How the system works - The Enneagram Institute (2023)


Introduction to the Enneagram

This tutorial covers the basics you need to understand how the Enneagram works and will be especially useful for beginners. As you will see, it only takes a few simple concepts to start your journey of self-discovery. The Enneagram, however, is subtle and complex, as you will appreciate the more you use it in your life. For additional guidance, seePersonality types,27-55, and for further clarificationUnderstanding the Enneagram, 11-30.

Subject index

Your basic personality type
The Centers
That's how it is
development levels
Directions of integration (growth) and disintegration (stress)
the three instincts
Writing to yourself and others

Structure

The structure of the Enneagram may seem complicated, but it is actually quite simple. It will help you understand the Enneagram if you write it yourself.

Draw a circle and mark nine equidistant points on its circumference. Designate each point with a number from one to nine, with nine at the top, for symmetry and convention. Each dot represents one of the nine basic personality types.

The nine points of the circumference are also connected to each other by the internal lines of the Enneagram. Note that points three, six, and nine form an equilateral triangle. The remaining six points are connected in the following order: One connects to Four, Four to Two, Two to Eight, Eight to Five, Five to Seven, and Seven to One. These six points form an irregular hexagram. The meaning of these internal lines will be discussed shortly.

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Your basic personality type

From one point of view, the Enneagram can be seen as a set of nine different personality types, with each number on the Enneagram denoting a type. It's common to find a bit of yourself in all nine types, though one should stand out as closest to you. This is yoursbasic personality type.

Everyone comes out of childhood withoneof the nine types that dominate your personality, being the innate temperament and other prenatal factors the main determinants of our type. This is an area that almost all of the major Enneagram authors agree on:we are born with a dominant type. Subsequently, this innate orientation largely determines the ways in which we learn to adapt to the early childhood environment. It also seems to give rise to certain unconscious orientations towards our father figures, but we still don't know why this happens. In any case, by the time children are four or five years old, their consciousness has developed enough to have a separate sense of themselves. Although their identity is still very fluid, at this age children begin to settle down and find ways to enter the world on their own.

Thus, our general personality orientation reflects the totality of all childhood factors (including genetics) that influenced our development. (For more information on the developmental patterns of each personality type, see the related section in the type descriptions inPersonality typesis inThe Wisdom of the Enneagram. There is a discussion of general theory inUnderstanding the Enneagram,67-70).

Several other points can be made about the basic type itself.

  1. People do not change from one basic personality type to another.

  2. Descriptions of personality types are universal and apply equally to men and women, since no type is inherently masculine or feminine.

  3. Not everything in your basic type description will apply to you all the time, because you constantly fluctuate between the healthy, average, and unhealthy traits that make up your personality type.

  4. The Enneagram uses numbers to designate each of the types because the numbers are value neutral: they imply the full range of attitudes and behaviors of each type without specifying anything positive or negative. Unlike labels used in psychiatry, numbers provide an unbiased, shorthand way of saying a lot about a person without being pejorative.

  5. The numerical classification of the types is not significant. A larger number is not better than a smaller number; it is not better to be Nine than Two because nine is a greater number.

  6. No type is inherently better or worse than any other. While all personality types have unique advantages and disadvantages, some types may be considered more desirable than others in a given culture or group. Also, for one reason or another, you may not be happy being a particular type. However, as you learn more about all the types, you will see that just as each has unique assets, each has unique liabilities. The ideal is to become your best self, not to imitate the qualities of another type.


Identify your basic personality type

If applied correctly, our questionnaire, theRiso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI®version 2.5), will identify your basic personality type for you. This short section has been included so that we can get a basic understanding of the types in our discussion without having to jump into the longer descriptions in the next section.

When thinking about your personality, which of the following nine roles best suits you most of the time? Or, in other words, if you had to describe yourself in a few words, which of the following word groups would come closest?

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These one word descriptors can be expanded to feature sets of four words. Please note that these are just highlights and do not represent the full spectrum of each type.

TypeOnePrincipled, determined, self-controlled and a perfectionist.

