The Beginner's Guide to Determining Your Enneagram Type

Tue Jul 11 2023

Ever felt misunderstood or did not understand something about someone else? A personality system called the Enneagram can help by offering a framework for understanding a person's core fears and motivations.

two Greek statues figuring out their Enneagram type

I remember how life was before I discovered my enneagram type. My wife and I often had disagreements we couldn’t resolve. We would argue about who was right, disagreeing over facts and trying to impose our versions of the truth on each other. We did not slow down to consider each other’s perspectives when we felt right about something. The Enneagram helped us slow down, and we used it as a tool to see into each other’s inner world. We used it to resolve our one conflict and continue to use it, which has helped us become more of a team.

In this guide, I’ll simplify the complex world of the Enneagram. I’ll show you exactly how to determine your type so that you can understand yourself and others better.

Enneagram Overview

What is an Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality system that identifies “types” or archetypes based on coping mechanisms (aka survival strategies) we developed due to unresolved childhood traumas.

For example, a child who was constantly criticized may grow up to be an adult who second-guesses their every decision, never believing their efforts are reasonable enough. A child who grew up in a chaotic environment might cope by distracting themselves, always looking on the bright side of things, and avoiding uncomfortable or painful situations.

Now that you understand what an Enneagram is, it’s time to delve deeper into how you can determine your type.

Steps to Determining Your Enneagram

Identify Your Core Emotion

The first step in identifying your enneagram type is understanding the three core emotions that form your “type”: anger, fear, and shame. Ask yourself which of these emotions comes up for you the most in daily life. You either feel that emotion and use it to motivate you, think that emotion and push it away, or feel that emotion constantly in the back of your head. Another way to get at that emotion would be to ask which emotion you have the most accessible access to. Or if someone else was feeling anger, fear, or shame, which emotion would be easiest for you to empathize with?

Understand the Connection Between Emotions and Centers of Intelligence

In the Enneagram, these core emotions relate to centers of intelligence. Fear relates to intellectual intelligence, shame to emotional intelligence, and anger to instinctual intelligence. Understanding this connection can help you better understand your reactions and behaviors.

Identify Your Type

After identifying your core emotion, the next step is to identify your type. There are three types per core emotion, each one handles the core emotion differently. One type uses emotion actively as a form of empowerment or motivation. Another type suppresses the emotion actively, attempting to escape the uncomfortable feeling. And the last class has the emotion unconsciously influencing them from the background. Determine your style within the core emotion you identify with the most by examining the core motivation and fear.

Type 1 - The Reformer/ Perfectionist

  • Core Motivation: Desire to be good, ethical, and correct.
  • Core Fear: Being corrupt, defective, or imperfect.
More on type One

Type 2 - The Helper

  • Core Motivation: Desire to be loved and appreciated.
  • Core Fear: Being unwanted, unloved, or dispensable.
More on type Twp

Type 3 - The Achiever

  • Core Motivation: Desire to be successful and admired.
  • Core Fear: Being worthless, unsuccessful, or unimportant.
More on type Three

Type 4 - The Individualist

  • Core Motivation: Desire to be unique, authentic, and understood.
  • Core Fear: Having no identity or personal significance.
More on type Four

Type 5 - The Investigator

  • Core Motivation: Desire to be knowledgeable and competent.
  • Core Fear: Being helpless, useless, or overwhelmed.
More on type Five

Type 6 - The Loyalist

  • Core Motivation: Desire for security and support.
  • Core Fear: Without guidance, support, or security.
More on type Six

Type 7 - The Enthusiast

  • Core Motivation: Desire to be satisfied and content.
  • Core Fear: Being deprived, trapped, or in pain.
More on type Seven

Type 8 - The Challenger

  • Core Motivation: Desire to protect themselves and control their lives.
  • Core Fear: Being harmed, controlled, or violated.
More on type Eight

Type 9 - The Peacemaker

  • Core Motivation: Desire for peace and harmony.
  • Core Fear: Conflict, tension, or disconnection.
More on type Nine

Consider Your Childhood Wounds

Many enneagram teachers discuss how your type develops due to a childhood wound. Something happened in your past that still affects you, and you are compensating for it somehow. It could be many things: Your parent did or didn’t do something, a specific incident happened, your environment was skewed a certain way, a sibling or friend treated you a certain way, or you were constantly told a particular message. Understanding these wounds can help you better understand your enneagram type.

