Principles of the enneagram
Introduction to the enneagram
Tool for personal development, the enegram sheds light on one’s personality and that of those around us.
Originally, the Enneagram denoted an esoteric figure that was used by the famous (and mystic) early 20th century philosopher, Georges Gurdjieff. But over time, the concept evolves and it is in the years 1970 that the concept is endorsed as being a true method of personal development, becoming “the Enneagram of the 9 types of personality” at the initiative of Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo.
The Enneagram is a personality study system based on nine typical human behaviors. This typology is represented by a diagram with nine branches, (hence its name). “Enneagram” comes from the ancient Greek έννέα (nine) and from γράμμα (letter, symbol).
Each profile has a very specific motivation and an associated fear that will generate characteristic behaviors, personality traits and emotions.
Be careful not to take everything literally and not to lock yourself in boxes. The enneagram is precisely useful for becoming aware of automatic behaviors, which themselves are confining. This awareness therefore makes it possible to get out of “one’s” box and to act in full awareness, in freedom of choice.
Interests of the enneagram
- Accessible to all, while being deep for those who want to go far
- Universal, even if it is widely used in Anglo-Saxon countries, it is now present throughout the world.
- Free, this tool belongs to everyone and is not limited to 1 company
- Dynamic, it is situational
- Know yourself better
- Develop your potential
- Better understand the point of view of others (couple, children, friends, colleagues, etc.)
- Support / Coaching
- Management (situational)
- To improve your leadership
- To improve team cohesion
- Manage conflicts
- To manage change
To know more
What is personality ?
Personality is a combination of a person’s emotional characteristics, beliefs, and behaviors. It is difficult to find a common definition due to the amplitude of the theories and models. However, there are at least two main streams; type theory and trait theory. The enneagram is part of the first approach; the types of the enneagram.
The prince, the toad and the mask
To explain the concept of personality, I offer you the metaphor of Carlo Moïso, Italian psychotherapist of the 20th century, great name of transactional analysis.
This is the essence of a person (Natural Child)
- with his desires and needs
- with its resources (used or not)
The mission of the “little Prince” or the “little Princess” is to grow up. He (she) will become king or queen.
But the world has its constraints
and the prince learns the (his) limits. Personality is formed during childhood, and the child does not always have the necessary perspective to analyze the situations encountered. Carlo Moïso talks about the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse (the 4i).
- Inadéquation : The Mismatch: lack of love, care, recognition, discomfort …: what he wants is not what he gets.
- Injustice : The Prince realizes that he is not alone in this world and that some people get more and better than him.
- Imprévisibilité : Unpredictability : accidents, assaults, dismissal … first unexpected traumas.
- Inevitability : death, disease … against which he can do nothing.
Faced with certain situations, the prince / princess will build negative beliefs about SOW (Self, Others and the World).
“It’s not good (not OK) to listen to your emotions, to your body.” “You must not make noise so as not to disturb others, not to show your joy too much, …”
When these messages become repetitive, we speak of binding messages. In transactional analysis we talk about drivers. “Be strong”, “Make fun”, “Be perfect”, “Make an effort”, …
Over time, the prince will come to terms with a kind of personal ‘mismatch’ that may limit him in the future.
The toad therefore represents the negative and deep beliefs that allow it to interpret the world, give it meaning and adapt to it.
But it’s a part of his personality that the prince will try to hide. A kind of guilt over his perceived inadequacy.
Front of the constraints of the world, and in order to realize his desires and fulfill his needs, the prince / princess will then adopt a mask.
The mask represents his beliefs about his social attitude to adopt. This mask allows him:
- to hide his inner toad (and his perceived inadequacies)
- to build his social identity (appearances; clothes, business card, etc.)
The construction of the Mask is unconscious. But this mask brings a feeling of security. Moreover, this attitude is often rewarded with positive signs of recognition from society.
Very often the Mask is perceived as genuine (authentic) by the prince / princess.
Finally, do you know the etymology of the word personality?
Persona: this term refers to the ancient theatrical mask, which was the interface between the actor, his role and the audience.
The personality is therefore going to be a mixture of his prince / princess, his toad and his mask. Is that what I call the V.Dic? model.
Vision : What I think I am
Desires : What I would like to be
Ideal : What I should be
Culture : What I have to be
What I am (?)
Learning to identify your prince behind the toad and the mask requires introspection. Learning to identify the prince in your interlocutors or relatives requires kindness.
The enneagram will allow us to sort through this identity trilogy. If each of us considers himself unique, nevertheless each of us also considers himself normal. That is to say responding to standards, accepted and benevolent behaviors.
