My first experience of Enneagram
was attending a weekend group session
with a work colleague who was doing
a counselling course, and was keen to
learn more about herself. It was a
thoroughly enjoyable, laughter-filled
session, full of surprising insights,
many of which I still remember.

The session was conducted by a Catholic Institution in Sydney, and seemed to me at the time (20+ years ago) to be entirely focused on helping individuals understand themselves and others better – the only religious content was what was relevant to the Enneagram model.

What I didn’t realise until I began researching the article for this website, was that the roots of Enneagram can be perceived as somewhat controversial. Enneagram has still been included, because as a model for understanding temperament, it is quite unlike the other models discussed (and many others besides). It has nine divisions, rather than the usual base of four, and addresses a number of additional factors in quite a unique manner.

For home educators, I consider the opportunity to investigate drives, fears, passions, etc., extremely relevant to how we interact with our children as students. I trust you to use your own discernment as you investigate in this area. While much of Enneagram’s development may be considered perhaps less ‘academic’ than some other temperament models, it has certainly found its way into mainstream use, and provides another interesting tool for those who relate to it.


The idea of qualities of existence that are essential, that cannot be broken down into constituent parts, was discussed historically as far back as 400BC, by Greek philosopher and mathematician, Plato. The idea was expanded in the third century AD by Neo-Platonic philosophers, Plotinus in particular. [1][2]

From Greece and Asia Minor, these ideas moved south through Syria and Egypt, where they were further developed. Thus the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy.

This is a colorful gradient version of the Enn...

Image via Wikipedia

The Enneagram symbol, a circle, an inner triangle and a hexagonal periodic figure, representing unity, the law of three, and the law of seven. [3] While the symbol can be traced back as far as Pythagoras [4], it was reintroduced to the modern world by George Gurdjieff, who formed and closed various schools around the world which followed his teachings. While some considered Gurdjieff a master who brought Eastern enlightenment to the West, others considered him nothing more than a charlatan. [5]

Gerdjieff taught about the Enneagram symbol, using movement and dance, music and story-telling, employing Sufi traditions in his communications. He instructed advanced students in their ‘chief feature’, the lynch-pin of the individual’s ego structure, or the basic characteristic which defined them. Gurdjieff did not teach a system of types associated with the symbol, and he never taught anything about a system of understanding character related to the Enneagram symbol.[1]

Modern Enneagram

The modern Enneagram of Personality Types is synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions, brought together by Bolivian-born philosopher, Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo drew from a number of recurrent themes in ancient traditions, and combined his knowledge with what he called the ‘Enneagon’ symbol, developing what is now known as Enneagram. [1]

Ichazo saw the Enneagram as a way of examining specifics about the structure of the human soul and particularly about the ways in which actual soul qualities of Essence become distorted, or contracted into states of ego.

While Ichazo taught a system of 108 Enneagrams, just four are focused on in current interpretations: Enneagrams of Passions, Virtues, Fixations and Holy Ideas. Holy Ideas and Virtues are considered Higher Essence Qualities, while Fixations and Passions are considered Ego Distortions. Loss in the areas of Higher Essence is what produces distortion in the lower, Ego areas.

According to Ichazo’s theory, there are nine main ways a person can lose their centre, or forget their connection with the Divine, and thus become distorted in thinking, feeling and doing. [1]

The Basics

Exploring the definitions can seem quite complicated, and the outlines provided below really are very minimalistic. There is a lot more information available for you to pursue, if you choose.

Do keep in mind, though, that not everything in the description of your basic type will apply to you all the time because you fluctuate constantly among the healthy, average, and unhealthy traits that make up your personality type.[7][1]


The Centres

Each Enneagram has 3 Divisions, or Centres, each with it’s own dominant emotion:[7]

  • Types 2, 3, & 4 – these types are Feeling, with a dominant emotion of Shame
  • Types 5, 6, & 7 – these types are Thinking, with a dominant emotion of Anxiety
  • Types 8, 9 & 1 – these types are Instinctive, with a dominant emotion of Anger or Rage


Every person is a unique mixture of their basic type, and usually one of the two types adjacent to it on the circumference of the Enneagram. The adjoining type you have tendencies towards is called your wing.[7]

Levels of Development

There is an internal structure within each personality type; a continuum of behaviors, attitudes, defenses, and motivations formed by the nine Levels of Development which makes up the personality type itself.

