The Enneagram

Bob has over 350 hours of education and training in the use and application of the Enneagram. He has studied with many of the top Enneagram teachers, including Claudio Naranjo, who is credited with bringing the Enneagram to North America. He has studied extensively with Don Riso & Russ Hudson of the Enneagram Institute, who are leading authors & instructors of the Enneagram. Bob is a Riso-Hudson Certified Enneagram Teacher through the Enneagram Institute.

Joan Reese, PhD (Bob’s wife and partner) is also expert in teaching the Enneagram and often co-facilitates with Bob in Enneagram seminars and courses. Together, they credit their experience with the Enneagram as integral in continuing to promote their spiritual growth and psychic health.   Dr's Bob & Joan Reese


 What is the Enneagram?

There are many “typing” tools available for personal and professional awareness and transformation. You probably have heard of some of them, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). They help us understand that people are not all alike, that we all have different motivations, attitudes, values, interests, etc. The Enneagram is a self-typing personality classification system. Once learned, however, it can become one of the greatest tools for self-awareness available.

Enneagram theory is that everyone has nine different aspects to his/her personality. However, one of these aspects tends to dominate. Thus, the Enneagram is the study of how people tend to act and react based upon the aspect of the personality that is dominant or in charge.

The Enneagram increases awareness of our particular perceptual filters, deepens our understanding of ourselves and others, and shows us how to get out of our own way to have more of what we truly want. It is extremely useful in optimizing the functioning of corporate teams.

The Enneagram is a nine-pointed figure. In addition to showing the types, it also displays relationships among the types, including characteristic “movements” during times of stress or flow. Therapists, counselors, and coaches can use the Enneagram to increase their own and their client’s understanding of how the client decompresses under stress which impacts all presenting issues.

Why Study the Enneagram?

Defining people in categories has proven unsatisfactory. We now recognize that we can describe behavior as energy organized into patterns. By identifying these patterns, we understand and then change.

Use and misuse of the Enneagram

Like any tool, the Enneagram can be misused, and often is. Many people use it to put people into “boxes,” including themselves. People believe that they “are” their type, and then the type becomes an excuse for lack of awareness, honesty, and development. For example, an Enneagram Three (The Achiever) can say, “Sure, I’m not in touch with what I’m feeling. I’m a Three!” Others may use an understanding of the Enneagram to manipulate others, as a way to get what they want from people (“I’ll give the Three a lot of praise so he performs well”).

When used correctly, the Enneagram shows us nine different patterns of how we get in our own way of having what we most want in our lives. In the corporate arena, it is a powerful tool to increase the functioning of teams, and is very helpful in removing the barriers to optimal productivity. It is particularly useful in executive coaching. In the personal arena the Enneagram reveals the nine patterns of trying to find happiness where lasting happiness does not exist, and helps direct us towards inner harmony and peace.

What are the types?

The nine Enneagram points are nine perceptual filters, nine different ways of looking at the world. While we may have aspects of several types, we each have only one core type, and that type does not change. On the high/healthy side, they reflect nine different gifts each of us has the potential to bring to our personal and professional lives. On the neurotic side, they reflect nine patterns of trying to find happiness where lasting happiness does not exist, nine prescriptions for frustration and suffering. Coaches can use the Enneagram to assist people in discovering deeper levels of joy, harmony, inner peace, and relaxed productivity. See “The Nine Points” below.

How do you find your type?

There are a variety of books on the Enneagram. While they are not always consistent, the divergent views are helpful. (See the bibliography that follows). Also, it is important to know that people often mis-type themselves. This should not be looked upon negatively, as the self-awareness provided will eventually lead you to the right Point.

Many people learn about the Enneagram through the “oral tradition,” attending workshops where people of the same type are interviewed on a “panel.” This provides an opportunity to experience the Enneagram on a deeper level. The similarities among people of the same type become clear, as well as the differences among the types.

Tests have been developed to help identify your type. In our experience, none of them are 100% reliable in accurately identifying type. The true type is generally among the top two or three scores. We have people take the test to get a first approximation, and then provide additional facilitation to confirm the type. We provide you with Enneagram Profile and the Enneagram Profile Key to get you started. There are many typing assessments available, beyond the one on our site, we recommend the online test available at the Enneagram Institute. Don Riso and Russ Hudson have developed the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Typing Instrument (RHETI), which has been shown both reliable and valid in several doctoral studies. They also provide a free test known as the RHETI Sampler.

The Points of the Enneagram

In childhood we learn to cope with stress by using a particular strategy (in Enneagram Theory, there are nine such basic strategies). When the strategy we select works, we do it more. Eventually it becomes habitual and merges into our personality. People who use the same strategy understand the world and other people in similar ways. The nine basic strategies are called “Points,” or less frequently, “Types.” No Point is better than another. Each has distinctive strengths and weaknesses.

The first task is to figure out your own Point before you try to work with someone else. Understand from the outset that this is an art, not a science. There are several tests and instruments that claim to be able to determine a person’s Point; to date only the RHETI has passed muster for the statistical standards set for valid tests and measurements.


The Nine Points

One(Reformer): These people tend to be realistic but also critical of themselves and others. They tend to believe that they understand the only correct way to do something. While this makes them conscientious and principled, it can also make them feel ethically superior. When they speak, they use the words “must” and “should” a lot. They do strive to live up to their high ideals, but on the other hand may find themselves procrastinating for fear of making a mistake. At their best, they are astute and morally heroic.

