The Enneagram Personality Inventory, The basic history, terms, and type-summaries

Original Publishing Date:
February 13, 2020
Last Update:
July 26, 2023


The Enneagram has generated worldwide interest in the last several years thanks to social media attention and popular podcast coverage. However, many argue that this personality type system has been around  since ancient times. The Enneagram, or nine pointed figure, has a lot to  offer the worlds of business, psychology, and self-help. Understanding how the Enneagram works allows the user to benefit from the dynamic aspects of this personality type system. Keep reading for an  overview and introduction to the Enneagram, its history, terminology, and summaries of each personality type.

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There are many opinions on the exact origins of the Enneagram. Many believe it was passed down by oral tradition and others have said that early users of the Enneagram banned written content to stave off pigeonholing tendencies thus limiting and narrowing the scope of this nine pointed figure.

The symbol of the Enneagram can be traced back to ancient times as far back as Pythagoras. George Gurdjieff was a philosopher and spiritual teacher of Greek and Armenian decent that lived from 1886 to 1949. Certain authors credit Gurdjieff for coining the term “Enneagram” and introducing it in 1916 to his study groups for his Fourth Way philosophy. He is quoted to say that he brought the Enneagram from out of secret to make it available to all. (1) However, some argue that Gurdjieff used the Enneagram symbol for the embodiment of sacred movements, or dance and used a different, Sufi oral tradition of labeling people, and therefore is unrelated to the modern understanding and utilization of the Enneagram.

The person most credited for bringing the Enneagram into the modern age is Oscar Ichaso in the 1960’s. Well known Enneagram authors, Riso and Hudson credit Ichaso with combining mystical, philosophical, and spiritual traditions into the nine Enneagram personality types that are widely used across the United States today. Ichazo has a system of 108 “Enneagons”; however, current Enneagram use focuses on four of his Enneagons, including: Enneagram of the Passions, Enneagram of the Fixations, Enneagram of Holy Ideas and Enneagram of the Virtues. (2)

Beginning in the 1970’s and further into the 1990’s, Don Riso and Russ Hudson began developing the Enneagram and formed The Enneagram Institute. The Enneagram Institute remains one of the most predominant resources of all things Enneagram. Riso and Hudson have written several popular books on the Enneagram and have developed additional tools within the Enneagram model described below.


The Enneagram is expanding in its recent uses and applications. Recently, several Enneagram coaches have formed businesses working with individuals on discovering their type and level of functioning to help in various areas of relationships, work, and performance. Many companies have started using the Enneagram to promote understanding and communication among colleagues, as well as part of the skills and personality assessment components when hiring staff. This author has used the Enneagram in her therapy practice for the last 12 years with clients to assist them with type specific ways to promote affect management, self-actualization, and growth and stress areas.  



One of the great things about the Enneagram is that it can be as simple as identifying your personality type for entertainment by simply reading the descriptions and remarking at their accuracy, or it can be as complex as identifying specific levels of health or dysfunction for use as a tool to restore balance within oneself or in relationships with others. Due to the comprehensive nature of the Enneagram, there are several terms that are helpful to be familiar with to fully understand this tool for personality types.


Each number on the Enneagram represents one of the nine personality types or personality styles. Most authors have taken the liberty of providing summary labels for each Enneagram personality type; however, these labels can often oversimplify the dynamic aspects of each Enneagram type or people often confer their own meaning from each label which may be incorrect.


Although humanity is considered to share in all aspects of each of the nine types, Enneagram authors purport that each individual predominantly embodies one of the nine Enneagram types. Ian Morgan Cron, one of the authors of The Road Back to You, describes each Enneagram type like a color. There are many shades of each color so if the Enneagram type 8 were represented by the color green, there would be many shades of green, ie. emerald, forest, dark, light, lime, etc. In Enneagram terminology, wings refer to the numbers on either side of the predominant type. These simply represent a variance, re: one may be purely an 8; an 8 with a 7 wing; or an 8 with a 9 wing. This means that an Enneagram type 8 with a 7 wing may primarily be an 8 with some shared characteristics with type 7.

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Another popular and important aspect of the Enneagram is the integration and disintegration arrows. These are also called stress and growth arrows. These arrows are represented by the lines running through the circle. These lines are not arbitrary, but denote what each type may do under healthy or stressed conditions. When someone is under pressure or stress, either in an acute situation or overtime, the type will begin to behave like the average to unhealthy level of their stress arrow. For example, an 8 who feels out of control of a situation and is under high amounts of stress may begin to act like an average to unhealthy functioning 5. When someone begins to thrive and move towards health and self-actualization, the type will begin to take on the healthy characteristics of their growth or integration arrow type. For example, a healthy 8 will begin to have characteristics indicative of a healthy 2. When we have an awareness of our own type, stress and growth arrows can help with tuning into our personal levels of stress or functioning in response to a life event. This can be valuable information for future life planning goals and/or red flags when needing to take a step back.



