Type 1 - The Reformer/ Perfectionist
- Core Motivation: Desire to be good, ethical, and correct.
- Core Fear: Being corrupt, defective, or imperfect.
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.
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 not only to resolve our one conflict, but we 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.
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 and always looking on the bright side of things, 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.
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, feel 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?
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.
After identifying your core emotion, the next step is to identify your type. There are three types per core emotion, and 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 type within the core emotion you identify with the most by examining the core motivation and fear.
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.
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.
Here’s how it works for each type:
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 type fully. Be patient with yourself and the process.
In the next section, we will delve deeper into each enneagram type, their core emotions, and their associated childhood wounds.
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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