The Levels account for differences between people of the same type as well as how people change both for better or worse. Basically, there are three levels in each section:[7]

  • Healthy
    Level 1 – Liberation
    Level 2 – Psychological Capacity
    Level 3 – Social Value
  • Average
    Level 4 – Imbalance / Social Role
    Level 5 – Interpersonal Control
    Level 6 – Overcompensation
  • Unhealthy
    Level 7 – Violation
    Level 8 – Obsession and Compulsion
    Level 9 – Pathological Destructiveness

Directions of Integration & Disintegration

Each type has a known tendency towards another type, when their own type is either integrating (becoming healthier, growing) or disintegrating (becoming more unhealthy, stressing). [7]

These are readily observable on the the Enneagram, as being the lines stretching out either side of the base type position on the outer circle of the Enneagram.

The Direction of Integration or Growth is indicated by the sequence for the 1-7-5-8-2-4-1 (on the hexagon), and 9-3-6-9 (on the triangle). So, a One who is learning to integrate will become more like a healthy Seven; a Seven who is integrating will become more like a healthy Five, etc. [7]

These patterns are simply reversed to observe the sequence for the Direction of Disintegration or Stress. 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 (on the hexagon), and 9-6-3-9 (on the triangle). Thus, a One who is becoming stressed is more likely to behave like an unhealthy Four; a Four who is becoming stressed will likely behave like an unhealthy Two, etc. [7]


The information available on each type is quite complex, so these overviews are indeed brief. For more information, visit the Enneagram Institute website, specifically the pages on the Traditional Enneagram (and scroll down to the overviews), and Type Descriptions (and follow the hyperlinked  type-names to comprehensive pages of description). [1][7][8]

Type 1 – The Reformer

  • Passion: Anger
  • Virtue: Serenity
  • Fixation: Resentment
  • Holy Idea: Perfection
  • General Temperament: principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic
  • Basic Fear: becoming corrupt, being defective
  • Basic Desire: having integrity, being balanced
  • Temptation: hypocrisy, or being hyper-critical of others
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 4 – Ones who are angry and critical may behave in a moody, irrational manner, like an unhealthy Four
  • Security/Integration point: 7 – Ones who are objective and principled may become more spontaneous and joyful like healthy Sevens
  • Wings: 1-9 Idealist, 1-2 Advocate

Type 2 – The Helper

  • Passion: Pride
  • Virtue: Humility/Altruism
  • Fixation: Flattery
  • Holy Idea: Freedom
  • General Temperament: demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive
  • Basic Fear: being unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: to be loved unconditionally
  • Temptation: manipulating others to elicit positive responses
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 8 – Twos who give without reciprocation become manipulative and angry like unhealthy Eights
  • Security/Integration point: 4 – Helpful Twos may become emotionally strong, caring, and authentic, like healthy Fours.
  • Wings: 2-1 Servant, 2-3 Host/Hostess

Type 3 – The Achiever

  • Passion: Deceit
  • Virtue: Authenticity/Truth
  • Fixation: Vanity
  • Holy Idea: Law/Hope
  • General Temperament: adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious
  • Basic Fear: being considered worthless
  • Basic Desire: being considered valuable
  • Temptation: trying to please everybody
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 9 – Threes who become burnt-out may begin to disengage from their relentless drive for success, behaving more like unhealthy Nines
  • Security/Integration point: 6 – Threes who recognise that being that success isn’t everything may become comfortable being committed to others and exploring their emotions, more like healthy Sixes.
  • Wings: 3-2 Star/Charmer, 3-4 Professional

Type 4 – The Individualist

  • Passion: Envy
  • Virtue: Equanimity
  • Fixation: Melancholy
  • Holy Idea: Origin
  • General Temperament: expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental
  • Basic Fear: becoming commonplace
  • Basic Desire: being unique and authentic
  • Temptation: self recrimination and withdrawal
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 2 – Fours who fall apart can easily become dissatisfied like unhealthy Twos.
  • Security/Integration point: 1 – Fours who become self-actualised came are more idealistic and progressive, like healthy Ones.
  • Wings: 4-3 Aristoract, 4-5 Bohemian