TypeOf theyou are generous, demonstrative, nice to people and possessive.

TypeThreehe is adaptable, excellent, self-motivated and image conscious.

Typefourhe is expressive, dramatic, egocentric and temperamental.

TypeCincohe is insightful, innovative, reserved and withdrawn.

TypeSixhe is attractive, responsible, anxious and suspicious.

TypeSevenit is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive and dispersed.

TypeOchohe is self-assured, determined, stubborn, and confrontational.

TypeNewhe is receptive, reassuring, accommodating, and resigned.

The Centers

The Enneagram is a 3 x 3 arrangement of nine personality types inthree centers. There are three types ininstinctive center, Three infeeling center, and three inthink tank, As shown below. Each Center consists of three personality types that have in common the assets and liabilities of that Center. For example, personality type Fours have unique strengths and weaknesses related to their feelings, which is why they are in the Feeling Center. Likewise, the Eight's assets and liabilities involve its relationship with its instinctual drives, which is why it is in the Instinctive Center, and so on for all nine personality types.

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The inclusion of each type in its Center is not arbitrary. Each type results from a particular relationship with a set of issues that characterize that Center. More simply, these questions revolve around a powerful and largely unconscious emotional response to losing contact with the core self. In the Instinctive Center, emotion isAngeroAnger. In the Feeling Center, emotion isPity, and in the Thought Center, it isTemer. Of course, all nine types contain these three emotions, but in each Center, the personalities of the types are particularly affected by the emotional theme of that Center.

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Thus, each type has a particular way of dealing with the dominant emotion of its Center. We can briefly see what this means by examining each type Center by Center. In the Instinctive Center,eightsthey act on their anger and their instinctual energies. In other words, when Eights feel anger building inside of them, they immediately respond to it in some physical way, raising their voices, moving harder. Others can clearly see that Eights are angry because they allow themselves to express their anger physically.

newdeny your anger and instinctual energies as if to say, “What anger? I'm not a person who gets angry." Nines are the type most out of touch with their anger and instinctual energies, often feeling threatened by them. Of course, Nines get angry like everyone else, but they try to stay out of their darker feelings by focusing on idealizations of their relationships and their world.

usthey try to control or suppress their anger and instinctual energy. They feel that they must maintain control of themselves, especially their instinctive impulses and feelings of anger at all times. They would like to direct these energies according to the dictates of their highly developed inner critic (superego), the source of their criticism of themselves and others.

In the Center of Feelings,Of thetry to control your shame by making other people like and think of them as good people. They also want to convince themselves that they are a good, loving person who focuses on their positive feelings toward others while suppressing their negative feelings (such as anger and resentment at not being appreciated enough). As long as Twos can elicit positive emotional responses from others, they feel loved and can control feelings of shame.

Threethey try to deny their shame and are potentially the furthest from underlying feelings of inadequacy. Threes learn to deal with shame by trying to become what they believe to be a valuable and successful person. Thus, Threes learn to perform well, to be acceptable, even exceptional, and are often relentlessly driven in their pursuit of success as a way of warding off feelings of shame and fear of failure.

four pawstry to control your embarrassment by focusing on how unique and special your talents, feelings, and personal traits are. Fours highlight their individuality and creativity as a way to deal with their feelings of shame, although Fours are the type most likely to succumb to feelings of inadequacy. Fours also manage their shame by cultivating a rich and romantic fantasy life in which they don't have to deal with what seems dull or uninteresting in their lives.

At the Thought Center,fivesthey are afraid of the outside world and their ability to deal with it. So they deal with fear by withdrawing from the world. Fives become reserved and isolated loners who use their minds to take advantage of the nature of the world. Fives hope that eventually, by understanding reality on their own terms, they will be able to return to the world and participate in it, but they never feel they know enough to participate with full confidence. Instead, they engage with increasingly complex inner worlds.

