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Personality Research articles on personality

3Aug/122

Deconstructing the Enneagram

ichazoHistory

The origin of the Enneagram as nine personality types is Oscar Ichazo's 9 mapped fixations which he came up with in 1968.

The symbol of the Enneagram and the idea of three centers (in the Enneagram - heart, gut, mind) is thought to have been borrowed from a Russian/Armenian mystic named George Gurdieff (born around 1870). He founded a school of thought known as the Fourth Way. His teaching centered around three centers or brains that he believed dominated human personality/behavior. The three centers were the physical (spinal column), the emotional (gut), and the intellectual (cerebral cortex). It should be noted that the idea of three centers shows up in many ancient traditions/religions (even Freud has his own triad, ego-id-superego).

Ichazo was a self taught philosopher, born in Bolivian in 1931 (alleged to be the son of a Bolivian general or military officer). According to Interviews with Oscar Ichazo (1982) he encountered a group of foreign born intellectuals interested in mysticism in the 50s in Buenos Aires who passed on a lot of knowledge/teaching to him. He also claimed to have been instructed in shamanism as a child by Indians and to have trained in the martial arts. The overall picture of Ichazo is of someone who was definitely a seeker but also someone who was intent on maintaining/manufacturing an image that would impress others, so to some degree, a charlatan.

Interestingly, also in 1968, Carlos Castaneda, a Peruvian, published the book The Teachings of Don Juan which chronicled his training as a shaman. He was educated at UCLA receiving his BA in 1962 and PHD in 1973. He was featured in Time magazine in 1973. So obviously shamanism/mysticism was trendy in the 60s/70s and South America was considered somewhat of a hotbed of this thinking. In 1970 a large contingent from the Eselen Institute (USA) spent nine months with Ichazo which began the dissemination of his Enneagram ideas to the world.

The mysticism movement overlapped drug culture pretty heavily and Ichazo was allegedly a frequent LSD and Cocaine user. Before the Arica school tried to legitimize itself, drug use was very common in Arica culture. Ichazo was involved in the 1973 cult film The Holy Mountain directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. The film was produced by the Beatles manager Allen Klein at the behest of John Lennon and George Harrison who were fans of Jodorowsky's first film El Topo. The actors were all required to take Arica training. Jodorwsky eventually soured on Ichazo telling a Village Voice journalist "Oscar’s idea of training is two days in a motel room with me taking L.S.D. I want you to know I don’t need Oscar to take L.S.D. in a motel room, I do that plenty enough on my own….Oscar Is the continuation of Gurdjieff, but so what? What is the problem with these damn gurus is they want to be immortal, to have the life of God."

John Lilly who decribed his Arica studies in his book The Eye of the Cyclone said that most of the material he learned in Arica was facilitated by use of psychedelic drugs. Lilly parted company with Ichazo when he sensed that if he continued as Ichazo’s disciple, he would have to give up his commitment to scientific and critical thinking. Arthur Goldwag, author of Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies, went to an Arica training and experienced 1) that nearly every minute of the weekend was rigidly scripted--the session leaders had neither time nor toleration for questions or intellectual give-and-take; 2) that, rather than expounding or elaborating ideas, the teachers orchestrated experiences, through physical exercises and guided meditations, which were specifically designed to whet one's appetite for more.

Claudio Naranjo was an early student of Ichazo. He was an American trained doctor/psychiatrist and the first teacher around 1971 of the Enneagram in the United States. He would eventually write Character and Neurosis which attempts to link Enneagram types to modern psychology. Helen Palmer and Robert Ochs were students of Naranjo. Palmer eventually wrote a book on the Enneagram. Ochs, a Jesuit priest, taught the Enneagram to other Jesuits (in fact the Vatican ended up issuing a warning in 2003 on the Enneagram). Don Riso, a Jesuit at the time, was one of them. He eventually wrote a number of popular books on the Enneagram. The first published Enneagram books were in the 80s.

Basic Concepts

There are nine personalities which reflect three centers, gut/body, mind, heart. There are three instinctual variants, sexual, social, self preservational. The types have a relationship based on the Enneagram symbol, lines of integration/disintegration exist between types as reflected by the lines of the symbol.

