In our June issue, we provided a high-level introduction to the Enneagram system
and its ability to help expand awareness. Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the Enneagram is its set of nine numbers that offers a language and a system for understanding and discussing ourselves as human beings. For this reason, most of those who work with the Enneagram seek to identify their “number” and learn from it. But as one dives deeper into the wisdom of the Enneagram, it’s important to keep in mind that every human being has access to all nine numbers. Based on nature, nurture and discipline-based conditioning, one expresses the values of each number with varying degrees of intensity derived from one’s lived experiences.
In this, the second of our three-part series, I further expand the language and descriptions of the intelligence centers, each Enneagram type and the instincts that drive our everyday subconscious function.
Overview of the Intelligence Centers
The intelligence centers are like the continents within the global map of the Enneagram. It is also important to remember that the brainstem, the right hemisphere, and the left hemisphere correlate directly with the three intelligence centers of the Enneagram: the head, the heart and the gut.
The instinct intelligence center, which corresponds to the brainstem, is where numbers 8, 9, and 1 reside. This center corresponds with our instinctive nature. When under stress, the nature of this center defaults to primitive emotional reactions such as fear, anger, sadness and giddiness as the primary survival-based stress response.
The intuition intelligence center, which corresponds to the right hemisphere of the brain, is also known as the heart center and is responsible for complex expressed emotions. When activated, the nature of this center defaults to emotions such as, but not limited to joy, shame, guilt, love, mercy and long-suffering, as the primary survival-based stress response. Numbers 2, 3 and 4 exist within the Intuition center.
The intellect center is associated with the left hemisphere of the human brain. It exists in relationship to our intellectual nature and corresponds with complex control of emotion via survival-based stress responses such as attention, caution and skepticism. Numbers 5, 6 and 7 exist within the Intellect center.
The Enneagram Types
As the intelligence centers are like continents, the Enneagram types are the “countries” within the global map of the Enneagram. They are unique and distinct—but not separate from—their respective intelligence centers or the Enneagram as a whole.
8: Disruption9: PeaceThe easygoing, self-effacing type:
The powerful, dominating type:
Self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational. The innate human capacity reflected in 8 nature is the energy of disruption, and 8 nature seeks and is motivated by autonomy. The innate gift of 8 nature is growth.
Receptive, reassuring, agreeable and complacent. The innate human capacity reflected in 9 nature is the energy of peace, and 9 nature seeks and is motivated by serenity. The innate gift of 9 nature is rest.1: ReformationThe rational, idealistic type:
Principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic. The innate human capacity reflected in 1 nature is the energy of reformation, and 1 nature seeks and is motivated by justice. The innate gift of 1 nature is agency.
These are the other articles in this series.
2: NurtureThe caring, interpersonal type:
Demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive. The innate human capacity reflected in 2 nature is the energy of nurturing, and 2 nature seeks and is motivated by appreciation. The innate gift of 2 nature is unconditional love.
The success-oriented, pragmatic type:
Adaptive, excelling, driven and image-conscious. The innate human capacity reflected in 3 nature is the energy of achievement, and 3 nature seeks and is motivated by creativity. The innate gift of 3 nature is confidence.
The sensitive, withdrawn type:
Expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed and temperamental. The innate human capacity reflected in 4 nature is the energy of individuality, and 4 nature seeks and is motivated by authenticity. The innate gift of 4 nature is compassion.
The intense, cerebral type:
Perceptive, innovative, secretive and isolated. The innate human capacity reflected in 5 nature is the energy of investigation, and 5 nature seeks and is motivated by clarity. The innate gift of 5 nature is insight.
The committed, security-oriented type:
Engaging, responsible, anxious and suspicious. The innate human capacity reflected in 6 nature is the energy of loyalty, and 6 nature seeks and is motivated by guarantees. The innate gift of 6 nature is courage.
The busy, fun-loving type:
Spontaneous, versatile, distractible and scattered. The innate human capacity reflected in 7 nature is the energy of enthusiasm, and 7 nature seeks and is motivated by experiences. The innate gift of 7 nature is inspiration.
Along with the “continental” regions—the intelligence centers—and the “countries” within them—the types—the Enneagram also has what I call “dialects” that are spoken within each country. These dialects, otherwise known as the “instincts,” are specific ways in which we interact with ourselves, each other and the world on a more intimate, primal and subconscious level. There are three instincts, most commonly referred to as self-preservation, sexual and social, which are synonymous with our primitive survival responses of flight, fight and freeze, respectively. We have each of these instincts within us just as we have the nature, capacity and gift of all nine types working together in tandem via our intelligence centers.
- Our self-preservation instinct is designed to aid us by activating our survival-based reaction of flight in order to preserve our bodies by way of withdrawal via passivity.
- Our sexual instinct is designed to aid us by activating our survival-based reaction of fight in order to preserve our bodies by way of engagement via assertiveness.
- Our social instinct is designed to aid us by activating our survival-based reaction of freeze in order to preserve our bodies by way of maintenance, achieved by balancing passive and assertive approaches.
A practical way to understand the instincts is to reflect on one’s nature as an introvert, extrovert or ambivert. One can also consider the nature of these instincts with regards to one’s relative speed, acceleration and momentum of life. Do you prefer to take it slow or pump the brakes when things go too fast for your liking? Do you prefer to maintain balance and order by hitting cruise control? Do you prefer to accelerate or hit the gas whenever possible in order to move ahead? It can be helpful to better understand the instincts to consider a “gas, cruise and brakes” analogy:
- Gas (sexual instinct): extrovert, flight, assertive, engaged energy
- Cruise (social instinct): social, ambivert, freeze, maintenance, balance energy
- Brakes (self-preservation instinct): introvert, flight, withdrawal, passive energy
Once you begin to learn more about the Enneagram—and yourself, through it—step back from the desire to assign labels. Allow yourself to be a learner. Read at least one complete book, ideally three books as a minimum, before you even say to yourself or others, “This is who/what I believe I am.” Also, try taking a test—see recommendations below—to better understand what the relationship—often referred to as your “stack”— is between each number and each instinct. Remember an Enneagram test is a diagnostic, not a diagnosis. The numbers and instincts do not define you; they describe you.
We are all looking for answers right now in the midst of such uncertain and difficult times, when often the most helpful thing we can do for ourselves, our loved ones, our communities and the world is to seek understanding. Give yourself the chance to be curious first. Curiosity is the antidote to fear. The answers will come with greater clarity as we expand our awareness of what it means to be a human in the midst of conflict, crisis, fear and uncertainty.
As you approach the Enneagram, see it as a gateway for describing your identity rather than defining it. If one defines something, one has to defend it. The Enneagram is designed to help people ask better questions, not to provide superficial or absolute answers. So, try not to see the Enneagram as a tool that produces a reductive or stereotyped version of what it means to be a human. You are not a number. You are a whole person capable of discovering your whole identity.
RECOMMENDED ENNEAGRAM-BASED TESTS
The Enneagram Institute offers a Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) test of 144 questions that scores for all nine Enneagram types. The Institute also offers an Instinctual Variant Questionnaire (IVQ), which asks 37 questions and scores all three instinctual intelligences. Each test costs $12 and can be found at Tests.EnneagramInstitute.com/Orders/Create
Jerome D. Lubbe DC, DACNB, is CEO and Founder of Thrive Neuro Health, where he uses functional neurology, neuroplasticity and other tools to improve patient well-being. His book,
The Brain-Based Enneagram, offers a first-ever neuroscience-based model of the Enneagram. Contact him at [email protected]