• Rev. Ani

The Enneagram, Part 1: Are you a fixer, people pleaser, or over-thinker?

converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation


There is so much to the enneagram personality system, that trying to make sense of its relevance can be confusing. In this article, I will give you an overview of one of its most important aspects to set the context for understanding the meaning of your type.

Humans are born with three basic needs: the need for security, the need for esteem/approval, and the need for a sense of control. Due to how we internalize the events of our childhood, we tend to develop a disordered relationship with one of these needs, emphasizing its importance more than the others and relying on the fulfillment of that need to make us happy. Thomas Keating, Trappist monk, put it this way in his book, Divine Therapy & Addiction (Step Six and Step Seven), “The three emotional programs for happiness are the three faults that are the root cause of physical, mental, and spiritual poor health. It is like healing the root of a tree instead of just clipping off a few dead leaves or branches that are rotten. The tree’s tendency to produce bad fruit will continue until the roots of the tree are healed.”

The enneagram personality system incorporates this understanding of disordered human needs and is divided into three different triads. The first triad is based on the three parts of the human psyche, which mirror the triune human brain: the instinctive or reptilian brain, the feeling or limbic brain, and the thinking or neocortex. In the context of the enneagram, the instinctual (gut) center is correlated with the need for control and autonomy; the feeling (heart) center is correlated with the need for approval and esteem; and the thinking (head) center is correlated with the need for security.

THE FIXERS: Types 1, 9, & 8

Types 1, 9, and 8 compose the instinctual center which is focused on action. These types are FIXERS and need to have autonomy and to feel a sense of control over their lives, but they go about meeting these needs in very different ways. Their actions are on a continuum. When unhealthy or acting from immaturity/insecurity, these types display:

compulsive/restricted behavior (1)~inertia (9)~impulsive behavior (8)

When healthy or acting from maturity, these types display:

acceptance (1)~~decisive, loving action (9) ~~ mercy (8)

The FIXERS act out when they feel POWERLESS.

THE PEOPLE PLEASERS: Types 2, 3, & 4

Types 2, 3, and 4 compose the heart center which is focused on feelings. These types are PEOPLE PLEASERS and need to have approval and esteem, but they go about meeting these needs in very different ways. Their actions are on a continuum.

When unhealthy or acting from immaturity/insecurity, these types display:

oversensitivity (2)~~insensitivity (3)~~emotional manipulation (4)

When healthy or acting from maturity, these types display:

humility (2)~~authenticity (3)~~equanimity (4)

The PEOPLE PLEASERS act out when they feel INVALIDATED.

THE OVER-THINKERS: Types 5, 6, & 7

Types 5, 6, and 7 compose the head center which is focused on thinking. These types are OVER-THINKERS and need to have security, but they go about meeting this need in very different ways. Their actions are on a continuum.

When unhealthy or acting from immaturity/insecurity, these types display:

gathering data/hoarding (5)~~over-preparing (6)~~distracting planning (7)

When healthy or acting from maturity, these types display:

non-attachment/full engagement (5)~~ courage (6)~~ contentment (7)

The OVER-THINKERS act out when their SECURITY FEELS THREATENED.

As you can see, the enneagram is a detailed program for uncovering your core defense mechanism which keeps you bound in unskillful behavior, and we have only scratched the surface! Stay tuned for upcoming articles that further explicate this beneficial personality typing system.


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