Values and Visions

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

At the heart of each person’s style lie certain strengths and capabilities that enable us to survive and thrive. We experience these energizers as values or ideals. While all of these strengths and values are virtually or potentially present in our core self and while we are capable of appreciating and actualizing all of them, temperamentally we favor some over others and our values stack into a hierarchy, with one or a few being more potent than others. These values are the motivating and organizing tendencies that become central for each personality style, guiding our energies, perceptions, attitudes, emotional responses, and behaviors. They lie at the root of who we are and who we are striving to become.

To discover what are your cardinal value tendencies, you might reflect on what you would do if you only had one year to live. Where you put your time and energy tells you what you value.

Values orient and focus our vision.  They tell us what’s important, what to organize our life around, what to live for.

From the Enneagram perspective there are nine sets of values and visions that appear as the following styles:

Style One: You value and are attracted to goodness. You envision making the world a better place to live in. You want to realize all of your potentials and help others actualize theirs.

Style Two: You value and are attracted to love. You envision making the world a more loving place to live in. You want to foster relationships

Style Three: You are attracted to and value productivity, industry, competence. You envision making the world more productive, organized, efficient and smooth running. You want to really make it a cosmos, a harmonious and orderly system.

Style Four: You are highly individual and value originality and uniqueness. You envision putting your personal touch on everything you are involved in. You also value beauty and want to make the world a more beautiful place to live in.

Style Five: You value and are attracted to wisdom, understanding, knowledge, truth. You envision discovering what is real, understanding the world, and making it more intelligible. You want to make the world a more enlightened place.

Style Six: You are attracted to and value loyalty. You stand by your commitments. You envision making the world a safer, more secure, more reliable, more trustworthy place to live in.

Style Seven: You want to enjoy life and experience all its possibilities. You value joy and were born to play. You envision making the world a more delightful place to live in.

Style Eight: You are attracted to, appreciate, and effectively use power. You envision using your strength to influence others and bring about a more just world where power and resources are equitably distributed. You want to live life fully and freely.

Style Nine: You value and seek peace, harmony, unity. You seek to make the world a more harmonious ecumenical place to live in. You want to feel at one and at home.

Values and Proficiencies

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

Our values and visions give us an intuitive perceptual and behavioral edge. Each of the nine styles possesses an intuitive capacity to see certain realities very clearly and demonstrates a particular facility in their valued domain.

  1. The Good Person has high standards and ideals, intuitively senses how things could be, recognizes where they currently are, and instinctively nudges reality from a less perfect to a more perfect state. They naturally strive for excellence.
  2. The Loving Person is naturally empathic, sensitive to others’ needs, and generous with their time and energy.
  3. The Effective Person is naturally well organized, knows how to set goals and work towards them, and accomplishes things efficiently. They have an uncanny sense for packaging and marketing their image and product.
  4. The Sensitive Person has an aesthetic sense for appreciating and expressing beauty. They have an innate sense for quality. Their sensibility easily puts them in touch with their own and others’ moods. They are particularly attuned to pain and suffering.
  5. The Wise Person can easily detach and be observant. They naturally analyze to get to the heart of the matter and synthesize to get the whole picture.
  6. The Loyal Person gives their word and keeps it. They hold tenaciously to what they believe in and have committed themselves to. They intuitively sense what might go wrong. They have a sixth sense for danger.
  7. The Joyful Person can facilely find the good in everything. They intuitively sense what might go right. They possess a natural childlike responsiveness, optimism and spontaneity. They are also adept at seeing into the future and visioning possibilities.
  8. The Powerful Person intuitively senses where power resides. They understand power and know how to get, keep, and use it. Sensitive to justice and injustice, they are naturally self assured, magnanimous, and protectors of the underdog.
  9. The Peaceful Person has an intuitive sense for when things fit together. They are natural conciliators and easily go with the flow. They have an uncanny ability to merge with the people around them.

A 3-V View of The Enneagram: Values, Visions, and Vulnerabilities

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

When I was first introduced to the Enneagram, we got only the bad stuff — the distortions, fixations, compulsions, exaggerations, vices, bad breath, etc. When I, in turn, presented the Enneagram styles this way, people would ask: “Isn’t there anything good about any of these types?” Apparently there wasn’t.

So I started to wonder: “Well, what is good about these styles?” Is there something at the core of each style that maybe got distorted by its exaggerated expression? I always liked the ancient Greek notion of sin or fault as hamartia, missing the mark. If you aim at a target, but your arrow or gun barrel is bent, you’ll miss the target.

Sin or disorder is being “bent.” Bent doesn’t describe the first state of anything. It implies there was a previous condition. And bent contains possibilities of a future condition: being restored to the original state, remaining the same, or becoming more bent to the point of breaking.

Evil isn’t a separate entity. It’s the corruption of an original good which is susceptible to a possible redemption. Sin and disorder are theological and psychological labels, respectively, for this corruption.

On the psychological disorder side, Andras Angyal (1965), a neo-psychoanalytic therapist, had this to say about neurosis:

The essentially personal healthy features exist not beside but within the neurosis; each neurotic manifestation is a distorted expression of an individually shaped healthy trend. The distortion must be clearly seen and acknowledged, but the healthy core must be found within the distortion itself. (p.228)

When the neurosis is discovered to be an exaggerated version of health, the patient feels less shame and more hopeful.

So what got distorted in the Enneagram styles? What’s the healthy core that ended up misshapen? To know who you really are, go back the way you came. Start with the exaggerated, bent expression of the self and trace it back to its original state.

What does each style really want? What’s of value and importance to each style? And what caused the original valued quality or state to be distorted? The answer to the first two questions leads to the values of each style; the response to the last question points to the vulnerabilities of each style.


If we use a theological paradigm to consider human nature, we might say that each of us is an epiphany of the Divine. From a spiritual point of view, Divinity descends and shows itself through earthly manifestations. While each person, as a child of God, contains all of the characteristics of Divinity, it is our destiny to manifest one or a few of God’s features in a particularly clear fashion. Just as we often say of our human lineage: “She is just like her father;” or “He is just like his mother;” and then go on to specify: “He has his father’s humor;” or “She has her mother’s kindness;” so can we comment about our Divine parentage.

In most religious traditions, God has been variously characterized as Good, Loving, Creator, Original, Wise, Loyal, Joyful, Powerful, Peaceful, etc. While every human person possesses these facets of Divinity, some types are particularly attracted to and spontaneously show forth certain of these attributes. For example, some people are naturally inclined towards being good and perfect as their heavenly father is perfect; while others naturally manifest and are drawn to being loving, or productive, or unique, or wise, or faithful, or playful, or strong, or harmonious.

The Enneagram paradigm sorts the characteristics of Divinity into nine clusters. This is a convention of the system and doesn’t imply it is the only way of thinking about God and certainly doesn’t intend to tell God this is the only way she, he, it, or they can appear. For example, other paradigms prefer to conceptualize God in terms of three or four or ninety-nine.

From a psychological phenomenological point of view, human nature shows up in different ways of being in the world with differing worldviews and accompanying ways of experiencing, perceiving, understanding, evaluating, and responding to the world.

From the Enneagram perspective, these differing ways of living can be grouped into nine lifestyles, again with the disclaimer that other systems might prefer to sort people into five types or eight types or sixteen types or no types.

In the 1920’s Eduard Spranger wrote a book Types of Men (1928) expressing his view that people are best understood through the study of their values. Forty years later Gordon Allport, the father of personality psychology, proposed that our personal values are the basis of our philosophy of life. Using Spranger’s list of six values, Allport, Vernon, and Lindzey (1960) constructed a Study of Values inventory. Spranger’s types are remarkably similar to six Enneatypes. His Social Person is like the Enneagram’s Style Two; his Economic Person mimics Style Three; the Aesthetic Person resonates with Style Four; the Theoretical Person resembles Style Five; the Political Person sounds like Style Eight; and his Religious Person blends into Style Nine. Spranger didn’t catalog the Enneagram’s One, Six, and Seven styles, thus missing out on dedication, security, and fun!

Our motivations and perspectives are influenced by the values we are attracted to and prize. At the heart of each person’s orientation to the world lie certain aptitudes and abilities. We experience these energizing talents as values or ideals. While all of these endowments and values are present as potentialities in our core self and while we are capable of appreciating and actualizing all of them, temperamentally we favor some over others and our values stack into a hierarchy, with one or a few being more potent than others. These values are the motivating and organizing tendencies that become central for each person, guiding our energies, perceptions, attitudes, emotional responses, and behaviors. We organize our life around these values which lie at the root of who we are and who we are striving to become.

Values and Visions

Values orient and focus our vision. They tell us what’s important and what to live for; they give our lives direction and purpose. From the Enneagram perspective, there are nine sets of values and visions that are at the core of our bent or distorting personality styles.

Style One: What do perfectionistists really want? They want to be good persons. They value and are attracted to goodness. They want to realize all their potentials and help others actualize theirs. They envision making the world a better place to live in.

Style Two: What do helpers really want? They want to be loving. They want to nurture others and foster relationships. They value and are attracted to love. They envision making the world a more loving place to live in.

Style Three: What do achievers really want? They are attracted to and value productivity, industry, competence. They envision making the world more productive, organized, efficient and smooth running. They want to really make it a cosmos, a harmonious and orderly system.

Style Four: What do people who aspire to be special really want? They want to be unique individuals who value originality. They envision putting their personal touch on everything they are involved in. They also value beauty and want to make the world a more beautiful place to live in.

Style Five: What do intellectuals really want? They value and are attracted to wisdom, understanding, knowledge, truth. They want to make the world a more enlightened place by discovering what is real and true and making it more intelligible.

Style Six: What do a fearful people really want? They want to make the world a safer, more secure, more reliable, more trustworthy place to live in. They are attracted to and value loyalty and stand by their commitments.

Style Seven: What do epicures really want? They want to enjoy life and experience all its possibilities. They value joy and variety. They envision making the world a more delightful place to live in.

Style Eight: What do bullies and bosses really want? They want to live life fully and freely. They are attracted to, appreciate, and effectively use power. They envision using their strength to influence others and bring about a more just world where power and resources are equitably distributed.

Style Nine: What do peacemakers really want? They want to feel at one and at home. They value peace, harmony, and unity. They envision making the world a more harmonious, ecumenical, and comfortable place to live in.

So what happened to these healthy core values that got them distorted into exaggerated caricatures of themselves? To answer this we need to look at our vulnerabilities.

Values and Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities are the tender underbelly of our values. We are most sensitive around those areas where we are naturally gifted and which we most prize. Where our strengths are, there lie our weaknesses. When our values are assailed, discounted, derided, or in any way violated, we feel threatened and frightened. When our strengths are challenged, impugned, distrusted, or dismissed, we feel anxious, guilty, ashamed, and angry.

Every person shares common human needs such as those for security, consistency, esteem, acceptance, etc. When these basic needs are satisfied, then higher needs for self actualization and self transcendence come to the fore and attract our energy.

If certain basic needs are not attended to and fulfilled, then we experience vulnerability around them, accompanied by loss, hurt, fear, and anger. Our energy gathers around these needs to proactively get them met or to reactively shield them, making sure we don’t get re-traumatized or neglected again. The anxiety we experience around our area of vulnerability remains with us throughout our lives and, to a greater or lesser extent, so do the defenses we’ve developed to guard our vulnerable areas to assure we won’t get hurt that same way. Just as our body forms a hard protective scab around a physical wound, so does our personality style form as a protective covering around our emotional vulnerabilities.

Part of our defensive fortification system involves magnifying and exaggerating our strengths. If our strength lies on the sea, we increase our navy; if our strength lies on land, we bulk up our army; if our advantage lies in the air, we buy more planes. Or we double the width of our walls, moats, head size, waist-line, etc. Under attack we become more perfect, helping, successful, special, distant, faithful, scattered, aggressive, automatic, etc.

Take Clare, for example, who identifies herself as a ONE. When she was in the first grade, her teacher told the class to draw a picture of a person and fill it in with their favorite color. Clare really liked orange and so she colored her picture of a little girl orange. When she looked at her creation, she said: “I like this.” “This is good.” Apparently Yahweh had the same reaction when s/he stood back and reflected on the universe. So the ONES’ spontaneous judgment coming from their authentic self is: “It’s good!”

The teacher asked the class to hand in their pictures and began looking through them. Clare hoped she would like her drawing and maybe even show it to the class. Sure enough that’s just what the teacher did. She held up Clare’s picture and asked the class if they had ever seen an orange person. Wasn’t it odd that someone would draw a person orange? Why would anyone draw an orange person? She then put Clare’s picture down and went through some other drawings.

So now Clare felt ashamed, having been publicly humiliated. There are several ways she could have responded to this event, depending on how resilient she was and depending on what personality style she might be. If she were an EIGHT, she could put out a contract on the teacher and that would be the end of the matter. If she were a SIX, she could call her father, or better, her father’s attorney. If she were a TWO she could ask the teacher if she could stay after school and clean the boards for her. As a ONE she could decide to roll with the punches and affirm that she herself was O.K. and that the teacher was having a bad day. Actually the teacher had many bad days and was fired at the end of the year. But the injury was done.

As a little ONE, Clare decided that she would do all she could to make sure she wouldn’t be hurt this way again. At first the locus of evaluation was inside her and she considered her work to be good. Since the locus of evaluation had been removed from her and now resided in the teacher, she had to ascertain what were the expectations of her teacher so she could live up to them. The next time the teacher said color your figure with your favorite color, Clare would inquire: “Just what colors did you have in mind?” What are your expectations for this picture or this paper? What is the job description for this position? What are the standard operating procedures of this company that I’m expected to comply with?”

Also Clare would scrutinize her work over and over to make sure it was high quality and up to standards. Actually her standards became higher than anyone else’s and so any external criticism of her productions would pale in comparison to her own critical appraisals. In short, Clare was becoming a little perfectionist, adhering to the maxim: “If you’re perfect, you can’t be criticized.”

What have other authors said about vulnerabilities?

Vulnerabilities and Interpersonal Relations

Michael Balint, a British object relations analyst, labels these areas of sensitivity basic faults (1979). D.W. Winnicott, a fellow object relations theorist, calls them primary agonies (1986). Susan Nathanson Elkind (1992) refers to them as primary vulnerabilities.

One broad area these vulnerabilities touch is our sense of self. We want to experience ourselves as whole, lively, cohesive, continuous, and worthwhile. We feel vulnerable and anxious when we experience our self as partial, deflated, fragmented, disintegrated, diffused, or worthless.

Another general area of vulnerability has to do with our relationships. We seek to maintain, preserve, and enhance the bonds and connections we have with significant other people in our lives. We feel vulnerable and anxious when we experience separation, abandonment, neglect, rejection, betrayal, or being unwanted.

Since we are selves-in-relation, we want to remain in relationship while striving to separate and individuate our selves. Throughout our lives we seek to balance this polarity of autonomy and communion.

The areas of vulnerability which each of us are susceptible to result from the interaction between our innate inheritance (our temperament, constitution, character, biological endowment) and our environment (mainly represented by our primary caretakers.)

Through the interactions between what we bring with us into the world and who and what we meet in the world, we learn which behaviors, feelings, thoughts and images will preserve and enhance our connections to others, maintain a coherent sense of ourselves, and nurture and protect those values we are naturally attracted to. These mental inner object relations or representations of self-other-interactions become templates or maps for guiding our relationships for the rest of our lives.

All of us share these basic human needs and we are all exposed to these primary vulnerabilities. How acute, disturbing, disruptive, and anxiety provoking they become depends on our nervous system and how we were raised.

If our constitution is basically healthy and hearty, we can negotiate these vulnerabilities and remain whole and connected.

When we are born into an “average expectable environment” and our parents or caretakers are “good enough,” we will still experience these primary vulnerabilities but will do so in the company of loving advocates and guides. And we can negotiate these vulnerabilities with resilience and confidence and a tolerable dose of anxiety.

But if our constitution is enfeebled and/or our parents had their own share of primary vulnerabilities that they weren’t equipped to deal with, then we will be exposed to these vulnerable areas without someone to help us through them, someone who holds us and processes these vulnerabilities for us until we learn to do it for ourselves.

Being healthy doesn’t mean being without needs and vulnerabilities. It involves recognizing and acknowledging our needs and then effectively negotiating to get them met. A less resourceful approach is to build a battlement around our vulnerable areas, which keeps us safe and secure, but doesn’t get our needs met. People living in fortresses eventually run out of supplies or become bored to death.

In some spiritual traditions, such as those congenial to the Enneagram, this resourceful self is called our essence while the less-resourceful self is called personality. Essence is our original self; personality is our compensatory caricature self.

Essence is proactive, leading us toward our values. Personality is reactive, putting up protective barriers around our primary vulnerabilities to make sure we don’t get hurt again.

Much “inner child” work has to do with uncovering and healing the wounds and vulnerabilities we sustained and endured as we were growing up. We discover where the child within us is hiding, how she hides herself, what she is hiding from, and what she really needs for herself. By suggesting where our sensitivities lie, the Enneagram model can be a useful guide in our search for and reconnection with our inner child with his or her fears, vulnerabilities and defenses.

Vulnerabilities and Personality Styles

The Enneagram perspective points to nine clusters of primary vulnerabilities that naturally accompany nine sets of values. The values, vulnerabilities, and compensatory strategies of the nine personality paradigms are summarized below. A fuller description of how each type deals with these vulnerabilities will follow.

One Sore Spots — Valuing being good and taking pride in being right, ONES are especially sensitive to criticism and being told they are wrong. Their perfectionist style is a way of assuring they won’t be criticized. You can’t criticize them if they’re perfect or blame them as long as they’re trying really hard.

Two Sore Spots — Valuing relationships and taking pride in being loving and generous, TWOS are easily hurt by rejection and by a lack of attention and appreciation shown them. They are sensitive to feeling useless and unneeded. Their rescuing style is an attempt to gain recognition, gratitude, and acceptance and to make themselves necessary and important in the lives of others.

Three Sore Spots — Valuing success and taking pride in their accomplishments, THREES are hurt by rejection and failure. Their achieving style is an attempt to be successful and to maintain relationships through performing and doing for others. Their concern about image and looking good has to do with getting people to like them.

Four Sore Spots — Valuing relationships and belonging and taking pride in being special, FOURS are easily hurt by feeling abandoned or left out, or by going unnoticed. They are sensitive to feeling flawed, undesirable, unwanted. Their style of being special is an attempt to get others to notice them and keep others connected to them.

Five Sore Spots — Valuing privacy and their own personal space, and taking pride in their knowledge, FIVES are easily spooked by being invaded, having demands and expectations put on them, and being deprived, belittled or ridiculed. Their knowing and loner style is an attempt to ward off intrusions, be self sufficient, and avoid looking foolish.