Sixthey exhibit the greatest amount of fear of the three types, much of it experienced as anxiety, which further alienates them from their own sense of inner knowing and trust. Unlike Fives, Sixes have a hard time trusting their own minds, so they constantly look outside of themselves for something to make them feel confident. They can be based on philosophies, beliefs, relationships, jobs, economics, authorities, or any combination of the above. But no matter how many security structures they create, Sixes still feel doubtful and anxious. They may even begin to doubt the very people and beliefs they have turned to for safety. Sixes may also respond to their fear and anxiety by impulsively confronting them, challenging their fear in an effort to get rid of it.

sievesthey are afraid of their inner world. There are feelings of grief, loss, deprivation, and general anxiety that Sevens would like to avoid as much as possible. To deal with these feelings, Sevens keep their minds occupied with exciting possibilities and options; As long as they have something exciting to look forward to, Sevens feel they can distract themselves from their fears. However, Sevens, in most cases, does not stop to think only about these options. As much as possible they really try to do as many of your options as possible. Therefore, Sevens can be found on the go, pursuing one experience after another and keeping themselves entertained and involved with their many ideas and activities.

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That's how it is

No one is a pure personality type: everyone is a unique mix of their base type and, in general,oneof the two types adjacent to it on the circumference of the Enneagram. One of the two types adjacent to its base type is calledas a.

Your basic type dominates your overall personality, while your ward complements you and adds important, sometimes contradictory elements to your overall personality. Your wing is the "second side" of your personality and should be taken into account to better understand yourself or another person. For example, if you have a Nine personality type, you likely have either a One-wing or an Eight-wing, and your personality as a whole can best be understood by considering the traits of Nines, as they blend uniquely with the other ones. traits. of One or Eight. In our teaching experience over the years, we have also come across some individuals who appear to have both wings, while others are heavily influenced by their base type and show little of either wing.

There is disagreement among the various Enneagram traditions as to whether individuals have one or two wings. Strictly speaking, everyone has two wings, in the strict sense that both types adjacent to their basic type operate in their personality, since each person has the potentials of all nine types. However, this is not what "having two wings" generally means, and proponents of the so-called two-wing theory believe that both wings function more or less equally on everyone's personality. (For example, they think a Nine would have about the same number of its Eight and One wings.)

Observing people leads us to conclude that although the two-wing theory applies to some individuals, most people have a dominant wing. In the vast majority of people, while the so-called second wing always remains active to some degree, the dominant wing is much more important. (For example, Two with three wings are markedly different from Two with one wing, and although Two with three wings has one wing, it is not as important as Three wings.) Therefore, it is clearer to simply refer to the "wing" of a type as opposed to its "dominant wing", since the two terms represent the same concept.

Another observation about the wings is worth mentioning. While teaching the Enneagram in workshops and trainings, many people in the second half of their lives have reported developing their so-called "second wing." And in individuals who engage in psychological and/or spiritual work, we have seen evidence that this is true. However, we do not know if these students were seeing all the positive potentials of all nine types developing in them as they matured (their second wing was one of the other seven types) or if this was a specific development of the second. guy. wing type. We will continue to investigate this idea in our work with our students and colleagues.

Of course, it is necessary to identify your basic type before evaluating which wing you have. In addition to indicating its basic type, theRiso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicatorit can also indicate its wing. Still, the best way to understand the influence of your wing is to read the full descriptions of your type and wings atPersonality types. You can also read the descriptions of the two types adjacent to your base type and decide which is better for you.

development levels

There is an internal structure within each personality type. This structure is the continuum of behaviors, attitudes, defenses, and motivations made up of the nine levels of development that make up the personality type itself. This discovery (and the development of all the characteristics that make up each type) was originally made by Don Riso in 1977 and was further developed by Don with Russ Hudson in the 1990s. They are the only Enneagram teachers to include this important factor in their Enneagram treatment. The Levels are an important contribution not only to the Enneagram but also to ego psychology, and the Enneagram personality types cannot be adequately explained without them. The levels take into account differences between people of the same type, as well as how people change for better or worse. Therefore, they can also help therapists and counselors to identify what is really going on with clients and suggest solutions to problems they are having.

