Today I received a message from a friend I recently introduced to the Enneagram, along with a screen shot of her daily Enneathought email. “What have you done to me? This is calling me out on my shit BIG TIME.” she wrote. Yep, the Enneagram will do that, and that’s why I love studying this healing modality of transformational psychology so much.

I discovered the Enneagram in 2013 when I came to a point where I seemed to be repeating the same mistakes over and over. Different people, different scenarios, but at the root, the same problem. I was looking for some answers: what compelled me to always be searching, never satisfied with the present? Why was I so critical? Why did I have grass is always greener syndrome? And how the hell could I stop this behaviour that was so destructive to myself and my relationships? The Enneagram gave me tools to get some perspective on the patterns in my life that were keeping me from happiness, divine connection and being at ease on this planet.

When I’m asked about the Enneagram, I describe it as getting a bird’s-eye view on your own blindspot of bullshit. Those things our partner or best friend could list about us that we may be totally oblivious to. “When the going get’s tough, she sticks her head in the sand and numbs out”, “Under pressure, he becomes so moody, I have to walk on eggshells” or “Why is she so caught up in how she appears to the world?”. Imagine getting perspective on those patterns you unconsciously repeat.

How would that feel? Light. Free. Real.

The Enneagram is a dynamic, layered system that encourages honesty with oneself. Observation and awareness of behavioural patterns are encouraged over trying to change and strive. Instead of personal growth, I see the Enneagram as a tool to gently strip back the layers of defensive behaviour and psychic dirt from our ego to create a connection with our soul, our true self. A slow spiritual striptease indeed!

Now, I am very much a student, NOT a teacher of the Enneagram (though I hope to be one day). I’ve had quite a few friends, especially those who are interested in spirituality, ask me about my fascination with the Enneagram and many have said I should write a little somethin’ somethin’ as an intro.

So like a child in Year 2 showing a child in Year 1 around school on the first day, here is my guide to the Enneagram for absolute beginners.

The Enneagram is described as personality system. You’ll often hear Enneagram teachers say “My personality is a Type 1” instead of “I am a Type 1”. This is to differentiate from the ego (the personality) and the soul (the I AM).

The different personality types have different numbers from 1 to 9. It’s no better to be a 1 than a 9. Likewise, there are no ‘good’ types or ‘bad’ types – all have their strengths and their difficulties. No type has it easier than the other.

Your personality will be ONE number. As you are a human being, you’ll most probably relate to many, if not all, the types, but you’ll find that one type sticks out. When you read the description of the type your personality is at, you may feel simultaneous feelings of relief (“Oh my god, I’m not the only one who does this.”) and a sick to the stomach sensation (“Oh yeah. I so do that. This is so cutting.”). A strong reaction is totally normal and it’s a pretty good indication that you’ve found your type. 

You don’t change your type over time, but you can move from being in the shadow parts of your type to average levels and to healthy levels. Sometimes this can happen moment to moment! I like to think of these changes like a volume slider on a stereo. For me, the Enneagram isn’t about denying the ego, but developing compassion for where I, and others, become stuck in the small self. It’s really pointing out our cave of defensiveness we retreat into when we feel like life isn’t going our way.

 If you get into the Enneagram, there are many layers to look into – wings (the numbers either side of your type), instinctual variants, directions of integration and disintegration, body, heart and head types – to name just a few areas of exploration.

How do I find out my personality type?

You take a test! I recommend doing the Riso Hudson Long Test which takes around 40 minutes and costs US$12/£8. There are free tests you can do here and here.

Answer the questions as if you were your 17 year old self (especially if you’ve done a lot of therapy or consciousness work). Answer the questions honestly and without idealising yourself. 

Read the descriptions of your top three results. Just because you got the highest score in in Type 7 doesn’t necessarily mean you are a Type 7. It’s important to read the top three results and take some time to reflect on which type feels true and honest to you. If you’re really struggling with this, sit with the results for a few weeks and see what speaks to you. Or ask someone who knows you really well – your beautiful parts as well as your ugly parts – and ask them to read over your top three results weigh in.