Six Sore Spots — Valuing fidelity, consistency, and security and taking pride in being loyal, SIXES are scared by perceived threats and challenges. They are vulnerable to being caught off guard and to the misuse of authority. Their phobic style (loyal and dependent) or counter-phobic style (rebellious and independent) are two sides of the same coin which seeks to purchase safety and security.

Seven Sore Spots — Valuing enjoyment, freedom, and variety and taking pride in being upbeat and resourceful, SEVENS are brought down when their options are limited. They are deflated by having their balloons burst, parades rained on, and parties pooped. Their sunny-side-up style is an attempt to stay on the high side of life and experience as much as life has to offer.

Eight Sore Spots — Valuing justice and autonomy and taking pride in being strong, EIGHTS are particularly irked by being neglected, being unjustly treated, and feeling powerless. Their powerful style is their way of being in charge and guaranteeing they will be heard, won’t feel weak, and won’t be taken advantage of.

Nine Sore Spots — Valuing unity and harmony and taking pride in being settled, NINES are especially wary of and torn apart by conflict. They are easily hurt by neglect. Their relaxed, resigned style is an attempt to defend against feeling uncared for and having to assert themselves — which might disrupt the flow of the universe.

To summarize what we’ve said so far: Values tell us what’s important to us and what to look for. Vulnerabilities tell us what’s threatening to us and what to look out for. Both influence and guide our vision or world view, our outlook on and orientation to the world.

When we are motivated by and focused on what we genuinely value, our vision tends to be clear, adaptive, and aligned with reality. Our values intuitively lead us to what is really there.

When we are focused on our vulnerabilities and what we are afraid of, our perceptions are more likely to be opaque, maladaptive, and distorting of reality. We fantasize what we are afraid is there or what we expect to be there.

Let’s look more closely at the vulnerabilities and defensive maneuvers of the nine styles and see what the Enneagram suggests are more effective responses to perceived danger and threats.

Style One: the Good Person

The primary vulnerability for ONES, the interpersonal transaction they are most sensitized to, is being criticized. Being found at fault is hurtful, shameful, threatening, damaging, and the pain ONES most want to escape. To avoid being censured, with the wounding and possible rejection it entails, is the raison d’être of their personality.

ONES are also quite sensitive about being wronged as well as being wrong. Their radar scans for any signs of injustice towards others or themselves.

When this area of vulnerability is touched, some underlying maladaptive schemas may get triggered:

“I’m never good enough.”

“I’m not perfect.”

“I’m wrong.”

“I’m the worst ever.”

“I’m not deserving.”

“I must work hard.”

“If things are easy, they’re not worthwhile.”

“Process is bad. Only a perfect product is good.”

When ONES’ assess that they are not right or good enough, or when their inner censors pick up the scent of being judged to be wrong, their panoply of defensive maneuvers goes into action. The banner of their idealized self image “I am right” is unfurled and waved in your face; their righteous anger and resentment come front and center to energize them and guard the gates of their self-esteem; their defense mechanism of reaction formation is deployed to insure they do the right thing and to assure that they are right and you are wrong; they cover their flanks and screen their awareness lest any unacceptable faults enter their field of consciousness.

We can tell when our area of primary vulnerability has been breached when we mobilize for war with minimal provocations.

At this time of perceived maximum threat, the Enneagram suggests that ONES need to shift out of the “red alert” sounded by their ego and shift into their essence. They need to stay centered in their real self in the here and now, switch from critical judgmental mode to aware and discerning mode, and remind themselves to remain serene. From this objective resourceful state they have a clear perspective and multiple options to care for their primary vulnerability. Acting from their stressed-out less-resourceful subjective state gives them a distorted view and limited emotional and behavioral responses to protect their vulnerable self.

ONES need to remember that what they really need and want is to be accepted for who they are and all they bring, to feel good and right about themselves, and to be respected and loved. While their defensive strategies keep them safe and guarded against criticism, they don’t guarantee their deeper desires will be met. Ironically their angry “I am right” approach gets in the way of their real needs being satisfied and may even bring about the very thing they fear: more criticism and rejection. The more ONES proclaim their rightness, the more others take potshots at their faults.

Style Two: the Loving Person

Being alone and separate are touchy areas for TWOS. Because they value relationships and being connected, they are particularly sensitive to interpersonal interactions that they perceive to be rejecting, disconnecting, isolating, betraying, or abandoning. Criticism is interpreted as not being loved.

When their vulnerability to rejection is threatened, their maladaptive schemas are likely to arise.

“I’m not important.”

“I’m not useful.”

“I must make myself indispensable.”

“You are more important than I am.”

“I’m not enough without others.”

“If I connect with you, you’ll want to connect with me, and I’ll be validated.”

“I can’t count on or trust others; it’s all up to me.”

“Others’ needs must be met first before mine can be met.”

“It’s not OK to do things for myself.”

“I can’t be separate and independent and be loved and connected at the same time.”

Their defensive strategies are designed to assure that they won’t be rejected and left alone. If they sense any kind of disconnection or abandonment, their false personality takes over and trumpets their self- image of how helpful they are; their pride puffs them up and energizes them for service; they repress their needs and adapt themselves to the needs of others. “If I’m important to you and meet all of your needs, you won’t want to leave me.” Who in their right mind would want to disconnect their indispensable umbilical cord, iron lung, or kidney dialysis machine? TWOS make a living out of being selfobjects, to use Kohut’s terminology, doing for others what others need to internalize and do for themselves.

Paradoxically this very strategy necessitates the TWOS abandoning themselves by leaving their needs behind. Their reactive strategy brings about the very thing they are seeking to avoid. By helping and serving others before others have a chance to spontaneously express their affection for and affirmation of them, TWOS are never sure whether others really care for them or whether the TWOS have once again cajoled this connection and closeness.

And when TWOS are overly solicitous and smothering, others tend to push them away or move back from them. Thus the TWOS’ helping strategy backfires and they end up feeling rejected and abandoned, which is just what they dreaded all along.

So their defensive strategy doesn’t really get them what they want, which is to feel connected, cared for, loved, wanted, and needed for themselves not for what they can do for others.

If TWOS stay centered in their authentic self when their primary vulnerability is threatened, they can tolerate a give and take to occur. Their essence allows the alternating current of love to flow into them as well as out of them. The virtue of humility breaks open the soil of their psyche so it can soak in the caring that is available if only TWOS will drink it in. For grace to be received, TWOS must be open to it. Their inner freedom grants God and grace permission to enter into their real self and then be channeled to others. What God wills more than anything else is that we experience ourselves as loved and then spontaneously return that love.

Style Three: the Effective Person

Like ONES and TWOS, THREES report being sensitive and susceptible to criticism and rejection. They feel hurt when they are not paid attention to or don’t receive recognition. Failures in relationships are the ultimate failures for THREES. Their projects and performances are done to get admiration. And when approval is not evident, THREES interpret this as failure.

THREES also say they feel vulnerable when they are forced to be inactive (through lay offs, health problems, etc.). They then feel useless and not worth anything.

Intimations of failure are likely to trigger their maladaptive schemas.

“I’m not successful enough.”

“I can always be more successful.”

“I’m a failure.”

“I am what I do.”

“I must produce and achieve to be loved.”

“I must fulfill my role and meet others’ expectations.”

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

“I can’t trust other people.”

“I need to trick other people into believing in me.”

When THREES find themselves approaching any kind of failure experience, their defensive mechanisms go into high gear. Their self-image of being successful is highlighted, their marketing strategies pick up, and they deceive themselves and others into believing they are important because of all they can achieve. Since I perform well, please others, and accomplish great things, why would anyone want to reject me?

As THREES get anxious, their self recedes and their image and projects take center stage. Unfortunately this maneuver just prolongs the THREES’ doubt about whether they are loved and affirmed for themselves or for their productions. Their accomplishments, images, and roles come between their real self and others’ real selves.

Paradoxically their defensive approach is ultimately not successful because THREES can’t maintain their charade forever. Eventually others realize the person behind the mask is not present. Interacting through a persona or as a productive machine is not satisfying for either THREES or others. Relationships become distant and separation ensues.

Also THREES get so caught up in all their works and projects that they don’t have time to enjoy the relationships they do have.

And so their defensive maneuvers thwart their genuine needs to feel accepted and affirmed for being vs. for doing, to be liked and acknowledged for themselves, to be authentically responded to, and to have a life that has significance and meaning.

The hope provided by their essence enables THREES to remain truthful and bonded to themselves and others when their primary vulnerability is threatened. Their real self remains present and engaged and is thereby most effective. Only in genuine I-Thou relationships do their real selves get the belonging and affirmation they really desire –which they may have mistakenly sought through the achievements of their false selves, or it-it transactions.

As is the case with every other unsuccessful egoic approach, the way out of our dilemma is the route we least want to take. And so, paradoxically, the way to get unstuck for THREES is failure, the condition they most want to avoid. Yet an inordinate number of THREES say that experiencing failure was precisely what broke the trance of their compulsion. It shattered their successful image and allowed their real self to emerge. The failure of a marriage, the mental illness of a child, the bankruptcy of a company broke their quest for a perfect 300 game and splintered the successful illusion of their personality. While initially awful, failure ultimately brought freedom and peace.

Style Four: the Original Person

A primary vulnerability of all human beings is the fear of being abandoned or rejected. Some personality theorists would say this is the primary human vulnerability. Being abandoned is certainly what a helpless infant and child fears most and this anxiety diminishes very little in adults. It is the area of vulnerability that FOURS are most acutely sensitive to. They are fearful of being left out or left behind and are hurt by feeling neglected, ignored, and uncared for.

FOURS are also vulnerable to feeling flawed, defective, unwanted, and uninteresting. They report they are sensitive to being criticized about their style or taste and are hurt by any lack of recognition of their creativity.

When these areas of vulnerability are breached, the FOURS’ maladaptive schemas are likely to arise.

“I’m not special.”

“I’m lacking, deficient, flawed, missing something.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I’m not loved or noticed enough.”

“I’m not worthy of being loved.”

“I’m different.”

“No one understands me.”

“I have to go it alone.”

“If I get what others have, I’ll find my real self.”

“A special love will make me whole, complete, valuable.”

Their defensive interpersonal style was established to protect them from being and feeling abandoned. If they fear they are about to be left behind, their self image that they are special and unique gets activated; their envy scans the environment and queries the mirror as to who is the fairest in the land; they repress their ordinariness in favor of becoming out of the ordinary, if not extraordinary. “If I’m special and impact your life in a memorable manner, you will never forget me.”

The ego strategy that FOURS devise to keep themselves from being abandoned leads them to abandon their authentic self which is the real basis of their feeling lost, unnoticed, and unwanted. They miss themselves. FOURS often devalue and reject themselves before others have a chance to. Having left themselves behind, they must seek outside to complete themselves.

As is the case with the “neurotic solutions” of other styles, the FOURS’ strategy of being very intense or very attached may paradoxically scare people away. Or they may reject others first before any suitors predictably abandon them. Tragically their defensive tactics frustrate their authentic desires to belong, to discover themselves, to be original, to be ordinary, and to feel connected to others.

If FOURS remain moored to their essence when their primary vulnerability is threatened, they will be authentic and they can engage the essences of others and feel related. If they move to envy, they contact their false personalities and the false selves of others and feel lonely. Their adaptive self keeps them attuned to reality instead of to their fantasies, while their virtue of equanimity leads them to their commonness that relates FOURS to all other creatures. Ironically, what they fear most, being ordinary, brings them to what they desire most, being connected.

Style Five: the Wise Person

Primary vulnerabilities for FIVES include feeling deprived and emptied; feeling intruded upon and engulfed; feeling exposed and foolish. FIVES report they are also sensitive to becoming too visible, being evaluated or put down, feeling inadequate and lost, being dependent, and living someone else’s life. These are the interpersonal events and early woundings their defensive style hopes to prevent from ever happening again.

If these sensibilities are piqued, the FIVES maladaptive schemas may become operable.

“I don’t understand well enough.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I can’t do it.”

“I’m out of it.”

“I’m inadequate.”

“I’m foolish.”

“I’m bad.”

“I can’t rely on others.”

“The world is non-negotiable.”

“I’m safe if I know enough, don’t feel, don’t get involved, and am left alone.”

FIVES’ hyper alert radar is continually scanning for any signs of invasion, encroachment, expectation, demand, deprivation, or ridicule. If any hint of these threats appears on their radar screen, they deploy their distancing and intellectualizing apparatus, become driven by their greedy grasping for knowledge and invisibility, avoid their feelings and involvement, detach, and move up and away from the scene as helicopter-like as they can.

Unfortunately, FIVES’ strategy brings about the very thing they’re trying to avoid. Since nature abhors a vacuum, as FIVES retreat, others follow. Their withdrawing invites further intrusions. Or if they remain a blank screen and say nothing, others will fill in the blank by projecting their own interpretations about what the FIVES are thinking, feeling, etc. And these projections could be worse than anything the FIVES might actually be imagining.

While the FIVES’ non-resourceful strategy keeps them hidden, at a distance, and safe, it doesn’t get their deeper needs for affiliation met. What FIVES really need and want is to be themselves in relationships, to connect with others without disowning themselves. They want interdependence not hyper-independence; they want privacy but not isolation. FIVES want to understand and be understood and to be appreciated for having knowledge. They want to feel competent — physically, socially, and emotionally as well as intellectually.

When they’re feeling vulnerable, FIVES need to remain centered in their essence (not to be confused with their cave), detaching themselves from their hiding place but staying connected to themselves while engaging with others. They need to shift from withholding to holding with. In other words they need to stay in the game, moving towards or against others instead of moving away from what is happening.

Style Six: the Loyal Person

The primary vulnerability for SIXES is being betrayed and caught off guard. SIXES got surprised, disappointed, and hurt enough times that they developed a personality style to protect them and guarantee they wouldn’t get caught off guard any more. Their wary lens searches for hidden intentions and looks over their shoulder to protect them from sneak attacks.

Betty, a SIX, related this incident that happened to her when she was a little girl. Her father came home one day and told her they were going to the ice cream parlor. Delighted, she excitedly followed him. They got in the car, drove past the ice cream store, and on to the dentist’s office! And you wonder why SIXES are suspicious, why they are ambivalent about trusting authorities, why they seek to know what others really mean, and why they get into the habit of second guessing.

Because Betty thought of herself as a loyal person, she valued being trustworthy and keeping her word. So she was particularly sensitive to any kind of betrayal or abuse of trust. She was disappointed and hurt by her father’s deceit and honed her personality style to make sure she wouldn’t be caught off guard like that again. Exaggerating her vigilant qualities, she cultivated a wary and cautious life style, probing others’ statements to discover what they really meant behind what they said. Like: “What do you mean, ice cream store?” Developing compensatory strengths around her primary vulnerability, Betty became a very loyal hyper-alert, employee.

SIXES also say they are just as sensitive to betraying others as they are to being betrayed. They can be harshly critical of themselves if they disclose others’ confidences or if they are unable to do something they promised to do.

Vulnerable to feelings of insecurity and reactive to inconsistencies in others, SIXES are sensitive to disruptions and a lack of order. They are fearful of being thrown out of the group or of being given responsibilities before they have the abilities. They don’t like to feel trapped and are sensitive to being deceived or treated unfairly and not being heard or listened to.

As these sensitive situations arise, so do the SIXES maladaptive schemas.

“I can’t trust myself.”

“I’m not sure of myself.”

“I doubt myself.”

“I’m ambivalent.”

“I’m vulnerable and damageable.”

“I might disintegrate.”

“The world is threatening and getting too close.”

“Being visible and exposed is dangerous.”

“Nothing is what it seems.”

“There is safety in numbers and structures.”

What SIXES really need and want is to feel safe and secure, to experience consistency, to belong to a group where they feel accepted and OK, to be listened to and have their side taken, to be connected even when they’re afraid.

While their defensive strategy appears to keep them safe, it really doesn’t secure the fulfillment of their deeper needs. Paradoxically their paranoia guarantees that people will begin talking behind their backs. Their fearfulness attracts predators and their doubts incline others to take over for them. The more tightly they constrict their borders, the more potential friends and allies they exclude. Their fears magnify and create dangers where there aren’t any.

And when SIXES sense danger, deception, or betrayal, they deploy their personality arsenal. They scan for enemies and hidden intentions; they heighten their worries and fears to be alert and prepared; they project their own untoward intentions onto others so they feel pure and so they’ll always know what’s coming their way — themselves; they embrace, avoid, or challenge authorities to feel safe.

In the moment their primary vulnerability is breached, when they fear they are being blind sided, caught off guard, or betrayed, SIXES need to seek the sanctuary of their essence where they are ultimately safe and secure, for nothing can disable their essence except their own self doubt. In their real self they find the courage to be and this fortitude provides a resourceful energy for SIXES, enabling them to feel their fears and deal with them calmly and directly.

Style Seven: the Joyful Person

SEVENS are particularly sensitive to being limited by having their options curtailed. They also have a great fear of being boring or being bored, like being in a routine job or a mundane relationship. SEVENS believe they should have it all – – or at least try it all. Feeling tied down, pinned down, or committed are quite anxiety provoking for SEVENS. Feeling trapped, immobilized, paralyzed, sick, or lifeless are variations of this stuck theme.

SEVENS also report they are very sensitive to pain, suffering, depression, hurt and other dysphoric feelings. They are vulnerable around a lack of hope or encouragement.

Their defense against being focused or contained is to scatter. It’s hard to capture a moving target like a wily coyote. SEVENS jump around in their fantasies and so earn the sobriquet “scatterbrained”; move around in their careers and become Jacks and Jackies of all trades; shuttle around in their relationships and become promiscuous; or travel around the globe and become nomads. Diffusing themselves through multiple interests and defusing others through humor are ways SEVENS keep from being bogged down.

Some of the SEVENS’ maladaptive schemas might appear when they’re feeling threatened.

“I’m not O.K. but I’d better appear O.K.”

“I’m limited and that’s terrible.”

“I must have options.”

“Freedom means keeping your options open.”

“Commitment is a trap.”

“More is better.”

“I’m entitled.”

“I have to plan.”

“The process is more important than the product.”

When SEVENS start to feel restricted, inadequate, and not all right, they trumpet their self-image of I’m O.K., activate their vice of gluttony, head “downtown” to avoid any unpleasantness or pain, and sublimate to the max.

Paradoxically, the pursuit of unlimited pleasures is in itself quite limiting. While SEVENS gain mobility, they lose stability; they get to travel but don’t have a home; they gain variety but miss out on depth; they have the Yin without the Yang. They live in a land of never-ending sun. How boring is that?