Type 5 – The Investigator

  • Passion: Avarice
  • Virtue: Detachment
  • Fixation: Stinginess
  • Holy Idea: Transparency
  • General Temperament: perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated
  • Basic Fear: being useless, helpless or incapable
  • Basic Desire: being capable and competent
  • Temptation: wanting to keep the world at bay
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 7 – Fives who become detached can be hyperactive and scattered like unhealthy Sevens
  • Security/Integration point: 8 – Fives who become integrated can be self-confident and decisive like healthy Eights
  • Wings: 5-4 Iconoclast, 5-6 Problem Solver

Type 6 – The Loyalist

  • Passion: Fear
  • Virtue: Courage
  • Fixation: Cowardice
  • Holy Idea: Faith
  • General Temperament: engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious
  • Basic Fear: being without a support system in an unforgiving world
  • Basic Desire: to feel safe
  • Temptation: questioning the intentions of everyone around them
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 3 – Sixes who become anxious and paranoid may try to win others over to camouflage their anxiety, like unhealthy Threes
  • Security/Integration point: 9 – Sixes who are positive may become more peaceful open and receptive, like healthy Nines.
  • Wings: 6-5 Defender, 6-7 Buddy

Type 7 – The Enthusiast

  • Passion: Gluttony
  • Virtue: Sobriety
  • Fixation: Planning
  • Holy Idea: Wisdom/Work
  • General Temperament: spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered
  • Basic Fear: being bored
  • Basic Desire: to experience as much of the world as possible
  • Temptation: moving too fast
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 1 – Sevens, when forced to stand still, may become irritable and impatient, like unhealthy Ones.
  • Security/Integration point: 5 – Sevens who are confident and experienced may bring a sense of calm to hectic situations like healthy Fives.
  • Wings: 7-6 Entertainer/Sparkler, 7-8 Realist

Type 8 – The Challenger

  • Passion: Forcefulness
  • Virtue: Innocence/Generosity
  • Fixation: Vengeance
  • Holy Idea: Truth
  • General Temperament: self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational
  • Basic Fear: violation, being harmed or controlled by others
  • Basic Desire: to determine their own life’s course, to protect themselves.
  • Temptation: being too self-sufficient
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 5 – Eights, in their pursuit of control, may become withdrawn and isolated like unhealthy Fives
  • Security/Integration point: 2 – Eights who are forward-thinking and proactive learn to become helpful and cooperative like healthy Twos
  • Wings: 8-7 Maverick/Independent, 8-9 Bear

Type 9 – The Peacemaker

  • Passion: Sloth/Indifference
  • Virtue: Action
  • Fixation: Indolence
  • Holy Idea: Love
  • General Temperament: receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent
  • Basic Fear: of annihilation, loss and separation
  • Basic Desire: to maintain inner stability and peace of mind
  • Temptation: complacency, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting
  • Stress/Disintegration point: 6 – Nines may become anxious, suspicious and negative, expressing aggression, more like unhealthy Sixes
  • Security/Integration point: 3 – Nines may begin to work at developing themselves and their potential, and move into greater action in the world, like healthier Threes
  • Wings: Comfort Seeker/Referee, 9-1 Dreamer

More Articles on Enneagram

Free Online Enneagram Testing

  • Ecclectic Energies – a choice of two tests, one brief and one more comprehensive
  • Riso-Hudson Test on Enneagram Institute – a free sampler, and a more comprehensive test for a nominal cost
  • Personality Online – a comprehensive test of 180 questions, which promises a swift analysis

“Love is the only way to grasp another
human being in the innermost core of
his personality. No one can become fully
aware of the very essence of another
human being unless he loves him.
By his love he is enabled to see the
essential traits and features.”
~ Viktor Frankl

[1] The Enneagram Institute: History and Origins, The Traditional Enneagram.
[2] Wikipedia article: Plato
[3] Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele, Enneagram Made Easy, pp.1–11
[4] Ichazo has called the Enneagram the “Ninth Seal of Pythagoras,” see Goldberg, 1993.
[5] Wikipedia article: George Gurdjieff
[6] Helen Palmer, The Enneagram in Love and Work, pp.24-26
[7] The Enneagram Institute: How the Enneagram System Works
[8] Don Richard Riso & Ross Hudson, Personality Types, pp.27-55