It can be baffling when one is trying to determine his/her Enneagram type. Initially, we try to find ourselves in the lists of characteristics. Some fit from all of the types, others don’t fit at all. We may also have thought of ourselves in a particular way. I often thought of myself as a helper; even my profession of nursing underscored that trait. If I focused on traits or descriptions, I might choose Type Two as my point rather than the Type Seven that I am. How then shall we sift through the information and find our home base vis a vis the Enneagram?
First of all, we do not have to exhibit all the characteristics of type for that to be our type. The Enneagram describes an internal terrain, a world view. Still, initially we may have more success in narrowing our search for type by finding what characteristics resonate rather than seeing our worldview. Our worldview is so much a part of our Enneagram filter that we might not see it at all until we have had ample time for self-observation.
All characteristics do not have the same weight or importance, when describing Enneagram type. Listening to numerous panels and self-aware exemplars of Type, I’ve noted what I call a Hallmark characteristic for each of the Nine types. While it can be helpful to look at lists of characteristics; the Hallmark seems to be the Big Dog. Finding the Hallmark characteristic might help you (or your family, friends, and Enneagram students) to discover type more easily.
With that in mind, here is a partial list of characteristics plus the Hallmark characteristic for Types One, Two, and Three.
Type One – The Perfectionist
º Compulsive need to act on what seems correct
º One right way, black and white thinking
º Relentless stream of self-criticizing thoughts
º Mentally comparing oneself to others and concern about criticism
º Belief in one’s own moral and ethical superiority
º Procrastination stemming from fear of making a mistake
º Do-gooder. Do what “should” be done rather than what one wants to.
º Trapdoor phenomenon – pleasure escape valve
º Scorched Earth policy – scrap whole project and start over if even one small part is wrong.
In the case of the Perfectionist One, the hallmark or defining characteristic is the relentlessness of the inner critic. Many Ones describe it as a critical Voice that constantly evaluates, judges, and harangues the Perfectionist. Some Ones are critical of other people, other Ones keep their critical thoughts to themselves. Regardless, every Perfectionist seems to suffer from an ongoing, internal critique through nearly every minute of every day.
Type Two – The Giver
º Gaining approval and avoiding rejection
º Pride in importance of oneself in relationship: “they’d never make it without me”. Being indispensable
º Pride in knowing and meeting others needs
º Giving to get – the hook.
º Confusion in identifying personal needs.
º Altering self to please others
º Making a difference to others lives, the world, etc.
º Hysteria or anger when emerging real needs collide with the needs of the others that one serves.
The defining characteristic for the Giver Two is the need to become central, even indispensable to another “chosen” individual. One Two went so far as to explain, “It’s almost as if I establish my center in the person I am interested in being important to.” Whether in work, friendship, or intimate relationships, the Giver believes that those significant to him/her would never make it without the Giver’s help or support. The unconscious drive of Pride underlies the Two’s sense that s/he alone knows what the significant other needs, and s/he will provide it.
Type Three – The Performer
º Goal is everything.
º Competition and avoidance of failure
º Love comes from what you do rather than who you are
º Feelings suspended until job gets done
º Presentation of image that’s adjusted to gain approval.
º Multitasking – do several things at once
º Run over others to get to goal, apologize later
The defining characteristic of a Performer is excessive identification with his image or that which he produces: “I am my image” or “I am what I do.” The feeling that underneath the image or productivity is a “black hole” of nothing is the hallmark of a Three. The Three believes that he has sold us a package of goods: himself. Fearing that he is nothing but a fraud, the Performer must keep doing, producing, selling, dazzling to keep from being found out.
Type Four – The Romantic
º Idealization of the distant, dissatisfaction with present reality
º Sense of something missing from life – others have it.
º Attachment to melancholy; deep feelings are more important than mere happiness.
º Search for authenticity.
º Affinity with intense in life: birth, death, etc.
º Sense of being different than others, unique, special.
º Desire for emotional intensity – wants to be met emotionally.
º Attraction to beauty, strong aesthetic sense.
º Mood, manners, luxury, good taste as external boosts to self-esteem.
The hallmark or defining characteristic for the Romantic is the pervasive sense of something vital missing from his/her life. The Four doesn’t know what is missing, just that it is essential to her completeness. At different times, the Romantic may decide that the missing piece is a job or a person, even a place. S/he will fixate on this desired object, often until it becomes attainable, then discard it or feel dissatisfied when the feeling of “something missing” still remains.
Type Five – the Observer
º Maintaining non-involvement, withdraw and tighten the belt as first line of defense.
º Delayed emotions. Feelings withheld until safely alone
º Compartmentalizing of time commitments in life.
º Wanting predictability – to know what will happen.
