The Nine Enneagram Types

As you consider the type names on the diagram above, a couple of things are important to understand right away:

1. No type is better or worse than any other. You will most likely be aware of certain preferences already, but one of the wonderful things about the Enneagram is how it levels the playing field and continually reminds us of our common humanity. We use the type names to get started, but as soon as possible we begin to refer to the types by number instead of name because numbers are neutral. It's is not better to be a One or a Nine, for example; it's just different.

2. Each type represents a continuum of attitudes and behaviors from healthy to unhealthy, from expansive and life-enhancing to constricted and compulsive, and our state of being shifts along this continuum all the time. So each type can be delightful and each type can be dreadful-- bringing us back to point #1, that no type is better or worse than any other.

I like to think about our "dominant Enneagram type" like this: Each of us is passionately in love with a particular aspect of human nature and seeks to embody that as best we can.

For example, although we universally appreciate wonderful human qualities such as integrity, kindness, self-esteem, creativity, intelligence, trustworthiness, joyfulness, strength, and peacefulness, each of us is compelled to become some of these more than others, and one above all the rest.

Unfortunately our compulsion to become these qualities often backfires. Our "personality type" is actually made up of all the ways we are trying too hard to be what we already are, as well as how we try to hide all the ways we fear we fall short. We turn our innate human birthright into fixed "social roles" or "self-images"-- how we want to see ourselves, who we think we are or who we think we must be in order to be loved, to be secure, to have a good life.

Accurate and detailed type profiles are important to Enneagram work, and you will learn about them if you come to my classes or private sessions. Here, however, I wish to offer you a brief, tantalizing glimpse into the true nature of each of the nine types, to give you a sense of the depth and richness of the Enneagram system. In other words, I want you to sense the beauty of the forest before we begin finding our way through the trees.

In-depth character profiles of the nine types, common misidentifications, and  type-related relationship issues are available at www.enneagraminstitute.com.

For me, one of the greatest gifts of learning the Enneagram has been coming to understand the tremendous courage and resilience of every human being, regardless of life history or circumstance.

I wrote these descriptions after meditating on what I see in the hearts of my friends, family, and acquaintances now that I understand the Enneagram. I am writing here about "regular" people, not enlightened masters or famous gurus, because I don't know any of those personally-- and I don't need to, since I encounter the best of human nature every day, now that I understand what it looks like!

It is not an exaggeration to say that I experience the world very differently than I did before I understood the Enneagram. I describe below what I now see in my fellow human beings, and even in myself, whenever I am awake enough to see. As you read, I invite you to really look inside yourself for ways that all nine types are true for you. There will be plenty of time later to figure out which one describes you best.

Type One: The Reformer

The Reformer is the part of us with the wisdom and willingness to create order out of chaos and serenity out of strife. Here we find our conscience, our integrity, our longing to align ourselves with a higher purpose. It's the part of us that is heartbroken about corruption and carelessness in the world, yet somehow has the willingness to show up, roll up our sleeves, and "do the next right thing" to the very best of our ability.

Type Two: The Helper

The Helper is the part of us that understands the power of love to heal the brokenness of the world. Here we find our kindness, our generosity and empathy, and our ability to form loving connections with others. It's the part of us that is heartbroken over human selfishness and callousness, yet somehow has the willingness to keep offering our love, regardless of how we have been hurt in the past.

Type Three: The Achiever

The Achiever is the part of us that appreciates the intrinsic value of each human life as utterly precious. Here we find our drive to develop our talents through dedicated practice, not for acclaim but for the pure joy of becoming who we are truly meant to be. It's the part of us that is heartbroken about the wasting of human potential we see all around us, yet somehow has the willingness to keep cheering each other on toward our true magnificence.

Type Four: The Individualist

The Individualist is the part of us that seeks to know who we really are and why we are here, and to creatively express our uniqueness. Here we find our longing for the Truth that lies beneath the surface of daily life, our connection to the personal and collective unconscious that is the wellspring of our creativity and our humanness. This is the part of us that is heartbroken about the emotional suffering that humans cause themselves, yet somehow has the willingness to dive right into the heart of that suffering in order to release it. 

Type Five: The Investigator

The Investigator is the part of us that loves the crisp bright clarity of understanding something as deeply and widely and truthfully as possible. Here we find insatiable curiosity, penetrating intelligence, and provocative questioning of the status quo. This is the part of us that is heartbroken about the ignorance, short-sightedness, and ego-centric delusion that leads to so many problems in the world, yet somehow has the willingness to keep tinkering with the machinery, finding practical solutions, and making new discoveries.

Type Six: The Loyalist

The Loyalist is the part of us that knows our true place in the greater scheme of things, and is able to act according to an unshakeable sense of trust that we are on the right track, even if the details are not yet clear. Here we find dedication, devotion, surrender, and joyful service to something greater than ourselves. This is the part of us that is heartbroken at the persistent failure of human beings to really be there for one another, yet somehow has the willingness to keep the faith, to be that solid ground that so often seems lacking in the world.

Type Seven: The Enthusiast

The Enthusiast is the part of us that remembers to celebrate the experience of being human as the precious gift that it is. Here we find the contagious joy that arises from a deep appreciation of the wonder of this moment. This is the part of us that is heartbroken about anything and everything in this world that limits our ability to be happy and free, yet somehow has the willingness to keep the light of optimism burning, no matter how great the darkness.

Type Eight: The Challenger

The Challenger is the part of us that has the strength and power to take a stand-- for a cause, on behalf of another, or for our own self-respect. Here we find our ability to be direct, honest, and unapologetic about how we see things and what really matters. This is the part of us that is heartbroken at the way the innocents of the world are victimized by those in power, and even more heartbroken at our own lost innocence, yet somehow has the willingness to "speak truth to power"-- to put ourselves on the line for what we believe in.

Type Nine: The Peacemaker

The Peacemaker is the part of us that has the ability to embrace all of reality exactly as it is, with a serene acceptance and receptivity toward everything that arises. Here we find a tremendous, yet quiet, power: the power of holding everything with love. This is the part of us that is heartbroken over the divisions in the world, the endless painful ways that humans separate themselves from each other, from the natural world, and from their own inner being. Yet somehow we have the willingness to keep participating in life, offering our gifts of kindness, understanding, and peace as best we can, moment by moment.

Eager to learn more about the Enneagram?