Background of the Enneagram


The word enneagram comes from the Greek words ennea ("nine") and gram ("something written or drawn") and refers to the nine points on the Enneagram symbol. The nine different Enneagram types, identified as numbers One through Nine, reflect distinct habits of thinking, feeling, and behaving, with each type connected to a unique path of development. Each of us has only one place, or number, on the Enneagram; while our Enneagram type remains the same throughout our lifetime, the characteristics of our type may either soften or become more pronounced as we grow and develop.


The Enneagram's exact ancient history is uncertain, although the system first appeared in both Asia and the Middle East several thousand years ago or longer. Because it evolved as an oral tradition, it is difficult to know its precise origins. Over time, the Enneagram has emerged in various parts of the world, and its modern usage has been heavily influenced by three individuals. Two philosophers began working with the Enneagram on different continents: G.I. Gurdjieff in the 1930s in Europe, and Oscar Ichazo from the 1950s to the present in South America. Claudio Naranjo, an American psychiatrist born in Chile, initially studied the Enneagram with Ichazo and brought it to the United States the 1970s.


The contemporary use of the Enneagram has grown from the work of these three individuals and has been advanced by other teachers, among them Helen Palmer, Don Riso, David Daniels, Russ Hudson, Tom Condon, Jerry Wagner and Ginger Lapid-Bogda.



The 3 Centres of Intelligence

The traditional exposition of the Enneagram begins with an explanation of the three centres of intelligence from which we operate. The three centres are the head centre or intellectual centre, the heart centre or the emotional centre and the belly centre or the physical centre.


All three centres are active in each person, and are necessary for survival. However, the mentally-based person operates primarily out of the head centre, the emotionally-based person operates primarily out of the heart centre, and the belly-based person operates out of the belly centre.


The Mental Types

The core emotional issue of the mental types is fear; a fear of real or imagined danger coupled with scanning of the environment for threatening situations.


Point six on the Enneagram represents people most out of touch with their fear. They either avoid fearful situations by totally avoiding them (the phobic six) or they attack fearful situations with dauntless semblance courage (the counter phobic six).


Point five on the Enneagram indicates people who prefer to retreat into a mental world and review their feelings in the privacy of their own space. They tend to be highly intellectual and withdrawn.


Point seven on the Enneagram represents those most externalized with respect to fear. People of this type have adopted the strategy of diffusing fear into pleasant options. They tend to be charming, lovable people for whom nothing is apparently wrong.



The Emotional Types

The core emotional issue for the emotional types is an overriding concern for image. They have to deal with questions about how they are feeling.


Point three on the Enneagram represents people who are most out of touch with their feelings. In this type of person, the feelings are suspended for the sake of performance, making a good impression, and getting the job done. They are concerned with efficiency and meeting deadlines. Many "workaholic" people are threes.


Point four on the Enneagram tends to be highly emotional people with artistic temperaments and a love for aesthetics. They like intensity in all of its forms.


Point two on the Enneagram includes those who are externally oriented about their feelings. They have the ability to alter themselves to meet the needs of others in their environment and get a lot out of giving to others. During the course of this almost excessive giving, they suppress their own needs.


The Physical Types

The core emotional issue for the physical types is anger. As such, anger originates in the body and finds expression in various ways.


Point nine on the Enneagram indicates those who are the most out of touch with anger. Because of this, nines are passive-aggressive and want to do anything they can to avoid the direct expressing of their anger.


Point one on the Enneagram represents the internalized version of anger. Their anger is addressed at a righteous cause or maintaining a correct posture about important elements in their lives. The ones tend to be perfectionist about everything they feel, think and do in life.


Point eight on the Enneagram represents the people who are most expressive about their anger. Here we have the outspoken leader or boss who can present their anger at a moment's notice. They have no qualms about letting out their anger, even if it may be inappropriate behaviour.



More Information

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