Debated Concepts

The Enneagram types are ordered for a reason, thus each type is going to favor one of the adjacent types. This is referred to as your wing. Recently tritypes have become popular. This is the notion that you have a preferred type in each of the three centers, heart, body, mind. Health levels, the ideas that you can be a healthy or unhealthy type, the Riso/Hudson system is based around them. Naranjo however presupposes all Enneagram types are pathologies, so to relate to any type suggests mental health issues.

Empirical Examination

The first test I created on this site was an Enneagram test. The various Enneagram tests on this site have been revised hundreds of times over the years. I eventually abandoned interest in the Enneagram due to the inconsistency between author type descriptions and inherent flaws in the system which made it impossible to rectify those inconsistencies. I decided to revisit the system recently after developing the MOTIV system. Since the MOTIV has a theory behind it, covers the whole personality spectrum, and is statistically validate-able, I thought it would give me a good objective reference point to really examine the merits and flaws of the Enneagram. There's a lot written on the Enneagram so if that material can be made useful in a more explained context, that would be beneficial.

I spent a month or so revising all the Enneagram tests on the site with the purpose of eliminating any items which correlated to MOTIV Vital / Big 5 Emotional Stability. The premise being that Enneagram items should not be biased towards healthy or unhealthy (which is consistent with most authors belief that no type is more or less healthy than other types). As a result I was able to create an Enneagram test which measured average health Enneagram traits and included a separate health scale to measure how healthy or unhealthy you are.

The health scale is based on the MOTIV Vital trait which correlates highly to Big 5 emotional stability. The scale basically measures things on a spectrum of [I'm happy with my life; I'm resilient: I'm healthy; I want to keep living] vs. [I am unhappy; I'm unmotivated; I'm fragile; I want to die]. So obviously this is a scale that has some real life implications.

The basis for my Enneagram tests is what I've learned from reading various Enneagram authors (Naranjo, Palmer, Almaas, Riso, etc.) and reading Enneagram messageboards (recording behaviors, self descriptions of people who identified as a certain type). I then construct test items based on that material, apply statistical analysis such as factor analysis to validate (or invalidate) items. Since different Enneagram authors describe types differently, my tests have wandered through different focal points for each Enneagram type. Since the Enneagram theoretically is based on each type having a core fixation, it makes theoretical sense to do that. For example, for a long time I used Naranjo's detachment/schizoid description to influence my type five items. Consequently, my test was measuring unhealthy type five behavior (and thus was more likely to mistype/mismeasure average and healthy type five behavior).

When I vetted all my Enneagram test items for their correlation with the MOTIV Vital scale, I found certain of my type items were disproportionately correlated with it, type 4, type 5, type 6 items being the worst offenders. I think most Enneagram authors reflect an unhealthy bias towards certain type descriptions, type 4 and type 6 being the worst portrayed types. Eventually, I was able to come up with enough items for each Enneagram type that were orthogonal (uncorrelated) to the Vital scale. The idea I was going for is that people who are more likely to score as unhealthy on a certain type behaviors may not relate to healthy type behavior descriptions (and vice versa) but both are likely to relate to average type behaviors.

Average health Enneagram items/behaviors
1 - I maintain my spaces in an orderly way.
2 - I put the needs of others ahead of my own.
3 - I desire some level of fame in my community.
4 - Being told I'm odd/weird is welcome proof I'm staying true to myself.
5 - I find analytical living rewarding.
6 - Safety and security are more important to me than most people.
7 - Fun is the most important thing in life.
8 - If someone angers me, they will hear about it.
9 - I like to go through life without haste, unhurried, in a relaxed manner.

Healthy Enneagram items/behaviors
1 - I am hard working and ethical.
2 - Humanitarian causes are very important to me.
3 - I can effortlessly handle the spotlight.
4 - It is important to push beyond the boundaries of convention.
5 - I like to master knowledge and share it with the world.
6 - I am skilled at seeing and averting danger.
7 - I live fully in the moment.
8 - I am a powerful leader.
9 - I have a calming effect on others

Unhealthy Enneagram items/behaviors
1 - I am obsessive compulsive.
2 - I will sacrifice myself for others.
3 - I will do anything for attention, even horrible things.
4 - I have lost touch with reality.
5 - I struggle with the meaningless of existence.
6 - I am suspicious, paranoid.
7 - I seek pleasure and avoid responsibility
8 - I am a rage-aholic.
9 - I am lazy, overly relaxed.

