Enneagram vs Myers-Briggs: A Comprehensive Exploration

DJ Wayne djwayne3 Twitter Sun Jul 16 2023

people walking in opposite directions

To understand one's personality, is to understand a complex combination of characteristics, behaviors, and motives. It remains one of the most fascinating realms of human knowledge. Two popular frameworks that endeavor to decode this mystery are Enneagram and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Despite their common goal of illuminating human personality, these systems differ markedly in their methodologies, underlying principles, and typologies. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the depths of both systems, their origins, key concepts, and how they relate to one another.

TL;DR: Overview of the Enneagram vs Myers-Briggs
  • Enneagram and Myers-Briggs Comparison: Enneagram and Myers-Briggs are both personality systems, but they explore different facets. While Myers-Briggs focuses on cognitive functions and how we perceive and judge the world, Enneagram is about core fears, desires, and motivations.
  • Understanding Enneagram: Enneagram types are determined by fears and desires. It consists of nine distinct personality types, each showcasing a distinct way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
  • Understanding Myers-Briggs: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) categorizes personalities into 16 types based on four dichotomies: Extroversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving.
  • Practical Applications: Both systems provide insight into personal and professional relationships, career paths, and personal growth strategies. While Myers-Briggs helps understand how we process information and make decisions, Enneagram helps understand our core motivations and emotional coping mechanisms.

The Enneagram: A Voyage Through Its Origin and Basics

The Enneagram is an ancient personality system believed to have roots in several spiritual and wisdom traditions. It presents a profound framework for self-understanding and serves as a roadmap for personal growth.

The Historical Roots of Enneagram

The Enneagram’s origins are a subject of much debate, with theories pointing to early Christianity, Sufism, and even more ancient roots in Babylonian or Pythagorean philosophies. Despite its elusive historical beginnings, the modern Enneagram of Personality owes much to the spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff, psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, and the author Oscar Ichazo. More on the Enneagram origins here.

Key Concepts and Structure of Enneagram

At the heart of the Enneagram system lies a nine-pointed geometric figure that maps out nine fundamental personality types. Each of these types is associated with a specific pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

The Nine Enneagram Types

The nine types of Enneagram are:

Each of these types offers a distinct lens through which individuals view the world and navigate their lives. The Enneagram goes further to describe the direction of growth and stress for each type, indicating that our behaviors can change based on our mental and emotional states.

Centers of Intelligence in Enneagram

Enneagram theory identifies three centers of intelligence - the Gut, Heart, and Head centers. Each center encompasses three of the Enneagram types and represents a core human emotion. The Gut center, related to instinct and autonomy, includes Types 8, 9, and 1. The Heart center, associated with identity and image, comprises Types 2, 3, and 4. The Head center, linked to thinking and fear, incorporates Types 5, 6, and 7.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

MBTI, a popular and scientifically applied personality framework, traces its origins to the mid-20th century. The brainchild of Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, MBTI was heavily influenced by the psychological theories of Carl Jung.

The Emergence of MBTI

Katharine Briggs’s fascination with personality differences led to the inception of MBTI. She collaborated with her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, to develop a personality inventory that would help individuals understand themselves and others better. The MBTI, as we know it today, was formally published in 1962.

Foundational Elements of MBTI

The MBTI posits that our personalities are made up of preferences across four dimensions or dichotomies. These include:

  • Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

The Sixteen MBTI Types

From the combination of these dichotomies arise 16 distinctive MBTI personality types. Each type is denoted by a four-letter code, such as INTJ or ESFP, which reflects an individual’s preferences.

The Eight Cognitive Functions of MBTI

The MBTI also introduces the concept of cognitive functions, which are mental processes that each personality type prefers to use. There are eight cognitive functions, composed of a combination of a dichotomy from Sensing-Intuition and Thinking-Feeling, along with an orientation from Extraversion-Introversion. For example, Extraverted Thinking (Te) or Introverted Intuition (Ni).

Enneagram vs Myers-Briggs: A Comparative Analysis

While both Enneagram and MBTI are instrumental in personality understanding, they contrast in their approaches, depth of exploration, and interpretation of personality.

The Approach: Motivation vs Cognition

The Enneagram digs deep into an individual’s core motivations, desires, fears, and defenses, providing insights into why people behave the way they do. In contrast, MBTI concentrates on how people perceive the world and make decisions, focusing on cognitive processes more than underlying motivations.

The Depth: Dynamic vs Static

Another major difference is the dynamic nature of the Enneagram against the relative static nature of MBTI. In the Enneagram system, each type has varying degrees of health, and individuals may act more like other types when they’re growing or under stress. On the other hand, MBTI focuses on stable, inherent preferences and does not account for fluctuations in an individual’s behavior or personality under varying conditions.

The Intersection of Enneagram and MBTI

While Enneagram and MBTI are fundamentally different systems, they can intersect and complement each other, providing a richer, more nuanced understanding of personality. Some researchers have suggested correlations between specific Enneagram and MBTI types, but it’s important to treat these as broad trends rather than strict rules.

Choosing Between Enneagram and MBTI

Deciding which system to use primarily depends on the aspect of personality one aims to explore. The Enneagram, with its focus on motivations and emotional coping mechanisms, can be particularly useful in personal development and therapeutic contexts. MBTI, with its emphasis on cognitive processes, is often used in career counseling, team building, and enhancing interpersonal communication.

Conclusion: Enneagram vs Myers-Briggs

The Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, both rich in history and insights, offer unique lenses through which to understand and navigate the complexities of personality. They serve as complementary tools that, when used in conjunction, can provide a comprehensive picture of an individual’s personality.

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