So, you’ve taken the Enneagram test. You feel seen, validated, and maybe a little attacked (in a good way, of course). You begin to have a much clearer picture of yourself and what motivates your actions. As you continue to put the pieces of your type together, there’s a major part of the puzzle you stumble upon: Enneagram wings.
Wings are an important aspect of your type, adding another layer of depth and complexity to your personality. They can also explain why two people of the same type may look completely different. Because there’s so much to unpack when it comes to Enneagram wings, we’ve put together some of the most common questions to help you discover and understand your wing.
What are Enneagram wings?
Simply put, wings are the numbers on either side of your type. They are not the next highest number on your Enneagram test results. For example, if you’re a Type Six, you will have either a Five or Seven wing.
Wings are borrowed traits or energy from your neighboring types that filter into your personality. While your core type reflects your motivation and why you do what you do, your wing can explain your behavior—how you do what you do.
Here’s an example of how this may look. A Type Three, motivated by achievement and admiration, goes to a networking event. A Three with a Two wing may be more inclined to work the room and talk to everyone there, whereas a Three with a Four wing may pull back more and focus on deeply connecting with one or two people. See the difference?
How do wings affect my core type?
Think of a community of nine different houses (get it, because nine different types?).
You spend most of the time inside your own house, which is your foundation. You understand its basic structure, its inner workings, what the best parts are, and also where any baggage may be stored away. You then make friends with your neighbor and start spending time at their house. There, you pick up traits or qualities that they possess, which, depending on the person, can range from being heavily influencing to minimally influencing. The next time you face a challenge or have to make a big decision, you may resort to pulling from your neighbor’s toolbox to help you cope, whether positively or negatively.
That’s exactly how wings work. You pick up aspects of your neighbor which impact your personality and behavior to varying degrees. However, never do they detract from the core of who you are.
Do people have one wing or two wings? What about neither wings?
There's debate and different perspectives around how wings show up (or don’t show up). Most Enneagram teachers agree that while we have access to both of our wings, people primarily have one dominant wing.
As a recent study from the American Journal of Psychiatrics notes, "Individuals are generally more influenced by one wing than the other, although traits from both wings may emerge in response to different environments."
There’s some gray area when it comes to wings because everyone’s journey is so different. Someone may be heavily influenced by one of their wings so much that they look like their wing and not their core type. Or, you may find someone with equal balance of their wings. There may also be someone who doesn’t resonate with their wings at all, and that’s OK. (If the latter is your case, you may find more benefit from knowing your tritype instead). There’s no one size fits all answer for how wings show up—the best thing you can do is take note of how your wing impacts you.
Can my wings change?
They can! While your core type stays the same, your wing can change depending on your health levels. There may be times during stress and growth where you lean into aspects from your other wing which can open up new insight into your personality.
For example, if you’re a Type Nine with a One wing (typically more inward-focused), you may lean into your Eight wing when undergoing pressure at work, which pushes you to grow and become more assertive.
However, it’s also likely that your dominant wing remains active throughout your life.
How do I determine my wing?
For starters, you can look back to your Enneagram test results and notice the higher score of your adjacent types. However, tests are merely a guide or jumping off point to do your own research, as you know yourself best.
That being said, the best way to find your wing is to learn more about your neighboring types. While doing so, here are a few questions to keep in mind:
- What traits or qualities from these types do you “borrow” or recognize in yourself?
- How might their energy affect yours?
- What about their stress and growth journey also resonates with you?
These are important to consider since your wing may not fit the bill of every description you see out there. Some wings show very subtle yet complex shifts in personality, while others are way more obvious and textbook. For a basic overview of what each Enneagram type and their wing might look like, see our article here.
How do I use my wing for personal growth and insight?
The Enneagram is an enlightening tool for helping you see your ego structure and the patterns that stem from it. Knowing your core type is without a doubt the first and most important step on this journey. However, to deny the other types that influence you would be shutting out a key piece in the whole picture. With wings, you have direct access to not one, but two other types and all their lessons, wisdoms, and powerful energies.
Wings offer a way to see yourself as a growing and evolving being. By expanding your perspective beyond your core type, you add to your own toolbox of strategies for dealing with life’s inevitable stress and challenges. Deepening your self-knowledge also allows you to live more aligned and true to yourself.
Another interesting approach to wings is that the type behind you may carry shadow traits, or aspects of yourself that you keep hidden in your subconscious. For example, a Type Three may carry the shadow of a Type Two’s emotional sensitivity. While they learned to hide their feelings and focus on their successes instead, a Three might explore how they relate to their emotions to understand their drive for achievement better. While we’ve been conditioned to believe our shadow is “bad,” it can actually promote healing and self-acceptance, not to mention reveal untapped gifts.
True growth comes from detaching from the ego structures we know as our personality. When you uncover your essence, or the higher qualities of yourself, you will find clarity and meaning. If wings can give you a resource for achieving this higher state of being and consciousness, why not use them to become the best version of “you” possible?