Ichazo's Original Enneagram Fixations

I looked for the correlations of the new test with Ichazo's original nine Enneagram fixations. Here are the results:

type 1 type 2 type 3 type 4 type 5 type 6 type 7 type 8 type 9 health
1 fix 0.426 0.027 0.100 -0.078 0.140 0.206 -0.121 0.075 0.028 -0.101
2 fix -0.002 0.346 0.237 0.095 0.042 0.106 0.133 -0.067 0.036 0.017
3 fix 0.060 -0.081 0.496 0.014 -0.045 0.149 0.182 0.207 -0.029 -0.027
4 fix -0.129 -0.059 0.159 0.390 0.086 0.031 0.082 -0.097 -0.002 -0.311
5 fix 0.037 -0.039 0.179 0.121 0.460 0.212 0.033 -0.121 -0.027 -0.305
6 fix -0.186 -0.072 0.099 0.009 0.006 0.295 -0.068 -0.404 -0.008 -0.362
7 fix 0.127 0.138 0.145 0.125 0.062 -0.125 0.390 0.100 -0.102 0.063
8 fix -0.062 -0.162 0.193 0.053 0.000 0.111 0.130 0.277 0.048 -0.453
9 fix -0.240 0.003 0.000 -0.066 0.007 -0.024 0.085 0.037 0.570 -0.139
fixation test item
1-resentment I resent disorder.
2-flattery I'm prone to giving excessive compliments to others.
3-vanity I'm vain in my appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements.
4-melancholy I spend a lot of time fantasizing.
5-stinginess I need more information or skill before I can really live.
6-cowardice I can be cowardly.
7-planning I'm always planning what I'll do next.
8-vengefulness I can be vengeful.
9-indolence I'm too relaxed for my own good.

It appears that for all types the original Ichazo fixation correlates with the current architecture of my test. As I discussed before, most of Ichazo fixations correlate with a low Vital score (unhealthy), but some of them don't such as type 2,3, and 7.

Integration/Disintegration

A main premise of the Enneagram is that the interconnections that make up the symbol reflect type relationships. At least based on self reports I can find no evidence of stress/disintegration points theorized by the system. I'll at some point do a peer report study and see if that is any different.

The Ordering of the Enneagram

[still working on this]

The Triads

They don't add up. 1-2-3 (heart), 4-5-6 (head), 7-8-9 (gut/body) triadic divisions fit the data analysis better than 8-9-1 (gut/body), 2-3-4 (heart), 5-6-7 (head). Type 7s are not as cerebral as 4s, 5s, and 6s. Type 4s do not care about image to the degree that types 1s, 2s, and 3s do.

Instinctual Variants

As they are commonly described the Self Preservation variant (self maintenance preoccupation) correlates with type 5 and 6, the Social variant (social position/contribution preoccupation) correlates with type 1,2,3, and the Sexual variant (pleasure/intensity preoccupation) correlates with type 7 and 8. Possibly, the instinctual variants are an unconscious addition to the Enneagram that allows all type preferences of a person to be measured and represented,  Self Preservation being a measure of type 4, 5, and 6 preferences (type 4s are interested in preserving their identity, 5s are interested in preserving their understanding, 6s are interested in preserving their safety/security), Social being a measure of type 1, 2, and 3 preferences (1s are interested in the social image of orderliness, 2s are interest in the social image of helpfulness, and 3s are interested in the social image of attractiveness/impressiveness), and Sexual being a measure of type 7, 8, and 9 preferences (7s are interested in maintaining pleasure/intensity through adventure, 8s are interested in maintaining pleasure/intensity through power/control, and 9s are interested in maintaining pleasure through relaxation/calm).

