WHAT is the Enneagram? (In A Nutshell)

Have you ever been talking to someone, maybe for the first time, maybe it’s a friend…either way, you’re chatting with them and they say something like, “Well, I’m a 9, so…”, or “See, I’m a 7, but my husband is a 1, and therefore…”.  Yeah, it’s super annoying.  It really is.  Gag.  (Just to be clear…I say things JUST LIKE THAT a WHOLE LOT…but I can still recognize it’s annoying.)  More annoying still, if you don’t even know what the hell the person is talking about.  What do you  MEAN you’re a “7”?  Am I supposed to know what that means???

When people refer to themselves as numbers, they’re talking about The Enneagram, guys.  

If you could care less about being able to track along with Enneagram-Geeks at social gatherings, there is still another reason the Enneagram maybe just MAYBE could benefit you. 

Do you ever find yourself asking questions like the ones below, when interacting with your children:

Why in the WORLD would he do that?”

”I don’t understand why my daughter acts this way”

”Nothing seems to get through to him.  I’ve tried every reward, every consequence”

”My child is wired so differently than I am.  It’s difficult for me to relate to their personality”.  

Better than any other “personality test”, the Enneagram allows you to discover the MOTIVE behind behavior…your children’s, as well as your own, as well as…basically anyone’s. It helps you discover the FEARS that are driving the behavior and the OBJECT OF DESIRE that dictates most everything a person does.  

Don’t you feel like this would be a useful tool as a parent?  

A way to understand yourself and your child better, as well as some insight on how, bearing in mind both of your differing life perspectives, you can still bring out the very best in one another?

If nothing else, the next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who introduces themselves to you by stating, “I’m an Enneagram 7”, you can still be annoyed, but at least now you won’t be clueless.  


What IS the Enneagram?

Formal Definition: A model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of the nine interconnected personality types.

My Definition: Nine, interconnected personality types, which help you understand how yourself, as well as other people, see and interact with the world.  Core fears.  Core motivations.  Core desires.  

The thing I love the most about the Enneagram, is that not only does it describe to you all that I just mentioned above, but it also teaches you a LOT about what it looks like to be “healthy” within your number, versus “not healthy”. See, if your child is an Enneagram 5, you don’t want to try to CHANGE them to an Enneagram 2 or an Enneagram Whatever. No number is better than another.   This isn’t about trying to change who someone IS.  It IS useful though to know if your child is a HEALTHY 5…thriving and living up to all they were intended to be…or if perhaps they are UNHEALTHY in their number..in need of growth, and more opportunities to be challenged.  

So…without further ado..

What are the Nine Types???


The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled and Perfectionist

Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/defective

Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced

Key Motivation: Want to be right, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone.  

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Learn to relax

– Don’t expect others to change immediately

– Beware of your constant irritation with your own “shortcomings”

– Get in touch with your feelings, particularly your unconscious impulses

– Your Achilles’ heel is your self-righteous anger. Try to step back and see that your anger alienates people so that they cannot hear many of the good things you have to say.  

 (Important to Note:  There is SO much more information to glean, besides what I have included here.  Things such as:

– Examples of Famous/Well-Known Type Ones

– Levels of Development

– Compatability with Other Types

– Addictions You May Be Susceptible To

You need to go research for yourself, though.  I can’t do it justice in one short blog post. )



The  Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive

Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved

Basic Desire: To feel loved

Key Motivations: Want to be loved, to express their feelings for others, to be needed and appreciated, to get others to respond to them, to vindicate their claims about themselves

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Remember that if you are not addressing your own needs, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to meet anyone else’s needs without problems

– Try to become more conscious of your own motives when you decide to help someone

– While there are many things you might want to do for people, it is often better to ask them what they really need first.

– Resist the temptation to call attention to yourself and your good works.

– Learn to recognize the affection and good wishes of others, even when these are not in terms that you are familiar with.



The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious

Basic Fear: of being worthless

Basic Desire: to feel valuable and worthwhile

Key Motivations: Want to be affirmed, to distinguish themselves from others, to have attention, to be admired, and to impress others.

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Be truthful.  Be honest with yourself and others about your genuine feelings and needs.

– Develop charity and cooperation in your relationships.  

– Take breaks.

– Develop your social awareness.

-Develop yourself by resisting doing what is acceptable just to be accepted. Invest time in discovering your own core values. 



The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed and Temperamental.

Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance

Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an identity)

Key Motivations: Want to express themselves and their individuality, to create and surround themselves with beauty, to maintain certain moods and feelings, to withdraw to protect self-image, to care for emotional needs before attending to anything else, to attract a “rescuer”.

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Do not pay so much attention to your feelings; they are not a true source of support for you

– Avoid putting off things until you are “in the right mood”.

– Self-esteem and self-confidence will develop only from having positive experiences, whether or not you believe that you are ready to have them.