Two (Helper): These people are warm, compassionate, nurturing and sensitive, but they can also become quite demanding of affection and approval for themselves. They seek to be loving and appreciated, but may try to do this by becoming indispensable to others and this can lead them to do too much for other people. At their best, they are caring and appropriately supportive of others.

Three (Achiever): These people are positive, energetic, self-confident and goal-oriented. They seek to be appreciated for their performance, and can become inappropriately competitive and obsessed with an image as a winner. They are masters of appearances, and sometimes look like more of a success than they are. They tend to confuse self and task, and often take their work too seriously. At their best, they are optimistic and industrious.

Four – (Individualist): These people are warm and perceptive. They can be attracted to the unavailable, and tend to be tragic and sad. They possess keen insight, but can be moody, stubborn and self-absorbed. They are capable of enormous creativity, but can also be seductive and depressed. At their best, they are passionate, creative and empathetic.

Five(Investigator): These people have a deep need for knowledge. They are curious and analytical. They maintain emotional distance and protect their privacy. They tend to compartmentalize obligations and can feel drained by the demands of others to be more self-revealing. At their best, they are excellent decision-makers and scholars. At worst, they shut down and are recluses.

Six – (Loyalist): These people are responsible, trustworthy and loyal. They can also be fearful, judgmental and self-doubting. Too often procrastination replaces action. They identify with those who are in difficulty and tend to be anti-authoritarian. At their best, they are devoted team players.

Seven – (Enthusiast): These people want to contribute to the world and are full of vigor – initially. They tend to be “dance away” lovers and superficial adventurers with a gourmet approach to life. They are poor in commitment and can seek intoxicating experiences. However, they often are the first to help get things going and have an uncanny ability to understand what is really going on. At their best, they are true Renaissance-persons and excellent theoreticians. They can be prone to addictive behavior.

Eight – (Challenger): These people are direct, even blunt. They are self-reliant, confident and protective to the point of being combative. They seek positions of authority and control and are prone to open displays of anger or force. They respect others who will hold their ground, and then use argument, sexual conquest and other sorts of sparring to establish relationships. At their best they are protective warriors who can muster support and give leadership where that is needed. At worst, a Nazi dictator.

Nine – (the Peacemaker): These people tend to be good-natured and pleasant. They want harmony in their environment. They can be ambivalent and prone to replace meaningful intervention with inessential action. They tend toward substance abuse and passive aggression. They can be pleasantly diplomatic, but also avoid conflict. At their best, they are excellent counselors and negotiators.

So . . . you’ve taken the test, and determined your type – what’s your NextStep? Beyond the basics of the Nine types, the Enneagram has several more layers. There are the Triads (Feeling, Thinking, & Intuitive), and the Wings – which are the numbers sandwiching your number, one of which is dominant. When you look at most Enneagram figures you will see arrows on the lines. These are the Direction of Integration & Dis-Integration. Under stress we take on aspects of the number that the dis-integration arrow points to.

Most Enneagram teachers also present three Levels of Development that provide clues as to whether we are healthy, normal, or un-healthy. Riso & Hudson go further with their Core Dynamics showing nine levels of psychic health. Beyond this, one can delve into Instinctual Variants, Parental Orientations, the Hornevian Groups & the Harmonics Groups, all of which play a major role in your relationships. When you calculate all the different possible components of your personality after you determine your Enneagram type, there are 2,934 ‘subtypes’ – which certainly makes pigeon-holing difficult.

When you or your organization are ready to take the Next Step, click here.


(texts that should be read initially are bolded)

  • Baron. R, Wagele E (1995) Are you my type, am I yours? Relationships made easy through the enneagram. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Chernick-Fauvre, K. (2001). Enneagram instinctual subtypes (4 ed.). Menlo Park, CA: Enneastyle.
  • Condon, T. (2000). Enneagram subtypes: The subtle drives of unconscious behavior. Portland: The Changeworks.
  • Condon, T. (2001). Stress/security points & wings: The enneagram’s hidden resources. Portland: The Changeworks.
  • Daniels, D., & Palmer, H. (n.a.). The Authentic Enneagram website.
  • Giles, S. (n.a.). Complimentary Medical Hypnotism Certification Program Manual. National Guild of Hypnotists, Nashua, NH.
  • Hurley K, Dobson T (1993) My best self: Using the enneagram to free the soul. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
  • Keys, M.F. (1983) Emotions and the enneagram: Working through your shadow life script. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
  • Lopez, S. (1999) Get smart with your heart: The intelligent woman’s guide to love, lust, and lasting relationships. New York: Perigree.
  • Mortz, M.E. (1994). Overcoming our compulsions: Using the twelve steps and the enneagram as spiritual tools for life. Liguori, MO: Triumph Books.
  • Palmer, H. (1991). The enneagram: Understanding yourself and the others in your life. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
  • Riso, D., & Hudson, R. (1996). Personality types: Using the enneagram for self-discovery. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Riso, D., & Hudson, R. (1999). The wisdom of the enneagram: The complete guide to psychological and spiritual growth for the nine personality types. New York: Bantam Books.
  • Rohr, R., & Ebert, A. (2000). Discovering the enneagram: An ancient tool for a new spiritual journey. New York: Crossroad.
  • Zuercher S. (1993) Enneagram companions: Growing in relationships and spiritual direction. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

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