A more recent addition by Don Riso and Russ Hudson beginning in 1970’s and fully adapted in the 1990’s are the nine Levels of Development. Other authors have recently developed testing measures and call these levels Levels of Integration. Riso and Husdson describe these Levels of Development as the internal structure of the Enneagram that include a continuum of behaviors, defenses, attitudes, and motivations, that are reflected on three primary levels, healthy, average, and unhealthy. (3) These levels add an additional layer of variance between individuals, including those of the same type and range between each unique type’s best selves thriving in healthy relationships down to sociopathic and murderous behaviors. This is an extremely useful tool when working on ourselves or with clients when setting up personal growth goals. These Enneagram Levels of Development echo back to Oscar Ichas:

“We have to distinguish between a man as he is in essence, and as he is in ego or personality. In essence, every person is perfect, fearless, and in a loving unity with the entire cosmos; there is no conflict within the person between head, heart, and stomach or between the person and others. Then something happens: the ego begins to develop, karma accumulates, there is a transition from objectivity to subjectivity; man falls from essence into personality.” (4)

The Enneagram Levels of Development serve as a window for self-awareness and self-growth, as it makes it very clear how healthy traits can deteriorate into unhealthy traits, as well as, paint a picture of redemption.


Copy from Personality Types by Don Riso & Russ Hudson © 2006 Enneagram Institute

Centers / Triad

The Enneagram symbol can be dissected into three parts that describe the assets and liabilities those types have in common. These sub-sections or centers of the Enneagram include The Instinctive Center (Gut/Body), The Thinking Center (Head), and The Feeling Center (Heart). These can be further broken down into the dominant emotion of each center, re: Rage, Fear, and Shame. The emotions of each center demonstrate an often unconscious emotional response to losing connection with their core center. Although each type in that center share in these characteristics, each type will have a specific way of coping with that emotional response.



Type 1


Common Label: Reformer or Perfectionist

Basic Description: Ones are often described as very rational and idealistic. They tend to be very concerned with and have a strong sense of right and wrong, which means they tend to have very high standards. Ones have a powerful inner critic which causes them to strive for perfection. They can become angry when certain standards are not met or rules are broken. As a result, they strive to improve everything around them and sometimes suppress their inner desires to be above criticism.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, one’s basic fear is corruptness, defectiveness, and imbalance.

Ichaso’s Passion: Anger

Ichaso’s Virtue: Serenity

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Resentment

Additional Information:

Type 2

Common Label: Helper or Giver

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Basic Description: Twos are often caring and generous individuals, who tend to focus on the needs of others through giving or helping. Their generosity can come with sentimentality and people-pleasing behaviors. Twos strive to build up others by demonstrating love and understanding. They can be genuinely caring for others when healthy or can have a strong need to be needed when less healthy.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, two’s basic fear is being unwanted or unworthy of love.

Ichaso’s Passion: Pride

Ichaso’s Virtue: Humility

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Flattery

Additional Information:

Type 3

Common Label: Achiever or Performer


Basic Description: Threes are often described as success-oriented individuals that have a lot of drive towards excelling. They tend to be very image conscious to “look the part” when striving to meet life goals. Threes are focused on outward appearances to be considered attractive and charming to others. They are ambitious and very competent. When threes are healthy they tend to be great role models as they are very authentic and self-accepting. However, sometimes threes struggle to come across to others as truly authentic due to their charm and focus on keeping up appearances.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, threes’s basic fear is being worthless.

Ichaso’s Passion: Deceit

Ichaso’s Virtue: Truthfulness and Authenticity

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Vanity

Additional Information:

Type 4

Common Label: Individualist or Romantic

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Basic Description: Fours are often known as the introspective, expressive and artistic type. They tend to be self-absorbed and dramatic. Through their self-awareness they strive to be known and understood in their uniqueness by others. They long to be in connection with others, but can be withholding from others. Fours are often very creative, which stems from their own inner melancholy. They are often view themselves as uniquely special and skilled while simultaneously feeling uniquely alone in their defectiveness and differences.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, four’s basic fear is having no identity or significance.

