Enneagram of Personality

Enneagram of Personality

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Enneagram Figure
Enneagram Figure

The Enneagram of Personality (usually known simply, but confusingly, as the Enneagram) is a particular application of the Enneagram figure in connection with personality and character issues. This is now the most well-known use of the figure.

Although it is usually only understood and used as a typology (a model of personality types) the Enneagram of Personality is also taught in ways that focus on its potential in developing higher states of being, essence and enlightenment.


Oscar Ichazo

As generally understood the Enneagram of Personality has principally developed from the teachings of Oscar Ichazo (born 1931), the Bolivian-born founder of the Arica School which he established in 1968. Ichazo's Enneagram of Personality theories are part of a larger body of teaching that he terms Protoanalysis. In Ichazo's teachings the Enneagram figure has usually been called an Enneagon.

Ichazo asserts that, in 1954, he received a clear and direct insight into how certain mechanistic and repetitive thought and behavior patterns can be understood in connection with the Enneagram figure, classical philosophy and with what he calls 'Trialectic' logic, a logic grounded in three laws of process.

Ego fixations

Ichazo identified nine ways in which the ego becomes fixated within a person's psyche at an early stage of life. For each person one of these 'ego fixations' then becomes the core of a self-image around which their psychological personality develops. Each fixation is also supported at the emotional level by a particular 'passion' or 'vice'. The principal psychological connections between the nine ego fixations can be 'mapped' using the points, lines and circle of the Enneagram figure.

As the purpose of Ichazo's teachings is to help people transcend their identification with - and the suffering caused by - their own mechanistic thought and behaviour patterns, his theories about the fixations is founded on the premise that all life seeks to continue and perpetuate itself and the human psyche must follow the same common laws of reality as such. From this, using Trialectic logic, Ichazo defined the three basic human instincts for survival (Conservation - digestive system, Relations - circulatory system and Adaptation - central nervous system) and two poles of attraction to self-perpetuation (Sexual - sexual organs and Spiritual - spinal column).

With a baseline of a psyche in a state of unity as a prototypical model, the fixations are defined as aberrations from this baseline, much as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is an observation-based method for diagnosing personality disorders. The primary difference between modern psychology and Ichazo's work is that Ichazo has proposed a model of the components of a human psyche whilst modern psychology has instead preferred to agree only upon observed behavior rather than attempt to define an essential model from which aberrations arise due to psychological traumas.

Ichazo has related the fixations with the major categories of the DSM to indicate that fixations are the precursor to mental illness. The fixations are diagnosed from the particular experience of psychological trauma a child suffers when expectations are not met in each respective Instinct. Since a small child is completely self-centered in its expectations it will experience disappointment of expectation viewed by the child as a matter of one of the three fundamental attitudes (attracted, unattracted or disinterested are the only possible attitudes), and thus experience trauma and begin to form mechanistic thought and behavior patterns in an attempt to protect itself from experiencing a recurrence of the trauma. By understanding the fixations and through self observation, the hold on the mind and suffering caused by the fixations is reduced and even transcended.

Ichazo and other Enneagram traditions

There was never an intention or purpose in Ichazo's original work to use knowledge of the ego fixations and other aspects of the Enneagram of Personality to reinforce or manipulate what is essentially a source of human suffering. Therefore almost all later interpretations are viewed by Ichazo as unfounded and therefore misguided and psychologically and spiritually harmful in light of his original intentions. The modern Enneagram movement, therefore, is considered by Ichazo, in most cases, to actually promote the strengthening of the basis for personality disorders.

Although some modern Enneagram of Personality writers have claimed that Ichazo's teaching are derived, in part, from those of Gurdjieff's Fourth Way work, Ichazo has refuted this claim in his Letter to the Transpersonal Community. In 1992 intellectual copyright for the Enneagram of Personality was denied to Ichazo on the basis that factual ideas cannot be copyrighted. [1]

Claudio Naranjo

From the 1970s Ichazo's original Enneagram teachings were adapted and developed by a number of others, first by the Chilean-born psychiatrist, Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo had been a member of a training program presented by Ichazo in Arica, Chile in 1971 but did not complete the program. On returning to the United States he began teaching his own understanding of the Enneagram of Personality to a number of his students, including some Jesuit priests who then taught it to seminarians. It is principally from Naranjo and his students and the Jesuits and their students that the contemporary Enneagram of Personality movement has developed.