That being said, if you really get into the Enneagram, don’t go around telling your friends and family what you think their type is. The Enneagram is about SELF discovery and SELF awareness. For example, just because someone is an artist doesn’t necessarily mean they are a Type 4 (often called ‘The Artist’). It has been suggested that Pablo Picasso, was a Type 8. We can all behave in similar ways, but the Enneagram encourages us to examine our motivation behind our behaviour.

It’s important to keep in mind when you are figuring out your type that women are often socialised to be Type 2 in their behaviour and men are socialised to be like Type 8.  This doesn’t mean you can’t be a female Type 2 or a male Type 8 but it’s worth being aware: is this truly you? Or more of a socialised you? (I’m speaking here from experience. In my first test, my highest score was in Type 2 but it didn’t seem like the best fit. I read over my top three results and found my type with some helpful insight from my man).

Different teachers call the types different names. For example, Type 9 is known as The Visionary, The Orchestrator, The Peacekeeper, The Mediator or The Dreamer depending on who you’re reading.

Here’s an ultra brief look over the different types:

Type 1: seeks to find love by being morally perfect and controlled.

Type 2: seeks to find love by being caring and putting others first.

Type 3: seeks to find love by achieving and being the best.

Type 4: seeks to find love by being unique and sensitive.

Type 5: seeks to find love by being knowledgeable and enigmatic.

Type 6: seeks to find love by creating security and being responsible.

Type 7: seeks to find love by constantly searching for it.

Type 8: seeks to find love by asserting oneself and being powerful.

Type 9: seeks to find love by being tranquil and easy going.

I say “seeks to find love” because it’s like we’ve all bought into an erroneous idea that we have to behave a particular way to deserve love (from ourselves, our souls, lovers, friends and family). You can find more detailed descriptions on each type here.

Great! I have my type. Now what?

One of the most helpful things I’ve found in the three years I’ve been studying the Enneagram is receiving the daily Enneathought emails from the Enneagram Institute. The emails are only a couple of sentences long and are a kind, compassionate kick up the arse, lovingly calling out your ego and asking you to bring awareness to your automatic behaviours. You can sign up here. 

In Person Workshops:

Workshops are perfect if you’re reading to go really deep in your personal Enneagram understanding, as well as learning what motivates other Enneagram types. I’m about to attend my third Enneagram course taught by Dr Robert Holden, a brilliant open hearted teacher who focuses on happiness, spirituality and transformation.

Books to Peruse:

The Wisdom of the Enneagram: Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson – a great book to start your Enneagram exploration with; easy to follow, yet thorough.

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson – my favourite book on the Enneagram, very in-depth without getting lost in jargon.

The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul Paperback by Sandra Maitri – I wouldn’t recommend this for a first book on the Enneagram, but if you are familiar with the Enneagram, this is a profound book that explores the Enneagram on a soul level.

Enneatype Structures: Self Analysis for the Seeker by Claudio Naranjo – the author was taught by the foremost teacher of the modern Enneagram system Oscar Ichazo. This is a dense, intense and incredibly interesting book if you are an Ennea-geek (like me!).

Websites to explore:

www.enneagraminstitute.com – your one stop Enneagram site.

http://beatricechestnut.com/blog/ – if you are interested in learning more about the instinctual variants (Social, Self Preservation, Sexual).

http://www.enneagram.net/ – feel like you are a Type 2, a Type 7 and a Type 9 all in one? The Enneagram Tritype may be of interest for you.

The Enneagram has created such dramatic and lasting transformation in my life, I’d hate to think where I’d be without it. I can unequivocally say I feel that the Enneagram gave me the keys to walk out of a self-made prison. It’s enabled me to have so much more compassion for myself and others. 

Liberation. Empowerment. Awareness. Expansion.

Enjoy deep diving into your soul!

All the love possible,

Sophia (And now the big reveal: I’m at Type 4.)