The Enneagram

Wait, don’t leave! I know this symbol might look a bit crazy, but I promise, the Enneagram is actually a great tool for accessing a deeper understanding of yourself and others!

The Enneagram is a typology model based around 9 interconnected personality types. Each of these types has a core defense mechanism they developed early in their life that shapes the way they move through the world. Each type can be further understood and differentiated through its connection points on the symbol (connection points), adjacent numbers on the outer circle (wings), and additional number patterns the individual uses to maintain their sense of self (trifix).

Triads

The Enneagram is considered in parts of 3 triads or centers which represent the different parts of the body and their central emotion. The Head (fear), the Heart (shame), and the Body (anger). This is referred to as the Centers of Intelligence. The types within each of these triads either control, deny, or express the dominant emotion of each triad.

Types One, Nine, and Eight are the Body or Gut types. These types have a central relationship surrounding anger. Ones control their anger, forming an inner critic which drives them towards perfection and high standards. Nines deny their anger, they avoid expressing this feeling and instead seek peaceful resolutions by diffusing conflicts. Eights express their anger, moving more forcefully through their environment and confronting conflict head on.

Types Four, Three, and Two are the Heart types. These types have a central relationship with shame. Fours control their shame, turning inward, and focusing on how this makes them unique. Threes deny their shame, moving into action to prove their worth and achieve measurable levels of success. Twos express their shame by giving to others, convincing themselves that they are worthy of love.

Types Five, Six, and Seven are the Head types. These types have a central relationship with fear. Fives fear the outer world, turning inward and seeking understanding so that they can reengage with the world armed with knowledge. Sixes experience fear as variations of anxiety and are constantly on the search for something which will allow them to feel safe and secure, be it systems, groups, or beliefs. Sevens fear their own inner world, instead seeking constant pleasure and possibilities from the world around them, on the run from feelings of deprivation and pain.

In addition to the Centers of Intelligence Triad, there are some additional ways of slicing the Enneagram into sets of 3 which further differentiate and describe each of the types in relation to one another.

Centers of Intelligence – central emotion of concern
234 – Heart/Image
567 – Head/Fear
891 – Gut/Anger

Harmonic Triad – how conflict is handled
468 – Reactive
279 – Positive
135 – Competency
Learn more

Hornevian Groups – how wants and needs are met
378 – Assertive
126 – Compliance/Super-ego
459 – Withdrawn

Object Relations – how we affect or are affected by outer relations
369 – Attachment
147 – Frustration
258 – Rejection

Each type seeks after an ideal. The type’s pattern becomes most obvious when this ideal is under threat. Their pattern will emerge to ensure that they can maintain the ideal.

Body

One
Seeker of Integrity

Nine
Seeker of Peace

Eight
Seeker of Power

Heart

Two
Seeker of Love

Three
Seeker of Merit

Four
Seeker of Significance

Five
Seeker of Knowledge

Six
Seeker of Security

Seven
Seeker of Satisfaction

It is helpful to think of each type as seeking these ideals because these each type is approaching life through the lens of their type, seeking out their ideal first and foremost as they move forward in life. However, maintaining these ideals can also hold us back. We fear stepping outside of our comfort zone and into what may challenge our patterns.

Connection Points

Each type has two numbers on the Enneagram they are connected to. These have been referred to as growth and stress points, but the modern interpretation is that these points can be accessed both positively and negatively.

One – 7 and 4

Nine – 3 and 6

Eight – 2 and 5

Seven – 5 and 1

Six – 9 and 3

Five – 8 and 7

Four – 1 and 2

Three – 6 and 9

Two – 4 and 8

Note that 3, 6, and 9 all connect to only each other in a triangle, while the rest of the numbers form a unique shape referred to as the hexad with the remaining 6 points (hex = 6).

Wings

Each type on the Enneagram is adjacent to two other numbers on the circle of the Enneagram. A type will often be complimented by and associate with one of these numbers, adding an additional dynamic to the core personality type. This complimentary number is then called the wing. Their core type will be colored and expressed in relation to this wing. You might think of the wing as a tool with which the type leverages to further the agenda of their core number.

One – 2 or 9

Nine – 1 or 8

Eight – 7 or 9

Seven – 6 or 8

Six – 5 or 7

Five – 4 or 6

Four – 3 or 5

Three – 2 or 4

Two – 1 or 3

As you can see, these are fairly easy to figure out since the wing options are either plus one or minus one from the core type, except in the case of 1 and 9 which can each have each other as a wing.

Type Nine can have either a One wing or an Eight wing. A Nine with a One wing (9w1) will seek peace by trying to be good and controlled. A Nine with an Eight wing (9w8) will seek peace by tapping into their strength and power.

other types coming soon…

Instincts

There is a component of the Enneagram known as the Instincts. There are 3 instincts and a type will generally prefer one of the three over the others. They are the self preservation instinct, the sexual instinct, and the social instinct.

Types which prefer the self-preservation instinct focus on the physical body and its safety. These types are first and foremost prioritizing their own comfort and managing their resources to ensure stability.

Types which prefer the sexual instinct focus on attraction dynamics and what incites arousal and repulsion in others. They are focused on this energetic quality and trying to hook others through their particular brand of attraction.