– Practice healthy self-discipline

– Avoid lengthy conversations in your imagination, particularly if they are negative, resentful, or even excessively romantic.  Instead of spending time imagining your life and relationships, begin to live them.  


5 The Investigator

The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated.

Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable

Basic Desire: To be capable and competent 

Key Motivations: Want to possess knowledge, to understand the environment, to have everything figured out as a way of defending the self from threats of the environment. 

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Learn to notice when your thinking and speculating takes you out of the immediacy of your experience.  Stay connected with your physicality.

– Make an effort to learn to calm down in a healthy way, without drugs or alcohol.  Meditation, jogging, yoga and dancing are especially helpful for your type.  

– Seek advice from someone whose judgement you trust, whenever you find yourself trying to gain perspective on a situation.  

– Notice when you are getting intensely involved in projects that do not necessarily support your self-esteem, confidence, or life situation.  Decisive action will bring you more confidence than learning more facts or acquiring more unrelated skills.

– Have one or two intimate friends whom you trust enough to have conflicts with, as you struggle sometimes to remember that having conflicts with others is not unusual, and that the healthy thing is to work through them, rather than withdraw into isolation.  


6 The Loyalist

The Commited, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious and Suspicious.

Basic Fear: Of being without support and guidance.

Basic Desire: To have security and support.

Key Motivations: Want to have security, to feel supported by others, to have certitude and reassurance, to test the attitudes of others toward them, to fight against anxiety and insecurity.  

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Remember that there is nothing unusual about being anxious.  Learn to be present with your anxiety, to explore it, and to come to terms with it.  

– Be aware of your pessimism.  Don’t succumb to it.

– Learn to identify the things that make you overreact.  You cannot always manage external events, but you CAN manage your own thoughts.  

– Work on becoming more trusting.

– Realize that others probably think better of you than you realize. 


7 The Enthusiast

The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractable, and Scattered.

Basic Fear: of being deprived and in pain.

Basic Desire: to be satisfied and content-to have their needs fulfilled.

Key Motivations: Want to maintain their freedom and happiness, to avoid missing out on worthwhile experiences, to keep themselves excited and occupied, to avoid and discharge pain.

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Recognize your impulsiveness.  Observe your impulses rather than give in to them. 

– Learn to listen to other people.

– You do not have to have everything this very moment.  

– Always choose quality over quantity, especially in your experiences.  

– Make sure that what you want will really be good for you in the long run.  


8 The Challenger

The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational.

Basic Fear: of being harmed or controlled by others.

Basic Desire: to protect themselves (to be in control of their own life and destiny).

Key Motivations: want to be self-reliant, to prove their strength and resist weakness, to be important in their world, to dominate the environment, and to stay in control of their situation.

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Act with self-restraint

– Learn to yield to others, at least occasionally

– Remember that the world is not against you.  Take stock of the people who truly are on your side, and let them know how important they are to you.  

– Your self-sufficiency is largely an illusion

– Try not to overvalue power.  The power you accumulate will inevitably be at a cost to you, physically and emotionally.  


9 The Peacemaker

The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable and Complacent.

Basic Fear: of loss and separation

Basic Desire: to have inner stability and “peace of mind”

Key Motivations: Want to create harmony in their environment, to avoid conflicts and tension, to preserve things as they are, to resist whatever would upset or disturb them.

Personal Growth Recommendations:

– Be yourself, and be independent, in order (paradoxically) to really be there for others when they need you

– Exert yourself. Force yourself to pay attention to what is going on.  Do not drift off and daydream.  Try to become more mentally and emotionally engaged.  

– Get things out in the open, by allowing yourself to become aware of your feelings.  

– It will be painful for you (maybe more so than for most people) but spend time honestly examining how YOU have contributed to problems in your relationships.  

– Exercise frequently to become more aware of your body and emotions.


If reading all of that information is too much for you (maybe because you’re a “Slothful 9” or an “Everything Should Always Be Fun 7”), how about some pictures for you, instead?




More Resources to Fuel Your Enneagram Obsession:


The Road Back to You, Ian Morgan Cron

Understanding the Enneagram, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

The Enneagram of Parenting, Elizabeth Wagele






The Typelogy Podcast, with Ian Cron 


Most importantly….you can take the test for yourself, here:


***Share with us in the comments…what number are YOU??












Hayley Hengst
Hello AMB readers! I'm Hayley. Wife to my high school sweetheart, Nason. Stay-at-home mom to three boys/angels/tyrants (primarily tyrants). Most days, I am very content in that role. Other days, well, you know how it goes. I absolutely love writing for Austin Moms Blog. I also love: books, bubble baths, Mexican food, porch swings, and travelling. I hate: the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door, on time, with all three of my kids. Seriously, I just kind of give up. You can read more about my crazy crew at www.motherfreaking.com!


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