Ichaso’s Passion: Envy

Ichaso’s Virtue: Equanimity (Emotional Balance)

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Melancholy (Fantasizing)

Additional Information:

Type 5

Common Label: Investigator or Observer


Basic Description: Fives are often described as being very cerebral. They tend to be more socially isolated and preoccupied with the consumption of knowledge and,or understanding of how things work. They are able to focus on complex skills and concepts, and while doing so may become lost in their own thoughts. Fives are very interested in investigating how things work whether their interests are as vast as the universe or as small as under a microscope. They are often described as having the smallest tolerance, or tank, for socializing. In general, they would rather observe the dynamics from the edge of the room then be at the center engaged in conversation.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, five’s basic fear is to be competent and capable through mastery and understanding.

Ichaso’s Passion: Avarice

Ichaso’s Virtue: Non-attachment

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Stinginess (Retention)

Additional Information:

Type 6

Common Label: Loyalist or Skeptic

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Basic Description: Sixes are very loyal and committed individuals who experience more anxiety then any other types. They tend to have the longest lasting relationships of all types. It is believed that sixes are the most common type in the world. Their need for security drives skepticism and a prepencity to test the loyalty of those close to them. They are the only type that is frequently split into two types: phobic and counter phobic. Phobic sixes tend to submit to others when feeling anxious, while counter-phobic sixes tend to prove that they do not need others when anxious and will challenge others.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, six’s basic fear is being without help and guidance.

Ichaso’s Passion: Fear

Ichaso’s Virtue: Courage

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Cowardice (Worrying)

Additional Information:

Type 7

Common Label: Enthusiast or Epicure

Basic Description: Sevens are fun-loving and variety-seeking. They tend to be very spontaneous, optimistic, and extroverted. They are often described as high-spirited and playful, which comes from their overriding tendency to flee from pain and other negative feelings. As a result, sevens tend to seek out thrills and good feelings, making them very enjoyable to be around when healthy. Sevens will exhaust themselves by staying active in seeking out joyous experiences. Due to their fear of experiencing pain, they can be out of touch with deeper emotions and scattered.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, seven’s basic fear is being trapped in pain and of being deprived.

Ichaso’s Passion: Gluttony

Ichaso’s Virtue: Sobriety

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Planning (Anticipation)

Additional Information:

Type 8

Common Label: Protector or Challenger or Leader

Basic Description: Eights are self-confident, willful and assertive types that tend to command respect and attention with little effort. This stems from an inner desire to be in control of the environment, which can lead to confrontational and intimidating behaviors. When they are healthy, eights can be very protective of themselves and those around them acting heroically on the behalf of others when needed. Eights tend to be very social and enjoy challenges. Their comfort with anger and confrontation can be a curse or a virtue for eights depending on their level of health.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, eight’s basic fear is being harmed, controlled or violated by others.

Ichaso’s Passion: Lust (Forcefulness)

Ichaso’s Virtue: Innocence

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Vengeance (Objectification)

Additional Information:

Type 9

Common Label: Peacemaker or Mediator


Basic Description: Nines are often called the peacemakers or mediators because of their easygoing, self-effacing nature. They have a deep desire for harmony so they have a particular gift at seeing other’s viewpoints and motivations. They tend to be trusting, supportive, creative, agreeable and complacent. Nines often struggle to assert themselves or to speak up for their own needs; they struggle with decision making among the many viewpoints they so easily perceive. Nines tend to be disconnected from their bodies and phobic of their own anger keeping it deeply buried; this helps them establish the inner stability they long for.

Basic Fear: According to Riso and Husdon, nine’s basic fear is loss and separation.

Ichaso’s Passion: Sloth (Disengagement)

Ichaso’s Virtue: Action

Ichaso’s Ego Fixation: Indolence (Daydreaming)

Additional Information:

Did you know we specialize in the Enneagram? Our providers integrate the Enneagram into our telehealth therapy sessions to help you learn more about yourself. Sign up is easy!

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  1. In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky ©1949, p. 294
  2. Personality Types by Don Riso & Russ Hudson, Enneagram Institute © 2006 , p. 11-26
  3. The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso & Russ Hudson © 1999
  4. Interviews with Oscar Ichazo by Oscar Ichazo, © 1982, p. 9

Original publication date 2/13/2020 at

Rachael Miller, MA, LCPC, NCC, EAC, EMDR-C

Rachael is a Board Certified, Licensed Clinical Therapist and the owner of Chicago Counseling. She is known for her work both nationally and globally for creating dozens of innovative community programs, education seminars, and intervention optimization projects.

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