What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a powerful tool for self-awareness that is rooted in ancient wisdom and informed by contemporary psychology. It compiles centuries of research about personality formation and development into a comprehensive system that can serve as a guide for navigating the complexities of human experience and relationships.

The Enneagram is different from other popular personality systems like the MBTI (Myers-Briggs), True Colors, or even astrology, all of which deal primarily with behaviors. These systems can help us reach a degree of self-awareness by reflecting our own behaviors back to us, but they only really show us what we do. The Enneagram looks at why we do what we do, examining the deep motivational factors that drive our choices, and how these factors relate to one another.


The Enneagram identifies nine modalities for how people tend to interpret and respond to life based on the nine basic fears: the fear of being bad or wrong, the fear of being unloved, the fear of being worthless, the fear of having no identity, the fear of being incapable, the fear of being without support, the fear of being in pain, the fear of being controlled, and the fear of being in conflict.

All human beings experience all of these fears throughout our lives, but early in our development, the human ego fixates on a particular fear and forms a primary identity in response to it, a way of being in the world that we hope will keep us safe. This identity plays out unconsciously like a script in the back of our minds, telling us how we "should" live, establishing our modus operandi, as well as our particular blind spots. Convinced that our way to live is the "best" way, we fail to see our shadow side - the unhealthy patterns associated with our way of being in the world. We also struggle to truly understand the choices of others, whose lives are oriented around different centers of concern.

The purpose of discovering your Enneagram "type," then, is not to label you, or "put you in a box." Rather, it is to get you out of the box you are already in! This awareness can install a kind of "rearview mirror" on your life that will help you to check your blind spots, which can significantly improve your life and relationships.


How do I find out my Enneagram type?

It is not recommended that you take any of the free online tests. The Enneagram Institute offers a certified online test for $12 here: tests.enneagraminstitute.com. Upon completion of this test, you will get a ranking of how your responses match up with all nine types. From there, you will probably want to read more about your top two or three matches to begin the process of discerning which "script" is the one that is really driving your life.

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One-on-One Enneagram Guidance:

If you've had a hard time trying to figure out your Enneagram type, you aren't alone. Like a fish trying to see water, figuring out your own "script" is not easy! Because the Enneagram is dealing with lifelong patterns and largely unconscious values, fears, and motivations, even some of the tests can produce inaccurate results. When we are so accustomed to seeing and interpreting the world in a particular way, we often don't realize we are looking through a lens at all. We may find it hard to identify those aspects of our experience that are so deeply ingrained, and in some cases, we may we feel ashamed or afraid to admit or expose the truth about ourselves. 

To make matters even more difficult, two people of the same Enneagram type can look very different on the outside. Remember, it is not just about identifying what you do but why you do what you do (which is why it's never a good idea to try and guess someone else's type!). Also, simply knowing your Enneagram type will not automatically be helpful. Without the proper framework for understanding how to use this information, it can sometimes become counterproductive. Since people inevitably interpret the Enneagram system itself through the lens of their type, some will unwittingly end up using it to reinforce or justify their own negative patterns. 

For all these reasons, identifying your "type" can be a confusing process! It can be helpful to have an experienced guide who can explain how the system works, and how you can use it to facilitate your own personal development, relationships, and healing. 

I have been researching and working with the Enneagram for over ten years, both in my own spiritual and psychological growth, and through my training with The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro. I have worked with people of all types and levels of experience, guiding newcomers through the process of discerning their type for the first time, and helping those with a cursory knowledge of their type begin to develop a deeper understanding of the system and how it applies in everyday situations and relationships. 

In addition to one-on-one sessions, I also offer an Introduction to the Enneagram workshop for churches and other groups. Visit my workshops page to learn more. 

Recommended Books:

Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, New York: Bantam1999. 


Helen Palmer, The Enneagram In Love & Work: Understanding Your Intimate & Business Relationships, San Francisco: Harper One, 1995. 

Ian Morgan Cron & Zuzanne Stabile, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2016. 

Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2001.