that if they are not helping then they are not worthy of love. If they stretch themselves too thin by helping they’ll feel resentful.

Threes: Also called "The Achiever," Threes are ambitious, driven by success, and concerned about image. They are adaptable, doing whatever it takes to be successful. Their fear is that they are not worthy unless they have achieved something.

Fours: Fours are also called "The Individualist." Fours are artistic, expressive, and dramatic. They are romantic and intuitive. Many actors and artists are found in this type. They can also tend to be melancholy and self-absorbed. Their greatest fear is that they have no self-identity. They will sometimes create drama in order to feel it.

Fives: Fives, called "The Investigator," are the thinkers of the Enneagram. They are driven by facts, and want to discover things about the world. Perceptive, observant, and quick, they want to be able to contribute to the world’s knowledge. They want to feel capable, and fear that they might be useless.

Sixes: Called "The Loyalist," sixes are very responsible, hard-working, and concerned with security, both financial and emotional. As their name suggests, these people are very loyal, but once their trust has been betrayed they are slow to trust again. They tend to become anxious about security, and their greatest fear is that something will happen to take away all security.

Sevens: Sevens are also called "The Enthusiast." This type is spontaneous, enthusiastic, and fun-loving. They live life to the fullest, and when at their best, they live in the moment. They can also be scattered, and flit from one activity to another in hopes of finding a better adventure Their greatest fear is that they will not get to fully experience life.

Eights: "The Challenger." Eights are very dynamic. They are usually leaders, and have great strength and a high desire to be in control. They want nothing more than to be in charge of their own lives, and will go to great lengths to ensure that this happens. They’re very self-confident, though can also be dominant and aggressive. They want to protect themselves, and their greatest fear is that they’ll be controlled by others.

Nines: Nines are called "The Peacemaker." This type will smooth things over, being very empathetic and compassionate. They are usually what they seem to be, and seek harmony and peace. At worst they can become "yes" people and end up being blind followers. They fear being isolated and separated from other people.

According to the Riso-Hudson test, people will also have two, more subordinate personality types called "wings," which are something akin to complementary planet’s influence or a moon and rising sign in astrology.

Riso and Hudson say that the Enneagram doesn’t stop there. It helps to know what personality type we are, but that’s just the beginning. They offer seven tools for development that begin with the Ennegram’s "map of the soul," and go from there. The tools, listed on their website, are seeking truth, "not doing" (accepting and letting go), being willing to be open, getting support, learning from everything, developing a love of self, and having a practice.

For those who are willing to begin with their personal Enneagram type and progress from there to incorporate these tools and lessons, enlightenment is certainly possible.

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