Type Description Consistencies/Inconsistencies

The Enneagram has always been plagued by inconsistent descriptions between authors and Ichazo's architecture was too vague to resolve those inconsistencies. Having constructed a health neutral Enneagram architecture with an empirical basis and consistent with Ichazo's original fixations, I think I can clarify each type and discuss what common descriptions fit and don't fit.

Type 1

Naranjo correlated type 1 with the Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder. My research confirms that to be accurate. I think Type 1 is one of the more inconsistently described personality types. The idea of type 1 behavior being about the need to reform others, the world, is not accurate based on the data. Type 1 behavior is about an instinctual need for order, rule-following. Being driven more by instincts, people who score higher on type one are more likely to be small minded, focused on their own narrow world than the bigger picture. That focus however can be very useful in many aspects of life where attention to detail, following the rules exactly, is important if not essential. People who score highly on type one behavior make great administrators, micro-managers, detail experts.

Type 2

Naranjo correlated type 2 behavior with Histrionic personality disorder but that doesn't fit. Type 2 behavior is basically synonymous with Big 5 Accommodation and MOTIV Intimate personality types. Type 2s at their worst sacrifice themselves to connect with (stay close to) others, and at their best look out for the good of the whole world in their efforts to improve society. The ideas of type 2s being calculated in their charity I don't think is accurate on average. In fact, it's more of an unchecked evolutionary drive that I think determines their selfless behavior which often benefits the world more than them individually. Social work is one of the more individually unrewarding professions in terms of work required and monetary compensation, and Type 2s predominate the field.

Type 3

Average type 3 behavior correlates most with Histrionic personality disorder. Type 3 at the core is about attention, desire for attention, expectation for attention. The success/achiever stereotype fits with healthy, high functioning type 3s, but not the average type 3. The average type three while likely being more attractive than others in some way, does not lead a particularly high achieving life. As long as they can be the star in their own little world (to their friends, family, and/or their significant other) they won't often have much drive to achieve much more. Consequently, many people who score higher on three behavior while appearing to be model individuals (frequently externally talented, successful, charming, attractive), often are very lacking as far as internal personality development and thus can be very boring individuals if you get to know them (or what there is to know of them). Unhealthy threes will act out if they are not getting sufficient attention. They are one of the most likely types to cheat (in service to their attention needs).

Type 4

Naranjo's links type 4 with Masochistic and Depressive personality. People who score as type 4 are slightly more likely to self-report as having had periods of depression, but in general all types can be depressed. Depression is about poor mental/physical health not the type 4 personality. Unhealthy type fours do self-rate slightly higher than other types on being masochistic (but that is not true of average or healthy type 4s). I find a lot of conflation and convolution between type 3 and type 4 descriptions such that aspects of many Enneagram authors type 4 descriptions contain type 3 behaviors. The need to be special correlates with the type 3 core fixation, not the type 4 core fixation. Envy is also an issue for unhealthy type 3s, not type 4s as most Enneagram authors claim. Envy is antithetical to a type that overvalues authenticity (being true to self). To be envious of others is to betray oneself, and the flaw of Type 4s is being overly loyal to their unique nature. Fours romanticize their different-ness and/or their flaws rather than feel shame as a someone who scores high on Type 3 would. Being dramatic, another common type four errant description is type 3 attention seeking behavior. Thus, a lot of self typed fours are actually threes. There is no reason a person can't be high in both types, but on average, there is no correlation between type 3 and type 4.

Michael Jackson who is frequently typed as a 4w3 is more type 3 than type 4. His plastic surgery addiction alone is indicative more of an unhealthy three than a type 4. He fired producers based solely on record sales (popularity) not artistic quality. As a highly creative artist, he certainly had four-ish aspects, but his personality was more reflected by type three motivations. The fixation of type four is on authenticity, unconventionality, an over preference for being different, Jackson was more interested in fame/attention/external-validation (type 3 focus). Fours at their unhealthiest can lose touch with reality not unlike schizophrenics. All fours operate more on imagination/fantasizing than other types, it's only unhealthy fours where their fantasizing takes on a melancholic tone which predominates most author's type four descriptions. Healthy fours use their imaginations productively/constructively, to create art, new ideas, theories.

