The Intersection of Personality Typing and the Enneagram

If you have recently learned your four-letter personality type, congratulations on your step towards self-awareness. Take a moment to enjoy that small, self-reassuring high as you realize that your quirks are not your distinct oddities; rather, they’re endemic to your personality type, and now you can find others who share your way of thinking and behaving.

Perhaps you went on a full bender and took the Enneagram personality assessment too? Maybe that was even more enlightening. Or maybe…you’re just confused. The two personality profiles seem so different. Who on earth are you, now that you appear to have two distinct personality types?

You, my friend, like everyone else on the planet, are a multi-dimensional human being. The two tests that you’ve taken measure completely different areas. Personality type assessments based on Briggs Myers' theory measure how you cognitively process and socially interact with the world. The Enneagram asks why you behave the way you do—it taps into your existential drives and motivations. Combining the results can help you not only learn about your unique personality traits, but also what drives them.

Introduction to the Enneagram

The Enneagram wants to know why your personality is the way it is. This is a difficult question with a complex and dynamic set of answers. Unsurprisingly, the Enneagram is a complicated model. So here’s the summer crash course version.

In a nutshell, the Enneagram personality model places people into one of nine personality types. If you've ever overheard a weird conversation like, “You’re a Type 1? I’m a Type 7!” from the kids in the psychology department, you were overhearing an exchange about the Enneagram—and those two people just got a huge scoop of information on each other.

You don’t have to remember all nine types. Just know that each personality type has a pivotal relationship with one central emotion:

  • Shame (Types 2, 3 and 4)
  • Fear (Types 5, 6 and 7)
  • Anger (Types 8, 9 and 1).

It sounds gloomy, but the Enneagram is more uplifting than it appears. Each personality type hyper-focuses on their central emotion, but they manage it differently. They might externalize the emotion, internalize it, or—the most fascinating, repress it. Let’s see how differently anger can manifest as a central emotion.

Personality types that externalize will showcase the central emotion in their behavior, but they don’t necessarily lose control of it. For example, if someone externalizes anger, he doesn’t necessarily turn into the Incredible Hulk when he’s upset. He asserts himself and allows righteous anger to fuel his goals. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is considered to be in this group.

Conversely, personality types that internalize their central emotion won’t let anyone see their intensified relationship this emotion. They let it fester inside. For example, Type 1s are the Reformers, and they internalize anger. Although they show you their easygoing side, a harsh inner master spurs these individuals towards achieving their own high standards.

Personalities that repress their central emotion bury it so deep, that sometimes they can’t even feel it. Type 9s will tell you they don’t struggle with anger. However, you can tell that anger is their central emotion because they frantically try to mollify other people’s anger. As a result, the Enneagram has dubbed Type 9s the “Peacemakers.”

Connecting Personality Type to the Enneagram

If you read this blog, you’re probably familiar with seeing people through a personality typing lens. Let’s keep that lens and apply the Enneagram filter on top. This will show how a single personality type might differ depending on a person’s Enneagram type.

Since I feel weird putting anyone else’s personality under the spotlight, let’s put the blinding interrogation lamp on my own: the ENFP.

ENFP 101 tells us that ENFPs engage with people in a genial, energetic way. They’re highly intuitive, spontaneous and emotional. Probably the most noticeable trait about ENFPs is that they really enjoy making friends. Now let’s apply our Enneagram lens and bring these traits into focus.

Type 7 | Internalizing Fear

As an ENFP, our case study subject loves going on adventures and telling stories. As an Enneagram Type 7, her central emotional dynamic is internalizing fear. Again, this doesn’t mean our ENFP is a hidden ball of anxiety. But it might mean that our ENFP is an outgoing, friendly person because she has an internalized fear of missing out on adventures and new relationships.

Type 9 | Repressing Anger

If our case study subject is an ENFP Type 9 (which sounds like a drone from the Borg collective), he struggles with repressing anger. Type 9s hate conflict and like to keep the peace. We know that ENFPs value social harmony. As a Type 9, the reason he might be so good at connecting and befriending people is in order to reduce the chances of conflict.

Type 3 | Repressing Shame

According to surveys, Type 3 is the most rare Enneagram type for ENFPs. Type 3s are goal oriented about their values, and they repress shame. ENFPs value friendship and active social lives. An “ENFP Type 3” may repress the shameful feeling of not having many friends to hang out with. As a result, it is possible that our “ENFP Type 3” makes friends so quickly to reduce the shame of being alone or unpopular.

Conclusion

The Enneagram is often caged in negative language, and I don’t want to leave you thinking that your personality type results from you mismanaging a negative emotion. In fact, your unique personality could be a result of how well you manage your central emotion. The Enneagram doesn’t aim to highlight how personalities develop from negative emotions. It elaborates on how different personalities overcome their weak spots.

