By: Dr. G.A.Sprauve
Gordon Allport, a famous Psychologist, believed personality was a way of measuring a person’s uniqueness. The process of determining this uniqueness is known as personality Typing. It has become a helpful tool in human resources, risk management, and the therapeutic fields.
One system of personality typing is The Enneagram. The origin of the system is unclear, but some scholars trace it to a 4th century monk named Evagrius Ponticus. The Enneagram sought to identify why certain monks had spiritual experiences irrespective of their religious ranking.
Evagrius’s findings were collected in Alexandria Egypt at a time when political freedom was censored. To avoid religious persecution, these hidden writings were passed on by oral tradition.
The word Enneagram, when loosely translated from Greek means nine-sided. The system pre-supposes everyone can be classified according to nine categories. Each category encompasses temptations, holy ideas, fixations, fears, desires, passions, virtues, and responses to stress. The Enneagram has a reported reliability of .85, which is comparable to other testing methods.
The WEPSS test (Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scale) asks candidates to choose amongst 200 items, which best describe who they are. The test result then stacks the chosen traits according to three subtypes (social, sexual, and self-preserving).
Helen Palmer (a modern Enneagram Scholar) states, “The teaching can help us to recognize our own type and how to cope with our issues; understand our work associates, lovers, family, and friends; and to appreciate the predisposition that each type has for higher human capacities such as empathy omniscience, and love.”
The following phrases provide an abbreviated summary of the nine Enneagram types:
• “I strive to do what is expected of me. I like things to be in order, and to follow the rules. Laws are important. Perfection is an asset” – Type 1
• “I compliment people often. Giving to others is important to me. I like to be of service. My relationships come first.” – Type 2
• “I want to be the best I can be. I have numerous goals and my accomplishments give me a lot of pride. Failure is not an option for me.” – Type 3
• “I am different from everyone else. People do not understand me. Everyone has it easier than me. I am often sad. Life often feels unfulfilled.” – Type 4
• “I seek knowledge, and I want to know everything there is to know. I am intellectual, and prefer to be by myself, with my books.” – Type 5
• “I need to see proof first. I really dislike change. I worry people will take advantage of me. If I trust you, then I’m very loyal” – Type 6
• “I love having fun. Adventure is necessary in life. If something is not fun, I am not interested. I dislike routine, and I dislike being still. Life is for living.” – Type 7
• “I can figure things out alone. Things should be fair for everyone. I do not like to be controlled. I love to be challenged, and refuse to be defeated.” – Type 8
• “I prefer to live in harmony, and with tolerance. Sometimes I am engrossed in other people’s problems. I avoid unpleasant, hostile people.” – Type 9
A person’s Enneagram type helps to clarify their communication style, motivating factors, and early development. It can also offer indicators for healthy, normal, and unhealthy characteristics. A person may have traits across several types. This is to accommodate for changes seen in human behavior when a person feels stressed, versus when a person feels secure. The enneagram uses these variations referred to as “wings”. For example, type 1 may exhibit traits of type 4 under stress, and type 7 when secure. Type 1 may also have a type 9 or 2 wing.
Understanding how each person in our life interprets the world can be a valuable way of creating bridges in our work environments and personal relationships. Understanding opens doors to better communication, and greater tolerance. The Enneagram is a tool of self-awareness, which also fosters a deeper understanding of coworkers, loved ones, and associates. Additional information on The Enneagram and short self-tests can be found in books at your local library.
Dr. Sprauve’s career spans 30 years in the private and public sectors of the healthcare industry. She is a board certified, Surgically trained specialist; currently residing in British Columbia, Canada.