Type 5

Naranjo links type 5 with Schizoid personality. Unhealthy type 5s are more likely to fit certain aspects of Schizoid personality, in terms of being detached, unemotional (other unhealthy types can match that profile as well). Schizoids are characterized as intellectually dull, incurious and that is where even unhealthy type 5s differ from the Schizoid profile. All type fives (healthy and unhealthy) share a cerebral intensity. The analytical nature is what best defines the five orientation. Fives all have a desire for omniscience, or at least to get closer to it. Someone who has not developed  a mastery at anything is unlikely to score high on type five. Unhealthy fives are the nihilists of the Enneagram, struggling with the meaninglessness of existence. Most Enneagram types are orthogonal so there is no reason an average or healthy type 5 can't be as warm/friendly as any other type save type two which is the quintessential warm fuzzy type. The stereotypical cold type five is a product of self selection bias and type descriptions written to reflect more unhealthy type aspects.

Type 6

Naranjo ties type 6 with Paranoid and Avoidant personality disorders. This association is only accurate for unhealthy type sixes who do tend to be jealous and suspicious by nature. Average sixes are simply cautious types that prioritize security but are perfectly capable of trusting others. Average to healthy sixes don't go through life constantly worrying about the sky falling. Healthy sixes are skilled trouble shooters with the capacity to see problems before they occur and often possess the mental acumen to fix them. The Counterphobic and Phobic type six can be explained by unhealthiness and one's score on other types. Unhealthy type 6s who score high on type 7 and 8 are more likely to be counterphobic;  unhealthy type 6s who score higher on type 2 and 9 are more likely to be phobic. The profile of the doubting anxiety ridden type six common in most Enneagram descriptions is just not accurate for average and healthy type sixes.

Type 7

Naranjo associates type 7 with Narcissistic personality disorder and I find this to be a weak association at best. Type 7s benefit and can get by with their charm, but I don't think this is what motivates them. There seems to be an underlying adrenaline seeking drive that motivates 7s to constantly be doing, experiencing, seeking adventure. The attractiveness of this persona, the stereotypical adventure hero type, is I think why Naranjo made the mistake of associating type 7s with Narcissistic personality. Type sevens are historically part of the mind triad, but I think this is an error in the original Enneagram system. The planning orientation of the 7 (always thinking of that next adventure) is a product of that body based sensation addiction that sevens have. The type seven is mentally undeveloped compared to types 4, 5, and 6 (which I think is the more accurate Enneagram mind triad). If a seven took the time to determine what made them happy instead of experiencing/associating happiness as a temporary phenomenon to be chased, they could find the consistency and coherence in life they tend to lack. Healthy sevens, more than any other type, are fully alive and present in the moment. Unhealthy sevens are more likely to be junkies and burnouts, the unproductive hedonists of the Enneagram.

Type 8

Naranjo correlates type 8 with Antisocial and Sadistic personalities. This is only proves true (as with most Naranjo associations) with unhealthy type 8s. Unlike Antisocial and Sadistic personalities, type 8 is more about anger/gut-intensity than selfishness, where the former personalities suffer both. Unhealthy 8s are the angry children and bully's of the Enneagram but they are not likely to be calculated about it (as you can find with many Anti-Social are Sadistic personalities), it's more of a physical urge to control/lead/boss. Healthy eights, more than any other type, are drawn to leadership for the sake of enjoyment of leading (not for prestige and attention like type 3, i.e. most politicians). They tend to be strong and comfortable asserting themselves in ways people who score low on type 8 are entirely incapable of. The dangers with types 8s is that they assert themselves on others without their consent, intellectual/physical/emotional rape, but this is more of an issue/problem with unhealthy eights (or eights that are very low on type 2).