º Overvaluing self-control. “Drama is for lesser beings”
º Interest in special knowledge and systems
º Mental clarity, detachment from emotional bias
The hallmark or defining characteristic of the Five Observer is detachment. The ability to disengage may be activated by a social event, a family discussion, a presentation or performance, or any interaction. Many Fives actually describe a separate “Observer self” located above or just behind him that watches him interact or perform. This keeps the Five from being overwhelmed by people, emotions, or other stimuli.
Type Six – the Loyal Skeptic
º Scan environment for clues that explain inner sense of threat
º Intuitive style of powerful imagination and single-pointed attention, both natural to the fearful mind.
º Authority problems – distrust
º Identification with underdog causes
º Issues with incompletion – success is exposure to danger
º Suspicious of others’ motives: bullshit detectors
º Skepticism and doubt
º Analysis paralysis – thinking replaces doing
º Heightened fear when things are going well – when’s the other shoe going to drop?
The hallmark of the Loyal Skeptic involves seeing the downsides or dangers, almost immediately, whether it involves visualizing a worst case scenario in graphic detail or ferreting out hidden motives. While the reactions may differ: the Phobic or Flight Six may be fearful and avoiding danger while the Counterphobic or Fight Six may jump in with both feet to prove s/he can overcome potential pitfalls, both will have imagined the worst case. In the case of hidden motives, the Phobic Six may be watchful and wary while the Counterphobic Six will confront, poking and prodding to get the true colors shown.
Type Seven – The Optimist
º Sustaining high levels of excitement, many activities, many interesting things to do
º Endless possibilities – can lead to dilettantism
º Feel trapped without multiple options or way out
º Life is about fun and adventure – sampling all of it
º Avoidance of pain or difficulty
º Reframe any negative into a positive
º Replacement of deep contact with pleasant mental alternatives. Talking, planning, intellectualizing.
º Charm as first line of defense. Fear type who moves toward people.
º Equalizing authority
º Make unusual connections between unrelated ideas
The hallmark or defining characteristic of an Optimist Seven is that of reframing any negative into a positive. Sevens see the good in everything, often to their own detriment. They focus on the silver lining and miss the fact that the dark cloud exists. Even trauma and tragedy are reframed into good learning experiences or humorous stories. “Yes, my dad beat me, but what was good about it was……”
Type Eight -The Straight Shooter
º Control of personal space, possessions, and people likely to influence Eight’s life.
º Aggression and open expression of anger
º Action before thinking, impulsive.
º Concern with justice and protection of others
º Sparring as way of making contact – trust those who can hold their own in a fight.
º Excess as antidote to boredom. Too much exercise, work, partying, etc.
º Difficulty in recognizing dependent aspects of self
º All or nothing way of seeing world. Weak or strong, fair or unfair,etc.
º Impatience with indecision, inaction.
The hallmark or defining characteristic of Eight is bigger-than-life energy. Regardless of physical stature, Straight Shooters just seem to take up a lot of space. This larger-than-life quality manifests as abundant, even excessive energy. Eights seem able to do more, for longer periods than the rest of us. Oddly enough, the Straight Shooter himself often doesn’t recognize that he takes up more space than others, or even that he has more energy. Yet, everyone else around him is all too aware. If the characteristics and worldview sound familiar to you, but you are unsure about the hallmark, elicit the perception of family, coworkers, and friends to find out if they see you as “larger-than-life”.
Type Nine – the Mediator
º Go with the flow. Merging with others, universe
º Self- forgetting: laziness toward own needs, priorities, agenda
º Trouble with decisions: do I agree or disagree? Do I want to be here or not?
º Containment of physical energy and anger
º Replace essential needs with non-essential substitutes – the most important things are left until the end of the day
º Act through habit and repeating familiar solutions
º Control through stubbornness and passive-aggressive behavior
º Numbing out. Inertia. Go on automatic pilot
The Nine Mediator often overlooks or “forgets” her own agenda, desires, and priorities. The underlying drive of sloth leads the Nine to go with the flow rather than work to determine what s/he really wants or needs. Nine’s adopt or merge with the preferences and desires of other people. It’s easier than trying to discover his/her own agenda and priorities, which seem to be hidden or unclear. Although, this can seem similar to the stance of the Two Giver, it differs in that Nine Mediators merge indiscriminately with others. It just “happens.” Two Givers are very selective and choose the people whose priorities they may make their own. The Two stance is very active and moves toward others, while the Nine is more passive, allowing them to “go along with” others. As with all the characteristics for all Nine types, self-forgetting can get to be a habit.
When trying to determine Enneagram type, it can be helpful to focus on Hallmark Characteristics rather than getting lost in the whole enchilada of characteristics and traits. With attention and self-observation, the discovery of type is a profound journey -that takes as long as it takes.
These are the hallmarks as I’ve heard them described. Let me know if this resonates for you, if you already know your type. We learn more about type through self inquiry, self observation, and subsequent sharing of insights gleaned through these processes.
(Material adapted from Lynette’s book: The Everyday Enneagram, A Personality Map for Your Work, Love, and Life.)