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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

The Enneagram: A Dynamic Personality System for Understanding Ourselves

Mar 06, 2011 04:05PM ● By Herb Pearce

The Enneagram (from the Greek ennea [nine] and grammos [something written or drawn]), is a personality system that describes nine unique personality perspectives. Even though we all have characteristics of the nine types, one is more basic to each person’s motivation, thinking and behavior than the others. It can be eye opening to discover our core perspective and learn how to communicate well with every type.

According to the Enneagram theory, personality develops as a result of a unique combination of genetics, cultural influence, family and childhood experiences and spiritual growth inclination. There are subtypes within each personality type and a sequence of other type aspects that explain our individual uniqueness. This down-to-earth personality matrix helps us understand our self and others, in order to comprehend our own world and engage theirs. The Enneagram is also a useful tool for personal development and learning how to build up the strengths of each type within our self.

Type 1, the Perfectionist, tends to correct and reform everything according to an ideal and has a hard time letting things be. Example: Martha Stewart.

Type 2, the Cheerleader, is upbeat, personal and giving—sometimes too much—yet has a hard time loving himself or herself. Example: Kelly Ripa.

Type 3, the Overachiever, loves to compete and win and strives for success to avoid failure. Example: Bill Clinton.

Type 4, the Depth Seeker, searches for depth and meaning, emotion, esthetics and individuality and avoids the ordinary. Example: Johnny Depp.

Type 5, the Knowledge Seeker, tries to understand life through the mind, is private and avoids revealing personal feelings. Example: Albert Einstein.

Type 6, the Questioner, is loyal and protective, lives by the motto, “Be prepared,” and tends not to notice what is secure and positive. Example: George Costanza, of the TV comedy series, Seinfeld.

Type 7, the Optimist, is positive to a fault, loves fun and tends to downplay pain and problems. Example: Goldie Hawn.

Type 8, the Director, likes to be in charge and make quick and strong decisions to protect against any sign of weakness or confusion. Example: Donald Trump.

Type 9, the Peacemaker, tends to go along with others to avoid conflict and avoids his or her own assertion and individuality. Example: the Dalai Lama.

The Enneagram is an excellent tool to use in counseling. Knowing a client’s core type offers an instant read on how they view reality and reveals their inherent strengths and limitations. For example, a Type 1 needs to relax more and let things be; a Type 2 needs to help others less and give to themselves more; and a Type 9 needs to be much more assertive. The Enneagram matrix can save time and energy by getting directly to the point.

Herb Pearce, M.Ed., from Arlington, is an individual, couples and family therapist and coach and an Enneagram and Myers-Briggs trainer with 30 years experience. The author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Power of the Enneagram, he is a leading expert on the personality system and has taught nearly 2,000 workshops. His e-book, Herb’s Tips for Living: A Manual for Living on the Earth, is available online. For more information, call 781-648-3737 or visit For an event schedule or to receive his weekly e-newsletter, Herb’s Life Tips, email [email protected].