2016 was a dark year. At first glance it appeared at best, happyish, at worst, ‘meh’. But by late February I was a shaken mess, consumed by it all. Years of emotions previously drowned down with alcohol, floated onto the surface. I was unhappy. I felt so lonely and unseen, and in turn it became difficult to fully engage with self and others. So, like a woman waking up in a landfill of her hoarded mess, no longer able to justify it away, I realized the time had come to woman up and dig myself out, one shovelful at a time.
The Enneagram and the day I launched my Etsy Store
Several shovelfuls in, google presented yet another random solution, The Enneagram. As I read through, type 1 through to 9, I felt a sense of calm.
According to Enneagram theory our personalities began as coping strategies we developed as children to feel safe and secure in the presence of trauma and stress. It sees our personalities as walls we developed to protect ourselves from threats we perceived in our childhood. Only we still put up those walls today which can dictate how we relate to stress and conflict and how we interact with others. Although it helped when we were younger, it can lead to more stress and conflict when we get older, especially when we were unaware of how it manifests in our lives. Although its not based on scientific psychology, I like to think of it as a tool for personal growth.
It consists of 9 main types;
- The perfectionist – Idealistic, principled, purposeful and controlled
- The giver – Caring, people-pleasing and generous.
- The achiever – Success oriented, driven and image conscious.
- The individualist – Sensitive, withdrawn, creative and temperamental.
- The investigator – Intense, innovative and isolated
- The loyalist – Committed, responsible and suspicious
- The adventurer – Fun-loving, spontaneous and scattered
- The challenger – Powerful, self-confident, willful and confrontational
- The peacemaker – Easygoing, agreeable and complacent
Grouping people into nine types can be limiting and quite simplistic… but the enneagram delves deeper, and breaks down each type into 2 wings and 3 subtypes. It also shows us how each type reacts when moving towards growth and stress and how we look when at our healthiest and unhealthiest.
I’ll use 4 as an example.
Each Enneagram type has two wings, which are the numbers on either side of the Type. For example a 4 can be a 4 wing 3 (4w3) or a 4 wing 5 (4w5), but not for instance a 4 wing 7. Wings are extensions of each core type, which provide more detail about one’s unique personality.
A 4w3 is image conscious and extroverted. They still experience the longing for more that is usually associated with a Four but are successful by many other standards.
A 4w5 is more introverted and less focused on their external image. They’re often artistic and may have loner qualities.
In addition to the wings they are 9 levels of health for each type, for instance a healthy 4 is empathic, highly-creative, unique, humane and sophisticated, while an unhealthy four is envious, overly sensitive and depressed. According to the Enneagram Institute, “when moving in their direction of stress, aloof Fours become over-involved and clinging like unhealthy twos. However, when moving in their direction of growth, envious, emotionally turbulent Fours become more objective and principled, like healthy ones.”
Image by cooperate consciousness
Finally, breaking it down even further, each type has three subtypes, self-preservation, social and 1:1bonding.
According to Cooperate Consciousness
Self Preservation Fours don’t show their envy as overtly as the other Type Four subtypes, but they’ll work tenaciously to get what they want. They are willing to endure difficulties and pain in order to achieve something, and in their mind, this proves that they are worthy of love and acceptance. They are empathetic to others and want to do good. By focusing on the needs of others, they can project their own internal pain onto someone else.
Social Fours are very sensitive. They feel that others have what they want and spend considerable time comparing themselves to others, leading to inferiority complexes. Social Fours feel emotions very deeply. They can sit in difficult feelings more comfortably than others, hoping that they’ll be noticed and rescued. They feel ashamed for having desires and therefore don’t often express them, but also feel frustrated that their needs aren’t being met.
The 1:1 Bonding Four’s envy is present as competition. They may not consciously feel their envy, but they work against it by competing in everything they do. They overcompensate with arrogance and can also be openly hostile, demanding, angry and intense. These behaviors are the manifestation of the suffering and inadequacy they feel inside.
When you take all of this into account, the nine types, the wings, the inner flow, the subtypes, the nine stages of health for each type you get the most accurate typing system out there. It doesn’t put you in a box, instead it shows you the box you put yourself in and the way out. Its fluid and dynamic.
If you don’t know your type and are interested in finding out, this is the most accurate free test I found. Ideally, I find it more insightful to read each type and figure out what resonates deeply. My two favorite resources include,
- The Wisdom of the Enneagram a book by Don Richard Riso
- Enneagram Institute
More on My Etsy Store
The healing that came from uncovering relational traumas and blind spots based on my type inspired me to create affirmations that gently guides each type along a discovery of self. An inner reflection of what we need to work on to better understand others, ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, our reactivity or lack there of. A capacity to view the forest for the trees.
My store launches today and I’m one happy lady as I reflect on how the enneagram helped me grow into a more caring and confident individual.
I hope these affirmations in turn help you,
- Dig deeper
- Face your fears and become more comfortable with your shadow self and darker emotions.
- Communicate authentically, empathetically, and assertively because you deserve it.
- Improve your relationships.
- Break free of coping mechanisms
- Understand functional and dysfunctional behaviors that stem from core motivations
- Increase compassion for self and others
- Reduce judgement and criticism of others while building understanding and tolerance