For many years, I’ve been a student of the Enneagram, a personality typing system. If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs, it’s a little like that, except I find using the Enneagram to be better in terms of understanding myself, others, and for understanding how to create characters. If you’re interested in determining your own Enneagram style, there are various online tests. Each type has good traits, bad traits, and downright ugly traits. Each type also has a potential for greatness, a particular gift that your type best bestows upon the world.
You might be thinking that the purpose of knowing your style is to become a better example of your style, but that isn't why we study the Enneagram. We all have ALL styles within us, but 99% of the time, we express only our own type. You probably know that a definition of insanity is trying to solve a problem the same way, time after time, and getting the same result? Well that’s what we do. We use habitual reaction styles—and get the same results. It’s a recipe for self-defeat.
A sound knowledge of our own reactions, known as self-awareness—which is gained through intense scrutiny of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors—gives us a baseline for change. From there, if we thoroughly understand other Enneagram styles, we can step out of our paradigm, or box, and choose a behavior from one of the other styles that serves us better in a given situation. That’s known as transcendence, transformation, or simply character growth.
We all focus on different things in the environment, and use different means to try to gain control, depending on our Enneagram style. Nor is everyone the same within a style. An Enneagram style is like a nationality, and indeed, countries have Enneagram personality styles. Examples: Switzerland is Style 1; America is Style 3; France is Style 4; England is Style 5; Hawaii (a state, not a country!) is Style 9.
The Enneagram sorts personality into Nine basic styles. Each style of relating is quite different from the others. Briefly stated, if you fall into the HEART triad, Numbers 2,3,4, you're ruled by your feelings, which cause you to have trouble with identity, or knowing who you really are.
If you're in the HEAD triad, Numbers 5,6,7, you tend to think too much, thus live in your head. You have underlying issues with fear, which frequently prevents you from living fully in the day-to-day world, doing the things you need to do.
If you're in the BODY, or GUT triad, you're a do-er, but you have underlying issues with anger.
Each type also has two wings, which are the styles on either side of your number, and also a stress point and an integration point. These things also help to create the lens through which you view the world, how you react to stimuli, and who you are. There's much to say about wings, stress and integration points, but that's a project for another time. Maybe next year's A-Z challenge.
Finally, each type falls into one of three Instinctual Subtypes.
It’s the 27 Instinctual Subtypes that I’ll focus on in the challenge, matching them against a different Instinctual Subtype to see the type of relationship the pairing might produce. Tomorrow, I’ll give a general introduction to the Instinctual Subtypes.