*dances, gently, in the rain*
So my MBTI post got an INSANE response from y’all (I love you guys ❤ ), and I promised I’d do a follow-up post explaining the Enneagram. Often presented as a kind of “rival” to the MBTI system, Enneagram actually works best when you pair it with cognitive function theory, as I shall demonstrate in Part 3 of this series, when I talk about using Enneagram + MBTI to write vivid and realistic characters. But first, I gotta tell you how Enneagram works in the first place. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Once again, I cannot urge you strongly enough to check out Charity’s blog, Funky MBTI, for in-depth profiles and examples of both MBTI and Enneagram. ‘Tis a gold mine, friends.
Enneagram Types: Quick ‘N Dirty Version
Enneagram classifies people according to their core fears and desires. Deep down, what are they afraid of? Deep down, what do they want? MBTI, if you’ll recall, classifies people according to thought processes (how do they take in information? how do they make decisions?) Compared to MBTI, then, Enneagram focuses more heavily on behavior. Compared to MBTI, Enneagram also slants in a more spiritual/moral direction, since it’s about lies we tell ourselves, and the unhealthy patterns those lies produce.
There are nine Enneagram types, conveniently referred to as Type One through Type Nine, so, easy to keep straight. 😉 Below you’ll find my “quick ‘n dirty” profile of each.
Enneagram One: I want to be perfect. I’m afraid of being evil.
How will you recognize me? I’m a perfectionist. A natural critic. I’ve been called “preachy.” I care about things being right, big or small. I hold strong opinions about morality, setting high expectations for myself and others. Sometimes, a little too high. I carry a lot of repressed anger, which I strenuously deny because anger is “bad.” Often, I feel like I’m the only responsible member of the group, the family, or the community: and I resent it.
At my best, though, I can be conscientious, disciplined, idealistic, and a force for positive moral change.
Enneagram Two: I want to be needed. I’m afraid of being unneeded and lonely.
How will you recognize me? I’m a people-pleaser. A helper. Often a fixer. I define myself by my relationships. I make myself indispensable, carving out a place in others’ lives that can’t be filled by anyone else–perhaps being clingy or dependent, perhaps being the “strong one” who never shows vulnerability. I might smother you with my own ideas of what’s best for you, instead of really listening to what you have to say.
At my best, though, I can be warm, caring, open-hearted, and attentive to other’s true needs.
Enneagram Three: I want to be successful. I’m afraid of being a failure.
How will you recognize me? Part performer, part workaholic, I have a compulsive need to impress people. I need tangible proof of my own worth. So, I work at it. Throwing myself into whatever role or career will help me to shine the most. My social image is important to me, and I’m careful not to mar it by dwelling on my weaknesses or less-proud moments. “Put on a happy face” and tackle the next big challenge, that’s my strategy. I may ignore pain, my own or other people’s.
At my best, though, I can be high-achieving, resilient, and capable of overcoming great obstacles to reach my goals.
Enneagram Four: I want to be special. I’m afraid of being ordinary.
How will you recognize me? I’m an alien. I’m a loner. I’m never “one of the crowd.” In my need to feel special, I over-emphasize my own broken pieces and wave them like a battle flag–anything to avoid the dreaded “normal.” I can be melodramatic. I can be self-centered. I can sabotage my own chances at happiness, pushing away those who care about me most, because happy people in happy relationships are … normal …
At my best, though, I can be creative, passionate, honest, and help others face darkness without fear.
Enneagram Five: I want to be competent. I’m afraid of being unprepared.
How will you recognize me? I’m a bit of a hermit. I watch from the sidelines. I see the world outside my house as a scary, complicated, overwhelming place, one I’ll never be ready to face. I never feel sufficient. I never feel like my resources are enough. I cope by withdrawing into my books, collecting skills and knowledge I may never test out in “the real world.” I hate strong emotions, and take pride in my detachment from them.
At my best, though, I can be scholarly, nuanced, meticulous, and generous in sharing what I know with others.
Enneagram Six: I want to be supported. I’m afraid of being alone and unsafe.
How will you recognize me? I’m a born skeptic. I question everything, and most of all, I question myself. I don’t feel secure in my own judgment or abilities, so I want to belong to a group I can trust. But … who can I trust? I come in many shades, from the strict rule-follower to the rebel constantly testing the boundaries, but one way or another, I’m always wrestling with authority. I may never find a system that fully allays my fears.
