What Is the Enneagram?

Christopher L. Heuertz, author of The Sacred Enneagram, shares an overview and introduction to the Enneagram.

Often misunderstood as simply a personality tool used to describe quirks and traits of people’s individuality, the Enneagram goes much further than mere caricatures. The contemporary Enneagram of Personality illustrates the nine ways we get lost, but also the nine ways we can come home to our True Self. Put another way, it exposes nine ways we lie to ourselves about who we think we are, nine ways we can come clean about those illusions, and nine ways we can find our way back to God.

The Enneagram is a sacred map of our soul, one that shows us the places where we have vulnerabilities or tendencies to get stuck as well as the possibilities of where we can go for deeper freedom and inner peace. This sacred map isn’t fatalistic; it’s not deterministic; it’s not a horoscope or a predetermined course that doesn’t allow for personalized twists—it’s a compassionate sketch of possibilities and opportunities, pointing us back to our True Self and the possibility of anchoring ourselves

The Enneagram explains the “why” of how we think, act, and feel. It helps us come to terms with our gifts as well as the addictive patterns that tether us to our greatest interpersonal, spiritual, and emotional challenges. The Enneagram invites us to deeper self-awareness as a doorway to spiritual growth.

When drawn, the Enneagram is a circle with nine equidistant points on its circumference. At the top of the circle is the tip of an equilateral triangle, and the remaining six points form an irregular hexagram connected by nine crisscrossing lines inside the circle.

The nine points on the Enneagram represent nine distinct human types. It’s widely agreed among Enneagram practitioners that for each of us, though we exhibit bits of all nine types, one particular type dominates. That dominant Enneagram type stays with us throughout our lives; the type doesn’t change.

Before you start to think the Enneagram puts you in a box, it’s important to realize it’s a much more nuanced and dynamic system. Like a color wheel that displays the blending of hues and shades around a vibrant circle, the Enneagram illustrates how each type mingles and mixes with the numbers on either side of it. In fact, each of the types on either side of an Enneagram number are called its wings, and these adjoining types help balance the types they’re connected to.

There are nine ways of recognizing our motivations for how we live in the world:

  • Type One: Strives for principled excellence as moral duty
  • Type Two: Strives for lavish love through self-sacrifice
  • Type Three: Strives for appreciative recognition from curated successes
  • Type Four: Strives for the discovery of identity for faithful authenticity
  • Type Five: Strives for decisive clarity through thoughtful conclusions
  • Types Six: Strives for steady constancy from confident loyalty
  • Type Seven: Strives for imaginative freedom for inspirational independence
  • Type Eight: Strives for impassioned intensity for unfettered autonomy
  • Type Nine: Strives for harmonious peacefulness as congruent repose

Because the Enneagram gets to the core of who we are, it requires thoughtful interrogation and thorough investigation. It exposes the lies we tell ourselves about our identities. It helps us realize there’s much more to learn about who we can become. It illuminates what’s always been good and true and beautiful about each of us. The Enneagram actually helps us get to the heart of who we really are.

The Enneagram helps us reconnect with our hearts, with the beauty that’s always been there waiting for us to rediscover. And when we can get in touch with the most tender parts of who we are, a gentle invitation to growth awaits us. All of us just want to know we’re safe and loved. The Enneagram helps us get to the root of this simple desire so that we can reconnect with the care and affection each of us have been created for.

The Nine Types

Click below to explore all nine Enneagram types. Already know your number? Read about the other types so that you can better understand those around you! Curious about the history of the Enneagram? Read about the Enneagram’s Christian roots from author and spiritual director Alice Fryling.

Type One - The Perfectionist
Type Two - The Helper
Type Three - The Performer
Type Four - The Romantic
Type Five - The Investigator
Type Six - The Loyalist
Type Seven - The Enthusiast
Type Eight - The Challenger
Type Nine - The Peacemaker