Like the rest of us, what SEVENS really want is to be happy. They want to be both free and committed; they want to have choices within commitments. While their defensive approach provides them with options, it may not give them satisfying long-term relationships.

When SEVENS are feeling vulnerable, they need to keep in touch with their true self by staying sober in the present, keeping focused, and trusting and remaining connected to whatever is real — which may include suffering and pain. True happiness, according to Aristotle, is a by-product of action. If sought directly, it is evanescent. It is experienced through persistently working with reality in the here and now.

Style Eight: the Powerful Person

The areas of vulnerability that EIGHTS are especially sensitive to are being unjustly and unfairly treated, being neglected, and feeling powerless. They don’t like feeling limited, dependent, subordinated, not in control. They want to do what they want, when they want.

Having to be docile in the presence of an incompetent or abusive authority is particularly onerous and maddening. EIGHTS do not like to be figuratively bound and gagged around people they don’t respect. Quite the contrary their style is designed to prevent this from happening. EIGHTS feel better speaking their mind, stating their objections, and making their observations of ineptitude even if it means getting fired, divorced, ostracized, etc. They would rather form a new corporation, relationship, or gang.

Their approach to not being heard or paid attention to is not the coward’s way of withdrawing to the sidelines, hoping to be seen, nor the diplomat’s way of subtle negotiation and compromise. EIGHTS get heard because they are forceful and persuasive. If you didn’t hear them the first time, they’ll tell you again and keep telling you until you acknowledge their position.

Or they cause a commotion. Embarrassment and intimidation can be the EIGHTS’ manner of communicating. For example if the garbage in their neighborhood is not being picked up promptly, they might first write a letter to their alderman. However, if there were no response, the EIGHTS would then organize all the neighbors to collect their garbage, dump it on the alderman’s lawn, and picket his or her house until humiliation and bad publicity prompted action. Victory does not belong to the subtle.

When adversity arrives, some of the EIGHTS’ maladaptive schemas may arrive with it.

“It’s not O.K. to be weak.”

“It’s not O.K. to be afraid.”

“It’s not O.K. to admit I can’t do it.”

“I can only trust and count on myself.”

“The world is hostile, tough, and harsh.”

“I’m in danger.”

“Life is a struggle. I must fight to live.”

“Only the strong survive.”

The EIGHTS’ style of life is an attempt to guarantee they will not be treated unjustly or unfairly again. They become the justice makers, meting out rewards and punishments. Standing up for themselves and for the disenfranchised, they don’t permit any power to be taken from them without a fight. They follow an “eye for an eye” diplomatic policy, deploying vengeance as a way of restoring equity, the balance of power.

What EIGHTS eventually discover is that their aggressive approach to life brings about the very things they fear. Anger begets anger; aggression leads to retaliation; power plays invite counter-maneuvers; dictators provoke revolutions; the world does indeed come to be hostile and dangerous. If EIGHTS become too sociopathic, they are put in prison where their worst fears of being limited and not in control are realized.

What EIGHTS really need and want is to feel in control of themselves and their surroundings, to be respected, accepted, and approved of, to be treated justly and equitably, to be persons of integrity and honor, to be self-determined and their own person, to be spoken up for. Their defensive strategies might keep them in charge and in their castle, but they don’t necessarily bring them respect, compassion, or companionship.

When they are feeling threatened, EIGHTS need to stay centered in their essence instead of shifting into their street-fighter personality. Their real self exudes an aura of innocence: “Why would anyone want to hurt me and why would I want to hurt anyone?” Allowing justice to be administered by a power higher than themselves and entrusting themselves to this authority, they find they are powerful in ways they never imagined.

Style Nine: the Peaceful Person

The early wounding that NINES experienced resulted from their perception that they didn’t matter, weren’t that important, and weren’t worth being noticed or cared about. NINES say they are sensitive to being neglected, feeling shamed, crushed, or left defenseless. They are sensitive to conflict, confrontation, disharmony, and to being criticized or punished for hurting others out of anger.

Instead of facing this painful reality that, apparently, they didn’t matter that much to their parents since their parents didn’t show them much attention, NINES assumed the less painful stance of resignation. They took the attitude of: So what? It doesn’t matter (which is less painful than I don’t matter.) What’s the difference? Why make a big deal out of anything? Life is short, anyway. So NINES resigned themselves and settled in for the duration. They turned down their energy, lowered their expectations, and began their long hibernation.

NINES weren’t listened to and so they learned to not listen to themselves and their needs, preferences, wants, feelings, and own ideas. No one asked them what they thought, valued, or wanted and so they subsequently forget to ask themselves. As adults, NINES often don’t know what kind of person they would like to be, what kind of work they might like to pursue, or what kind of partner they prefer to marry.

When their sensibilities are stepped on, the NINES’ maladaptive schemas surface.

“I don’t matter.”

“I’m not important.”

“I’m not cared for.”

“It’s not O.K. to be upset.”

“I shouldn’t stand out.”

“It’s more important to be nice than to be true to myself.”

“It’s not O.K. to show anger because conflict destroys.”

“I must avoid my feelings or I’ll go to pieces.”

“Everything is the same. Nothing matters.”

“If I’m not here, I’m safe.”

Whenever their desires and wants become figural, the NINES’ automatic response comes into play to push them into the background. They defocus, distract themselves, become indolent, avoid conflict, and fall asleep.

And, as we have seen with every other type, the NINES’ defensive strategy eventually creates the very situation it sought to avoid. The more NINES blend into the background, the more non-descript and bland they become, the more they go unnoticed and neglected. Procrastination makes matters worse and eventually heightens conflict. Ignoring a tumor doesn’t cure it; it grows through neglect.

While their ego’s solution might keep them calm, it doesn’t bring them what they really want and need which is to be loved, cared for, and noticed. Also, along with garnering esteem in the eyes of others, NINES need self-acceptance and self-esteem. They want to be at peace with their inner feelings, especially their angry ones. They want to be proactive and speak up for themselves. And, while doing so, they want to maintain their sense of union and harmony. They want to experience inter-being.

What NINES need to do when their vulnerability is breached is stay in touch with their essential feelings, preferences, and values, let them emerge, and act on them. They need to trust that their passions will not irrevocably disturb the harmony of the spheres. Actually their desires are part of the energy system of the universe that keeps it evolving through a process of differentiation and integration. NINES need to honor both the polarizing as well as the harmonizing dimensions of the evolutionary process.


The following chart summarizes this 3-V look at the Enneagram. Well, actually, it’s up to 4-V’s now, since I added Virtues and Vices.

We are motivated by and attracted to certain values that we prize and want to promulgate. When others are not so enamored of our values, we can feel hurt and sensitive around our trampled treasures. Vulnerabilities are the tender underbelly of our values.

If we deal with our vulnerabilities in resourceful ways, our values are projected as ideals which inform our visions of how we would like to be and how we would like the world to be. These visions contain adaptive cognitive schemas that are accompanied by adaptive emotional schemas or virtues. Our visions and virtues lead to the actualization of our authentic self.

When we react to our vulnerabilities in a defensive manner, our values appear as idealizations, exaggerated self images of how we think we should be in order to survive. These idealized self images are distortions of our genuine values and give rise to maladaptive cognitive schemas about who we are and what the world is like. These warping visions get energized by vices, the distorted expression of our life energy. The combinations of wrong ideas plus bad vibes represent the ego’s attempt to maintain the integrity of the self. Ironically, though, it’s the personality that gets preserved while the genuine self remains hidden.


Allport, G.W., Vernon, P., & Lindzey, G. (1960). A Study of Values (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Angyal, A. (1965). Neurosis and Treatment: a Holistic Theory. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Balint, M. (1979). The Basic Fault: Therapeutic Aspects of Regression. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Elkind, S. (1992). Resolving Impasses in Therapeutic Relationships. New York: Guilford.

Spranger.E. (1928). Types of Men. [P.J.W.Pigors (Trans.)] Halle, Germany: Niemeyer.

Winnicott, D. (1986). Fear of Breakdown. In G. Kohon (Ed) The British School Of Psychoanalysis: the Independent Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Enneagram Styles And Maladaptive Schemas: A Research Project

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

I find it useful to think of the Enneagram personality styles as nine different paradigms or sets of lenses for looking at the world. A paradigm is a way of organizing and giving meaning to the phenomena within and around us.

Helen Palmer (1988) has written about what each Enneagram type pays attention to, nine attentional styles.

Piaget (1963) wrote about schemas, templates we develop to organize our experience.

Aaron Beck (1967) described a schema as a cognitive structure for screening, coding, and evaluating the stimuli that impinge on the organism….On the basis of the matrix of schemas, the individual is able to orient himself in relation to time and space and to categorize and interpret experiences in a meaningful way. (p.283)

So categorizing people has survival value. It helps us predict and control our environment.

Cognitive therapists talk about adaptive and maladaptive schemas. If our schemas or paradigms are aligned with reality, if they accommodate themselves to fit what is, they are useful. If they distort reality, if they assimilate reality to fit their preconceptions, they’re not so helpful.

Beck noted that schemas bias our interpretation of reality in a consistent manner. When the distortions become pathological, they show up as “typical misconceptions, distorted attitudes, invalid premises, and unrealistic goals and expectations” (1967, p. 284).

Jeffrey Young (1999), a disciple of Beck’s, describes early maladaptive schemas as:

extremely stable and enduring themes that develop during childhood, are elaborated throughout an individual’s lifetime, and are dysfunctional to a significant degree. These schemas serve as templates for the processing of later experience ( p. 9).

According to Young:

1. Most early maladaptive schemas are unconditional beliefs and feelings about oneself in relation to the environment. Schemas are a priori truths that are implicit and taken for granted….When the schema is activated, individuals believe that they can, at best, delay or hide the inevitable bad outcome such as rejection or punishment.

2. Early maladaptive schemas are self-perpetuating, and therefore much more resistant to change. Because schemas are developed early in life, they often form the core of an individual’s self-concept and conception of the environment.

3. Early maladaptive schemas, by definition, must be dysfunctional in some significant and recurring manner.

4. Early maladaptive schemas are usually activated by events in the environment relevant to the particular schema.

5. Early maladaptive schemas are closely tied to high levels of affect. Early maladaptive schemas seem to be the result of the child’s innate temperament, interacting with dysfunctional experiences with parents, siblings, and peers during the first few years of life. (1999, pgs. 9-11)

That sounds a lot like what is said about the down side of the Enneagram styles.

I think of the divine ideas which reside in the high side of the intellectual center as adaptive cognitive schemas or objective paradigms which align us with our true selves and with the real world. Since they more or less accurately map the territory, they’re useful. When we’re on the glide path mentally, our emotions and dispositions come along for the ride. So the virtues in the high side of the emotional center accompany the divine ideas. I think of them as adaptive emotional schemas.

On the low side, the intellectual center is influenced by maladaptive cognitive schemas or subjective paradigms which distort the reality of who we are and what we’re surrounded by. A vicious circle gets set up between these distorting beliefs and the passions or maladaptive emotional schemas, that impel rather than inform the emotional center.

In his book Reinventing Your Life (1993) which he co-wrote with Janet Klosko, JeffreyYoung popularizes his ideas and calls these early maladaptive schemas “lifetraps.” While he lists 18 early maladaptive schemas in his later work Cognitive Therapy for Personality Disorders: a Schema-Focused Approach (1999), here he describes eleven such lifetraps and includes an unresearched questionnaire consisting of 10 items for each lifetrap to assess their presence.

Here are Young’s (1993) brief descriptions of these 11 lifetraps. As far as I know, he derived his lifetraps and early maladaptive schemas apart from any knowledge of the Enneagram types. As you read them, there are some remarkable similarities to the “automatic thinking” associated with the downside of certain Enneagram styles.


Two lifetraps relate to a lack of safety or security in your childhood family. These are Abandonment and Mistrust.


The Abandonment lifetrap is the feeling that the people you love will leave you, and you will end up emotionally isolated forever. Whether you feel people close to you will die, leave home forever, or abandon you because they prefer someone else, somehow you feel that you will be left alone. Because of this belief, you may cling to people close to you too much. Ironically, you end up pushing them away. You may get very upset or angry about even normal separations.


The Mistrust and Abuse lifetrap is the expectation that people will hurt or abuse you in some way-that they will cheat, lie to, manipulate, humiliate, physically harm, or otherwise take advantage of you. If you have this lifetrap, you hide behind a wall of mistrust to protect yourself. You never let people get too close. You are suspicious of other people’s intentions, and tend to assume the worst. You expect that the people you love will betray you. Either you avoid relationships altogether, form superficial relationships in which you do not really open up to others, or you form relationships with people who treat you badly and then feel angry and vengeful toward them.

Two lifetraps relate to your ability to function independently in the world. These lifetraps are Dependence and Vulnerability.


If you are caught in the Dependence lifetrap, you feel unable to handle everyday life in a competent manner without considerable help from others. You depend on others to act as a crutch and need constant support. As a child you were made to feel incompetent when you tried to assert your independence. As an adult, you seek out strong figures upon whom to become dependent and allow them to rule your life. At work, you shrink from acting on your own. Needless to say, this holds you back.


With Vulnerability, you live in fear that disaster is about to strike whether natural, criminal, medical, or financial. You do not feel safe in the world. If you have this lifetrap, as a child you were made to feel that the world is a dangerous place. You were probably overprotected by your parents, who worried too much about your safety. Your fears are excessive and unrealistic, yet you let them control your life, and pour your energy into making sure that you are safe. Your fears may revolve around illness: having an anxiety attack, getting AIDS, or going crazy. They may be focused around financial vulnerability: going broke and ending up on the streets. Your vulnerability may revolve around other phobic situations, such as a fear of flying, being mugged, or earthquakes.

Two lifetraps relate to the strength of your emotional connections to others: Emotional Deprivation and Social Exclusion.


Emotional Deprivation is the belief that your need for love will never be met adequately by other people. You feel that no one truly cares for you or understands how you feel. You find yourself attracted to cold and ungiving people, or you are cold and ungiving yourself, leading you to form relationships that inevitably prove unsatisfying. You feel cheated, and you alternate between being angry about it and feeling hurt and alone. Ironically, your anger just drives people further away, ensuring your continued deprivation.


Social Exclusion involves your connection to friends and groups. It has to do with feeling isolated from the rest of the world, with feeling different. If you have this lifetrap, as a child you felt excluded by peers. You did not belong to a group of friends. Perhaps you had some unusual characteristic that made you feel different in some way. As an adult you maintain your lifetrap mainly through avoidance. You avoid socializing in groups and making friends.

You may have felt excluded because there was something about you that other children rejected. Hence you felt socially undesirable. As an adult you may feel that you are ugly, sexually undesirable, low in status, poor in conversational skills, boring, or otherwise deficient. You reenact your childhood rejection-you feel and act inferior in social situations.

It is not always apparent that someone has a Social Exclusion lifetrap. Many people with this lifetrap are quite comfortable in intimate settings and are quite socially skilled. Their lifetrap may not show in one-to-one relationships. It sometimes surprises us to realize how anxious and aloof they may feel at parties, in classes, at meetings, or at work. They have a restless quality, a quality of looking for a place to belong.

The two lifetraps that relate to your self-esteem are: Defectiveness and Failure.


With Defectiveness, you feel inwardly flawed and defective. You believe that you would be fundamentally unlovable to anyone who got close enough to really know you. Your defectiveness would be exposed. As a child, you did not feel respected for who you were in your family. Instead, you were criticized for your “flaws.” You blamed yourself–you felt unworthy of love. As an adult, you are afraid of love. You find it difficult to believe that people close to you value you, so you expect rejection.


Failure is the belief that you are inadequate in areas of achievement, such as school, work, and sports. You believe you have failed relative to your peers. As a child, you were made to feel inferior in terms of achievement. You may have had a learning disability, or you may never have learned enough discipline to master important skills, such as reading. Other children were always better than you. You were called “stupid,” “untalented,” or “lazy.” As an adult, you maintain your lifetrap by exaggerating the degree of your failure and by acting in ways that ensure your continued failure.

Two lifetraps deal with Self-Expression–your ability to express what you want and get your true needs met: Subugation and Unrelenting Standards.


With Subjugation, you sacrifice your own needs and desires for the sake of pleasing others or meeting their needs. You allow others to control you. You do this either out of guilt–that you hurt other people by putting yourself first–or fear that you will be punished or abandoned if you disobey. As a child, someone close to you, probably a parent, subjugated you. As an adult, you repeatedly enter relationships with dominant, controlling people and subjugate yourself to them or you enter relationships with needy people who are too damaged to give back to you in return.


If you are in the Unrelenting Standards lifetrap, you strive relentlessly to meet extremely high expectations of yourself You place excessive emphasis on status, money, achievement, beauty, order, or recognition at the expense of happiness, pleasure, health, a sense of accomplishment, and satisfying relationships. You probably apply your rigid standards to other people as well and are very judgmental. When you were a child, you were expected to be the best, and you were taught that anything else was failure. You learned that nothing you did was quite good enough.


The final lifetrap, Entitlement, is associated with the ability to accept realistic limits in life. People who have this lifetrap feel special. They insist that they be able to do, say, or have whatever they want immediately. They disregard what others consider reasonable, what is actually feasible, the time or patience usually required, and the cost to others. They have difficulty with self-discipline.

Many of the people with this lifetrap were spoiled as children. They were not required to show self-control or to accept the restrictions placed on other children. As adults, they still get very angry when they do not get what they want.

wanted to see whether there were any correlations between the Enneagram styles and these 11 lifetraps so I gave participants in my Enneagram Spectrum Training and Certification Programs the Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales, published by Western Psychological Services (1999) and the items from the Lifetraps Questionnaire, found in Young’s book Reinventing Your Life (1993).

The WEPSS measures the high, resourceful, adaptive side of each Enneagram style along with the low, non-resourceful, maladaptive dimension of each style and gives an overall score for each type.

So far 125 people have participated in this study. There are 44 men (35%) and 81 women (65%). Their ages range from 27 – 72 with an average age of 48. Most of the participants are from across the United States, but there are also people from Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. So it’s an international sample. All of the participants have four or more years of higher education.

I used SPSS software to find the means, standard deviations and Pearson correlations for the data, using a two- tailed test to measure the significance of the correlations since it is more stringent than a one-tailed test.

Figure 1 gives the range, mean, and standard deviation for each scale on the WEPSS and Lifetrap Questionnaire. Figure 2 gives the intercorrelations among the WEPSS and lifetrap scales.

The results are quite consistent with the descriptions of the Enneagram styles and the 11 lifetraps or maladaptive schemas, thus providing some concurrent validity for both measures.