At my best, though, I can be deeply loyal, reliable, logical, and a much-needed voice of caution.
Enneagram Seven: I want to have fun. I’m afraid of being sad, bored, or deprived.
How will you recognize me? Boundless enthusiasm. I’m always ready for adventure. I’m always ready to party. When it comes to handling adult responsibilities, though, I’m less ready. Everyday routine leaves me drained and discontent. I have low tolerance for stress or pain. My coping mechanism is often simply, “run away.” I may put myself out there to pursue a job opportunity or a relationship, yet bolt at the first real sign of commitment: leaving puzzled friends or exes behind.
At my best, though, I can be full of energy, spirit, and joy, adding color to others’ lives.
Enneagram Eight: I want to be strong. I’m afraid of being bullied.
How will you recognize me? Either I’m the boss, or I want to be. I see the world as a place where you have power over others, or they have power over you. So I seize the initiative, taking control of groups or situations before they have a chance to control me. In doing so, I can be dictatorial. I can be aggressive. I can even be violent.
At my best, though, I can be a strong, reassuring presence in the lives of others, channeling my need for control into a readiness to protect.
Enneagram Nine: I want to be at peace. I’m afraid of conflict or disruption.
How will you recognize me? I’m the one who wants everybody to get along. I’m the one who hates fights. I don’t like asserting myself. I don’t like change. I don’t like pressure. I don’t like hard, tense situations of any sort. But life seems so full of them. People call me “lazy,” “a doormat,” and tell me to “get out of my shell.” I don’t understand why. Can we stop talking about this, please? Can we just eat ice cream in our pajamas?
At my best, though, I can be a valuable peacemaker, a source of kindness and stability to those who love me.
Typings and Mistypings
Typing yourself through the Enneagram is … a bit terrifying, let’s face it. Because Enneagram demands self-awareness of your deepest flaws. Unlike MBTI, which identifies a neutral “thought process,” it’s identifying your weaknesses, those things which, if you’re being honest with yourself, make you groan “whyyyyyy do I do this???” Although to clarify–this is NOT about beating oneself up or admitting defeat because “good news, I’m fundamentally broken & can’t be fixed.” (Lookin’ at you, my fellow Type Fours. 😉 ) Enneagram was created as a vehicle for self-improvement, a method to point out rough spots and work on filling ’em in.
Here’s the problem, though.
Even more so than MBTI, the world of Enneagram is absolutely rife with mistyping. Why? Even those ready & eager to examine their flaws often end up reading through Enneagram profiles and (subconsciously) picking THE WRONG SET OF FLAWS. The issues they “wish” they had, instead of the issues they actually have. This explains why I thought I was Type One for a good while instead of settling on Four … I’d rather see myself as impatient, exacting, and over-conscientious–hey, at least I’d get stuff done!!!–than as melodramatic and enamored of psychological darkness. But, hey. Here we are.
A small tip: If you’re like me, diving in to research the profiles for the first time, and there’s one type that sticks out like a sore thumb for its annoying-ness, “well, no way am I one of those idiots …”
… ya might actually be one of those idiots. 😛
Which is okay, because no type is better than another; and each one has its good, healthy points and its own way of contributing to this beautiful world of ours.
Common areas of confusion:
- Ones and Fours often mistype as each other; largely because they’re both idealists. Both repulsed by the world “as it is,” both wishing it could be something purer and more beautiful. But a) the One actively preaches and corrects, while the Four withdraws to brood™, and b) the Four has an overwhelming need to be different, to stand out from the crowd. The One doesn’t need to be different, just to be right.
- Rule-follower Sixes may mistype as Ones, seizing on an external, moral system (say, Catholicism) and strictly adhering to its guidelines. But again, in the Six’s case, this is more from a need to feel safe and secure, than a burning passion to be perfect.
- Rebellious Sixes, known as “counterphobic” Sixes, mistype as Eights because they identify with the Eight’s hard-charging, intense nature. The difference here is the Eight defers to no one–while the counterphobic Six defers to a few special, trusted individuals, and in fact feels safer doing so.
- Meanwhile, Twos (especially stressed or unhealthy Twos) mistype as Eight because of their bossy side: but a Two’s primary desire will always be “helping” and “feeling needed,” not so much “being in charge” for its own sake.
- Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec may be a “steamroller,” but she’s still a Two, not an Eight. Notice her loud, open, affection; her absolute certainty that she knows what is best for all the people around her. Twos want to be the fixer, the helper. And Ronan Lynch from The Raven Cycle is a classic counterphobic Six. If you pay attention, Mr. “I-won’t-let-nobody-tell-me-what-to-do” actually lets Gansey tell him what to do, QUITE A LOT.
- Sevens and Nines mistype as each other because of their shared reluctance to deal with life’s hard, messy situations. The key difference? A Seven does so spontaneously, a Nine does so quietly, stolidly. The Seven may dodge a tough decision by packing their Chevy and moving to Mexico: the Nine ignores a painful reality by binge-watching Friends and baking cookies.
- Finally: many, many, MANY people on the Internet who are absolutely Not Fives mistype as Fives, largely because Five is known as the rarest type, and therefore must be the coolest. *facepalms*
- There’s this misconception that anybody who likes books, enjoys a bit o’solitude, and was a teeny bit scared to learn to drive, must be a Five. No, no, no, and nope.
- Fives are clinically detached from their emotions and shun most contact with the outside world on principle. As with the INxJ, there’s a reason they’re rare, y’all.
I’m not going to get really deep into this next bit: but, basically: each Enneagram type can have one of two “wings” which kind of modify its tendencies in one way or another.
You’ll see this notation on a lot of Enneagram posts: 1w9. 1w2. 2w1. 2w3. And so on.
I’m going to use my own type, Type Four, as an example. You can be either 4w3 or 4w5. The 4w3 mixes a few traits of Type Three, notably the need to perform and the awareness of one’s social image, with the tell-tale emotional intensity of the Four. By contrast, the 4w5 mixes a few Five-ish traits, notably a “withdrawn” vibe and an eerie detachment from the opinions of others, with the Four’s search for an Authentic Self™.
What does this look like in practice? Well, fun fact: Pretty much all Fours are dedicated to expressing their unique identity through how they dress. My 4w3 sister cares very much about being in style (that’s her Three wing coming out), yet, without fail, she gravitates towards the more avant-garde or retro fringes of contemporary fashion. She’s aiming to create a fashionably unique Look: something you will see & never forget. Meanwhile? Yours truly, the antisocial l’il 4w5, dresses with pretty much zero regard to the fashions of the day, and if you tell me something I’m wearing is “dated,” I will cling to it even harder, as a symbolic “middle finger” to the entire CONCEPT of societal beauty standards.
Oh, and I refuse to wear makeup. 😛
Not gonna lie, this next bit is probably my favorite part of the Enneagram.
Lemme spare you the technical language and just say there are three “instinctual variants,” sp, sx, and soc. Sp is about basic needs like food, sleep, and safety. Sx is about chasing intense one-on-one relationships and intense experiences in general. Soc is about your connections to the larger community and your awareness of your group standing.
Here’s the fun part.
People who are sp first get extremelyyyyyyyy cranky when they’re hungry, when they stay up too late, when you tire them out, when you put them in a physically risky situation. I guarantee you, you know somebody like this. (It’s me. I’m the somebody. xD)
People who are sp blind forget to sleep, forget to eat, constantly take physical risks, and are genuinely surprised when their actions almost get them killed. You ABSOLUTELY know one of these lovable idiots. 😉 Makes more sense now, huh?
People who are sx first throw themselves into emotionally vulnerable situations headlong, have no secrets and few boundaries, and are 100% convinced love at first sight exists, because it happened to me one time in Caracas, lemme tell you about … um, yeah. 😉
People who are sx blind prefer a quieter version of life, thank you very much. The bonds they form are less intense, and that’s the way they like it. They may show little interest in romance. If they do, it’ll be more the “marry your best friend” variety.
People who are soc first are may not be wildly extroverted social butterflies, per se: but they are natural mixers to a degree, good at forming connections, reputation-conscious, and able to use community dynamics to their advantage.
People who are soc blind are kind of, um, clueless about all the above. 😛 For example? People who are soc-blind have no problem walking out of a sermon they disagree with, and may not even notice until they’re halfway down the aisle that PEOPLE ARE STARING AT ME. Most of the time, it barely even occurs to the poor hapless soc-blind that people in the aggregate a) exist and b) Are Watching.
#yes this story is oddly specific
#gee I wonder why
So now you know, folks. I’m INFP, 4w5, sp/sx, and soc-blind.
What about you?