Your 5 Burning Questions About The Enneagram, Answered

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

From "how do I use it?" to "can I be two types?"



The Enneagram is like a box of Girl Scout thin mints—once you start consuming it, you can't stop. From wings to subtypes and tri-types, there's SO much to take in and consider when understanding your type.


You may even be like me and start to look at everything in life as an Enneagram type—whether its strangers in coffee shops, brands you follow, celebrities, or TV characters (trust me, my mind has gone everywhere). But just remember, only you can determine what your type is.


I hope these common Enneagram questions help clear things up as you explore your type! And, if you're still unclear, I can help—you can book a typing session with me right here.


What exactly is the Enneagram?


The Enneagram is a self-discovery tool that explains motivation AKA why we do what we do. There are nine different types, each with a core motivation that explains our thinking, feeling, and behavioral patterns.


The nine types are divided into three centers, as shown below: the head, the heart, and the gut.


You'll also notice the arrows on the diagram. Each type is connected to two different types which is the direction you move in when responding to change, stress, or growth. This is commonly referred to as "health," which changes with life's highs and lows.


How can I use it?


Once you've taken the test or done the work to determine your type, you'll have a deeper connection with yourself, yay! Now you have a better understanding of your motivations, blind spots, and patterns. You can integrate the Enneagram in multiple aspects of your life. For instance, if you're a Type 2 (The Helper) searching for a job, you might find career satisfaction from a job that allows you to socialize with others and serve them (think a nurse, counselor, or teacher). Or, if you're a Type 8 (The Challenger) who's trying to figure out how to better communicate with their partner, a 9 (The Peacemaker) who is conflict-avoidant, it may help to use thoughtful phrases and give them more encouragement than they might ask for.


Why is it important?


For many reasons—but for starters, it allows you to take action on meeting your needs. Many personality tests give you a deeper understanding of yourself which is great, however, the Enneagram puts you in the driver's seat of navigating your patterns and acting accordingly. In a toxic job? Look inward and discover what you need to feel satisfied. Want to enhance communication with your loved ones? Understand their motive and way of thinking so you can most effectively reach their emotional core.

There can unfortunately be an emphasis on changing yourself to fit society's standards of how one should be. Instead of changing yourself to fit in, the Enneagram allows you to focus on what makes you unique and what gifts you bring. It makes you aware of your flaws so you can pinpoint potential issues before they blow up. So all in all, the Enneagram is important because it's actionable self-awareness.


Why don't I relate to my type?


So you took the test, read the description and it doesn't really sound like you. First of all, I hope you took the test when you had minimal distractions and were in a good headspace. If the answers are yes honey, it's time to introduce you to wings, subtypes, and countertypes. *Rolls up sleeves*


There are three instinctual subtypes for each of the nine personality types: self-preservation, one-on-one (or sexual), and social. Each of these three instincts exists within you, but one or two are usually dominant which can shift your personality. The self-preservation instinct is focused on preserving their own needs, comfort, and safety. The one-to-ones instinct focuses on the intensity of experiences and forming close alliances, and the social instinct seeks to build community and connections across groups.


Every type has a countertype based on how the instincts stack up. So, for instance, if you're a self-preservation dominant Four—which is the countertype to Fours who are intense and emotional, you might resonate more with the behaviors of a Type 7, the Enthusiast who keeps busy and seeks positive experiences and people. But remember, the Enneagram is not about what you do (behavior) it's about why you do it (motivation). So, your core motivation of creating a unique identity is the same as the other Fours, thus making you a Four. And yes, your instinct can change, but not your type.


Can I be multiple types?


We all have a varying degree of the nine types within us. What happens is, with childhood wounding and life experiences, you end up gravitating towards one of the nine types which then becomes your core way of seeing the world. So, you have one dominant personality type throughout your lifetime which does not change. But don't write me off just yet— wings, subtypes, countertypes, tri-types—as well as levels of health—can all have an impact and lead you to believe you are multiple types.


If you're stuck between a couple of types, my best advice would be to dig into the meatier stuff. Which fear do you relate to? Which defense mechanism do you resort to in times of stress? Instead of agreeing with general things like, "I like making other people feel good," get down to those hard-hitting patterns.


You might have noticed I mentioned tri-types above. This is a theory by Katherine Fauvre, who believes that while we have a dominant type, we also have a type in each center, meaning there are 27 tri-type archetypes. For instance, a 359 looks different from a 378—both have a dominant three who is high-achieving and ambitious, although the 359 is likely more withdrawn and thoughtful than a 378 who's social and not afraid to assert themselves.


For further information on exploring your Enneagram type, browse my typing guide here.


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