Introduction to Enneagram | INFJ Forum

Introduction to Enneagram


Graduated from Typology : May 2011
Aug 9, 2009
6w5 sp/sx

There are nine personality types in the Enneagram. Each person has one basic type, which is defined by our basic fears, desires, and motivations. For some people, identifying these basic drives is difficult, which is why many methods use the manifesting traits to type people. However, the key here is that the Enneagram is meant to explain why we do what we do, not what. Here is a brief description of each type.

One - The Perfectionist, The Reformer

Hallmark characteristic: constant internal criticism towards oneself
Worldview: The world is an imperfect place. I work toward perfection.

Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/evil, defective
Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced

Two - The Giver, The Helper

Hallmark characteristic: need to become indispensable to another individual (or individuals)
Worldview: People depend on my help. I am needed.

Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
Basic Desire: To feel loved

Three - The Performer, The Achiever

Hallmark characteristic: "I am my image; I am what I do."
Worldview: The world values a champion. I must avoid failure.

Basic Fear: Of being worthless
Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile

Four - The Romantic, The Individualist

Hallmark characteristic: pervasive sense of something vital missing in life
Worldview: Something is missing. Others have it. I have been abandoned.

Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an identity)

Five - The Observer, The Investigator

Hallmark characteristic: detachment; viewing the world as an uninvolved observer
Worldview: The world is invasive. I need privacy to think and to refuel my energies.

Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
Basic Desire: To be capable and competent

Six - The Trooper, The Loyal Skeptic

Hallmark characteristic: pessimism; seeing the worst-case scenarios
Worldview: The world is a threatening place. I question authority.

Basic Fear: Of being without support and guidance
Basic Desire: To have security and support

Seven - The Optimist, The Epicure, The Enthusiast

Hallmark characteristic: seeing the good in everything; reframing negatives into positives
Worldview: The world is full of opportunity and options. I look forward to the future.

Basic Fear: Of being deprived and in pain
Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content—to have their needs fulfilled

Eight - The Boss, The Straight Shooter, The Challenger

Hallmark characteristic: bigger-than-life energy; seems to take up space regardless of stature
Worldview: The world is an unjust place. I defend the innocent.

Basic Fear: Of being harmed or controlled by others
Basic Desire: To protect themselves (to be in control of their own life and destiny)

Nine - The Mediator, The Peacemaker

Hallmark characteristic: overlooking own agenda to go with the flow; passive merging with others' desires
Worldview: The world won't value my efforts. Stay comfortable. Keep the peace.

Basic Fear: Of loss and separation
Basic Desire: To have inner stability "peace of mind"

-adapted from The Everyday Enneagram, The Enneagram in Love and Work, and

Each person also has a primary instinct. They work more underneath the basic 9 personalities, and tend to 'flavor' them. They are as follows:

strong concern with comfort, health, and security
tendency to be practical, serious, and introverted

Sexual (intimacy) - strong concern with intimacy, personal chemistry, and attraction/repulsion
tendency to be intense, aggressive, and competitive

Social - strong concern with group connection, social dynamics/situation, and one's status in groups
tendency to be friendly, open, and socially engaging

-adapted from

These three are separate from the 9 types; however, they do tend to shape the overall personality manifestation.

There's much more to say about the theory, but I'm not going into the details here. Just know that there are secondary types (known as wings and instinctual stackings) for each part of the theory. A more in-depth introduction can be found here:

Also, further reading:
On type stackings & combinations of type and instinct -
On descriptions of the different wing combinations -
A thread of references for enneagram -
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Once you know your core type, you can determine your tritype. There are multiple schools of thought here, so I'll try to go from most accepted to less accepted ideas when describing the one I subscribe to. That being said, I believe this method is the most logically consistent (and therefore correct).

At its core, a tritype will consist of one type from each triad. They are as follows:
Instinctive(Doing): 8,9,1
Identity(Feeling): 2,3,4
Head(Thinking): 5,6,7

Thus your tritype can be 9-3-6, but not 9-1-4(9&1 are instinctive). However, what order your tritypes are in depends on the core type:
-Primary types(3, 6, 9), I don't think the order is even significant, or it can fluctuate, because what defines them is their relation to their core center
-Secondary types(1,2,4,5,7,8), the adjacent triad comes next (e.g. 1=doing-feeling-thinking, 2=feeling-doing-thinking, 7=thinking-doing-feeling, etc.)

The reason for this ordering is due to the nature of the individual types. For example, type 5's are primary thinking, but have feeling scrambled up in their thinking processes and are out of touch with doing, making them a withdrawn type. Ones out of touch with the "quiet mind" (1, 2, 6) are compliant, and ones out of touch with feeling (7, 8, 3) are aggressive types. You'll notice that the primary types have an inverse relation to their core type, which is why, for example, 9's are out of touch with the doing center, despite being in the center of the doing triad on the ennea-circle.

How to determine tritype

Once you know your core type, you have three options for each remaining triad. At this point, you aren't necessarily picking one you identify with most, but rather which one best fits for characterizing that triad within you.
Doing(Instinct): what's your relationship to your instincts?
-8 has a more raw, aggressive instinct
-9 has difficulty getting in touch with instincts, and they (the instincts) are usually not well-defined
-1 has an inner critic, which easily feels (i.e. on instinct) right and wrong
Feeling(Identity): what creates your sense of self?
-2's identity comes from being helpful or needed
-3's identity comes from achievement or being the best
-4's identity comes from being unique
Thinking(Head): how do you conceptualize the world? what do you think like? (less sure about this one)
-5 has a detached perspective on life
-6 sees the world in terms of 'worst case scenarios'
-7 sees the world in terms of enjoyable opportunities

In addition, you can add wings onto each type in the triad. However, like with the core type, the wings should only be considered after determining the tritype. This is because the wings create subtypes, and it makes no sense to consider a subtype of something that you aren't at the basic level.

Each type has two wings, which are the adjacent numbers on the ennea-circle. However, one wing is usually more developed than the other. This means that the phrase 3w4 really means "type 3, and the 4-wing is more developed than the 2-wing." This is actually quite different from the phrase 4w3, and it is definitely not splitting hairs for anyone deeply concerned about personality.

Further reading on triads can be found here: Centers.htm

I am by no means an expert, so feel free to dispute my interpretation.
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Pointers for Advanced Investigations

With the Enneagram, the key question is why. In order to be reasonably confident about your enneatype, you must get into the habit of watching yourself and trying to figure out why you do what you do. At least while you are studying the Enneagram. And how do you know what to look for? Starting with the descriptions of your core type.

We type based on manifestations of behavior rather than what people feel is most important to them because all behaviors are caused by something. (And what's important to us on a month-to-month basis changes.) In the Enneagram we assume that something is (mostly) the core motivation, and that it will leave a trail throughout a person's life. So look to your type description, watch yourself act out your identified behaviors, and reflect on why you do what you do. If things aren't adding up, consider whether you might actually have a different dominant instinct, or a different core type. But it is less about the details and more about the overall picture, so don't get caught up about what one particular description says or one trait that doesn't fit when all the rest seems working.