Examine the Connecting Lines on the Enneagram

Once you think you’ve identified your type, look at the connecting lines on the Enneagram. These represent where each type goes in times of stress or comfort, also known as the path of integration (growth/ comfort) and the path of disintegration (destruction/stress).

Path of Integration (Growth): This is the direction we move when growing, feeling secure, or operating out of our higher selves. We take on some of the positive traits of another type. For example, when a Type Eight (The Challenger) is moving toward growth, they take on some of the positive characteristics of a Type Two (The Helper), becoming more open-hearted and caring.

Path of Disintegration (Stress): This is the direction we move when we are under stress or operating out of our lower selves. We take on some of the negative traits of another type. For example, when a Type Eight is under stress, they take on some of the negative characteristics of a Type Five (The Investigator), becoming more withdrawn and secretive.

Enneagram integration lines

Here’s how it works for each type:

  • Type 1 moves towards Type 7 in growth and Type 4 in stress.
  • Type 2 moves towards Type 4 in growth and Type 8 in stress.
  • Type 3 moves towards Type 6 in growth and Type 9 in stress.
  • Type 4 moves towards Type 1 in growth and Type 2 in stress.
  • Type 5 moves towards Type 8 in growth and Type 7 in stress.
  • Type 6 moves towards Type 9 in growth and Type 3 in stress.
  • Type 7 moves towards Type 5 in growth and Type 1 in stress.
  • Type 8 moves towards Type 2 in growth and Type 5 in stress.
  • Type 9 moves towards Type 3 in growth and Type 6 in stress.

Avoid the Common Pitfall

Be aware of the common pitfall of identifying with the type you idealize rather than who you are. Consider your natural tendencies and daily behaviors.

By following these steps, you should be on your way to determining your enneagram type. Remember, this is a journey of self-discovery, and it may take time to understand your kind fully. Be patient with yourself and the process.

The following section will delve deeper into each enneagram type, their core emotions, and their associated childhood wounds.

Diving into the childhood wounds of each Enneagram Type

Type 1- The Perfectionist

  • Core Emotion: Anger
  • Childhood Wound: Ones often felt disconnected from the protective figure in their life. This could have been due to the parent needing to be more focused, overly strict, or lenient. Ones made themselves their judges and critics, developing their strict code of ethics and rules to cope.

More on type 1s

Type 2- The Helper

  • Core Emotion: Shame
  • Childhood Wound: Twos felt a lack of nurturing, guidance, or structure came from the protective figure. They developed the underlying feeling that they could only earn love through selflessness, goodness, and repression of their needs.

More on type 2s

Type 3- The Achiever

  • Core Emotion: Shame
  • Childhood Wound: Threes felt deeply connected to the nurturing figure in their life but sensed that they were loved or valued for their achievements rather than who they were. They worked hard to gain approval through achievements.

More on type 3s

Type 4- The Individualist

  • Core Emotion: Shame
  • Childhood Wound: Fours felt disconnected from both parental figures. They felt their parents didn’t see them for who they were. They tried early on to accept what made them different.

More on type 4s

Type 5- The Investigator

  • Core Emotion: Fear
  • Childhood Wound: Fives felt ambivalent towards their parental figures. They felt like “odd ducks,” forever on the outside looking in. Fives retreated from the outside world to cope and focused on mastering a unique subject of interest.

More on type 5s

Type 6- The Loyalist

  • Core Emotion: Fear
  • Childhood Wound: Sixes felt connected to the protective figure in their home but internalized their relationship with this figure and learned to depend on them for security or guidance rather than trusting their inner voice.

More on type 6s

Type 7- The Enthusiast

  • Core Emotion: Fear
  • Childhood Wound: Sevens felt disconnected from the nurturing figure in their home. To deal with this, Sevens learned to focus on “transitional objects” or toys and activities that would feed the emptiness inside.

More on type 7s

Type 8- The Challenger

  • Core Emotion: Anger
  • Childhood Wound: Eights felt ambivalent towards the nurturing figure in their home. They decided to grow up quickly because they felt that by showing vulnerability or “softness,” they would be hurt, rejected, or betrayed.

More on type 8s

Type 9- The Peacemaker

  • Core Emotion: Anger
  • Childhood Wound: Nines felt connected to both parents but learned to “tune out” the problems and try to numb themselves to the conflict inside. They learned to numb themselves to pain, deny their feelings, and stay in the background.

More on type 9s

Wrapping Up

You now have a tool better to understand your thought patterns, emotions, and behaviors. Use what serves you, disregard what does not, but return later. It’s not just about personal development; it’s also about understanding others and having empathy in understanding how they became who they are.

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