Ah, the Enneagram. I had no idea what this was until recently. Once this was introduced to me, I instantly fell in love with the Enneagram! What is the Enneagram? It is a tool that allows us better understanding of our inner workings by providing a common language that we can all undersatnd. Like many other personality tests, this one also reminds us that we are all quite different and that everyone sees and interacts with the world in different ways. This is a hard reality for many of us. I don’t know about you but I prefer to think that everything I think is the most accurate and correct 😉 however, the Enneagram reminds us that as individuals, we are all different with passionate views of our own.
Take for instance my mother and myself. I really have NO idea what Enneagram number my mother would be, but if I had to guess I would imagine her some combination of a 4, The Individualist (The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental) and an 8, The Challenger (The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational). Both a 4 and an 8 are willful beings that are confrontational, deeply conflicted and yet, talented. That is most like Shirley, aka, mom. I am an Enneagram 9, The Peacemaker (The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent) with a “wing” of 2, The Helper (The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive). As you can imagine just from our Enneagram number title descriptions, we are quite different.
It is no secret that mom and I had our challenges. Though I know that she loved me, at times I do believe that she did not understand me, or even “like” me (at times). This is possible. We are humans first and that innate sense, or innate feeling often first takes over even the logical mind. It is possible to love your child, and yet not like them, at least all the time. Mother and I had a complicated relationship, where in our own way we needed each other. Given her own challenges, she needed me to take care of her, the kids and the house. I in turn needed her to need me, though I despised her for needing me. None of that makes sense, and yet it does given our Ennagram numbers. And that was the vicious cycle that became our relationship. I know that now and I wish I would’ve known that then. Our personalities (types) caused us so much heartache through the years.
Knowing our Enneagram personality type allows us to open ourselves up to awareness. It is possible that through self-reflection and awareness, we no longer have to view the world through a narrow lens. The demand that we place upon others to see and do things as we see fit must be re-learned as we learn to celebrate each individual number. This knowledge and undertanding allows us the permission to engage in relationships in an authentic way. When we can move beyond the “self” and look at accusations and combative language in conflict as a learning opportunity, we learn to grow together. In doing all of this, we can experience deeper connections and thrive together. THAT right there is something that eluded my mother and I for ALL of our years together before she passed.
In stark contrast, I would imagine that dad would’ve been some combination of a 1, The Reformer (The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic) and a 9, The Peacemaker (The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent). You can also imagine why my dad was so much easier for me (and I for my dad), and why I struggled so with mother, and why she never understood me.
Ones are a relentless inner critic, who live to make themselves and the rest of the world better a better place. Their greatest fear is that they are innately bad; thus, they are always striving to improve themselves. In relationships, healthy Ones are fun, carefree, and easy-going individuals. While still driven by perfection, they have more grace for themselves and others. When not in health, Ones face the challenge of being overly critical, stubborn, and resentful.
Twos are naturally intuitive to the needs of others. They are the most empathetic and caring number on the Enneagram, and they carve their way through the world via connections—they construct their identities based on interactions with others. As an example, Twos will call themselves by many names (Parent, Partner, Friend, Employer), but they will often forget they have a personal identity apart from their caretaker roles.
Healthy Twos know how to balance self-care with care for others in their relationships, while unhealthy Twos can be disingenuous. Despite believing their motivations are selfless, they will take care of others solely to stroke their egos. The challenge for Twos in relationships is to remain grounded in their individual identities, even while serving others.
Threes are shapeshifters. They can wear numerous hats to fit various roles in society, and they long to be celebrated for their successes. If Threes aren’t careful, they can lose touch with their true selves and begin to believe their constructed images are authentic representations.
Threes are go-getters and goal-setters; they know how to motivate others to achieve seemingly impossible tasks. On the other hand, they can be highly competitive and demand praise and recognition. Relationships with Threes can, at times, feel fake and dishonest, especially when they disconnect from their feelings and the present moment.
Fours live for connection and relationships, despite believing that they don’t belong. Even though Fours often think they’re too much, too complicated, and too messy for most of society, they are resilient and relentless in the pursuit of authentic connection. Many Fours are also artists; they often gift their communities with profound and moving creations.
At their best, Fours can help others engage with feelings, to lean into the dark corners of life. Challenges come when they trust their emotions as truth, mainly because their feelings often tell them they are innately flawed. When this happens, Fours can become moody and unappeasable, detaching from the world and spiraling into a state of melancholy.
Fives are private, self-reliant, and analytical people. They gather information and knowledge before committing to almost anything, including relationships. For them, relationships can feel risky, and it can be challenging for them to open up and share their feelings. While a Five brings numerous strengths to relationships (vision, insight, curiosity, intellect), they struggle to show up at all. Even when they do, they have a limited well of energy to spend on others.
It is thought that there are more Sixes in the world than any other number on the Enneagram, which is a beautiful thing because Sixes are concerned with the common good. They are also a number deeply committed to loyalty. In relationships, Sixes are sincere and engaged, and they value authenticity and genuine connection. But they also struggle with fear. Sixes face a unique challenge in that they struggle to forgive and forget. To them, forgiveness is a sign of weakness, and they believe they must guard and protect themselves from potentially hurtful people.
Sevens are wonderful friends, partners, and co-workers. They are fun and optimistic, driven by adventure and a lighthearted spirit. They are experts at connecting with their inner child, and they remind the rest of us how to play.
Sevens struggle to confront their feelings, especially when they perceive their emotions as negative. At their best, Sevens are foragers of hope—they long for a safe world and choose to see the best in people. At their worst, they can be hardheaded and opinionated, failing to see details and rarely following through on commitments.
Eights are action-oriented leaders. You know them (or are one of them) because they love to take charge and are always on the hunt for solutions. Eights are high-energy people and find meaning in standing up for the underdogs in the world. At their best, they are supportive, playful, and generous in their relationships.
When not in operating health, Eights can become aggressive and combative; they can find it especially difficult to relate to thought and feeling-driven numbers. Eights can be mistyped as bullies or bossy characters (this is especially true for women who are Eights), and their intentions are misunderstood. Eights fear being controlled and distrust their emotions. They tend to guard themselves in relationships and avoid any vulnerability that will expose their weaknesses.
Nines are the chameleons of the Enneagram, and they are experts at adapting and relating to all of the other numbers. This is both a strength and a challenge; while Nines know how to make everyone feel seen, it’s not uncommon for them to lose themselves in relationships.
Nines cling to the lie that neither their presence nor their opinions matter. This can make them seem like easy-going characters, when in fact they are erasing themselves for the sake of keeping the peace. Their challenge in relationships is that they can become distracted, aloof, and passive-aggressive towards others. At their best, Nines know how to risk conflict for connection and bravely assert their opinions when it matters most.
So, what about you? Have you done the Enneagram test? And if so, does your number and “wing” number “fit” you? Does it help you understand more about you? We would love to hear from you here at Edsel and Iris, Inc.