What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is personality system consisting of nine basic motivations and fears. It began as psychospiritual, but now many see it as a more "materialistic" (non-spiritual) typology. The intent of the Enneagram is to discover our ego defenses and move past them in an effort to develop as a person. This process of growth is not easy and requires a lot of research, introspection, and work.
How is the Enneagram different from MBTI?
MBTI deals with "how" you think, how you take in and process information. Enneagram, on the other hand, is the "why" behind your actions, what ultimately motivates you. Sometimes these "whys" can be quite elusive, even to yourself.
MBTI is a "happier" system. Their descriptions tend to emphasize strengths and don't often explain how to develop. Enneagram is often perceived as negative because it points out both strengths and weaknesses. Discovering your weaknesses is a way to facilitate the growth process, so don't get discouraged.
There are NO ABSOLUTE CORRELATIONS between the two systems. Some types are more likely in an MBTI type, yet no combination is impossible.
A common misconception for both typologies is that they try to tell you how you behave. The Enneagram isn't about behavior, it's about the why behind your behavior. This means that sometimes you'll come across an insecure 3 who still cares deeply about their image and success, or an introverted 7 who prefers solitary mental distractions rather than social ones, and other non-stereotypical behaviors for various types.
What is core type?
Core type is the type you are first, the most dominant of your personality. It explains the most about you, its fears drive you. This type is what everything else is filtered through. Even if your core type is 9 and you notice yourself displaying type 2 traits, it's often because of a 9-influenced reason. Your core type cannot change throughout life.
What are wings?
Each type is affected by various types in the Enneagram circle. Wings are the two types next to your core. For a type 3, the wings available would be 2 and 4. The easiest way to explain this is to say that a type 3 will always have the motivations of 3, yet display certain 2 or 4 characteristics. An alternate way of looking at wings is that they provide additional coping mechanisms: for example, a 3 with 2 characteristics is more likely to cope by appearing helpful and personable, while a 3 with 4 characteristics is more likely to cope by appearing aloof and individualistic.
The majority of people have a noticeable dominant wing, written as "3w2" or "3w4." Some feel like both of their wings are either weak or strong, that the surrounding types affect them a little or a lot, but still have a dominant wing regardless; this would still be written the same way as before. There are a few who have no wings, which would simply be written as "type 3." Others may feel like their wings are balanced, or equal in strength; you might see this written as "3wB."
It is important to note that most people will have traits from both wings. A 3w4 can be helpful and a 3w2 can be individualistic. This does not make the wings balanced, as it doesn't mean one wing isn't more noticeable overall. Sometimes it requires much self-observation to find out which wing is prominent.
What about the instinctual variants?
This is one of the most confusing parts about the Enneagram, so don't worry if you don't understand it yet. Here is a short overview...
There are three instincts: self-preservation (SP), social (SOC), and sexual (SX). SP is often characterized by an interest in health, safety, and security. SOC has an eye on the interpersonal, political, and species survival. SX deals with intensity, chemistry between people, and expression. SP is not the "introverted" function, SOC is not the "extroverted" function, and SX is not the "sex drive" function.
For most people, one instinct will be strong, one will be moderate, and the last will be weak. We show these strengths by writing them in order: for example, SO/SP/SX. You'll usually just see the format of "SO/SP," because the following "/SX" is a given. This is called an instinctual stacking, or sometimes a subtype.
How does tritype work?
Tritype comes from the idea that we have primary coping mechanisms based in three areas: image (heart), fear (head), and anger (gut). The types associated with each area are:
Image: 2, 3, 4
Fear: 5, 6, 7
Anger: 8, 9, 1
Your tritype consists of one type from each triad. Out of the 27 possibilities, a valid example would be 258 or 469. You cannot have two types from a triad in your tritype, so an invalid example would be 249 or 651.
Tritype is written in order of core –> next strongest type –> weaker type. So, a core 1 with a lot of 6 and a bit of 4 in them would write their tritype as 164. A person with the same tritype but a different core might be a 416. Each "secondary" type is called a fix, so the 146 is core 1 with 6 and 4 fixes.
