The Box of Personality

[ Awakenings Home] [Enneagram Page] [ Basics 101 ] Back ] Next ]

You are in a "box" and don't know it.



There are nine types of people.

Which type are you?










We each have one-ninth of the truth.




There is no "best" type.

Sometimes people resist being typed because they do not want to be labeled and "put in a box." It feels too constricted and constraining to them. The basic teaching of the Enneagram is that being placed in a box is not the problem. You are already in a "box" and don’t know it. This is the problem. You are actually trapped in the personality which you don’t know you have.

There is a riddle that asks, "What is the last thing that a fish would ever discover?" The answer is water. A fish lives and moves in water and the water becomes invisible to it. We live in our personality and lose sight of it.

The Enneagram wants to get you out of your box of "limited" personality and into awareness so you can fulfill your potential. Learning your type is freeing, not restricting. To discover your type you must know the basics of the Enneagram.

Enneagram Fundamentals

The Enneagram consists of a circle containing an inner triangle and an irregular six sided figure. Together the triangle and the six sided figure form nine points around the circle. Each point represents one personality style or type. A personality type refers to a consistent and habitual pattern of thought, emotion, and behavior. It is how we usually think, feel, and behave. It makes us predictable. Each of us has a personality style. We may or may not know we have it, but everyone who knows us is aware of it. The Enneagram teaches that there are nine such possibilities of personality. The personality styles are known by numbers and names. Detailed descriptions exist for each type.


Each type is like a lens through which life is seen and experienced. Through each lens life is seen in a specific way that differs from one lens to another. Each lens gives a world view. If my lens differs from yours then we will look at the same event but will see it very differently. The lens that we have become a limitation because we begin to think that what we experience is all there is. We think it is the reality when it is only 1/9 of the reality. It is like being knowing one dance out of the many dances that are available. When the music plays you always do your dance whether or not it is appropriate for the situation. The result is that you become limited by your personality and its habitual response.

The challenge of the Enneagram is to learn to look through other lenses and to experience new dance steps. We are helped in this process by the lines and arrows that make up the Enneagram symbol. These lines and arrows show an inner dynamic of change and relate one type to another. The dynamic of change tells us what we must avoid in life as well as what we must seek. They represent movements of integration and disintegration.

Looking at the Enneagram, we can see that all the personality types are of equal value. This is indicated by all of the points being equidistant from one another on the circle. No one style is better than another. All types are equally valid ways of living in the world. When using the Enneagram your first task is to discover which personality type is yours. You find its positive and negative features so you can begin to grow in self understanding. Through the process of study you can find your type and begin gaining insight into how you live and function in the world.

The Enneagram teaches that we all have the nine possibilities of personality within us and that none of these ways of living in the world are foreign to us. Early in life we adopt one of the types as our primary personality style and we keep it throughout our lifetime. We can broaden and deepen our personality style but we do not change to another type. Over the course of our lives we can grow to incorporate the positive traits of the other types thus becoming more whole and complete people. In the process the Enneagram also teaches us compassion because it helps us understand how and why people are different. We can become more accepting and understanding of differences between ourselves and others.


[ Awakenings Home] [Enneagram Page] [ Basics 101 ] Back ] Next ]