Knowing our strengths, weaknesses and biases is empowering. Knowledge of our personality type can help us to be more successful and to beat nasty habits that might otherwise take a lifetime to kick. The Enneagram model is a sophisticated human behavioural model that helps us to do just this, opening our eyes to who we are, and what we can achieve.
Rescu. spoke to internationally acclaimed Enneagram therapist and trainer, psychotherapist, and co-head of Integrated Therapy and Coaching at the Legacy Retreat, Jutka Freiman, to find out more about the Enneagram Personality test, and how to benefit from this system in your life and career.
RESCU: What exactly is The Enneagram?
Jutka Freiman: The enneagram is an ancient symbol which reveals a transformational map to help bring about human growth and healing. It is a powerful and dynamic personality system that describes nine distinct and fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Each of the nine patterns is based on an explicit perceptual filter. This filter determines the focus of your attention and how you direct your energy. Underneath each of the nine patterns is a basic proposition, or belief, about what need in life for survival and satisfaction.
RESCU: Can you tell us a little about the nine basic personality types?
Type One – The Perfectionist – believes you must be good and right to the worth. Consequently, Perfectionists are conscientious, responsible, improvement-oriented, and self-controlled, but also can be critical, resentful, and self-judging.
Type Two – The Helper – believes you must give fully to others to be loved. Consequently, givers are caring, helpful, supportive, and relationship-oriented, but also can be prideful, overly intrusive and demanding.
Type Three – The Performer – believes you must accomplish and succeed to be loved. Consequently, performers are industrious, fast paced, goal focused, and efficiency oriented, but also can be inattentive to feelings, impatient and image-driven.
Type Four – The Creative – believes you must obtain the longed for ideal relationship or situation to be loved. Consequently, romantics are idealistic, deeply feeling, empathetic, authentic to self, but also dramatic, moody and sometimes self-absorbed.
Type Five – The Observer – believes you must protect yourself from a world that demands too much and gives too little to assure life. Consequently, observers are self-sufficiency seeking, non-demanding, analytic/thoughtful, and unobtrusive, but also can be withholding, detached, and overly private.
Type Six – The Questioner – believes you must gain protection and security in a hazardous world you just can’t trust. Consequently, local sceptics are themselves trustworthy, inquisitive, good friends, and questioning, but also can be overly doubtful, accusatory and fearful.
Type Seven – The Enthusiast – believes you must keep life up and open to assure a good life. Consequently, Epicures are optimistic, upbeat, possibility – and pleasure-seeking, and adventurous, but also can be pain-avoidant, uncommitted, and self-serving.
Type Eight – The Protector – believes you must be strong and powerful to assure protection and regard in a tough world. Consequently, protectors are justice seeking, direct, strong, and action-oriented, but also overly impactful, excessive, and sometimes impulsive.
Type Nine – The Harmoniser – believes that to be loved and valued you must blend in and go along to get along. Consequently, mediators are self-forgetting, harmony-seeking, comfortable, and steady, but also conflict avoidant and sometimes stubborn.
RESCU: And how to the Centers work with the types?
Jutka Freiman: In Western psychology and education the mind has been elevated to prominence as ‘the’ centre of intelligence. Yet there is also an intelligence of the heart (emotional intelligence) and an intelligence of the body (sensations and instincts) The Enneagram acknowledges all three intelligences – mind, heart and body. Recognizing, developing and valuing all three centres of intelligence are crucial to all of us in reaching a fulfilling life. While all types rely to some degree on all three centres of intelligence, each of the types relies more heavily on one of the centres (depending on type).
- Heart Centre – type two, three or four – you tend to perceive the world through the filter of emotional intelligence.
- Head Centre – type five, six or seven – you tend to filter the world through the mental faculties
- Body Centre – type eight, nine or one – you tend to filter the world through an intelligence of kinaesthetic and physical sensations and gut instinct
RESCU: Does everyone fall into one exclusive type or can the lines be blurred?
Jutka Freiman: No, the Enneagram is a dynamic system that accounts for changes under various circumstances and explains why we are all uniquely different.
RESCU: Do people ever change types and can we work to change our type?
Jutka Freiman: The Enneagram as taught through narrative inquiry method is observationally based, and thus is self-verifiable, lending itself to scientific psychology. Through self-observation, one can begin to see for oneself the patterns proposed by the Enneagram.
The Enneagram gets directly to the core of motivation. Each type has a simple Basic Proposition about what is necessary for survival an satisfaction in life and a corresponding pattern of attention or set perceptual filters that determine what is experience and what isn’t.
RESCU: Does one’s self-assessment of their type and someone else’s assessment of their type differ?
Jutka Freiman: It can do, personality is all the characteristics and habitual behaviours of a person, i.e. the person’s type and influencing types. In Enneagram usage, personality may be defined as the nine particular patterns (habits of mind) into which attention is organised and into the corresponding mental and emotional preoccupations. In spiritual traditions these patters sometimes are referred to as the false self, the acquired personality, or false personality.
RESCU: How can understanding which of these personality types we are help us to lead a richer and more fulfilling life?
Jutka Freiman: Because the Enneagram is such a fundamental and powerful way to understand personality, it provides numerous, often immediate, practical applications for personal development in such diverse fields as education, business, relationships and family life.
RESCU: How can our Enneagram type affect relationships?
Jutka Freiman: The Enneagram helps us understand the limiting personality ‘box’ each of us is in, so that we can get out of the ‘box’, or at the very least, understand and enlarge the particular ‘box’ that constrains us. Gaining a sense of how we unknowingly and automatically constrain ourselves is of great importance in developing intimate relationships, and in leading more product and fulfilling lives.
However, be very cautious of using the Enneagram in any selection process in either personal (or professional) relations. Level of development and willingness to work on issues are more important than type per se.
RESCU: Can an understanding of which type our children are help with parenting? If so, how and how can we work out which style or type they fall into?
Jutka Freiman: The Enneagram provides a universal language, like mathematics. The language of type underlies race, religion, nationality, culture, gender, and group identity in any form. This universality helps foster greater and group identity in any form. This universality helps foster great understanding of what common to all. Thus, while no two individuals are alike, the Enneagram teachings show that we share specific discernible patters of thought, feeling and behaviour, thus opening up paths to mutual understanding.
The Legacy Retreat offers expert Enneagram workshops, visit: thelegacyretreat.com