You will notice that the negative or non-resourceful scale for each Enneagram style correlates consistently more highly with the 11 lifetraps than does the positive or resourceful scale of each Enneagram type. That’s what you would expect if the high side of the style utilizes adaptive schemas while the low side of the style uses maladaptive schemas.

The significant correlations are found on the left side of each box in Figure 2. A single asterisk means that 5 times out of 100 you would expect this large a correlation to occur by chance while a double asterisk means that 1 time out of 100 you would expect this large a correlation to occur by chance.

We see that Twos, Fours, and downside Sixes identify with the abandonment lifetrap. People will leave you unless you are helpful, special, and loyal enough. Paradoxically, your suspicions, clinging, and closeness may bring about the very thing you fear most: being rejected.

Downside Ones, Twos, and Fours identify with the mistrust and abuse lifetrap. People will hurt, abuse, or humiliate you in some way and you need to be aware of their intentions. The Ones’ resentment, the Twos’ fury at being scorned, and the Fours’ envy might be at play here. I was surprised that Sixes didn’t identify more with this schema.

Ones, Twos, Fours, Fives, and Sixes identify with the emotional deprivation lifetrap while there is a low, but statistically significant, negative correlation with the Nines. This is the maladaptive belief that your emotional needs won’t be met. Your emotional response might be to feel angry (#1), hurt (#2), misunderstood (#4), cold (#5), cheated (#6). Since Nines are said to feel uncared for and unimportant, I’m surprised they dis-identified to some extent with this schema. Maybe they’re still numbing out to it.

Fours, Fives, and Sixes identify with the social exclusion maladaptive schema while Threes and Sevens do not identify with this lifetrap. While 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s feel outside the game and/or different, 3’s and 7’s put themselves in the action with the in crowd.

Twos, Fours, Fives, Sixes, and Nines identify with the dependence lifetrap. Threes and Eights correlate negatively with this schema. With the dependence schema, you need others to reinforce your self esteem and you feel anxious when you stand alone. 5’s seem out of place here since they strive to be self-sufficient. Perhaps their privacy and “loner” persona are counter-dependent maneuvers against feeling too needy. While 3’s come alive at the sound of applause, they are certainly competent and capable of initiative and so don’t identify with this maladaptive schema. 8’s, as you will see, deny any maladaptive schemas. Apparently their defense is working well.

Twos, Fours, and Sixes identify with the vulnerability lifetrap. This is the maladaptive belief that the world is not safe and you may not be hardy enough to ward off being hurt.

Ones, Fours, and Sixes identify with the defectiveness lifetrap while Sevens and Nines do not. This is the belief that you are flawed and if people really knew you, they would reject you. So while 1’s, 4’s, and 6’s have to do something about themselves, 7’s and 9’s are OK as they are.

Sixes identify with the failure lifetrap. Threes and Eights do not identify with this maladaptive schema. So 6’s seem to believe that you’re OK but they’re not. While 3’s and 8’s believe that they’re OK and you may or may not be OK. If you’re not OK, they’ll either help you be more effective (#3) or it’s your problem (#8).

Twos, Sixes, and Nines identify with the subjugation lifetrap while Eights do not. Subjugation means you put others’ needs ahead of your own to please them (#2), for fear you will be punished (#6), lest you upset the harmony of the universe (#9). 8’s would be those to whom 2’s, 6’s, and 9’s subjugate themselves.

Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours, Sixes, and Eights identify with the unrealistic standards schema while Nines do not. 1’s, as would be expected, identify the most with this lifetrap. While all the types strive to live up to the standards of their characteristic self image and so are tyrannized by their particular shoulds, 9’s should be relaxed about all this so they don’t identify with this schema – even though they “should” be laid back.

Finally Twos, Threes, Fours, and Sevens identify with the entitlement lifetrap while Fives and Nines do not. I was surprised at this outcome. Perhaps 2’s feel entitled for all that they’ve done for others, 3’s for all that they’ve achieved, 4’s for all that they are, and 7’s just don’t like restrictions placed on them. I thought 8’s would identify with this schema. Perhaps they really don’t feel entitled, don’t believe others will give them what they need, and so they have to take it.

I will be gathering more data (as is my custom) since a larger N is needed to do more sophisticated statistical analyses. Someone suggested that subtype variations might play a role in the results so this will require even more participants. Look for a follow-up to this article as more results come in.

  • Beck, Aaron. Depression: Causes and Treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1967.
  • Flavell, John. The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget. New York: Van Nostrand, 1963.
  • Palmer, Helen. The Enneagram. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.
  • Wagner, Jerome. Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales: Manual. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services, 1999.
  • Young, Jeffrey & Janet Klosko. Reinventing Your Life. New York: Dutton, 1993.
  • Young, Jeffrey. Cognitive Therapy for Personality Disorders: a Schema-Focused Approach, 3rd ed. Sarasota: Professional Resource Press, 1999.

Figure 1. Number, Range, Mean, and Standard Deviation for WEPSS and Lifetrap Scales

Figure 2 Correlations between Enneagram Styles and Maladaptive Schemas

Karen Horney’s Three Trends (Moving Towards, Against, Away From) and the Enneagram Styles

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

The vision of the International Enneagram Association (IEA) is to be the hub of a vibrant international Enneagram community. Part of its mission is to sponsor open and constructive interaction among various schools of Enneagram thought. This would be the 21st century virtual version of 14th century Samarkand, the site of a great East-West trade route and a melting pot of cultures and ideas where Bennett (1973) believed the Enneagram emerged.

With the intention of stimulating further dialogue and syntheses, this essay criss-crosses the theories of various Enneagram authors about how Karen Horney’s description of three interpersonal trends might relate to the nine Enneagram styles.

Karen Horney (1885-1952) is counted among the neo-psychoanalytic theorists who, along with Erik Erickson, Erich Fromm and others, complemented the traditional psychoanalytic biological orientation with an emphasis on culture and interpersonal relationships. Horney thought that basic anxiety brought about by insecurities in childhood were more fundamental in character development than conflicts between instincts and society or intrapsychic conflicts among the id, ego, and superego. Children develop ways of coping along three dimensions: a child can move toward people (compliance), against them (aggression), or away from them (withdrawal). And conflicts, dear to the hearts of all psychoanalytic practitioners, can arise among these three tendencies.

Horney writes about these three interpersonal trends in two of her books: Our Inner Conflicts (1945) and Neurosis and Human Growth (1950). These three maneuvers or gambits are complex human versions of the basic mechanisms of defense in the animal kingdom: submission, fight, and flight. Perhaps this instinctual-social basis is what makes these trends so universal.

All three trends are available to us and healthy persons are able to move in any of these directions when needed. What usually happens, though, is that we become comfortable and used to one of the trends and so the other two become less accessible. Try, for example, to hit someone as you are moving to embrace them, or to move away from and reach out to them at the same time. It’s also difficult to caress someone while you are punching them. Start moving backward and, while doing so, try hugging or slugging them. Not an easy negotiation.

As with the Enneagram styles or the old Greek notion of hamartia, we can exaggerate a good thing or miss the mark. At the core of each trend is a healthy striving to cooperate with others, to assertively set boundaries, and to step back to be with ourselves in solitude. When we overdo these maneuvers, or when they become defensive and reactive instead of proactive, we become compliant (the self-effacing solution), aggressive (the self-expansive solution), and detached (the resignation solution). Just as there is a high and low side to the Enneagram styles, so there is a healthy to distorted continuum with these three trends.

As far as I know Karen Horney never met the Enneagram. However the Enneagram has been introduced to Karen Horney through Claudio Naranjo (Maitri, 2000) who used some of her constructs, such as the “idealized self-image”, to conceptualize the structure of the Enneagram styles. Several Enneagram authors have also noted the similarities between Horney’s three trends and the nine types.

In their book The Enneagram: a Journey of Self Discovery (1984) Maria Beesing, Bob Nogosek, and Pat O’Leary group the Enneagram styles according to Dependent Types (2,6,7), Aggressive Types (8,3,1), and Withdrawing Types (5,9,4). They draw from the class notes of Tad Dunne (one of the early students of Bob Ochs, S.J.) who theorized that “the nine different kinds of ego consciousness in the Enneagram result from the intersecting of three distinct self concepts and three distinct preferred modes of behavior” (1984, p.100).

The three distinct self concepts are: a) I am bigger than the world; b) I must adjust to the world; and c) I am smaller than the world. The three distinct modes of behavior would be Horney’s a) moving against the world (aggressive behavior); b) moving towards the world (dependent behavior); and c) moving away from the world (withdrawing behavior). Intersecting the three self concepts and the three preferred modes of behavior creates the following graph:

To paraphrase Beesing, Nogosek, and O’Leary, the aggressive types (8,3,1) have the preferred mode of behavior of moving against people as a defense strategy to protect the self and one’s worth as a person. Since Eights believe they are bigger than the world, they move with an instinct of power against people. Because Threes think they must adjust to the world, their aggressive behavior is channeled into achievement. Ones express their aggressive behavior by being critical of themselves and their surroundings.

The dependent types (2,6,7) have a preferred behavior of moving toward people. They defend their self worth by becoming dependent on others through relationships. Since Twos have a self concept of being bigger than the world, they take the initiative in forming relationships. Since Sixes have a self concept that they must adjust to the world in order to be worthwhile, they place great importance on conforming to standards and laws already laid down. Sevens grew up feeling smaller than the world. For them to feel alive their environment needs to be full of good times and good cheer.

The withdrawing types (5,9,4) have a preferred behavior of moving away from people to enhance their sense of personal worth. Since Fives grew up with a self concept of being bigger than the world, their withdrawal from people has as its purpose to become an intellectual overseer of everything. Nines withdraw from the world to adjust to it because it does not offer much to them in appreciation or love. Because Fours have grown up thinking they are smaller than the world, they express their withdrawing behavior by feeling misunderstood and by rehearsing how to express themselves with originality and authenticity.

Tad Dunne further theorizes that ego consciousness is characterized by a false sense of reality, what life is really about. Those whose ego consciousness says “I am bigger than life” (8,2,5) see real life as in the “inner order,” as centered on themselves. Those saying “I must adjust to the world” (2,6,7) see real life as a harmony or integration between themselves and the outer world. Those saying “I am smaller than the world” see real life, or fulfillment, as centered outside themselves. To see how this dimension gets played out in the offensive, acceptive, and defensive types, read Chapter Three in The Enneagram: a Journey of Self Discovery (1984).

Jerry Wagner, in his Enneagram Spectrum Training and Certification course, places Horney’s three trends around the Enneagram circle in this same configuration, but theorizes from the inner dynamics or movements among the Enneagram types.

The Enneagram indicates options for movement. For example, we can approach a situation from our own point of view, from our security point of view (the style going against the direction of the arrow), or from our stress point of view (the style going with the direction of the arrow). When we have one option, we’re stuck; when we have two options, we have a dilemma; when we have three options, we have a choice. According to the Enneagram, we have a natural connection to these three points and so choices are available to us. And with choice comes the possibility of change.

Unfortunately change can be for better or for worse. So it is possible to shift to the high or low side of any Enneagram style (Wagner, 1996) and it is possible to move towards, against, or away from people and situations in a healthy or compulsive manner, depending on whether we aim for the high side of each style or miss the mark and hit the low side.

This arrangement gives each Enneagram style access to Horney’s three trends through its core, security, and stress points.

  • 1-7-4 (against, towards, away from)
  • 2-4-8 (towards, away from, against)
  • 3-6-9 (against, towards, away from)
  • 4-1-2 (away from, against, towards)
  • 5-8-7 (away from, against, towards)
  • 6-9-3 (towards, away from, against)
  • 7-5-1 (towards, away from, against)
  • 8-2-5 (against, towards, away from)
  • 9-3-6 (away from, against, towards)

The Ones’ paradigm and style inclines them to move against people. On their high side, Ones have an idealistic vision of how people and situations could be and they desire to move reality from where it is to where it has the potential to be. Ones move against the status quo, the present state, to raise it to a status meliore, a better state. On their downside Ones can react angrily and resentfully when reality falls short of perfection. They are quick to spot flaws, criticize, and fix things up. Their defense mechanism is reaction formation, doing the opposite of what they are desirous of doing. For example, when they feel like resting, they recall how much more they have to improve and push on.

When Ones shift to their relaxed or peak performance space Seven, they move towards people in an accepting, affirming, optimistic manner. They embrace reality as it is, allowing the chaff to grow up with the wheat. If they shift to the downside of the Seven style, they move towards pleasure and avoid pain, sometimes getting caught up in addictive behaviors. Or they appear overly friendly when reaction formation disguises their underlying anger and criticalness.

When Ones shift to their stress point Four, they move away from people in an adaptive manner which allows them to reflect on their own feelings and desires vs getting caught up in fixing other people’s faults. In stepping back they can attend to their own inner journey while being present to others’ suffering without having to intervene. When Ones move away from others in a non-adaptive manner, they withdraw because they feel depressed at being flawed and misunderstood, or not appreciated for all they have attempted.

The Twos’ paradigm and style leads them to move towards other people and situations. They value relationship, connection, support, building up. Their natural tendency is to affirm, embrace, and approve. If they over do this tendency, they may become cloying, co-dependent, and crippling, ironically, the opposite of what their best self intends. They become overly solicitous and flattering.

When Twos shift to their peak performance point Four, they move away from people, stepping back to allow others to stand on their own two feet. They also move inward to discover and develop their own creative sources and affirm their own agenda. When they shift to the downside of the Four, they move away from others because they feel hurt, misunderstood and underappreciated or because they feel special and priviledged because of all they have done for others.

When Twos shift to their stress point Eight, they move against others, setting boundaries and limits, expressing their own needs, and making requests of others. They are clear about who they are and what they are responsible for and challenge others to accept responsibility for themselves. When Twos overshoot the mark, they move against others in an aggressive rather than an assertive manner, imposing their services on others, becoming critical and domineering. They may fantasize or seek revenge for feeling used and taken advantage of. Or they might push others away, claiming they don’t need them.

The Threes’ paradigm and style contains characteristics of moving against. Threes are competitive, proactive, go-getters. They get things done by aggressively working towards their goals. They tackle problems and overcome obstacles with gusto. On their downside, Threes can get caught up in Type-A behavior where they over-work themselves and their team, raising the bar of competition along with their blood pressure.

When Threes shift to their peak performance point Six, they move towards others and are as loyal and committed to people as they are to projects. They move past roles and personas and connect their real self with others’ selves. When they move to the downside of Six, they become overly obedient to management or authority or lose themselves in the project team. They become the “organizational person” instead of an organized person.

When Threes shift to their stress point Nine, they move away from the situation. By slowing down and stepping back, they create room for their feelings and preferences to expand. They are more at peace and less driven. They give themselves the opportunity to be as well as do. When Threes shift to the downside of Nine, they grind to a halt and quit, resigning themselves to whatever happens. They move away from conflict and confrontation, neglecting themselves and what needs to be done.

The Fours’ paradigm and style naturally moves them away from the action. Their attention moves inward towards their subjective responses to objective happenings. They reflect on their feelings and impressions of reality. If they move too far back, they may stand aloof from others for fear they will be misunderstood. Or their interest in their subjective impressions supercedes their allegiance to outer reality. Their fantasies compensate for their disappointing contact with others.

When Fours shift to their peak performance point One, they move against the world, recognizing what needs to be done and assertively taking action. They become focused, persistent, dogged in their pursuit of what is right. If they go too much against others, they may become critical, overly righteous about their opinions and judgments, and arrogant in their idealism.

When Fours shift to their stress point Two, they move towards others with empathy and genuine compassion. They transcend themselves and connect with others. Their giving flows from a sense of inner fullness and creativity. When they go too far towards others, they become overly involved and lose their boundaries. They give in order to receive affirmation and approval.

The Five’s paradigm and style naturally inclines them to move away from people. They step back from the situation to take in the whole picture. Their sense of detachment lets things be. They prefer solitude, contemplative silence, and sacred space. When Fives move too far back, they can be distant and aloof. They step out of the game to be safe, then forget to step back in. They can become silent loners who are overly protective of their private space.

When Fives shift to their peak performance point Eight, they move against people with assertive self-assurance and confidence. They apply their knowledge instead of storing it up. They disclose rather than conceal themselves. They say what they want and actively work towards their goals. When Fives swing past assertion into aggression, they express their anger in a clumsy, sometimes contemptuous way, putting others down or being cruel instead of confrontive.

When Fives shift to their stress point Seven, they move towards people. They are gregarious, friendly, humorous, up-beat and out-there (in their Fivish way). They engage with others instead of disengaging. When Fives miss the mark and go to the downside of Seven, they seek pleasure and avoid pain. They would rather have fun than get something done (Eight). They avoid confrontation or anything that might provoke anger by smoothing things over or treating the situation lightly.

The Sixes’ paradigm and style leads them to move towards others. They are gracious hosts and hostesses. There is a nurturing protecting manner to Sixes’ loyalty and bonding. When Sixes overdo this trend, they can become overly fawning or conciliative. They want to appear friendly and non-threatening so others won’t feel afraid of them or need to attack them. They want to be close to and on the side of authority.

When Sixes’ shift to their peak performance point Nine, they move away from the situation. They step back and say “So what!” instead of being caught up in their fears which ask “What if?” They are relaxed and tolerant and trust that events will work out. When they miss the mark and go to the downside of the Nine style, they avoid conflict and move too far away from the fray. They detach and ruminate and doubt.

When Sixes shift to their stress point Three, they move against the world. They express their agenda and take action to bring it about. They get organized, proactive and own their assertive energy instead of projecting their anger onto others and then experiencing the world as a hostile and dangerous place to live in. When Sixes miss the mark and go to the downside of the Three style, they become busy instead of efficient and productive. They are aggressive in the pursuit and defense of their beliefs and become ruthless adversaries instead of ecumenical neighbors (Nines).

The Sevens’ paradigm and style naturally moves them towards others. Sevens are sociable and gregarious and enjoy being with people. They want to cheer people up and show others a good time. When they miss the mark and overdo their moving towards, they want all their encounters to be nice. They don’t want any discomfort and don’t want to be alone or bored.

When Sevens shift to their peak performance point Five, they move away from others. In solitude and contemplation, they make their own what they have been ingesting. They practice what self psychology calls transmuting internalization. They internalize and do for themselves what their external environment has been doing for them. Sevens can detach vs greedily gobbling up the goodies around them. When they move too far back, Sevens can get overly intellectual and distanced from their feelings and bodily-felt responses. They become remote instead of reflective.

