By Abhishek Thakore
What’s in a number? Quite a lot, if you are to go by the Enneagram, a fascinating indicator of the type of person you are. Moreover, this ancient system, rediscovered in our time, can be used as a personal growth tool
Brief Type Descriptions
1 – The Reformer
The principled, the idealistic type. Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders and advocates for change: always striving to improve
things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organised, orderly and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionist. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their best: wise, discerning, realistic and noble. Can be morally heroic.Examples: Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Medha Patkar
2 – The Helper
The caring, interpersonal type. Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are generous and self-sacrificing but can also be sentimental, flattering and people-pleasing. They are well- meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and acknowledging their own needs. At their best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.
Examples: Princess Diana, Rani Mukherjee
3 – The Achiever
The adaptable, success-oriented type. Threes are self-assured and attractive. Ambitious, competent and energetic, they can also be status-conscious. They are diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness. At their best: self-accepting, authentic, everything they seem to be—role models who inspire others.
Examples: Shobha De, Aamir Khan, Arindam Chaudhari
4 – The Individualistic (Romantic)
The introspective, romantic type. Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence and self-pity. At their best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.
Examples: Protima Bedi, Mohammad Azharuddin, Maradona
5 – The Thinker
The perceptive, cerebral type. Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism and isolation. At their best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.
Examples: Einstein, Dhirubhai Ambani, Raj Kapoor
6 – The Loyalist
The committed, security- oriented type. Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent ‘troubleshooters’, they foresee problems and foster co-operation but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their best: internally stable and self- reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.
Examples: Ram Jethmalani, Mel Gibson
7 – The Enthusiast
The busy, productive type. Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over- extended, scattered and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.
Examples: Mahesh Bhatt, Sanjana Kapoor
8 – The Challeneger
The powerful, aggressive type. Eights are self-confident, strong and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking and decisive, but can also be egocentric and domineering. The feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. At their best: self-mastering, they use their strength to improve others’ lives, becoming heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring.
Examples: Amartya Sen, Kalpana Lajmi
9 – The Peacemaker
The easy-going, self-effacing type. Nines are accepting, trusting and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimising anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their best: indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts.
Examples: Mahatma Gandhi, A.R. Rahman
(Names given for each type above have been based on their public personas)
At first glance, you’ll pass it off as just another star-like figure. A geometry problem, or maybe another New Age art form. But as you approach it innocently, it turns out to be nothing short of a mirror-one that can show you your deepest fears and motivations, and how you see reality! Whether you’re an over-achieving pit-bull lawyer or a wannabe poet, it’s got your number.
Who are you? What are the triggers that set you off? What are your core values? For all of us this is vital information that can throw light on the mystery of us, who wouldn’t like to know more? The Enneagram is valuable not just for those seeking to understand themselves, but also as a source of insights into one’s friends and family, colleagues, and even enemies.
So what is it and where did it originate from?
The word ennea comes from the Greek word meaning ‘nine’ and the Enneagram is a nine-pointed figure that has its roots in Pythagorean theory-originally a model for understanding the predictable patterns of movement within any given system. It was first adapted to understanding personality types by a Bolivian psychiatrist named Oscar Ichazo in the early 1950s.
As Ichazo formulated each personality type on the Enneagram, he called the figure an Enneagon that is marked by a central fixation or passion. Around this fixation, our individual personalities take shape. “The moment we know our type we have observed ourselves in reality,” said Ichazo.
Or as David Daniels, a psychiatrist who works with the Enneagram puts it: “Embedded in each type is our basic belief about the world and how we live in it-not just the aspect of our underlying essence that has been most damaged but also the corresponding path of healing. If you are fully developed, you can incorporate all nine types or points of view, rather than skewing toward just one.”
The central points of the Enneagram are personality types from one to nine, each defining its own characteristics-The Reformer, The Helper, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Thinker, The Loyalist, The Enthusiast, The Challenger, The Peacemaker. As a Seven, for example, my worldview as deciphered by the Enneagram was perfect: “The world is full of opportunity and options. I look forward to the future.”
My basic healthy cycle was motivation to be happy. For this, I explore the world, and find more happiness. The unhealthy loop which I risk entering into is because of the fear of being deprived, which would lead me to seek more and more sensory pleasure. Without enjoying it fully, I jump to the next experience. I found this analysis quite accurate, but was it like the horoscope column in the papers-generalised for the masses? Maybe!
But along with this, I also began to understand that other types saw the world differently, but often just as narrowly. Twos, for example, are rewarded early on for being self-sacrificing, grow up ruled by a constant hunger to win approval from others, even at the cost of suppressing their own needs. An example could be Princess Diana.
Fours, beset by a sense of early abandonment and loss, believe that intense, passionate relationships are the key to escaping depression and finding happiness, only to feel forever let down. By contrast, Fives-intruded upon or simply ignored as children, cultivate detachment and minimise their needs to avoid feeling overwhelmed-but often end up isolated from intimate relationships. This one would fit some of our freedom fighters.
In a slightly different spin, Nines, overshadowed and often neglected when they were young, react by discounting their own needs and assimilating the agendas of others.
So what’s the use of the classification?
The Enneagram is not limited to characterising pathology. The states of mind and greater freedom. Unlike most western psychological personality-typing systems, the Enneagram treats all personalities as inherently defensive structures. “The work of the type is to stop being that type,” says Ichazo. “The fixation is dissolved by obtaining an understanding of the other eight positions.’