Types which prefer the social instinct focus on the connections they are forming between themselves and others. These types want to make an impact on those around them and whoever they consider to be part of their social circle and generate increased social cohesion.

Depending on the Enneagram teachers, the stressed importance of the instincts can vary significantly. One view is that the instincts color the core 9 types, creating 27 subtypes. This is the view held by popular teacher Beatrice Chestnut among others. Another perspective is that the core type is actually adopted as a means to meet our instinctual needs. This perspective rejects the idea of subtypes (particularly counter-types) since the core type is always in service of the instinctual needs and thus a subconscious strategy adapted to fulfill those needs.

You can read more about each of the instinctual needs at Enneagrammer.com.

Instinctual Stackings

Each type has a primary instinctual need, but that doesn’t mean the other two needs don’t matter! The instinctual needs are prioritized into what is referred to as an Instinctual Stacking or simply stacking for short.

Instinct stackings are generally written in a short form abbreviation for each of the instincts where Social = so, Self-Preservation = sp, and Sexual = sx. The first and second instinct is separated by a slash while the third is omitted.

Dominant – Our primary instinctual drive, so integral to our experience that we cannot imagine life without it or separate ourselves from it. The thirst for this need is such that we often end up overdoing this instinct.

Playground – A secondary instinctual drive where the stakes feel lowered. An exploration area that is often used to support the primary instinct. This need is generally our most balanced and causes us less “big” problems.

Blind-spot – The third instinctual drive is something we often put off and ignore as of significant less importance than our other needs. This need might even be seen as a potential disruptor to our dominant needs, but in keeping this need at a distance problems may arise from that lack of attention.

Instinct stackings are typically written as shown below as abbreviations with a slash in between. The first instinct being the dominant, the second the playground, and the excluded as the blind-spot. Ex: so/sp = Social Dominant, Self-Preservation Playground, and Sexual Blind-spot.

so/sp

so/sx

sp/sx

sp/so

sx/so

sx/sp

so/sp – teasing out what we can connect on, building a structure behind relationships, creating staying power, uniting others around a project, assigning roles and uniforms, crafting a stable sense of character which reflects their social values

so/sx – teasing out where we can ignite sparks together, finding “drug dealers” in different spots they can go to and get their “hits” of something juicy, unrestricted by the stability of sp, creating a chaotic flurry of sparks

sx/sp – adding longevity to the sexual instinct, enhancing attraction with abilities, taking care of self, putting self out there as a physical object to admire, one the ground pursuit with no social boundary

sx/so – sexual instinct made palatable and on display for a wider audience, attention, charm, charisma, a glossy idealized flame behind a glass, look but do not touch, a god/goddess figure pulling in others to aid with lack of sp

sp/so – earthly exploration expanded by the social instinct, sharing and exchanging of resources, enhancing safety and comfort through mutual benefit, uniting against the chaotic nature of the sexual instinct, keep that out of our sacred homes

sp/sx – turning sexual instinct back onto one’s own interests, bringing passion and intensity towards one’s own resources and environment, “high on your own supply”, no need to go out and interact since we have everything we need right here

You can read more about each of the instinctual stackings at Enneagrammer.com.

Synflow & Contraflow

Depending on the order of the instinctual stackings the fall into one of two categories, either Synflow or Contraflow.

Synflow: sp/so -> so/sx -> sx/sp :: Compelled toward people/participation/involvement
– Opening doors, drawing people in

Contraflow: sp/sx —> sx/so —> so/sp  ::  Compelled against and/or away from people
– Not going with the flow of things, turning away

This is a really interesting topic than can have some sharp distinctions and add a lot of depth to the different instinctual stackings. Learn more about Synflow & Contraflow.

This is an idea from the mind of David Gray. Read more about Synflow and Contraflow on his website, Enneasite.com.

Trifix

In addition to a core type in one of the three centers, each type on the Enneagram will have a core fixation in each of the additional two centers.

These additional two types supplement the core type and are the type’s core strategy for maintaining self in each center. Each is described below in brief, but this is just the beginning on this topic.

Heart Fixation – how one maintains their self-image
Two – caring for others, expressing positive emotions
Three – accomplishments and work ethic
Four – distinguishing self through disappointment and negativity

Head Fixation – how one compensates for not knowing and seeking understanding
Five – detached conceptualizing and focus
Six – seeking guidance and structure
Seven – exploring possibilities

Gut Fixation – how one maintains boundaries and distance
Eight – pushing outward, driving energy
Nine – diffusion and disassociation
One – self control and high standards

A trifix is typically referred to in its specific order or stacking. For example a core 9 might have a 6 fix in the head center and a 3 fix in the heart center. They would then have a trifix order of 963 or 936 depending on which fixation comes first in their stacking.

A trifix combination is a combination of 3 numbers in a trifix regardless of their order. Trifix combinations have a specific feel to them regardless of which number is first. This is do to the interaction between the numbers in each trifix. These connections/lines are referred to as trifix stems. You can read more on each stem at Enneagrammer.com.

Since each trifix combination has a specific feel or flavor to them, we can name and describe each of them. The Big Hormone Enneagram podcast did just that in their Trifix Roast series. I’ve captured some notes on each trifix and added them here on the trifix combinations page if you’d like to learn more.

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