The nine types

According to Enneagram of Personality theory the points of the Enneagram figure indicate a number of ways in which nine principal ego-archetypal forms or types of human personality (also often called "Enneatypes") are psychologically connected.

People of each Enneatype are usually referred to after the number of the point on the Enneagram figure (Eights, Fours, Sixes etc.) that indicates their particular psychological space and 'place' of connection to the other types. They are also often given names that suggest some of their more distinctive archetypal characteristics.

Brief descriptions of the nine Enneatypes are as follows:


Ones: Reformers, Critics, Perfectionists

People of this personality type are focused on personal integrity. Ones can be wise, discerning and inspiring in their quest for the truth. They also tend to dissociate themselves from their flaws or what they believe are flaws (such as negative emotions) and can become hypocritical and hyper-critical of others, seeking the illusion of virtue to hide their own vices. The greatest fear of Ones is to be flawed and their ultimate goal is perfection.

Ego fixation: resentment
Holy idea: perfection
Passion: anger
Virtue: serenity
Stress point: Four
Security point: Seven


Twos: Helpers, Givers, Caretakers

Twos, at their best, are compassionate, thoughtful and astonishingly generous but they can also be particularly prone to clinginess and manipulation. Twos want, above all, to be loved and needed and fear being unworthy of love.

Ego fixation: flattery
Holy idea: freedom
Passion: pride
Virtue: humility
Stress point: Eight
Security point: Four


Threes: Achievers, Performers, Succeeders

Highly adaptable and changeable. Some Threes walk the world with confidence and unstinting authenticity; others wear a series of public masks, acting the way they think will bring them approval and losing track of their true self. Threes are motivated by the need to succeed and to be seen as successful.

Ego fixation: vanity
Holy idea: hope
Passion: deceit
Virtue: truthfulness
Stress point: Nine
Security point: Six


Fours: Romantics, Individualists, Artists

Fours are driven by the desire to understand themselves and find a place in the world. They often fear that they have no identity or personal significance. Fours embrace individualism and are often profoundly creative and intuitive. However, they have a habit of withdrawing to internalize, searching desperately inside themselves for something they never find and creating a spiral of depression.

Ego fixation: melancholy
Holy idea: originality
Passion: envy
Virtue: equanimity
Stress point: Two
Security point: One


Fives: Observers, Thinkers, Investigators

Fives are motivated by the desire to understand the world around them, specifically in terms of facts. Believing they are only worth what they contribute, Fives have learned to withdraw, to watch with keen eyes and speak only when they can shake the world with their observations. Sometimes they do just that. However, some Fives are known to withdraw from the world, becoming reclusive hermits and fending off social contact with abrasive cynicism. Fives fear incompetency or uselessness and want to be capable and knowledgeable above all else.

Ego fixation: stinginess
Holy idea: omniscience
Passion: avarice
Virtue: detachment
Stress point: Seven
Security point: Eight


Sixes: Loyalists, Devil's Advocates, Defenders

Sixes long for stability above all else. They exhibit unwavering loyalty and responsibility, but once betrayed, they are slow to trust again. They are particularly prone to fearful thinking and emotional anxiety as well as reactionary and paranoid behavior. Sixes tend to to react to their fears either in a phobic manner by avoiding fearful situations or by confronting them in a counterphobic manner.

Ego fixation: cowardice
Holy idea: faith
Passion: fear
Virtue: courage
Stress point: Three
Security point: Nine


Sevens: Enthusiasts, Adventurers, Sensationalists

Sevens are adventurous and busy with many activities with all the energy and enthusiasm of the Puer Aeternus. At their best they embrace life for its varied joys and wonders and truly live in the moment but, at their worst, they dash frantically from one new experience to another, too scared of disappointment to actually enjoy themselves. Sevens fear being unable to provide for themselves or to experience life in all of its richness.

Ego fixation: planning
Holy idea: work
Passion: gluttony
Virtue: sobriety
Stress point: One
Security point: Five


Eights: Leaders, Protectors, Challengers

Eights value their own strength and desire to be powerful and in control. They concern themselves with self-preservation. They are natural leaders, who can be either friendly and charitable or dictatorially manipulative, ruthless and willing to destroy anything in their way. Eights seek control over their own lives and destinies and fear being harmed or controlled by others.