When Sevens shift to their stress point One, they move against the situation. They discriminate, critique, and chew on what they are offered rather than swallowing everything whole in a gluttonous way. Their idealism keeps them actively engaged in their endeavors even though the work may become painful. When Sevens move too far into aggression, they become overly critical and angry that their fun-filled plans aren’t working out. Their anger seeps out as sarcasm or contempt or they might become piqued that they’re not getting what they want when they want it.

The Eights’ paradigm and style naturally leads them to move against people. Anger is the emotion that surfaces in them most readily. They challenge and confront the situation rather than back down from it. They speak their mind and make their wishes known. If they don’t like what’s happening, they do something about it. When Eights move beyond assertion to aggression, they can become intimidating and bullying. They get their way at others’ expense and can become vengeful and vindictive.

When Eights shift to their peak performance point Two, they move towards others with compassion, understanding, and empathy. They use their energy to build others up instead of wear them down. They approach others with tenderness, grace, and charm. When Eights exaggerate their moving towards tendency and go to the downside of the Two, they may make others dependent on them so they will be beholden to them. They manipulate others’ weaknesses, using their strength to attach people to themselves.

When Eights shift to their stress point Five, they move away from others. Moving to the high side of the Five, they are able to reflect before they act. The put a little lag between their impulse and its expression. They look before they leap. They are open to what is instead of approaching situations with biases and preconceptions. When Eights shift to the downside of Five, they become too detached from their feelings and from others. They can become cruel and unsympathetic. Or they can turn their strength against themselves, punishing themselves and withdrawing if they think they’ve been unjust.

The Nines’ paradigm and style leads them to move away from a situation. They allow things to happen and events to unfold at their own pace. Nines have a laissez-faire, hands-off stance towards the world. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. When Nines overdo their moving away from tendency, they avoid conflict and confrontation and hope that benign neglect will solve their problems. They become too removed from the situation, put off doing what needs to be done, and conceal their real intentions – often even from themselves.

When Nines shift to their peak performance point Three, they move against the situation in a problem-focused, energetic, let’s-get-it-done fashion. They attack their problems rather than ignore them or lull them to sleep. They assertively express and work for what they want. When Nines overshoot the mark, they become overly busy and even compulsive. Their anger gets distracted into busy behavior or repetitious routines. They play competitive sports while their business plan lies dormant on their desk.

When Nines shift to their stress point Six, they move towards others. Their loyalty and commitment to others may get them moving, doing for others what they might never do for themselves. They find the courage to support themselves and their agenda. When Nines overshoot the mark and shift to the downside of Six, they become overly concerned about what others’ think. They want to get others on their side even if it means selling out on themselves. They side with external authority which may move them farther away from their inner authority and guide. They lose themselves in relationships and teams.

To give ourselves a choice, then, we can ask three questions in each situation:

1. What would it look like if I approached, embraced, or leaned into the problem or situation? How can I close the gap?

2. What would it look like if I attacked, confronted, or challenged the problem or situation? How can I clear away the obstacles?

3. What would it look like if I stepped back or away from the problem or situation? How can I get some distance?

Thomas Chou wrote an article “A Directional Theory of the Enneagram” in the January 2000 issue of the Enneagram Monthly where he described the surface and deep directions or motivations for the Enneagram types.

He, too, follows the layout proposed by Dunne, Beesing-O’Leary-Nogosek, and Wagner, but takes the dialogue between Horney and the Enneagram a layer deeper. For Chou, Horney’s surface triad “does not describe the end goals of each type, but rather the tactics used to reach the end goals.” The deep triad operates over a longer time frame and these deeper desires are more hidden in the subconscious.

On the surface the aggressive types (8,1,3) are prone to the negative emotions of anger and competition which move against others. They pursue their long-term goals by directly changing the environment. The compliant types (2,7,6) are prone to the positive emotions of affection and appreciation which move toward others. Instead of pursuing their goals by confronting obstacles, they adapt to obstacles. The withdrawn types (5,4,9) are prone to internalizing their emotions, whether positive or negative, thus keeping them away from others. They pursue their goals independently by minimizing direct interactions and finding the path of least resistance.

  • The One’s compulsion moves against others on the surface, but away from others underneath. While Ones may seem outwardly efficient and engaged, underneath they are thinking more about some ideal world that they are trying to create in the long term.
  • The Two’s compulsion moves toward others on the surface, but against them underneath. Twos can be warm, helpful, and seductive on the outside, while harboring a hidden agenda and a strong will. They claim to be helping others while denying the aggressive motives underneath.
  • The Three’s surface compulsion moves against people, while the underlying compulsion moves toward people. Threes seem pushy and competitive, while underneath they want the approval of others. They claim to be bold leaders while denying the deeper compulsion to follow the leadership of others.
  • The Four’s surface and deep compulsions both move away from others. This makes Fours the most introspective and individualistic type. They are free from real-world constraints but also can be self-absorbed and alienated.
  • The Five moves away from others on the surface, but against others underneath where they are not as detached as they seem. Their strong will leads them to want to be in control. Fives take ownership of the mental sphere.
  • The Six’s surface and deep compulsions both move toward others, making Sixes dependent on a stable external support. Wanting to trust the world, Sixes find the world treacherous and so develop defense techniques, such as skeptical thinking, seeking safety in groups, etc., against their own trusting nature.
  • The Seven embraces the world on the surface, but moves away from it underneath. While the Seven seems focused on enjoying the real world, their mind is actually attending to a fantasy of how things could be even better.
  • The Eight moves against others in both their surface and deep compulsions, making them the most aggressive type. Their will power, self-reliance, and possessive tendencies are evident to others. Their world of influence tends to be physical and worldly. Their doubly aggressive compulsion enables them to rise above obstacles to acquire a heroic stature.
  • The Nine moves away from others on the surface, but toward others underneath. Nines are caught in the conflict of wanting to detach from others while wanting to identify with them in the long term. They withdraw in non-threatening ways to allow themselves to reconnect later.

On this deeper level, Twos, Fives, and Eights are “power seekers” who move against others seeking a sense of control. When healthy, they empower others. Sevens, Fours, and Ones are “inspiration seekers” who move away from others to pursue their higher aspirations. When healthy, they inspire others. Threes, Sixes, and Nines are “approval seekers” who move toward others seeking to belong to the world. When healthy, they are approving.

Don Riso and Russ Hudson (Personality Types, 1987, revised 1996) have a different way of thinking about Karen Horney’s three trends and the Enneagram types. They expanded Horney’s three solutions by “looking at how each type responds not just to people, but to other elements of the total environment, both outer and inner. Thus, aggressive types may assert themselves against nature or against their own fears, and withdrawn types may withdraw from activities as well as from people. Most importantly, we have seen that compliant types are not necessarily compliant to other people, but they are compliant to the dictates of their superego, which had its genesis in other people, mainly their parents.” (1996, p. 443)

With these modifications of Horney’s theory, Riso and Hudson arrange her three trends according to the Enneagram’s feeling, thinking, and instinctive triads. Each triad is composed of an aggressive type, a compliant type, and a withdrawn type.

In the feeling triad:

Twos are compliant to the superego’s dictate to be always selfless and loving.

Threes are aggressive in the pursuit of their goals and in their competition with others.

Fours are withdrawn to protect their feelings and their fragile self-image.

In the thinking triad:

Fives are withdrawn, away from action, into the world of thought.

Sixes are compliant to the superego dictate to do what is expected of them.

Sevens are aggressive about engaging the environment and satisfying their appetites.

In the instinctive triad:

Eights are aggressive in asserting themselves against others and the environment.

Nines are withdrawn so that others will not disturb their inner peacefulness.

Ones are compliant to the ideals after which they strive.

Riso and Hudson find some intimations of the Enneagram styles in Horney’s clinical observations. In her descriptions of the aggressive types, she writes about the narcissistic, perfectionistic, and arrogant-vindictive types which would correspond to the Enneagram Three, Eight, and One. Riso and Hudson disagree with Horney’s listing the perfectionistic type as aggressive. They see see the perfectionistic type as complying with its superego rather than aggrandizing its ego.

They don’t think Horney worked out the variations of the complying types, those who move towards others. They find elements of the Two, Six, and Nine in her descriptions, but think the Nine is a more withdrawing type.

Within the withdrawing group, those who move away from people, Horney discusses the persistently resigned (Nine), the rebellious (Five), and the shallow-living (Four) types.

In their book What’s My Type? (1991), Kathy Hurley and Ted Donson consider Horney’s three trends as “three different ways to approach life’s problems: by seeking expansive solutions in an aggressive way, by seeking temperate solutions in a dependent way, and by seeking enlightented solutions in a withdrawing way.” (1991, p. 80).

For Hurley and Donson, the aggressive numbers in the Enneagram are the Three, Seven, and Eight, whose goal is to restructure the world, to effect change. The outer world is their arena of competence because they know how to get things done. They set the rules and expect people and circumstances to fall in line. The aggressive stance makes Threes energetic project-oriented people, gives Sevens the energy to remain in constant motion as well as the evasive stubborness to get what they want out of life, and focuses Eights on accomplishment.

The dependent numbers in the Enneagram are the Two, Six, and One. They are socially oriented people who feel, think, and act in relationship to others. They seek temperate solutions to life’s difficulties and make sure they process the reactions of people around them. They want to be thanked, reassured, and liked. The dependent stance allows Twos to look to other people’s reactions before determining their own response, increases the Sixes’ indecisiveness because they wait and see how others respond before they can decide what to do, and lets the world set the Ones’ agenda while Ones set the standards for how they will fulfill that agenda.

The withdrawing numbers in the Enneagram are the Four, Five, and Nine. They are overprotective of themselves, seeking to be independent and to discover enlightened solutions to life’s problems. Wary of others, they rely on their own inner strength. They consider themselves to be the final judge in all matters that concern them. The withdrawing stance has Fours look within themselves for what they value in life, moves Fives deep inside where they find the strength to carry them through life, and causes Nines to retreat within themselves to slumber in peace and inner tranquility.

Janet Levine in her book The Enneagram Intelligences (1999) groups Horney’s three trends according to the three centers: body, mental, and emotional, and labels them Defenders, Attachers, and Detachers. She describes these types as “three distinct modalities of being; three broad patterns of behavior; three primal, intuitive motivations driving how people operate in the world.” (1999, p. 17)

The Attachers, whose attention is outer-directed and who move toward people, make sense of, and operate in the world, through connection to people and relationships. Attachers live in an emotional environment. They want to know where they stand emotionally in relation to others. Their dominant issue is approval. They are motivated by how they feel about themselves, the feelings of others, and how they come across to others. Levine places Enneagram types Two, Three, and Four in this category.

The attention of Detachers is inner-directed and they move away from people. They make sense of, and operate in, the world from inside their head. The mental context is the Detachers’ environment. Making sense of the world through mental processes and activities are their central preoccupations. Their mental activities include imagining, conceptualizing, fantasizing, analyzing, and synthesizing. They generate ideas, question ideas, and connect ideas. Points Five, Six, and Seven belong here.

Levine describes the Defenders as having self-protective attention. They move (brush up) against people. They make sense of, and operate in, the world with an awareness of intrapersonal space and boundaries. The Defenders’ environment is a body-based context. Their mode of being is instinctual. They are aware of the boundaries around themselves and want to establish their space. Operating out of gut feelings, they make their presence felt and establish their boundaries by being confrontational and combative, stubborn and passive-aggressive, or critical and judgmental. Points Eight, Nine, and One are found here.

This has been a sampling of some authors about how Karen Horney’s three trends might correlate with the Enneagram styles. It’s meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive. Where do we go from here? More theories? While you certainly can never have enough paradigms, sooner or later hypotheses need to be checked against some evidence. Empiricism raises its scientific head.

There is an inventory, the Horney-Coolidge Type Indicator, designed by Frederick Coolidge, Ph.D. to measure Horney’s three types of people. It is a 57 item, three scale inventory, measured on a Likert scale ranging from hardly ever to nearly always fits me. It was normed on 630 people, 315 females and 315 males, with a median age of 21, ranging from 16 to 93 years. The internal scale reliabilities (alpha) and test-retest reliabilities range from .78 to .92, which is quite acceptable. Only a few validity studies are reported in the brief manual.

A factor analysis of the three scales revealed a three factor solution in each of the scales. The Compliant Type scale showed factors of altruism, need for relationships, and self-abasement. The Aggessive Type scale revealed factors of malevolence, power, and strength. And the Detachment Type scale produced the factors of need for aloneness, avoidance, and self-sufficiency.

Dr. Coolidge is very generously granting permission to duplicate his test for research purposes. He teaches in the psychology department of the University of Colorado and can be contacted at or at (719) 262-4146.

I haven’t used his instrument, yet, but having looked over the items, my reservation would be that his Compliant scale measures Twos, the Aggressive scale measures Eights, and the Detachment scale measures Fives, which are the Enneagram types that most clearly correspond to Horney’s three trends in the first place. I wonder whether the other six Enneagram types would as surely endorse any of these trends as measured by this inventory. Nonetheless it’s a start down the yellow brick road of research.

Perhaps the Enneagram community would like to participate in a research study that would extend across the various schools by taking the Horney-Coolidge Type Indicator, sending in the results of the inventory along with one’s Enneagram type and strength of conviction about one’s type to some hub where they can be collated and then disseminated back to the community. The central office of the IEA might be such a location or the Enneagram Monthly has expressed interest in coordinating research projects. Such a venture would be another venue besides international conferences for actualizing the vision and mission of the IEA.

Send your comments or suggestions to Jerry Wagner at

  • Beesing, Maria, Nogosek, R., O’Leary, P. The Enneagram: a journey to self discovery. Denville, N.J.: Dimension Books, 1984.
  • Bennett, J.G. Gurdjieff: making a new world. New York: Harper and Row, Colophon Books, 1973.
  • Chou, Thomas. “A directional theory of the Enneagram. Enneagram Monthly (57), January 2000.
  • Coolidge, Frederick. Horney-Coolidge Type Indicator. Psychology Dept., P.O. Box 7150, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7150.
  • Horney, Karen. Our inner conflicts. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1945.
  • Neurosis and human growth. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1950.
  • Hurley, Kathleen, & Donson, T. What’s my type? San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
  • Levine, Janet. The Enneagram intelligences. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1999.
  • Maitri, Susan. The Spiritual dimension of the enneagram. New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 2000.
  • Riso, Don, & Hudson, R. Personality types. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1987, 1996.
  • Wagner, Jerome. The Enneagram spectrum of personality styles: an introductory guide. Portland: Metamorphous Press, 1996.

The Enneagram and the Interpersonal Psychiatry of Harry Stack Sullivan

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

While I am aware that looking for connections among ideas is a near pathological preoccupation for my type, I am nevertheless giving into the temptation to propose some interesting parallels between Harry Stack Sullivan’s theory of personality and the Enneagram theory of personality.

Sullivan’s Interpersonal Psychiatry

Sullivan called his approach an interpersonal theory of psychiatry because he believed psychiatry is the study of what goes on between people.  This is in contrast to Freud’s paradigm that focuses on what goes on inside people.  Freud’s is a drive model while Sullivan’s is an interpersonal model.  Freud postulated that the personality is made up of id, ego, and superego with the id being the source of the action.  We are driven by inner instinctual urges, especially sexual and aggressive ones, and our prime motivation is to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain.  We are pretty autonomous monads who cathect or connect to others who happen to meet our needs.  Instincts appear first, then relationships develop because they satisfy our needs.

For Sullivan, relationships are primary.  Personality is a hypothetical entity that cannot be observed or studied apart from interpersonal situations wherein it is made manifest.  The only way personality can be known is through the medium of interpersonal interactions.  Therefore the unit of study is not the individual person, but the interpersonal situation.  Since personality is defined by what it does in an interpersonal field, there is no I without a Thou, as Buber noted.

The Enneagram of Interpersonal Styles

The Enneagram, among other things, is a system of interpersonal styles.  It describes our interpersonal gambits and maneuvers.  Each style provides a template or paradigm for thinking about ourselves, others, and the kinds of interactions we’re allowed to have with others.  So our Enneagram styles, to varying degrees, set our interpersonal parameters by providing us with scripts for the roles we’re supposed to play.

To get a sense for how this works for you, reflect on the following questions.

What internal representation or image do you have of yourself and others?   And what kinds of interactions do you allow yourself to have with others?

Adopting the paradigms of other styles broadens our interpersonal repertoire.  For example, the Eights’ paradigm instructs them to be tough and hard-nosed.  Start with “No,” then, maybe, negotiate to “Yes.”  Adopting the Twos’ paradigm allows Eights to be compassionate and tender and helps them say “Yes.”   In contrast, the Twos’ paradigm tells them to be nice and accommodating.  They start and end with “Yes.”  The Eights’ paradigm allows them to establish interpersonal boundaries and gives them permission to say “No.”

How might you stretch your interpersonal boundaries? What don’t you allow yourself to do because of the constraints of your paradigm that you would be able to do if you followed the rules of some other paradigm?

Two Sources of Motivation

Sullivan proposed two sources of motivation: the pursuit of satisfactions and the pursuit of security.

On the one hand, we seek to maximize the satisfaction of mainly biological bodily needs.  The goal here is to reduce tension.  This is similar to Freud’s homeostatic hunch that humans want to maximize pleasure and minimize displeasure, a theory that Sevens shouldn’t find much fault with.

On the other hand, we desire to minimize insecurity that arises from cultural and social needs.  In Sullivan’s model, the main motive force of personality is the avoidance and reduction of anxiety.  We seek to avoid a greater anxiety by selecting a lesser anxiety.


Where does this anxiety come from?  According to Sullivan, it’s contagious.  We pick it up from our caretakers – usually our mother.  Infants are born with an empathic capacity to sense the attitudes and feelings of significant people around them, which leads them to experience two different states.

Infants experience euphoria when they sense approval from others.  A non-anxious persona is experienced as the good mother.  And the good me is the one who evokes approval, tenderness, and less anxiety in the other. This is accompanied by a sense of security and relaxation.

Infants experience dysphoria when they sense disapproval and derogation from others.  An anxious persona is experienced as the bad mother.  And the bad me is the one who evokes disapproval.  This is accompanied by mounting anxiety.

Sullivan describes one additional infant state, the non-me, which is felt as the unknown, the uncanny, the unintegrated because it is dreadful and repressed.  This state is accompanied by intense anxiety such as nightmares and schizophrenic experiences.  To avoid this much anxiety, we’ll just consider the good me and bad me states.

Anxiety, then, is caught from our caretakers.  It is an interpersonal phenomenon rooted in the expectation of derogation and rejection by others or by oneself.

Anxiety, in turn, arouses the need for security.

