What is the Enneagram?

At the heart of the enneagram is an understanding of the human responses to living in a world which has evolved through the survival of the fittest of harsh conditions.  We are all products of this process, and our very existence is owed to the responses of our ancestors to the life threatening events of the forgotten past.

The echoes of those events reverberate even today within our genes and culture.

We experience an emotional response to our world, the world WE experience on a day to day basis.  Each of us is awash with many emotions but the most basic  of them all, the emotions which have driven our instinctual drive to survive are

  • FEAR of the dangers surrounding us
  • ANGER that those dangers should exist at all
  • INADEQUACY, the realisation that we cannot survive on our own

The enneagram places these three survival emotions into three main parts of our body:  Head, Gut, and Heart.

*  FEAR of unknown dangers is a cerebral response to this dangerous world.  It drives one into an awareness and evaluation of what MIGHT happen.  The enneagram’s analogy is ‘HEAD’.

*  ANGER is the driving force to enable us to react strongly to a threat.  It does not necessarily manifest itself as rage, but it is a basic gut instinct emotion.  The enneagram’s analogy is therefore ‘GUT’.

*  INADEQUACY is not so much a basic response to the danger itself as a relational response which results from the danger.  The danger feels overwhelming and one is more likely to survive as part of a group, even if it’s only a group of two!  We experience relationship through our hearts so the enneagram analogy is ‘HEART’.

Everyone experiences all of these emotions, but we always come back to (usually unconsciously) one of these three emotions.  It is in this ‘Centre’ that our enneagram personality resides.

Our personality is the strategy we use in everyday life to survive in an uncertain and at times threatening world.

More information about how the nine personality types interrelate can be found in Personality Types of the Enneagram.

More detailed descriptions of how the personality types are manifested in students may be found at Enneagram Personalities of Students.

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