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. Now, using this handy system developed by Isabel Briggs Myers, you can find others who share your way of thinking and behaving.
Perhaps you went on a full bender and took the Enneagram personality test 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 2? I’m a Type 6!” 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:
It sounds gloomy, but the Enneagram is more uplifting than it appears. Each personality type 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.
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. Nines 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 a conflict.
Type 3 | Repressing Shame
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.
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.