In the world of psychology often the systems of nomenclature we use to describe people are focused on identifying pathology, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and so forth.
While the aforementioned way of looking at human behavior certainly has its place, it is not particularly useful in describing the manner with which most of us conduct our day to day interactions.
There are some nonpatholologically focused systems available with which we can look at human behavior. These attempt to categorize people with “alphabet soup“ designations such as ‘INFJ’ or with labels like ‘drivers’, ‘leaders’, and so on. Unfortunately, although they may claim to do so, none of those systems are particularly useful in developing an understanding how YOU can successfully intermingle your unique energies and characteristics with the unique energies and characteristics of others. And these aforementioned systems tend to be flat and uni-dimensional as they do not account for the varying states of mind created by experiencing powerful emotions such as ‘stress’ or ‘bliss’.
The ENNEAGRAM, on the other hand, is quite unique in its system of understanding personality as it is designed to look at people from a 360 degree perspective and focus not so much on peoples’ behavior but more on their ‘habits of attention’. The phrase ‘habits of attention’ refers to the mindset and patterns we tend to employ when approaching a person, problem and/or decision.
The word ENNEAGRAM comes from the Greek language, Ennea is the Greek word for the number nine (there are nine types in this system) and the term Gram which means drawing. The literal translation of the word is “a drawing with nine points”. The Enneagram has been in use for a very long while. In fact it is so ancient, that it’s exact origins have been lost in the mists of time. However, although it is ancient, it is far from antiquated. It is in fact as relevant today as it was several thousand years ago. Why? Because people change their hair styles, their clothes, their racial mixtures and their architectural styles, ‘open concept’, anyone? However, fundamentally we are unchanging in terms of our needs, feelings and desires.
There are several sources that claim to be the undisputed authority with regard to the ENNEAGRAM’s ‘correct’ interpretation and usage. It is a great way to sell books I guess, but it is unquestionably hyperbolic. However the argument as to ‘ownership’ of the ENNEAGRAM became so heated at one point that the question was brought to trial. And as a result there is now ‘case law’ establishing there is no ‘one’ owner of the ‘truth’ when it comes to the ENNEAGRAM.
When you take a look at the ENNEAGRAM you will note it is arranged rather like a clock face and that there are nine basic types. The first thing for you to know is that you fundamentally possess the energies of all nine types. However, there tends to be a spot on the ‘clock’ where you spend the majority of your time emotionally and psychologically. That is what is referred to as your HOME POINT. The HOME POINT can be influenced by the energies on either side of it and these points are called WINGS. For example, if you identify as a POINT TWO, your WINGS would be POINT ONE and POINT THREE.
So a HOME POINT TWO would be, to a greater or lesser degree, influenced by the energy of the points adjacent to it and would look slightly different depending on the nature and extent of those influences. There is also a HEART POINT and a STRESS POINT for each individual HOME POINT. The STRESS POINT is where we focus our energy when we are disappointed, sad or angry. The HEART POINT is where we focus our energy when we care deeply for someone or something.
By way of illustration, using POINT TWO again, the HEART POINT of TWO is FOUR and the STRESS POINT of TWO is EIGHT. So when a TWO loves someone or something their energy leans toward POINT FOUR, or as it’s often called, ‘The Tragic Romantic’. And when the TWO is unhappy in some way their energy leans toward POINT EIGHT or as it is more familiarly termed, ‘The Boss’. The energy of each HOME POINT is not static, it exists on a continuum. In other words you can be a HIGH, MEDIUM or LOW functioning, POINT ONE, POINT FIVE etc.
Let’s use the continuum of POINT TWO as an example to illustrate the above: A HIGH functioning TWO loves to give for the pure joy of giving. It is a spiritual practice for them. They make sure that they get their own needs met first which ‘powers’ their giving nature and allows it to flourish. They love to receive and be ‘given to’ in equal measure as well, which keeps them balanced and healthy. A LOW functioning TWO ‘gives to get’, is manipulative, does not ‘receive’ well, is prone to Co-dependency and is decidedly out of balance and unhealthy.
So as you can see , this system very handily allows for the expression and exploration of a broad spectrum of human reactions and behaviors. A word of caution, you will find inventories on the Internet that purport to guide you to your HOME POINT. I would however advise against using them, because they do not have the computational sophistication to discern ‘HOME POINTS’ from ‘WINGS’ and the user generally comes away more, rather than less, confused.
“Ok”, you might be thinking, “I’m sold, it sounds like a great system but how exactly do I determine my HOME POINT, WINGS and all the rest!” The time honored wisdom here is simply to read through the descriptions of all the points and choose whichever one you think fits you best. You can use the WINGS, the HEART and the STRESS points as guides in fine tuning your selection. Although this may sound a bit confusing all will be made much clearer when you have read through all the POINT descriptions at the end of this page.
This is only intended to be a quick guide to the various ENNEAGRAM types and is certainly by no means comprehensive. There are of course many scholarly works written on the subject of which you may avail yourselves. I would however, once again, encourage you to steer away from those writers who dismiss the work of others and claim to be the sole purveyors of wisdom on this topic.
If you get really stuck feel free to email me at, firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to assist you.
And here is a pdf that will give you all the details.