Introduction to Enneagram Personality Theory

This post will try to describe Enneagram personality theory, developed by Ruso and Hudson. Here is the link to their enneagram website.

I find it describes “motivation” and “personality” much more richly than anything else I have seen. I started just flipping through one of Ruso and Hudson’s books 2 years ago and it seems to organize a lot of the observation made about people and relationships. It is a little hard to get your mind around at first because there are lots of generic descriptions, 9 and 3s, and lines going around. There are three main benefits to this work.

  1. It will indicate to you what ‘kind’ of activities will most appeal to you when you are healthy mentally, i.e. what do you really want or your drive.
  2. Will give you a frame work to understand people better. That is you can apply what you learn about yourself to others.
  3. Tell you what traits you exhibit in particular will help you or hinder you based on personality type. For instance 8s have problems with anger so when they get angry they start plotting revenge. This is particularly dangerous for 8s as it can drag them down because they are part of the instinctive triad.

The website has a free personality test and a 10 dollar one. The free test should provide a high score on wing or primary personality type.

This is the best way I can describe their personality theory but it will take a little reflection. First no one is pure anything but we all have a dominant personality we retain through life. We can change radically under the same personality but when we feel down we always seem to revert to the same modes of thinking or habits. Specifics, there are 3 triads and three personalities within each triad, having one of three relationships to its triad that makes 9 major types. Each personality usually has a major wing that can cross triads making for some paradoxes. That is 27 personality types in all. I will list them at the bottom.


The 3 triads have particular problems with everyday life but we all have a piece of all the personalities

Feeling Triad = sadness hopelessness (2-4)

Thinking Triad = anxiety about the outside world (5-7) (thinkers are not smarter than other triads but 6 and 5 get drawn to academic pursuits more frequently than other peeps)

Instinctive Triad = anger about the outside world. (8,9,1)

Obviously a given situation might produce similar emotions in almost all people, but when we think about jobs, relationships, travel what really comes up the most. One trick our minds play is we might feel anger but not its root causes. For instance 6s have real problems with this as they feel anxiety-causing anger but cannot recognize the source of anger.


The nine personality types are in the figure (left). Don’t get caught up on one word descriptions as people within each category can be quite different overtime. One more point – level of development. Each personality has 9 levels of health. As you move up and down in health also you move around the enneagram either in a good ‘integrative’ way or a bad way in the direction prescribed by your personality. These descriptions show the best to worst traits.

(from the website)

The Reformer Principled, purposeful, self-controlled & perfectionistic

The Helper Generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing & possessive

The Achiever Adaptable, excelling, driven & image-conscious

The Individualist Expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed & temperamental

The Investigator Perceptive, innovative, secretive & isolated

The Loyalist Engaging, responsible, anxious & suspicious

The Enthusiast Spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive & scattered

The Challenger Self-confident, decisive, willful & confrontational

The Peacemaker Receptive, reassuring, agreeable & complacent

enneagram_levelsIt is the movement that will really allow one to figure out personality types. The figure above does not have arrows but healthy 5 goes to ‘healthy’ attributes of an 8 and then if they are supper healthy to a healthy 2 in theory (not really done practice). Unhealthy 5s move to unhealthy 7s. So the Enneagram is three dimensional and changes over time. You have to read the website for a more detail explanation. Examine how you or others (if you are not introspective) act when ‘healthy’ integrative or unhealthy. Ask some people who know you if you unsure. It might take a few tries. The website has some descriptions but the book has a lot more info so if you are interested you can get it for 10 dollars (see guide slides as well).  You can search through the website on things like relationships and misidentifications which are also interesting.

The Nine Types in Brief (from the website)

Type One
The Reformer

The principled, idealistic type. Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

Type Two
The Helper

The caring, interpersonal type. Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their Best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

Type Three
The Achiever

The adaptable, success-oriented type. Threes are self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, they can also be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement. They are diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness. At their Best: self-accepting, authentic, everything they seem to be—role models who inspire others.

Type Four
The Individualist

The introspective, romantic type. Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.

Type Five
The Investigator

The perceptive, cerebral type. Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way

Type Six
The Loyalist

The committed, security-oriented type. Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent “troubleshooters,” they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their Best: internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.

Type Seven
The Enthusiast

The busy, productive type. Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their Best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

Type Eight
The Challenger

The powerful, aggressive type. Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. At their Best: self-mastering, they use their strength to improve others’ lives, becoming heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring.

Type Nine
The Peacemaker

The easy-going, self-effacing type. Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually grounded, supportive, and often creative, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent and emotionally distant, simplifying problems and ignoring anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their Best: indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts.

All Rights ReservedCopyright 2008 The Enneagram Institute

Types with wings:

Comfort seeker 9w8

Bear 8w9

Maverick 8w7

Realist 7w8

Entertainer 7w6

Buddy 6w7

Defender 6w5

Problem solver 5w6

Iconoclast 5w4

4w5 Bohemian

4w3 aristocrat

3w4 professional

3w2 the star

2w3 Host hostess

2w1 Servant

1w2 the advocate

9w1 the dreamer

This is a link to a more complete summery guide to the enneagram with web power point slides:

Two other points_

  1. Ruso and Hudson do make money but they are not scam artist. They do lessons but don’t send out lots of e-mail and most products are reasonable but a little over priced. They sent me 3 e-mails last year.
  2. There is eastern new age influence but there method fits in psychology which of course has eastern influences. It has been associated with Sufi mystics, Greeks, and Babylonians although the origin or not clear. More like aspects of Plato’s republic and is not a quick fix cult. There have been several academic papers published based on their and other work in psychology.

About Matthew Mulbrandon

I really like maps, as I am a geographer, and with the help of my more artistic partner I make cool maps. My focus in work and education has been centred on urban problems particularly housing and transportation. I have built and am working on several agent-based housing models. I am also interested in developing innovative ways to combat urban congestion using buses and electric kick scooters. Also it has led me to more theoretical pursuits such as how we determine if a model or methodology is sound (epistemology). How individuals relate to their social and built environment and their resulting interactions (social theory). Cities and really all our institutions are made of people with all their issues, virtues, and dreams and cannot be discounted when examining policy or predicting behaviours.

There is one comment

  1. what happened to limewire

    Aw, this was a quite quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this as well – taking time and genuine work to make a excellent article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and in no way seem for getting one thing done.

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