Understanding The Enneagram
The Enneagram can be thought of as a map or model that describes and explains human behaviour in an accurate and accessible way.
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a circular model with nine numbers located on its perimeter representing nine “personality styles”. Each style tends to pay attention to different aspects of the environment and has particular habitual ways of thinking, feeling and acting in the world.
The nine styles are subdivided into three groups of three. These groups are known as “centres”.
The three styles in each centre are similar in some ways, and very different in other ways. It’s like three members of the same family where all have the same surname but different first names; there’s a family resemblance, yet a definite uniqueness to each individual. Enneagram teachers name the centres in their own idiosyncratic way but they are commonly referred to as Head Centre, Heart Centre, and Gut Centre.
The History of the
The word “ennea” is a Greek word meaning “nine”. The word “gram” derives from the Greek word “grámma” and indicates “that which is written” or “that which is drawn” and it appears in words such as “diagram” and “anagram”. So the word Enneagram implies a “picture of nine”. The “nine” refers to nine personality styles and their related behavioural patterns. It’s worth bearing in mind that none of the nine styles is better or worse than any other. All can function exceptionally well and positively when they are operating at their best. Equally, all can be damaging and destructive when operating at their worst.
The Enneagram touches on something fundamental to the human condition. Evidence of this is that people from various cultural, national, and ethnic origins, and from a wide variety of spiritual and philosophical traditions, can recognise themselves somewhere in the nine characteristic styles.
Integration / Disintegration
We each display aspects of all nine Enneagram styles, and different contexts or environments may draw out certain behavioural patterns that are not usually characteristic of us. For example, our behaviour may change when we’re feeling stressed relative to when we’re relaxed. Each of the nine styles in the model is connected to two other styles by lines which indicate how our behaviour can change under certain conditions.
This highlights an important point – if we want to understand why people behave in a particular way, we can’t look at their behaviour in isolation. We have to consider the context within which the behaviour occurs, because people tend to adjust their behaviour in response to the context. Context refers to the external environment as well as the individual’s internal experience.
Head, Heart & Gut
HEAD This centre, associated with thinking, represents the degree to which you are inclined to use logic and reasoning in approaching the world. A strong focus here implies a tendency to be somewhat uncertain in your approach to the world which may result in hesitation before action and an inclination to keep people at a safe distance until you come to trust them.
GUT This centre is associated with power, action and an intuitive approach to the world. A strong score here is taken to indicate a forceful and directive approach to life and a tendency to rely on your sensitive intuition in setting a way forward for both yourself and others. Some people who are strongly dominant in this centre, paradoxically, appear to lack forcefulness because it is not always expressed outwardly.
HEART Associated with feeling and emotional sensitivity, this centre represents the degree to which you use a sensitive and emotionally aware approach to the world. A strong score in this centre may suggest that you create a mask which you present to the world in place of your genuine self which is designed to provide you with the personal significance, otherwise, may feel that you lack.