The Enneagram may be as old as 5000 years, i.e. 2500 years older than Buddha, Confucius, and Aristotle and 3000 years before Christ. This psychological folk wisdom was developed in the Middle East and passed around, probably by minstrels as well as Jewish and eventually Christian and Muslim teachers and was almost certainly taught by the Sufi masters. The theory describes nine different personality types, hence the name Enneagram – ennea means nine in Greek

The purpose of the Enneagram is self-enlightenment, partly by discovering the hidden driving force – an unwanted compulsion – which underlies your surface personality. It may help to use the chart below to identify your type and your partner’s type and perhaps discover where there might be conflicts.

Type 1 – “the we-can-do-better inspirer”

Wise, conscientious, idealistic, hard-working perfectionist. It bothers them when things are not done ‘the right way’, so when frustrated they may become critics of others and of themselves. Their underlying drive or compulsion is to avoid anger and avoid being wrong or criticized. It is important for them to be right, to maintain control over their emotions and to not receive anger or express it. However, few things or people are perfect, so life is never easy for them

Type 2 – “the good Samaritan”

Compassionate, attentive, empathic, warm, caring, and constantly giving. They may become so concerned about ‘preaching’ love that they overlook actually helping, but always have lots of good intentions. Their hidden compulsion is neediness. They have strong needs to be needed, appreciated and loved, but they want to avoid recognizing those needs. Nothing is done without a reason, not even by the ‘selfless’ giver

Type 3 – “the go-getter”

Confident, high self-esteem, ambitious, inspiring achiever. May become overly competitive, wanting to always come out on top, continually trying to impress people. Their compulsion is to avoid failure and rejection, which forces them to work hard for success. They believe their personal worth is determined by their achievements

Type 4 – “the creative person”

Artistic, sensitive, in touch with feelings, true to self. May become moody, easily hurt, and socially or emotionally withdrawn, feeling emotionally overloaded and different from others. They are striving to avoid being ordinary or defective, they want to be special and unique, they sometimes feel deeply but more often ‘on stage’ or like an impostor

Type 5 – “the learned one”

Intelligent, logical, loves being alone and learning, original thinker. May become absorbed in abstract trivia, proving their own theory or counter-attacking criticism. They are attempting to avoid being empty – empty of knowledge and understanding of the world, empty of answers when asked a difficult question and empty of opportunities to learn more. Absorbing knowledge is their addiction, not using knowledge

Type 6 – “the dependable, admiring follower”

Likeable, engaging, friendly, loyal, trustworthy, concerned with making friends. May become indecisive and insecure but remains devoted and a ‘team player’. Their compulsive fears are of rejection, being alone and especially condemnation by an authority figure. Their drive is to follow all the rules, to be approved and to be secure without becoming self-reliant

Type 7 – “the happy hedonist”

Enthusiastic, practical, playful, accomplished, enjoying life, knows and wants the best of everything. May become materialistic, hyperactive, easily frustrated and compelled to buy new ‘toys’ and find new ways to have fun, including alcohol and drugs. Their fear is of deprivation and boredom. Their compulsions are to avoid personal pain, not even to see it in others’ lives, to put off anything unpleasant and to have more of everything. Life should be fun is their motto

Type 8 – “the conquering hero”

Strong, assertive, ‘can-do’ attitude, loves challenges, natural leader, champion of causes. May become a risk-taking entrepreneur or a righter of wrongs, intimidating or “having it out” with others and feeling he/she must get his/her way. The driving force underlying this personality is a fear of being dominated or the avoidance of weakness. They favour radical change as long as it’s by them

Type 9 – “the complacent pacifist”

Accepting, patient, unpretentious, open, relaxed, just a nice reassuring person. May become too submissive or accommodating, too self-effacing, too indifferent and falsely reassure others in order to gain peace at any price. They fear conflict and separation from others due to conflicts. They will do anything for harmony, even deny reality. Their approach is ‘what’s the big deal?’

Conclusion

The best way to use these nine brief descriptions is to go back through the list and identify your basic personality type by noting, primarily, the positive characteristics because that is what we know best about ourselves. Then, your insight should come from noting the underlying unconscious fears and compulsions of your personality type. Next, you need to spend a lot of time considering possible ways your hidden fears or desires have influenced your life. By becoming more aware of these hidden needs or forces within you, perhaps you can see yourself in a different light and find better ways to cope with your problems.