Developmental levels provide a framework for seeing how all the different traits that make up each type fit into a larger whole; they are a way of conceptualizing the underlying "skeletal" structure of each type. Without levels, types can seem like an arbitrary collection of unrelated traits, with contradictory behaviors and attitudes often being part of the picture. But by understanding the levels of each type, one can see how all the traits are interrelated and how healthy traits can deteriorate into average traits and possibly unhealthy traits. As the pioneering philosopher of consciousness Ken Wilber has observed, without Levels, the Enneagram reduces to a "horizontal" set of nine discrete categories. However, by including levels, a "vertical" dimension is added that not only reflects the complexity of human nature, but also explains many different and important elements of personality.

Also, with Levels, a dynamic element is introduced that reflects the changing nature of one's personality patterns. He has probably noticed that people are constantly changing: sometimes they are more clear, free, focused, and emotionally available, while at other times they are more anxious, resilient, reactive, emotionally volatile, and less free. Understanding the levels makes it clear that when people change states within their personality, they are changing within the spectrum of motivations, traits, and defenses that make up their personality type.

To understand an individual accurately, it is necessary to understand where the person is along the continuum of Levels for their type at any given time. In other words, it must be assessed whether a person is in their healthy, average, or unhealthy range of functioning. This is important because, for example, two people with the same personality type and wing will be significantly different if one is healthy and the other is not. (In relationships and the business world, understanding this distinction is crucial.)

The continuum is made up of nine internal levels of development; In short, there are three levels in the healthy section, three levels in the middle section, and three levels in the unhealthy section. It may help to think of the Levels continuum as a photographer's grayscale, which has gradations from pure white to pure black with many shades of gray in between. On the continuum, the healthiest traits appear first, at the top, so to speak. As we descend the spiraling continuum, we progressively pass through each Developmental Level, marking a distinct shift in personality deterioration to the pure black of psychological collapse at the bottom. The continuum for each of the personality types can be seen in the following diagram.

The continuum of levels of development

Healthy

  • Level 1: The Liberation Level

  • Level 2: The level of psychological capacity

  • Level 3: The Social Value Level

Average

  • Level 4: The Level of Imbalance/Social Role

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  • Level 5: The Interpersonal Control Level

  • Level 6: The supercompensation level

unhealthy

  • Level 7: The level of non-compliance

  • Level 8: The level of obsession and compulsion

  • Level 9: The level of pathological destructiveness

Significant psychological changes occur at each Level, as indicated by the title we have given it. For example, at Level 5, the Interpersonal Control Level, the person is trying to manipulate himself and others to meet his psychological needs. This invariably creates interpersonal conflicts. At this Level, the person has also fully identified with the ego and does not see himself as something else: therefore, the ego must be more and more defended and inflated so that the person feels safe and keeps the identity intact. her identity. If this activity does not satisfy the person and increases anxiety, he may deteriorate to the next state, Level 6, the Overcompensation Level, where his behavior will become more intrusive and aggressive as he continues his ego's agenda. Anxiety is increasing and the person is increasingly disruptive and focused on satisfying her needs, regardless of the impact on those around her.

One of the deepest ways to understand levels is as ameasure of our ability to be present. The more we descend in the Levels, the more we identify with our ego and its increasingly negative and restrictive patterns. Our personalities become more defensive, reactive, and automatic, and as a result we have less and less real freedom and less real awareness. As we go down the levels, we get caught up in more compulsive and destructive actions that are ultimately self-destructive.

On the contrary, the movement towards health,level up, is simultaneous with being more present and awake in our minds, hearts and bodies. As we become more present, we become less fixated on the defensive structures of our personality and more in tune and open with ourselves and our environment. We objectively see our personality in action instead of “falling asleep” in our automatic personality patterns. There is, therefore, the possibility of "not doing" our personality and of really distancing ourselves from the negative consequences of being trapped in it.

