The Enneagram is much more than nine points on an intersection of a triangle and a hexagon or a set of categories or types to be 'sorted into'. It is a psycho-dynamic framework that provides a powerful model for understanding how development and integration operate.
The Enneagram does not provide a 'quick fix' with a limited lifespan once insight has been reached. It enables people to develop themselves over time as the Enneagram continues to speak to us as we and our circumstances change.
Within the framework, the wings, instincts, levels of integration and lines represent the movement and journey we are on in life. The gift of the Enneagram is the richness of potential and movement it offers, flexing between core type, wings and line of release and connection, and levels of integration, to more fully exploring one's being.
There are three fundamental ways of looking at movement within the Enneagram:
Moving around the circle to connect to points on either side of your core type, 'close neighbours'.Read More about Enneagram Wings
Movement to connected points across the circle, your points of 'stretch and release'.Read More about Enneagram Lines
Movement from a 'trapped' relationship to our core type to letting go of core fears and transcending the limitations of type.Read More about Levels of Integration
The wings refer to the two types adjacent to your core type on the Enneagram circle. These 'close neighbours' influence, but do not change your core type. If core type is like ice-cream in a bowl, the wing indicates the kind of sauce you add to your ice-cream. It is not a second type of ice-cream that you add, just the flavour of the adjacent types. We all have access to both of our wings, and each has a different set of resources and characteristics that we find helpful at times. At time, one of these wings is more familiar, or predominant. Some people don't like to add much 'sauce' at all (true type or light wings), others add a lot (strong wing/s) and some add both (balanced double wing).
The wings enable us to understand the types not only in isolation, but in relationship to one another. Since the Enneagram types are seen as a spectrum or continuum, connecting to your wings can help you understand the subtleties of your core type. By leaning into our wings, to one side or the other, we expand our perspective and increase our emotional and behavioural repertoire. The wings may also offer a way to understand the tension and influences on an individual when they are stuck, and create the potential to reframe their dilemma as a development opportunity.
Ones are about improvement and making sure things get done correctly and properly, both by themselves and others. They tend to be principled, with a clear sense of what is right and wrong, which may seem idealistic, self-righteous or fussy to others. They tend to organise and structure their world and value facts, precision and clarity. Through their effort, hard work and application they strive to take “right action” and avoid mistakes.
At lower levels of integration, the One can be inflexible, rigid, dogmatic and intolerant. They don’t include themselves in their criticism and judgements.
At high levels of integration, the One is tolerant, realistic in their evaluations of themselves and others.
Twos want to be liked and will go to great lengths to meet the needs of others in a helpful, supportive and empathic way. They tend to be people-oriented and build relationships that provide the affirmation they need. As a result Twos tend to over-involve themselves in other people’s projects, lives and issues, at times uninvited and intrusively. Although Twos are giving and warm, they are also highly sensitive to not being appreciated and may become very angry.
At lower integration, Twos may be manipulative and blind to the destructiveness and neediness in their behaviour.
At the higher levels of integration, their altruism is unconditional and they are able to nurture themselves as well as others.
Threes are competitive “doers” and tend to be practical, task-oriented and willing to make sacrifices to achieve their goals. They usually show strong “A-Type” behavioural tendencies, focusing their energy on winning and appearing successful. They tend to project a polished persona or image, which they adapt to fit the requirements of success in a given situation.
At lower levels of integration, workaholic Threes may overextend themselves and resort to deception or extreme expediency to maintain their winning image.
At higher levels, they connect to a strong sense of who they are, moving towards compassionate self-acceptance, authentic influence and a strong connection between heart and hands.
Fours never accept anything at face value and constantly search for meaning, depth and authenticity. They are sensitive at an emotional and an aesthetic level, and express themselves in individualistic ways. Their sensitivity means they are attuned to their environment, specifically to darker emotions.
At lower levels of integration, Fours seem emotionally tormented, self-indulgent and angry at themselves and depressed, with an over-emphasis on what is lacking in their lives. They feel that everyone has let them down, and may extract themselves from groups and society.
At higher levels, Fours are in touch with their inner voice but able to put a healthy distance between their identity and their emotions.
Fives are private individuals who live in an active mental space. They enjoy observing and exploring how the world works. They struggle to share thoughts and feelings and may seem socially awkward or disinterested. They tend to compartmentalize their lives and emotions.
At lower levels of integration, Fives may be antagonistic towards the world, withdrawn into isolation and cut off in an extreme way, aggressively defending their isolation.
At higher levels of integration, they are able to transcend rational thought to reveal objective reality. As intellectual pioneers they are at peace in the world, and bring their gift of wisdom unselfconsciously and perceptively.
Sixes easily tune into the potential for unexpected or hidden danger and risks. They act on and react to a sense of trepidation and anxiety. Sixes may project themselves as sceptical and tend to think in “yes, but...” and “what if...” ways. They are attuned to issues of trust, responsibility and loyalty and have an inherent need to feel that they are safe and they belong.