Enneagram Styles as Anxiety Reducers

Our Enneagram styles can be thought of as strategies to reduce others’ anxieties, thereby reducing our own.  So you might ask yourself:

What are you anxious about thinking, feeling, or doing because you believe it will make others anxious?

Or, what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of yours might bring about derogation or rejection from others and so lead you to feel anxious?

For example:

As a One you might be afraid your spontaneity, anger, or flaws make others anxious and will bring about criticism.

As a Two you might be afraid your needs, desires, and personal agendas make others anxious and will bring about rejection.

As a Three you might be afraid your lack of success and accomplishments disappoint others and make them anxious and will lead to rejection.

As a Four you might be afraid your ordinariness, superficiality and deficiencies make others anxious and then they will abandon you.

As a Five you might be afraid your ignorance or existence make others anxious and will bring about ridicule and disparagement.

As a Six you might be afraid your own authority, decision making, and following your whims make others anxious and will lead to ostracism from the group.

As a Seven you might be afraid your seriousness and sadness make others anxious and will lead to your being left out of the party.

As an Eight you might be afraid your weakness, tenderness, and softness make others anxious and will lead to your being ignored or attacked.

As a Nine you might be afraid your energy, agendas, and conflicts make others anxious and will lead to further neglect.


I need to interject here that while Sullivan’s theory of personality and personality functioning is quite similar to the Enneagram’s dynamics, his terminology is the exact opposite!  What Sullivan calls “personality” is what the Enneagram means by essence or real self; and what Sullivan calls “self” is what the Enneagram describes as ego or false personality.  So I’m taking the liberty of altering his nomenclature.  When Sullivan speaks of “personality”, I’m going to call this “self.”  And when he speaks of “self,” I’m going to call this the “conditioned self,” which is similar to the Gurdjieffian and enneagramatic notion of ego or personality.  And I’m going to continue using multi-syllabic words to sound erudite.

In Sullivan’s theory, the self is the entire functioning of the person, our patterns of behavior and experience – the totality of who we are.  This is similar to what Gurdjieff means by essence. The conditioned self is made up of reflected appraisals — who others take us to be and subsequently who we take ourselves to be.  As children we come to appraise ourselves as we are appraised by others.  This is reminiscent of Gurdjieff’s notion of personality.

The Conditioned Self

The conditioned-self system is a complex organization of experiences derived from interactions with significant others.  It involves our strategies for avoiding anxiety and establishing security.  It focuses on actions that lead to approval or disapproval.  Conditioned-self dynamisms are created by anxiety and are systems of anxiety-diminishing behavior.

Security Operations

Sullivan talks about security operations.  These are the interpersonal maneuvers we use to terminate or diminish anxiety.  They are behaviors by which the child avoids derogation and abandonment, assuring the child of approval and social security, which reduce anxiety.  Security operations protect, maintain and enhance our self esteem.

What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors do you engage in to reduce anxiety?

For example:

Ones imagine themselves to be right, muster up anger to fuel their righteousness, and try to act to the best of their abilities to reduce anxiety.

Twos imagine themselves to be loving and generous, feel proud of their sacrifices, and act helpful.

Threes imagine themselves to be successful, feel confident, and act professional.

Fours imagine themselves to be special, but feel sad so they won’t threaten others, and act dramatic.

Fives imagine themselves to be wise, feel as little as possible, and act invisible.

Sixes imagine themselves to be loyal and courageous, feel fearful, and act indecisive.

Sevens imagine themselves to be fast and fun, feel excited, and act playful.

Eights imagine themselves to be strong, feel competent, and act decisive

Nines imagine themselves to be settled, feel calm, and act tomorrow.

Security operations perpetuate the shape the conditioned-self took during early childhood and so perpetuate its isolation within the total self. Any experience that threatens the form and direction of the conditioned self will provoke anxiety. And anxiety is the means by which the conditioned self limits and restricts awareness thereby maintaining its own form and direction.  The conditioned self, aided by anxiety, controls and circumscribes awareness through inhibiting learning anything new and different.  The conditioned self thus becomes an inferior caricature of what it might have been.

Defense Mechanisms

Through its security operations, the conditioned self has certain defense mechanisms at its service — such as selective inattention and dissociation.  Anxiety distracts, confuses, and restricts awareness.  (Angustia in Latin means narrow.)    When we’re anxious, our thoughts, affects, and behaviors get narrowed.

Selective attention or inattention restricts our acts and thoughts.  It interferes with observation and analysis, with recall and foresight.  In general it interferes with living and integration.  The conditioned self sees what it wants to see and is blind to what it doesn’t want to see.  Selective attention focuses our awareness on those actions that bring approval and win rewards and escape disapproval and punishment.  What is kept from awareness are interpersonal processes or feelings which are anxiety arousing.

Anxiety occurs when something happens which is not welcome to the self, not in harmony with earlier experiences of approval and disapproval. Selective attention steers us away from anxiety arousing events.

Dissociation (what Freud called repression) denies the entrance of these events into consciousness all together.

What areas of your life do you constrict or avoid?  And how do you keep yourself from being aware of what you’re avoiding?

For example:

As a One you might avoid your anger by turning it into resentment or projecting it onto an immoral, flawed world.

As a Two you might avoid your own needs by repressing them and projecting them onto needy others.

As a Three you might avoid failure by reframing it and/or projecting incompetence onto others.

As a Four you might avoid being ordinary by exaggerating your extraordinariness and projecting poor taste onto others.

As a Five you might avoid being empty and not knowing by constantly thinking and projecting ignorance onto others.

As a Six you might avoid being unruly by being rule-bound and projecting deviance onto others; or you might avoid your fears by acting them out before you feel them.

As a Seven you might avoid being sad or pained by only looking on the bright side and projecting gloom onto others.

As an Eight you might avoid weakness by denying it and projecting wimpiness onto others.

As a Nine, you might avoid conflict by burying it and spreading oil on troubled waters.

Mental Disorder

In Sullivan’s system, mental disorder refers to interpersonal processes either inadequate to the situation or excessively complex because of illusory persons also integrated in the situation.  Unresolved situations from the past color our perception of present situations and over-complicate action in them.  This is Sullivan’s description of transference.  We interpret our current relationships through the internal representations or schemas constructed from our earlier interactions.  We overlay our past templates on our present scenarios.  So we need to look at the lenses through which we perceive our interpersonal world (which the Enneagram helps us to do) and then interact more Zen-like with one real person at a time.

Sullivan makes the point that, paradoxically, more security may ensue from abandoning a complex security-seeking process than was ever achieved by it.

So you might ask yourself:

What current, not so effective, security-seeking interpersonal strategy might you give up?  And what interpersonal process can you substitute for it that will be more effective?

Alternate strategies might be found in the resourceful side of your own Enneagram style, your neighboring styles, your core and stress point styles, or any other style, to be completely democratic about it.

Mental Well-being

For Sullivan, mental health can be measured by the balance between the pursuit of satisfactions and security.  Life is lived between the needs for satisfaction and security.  Satisfaction leads to constructive integrations with others and the joyful exercise of functions.  Our ability to attain satisfactions according to socially approved patterns causes a feeling of well-being, self-approval, and security.  If satisfactions are not fulfilled, then we feel anxious, insecure, and uneasy.  Insecurity leads to non-constructive integrations and self-absorbed fantasy and illusion.

Now that I have expressed some of these parallels between Sullivan’s theory of interpersonal psychiatry and the Enneagram theory of personality styles, I feel much relieved, satisfied, and secure.  Hopefully your own euphoria has remained manageable.  For further reading I would suggest:

  • Evans III, F.B. (1996) Harry Stack Sullivan: Interpersonal theory and psychotherapy. New York: Routledge.
  • Greenberg, J., Mitchell, S. (1983) Object relations in psychoanalytic theory. New York: Harvard University Press.
  • Leary, T. (1957) Interpersonal diagnosis of personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Mullahy, P. (1970) Psychoanalysis and interpersonal psychiatry: the contributions of Harry Stack Sullivan. New York: Science House.
  • Sullivan, H.S.

(1953) Conceptions of modern psychiatry. New York: W.W. Norton

(1953) The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: W.W. Norton.

(1954) The psychiatric interview. New York: W.W. Norton.

(1956) Clinical studies in psychiatry. New York: W.W. Norton.

(1962) Schizophrenia as a human process. New York: W.W. Norton.

(1964) The fusion of psychiatry and social sciences. New York: W.W. Norton.

(1972) Personal psychopathology. New York: W.W. Norton.

Enneagram Styles As Personality Paradigms

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

Enneagram styles operate as nine personality paradigms or world views. These paradigms become the organizing assumptions and core beliefs that influence and determine our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They are at the core of how we think and feel about our selves, about other people, and about the kinds of interactions we can imagine and allow ourselves to have with others. That is to say, they are at the heart of our interpersonal style.

Our mind likes and looks for regularities. Paradigms or schemas are based on and formed around the recurring patterns we notice. They help us make sense of our experiences and provide us with a predictive capacity to anticipate what’s going to happen next and what affect our behavior will have on our surroundings.

Our paradigms or schemas can be based on an objective appraisal of naturally occurring events in the world (adaptive schemas/divine ideas) or they can be based on a faulty construction of those events (maladaptive schemas/fixations). We fashion representational patterns of our experiences in our mind and act on these appraisals, assuming they are accurate. Having some structure or basis of interpretation is preferable to having none at all. Functioning with no paradigms leads to confusion, anxiety, inaction or random action. Employing inaccurate paradigms at least leads to ersatz certainty and predictable action. Though we may always see everything the same, and though we may only be going around in circles, at least we know what we’re going to see and where we’re going to end up!

In his book Future Edge (1992), Joel Barker provides numerous practical applications of paradigms. Drawing on ideas from cognitive and personality theories, he adroitly applies them in a business setting. His insights are also useful for understanding Enneagram dynamics


Barker observes that paradigms establish and define boundaries and inform us how to operate inside those boundaries in order to be successful. They provide us with rules for playing the game. We are experts as long as we can play the game by the rules of our paradigm. If we are given a new set of rules from another paradigm or if others won’t play according to our norms, we are back to ground zero and usually become angry, bewildered, confused and easily manipulated.

An example Barker uses is the extraordinary memory and brilliant play of chess masters. When an opponent is moving their chess pieces according to the rules of the game, chess masters can remember the position of the pieces with amazing accuracy because they know where the pieces should be moved. However when they are up against a computer moving the pieces in a random manner, the masters’ memory of the placement of the pieces is no better than anyone else’s.

So our personality paradigms make us masters in our own domain. Within the boundaries of our interpersonal style we are confident, comfortable, and relatively secure. People can’t compete with us on our own turf. We’ve worked the territory for years and our moves have become automatic. But if we’re taken into another’s domain, into their paradigm, we’re at their mercy. That’s why our interpersonal strategies and moves are designed to get others to play our game. When they won’t play our way, we get frustrated, confused, and won’t play any more. The insights of transactional analysis into the Games People Play (1964) are illuminating in this context.

How do these paradigm proficiencies show up in Enneagram styles?

ONES are masters at being correct and right and doing what they should do. If you want to know how to do something well, ask a ONE. Or if you want a good critique or good quality control, consult a ONE. In the game of ONE upmanship, ONES will come out right.

On the other hand ONES may feel at a loss if you ask them to come out and play with you. Or if principles and guilt don’t matter to you, the ONE won’t know how to deal with you or motivate you.

TWOS are masters at sensing people’s needs and accommodating themselves to meet those needs. If you want to learn how to empathize, how to help people and make them feel comfortable, ask a TWO. In the game of TWO upmanship, TWOS will come up more helpful.

On the other hand if you don’t need them, TWOS may not know how to relate to you. If you want to deal with them as an equal, they might become fearful. Or if you love them before they can do anything for you, they will become confused.

THREES are masters at getting things done, accomplishing tasks, and looking good. If you want to know how to organize reality and how to do things efficiently, consult a THREE. If you want to know how to sell yourself or your product or how to create the right image to be successful, ask a THREE. They’re often in the consulting business doing this, anyway. In the game of THREE upmanship, THREES will come out looking successful.

However if you don’t have any goals for them to achieve or if you don’t have anything for them to do for you, they may become dissatisfied and leave. Or if you want to relate to them personally on an emotional level and aren’t particularly impressed by, or interested in, their posturing or their achievements, they may not know how to be with you.

FOURS are masters of drama. They thrive in deep emotional waters where there are intense feelings and frequent squalls. They like intensity and stimulation and excitement to make them special. If you want to learn how to feel deeply and live life passionately, seek out a FOUR. If you want to appreciate and value suffering or if you want to attune yourself to the sufferings of others, ask a FOUR how to do it. In the game of FOUR upmanship, FOURS come out more sensitive or more hurt.

On the other hand if you relate to them in a detached intellectual manner, they may be out of their element, like a fish out of water. Or if you don’t think they’re particularly special, they’ll either try to make an impression on you so you’ll remember them or they’ll drop you and move on to a more discerning audience.

FIVES are master thinkers and observers. Their element is the world of clear and distinct ideas. They are at home in their head and feel secure and confident there. If you want to get the whole picture, if you want to synthesize what you know, or if you want to reduce what you know to its essence, consult a FIVE. If you want to know how to detach from your feelings or from your situation, ask a FIVE how to disassociate. In the game of FIVE upmanship, FIVES come out appearing wise.

However if you aren’t especially enamored of ideas but believe feelings or actions are where it’s at, or if you try to get FIVES out of their heads and into their feelings and bodies, then you may lead the FIVES into a state of inarticulate confusion.

SIXES are master worriers and loyalists. They live in a world of fear and intrigue. There are dangers all around that they are scanning for. They are especially sensitive to authority figures and the potential threat they may bring. If you want to find out what responsibility, loyalty and carrying out obligations is all about, ask a SIX. If you want to learn how to ferret out danger in your environment, observe a SIX. Or if you want to know how to discover whether an authority is trustworthy, ask a SIX what to look for. In the game of SIX upmanship, SIXES come out loyal.

On the other hand if you are a person exercising some authority over them or if you are not similarly alarmed by, or against, the enemies they perceive around them, they may translate you into the enemy camp.

SEVENS are master players, entertainers, story-tellers, adventurers, visionaries, bon vivants. If you want to know how to generate options — more than you could ever pursue — consult a SEVEN. If you want to learn how to enjoy life, how to find something good in everything, how to appreciate reality, ask a SEVEN. In the game of SEVEN upmanship, SEVENS come out smiling.

However if you believe in hard work or aren’t amused and delighted by their tales and adventures, you may find yourself considered a bore and left earthbound below by a soaring SEVEN. Limited decisions and repetitious tasks are not in the SEVENS ‘ rule book.

EIGHTS are power masters. They know how to get power, how to use it, how to keep it, and how to prevent others from having power over them. They understand the art of the deal and how to bring enough pressure to bear to get what they want. If you want to know something about power, how to confront a challenge, how to get things off your chest, how to sense phoniness, ask an EIGHT. In the game of EIGHT upmanship, EIGHTS come out on top.

But if you engage an EIGHT on the level of love, peace, and tenderness you might be met with a resisting finger or fist in your face. They can be confused by altruism and grace.

NINES are masters at negotiation, compromise, and resolving or avoiding conflict. They understand how to bring about harmony, how to reconcile opposing views, how to stay in the middle and blend into both sides, building a bridge over troubled waters. If you want to learn how to relax, how to let things go, how to go with the flow and not worry or make a big deal out of anything, consult a NINE. In the game of NINE upmanship, NINES come out settled.

On the other hand if you confront a NINE or try to push them into taking a position or taking action before they’re ready to, you may find a stubborn opponent. Also if you pay too much attention to them and inquire too forcefully into their needs and wants, they may not know how to respond to you.


Another feature of paradigms noted by Barker is how they facilitate our seeing certain realities particularly acutely. Paradigms provide us with a subtle vision, an intuitive edge, in our area of expertise or in the range of convenience of our

As George Kelly says in his book A Theory of Personality (1963): “A construct may be maximally useful for handling certain matters. The range of these matters is called its focus of convenience.”

If you substitute paradigm for construct, each personality paradigm may be maximally useful for handling certain matters. In other words each personality paradigm has a focus of convenience.

This focus of convenience is the marrow, the sweet spot, where the construct works best. It encompasses those aspects of reality that are most in focus; that arena the paradigm is most clear and explicit in elucidating; that part of the territory that falls within the beam of the spotlight. Surrounding areas might also be illuminated by the spotlight, but they won’t appear as sharp and highlighted. Areas more distant and remote from the focus will remain vague and shadowy or may not be seen at all. Other spotlights or paradigms may be needed to cast light on them.

Each of the types in the Enneagram spectrum has an intuitive sense about certain realities. Helen Palmer (1988) highlights these nine intuitive openings and shows how they can lead to subtler aspects of higher consciousness. The clarity or clairvoyance provided by paradigms is another way of interpreting this phenomenon.

From the Enneagram perspective, the nine personality paradigms search out and illumine particular aspects of reality or certain domains of the territory that are deemed important to them. We see some things more clearly than others, understand some things better than others, problem-solve certain issues more easily than others, are more competent in some areas than others are. And this is not necessarily because we are more intelligent, but because our spotlight enables us to see, grasp, and deal with certain realities more clearly and facilely.

As I write this about paradigms and their proficiencies, I’m reminded of the movie Groundhog Day in which the jaded hero is cursed to wake up each morning in the same place at the same time, doomed to repeat the same day. After several months of this repeating cycle, he has had the opportunity to meet everyone in town. People marvel at his divine-like knowledge of them. Whereupon he muses: “It’s not that God is omniscient. It’s just that s/he’s been around a long time!”

So it’s not that we’re mystically intuitive (though this may also be the case), we’ve just been looking for and looking at the same things most of our time. We see things before others do because we’ve spent our whole lives scanning for certain data.

When we enter a room, because our paradigm is telling us what is important, what to look for, and where to look for it, we may see things that other people with different paradigms simply don’t see because they’re looking in another direction or looking for something else. While we’re looking at the floor, they may be looking at the ceiling. We’re experts at carpets and they’re expert at chandeliers!

The nine paradigms’ perceptual acuities are in the following areas:

ONES notice flaws, imperfections, what’s wrong, when they enter a room. ONES will give you the right word as you’re fumbling to say something.

TWOS will sense who is hurting and who needs what. They may know what you need even before you do. At the moment you realize you are thirsty, a TWO is handing you a drink of water.

THREES pick up how others expect them to be. They intuitively sense what role to play or how to look and act when they enter a room. They can also tell you how to efficiently write that paper you’ve been mulling over for months.