As we become more present, we see our personality traits more objectively, and the levels become a continuous guide for self-observation, a map we can use to determine where we are in our psychospiritual development at any given time. . As we "move up" the Levels, we discover that we are freer and less driven by compulsive and unconscious impulses, and therefore able to act more effectively in all areas of our lives, including our relationships. When we are less identified with our personality, we find that we respond as needed to whatever life throws at us, actualizing positive potentials in all nine types, bringing true peace, creativity, strength, joy, compassion, and other positive qualities to everything we experience. we find. are doing. (For more, seePersonality types, 45-51, 421-6; 465-93;Understanding the Enneagram, 136-66, yThe Wisdom of the Enneagram.)

Directions of integration (growth) and disintegration (stress)

As we saw with the Levels of Development, the nine Enneagram personality types are not static categories: they reflect our change over time. In addition, the sequence of types and the arrangement of the internal lines of the symbol are not arbitrary. The inner lines of the Enneagram connect the types in a sequence denoting what each type will do under different conditions. There are two lines connected to each type and they connect to two other types. One line connects with a type that represents how a person of the first type behaves when moving towards health and growth. This is called Direction of Integration or Growth. The other line goes to another type that represents how the person is likely to act if he is under increasing stress and pressure, when he feels he is not in control of the situation. This second line is called the Direction of Stress or Decay. In other words, different situations will evoke different types of responses from your personality. You will respond or adapt in different directions as indicated by the lines of the Enneagram.of your basic type. Once again, we see the flexibility and dynamism of the Enneagram.

Odisintegration directionoStressfor each type it is indicated by the sequence of numbers 1-4-2-8-5-7-1. This means that an average to unhealthy One under stress will eventually behave like an average to unhealthy Four; average to unhealthy Fours will act on their stress like average to unhealthy Twos; an average to unhealthy Two will act like an Eight under stress, an Eight will act like a Five under stress, a Five will act like a Seven, and a Seven will act like a One. (An easy way to remember the sequence is to note that 1-4 or 14 doubles to 28 and that doubles to 57, or almost so, 1-4-2-8-5-7, and the sequence goes back to 1 and starts over.) Similarly, in the equilateral triangle, the sequence is 9-6-3-9: an accented Nine will act as a Six, an accented Six will act as a Three, and an accented Three will act as a Nine. (You may want to remember this sequence if you think that numerical values ​​decrease as types become more stressed and reactive. For a longer explanation and examples, seePersonality types, 47-52, 413-8.) You can see how this works by following the direction of the arrows on the Enneagram below.

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OIntegration DepartmentoGrowthis indicated for each type by the reverse of the decay sequences. Each type moves towards integration in a direction opposite to the harmful direction. Therefore, the sequence for the Integration Directorate is 1-7-5-8-2-4-1: one integrator One goes to Seven, one integrator Seven goes to Five, one integrator Five goes to Eight, one integrator Eight goes to Two, an integrating Two goes to Four, and an integrating Four goes to One. In the equilateral triangle, the sequence is 9-3-6-9: an integrating Nine will go to Three, a Three that integrates will go to Six and a Six that integrates will go to Nine. You can see how this works by following the direction of the arrows on the Enneagram below.

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It is not necessary to have separate Enneagrams for the Direction of Integration and the Direction of Disintegration. Both directions can be shown on an Enneagram by removing the arrows and connecting the appropriate points with simple lines.

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The direction of integration (growth)
1-7-5-8-2-4-1
9-3-6-9

The direction of disintegration (stress)
1-4-2-8-5-7-1
9-6-3-9

No matter what personality type you are, the types inbothits direction of integration or growth and its direction of disintegration or stress are important influences. To get a complete picture of yourself (or someone else), you need to take into account the basic type and the wing, as well as the two types in the Directions of Integration and Disintegration. The factors represented by thosefourthe types blend into your total personality and provide the framework for understanding the influences at work on you. For example, no one is simply a Type Two personality. A Two has either a One wing or a Three wing, and the Direction of Disintegration (Eight) and Direction of Integration (Four) of the Two also play important roles in their overall personality.