Type 9

Type nine descriptions are consistently the worst. This partly is because type nines by their type fixation, indolence, are mentally vague/lazy about who they are (or want to be), so Enneagram authors/teachers are getting less information about who they are. They are the type most likely to be clueless about what type they are among the nine Enneagram types. A common error in type descriptions paints nines as accommodating and merging, which are actually type two behaviors. The issue is that nine passivity can appear like accommodation/merging, but as the Enneagram is about motivation, not appearances, nines are actually no more or less accommodating than other types (besides twos). In fact, they can be the most unaccommodating in terms of their tendency when unhealthy towards a passive, zombie-lie unmovable nature. Type nines are best characterized as over preferring relaxation/calm/peace, as such they are the chillers/slackers of the Enneagram. At their healthiest nines are columns of comfort for others, the silent strong type. At their worst they are the like the cautionary character in the film Wall-e, blobs of mental and physical inactivity floating through life.

Main Type

Enneagram authors mostly claim every person has one main type and that type does not change.  I think that is simplistic and it's certainly unproven. Type 4, 5, and 6 behaviors largely make use of a part of the brain (the cerebral cortex) that doesn't full develop until the early 20s. There is no reason type preference can't change throughout life or that an individual could not equally prefer more than one type behavior. The biggest issue is that the Enneagram main types don't cover all the possible types of personality. The selfish fixation (MOTIV Withholding) is not included in the Enneagram system. It can be inferred by a low type 2 preference, but cannot be expressed as a main type. A selfish fixation is not an uncommon personality type, so this is a pretty big hole in the Enneagram. Further, MOTIV Subjectivistic, Conventional, and Emotional types are not represented by Enneagram main types. Again, they can be inferred by low type scores on type 3, 4, and 5, but they get ignored by main type theory.

The reality is all nine Enneagram behaviors have utility/value, so to not be proficient at any one of them suggests character/personality weakness, to overvalue any them could also result in problems. I think main type theory promotes fallacious self identification, I-am-this-not-that thinking, which results in narrow minded self-awareness, a simple minded inflexible personality.

Descriptive Scope of the Enneagram

materialistic offbeat thinking intimate vital
type one + --- +++ + =
type two = = = +++++++ =
type three +++++++ = = = =
type four = ++++++ = = =
type five = +++ +++++ = =
type six + - +++++ = =
type seven +++ +++ = = =
type eight ++ ++++ = - =
type nine = +++ ++ + =

As the MOTIV correlations show, the Enneagram does a pretty good job of measuring the overall spectrum of personality. However, that is to be expected as any personality system with more than five relatively distinct personality types is likely to do that (as research has repeatedly shown personality can usually be explained with just five sufficiently distinct factors/traits/types). The biggest blind spot (as previously stated) is that no Enneagram main type designation sufficiently reveals MOTIV Withholding, Subjectivistic, Conventional, or Emotional types. These are problematic blind spots. Withholding (selfishness) is one of the personalities most likely to cause problems in the world, correlating most with Anti-Social personality. Type 8s are slightly more likely to be Withholding, but it's a very small association (core type 8 behavior is about assertiveness). A solution could be to add counter-types to every main Enneagram main type, currently only type 6 has an acknowledged type/counter type structure (i.e. phobic and counter phobic). This would solve the blind spots but does so with more types (9 main types, 9 counter types) than the MOTIV system (5 main types, 5 counter types).

Enneagram theory also lacks a clear handle on the Vital/Emotional-Stability dimension. Many authors discuss it (health levels), but as I found many Enneagram type descriptions (type 4,5,6) are filled with behaviors that correlate with a lower score on the Vital/Emotional-Stability scale, while others (Type 2, 3, 7) are not. Enneagram authors write that each type is equally blessed/flawed, when the descriptions say otherwise. This has the potential effect of legitimizing pathological behaviors, and undercutting healthy behaviors.

New Ideas / Revising the Enneagram

[still working on this]

Enneagram Tests

Short test (6o items)
Long test (126 items)

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Great write up on the Enneagram. Your site has been a huge resource for me as I grow and try to feed this need to understand who and what I am. Cheers.

  2. Armando Molina’s, Our Ways, might be of interest to you. He was a student of Naranjo whom the latter affirmed as one of his best students and as one of the most innovative thinkers on the Enneagram in addition to ( or apart from) the ones we are more familiar with already. You have a daring approach here and offer some brilliant insights and deductions here and I would definitely be interested in more of your future work, congrats.


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