How does the enneagram system work?

This is a set of mini-instructions for how the enneagram system works. Following these mini-instructions will let you familiarize yourself with the system.

This is a model that helps to explain the human psyche. It was invented to help understand people, which is made up of nine intersecting personality types. The Enneagram system was invented in the 1900s.

Since its conception, the Enneagram model has been explored and improved by many additional modern philosophers. It has since been recognized for the ability to help one understand themselves, as well as how their own values and survival strategies have arisen in their unique situations.

Base personality model

As a model that composes nine intersecting personalities, each is described by an individual number. However, you may find that you have some qualities of each, or a few of the nine personality types. Nonetheless, you will likely have a single personality type that invokes more resonance with you. This is the personality type that is your base personality model.

An example description of a base personality type is “Two’s usually find difficulty in holding firm to their boundaries, as well as struggling to ask for what they need in an open way. Instead, they maintain a facade that they are fine and fulfilled, until such a time as resentment builds and they decide that no-one is interested in them and their feelings”.

The use of this Enneagram model is to help you develop into your own best version, rather than trying to transform into a different personality type because you envy their strengths.

Personality types

Each of the nine intersecting personalities that make up the Enneagram model is one of three separate categories: Heart, Head, or Body.

Heart types

The personality types that fall into the category of heart are usually very emotionally intelligent, which helps them to connect with their innermost reactions, as well as others around them.

Head types

As the name suggests, the personality types that fall into the category of head types typically have high intellectual intelligence, and use this type of intelligence to navigate around their surroundings.

Body types

The personality types that fall into the category of Body usually have great instinctive reactions to situations. This makes them great at quickly identifying whether a situation is developing into an opportunity, or a threat.


Heart-centered personalities are usually most concerned with personal relationships, and the fostering of emotional connections. They tend to look at the world through the lens of their emotional state at that time, and usually resolve situations based on how it makes them feel. However, this type usually gets their emotional support from others, rather than supporting themselves. Heart types are types 2, 3, and 4.


Type Two: is usually the most helpful personality, always up for running errands or doing favors. They have an intense fear of rejection that makes them scared of feeling on the outside edge of a group, and are most worried about being found to be unlovable.


Type Three: personalities measure their own success through how it makes them feel when they compare to others. They are driven by feelings of pride and envy, so they want to be admired by all. This personality is prone to feeling self-conscious, especially in public, and are most afraid of being seen as unnecessary.


Type Four: personalities have really intense feelings. This leads them to want to form deep and meaningful relationships with a few people, rather than having a large group of friends. However, they are often afraid of imperfections and tend to spend most of their time in a group attempting to blend in. Their deepest desire is to be unique and real.


Personality types that are head-centered use their intellect to react to situations as they occur. These personalities usually view the world through analyzing each interaction in a series of theories and systems. They want to come up with a winning formula for interactions.


Type Five: decides things through an in depth analysis based on data and have very low stock in other people's opinions if it counters their analysis. They tend to become very overwhelmed when others express their needs, and struggle with identifying what they need themselves.


Type Six: is first and foremost anxious about what could happen next. They prepare for every eventuality, and are most concerned with protecting themselves and those around them from potential dangers.


Type Seven: is often bored, and feels the need to quickly move on to a new experience. They avoid the potential for bad emotions by running away from them, and instead seek out fun and novel experiences.


Body-centered individuals are usually most concerned with maintaining their intense sense of individualism. They rely on their gut feeling about a situation, and often make a lasting judgment very quickly. Sometimes, this may come across as controlling. Their biggest fear is a loss of control.


Type Eight: are most interested in expressing their personal beliefs, and challenging those who have a different opinion. They fear having their power taken away from them, and will control their environment to reflect their own beliefs to reinforce their sense of power.


Type Nine: personality types are very indecisive, and are happy to let others deal with the specifics of a situation. They go with the flow, and are happy to follow along with a more dominant personality. Their biggest fear is that if they stand up for their own needs, they will lose the approval of their friends or family.


Type One: are the most type A of the personalities. They are generally extremely disciplined, and hold everyone else to their own personal standards. They create and enforce arbitral rules of doing things the ‘right’ way out of a fear of imperfectionism.

An additional part of the Enneagram model of personality types is the inclusion of each personality within a center. These centers help to influence each personality type through having an unconscious relationship to a specific issue or group of issues. These issues are derived from a specific center, of which there are three. The instinctive center is associated with the body types, while the thinking center is associated with the head type. The heart type is associated with the feeling center.

The instinctive center has a central emotion of anger. Personality types with a feeling center are motivated by shame, while those with a thinking center are motivated by fear.

However, all nine of the personalities can have an influence from any of the centers, or all of them. They will just be more prone to being influenced by the center associated with their type.


Most of the time, the Enneagram model of personalities takes into account that everyone has a range of personality dynamics. Hence, the personality type you fall into can be modified through the personality types on the ‘wings’, or on either side of your personality type.

This is symbolically shown through the model being depicted as a circle, where the personality types on either side are connected to your core personality type.

A person will often have a main personality type, and be connected to some traits from the adjacent types.


The final faction of the Enneagram personality model is the inclusion of three instincts. These help to distinguish personality types by developing an understanding of which of the three main instincts are dominantly shown. These instincts are self-preservation, sexual, or social.

By applying one of three instincts to one of 9 personality types, you end up with 27 distinct personality types. This encapsulates most of the personality types in the world, and helps to account for variation within a type.

Self-preservation: this instinct is the requirement to feel safe. It is the dominant instinct for those who are most afraid of being in danger. Generally, those with a dominant self-preservation instinct will worry often about having enough resources to look out for themselves, and any others who rely on them.

Sexual: people with a dominant sexual instinct don’t necessarily have a high libido. Rather, the sexual element of this instinct is more related to a need to have a high level of intimacy in their relationship, and feeling connected and in touch with those around them. Generally, this creates an intense expression of feelings from this group, and they may come off as more competitive or aggressive than others. In their primary relationships, those with a dominant sexual instinct need to feel stimulated by their interactions, and have a certain chemistry, or they will go unsatisfied and move on.

Social: those with a dominant social instinct are the most concerned with the welfare of those around them. They come off as open and understanding, and are prone to seeking out activities where they can interact with others in a social setting. They are the most concerned with the community out of all the instincts.

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