We may define personality as the pattern of beliefs, emotional attitudes and habitual behaviours that we define as “me”. We can recognise the qualities of all the nine points within us, but all the most important authors of Enneagram agree that we are born with a dominant point, which is our type. The type defines how we manage different intelligences, how we treat our mind, emotions, sensations, survival and instinctive drives and how we manage happy and peaceful experiences and difficult moments of tension.
The Enneagram states that each soul has a particular sensitivity and receptivity to specific aspects and qualities of the divine and essential nature and that our natural talents are founded and originated from this receptivity. The loss of the direct inner experience with these qualities and the illusion of lack that arises leads to nine different ways of seeing and interpreting reality deprived of its innate depth. These are nine incomplete perceptions that become distorted and fixed beliefs about how things are and should be.
The nine emotional responses resulting from these limiting beliefs are called passions and correspond to the deadly sins of the Christian tradition: sloth, lust, wrath, deceit, pride, envy, cowardice, avarice and gluttony.
In short, the personality type of the Enneagram is therefore the complex of mental, emotional, sensory and behavioural strategies put in place to manage the illusion of disconnection from the truest and deepest, divine and real part of ourselves and the sense of lack that follows.
Each type is a constellation in continuous dynamics, a whole complex. It is important to remember that we do not change personality type during our life, while we can change the awareness with we live it and express it.
What defines our type is not what we feel, think or do, but how we tend to interpret and manage what we feel and think and the hidden motivation that informs our choices and our actions. Just as to indicate our awareness is not how good or bad we feel, but how broad or narrow is the perspective from which we recognize and live the experiences that arise for better or for worse. Furthermore, not everything in the description of our type fits in every moment. First of all because we constantly oscillate at different levels of presence and secondly because we are able to recognise ourselves as much as we are aware and present in this moment.
No personality type is inherently better or worse than another, each one has unique talents and difficulties. For this, numbers are originally used, neutral in terms of qualitative value, considering that the quantity represented by the number is not significant: a larger number is not better than a smaller number. Furthermore, neither type is inherently masculine or feminine, although the descriptions are indicated in masculine, they are universal and have no gender variation.
The nine sensitivities and character structures are also archetypes and experiences that we can all identify with. Greek philosophers used the term archetype to refer to universal principles and pre-existing models of reality. In particular Plotinus (III century AD) in his book Enneads – which contains much of the essence of our Enneagram – refers to archetypes as the universal ideas present in the mind of God and from which Creation is derived. One of these Ideas is dominant from birth and is the matrix of our type throughout life. Our type therefore defines both the qualities for which we are particularly receptive and our natural talents, and the ways in which we unwittingly fall into automatic thoughts, emotions and behaviors that we believe provide us with access to the satisfaction of these talents, but which actually prevent us from reaching them.
The other eight points that we can recognise in our experience are more or less familiar and present according to the context in which we are born, the environment in which we are educated, the cultural conditioning with which we are inevitably permeated.
These are three qualities of instinctive intelligence that can be expressed in a functional way or be used improperly and that emerge in three specific areas of our life: Self-preservation, Sexual or Attraction and Social or Adaptation. Considering that each type has one of these dominant drives and therefore there are three different shades for each one, the characters are actually 27.
Types and Instinctual Variants are two different and independent interpretations. However, once we understand how emotional reactivity and mental distortion of each type affects the survival drives, we realise that it is no longer possible to treat a type with precision without considering this dynamic. The Instinctual Variants have the added value of clearly describing which area of life motivates our judgments, choices and efforts. They indicate in a very practical way what we can actually do for ourselves to improve our life, especially the relational area. They also facilitate the typing process because they are the first thing we notice when we meet someone, although they are the last one we see in ourselves.