What is the Enneagram
The Enneagram is an ancient tool for personal understanding, development and transformation. It is a system that can provide data that helps us understand that we need to go beyond our habitual responses in order to better understand and relate to others. If we know the Enneagram type of ourselves and others we are dealing with, we have an idea of how people might function in different situations. This is because we all behave automatically at times, in response to the influence of our personality when we are not paying attention. The more self-aware we are, the less our habbits affect our thoughts, feelings and actions Understanding this predictability increases our understanding of others, leading to greater tolerance and forgiveness and less blame. It also helps others understand us and helps us develop greater self-awareness and be more forgiving of ourselves when we go off track.
“Ennea” is the Greek word for “nine” and grammos means ‘point”. Its symbol is a nine-pointed star around a circle. The symbol has its own mathematical derivations and internal significant connections.
Background to the Enneagram
The Enneagram symbol has roots in antiquity and can be traced back at least as far as the works of Pythagoras. There has been a recurrent theme in Western mystical and philosophical tradition—the idea of nine forms. This idea was discussed by Plato and further developed in the third century by the Neo-Platonic philosophers, particularly Plotinus in his central work, The Enneads. These ideas found their way from Greece and Asia Minor southward through Syria and eventually to Egypt. There, it was embraced by early Christian mystics known as the Desert Fathers and these ideas are found in the work of Evagrius Ponticus, or Evagrius of Pontus, a Christian mystic who lived in 4th century Alexandria. He developed a comprehensive list in AD 375 of eight evil thoughts or eight terrible temptations, from which all sinful behaviour springs. This list was intended to serve a diagnostic purpose: to help readers identify the process of temptation, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the remedies available for overcoming temptation. This list was later distorted and came to be known as the Seven Deadly Sins.
G. I. Gurdjieff is credited with making the enneagram figure commonly known. Gurdjieff stressed that man must foremost study himself. Know Thyself, normally ascribed to Socrates, actually originates from the earliest recorded teachings. However Gurdjieff did not develop the nine personality types associated with the Enneagram that we know today. These are claimed to be principally derived from the teachings of Oscar Ichazo and later Claudio Naranjo. Numerous other authors, including David Daniels, Helen Palmer, Russ Hudson, Don Riso, Richard Rohr and Elizabeth Wagele, also began publishing widely read books on the Enneagram of Personality in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Three Intelligences
There are three different energy groups or Intelligences around the Enneagram circle. They represent gut instinct, feeling and thinking perspectives. Each one has its own special, intelligent, filter through which its members view the outside world of things, events and people. These filters provide incredible insights that may not be picked up by members of the other groups at all, or perhaps not till much later. These insights help us to survive and thrive in the world, but unfortunately, they sometimes throw us off track and we damage ourselves, key relationships and others in the process, often without realising.
- The Gut Instinct, or Instinctual group includes the Leader (Type 8), the Peacemaker (Type 9) and the Perfectionist (Type 1). This group is often concerned with practical action, responsibility and behaviour of themselves and others and are usually blessed with commonsense. It is often called the “Instinctual Triad”. Control of self and others is important and the unconscious motivators help to create order in the world. Control of anger can take its toll on the Instinctual group and on those they deal with. The Instinctual types seem to have the wisdom of the ages embedded in their centres of intelligence – their bodies.
- The Feeling or Heart group includes the Giver (Type 2), the Achiever (Type 3) and the Individualist (Type 4). This group is often concerned with gaining the approval of important others. It has been called the “Feeling Triad”. Deeply sensitive to the feelings of themselves and others, their centre of intelligence is said to be their hearts
- The Thinking, or Head group includes the Analyst (Type 5), the Questioner (Type 6) and the Optimist (Type 7). This group uses thinking to escape anxiety caused by fear.Often called the “Thinking Triad”, the members frequently suspend feelings in order to be able to function effectively through mental processing, their first point of reference to the outside world. Skilled in gathering data and its analysis, thinking types add intellectual rigour and perspective to the world.