Ultimately, the goal is for each of us to "move" on the Enneagram, integrating what each type symbolizes and acquiring the healthy potentials of each one.all types. The ideal is to become a well-balanced and fully functioning person, able to harness the power (or in Latin, "virtue") of oneself as needed. Each of the Enneagram types symbolizes different important aspects of what we need to achieve this end. The personality type we start life with is therefore less important than how well (or poorly) we use our type as a starting point for our self-development and self-actualization.

the three instincts

The three instincts (often mistakenly called "the subtypes") are a third set of distinctions that are extremely important in understanding personality. An important aspect of human nature lies in our instinctive "hard wiring" as biological beings. Each of us is endowed with specific instinctual intelligences that are necessary for our survival as individuals and as a species. each of us has oneself preservationinstinct (to preserve the body and its life and functioning), asexual instinct(as it spreads to the environment and through generations), and asocial instinct(to get along with others and form secure social bonds).

While we have all three Instincts within us, one of them is the dominant focus of our attention and behavior: the set of attitudes and values ​​that appeal to us and make us feel most comfortable. Each of us also has a Second Instinct that is used to support the dominant Instinct, as well as a less developed Third Instinct, a true blind spot in our personality and values. Which Instinct is in each of these three places (most, middle, and least developed) produces what we call our "Instinct Stack" (like a three layer cake) with your dominant Instinct on top, next Instinct more developed in the middle, and the least developed at the bottom).

These instinctual drives profoundly influence our personalities, and at the same time, our personalities largely determine how each personprioritizethese instinctive needs. So while every human being has these three instincts operating in him or her, our personality makes us care more about one of these instincts than the other two. We call this instinct ourdominantinstinct. This tends to be our first priority: the area of ​​life we ​​attend to first. But when we are more caught up in our personality defenses - further down the Developmental Levels - our personality is moreinterferewith our dominant instinct.

Also, our Enneagram type flavors the way we approach our dominant instinctual need. Combining our Enneagram type with our dominant instinct produces a much more specific picture of how our personality works. When we apply the distinctions of these three instincts to the nine types of the Enneagram, they create 27 unique combinations of type and dominant instinct that account for differences and variability within types. We call these instinct variant combinations.

The Enneagram Institute® offers an online test, the Instinctive Variance Questionnaire (IVQ), to help individuals determine not only their dominant instinct, but also their instinctual stack. The IVQ also provides a detailed personality profile derived from the combination of the candidate's Enneagram type, wing, and instinctual stack.

The following are brief descriptions of the three instincts:

self-preservation instinct

People who have this dominant instinct are concerned with the safety, comfort, health, energy, and well-being of the physical body. In a word, they are worried about having enoughresourcesto meet the demands of life. Body identification is a fundamental focus for all human beings, and we need our bodies to function well to be alive and active in the world. Most people in contemporary cultures have not faced life and death "survival" in the strictest sense; therefore, self-preservation types tend to worry about food, money, housing, medical problems, and physical comfort. Additionally, those who are primarily focused on self-preservation are, by extension, often interested in conserving those resources for others as well. Their focus of attention naturally goes to things related to these areas, such as clothing, temperature, shopping, decoration, and the like, especially if they are dissatisfied in these areas or have a feeling of deficiency due to childhood. Self-Pres types tend to be more down-to-earth, practical, serious, and introverted than the other two instinctive types. They may have an active social life and a fulfilling intimate relationship, but if they feel that their self-preservation needs are not being met, they still tend not to feel happy or calm. In their primary relationships, these people are “nested”, seeking tranquility and domestic security with a stable and reliable partner.

Sexual instinct (also known as “attraction”)

Many people originally identify with this type because they have learned that sexual types are interested in "one-on-one relationships." But all three instinctive types are interested in one-on-one relationships for different reasons, so that doesn't set them apart. The key element in sexual types is an intense drive for stimulation and a constant awareness of the "chemistry" between themselves and others. Sexual types immediately feel the attraction, or lack thereof, between themselves and other people. Also, although the basis of this instinct is related to sexuality, it is not necessarily about the people involved in the sexual act. There are many people we are excited about for reasons of personal chemistry that we have no intention of "engaging" with. However, we may be aware that we feel stimulated in the company of certain people and less in others. The sexual type is constantly moving toward that feeling of intense stimulation and juicy energy in their relationships and activities. They are the most "energized" of the three drive types and tend to be more aggressive, competitive, charged, and emotionally intense than the autopressive or social types. Sexual types need to have a strong energy charge in their primary relationships, otherwise they are dissatisfied. They like to be intensely involved, even fused, with others and may become disenchanted with partners who cannot fulfill their need for intense energetic union. Losing yourself in a "fusion" of being is ideal here, and sexual types always seek this state with others and with stimulating objects in their world.