These behaviors can be grouped into 9 personalities. The Enneagram speaks of 9 Enneatypes.
These behaviors can be automatic. Some are more or less aware. You don’t care anymore about it. Some can even be limiting.
It is the awareness of these behaviors that brings us to our essence. A more conscious, more flexible and more autonomous self.
9 profiles of personality
However, it is important not to shortcut or sketch out individuals and their personalities. As with the MBTI test, each individual has all nine Enneagram profiles within him or her, but does not develop them all in the same way.
Motivation : Perfection
Fear / Avoidance : Mistakes / own Anger (frustration)
People with profile 1 seek perfection, they aim for excellence. Their boundless involvement and righteousness may be perceived by others as rigidity or coldness. However, their unfailing seriousness makes them real models to follow.
Personal Quest ? Learn to be forgiving and patient with yourself and others.
Compulsion : Fear / Avoidance
Here is for example the profile of Stephan, who is a type 7.
Let’s take another example
Liam, Janet, Peter and Sharon are doing type 9
It is not because a person is of type 9, that he necessarily has all the characteristics of a type 9. What brings together all the enneatypes 9? It is their visceral fear of conflict. No one likes conflict. But for a type 9, this will be the priority criterion which will dictate his decisions. We call it a compulsion.
But a person who searches for his enneatype has a limited awareness of his compulsion. So it will instead focus on the behavioral characteristics of an enneatype.
This is one of the reasons why some people do not identify 100% in the description of their enneatype. And that’s normal.
- The person is aware and comfortable with certain personality traits that do not (or no longer) characterize him. We will then say that the person is “integrated”.
- On the other hand, each person is unique and is more than the reduction of 9 personality profiles.
- Finally, however, is this person well aware of all of these behaviors? of his compulsion? In this case, it is not always easy to accept an unconscious facet (The toad?, The mask?)
Be careful not to put people in a box.
This is the complete opposite of the ethics and the interest of the enneagram.
For example, type 9 is known for its cognitive stinginess. He likes simple things, harmony. He hates conflict (even more than everyone else).
We conducted a study in June 2020 (learn more about this study). If type 9 is generally distinguished by its cognitive avarice, certain types 9, on the contrary, have a strong need for cognition.
Anyone who seeks out quick, adequate solutions to problems rather than slow, careful ones. Despite this negative denotation, the term describes a general tendency among all people. That is as a rule, people tend to use mental shortcuts in making judgments and drawing inferences:
- I like simple things
- I often use (heuristic) shortcuts
- And I easily use social comparisons
Need for cognition refers to an individual’s tendency to engage in and enjoy activities that require thinking (e.g., brainstorming puzzles). It is defined as the need to make sense of the world. It is a matter of whether one likes to think, not whether one is good at thinking.
Janet may well be type 9, she doesn’t have a cognitive miser. It is quite the contrary.
Everyone is unique and can change. On the other hand, you cannot change your enneatype. You can just choose to be less influenced by your enneatype, as Amandine or Paul do.
Principles of the enneagram
As we have seen, we are made up of beliefs about ourselves, others and the world. In psychology we speak of cognitive schemes.
These beliefs will generate, according to the enneagram, compulsions and fixations that will characterize each of the 9 enneatypes.
For example, type 3 thinks that the world only recognizes those who achieve things, those who succeed. Also his compulsion (which he must avoid above all) is failure. And its fixation is its search for efficiency. This is why type 3 is called the performer or the beater.
These compulsions and fixations will focus our attention on certain information to the detriment of others. We speak of an attention filter. For example, type 6 who enters a room full of people will direct his attention to all the risks that this situation represents. Conversely, a type 7 will tend to focus his attention on identifying the nicest corner, where we have the most chance of having fun or taking pleasure. The motivations are different. This filter is carried out automatically, unconsciously. The person does not think about what he is doing. It has become instinctive.
* beware of the implicit theory of personality: we tend to attribute personality traits to someone, when the situation explains the behavior much better.
Passions and Virtues of the Enneagram
Becoming aware of these automatic behaviors allows more appropriate choices depending on the situation. Not being aware can lead us to the passions of the enneagram. Conversely, awareness allows us to develop what we call the virtues of the enneagram.
The enneagram allows everyone to get to know themselves better, to understand their modes of operation, to identify their fears, to find their motivations but also to identify the people who revolve around us in order to better interact with them.
Even if many tests are available online, nothing replaces the competence of a qualified coach who will be able to support you in this process. In general, when we discover the 9 Enneatypes, there is always one that speaks to us more than another. It’s very interesting to reveal yourself and surpass yourself.