You can have wings on each of your fixes. The 164 might be a 1w2-6w5-4w5, or maybe a 1w9-6w7-4w3, or any wing combination thereof. Additionally, instinctual stackings are same for each type in your tritype. In this case, if the stacking is SX/SO, the core 1 would be SX/SO and the 4 and 6 fixes would be SX/SO, too. (There are other theories regarding instincts, but this is the one held by most.)
Tritype is a way of explaining differences between two people of a core type, but it is not an excuse to have atypical characteristics of core type. For example, a core 2 is always going to be other-focused, so a 259 cannot claim their tritype as a reason to be a jaded loner who never seeks out others. Instead, a 259 would likely be introverted yet still desire to be loved via helping others, perhaps by sharing knowledge or giving advice. In comparison, a 278 would likely be more upbeat and extroverted, perhaps helping others by doing tasks or offering outings.
When talking about a general tritype, order does not matter: a 379 is the same as a 937. The idea is that the traits described will be similar enough to not bother writing specific content for core types. It's still a good idea to keep core type in mind, regardless: a 937 will seek peace more than a 379 will, even though both would want it.
It is okay to not use tritypes. Most of what the Enneagram deals with can be explained by core type alone. In fact, the best advice regarding tritype is to ignore it if you don't know your core and its influence on you.
What's disintegration and integration?
This is a way to show how "healthy" a person is by type. A person will develop maladjusted traits of another type when "unhealthy," and they will adopt average or well-adjusted traits of another type when "healthy." Integration is what we naturally strive to become, while disintegration a coping mechanism for stress; this process happens even if we are unaware of the Enneagram.
There is a pattern. For non-primary types, the disintegration pattern is 1-4-2-8-5-7-1, with the integration pattern simply reversed. This means that a 1 will adopt negative 4 traits when under stress, a 4 will adopt negative 2 traits, and so on. Similarly, a 1 will adopt positive 7 traits when secure, a 7 will adopt positive 5 traits, and so on. For these types, (dis)integration is often fairly straight-forward.
The primary types (3, 6, 9) are situated in a triangle. They are the centers of each triad we previously discussed. Their disintegration pattern is 9-6-3-9 and the integration is again reversed. However, many primary types report feeling like they display both good and bad traits of each type in this triangle: a 6 may find themselves apathetic (9) and wearing a mask (3) when unhealthy, while becoming calm (9) and productive (3) when healthy.
Anything more about triads?
Triads are groupings of three types which have similar traits. There are several different groupings and to explain them all would require a post in itself (which have already been written by others); I will not do so. Links are provided at the end of the post. In addition to the basic heart, head, gut triads, we have:
Hornevian (Freudian) –
Compliant (Superego): 1, 2, 6
Assertive (Id): 3, 7, 8
Withdrawn (Ego): 4, 5, 9
Competency: 1, 3, 5
Positive Outlook: 2, 7, 9
Reactive: 4, 6, 8
Object relation –
Frustration: 1, 4, 7
Rejection: 2, 5, 8
Attachment: 3, 6, 9
Triads are useful to explain why certain types can look alike. For example, an 8 will be driven for excitement much like a 7 and 3 due to them all being assertive / id types.
Triads can also help with finding your tritype, as you may feel like you're influenced by one triad over another. It is impossible to not be a double-triader (having two types of one triad in your tritype), though often a triple-triader is encouraged to reconsider other types. We can often be confused by our core's triads, which is, again, the type driving the show. If your two strongest types are 3 and 5, then reconsider that 1 fix, because you already have a healthy dose of Competency; your gut fix may be a disguised 8 or 9 instead. It is especially common for introverts to mistype as a 459, as they can easily over-identify with withdrawn behaviors.
What are some good online resources?
Timeless' Enneagram Article Series
Typewatch Enneagram: Type Descriptions
Instinctual variants –
Q & A on Object Relations
The Harmonic Groups
The Arrows and the Levels (Alternate explanation of [dis]integration.)
How the Enneagram Personality System Works