At lower levels of integration, they may be paranoid with a tendency to over-react from a place of insecurity. Their loyalty turns into dependency, complaining and over-sensitivity.
At higher levels of integration, healthy Sixes are self-reliant and grounded. They give confidence and courage to those around them, and have the resilience to cope with what is unexpected and threatening without becoming reactive and fearful.
Sevens seek variety, stimulation and fun in life, tackle challenges with optimism and are charming. Future-orientated, they engage in life by asking “what’s next?” They may seem impulsive, distracted, hedonistic, insensitive or irresponsible to others. They are inspirational team members, enhancing creativity, energy and optimism in the team.
At lower levels of integration, the Seven’s excess is likely to catch up with them. While they may be unhappy they choose to not recognise this, hiding in escapism, hyperactivity and the impulsive pursuit of pleasure.
At higher levels, they stay present to their experiences, finding joy within rather than in escapist activities.
Eights are forces of nature, with a strong presence and personality. They value being in control and may resist taking a follower role. They find it difficult to let down their guard, but they are sensitive, caring and protective of those they take under their wing. Eights pursue truth relentlessly and mask their vulnerability with a tough, certain and no-nonsense exterior.
At lower levels of integration, the Eight may be intimidating and confrontational, with a chip on their shoulder.
At higher levels of integration Eights combine their force, directness and action with compassion and are able to collaborate with others while serving the greater good.
Nines are receptive and tend to easily understand and accept the perspectives and ideas of others. They are often facilitators or mediators and are diplomatic group members. They may struggle to connect to their own position or point of view and take firm, decisive action, and often say “yes” when they mean “no”. Nines enjoy the rhythm of their lives and find comfort in simple living. They often struggle with procrastination but once they begin, they persevere. A Nine under pressure may react in passive-aggressive ways to avoid being controlled.
At low levels of integration, Nines risk neglecting themselves and their responsibilities as they struggle with low self-esteem and repress anger to the point of living in illusion.
At high levels of integration, they can express independence and the paradoxical energies of serenity and vitality. They display self-respect, acting with awareness and autonomy.
The Enneagram is described in a series of lines of movement or influence. These lines indicate the influences and interactions between Enneagram types, patterns of energy movement or flow. While our core type remains constant as a 'home base', we are also capable of travelling, or even being pulled, along these connecting lines. Each Enneagram type or number is related to those on the other end of the line, as a polarity or paradox to be lived into.
Moving along the lines offers a significant shift in perspective or point of view, which allows us to step out of our typical style and reactions and create new ways to respond to the world around us. The lines, therefore, offer rich potential for exploration and development as they offer balance and fresh resources to our core type. Ideally we work to develop the ability to be fluent in the lines as a continuum, as a path of movement for our integrated self.
Here is the main thing: the lines are the basic building blocks of the Enneagram, not the points. An Enneagram line is an archetype, a collection of themes, like a novel or a life. These themes are meant to be engaged, participated in, and wrestled with. Michael Goldberg Enneagram Author
The line pointing away from one's core type can be seen as the direction of security, possibility or release. Moving along this line allows us to explore the higher aspects of the connected type, opening the doorway to increased health, self-actualisation and the release of stress.
EXAMPLE: If a Two under pressure is able to connect to the positive or higher characteristics of the Four, such as connecting to their own emotions and needs, creative expression, process-awareness and discernment, they are able to step into a different way of being, get a different perspective on their situation and find some release from their stress and internal conflict
The line pointing towards one's core type can be seen as the direction of stretch, challenge or stress. Under pressure, you may revert to the 'lower' or less-healthy aspects of this type, opening the doorway to potential unhealthy expression, neurosis and the magnification of stress. However, an intentional move to the high or positive side of that type may create positive stress and stretch, balancing the less-effective tendencies or reactions of the core type.
EXAMPLE: If a Two consciously accesses the high side of the Eight, intentionally stepping out of their comfort zone and connecting to their personal power, expressing anger directly and appropriately and worrying less about how others react. For an overburdened 'helper' Two, experiments in this direction may be powerfully developmental and help stuck clients become unstuck.
The Levels of Integration or Levels of Development refer to the degree of self-mastery individuals have achieved so far in their personal development journeys in life. This is a time-bound measure and will change as people invest in their personal growth, but also as their circumstances become more or less challenging.
While integration is not fixed, and people may move between high and low integration behaviours depending on context, more people demonstrate a concentration of energy and behaviour at a particular level of integration over time.
At a high level of integration one moves towards the Center of the Enneagram, able to 'play' in the wings, the lines of stretch and release, holding your core type more lightly and fluidly. This tends to moderate the core motivations, behaviours, themes and fears of an individual's main Enneagram type significantly and so individuals at high integration may be more challenging to type definitively.
The Integrative Enneagram Questionnaire broadly measures self-mastery according to three levels of integration. Even though all people may move between high and low integration behaviours depending on their context and level of strain, there is likely to be a concentration of energy and behaviour at a particular level of integration at any given point in time.