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The Enneagram, explained

Updated: May 3, 2019

Enneagram books
Books on the Enneagram.

I first learned about the Enneagram in graduate school. The professor of my “Using Tests in Counseling” course described it, and I was hooked. Being a bibliophile, I immediately had to go out and buy every book on the subject (see photo above). For some reason, this one personality test resonated with me. I liked how it was so focused on the inner self, and that it explained so well why and how we act differently based on how healthy or stressed we feel.

So, after reading up on it, I created a “test” (based on Baron & Wagele’s The Enneagram Made Easy) and gave it to my co-workers. I think it pegged them well, based on my observations.

Later on, while teaching a career planning course to high school students, I vacillated on whether or not to have a lesson on the Enneagram. My concerns were about teens being able to be self-aware enough to take the free RHETI test online ( I did create a lesson plan and some semesters I taught it, and other semesters I didn’t. I’d say I had mixed results. Some students really found it helpful, while others came out with triple ties and couldn’t narrow it down even with reading the blurbs. This could be a result of taking the free sample RHETI and not the full one.

Now, I still vacillate on using it with clients. Sometimes I do, other times I don’t. I base it on whether or not I think the particular client will benefit from the insight. I still personally feel that the Enneagram is a great self-awareness tool, and I value the knowledge gained. The full RHETI test can be taken here:

In a nutshell:

Ennea is Greek for the number 9. Gram means “a drawing.” Enneagram means “a drawing with nine points.” Hence, the symbol.

The Enneagram is a set of nine distinct personality types, with each number on the Enneagram denoting one type. Numbers are value neutral— neither positive or negative. A larger number is no better than a smaller number; it is not better to be a Nine than a Two because nine is a bigger number.

The Enneagram is a 3 x 3 arrangement of nine personality types in three Centers.

Instinctive “Gut” Types: 8,9,1

Feeling “Heart” Types: 2,3,4

Thinking “Head” Types: 5,6,7

Everyone is a unique mixture of his or her basic type and usually one of the two types next to it on the Enneagram circle. One of the two types next to your basic type is called your wing.

There’s a continuum between healthy and unhealthy. This is why there are lines on the enneagram that link numbers. These are called arrows. Each number is connected to two other numbers. When relaxed you take on the positive qualities of one of the numbers. When stressed, you take on the negative qualities of the other number. For example, a Nine when relaxed, will take on positive aspects of the Three, when stressed will take on the negative aspects of the Six.

Want to know more? E-mail me! I’ll give you my favorite links and book titles!

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