Social instinct (also known as “adaptive”)

Just as many people tend to misidentify as sexual types because they want one-on-one relationships, many people misidentify as social types because they have the (false) idea that this means always being involved in groups, get-togethers, and parties. If self-preservation types are interested in adjusting their environment to feel more secure and comfortable, social typesadapt to the needs of the social situationthey find each other. Therefore, social types are very aware of other people, whether they are in intimate situations or in groups. They are also aware of how their actions and attitudes affect those around them. Furthermore, sexual types seek intimacy, social types seekpersonal connection: They want to stay in long-term contact with people and participate in their world. Social types are more concerned with doing things that will have some impact on their community or even broader domains. They tend to be warmer, more open, attractive, and socially responsible than the other two types. In their primary relationships, they look for partners with whom they can share social activities, wanting their relatives to get involved in projects and events with them. Paradoxically, they actually tend to avoid long periods of exclusive intimacy and quiet solitude, seeing both as potentially limiting. Social types lose their sense of identity and meaning when they are not involved with other people in activities that transcend their individual interests.

Writing to yourself and others

After having taken theRiso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI® version 2.5)to discover your dominant type, and perhaps also yourinstinctual variants quizTo further refine your understanding of Enneagram types, you may be curious about the personality types of others. Since you typically won't be able to administer the RHETI® or IVQ to business associates or strangers, you may be wondering how you can become more adept at figuring out what kind of person you are. By studying the descriptions inPersonality Types, Enneagram Understanding, and Enneagram Wisdom, over time, you will become more adept at typing people. In doing so, however, you may have several points in mind.

You may quickly discover the types of some close friends, or you may find it difficult to categorize people and not know where to start. Any state is normal. It's not always obvious what kind of person you are, and it takes time and study to hone your skills. Remember that you are like a beginning medical student learning to diagnose a wide variety of conditions, some healthy and some unhealthy. It takes practice to learn to identify the various "symptoms" of each type and to see larger "syndromes."

Despite the subtleties and complexities involved, there really are no secrets to the people who write. You must learn what traits go with each type and observe how people manifest those traits. This is a subtle undertaking because there are many subtypes and quirks for each personality type. The different types can sometimes appear similar, especially if their motivations are not taken into account. That is why it is not enough to focus on a single feature in isolation and make a diagnosis based on that alone. It is necessary to look at each type as a whole, their general style, approach to life, and especially their underlying motivations, before someone's type can be determined with certainty. Many elements need to come together before you can be sure that you have typed someone accurately.

Also, when we diagnose others, we are always on thinner ice than when we use the Enneagram to deepen our own self-awareness. It is clear that it is more appropriate to apply this material to ourselves than to type others avoiding looking at our own life. However, it is not realistic to think that something as interesting (or insightful) as the Enneagram will not be used to better understand others. In fact, we categorize people all the time. No one approaches others without some kind of mental category. We automatically perceive people as male or female, black or white, attractive or unpleasant, good or bad, friend or enemy, etc. Not only is it honest to be aware of this, it's helpful to have categories that are more accurate and appropriate for everyone, including ourselves.

While the Enneagram is probably the most open and dynamic of typologies, that doesn't mean that the Enneagram can say everything there is to say about human beings. Individuals are comprehensible only up to a point beyond which they remain mysterious and unpredictable. So while there may not be simple explanations for people, it's still possible to say something true about them. Ultimately, the Enneagram helps us do just that, and only that. The Enneagram is useful because it indicates with surprising clarity certain constellations of meaning about something that is essentially beyond definition: the mystery that we are.

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