Ego fixation: vengeance
Holy idea: truth
Passion: excess (lust)
Virtue: innocence
Stress point: Five
Security point: Two


Nines: Mediators, Peacemakers, Preservationists

Nines are ruled by their empathy. At their best they are perceptive, receptive, gentle, calming and at peace with the world. They also, however, tend to dissociate from conflicts and to indifferently go along with others people's wishes. They may also simply withdraw and act via inaction. They fear the conflict caused by their ability to simultaneously understand opposing points of view and seek peace of mind above all else. Nines are especially prone to dissociation and passive-aggressive behaviour.

Ego fixation: indolence
Holy idea: love
Passion: laziness (sloth)
Virtue: action
Stress point: Six
Security point: Three



Whilst a person's Enneatype is determined by only one of the ego-fixations, their personality characteristics are also influenced and modified in different ways by all of the other eight fixations as well.

Most Enneagram teachers and theorists believe that one of the principal kinds of influence and modification come from the two points on either side of their Enneatype. These two points are usually known as the 'wings'.

Observation seems to indicate, for example, that Ones will tend to manifest some characteristics of both Nines and Twos. Some Enneagram theorists believe that one of the wings will always have a more dominant influence on an individual's personality, while others believe that either wing can be dominant at any particular time depending on the person's circumstances and development.

This aspect of Enneagram theory was originally suggested by Claudio Naranjo and then further developed by some of the Jesuit teachers.

Stress and security points

The lines connecting the points of the Enneagram figure (the triangle and hexagon) are believed to indicate psychological connections between the Enneatypes. The points connected by the lines are usually called the 'stress points' and 'security points'.

The more traditional understanding of the stress and security points is that when people are in a more secure or relaxed state they will tend to also express the more positive personality characteristics of the security point type and, when stressed or insecure, the more negative characteristics of the stress point type. Relaxed or secure Ones, for instance, may tend to manifest some more positive personality aspects of the Seven type since Ones tend to be highly self-inhibitory whilst Sevens give themselves permission to enjoy the moment. Stressed Ones, however, may express some more negative aspects of the Four personality, particularly the obsessive introspection; they also share a certain amount of self-loathing and self-inhibition.

Don Richard Riso believes that the security points also indicate a movement towards psychological wellbeing (the 'direction of integration') and the stress points indicate the movement towards breakdown (the 'direction of disintegration').

Another emerging belief about the connections between points is that people may access and express the positive and negative aspects of both points depending on their particular circumstances.

The lines connecting the points are often indicated on Enneagram figures by the use of arrows and are sometimes also called 'arrow points'.

The sequence of stress points is 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 for the hexagon and 9-6-3-9 for the triangle. The security points sequence is in the opposite direction (1-7-5-8-2-4-1 and 9-3-6-9). These sequences are found in the repeating decimals resulting from division by 7 and 3, respectively, both of those numbers being important to Gurdjieff's system. (1/7 = 0.1428571...; 1/3 = 0.3333..., 2/3 = 0.6666..., 3/3 = 0.9999...).

Instinctual subtypes

Each type also has three main instinctual subtypes - the 'self-preservation', 'sexual' and 'social' subtypes. Because each Enneatype is different they may be perceived as having a tendency toward one subtype or another.

  • Self-preservation subtypes pay most attention to physical survival needs.
  • Sexual subtypes focus most on intimacy and one-to-one relationships.
  • Social subtypes care most about others, in groups and communities.

The instinstual subtypes may be very similar to the "need areas" of the FIRO-B instrument, called "Inclusion", "Control" and "Affection", except that the score in each area carries equal weight in the person's overal personality, and there is no "tendency" towards one or another.

Directional scales

The Enneagram types have also been mapped to Karen Horney's "Three Trends" (Moving Towards, Against, Away from), in two dimensions of "Surface Direction" and "Deep Direction"[2] [3] (which also roughly parallel FIRO's "Expressed" and "Wanted" behavior). Each type on the surface moves one way, but underneath can move a different way. This determines both behavior and motivations.

