What is the origin of the Enneagram?

As an oral tradition that was not written down until recently, it’s hard to know its actual origins. The most likely origin is that the Enneagram is a Sufi tradition, the mystical branch of the Muslims. As such, Gurdjieff, a spiritual seeker around the turn of the twentieth century, discovered the oral tradition and brought it back to the west. There also seems to be roots in Christian mystical tradition, specifically in the stories of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Two Shock Points, making nine stories. For our purposes, the sins and the shock points are blind spots around which personality structure grows. The current oral tradition was pioneered by Oscar Ichazo and disseminated by Claudio Naranjo.

Are we born with our Enneagram point?

While it seems impossible to answer this question for sure, experience more than suggests that our Enneagram point is inherent in our structure (an acorn can only turn into an oak tree) and not something that develops over time in reaction to our environment. Environment will only determine how much we will thrive. Observing babies makes the point even more clearly; they come into the world with very different personalities. While it is true that nurture can perhaps, on the surface, make you appear to be a different point, one’s underlying structure will eventually reveal itself.

Does a person’s Enneagram point change over time?

No. There is an inherent structure (fundamental way of paying attention) that we generally do not transcend. While we may have moments of expanded awareness, we always return to our particular fundamental way. The intention is to evolve in your particular worldview so it becomes less constricting, less habituated. You reduce your reactivity and have more choice in your actions and behaviors.

Is it possible for a person to be more than one type on the Enneagram?

People sometimes feel like more than one point of view because they identify with behaviors associated with different viewpoints. Closer scrutiny, which looks to core motivation, always brings us back to the realization that we are one point. As people evolve they become more inclusive in their ability to understand and incorporate diverse viewpoints.

How does the Enneagram compare with the personality structures proposed in American psychology?

The Enneagram is compatible with the personality structures described in traditional psychology with some significant differences. First, traditional psychology tends to pathologize personality, whereas the Enneagram is far more descriptive. The Enneagram implies no judgment and is value-neutral. It also implies movement and nuance. By including the idea of “wings” (the point on either side of your core point), stress and secure points (the points you move to in stress and security), and subtypes (emphasizing our primary concern is self-preservation, connection or belonging), the Enneagram seems to be a more inclusive, dynamic tool for understanding.

How does the Enneagram differ from Myers-Briggs?

The Myers-Briggs type indicator describes perceptual styles, how people relate to the world, while not identifying what motivates them. The Enneagram is a more comprehensive framework that describes people’s core motivation, and therefore speaks to a deeper level of understanding. The deeper understanding of self and others allows for increased receptivity and less reactivity.

Will I be “labeled” by using this system?

The Enneagram is not about labeling people or putting them in a box. It is about understanding them very deeply from their own point of view. While the Enneagram says there are only nine different core viewpoints, it profoundly honors the diversity of individuals by recognizing that there are an infinite variety of particular stories that fit within the context of these universal themes.

enneagram faqs