FOURS pick up rejection, disapproval, being abandoned before anyone else senses this. They will also be attuned to the aesthetics of the room and the feeling tone of the group gathered in the room. They are sensitive to any suffering in the room. If there is any hidden feeling or communication between you and them, FOURS will intuit it.

FIVES will sense any expectations and demands put on them or any subtle intrusions or invasions of their space more readily and sensitively than others will. As you are about to ask for volunteers for your project, you will become aware that the FIVES have left the room.

SIXES will sense any danger lurking in the room. They are scanning for and can detect potentially threatening people or objects. If you bring a hidden agenda, SIXES will be alert to it.

SEVENS will pick up and gravitate towards where the fun and excitement is. They will notice the novel and potentially interesting and entertaining features in the people and objects in the room. If not the first to suggest it, SEVENS will second any “Let’s have a party.”

EIGHTS will sense who has power in the room, those they may have to deal with as competitors for taking over the room. If they sense a vacuum of power, authority, or protection in the room, they immediately move to take control so they feel safe. As you are about to take charge, you may find yourself being relegated to the back of the room by an EIGHT.

NINES can merge with people in the room and sense what it is like to be inside the skin of the other person. They can become the other person. This gives them an intuitive grasp of others’ needs, wants, thoughts, etc. They can also sense harmony, when things are fitting together, as well as disharmony, where there is conflict. But as the level of conflict in the room rises, the level of NINES’ awareness drops, all the way to the point of falling sleep.

So our paradigms provide us with a characteristic intuitive acuity of perception. At the same time, they give us a set of problem solving capabilities and skills that allow us to deal with certain situations and events quite well. We’re adept at manipulating particular realities because we’ve practiced doing so all our life.

The following proficiencies appear in these nine personality paradigms:

ONES are facile in manipulating ideals, procedures, rules, codes of ethics, and responsibilities. They are good at convergent thinking.

TWOS are adept at handling other’s needs and feelings and adjusting themselves to minister to others’ needs.

THREES are facile in juggling tasks, establishing priorities, setting goals, and implementing strategies.

FOURS have a trained aesthetic eye for patterns and coordinates. They are practiced in manipulating their own fantasies and feelings.

FIVES are facile in manipulating ideas, concepts, and categories.

SIXES handle catastrophes and emergencies surprisingly well because they’ve been preparing for them every day of their lives.

SEVENS manipulate plans, options, and alternatives. They are good at divergent thinking.

EIGHTS manage power easily. They are practiced in gaining the upper hand.

NINES handle conflict deftly by avoiding it, smoothing it over, reconciling opposites, and harmonizing dissonance.

We are especially acute, sensitive, and intuitive about those events that fall within the focus of convenience of our paradigm. Situations that do not fall within our focus of convenience are less clearly understood and less adroitly dealt with. Our personal paradigms work best within their range of convenience. We’re good at some things and clumsy in others. We’re clear headed and hearted about some issues and fuzzy and ambivalent about others. When we make contact with data and events that aren’t handled well by our paradigm, we may need to shift to another paradigm or style that is organized in such a way as to more effectively deal with the situation.

Viewing the world from the paradigms of our stress and core points, our neighboring points, or any other Enneagram point gives us an expanded perspective on the world and provides access to the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies of other complementary ways of being in the world.

Barker, Joel. (1992). Future Edge. New York: Wm Morrow & Co.
Berne, Eric. (1964). Games People Play. New York: Grove Press.
Kelly, George. (1963). A Theory of Personality. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Palmer, Helen. (1988). The Enneagram. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

The material in this article is from Jerry Wagner’s book in process on Nine Personality Paradigms: the Enneagram Perspective.

How We Stay Stuck in Our Styles: Schema Maintenance, Avoidance, and Compensation

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

Once we establish our personality styles or paradigms to help us apprehend and navigate around the world, we can either keep them pliant, flexible, accommodating, and up to date; or we can rigidly maintain them, assimilating everything into them, and suffer what Joel Barker (1992) calls paradigm paralysis and George Kelly (1963) labeled hardening of the categories.

There are many reasons why we might not want to change our personality paradigms once we have formed them. They’ve worked for us and we’ve become successful experts within their existing range. Outside the range of our paradigm, we’re back to average. The more adept we become within our style and the more we become invested in it, the more we have to lose by changing it.

Another reason for resisting change is that our identity has become intimately associated with our paradigm. We fear that, if we alter our paradigm, we will alter our sense of who we are and that will leave us feeling confused and lost. Holding onto our established identity and paradigm protects us from experiencing this existential anxiety.

We maintain our paradigms because they have become familiar and familial to us. We become accustomed to having them around. They feel comfortable and familiarity breeds complacency. Staying true to our schemas keeps us loyal to our family’s rules and roles. They give us a sense of belonging.

Efficiency, familiarity, comfort, and fit are some reasons why we hold onto our paradigms. How we hold onto our paradigms or schemas, even in the face of disconfirming evidence, requires some practice. For some insights into how our early schemas about our selves and the world are maintained, we can turn to the cognitive theories of Aaron Beck (1976) and one of his students, Jeffrey Young (1999), who has researched schema maintenance, schema avoidance, and schema compensation operations.


We maintain our paradigms by selective attention to information that confirms our schemas and by selective inattention to information that disconfirms our schemas.

For example, if you believe you are unlovable and people don’t want to be with you, you will pay attention to any slights, signs of boredom, and/or signs of inattention on the part of others. Since you are hyper vigilant about this, you will eventually find what you are looking for. Or if you don’t find it, you’ll make it up and believe you see it. On the other hand, you will diminish the importance of any signs of caring, attention, and interest that come your way. You will say: “That doesn’t count.” Or you will interpret others’ care to be manipulative or given under duress.

Schemas can also be maintained by self defeating behaviors. If you believe people don’t care about you, you will pick narcissistic individuals who really don’t care about you; or you might keep looking for unavailable people; or you may fall into a pattern of abusive relationships.

So we can use mental tricks to maintain our schemas and we can run faulty behavioral experiments finessing the data to confirm our hypotheses.

Here are what schema maintenance procedures look like when fanned out into the nine Enneagram styles.

ONES maintain their schema that the world and all within it need to be improved by paying attention to what’s wrong and what’s missing and by paying little attention to the good that is already there.

TWOS maintain their schema that they are helpers in a needy world by paying attention to the needs of others and by registering the approval and appreciation they receive for being helpful.

THREES maintain their schema that they are the efficiency experts in a disorganized world by noticing the inefficient attitudes and behaviors of those around them, by not paying attention to the work done and successes achieved without them, and by recording the rungs of the ladder they climb and the kudos they receive thanks to their accomplishments.

FOURS maintain their schema that they are aristocrats in exile, strangers in a strange land, tragically flawed, and imminently about to be abandoned, by noticing every lapse of attention shown them, every misunderstanding they receive, every flaw in themselves and every corresponding perfection in others, by comparing themselves with others and always coming up short, and by discounting others’ acceptance and love.

FIVES maintain their schema that the world is intrusive, withholding, and non-negotiable about both, by being overly perceptive of others’ demands and expectations, by being hypersensitive to others’ denying their requests, by feeling powerless about negotiating what they want, and then withdrawing as a default maneuver.

SIXES maintain their schema that the world is threatening and dangerous by looking for germs and enemies, imagining the worst, and by not paying attention to the times, places, and people where and with whom they felt accepted, safe, and secure.

SEVENS maintain their schema that they must have options and must always be “up” by focusing on the good times, remembering and anticipating pleasant events, moving from experience to experience so fleetingly that real satisfaction doesn’t occur so they must compulsively move on to the next pleasurable happening.

EIGHTS maintain their schema that the world is hostile and out to get them by noticing slights, abuses, and manipulations where there might not be any, and by downplaying or denying the sincere motivation of any affection or kindness shown them.

NINES maintain their schema that the world is indifferent and they had best resign themselves to this fact by telling themselves “what’s the difference,” by noticing the futility of any of their personal initiatives and interventions, and by not paying attention to the changes they affected by their actions.


Because schemas elicit such uncomfortable and painful thoughts and feelings as shame, guilt, fear, and anger when they are activated, we maintain our schemas by avoiding anything that would trigger their appearance. We can do this on a cognitive level through defense mechanisms that block the schemas from reaching consciousness. We repress them and go blank when asked to think about something that sets off the schema. Our intellect, imagination, and senses mysteriously fail us around this troubling material. For example if you ask TWOs what they need or ask THREEs where they’ve failed, you are likely to get a blank expression or at best a quizzical look.

Not only can we block an awareness of our schemas, we can also block out any feelings that might accompany our schemas. We go emotionally numb as well as cognitively blank.
This may involve a topical anesthesia. E.g., we might feel angry or happy or fearful; but we don’t feel sad. Or we may experience a general anesthesia by attenuating and numbing all our feelings. We might have a low grade chronic depression. If you ask a FIVE what they are feeling right now, you find out what they’re thinking or you get a pause ranging from a few moments to a few days while they figure out what they’re feeling.

Finally we can avoid our schemas on a behavioral level by refraining from activities that might activate our schema. If we are afraid of failing, we will avoid jobs, relationships, activities, etc. that might end up in failure. Maslow’s “Jonah complex” fits here. When Yahweh asked Jonah to be his spokesperson, Jonah demurred, believing himself to be too incompetent and unworthy to tell the Ninevites anything. He spent a lot of time in the belly of a whale to avoid finding out whether he could mediate or not. Better to stay with what you know than risk some dire results from what you don’t know. Agoraphobia (or spending time in the belly of a whale) would be an extreme instance of a behavioral avoidance to keep from activating schemas. If you ask ONEs or SIXes whether they were rebellious when they were teenagers, you are likely to get an “Of course not!” response, since such behavior is hardly befitting responsible, conscientious, law-abiding boys and girls.

Some schema avoidance maneuvers seen in the nine Enneagram paradigms are the following:

ONES avoid slacking off, doing anything sloppily, or doing what they really want for fear of being criticized and feeling guilty. They avoid play and relaxation. This keeps their perfection schema in place.

TWOS avoid expressing their own needs for fear of being judged as selfish and then having their needs and themselves rejected. This keeps their helping schema in place.

THREES avoid triggering their failure schema by eschewing any project that won’t turn out successful. By avoiding their own agenda and feelings, they stay suited up in their image or role and thereby keep their achievement schema in place.

FOURS avoid triggering their schema that they are flawed, unbefitting, and unacceptable by entering intimate relationships but then rejecting the other person before the other can accept or reject them. This keeps their troubled, special schema in place.

FIVES avoid activating their schema that they are inadequate and have nothing to contribute by not committing to projects or relationships, by withdrawing, and by remaining silent. This keeps their loner schema locked in place

SIXES avoid touching off their schemas of being cowards, unfaithful, heretical, or fragile, by avoiding their fears and their own convictions, and by staying close to authority figures and following the rules (if they are FEARFUL), or by staying away from authority figures and their beliefs, and impulsively acting against their fears instead of staying with their fears (if they are COUNTERFEARFUL). This keeps their fear schema in place.

SEVENS avoid their schemas of being unhappy or limited by not committing to careers or persons that would tie them down, by avoiding painful situations and feelings, and by not sitting still for too long. This keeps their pleasure schema in place.

EIGHTS avoid their schemas of being weak, vulnerable, and powerless by always staying on top and making sure they are never put in a one-down position. They avoid compassion and tenderness and embrace justice and might. This keeps their power schema in place.

NINES avoid activating their schema that they are unlovable and overlookable by not being passionate about themselves, their opinions, or their feelings. By not making a big deal out of their preferences or needs, they avoid ever being disappointed and hurt. This keeps their indifferent schema in place.


Finally we keep our paradigms or schemas in place by compensating for them, by doing the opposite of what we fear our schemas are really pointing to. So if we have a schema that believes we are a failure, we may cover this up and do the opposite by compulsively striving to be successful. Alfred Adler’s theories about the “inferiority complex” and “superiority complex” were the precursors of what cognitive therapists refer to as schema compensation. For example Adler himself, embarrassed by his club foot and feeling inferior to his older brother, compensated for his inferiority feelings by becoming a successful theoretician and social activist.

Through this process of reaction formation, we keep our underlying schema in place because it is never looked at, challenged, or experienced and so we are never able to disconfirm it because all our energy is going into proving its opposite and preventing the painful schema from surfacing.

You know you are over compensating when someone hits the underlying vulnerable schema you are attempting to cover up and a strong emotional reaction ensues. You may feel angry, hurt, embarrassed, humiliated, sad, or fearful when your “compensation button” gets pressed.

Paradoxically our over-compensating tactics often bring about the very thing we fear or are trying to avoid.

An example Young uses is the over compensation of narcissism for a basic sense and state of deprivation when younger. To compensate for feeling deprived when a youngster, the narcissist develops a sense of entitlement as an adult. I deserve this; I am owed this; and I shouldn’t have to do anything to earn it. What the narcissist really wants is to be loved and have her needs met by others. However the narcissistic behavior and attitude is often exaggerated since it is an over compensation, and the inflated sense of importance and entitlement alienates others who then choose not to be involved with the narcissist. So the narcissistic individual is again left alone at the pool with only his image to comfort him.

From the Enneagram perspective, each exaggerated personality style may be thought of as being an over compensation for some contrary underlying schema. Here is a summary of the over compensation tactics of each personality paradigm and how they can ironically elicit the very thing we fear.

Paradigm One:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to be good and excellent at everything are compensating for underlying maladaptive beliefs that they are bad, unworthy, and imperfect.

Being overly perfectionistic, pedantic, exacting, and critical frequently elicits criticism, anger, and avoidance from others. This confirms the belief the world is critical and not the way it should be.

Paradigm Two:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to be helpful and generous are  compensating for underlying maladaptive schemas that they are selfish, undeserving of love and consideration, useless, and unimportant.

Being too nurturing and smothering often elicits pushing-away behavior in others instead of the hoped for coming-closer behavior. This confirms the belief that getting one’s own needs met is unacceptable and unlikely.

Paradigm Three:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to achieve and be successful are compensating for underlying maladaptive beliefs that they are not acceptable in themselves; people don’t like them; they are failures as human beings.

An overly achieving, mechanical style frequently turns other people off and encourages them to interact with the persona or role instead of with the real person. This confirms the belief that performance, not genuineness, pays off.

Paradigm Four:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to be special are compensating for underlying maladaptive schemas that they are nobody; they are flawed and ugly; and people don’t want to be around them.

An overly sensitive, refined, precious, entitled, easily misunderstood attitude generally brings about misunderstanding and distancing instead of empathy and connection. This confirms the maladaptive schema of being unlovable.

Paradigm Five:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to know while remaining anonymous are compensating for underlying maladaptive schemas that they are ignorant, insignificant underdogs unable to represent themselves.

Keeping quiet and withdrawing provokes intruding and projecting behavior from others. Nature abhors a vacuum, so people move into the space vacated. Being silent can either be interpreted as: “She must be thinking something brilliant;” or “He must have nothing to say.” This confirms the belief that the world is intrusive or withholding and you have nothing to offer it.

Paradigm Six:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to be loyal and dependent or rebellious and pseudo-independent are compensating for underlying maladaptive schemas that they are cowards; they are deserving of punishment for transgressing some rules; and they are living in a dangerous world.

A suspicious paranoid attitude usually elicits hostile or plotting behavior from others. Thinking that people are talking behind your back usually gets them talking behind your back. This confirms the maladaptive schema the world is out to get you.

Paradigm Seven:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to be happy and O.K. are compensating for underlying maladaptive beliefs that they are not O.K.; they are limited; they are about to be overrun by depression; they are boring or are imminently about to be bored.

People who are compulsively cheerful and enthusiastic often elicit limiting and depressing responses from others as they attempt to “ground” or “shoot down” the high-flying optimist. This confirms the maladaptive fear that others are going to rain on your parade.

Paradigm Eight:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to be powerful and strong are compensating for maladaptive underlying schemas that they are weak and vulnerable and the world is a hostile place.

An aggressive attitude and behavior can just as likely elicit aggressive behavior in others as the intended fearful behavior. The less strong frequently try to fight the more strong as a way of proving themselves. This helps confirm the belief that the world is hostile.

Paradigm Nine:

Those who are exaggeratedly trying to be settled are compensating for maladaptive underlying assumptions that they don’t fit in; they are unwanted and neglected; they don’t matter.

You get what you ask for. If you don’t ask for anything, you don’t get anything. When you don’t express your needs, other people assume you don’t need anything and so don’t offer you anything. People seem cold and uncaring and this confirms the belief the world is indifferent.

We stay stuck in our style when, instead of examining our paradigms and adjusting them as circumstances require thereby giving us maximally effective outlooks and responses, we forget or deny we’re wearing lenses, refuse to get our prescriptions checked as needed, look at the world through a narrowed outmoded perspective and consequently respond in stereotypical behaviors.

The Enneagram is a useful lens and schema checker offering us more varied and resourceful filters and pliant paradigms.

Barker, Joel. (1992). Future Edge. New York: Wm Morrow & Co.

Beck, Aaron. (1976). Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. New York: Meridian.

Kelly, George. (1963). A Theory of Personality. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Young, Jeffrey. (1999). Cognitive Therapy for Personality Disorders: a Schema-Focused Approach. Sarasota: Professional Resources Press.

This article is taken from Jerry Wagner’s book in process on The Enneagram Perspective: Nine Personality Paradigms.

The Enneagram and the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

When I first read Adler, I was struck by how several of his ideas resonated with Enneagram theory.  In this essay I’ll give a brief overview of Adler’s take on personality and then  focus on those parts of his psychology that complement certain Enneagram dynamics and how I believe they differ.

Adler’s work has become so much a part of mainstream psychology that we forget he was the first to crystallize these ideas.  For example Adler has been called the father of ego psychology, the father of humanistic psychology, the father of cognitive therapy, and the father of family therapy.  He’s been a very fecund father!

Adler and Freud

Even though Adler’s approach was different from Freud’s, he was asked to join the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and became its president a year before officially breaking off from the group.

Actually, the differences between Adler and Freud were quite extensive.  While Freud viewed the mind as consisting of warring factions leading to inevitable conflict, Adler envisioned the mind as an integrated whole.  He chose to call his approach Individual Psychology from the Latin individuum, meaning undivided.  He also emphasized the individual person rather than types of people which would not make him too keen on the Enneagram.

Freud emphasized the unconscious mind and irrational thinking and considered biological motives to be primary.  For him the goal of therapy was to discover repressed early memories.  Hence Freud referred to his method as depth psychology.  Adler emphasized the conscious mind and common sense and thought social motives and relationships were primary.  He focused on family dynamics (such as birth order) and established the first child guidance clinics.  For Adler the goal of therapy was to encourage a lifestyle that incorporates social interest.  So Adler’s approach might be referred to as surface or context psychology.