Surface Direction→
Deep Direction↓
— Against
0 Away
+ Towards
+ Towards
(Approval Seeking)
0 Away
(Ideal Seeking)
— Against
(Power Seeking)

Deadly sins

Seven of the characteristic emotional 'passions' or 'vices' of the Enneatypes correspond with the traditional Seven Deadly Sins. Two additional 'sins', 'deceit' and 'fear', are also included.

  • Ones – Anger, as the frustration that comes from Ones working hard to do things right while the rest of the world doesn't care about doing things right and not appreciating the sacrifices and efforts Ones have made.
  • Twos – Pride, as self-inflation of the ego, in the sense of Twos seeing themselves as indispensable to others and to having no needs whilst also being needed by others.
  • Threes – Deceit, in the misrepresentation of self by marketing and presenting an image valued by others rather than presenting an authentic self.
  • Fours – Envy of someone else reminds Fours that they can never be what another person is, reawakening their sense of self-defectiveness.
  • Fives – Avarice, as the hoarding of resources in an attempt to minimize their needs in the face of a world that takes more than it gives; thus isolating Fives from the world.
  • Sixes – Fear, often in the form of a generalized anxiety that can't find an actual source of fear. Sixes may wrongly identify a source of fear through projection, possibly seeing enemies and dangers where there are none.
  • Sevens – Gluttony, not in the sense of eating too much but, rather, of sampling everything the world has to offer (breadth) and not taking the time for richer experience (depth).
  • Eights – Lust, in the sense of wanting more of what Eights find stimulating, to a point beyond which most people would feel overwhelmed and stop.
  • Nines – Sloth, or laziness in discovering a personal agenda and instead choosing the less problematic strategy of just going along with other people's agendas.

Research issues

Because of theoretical differences about the personality characteristics of the nine types and aspects of Enneagram of Personality dynamics some critics argue that more research needs to be done to test the Enneagram typology as empirically valid.

While some believe that current research does not support the Enneagram typology's validity (especially regarding the concepts of wings and the stress and security points), others believe that because of the typology's complex and 'spiritual' nature it cannot be accurately evaluated by conventional empirical methods.

Recently published research (2005) based on a type indicator questionnaire developed by Don Riso and Russ Hudson [4] claims to have demonstrated that the nine Enneagram types are "real and objective". Katherine Chernick Fauvre also claims to have statistically validated research that indicates that the three instinctual subtypes are real and objective.[citation needed]

Concerning the brain, at least three different models have been proposed for identifying a basis for the Enneagram types in neuroscience:

Concerning the first brain model, a partially finished book entitled "Personality and the Brain" was posted for free download in December 2005. This book, written by a self-described "hacker", presents a model for linking the Enneagram types to the current findings of neuroscience regarding prefrontal cortex (PFC) and amygdala asymmetry.

Concerning the second brain model, The Enneagram and the Triune Brain offers a different theory on the neuroscience of Enneagram. This article was originally published in the October 2000 issue of the Enneagram Monthly and links the Enneagram types with Paul MacLean's triune brain theory.

In his 1996 book, The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life (at pages 92-103 of the paperback version), neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux rejected McLean's triune brain model to the extent that this model limits emotional functions to what McLean called the "limbic system". LeDoux explains that emotional functions are not limited to the limbic system (e.g. areas of the neocortex also play various roles); conversely, the limbic system is not limited to emotional functions (e.g. that area also processes certain cognitive functions). If LeDoux's criticisms of the triune brain theory are correct this would obviate this second model as a useful basis for the Enneagram types in neuroscience.

Concerning the third brain model, the paper The Enneagram and Brain Chemistry offers a theory that the different Enneagram types derive from different activity levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.


Some psychologists and researchers regard the Enneagram typology as a pseudoscience that uses an essentially arbitrary set of personality dimensions to make its characterizations. Such critics assert that claims for the Enneagram of Personality's validity cannot be verified using the empirical scientific method as they lack falsifiability and cannot be disproven. In this respect, the Enneagram typology is not considered to be any different from many other typological models, such as that of Carl Gustav Jung on which the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based.

The Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Roman Catholic Church have also expressed concerns about the Enneagram typology when it is used in a religious context, because it is claimed that it "introduces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith". [5]

Some critics suspect that the claims for the Enneagram typology's validity may be attributed to the Forer effect, the tendency for people to believe a supposedly tailored description of themselves even when the description has been worded in very broad terms.

Faith (for Content):