In each example above, when a person successfully navigates his central emotion, he becomes an even stronger version of his personality type preference. An “ENFP Type 7” who overcomes his FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) will focus on the activities he cares the most about, becoming a more passionate ENFP than before. An “ENFP Type 9” who learns to resolve conflict instead of running from it will sustain stronger, happier relationships. An “ENFP Type 3” who reduces the shame of loneliness or unpopularity will become more independent, and he will attract relationships that are better for him.

In the end, the Enneagram and personality typing together present not only a brilliant kaleidoscope of personalities and inner drives but also a tool on how to reach a mature version of your personality. It’s nice to know how we act and think. It’s great to know why. But it’s pretty awesome to take that information and grow more authentic from it.

Stephanie Dorais

Stephanie is a therapist, data analyst, and blogger. She enjoys practicing yoga, eating Pad Thai (but no bean sprouts), and watching exorbitant amounts of British television. She is a nationally certified counselor and inherently certified ENFP. She lives and practices in Virginia Beach, VA.

Find her on Twitter at @mindloftmag

Comments

Scott Jos (not verified) says...

Just want to put out there that type 3s do not internalize shame, they repress it. Type 4s internalize their shame

Charles Rae Clark says...

I'm very new to Enneagram, and I'm trying to understand it better by making a table of which emotions internalize, externalize, and repress their primary emotions.

You did not give a full list, however, and the numbers did not fit a pattern based on the information given, so I had to look it up else where. In doing so, I wonder if 7 is externalized fear, based on this link (https://www.theenneagramsingapore.com/three-centres-of-intelligence/)?

I would greatly appreciate the clarification. 

William Maurício (not verified) says...

Great post, by the way.

Yes, Charles, type 7 externalizes that energy, moving away from pain.

I work with the enneagram in Portugal, and i recommend it strong to everyone.

Happy development!

Stephanie Hopkins (not verified) says...

Where can I go to take both tests online?

Emma (not verified) says...

You can take an MBTI test at 16personalities.com and an enneagram test at eclecticenergies.com or similarminds. 

Truity says...

You can take the free TypeFinder test, which is based on Myers & Briggs' theories, right here

It's generally thought that the best way to find your Enneagram type is not to take an assessment, but rather to study the profiles of the types to see which one sounds most like you.

I'm FiNe (not verified) says...

I took the Riso-Hudson sampler test (free) online when I first encountered the Enneagram.  It was a helpful place to begin.  Indeed taking such an instrument in relation to the Enneagram is only a starting point.  Be prepared to spend several months in introspection and soul searching to determine how accurately you answered the instrument (i.e., valdiating the instruments suggested results based upon your answers).

Some Enneagram types have a natural penchant for self-deception, making it a prolonged journey to really get at your motivation, your type.  Types 6 & 9 are the two types that have this problem (both being supressing types).

sida xu (not verified) says...

here a link to where you can take the test

https://www.theenneagramsingapore.com/typing-tests/

Caty (not verified) says...

I had a solid grasp on the enneagram before reading, but this made things even clearer and gave me a priviledged perspective on my consciousness and the system itself. so interesting!!! thank you for writing

MFV (not verified) says...

Great article, thanks!

surrjon says...

Where is a complete list for all types?

I'm FiNe (not verified) says...

Here is a link to the Enneagram Institute's (Riso-Hudson) concise descriptions of the 9 types.

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions

ashaw9813 says...

I had never heard of enneagrams before I read this article, so as ever I went and checked that out first.

That I end up as an ISTJ with enneagram type 1 wing 2 does not surprise me in the slightest. There is a lot of the one reflected in the other. I am not sure whether "Anger" is quite the right description though (being a rationalist I keep all my emotions firmly under control). More a "critic" or an "analyst" who wants to improve things and the way they are performed.

 

Elinha (not verified) says...

That's what being a 1 usually is. Normally anger is a repressed feeling, because you don't want to loose your control.

I'm FiNe (not verified) says...

Thank you so much for the article.  People new to typology often begin with MBTI and soon see posts about Enneagram and are left wondering.  This article fills a void by providing a primer.

It should also be offered that there are other nuances of the Enneagram that people might encounter when reading online that weren't covered in this article, such as directions of integration and disintegration, wings, Tritype theory, and instinctual variants.  One corollation worth noting to add to this article is the common titles of the triads.

Types 8, 9, & 1, who share the motivation of anger, are a triad (group of 3 types with that commonality of anger motivation) commonly referred to as the Gut Triad.

Types 2, 3, & 4, who share the motivation of shame, are commonly referred to as the Heart Triad.

Types 5, 6, & 7, who share the motivation of fear, are commonly referred to as the HeadTriad.

So when encountering a post talking about the Gut Triad, they are talking about anger motivation; the Heart Triad about shame motivation; and the Head Triad about fear motivation.

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