Although the Enneagram emerged as a personality-typing system just 25 years ago, its roots are mysterious, faintly mystical, and ancient. The Enneagram diagram goes back to at least the 5th century BC. As Dr S.L. Shah, one of Mumbai’s few Enneagram practitioners says: “The Sufis used this as a path to enlightenment. The master would classify each of his students on the basis of their numbers, identifying their flaws and helping them achieve salvation.”
He adds: “Once you know who you are, your basic motivations and traits, you can know what exactly you want in life. I have successfully used the Enneagram starting from helping people choose careers to match-making. Since your type will also tell you what creates stress for you, you can improve your health by staying away from it. In communication and interpersonal skills, it can create a revolution!”
Each number type also has a unique affirmation to correct the negative trait. Luiz Carlos Rocha, Delhi-based director of the International Enneagram Institute, says: “In my personal life, I use the Enneagram as a tool to understand myself and others. The realisation of my Enneagram type helps me understand whyI have been thinking, feeling, acting and doing things the way I have done, or undoing things and having the same type of conflicts.’
Rocha continues, ‘It shows my main life impulse, inborn abilities and intrinsic motivation to do things. The Enneagram also helps me see and overcome my manias, vices, limitations, etc. It gives me an understanding of howmy subconscious tendency to use my talents and abilities excessively (associated with my Enneagram type),makes me misuse and transformmy qualities into fixations and blind spots.This awareness helps me escape from the psychological traps in my personal and professional life.’
How do I know my number?
There are many ways to know your number-you could choose from a number of online tests (RHETI by Riso and Hudson, WEPSS by Jerry Wagner, and SEDIG by David Daniels), the best of which are to be paid for. There are also tests offered by sites like www.enneagramcentral.com. Alternatively, you could go to a mystic or a person who can analyse your personality type.
This option is reliable only if the person is an expert. Finally, there are many who realise their number just by reading descriptions. Enneagram is relatively new to India with a handful of teachers around, so the best way is to explore it with books and online tests. Beyond knowing your type come the wings and the triangles. So a 9 would be influenced by the wings 8 and 1 and also by the other points in the triangle-3 and 6. Which means that under different circumstances, you may assume traits of the wings too.
It is a fascinating study of how we interact, react and respond to different life situations. For a seeker, it might just be the compass he needed. But all this is a tricky game. “Enneagram may not work for each one of us,” warns Dr Shah, “and you may often get conflicting results of your number. If you don’t know your number, your efforts will go in vain.”
True, while online personality tests gave me a 7, personal classification yielded a 9. All this after reading the descriptions when I thought I was a 3. And finally I settled at 7. Too much confusion? But then hey! It’s new age!!
The Enneagram was introduced to the West by G.I. Gurdjieff, a Russian mystic and teacher. Influenced by Sufism, he first learned about the Enneagram.
Gurdjieff’s ‘Work’ was conceived around his belief that most of us are asleep to our true selves, identifying instead with our ‘false’ personalities. Gurdjieff used the Enneagram not to categorise personality types but as a model for dance movements suggested by the nine-pointed diagram. Gurdjieff also introduced the notion that each of us has a central fixation that drives our personalities.
As a bossy, controlling type 8, Gurdjieff liked to pick out what he called a student’s ‘Chief Feature’ and then take steps to force this defensive behaviour out into the open. Most people, Gurdjieff theorised, become so identified with their personalities that they lose all connection to their underlying essence. They begin to behave in defensive ways aimed at compensation for one aspect or another of inner deficiency.
“The hope is that by naming our own chief feature,” writes Helen Palmer, “we can learn to observe the many ways in which this habit has gained control of our lives.”
More uses of the Enneagram
Luiz Carlos Rocha, Delhi-based director of International Enneagram Institute, has been using the Enneagram in many ways.
For parenting: To help couples understand how to deal with children of different Enneagram types.
In school: To help teachers and/or students realise their intrinsic motivation, and how to use it to perform better.
In love and relationships: To help couples understand each other and live in respect and harmony.
Diagnosis of the work culture of the corporate and possible remedies: People and their thinking strategy make the corporate. Using the Enneagram we can define the company work style, its strengths, limitations, growth path, etc.
Knowing yourself: From the awareness about your Enneagram type, you will be able to identify the core elements of your Enneagram type in relation to your personal work style:
(i) Natural talents and strengths
(ii) Intrinsic motivation
(iii) Core values and identity
(iv) Intrinsic thinking strategy
(v) Communication, leadership, teamwork, decision-making, and time management style
(vi) Professional mindsets, fixations, limitations, weaknesses, obsessions, vices, etc.
Improving your work style: Based on the core elements and potentials of your Enneagram type, you will be able to gain awareness about your work style and know:
(i) How to build a strong foundation from your work style
(ii) How to work from your own identity and values
(iii) How to efficiently relate with each of the Enneagram types and to build a strong supportive network
(iv) How to eliminate your defects, fixations, and recurrent problems
(v) How to localise and to develop new values and qualities missing in your work style?
(vi) How to build an inspiring vision of your career?
(vii) How to develop a passionate mission and goals?
(viii) How to put the Enneagram into action to achieve your goals.
Contact: Luiz Carlos Rocha, Ph: +91 (11) 4638147, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Dr.S.L. Shah, Ph: +91 (22) 3775310.
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