While Freud was quite pessimistic about human nature, espousing a Hobbesian Darwinian philosophy, Adler was more optimistic, following a Rousseauian humanistic philosophy.

Freud thought that personality was determined by heredity and environmental factors.  We are influenced by our past. So if you want to know who you are and why you are doing what you’re doing, retrace your steps to see how you got here.  Adler believed that humans are free to determine their own personality; they have a creative self.   If you want to know who you are and what you’re doing now, look forward.  What are your future goals and ambitions?  Freud endorsed efficient causality that pushes us from behind; Adler (like Jung) emphasized final causality that pulls us from ahead.

Freud maximized the importance of sex; Adler minimized the importance of sex and — like Fritz Perls, another defector from the analytic tradition — accentuated the aggressive instinct.

Freud analyzed dreams to detect the contents of the unconscious mind.  Adler analyzed dreams to learn about current lifestyles.

Adler’s Individual Psychology

No doubt reflecting on his own life where he experienced rickets as a child and competition with his athletic older brother, Adler observed that human beings feel inferior and these feelings are the motivating force behind all personal striving and accomplishments.  We start small and work our way up.  I recall taking my daughter to the Taste of Chicago when she was a little girl.  Having ingested about 15000 calories myself and feeling quite content, I asked her how she was enjoying the day.  She remarked that all she could see was knees.  Adler may have been on to something.

To compensate for these inferiority feelings, we strive for superiority.  This doesn’t mean becoming better than others; it means going from below to above, from minus to plus.  It means expressing this great upward drive, this striving for perfection.  Eventually Adler enlarged this striving for an ideal self as striving to create a superior or perfect society to go along with it.

Adler’s striving for perfection or reaching for one’s ideal self is a positive healthy motivating force in every person.  It is based on the meaning and values we create for our life and then seek to live out.  This is the self we want to be and is on the resourceful end of the Enneagram style continuum.

This is in contrast to Karen Horney’s idealized self-image which is more a neurotic or default motivation.  In this case we don’t believe our real self is acceptable and consequently we fashion an idolized self we think we should be so we will be up to standard.  This idealized self is ironically on the non-resourceful low end of the Enneagram style continuum.

Adler’s ideal self also differs from the actualizing self of his humanist colleagues Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, who saw the actualizing tendency as becoming who you are or becoming what your inherent potentialities actually suit you to be, Adler viewed individuals as becoming other than who they were, as overcoming real or imagined inferiorities.  So Adler has an idealist version of development while Maslow and Rogers have an actualization version.

To get a feel for the actualization version, remember a time when you had a clear sense of who you were and then attempted to function consistently with that sense.  On the other hand, if you remember a time when you were dissatisfied with your talents and actively tried to transcend them to reach a higher level of functioning, you get the gist of Adler’s perfection version.

Adler borrowed from the “as if” philosophy of Hans Vaihinger to support his idealist vision of development.  Vaihinger’s epistemology said we can only be certain of the subjective conscious elements provided by our sensations; and since we experience the physical world only indirectly through our sensations, to make sense of these sensations we invent terms, concepts, and theories to give them meaning.  The world we live in is the world that appears in our consciousness, our phenomenal world, not the physical geographical world.  This epistemology is also the basis of Kurt Lewin’s Gestalt “field theory” and Carl Rogers “phenomenological field” theory.

The criteria for this “as if” fictional world is not whether it is true or false but whether it is heuristic, practical and useful.  According to this approach, the Enneagram is a “useful fiction”– as the practitioners of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) would assert.

Adler took Vaihinger’s theory and applied it to personality.  From the interpretation of early experience, various worldviews can result.  For example, the world can be perceived as an evil or dangerous place to be avoided, or as a pleasant or loving place to be embraced.  For Adler subjective reality was more important than physical reality.  It is the child’s perception of the major events in his or her life that determines his or her worldview, not actual reality.  This is what makes Adler one of the founders of cognitive theory.  If the child perceives the world to be a harsh, unpredictable place, he or she will adjust by creating life goals that incorporate those facts.  If the child perceives the world as a warm, loving, predictable place, then those perceptions will be important in his or her adjustments to life.

Some Enneagram authors would say our current Enneatype is the result of our trying out many different behaviors.  We kept those strategies that were rewarded and that contributed to our physical and psychological survival; and these clusters of attitudes and behaviors are what we call our Enneagram style.  This is a behavioral approach.

Other authors, myself included, would say there is a temperamental contribution to our Enneagram style as well as environmental conditioning.  We are born with a temperamental disposition that leads us to value some things over others; that turns our attention to some phenomena and not to others; that influences us to interpret events a certain way; and that inclines us to act in some ways but not in others.  For example we might value efficiency, scan for things that work, see opportunities in the world, and take them.   Our temperamental proclivity (what we value, look for, construe, and do) then interacts with the environment we find ourselves thrown into (a la Heidegger) to produce our personality style — in this example, Enneastyle Three.  This is a bio-social-behavioral approach.

While Adler would say our creative self is free to make up any world it wants, the “as if” part of his theory, I would say our creative self is influenced by our temperament, a component of our Enneagram style, to shape our world the way we do.  Our worldview, our particular take on reality, is built-in to some extent – like Jung’s notion of archetypes which organize our subjective responses to perpetually recurring human experiences. Our Enneagram style provides us with patterns or templates for understanding our experience.  That doesn’t mean we are completely determined by our style.  We can expand our outlook by taking on other points of view and by uniquely crafting our own viewpoint.  We possess all the archetypes to live by.  It’s just that some of them become dominant.  So our personality appears in the interaction among our Enneagram a-priori structures, our environment, and our creative juggling of our nature and nurture.

Because the important early experiences that mold a child’s personality are those most vividly remembered through the years, they are the ones most likely to be reported as the person’s earliest recollections.  It was for this reason that Adler believed that one’s earliest memories provide important information about one’s life goals and one’s lifestyle.

Coupled with feelings of inferiority, a child’s worldview will determine his or her final goal (Adler’s fictional finalism), and his or her lifestyle.  If a negative worldview develops, the child will believe that he or she must do battle with the world or escape from it in order to gain superiority.  Here the goal will be to dominate, to defeat, to destroy, or to withdraw.  If a positive worldview develops, the child will believe that he or she must participate in the world in order to gain superiority.  Here the goal will be to join in, to create, to love, or to cooperate.  Either type of worldview can manifest itself in a number of lifestyles.

The adaptive, resourceful, high side of our Enneagram style goes with a positive worldview; while the maladaptive, less resourceful, low side of our Enneatype accompanies a negative worldview.  Why do some choose the high road and some the low road?  For some it might be due to faulty wiring — or neurological misfirings.  For others it may be due to faulty family dynamics — or environmental deficits.  Or, if you eschew either/or positions and prefer a double whammy, it’s both.

The concept of fictional finalism, or guiding fiction, gave Adler’s theory a strong teleological component but didn’t ignore the past altogether.  Adler viewed the person as pushed by feelings of inferiority or imperfections toward perfection using his or her unique lifestyle as a means of attaining some future goal.

Adler emphasized that these future goals or ideals are convenient fictions invented to make life more significant than it otherwise would be.  Healthy people change fictions when circumstances warrant it.  Neurotic persons cling to their fictions at all costs.

In sum, the individual invents a worldview, derives a final goal or guiding self-ideal from that worldview, and then creates a lifestyle as a means of achieving that goal.

Earliest Memory

Dan McAdams (2006) in his textbook on The Person writes that: “Human beings are fascinated with beginnings.  We want to know ‘how it all started,’ ‘where things come from, ‘what the ‘origins’ of a particular event or phenomenon are.’  We tend to believe that we can understand something fully only when we know its beginnings.”  So we are fascinated with creation myths, the theory of evolution, the “Big Bang” theory, etc.

The same fascination holds for our own lives.  We want to know “where we came from,” and what our “roots” might be.  Adler’s interest in earliest memories expresses this primal quest.  Adler believed that the earliest memory reveals major themes in a person’s style of life, the person’s unique mode of adjustment to life — particularly the person’s self-selected goals and means of achieving them.  Adler thought that each life was patterned according to a unique style, the central features of which are outlined through early relationships in the person’s family.  According to McAdams: “Adler viewed the earliest memory as something like a personal creation myth or scene that implicitly foreshadows and symbolizes the overall tone of the person’s subsequent life story.”  (p.461)  Earliest memories reveal the beginnings of a general orientation toward life.

What is the earliest memory you can recall?  What was the dominant feeling? sensation? Were you active in the scene or was something happening to you?  Were you alone or with others?  parents? siblings? friends? foes? Were you cooperative or not? Are there any foreshadowing’s in this scene between what was happening then and what course your life has taken?   Any parallels in your life now to what was going on in that scene?  Were there any intimations of your career path?   Is there anything about this scene that reminds you of your Enneagram style?

I can remember being around 5 or 6 and my friend and I were rooting around in the trunk of my father’s car, looking at some tools and a fire extinguisher.  In the course of examining said fire extinguisher, we set it off.  Once you started fire extinguishers in those days, you couldn’t turn them off.  And when the foam got in your eyes, it really burned.  I remember my father appearing on the scene in response to the crying and screaming and washing out our eyes with water and, miraculously, not threatening to kill us.

So where is this curious little kid today who rooted around in trunks of cars?  Well, he’s a psychologist who’s still researching into things and more specifically a therapist who’s looking into psyches.  Fortunately any fire extinguishers going off have only been brief and not life threatening.  I must admit that signs that say “For members only” or “Stay out” present invitations to explore what’s behind those signs.  Also should I get myself into trouble, I still have the fantasy that my father (i.e., lawyer, accountant, financial advisor, department chair, physician, dentist, etc.) will step in and rescue me.  I can see a little bit of the Enneatype Five in that little and big kid.

It doesn’t matter whether these memories are accurate or not.  They reflect the individual’s interpretation of early experiences and that interpretation shapes the worldview, life goal, and lifestyle.

Life Goal

The early events in our life are organized in light of our final goals.  These final goals are our subjective expectations about what might happen in the future.  What each of us perceives to be the final goal of our lives is a fiction that we create to give our lives direction and purpose.  If these fictional final goals are adaptive and realistic, they organize our strivings and provide ultimate explanations for our conduct.  If these fictions are impossible to realize, they may become the root of much neurotic misery.  Either way, people strive for narrative unity and purpose as their lives evolve over time.

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey (1990) recommends that we begin with the end in mind.  Composing a mission statement is one way to place the end at the beginning.  To get in touch with your fictional final goal, you might ask yourself these questions.

Who do you want to be?  What do you want to do?  What are the values and principles upon which you want to base your being and doing?

In my never-ending quest to boil everything down to its essentials, I would say that:

Enneatype Ones value goodness and want to make the world a better place.

Enneatype Twos value love and want to make the world a more caring place.

Enneatype Threes value competence and want to make the world a more efficient place.

Enneatype Fours value authenticity and beauty and want to make the world a more  beautiful place

Enneatype Fives value knowledge and want to make the world a more enlightened place.

Enneatype Sixes value fidelity and consistency and want to make the world a more safe and secure place.

Enneatype Sevens value joy and want to make the world a happier variety-filled place.

Enneatype Eights value power and equity and want to make the world a more just place.

Enneatype Nines value peace and want to make the world a more harmonious place.


Once we fashion a worldview and then develop a final goal or guiding self-ideal from that worldview, we then invent a lifestyle to help us achieve that goal.  For Adlerians there are as many lifestyles as there are individuals.  For Enneagrammars there are nine broad classes of lifestyles that accompany the nine worldviews and life goals – though within those nine categories there are as many variations on those themes as there are individuals.

Even Adler illustrated with a sweeping brushstroke four types of people based on whether their social interest was constructive or destructive and whether their striving for perfection was done in an active or passive manner.  He didn’t elaborate much more on his rudimentary typology.

Adler believed we all inherited a social interest or Gemeinschaftsgefuhl, a feeling for community.  What Adler had in mind by this social sense was that the interest we take in others is not just to serve our own purposes but directs us to develop an “interest in the interests” of others.  Though we are born with an innate need for belonging and fellowship, we must practice this kind of cooperative behavior to actualize our social feeling, otherwise we will become neurotic.

The socially useful type, for Adler, is the healthy lifestyle.  The ruling-dominant type, getting-leaning type, and avoiding type all have faulty or mistaken lifestyles because they lack proper social interest.

Karen Horney was influenced by Adler and you might recognize her neurotic moving against (aggressive), moving towards (compliant), and moving away from (detached) trends in Adler’s three faulty lifestyles.

Striving for
Social Interest
Constructive Destructive
Active socially useful dominant
Passive getting avoiding

In the Enneagram system, the socially useful type would be any healthy Enneatype; the getting type might be an unhealthy two or three; the ruling type looks like an eight; and the avoiding type could be a five or nine.

To get a sense of your lifestyle in relation to your final goal, ask yourself these questions.

Having written out clearly and in detail your central life goal, what are you doing or planning to do in order to attain this goal?  What steps are you taking or have you taken towards your fictional final goal?  What are some obstacles to attaining your goal and how have you tackled them?

Has the lifestyle you have developed helped you achieve your life goal or is it somehow interfering with your getting what you really want?  Faulty or maladaptive lifestyles prevent us from meeting our needs and wishes.  Adaptive lifestyles facilitate our achieving our goals and dreams.  The high side of each Enneagram style is the high road to our destiny; the low side of each Enneatype puts up roadblocks or detours us to some cul-de-sac or endlessly circling drive.

Birth Order

Whereas Freud focused on fathers and his attractive youthful mother towards whom he could have Oedipal fantasies, Adler (whose mother apparently was more a middle-aged hausfrau) chose to pay attention to his siblings.  His interest in birth order was a unique contribution to theories of personality formation.

Empirical research on the effects of birth order on personality traits has not produced many clear-cut findings.  There is some evidence that a child’s position within a family influences the personality he or she develops within the family.  However when the child leaves the family, the coping strategies and other personality characteristics learned within the family may not be relevant outside the family so there may be little transfer of training and behavior to other settings.

On the other hand, Frank Sulloway (1996), a proponent of birth order, says that first borns are more similar in personality to first borns in other families than they are to their own younger siblings; and youngest children are often more similar to the youngest child in another family than his or her own elder siblings because the family is not as much a shared environment as a set of niches that provide siblings with different outlooks. Perhaps those niches and outlooks are also shared by various Enneatypes?

While birth order may exert some effect on personality, this effect is mediated by demographic factors such as gender, social class, ethnicity, and other variables.  However, Enneatypes do not seem to be mediated by these demographic factors.  They show up anywhere!

Given those caveats about the validity of birth order theory, here are some descriptions of these various niches in the family.

First borns are said to be more conscientious, ambitious, and aggressive than their younger siblings.  First borns are over-represented at Harvard and Yale as well as disciplines requiring higher education such as medicine, engineering, or law.  Every astronaut to go into space has been either the oldest child in his or her family or the eldest boy.  More than half of all Nobel Prize winners and U.S. presidents have been first born.  Famous eldest children include: Hillary and Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, J.K. Rowling, and Winston Churchill.

If I were given to speculation, I might hypothesize that Enneatype Ones might be found among first borns with maybe some Eights and Threes sprinkled in as well.

Middle children are more easy going and peer-oriented.  Since they can get lost in the shuffle of their own families, they learn to build bridges to other sources of support and therefore tend to have excellent people skills.  Middle children often take on the role of mediator and peacemaker.  Famous middle children include: Bill Gates, J.F. Kennedy, Madonna, and Princess Diana.

Empathic Enneatype Twos and Fours and mediating Nines might be found in this group.

Youngest children tend to be the most creative and can be very charming – even manipulative.  Because they often identify with the underdog, they tend to champion egalitarian causes. (Youngest siblings were the earliest backers of the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment.  Successful in journalism, advertising, sales and the arts, famous youngest children include Cameron Diaz, Jim Carrey, Rosie O’Donnell Eddie Murphy, and Billie Crystal.

With this group of comedians and comediennes, can Enneatype Sevens be far away?

Only children have similar characteristics to first borns and are frequently burdened with high parental expectations.  Research shows they are more confident, articulate, and likely to use their imagination than other children.  They also expect a lot from others, hate criticism, can be inflexible, and are likely to be perfectionists.  Well-known only children include Rudy Guiliani, F.D. Roosevelt, Alan Greenspan, Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

This might be a good breeding ground for Enneatype Fives.  As an only child who also happens to be a Five, it’s not a stretch to see why I would head for my room and be accustomed to and content with being alone.

Because they hold equal status and are treated so similarly, twins turn out similarly in most cases.  Consider advice columnists “Dear Abby” and “Ann Landers” and Harold and Bernard Shapiro who became presidents of Princeton University and McGill University respectively.

A correlation study done in South Africa by Brooks (1998) found that identical twins were the same Enneagram type ninety five percent of the time.  On the other hand the twin study conducted by David Daniels and Betsy Maxon published in the Enneagram Journal (2008) found only a five and a half percent correlation between identical twins and Enneatypes.  We need a two out of three additional study to break the tie.

It remains to be determined whether birth order causes one’s Enneagram style; whether it simply aggravates or ameliorates one’s Enneagram style; or whether it has nothing to do with one’s Enneastyle.

In my informal data gathering about birth order and Enneagram style, I haven’t found any conclusive correlations.  Apparently any Enneatype can hang anywhere on the family tree.  It would be more useful to pursue more formal research than a simple show of hands to see if there are any significant relationships between birth order and Enneatypes or, perhaps, with subtypes.

In the meantime you might want to poll your friends, neighbors, and fellow Enneagram cognoscenti to determine whether there is any relationship between their birth order, Enneagram type, and subtype.

Adler’s theories about early memories, worldview, final goal, lifestyle, social interest, and birth order have their resonances in Enneagram theory.  While some of the notes may vary and the themes can be interpreted differently, one can hear a similar melody in both pieces.


Brooks, D. (1998).  Are personality traits inherited?  South African Journal of Science. Vol. 94.

Covey, S. (1990).  The seven habits of highly effective people.  New York: Fireside.

Hergenhahn, B.R. & Olson, R. (2007).  An introduction to theories of personality.  (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson.

Maxie, B. & Daniels D. (2008).  Personality differentiation of identical twins reared together.  The Enneagram Journal 1: 66-76.

McAdams, D. (2006).  The person: a new introduction to personality psychology.  (4th ed.). New York: Wiley and Sons.

Sulloway, F. (1996).  Born to rebel: Birth order, family dynamics, and creative lives..  New York: Pantheon.