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The Enneagram - A Map of Human Nature
27 April 2020

The Enneagram - A Map of Human Nature

I believe the Enneagram is the map of human nature which people have long sought. So says Don Richard Riso, author of The Enneagram: Discovering your Personality Type.

Understanding ourselves and others is said to be one of the keys to happiness. Many believe that personality tests can help us to develop insight into ourselves and those around us so that we can lead fuller, happier lives.  

In this article we give a very basic outline of the nine personality types that are described by the Enneagram. The system is a very complex one but we hope to at least give you a small taster of what the Enneagram involves.


What is the Enneagram?

The basic organising principle of the Enneagram is nine distinct personality types, with each number on the Enneagram denoting one type. It is common to find a little of yourself in all nine of the types, although one of them should stand out as being closest to yourself.
The Enneagram is a 3 x 3 arrangement of nine personality types in three Triads. There are three types in each Triad.

The Enneagrams three Triads specify whether your fundamental psychological orientation, which includes positive and negative traits, has to do with your emotions (ie, the Feeling Triad), your ability to think and act (ie, the Thinking Triad) or your instincts and how you relate to the world (ie, the Relating Triad).

What type am I?

Enneagram experts agree that we are born with a dominant type. Here are the basic descriptions of the 9 types.

As you think about your personality, which of the following nine roles fits you best most of the time? Or, to put it differently, if you were to describe yourself in a few words, which of the following word clusters would come closest?

The Feeling Triad

The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive

The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious

The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental

The Thinking or Doing Triad

The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated

The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious

The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered

The Relating or Instinctive Triad

The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Wilful, and Confrontational

The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and a Perfectionist The Triads of the Enneagram
The inclusion of each type in its Triad is not arbitrary. Each type results from a particular relationship with a cluster of issues that characterize that Triad. In the Instinctive or Relating Triad, the emotion is Anger or Rage. In the Feeling Triad, the emotion is Shame, and in the Thinking Triad, it is Anxiety or Dread. Of course, all nine types contain all three of these emotions, but in each Triad, the personalities of the types are particularly affected by that Triad`s emotional theme.

Each type has a particular way of coping with the dominant emotion of its Triad. For instance,

In the Instinctive or Relating Triad:

Eights act out their anger and instinctual energies.

Nines deny their anger and instinctual energies as if to say, "What anger? I am not a person who gets angry."

Ones attempt to control or repress their anger and instinctual energy.

In the Feeling Triad:

Twos attempt to control their shame by getting other people to like them and to think of them as good people.

Threes try to deny their shame, and are potentially the most out of touch with underlying feelings of inadequacy.

Fours attempt to control their shame by focusing on how unique and special their particular talents, feelings, and personal characteristics are.

In the Thinking Triad:

Fives have anxiety about the outer world and about their capacity to cope with it. Thus, they cope with their fear by withdrawing from the world.

Sixes are the most anxious type, and the most out of touch with their own sense of inner knowing and confidence.

Sevens have anxiety about their inner world. There are feelings of pain, loss, deprivation, and general anxiety that Sevens would like to stay clear of as much as possible.

To find out more and to take the Enneagram personality test, go to

Further reading:
The Enneagram: Discovering your Personality Type by Don Richard Riso

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