More clues for finding your type

Photo by Elisabeth Wales on Unsplash

The Resources

The nine type descriptions function as archetypes, giving us broad brush stroke icons of the styles. You can find a good resource to read up on each of the types at the enneagram institute. It is helpful if you have narrowed down which number you think you are, since there is a lot to read…and it’s tempting to read through the ones that sound like family members or other significant others, which is understandable, but consider that a distraction at this point. Figuring out what makes others tick is fascinating, I know, and a great way to avoid doing your own work. Resist! Figuring out what makes you tick is where you need to start.

As you read the descriptions of the types they can sound boxy at first. Each description lists the resourceful aspects of the type – things we mostly think of as ‘positive’ as well as the non-resourceful, compulsive/addictive aspects – things we think of as ‘negative’ and would rather not own up to, never mind accept. Often ‘acceptance’ is equated with ‘this is how you are and you are stuck with it, the best you can hope for is to manage it better’.

But the archetypes are descriptions to help us acknowledge the strengths and gifts the personality mask allows us to develop as well as the limitations and booby traps set by our unconscious wearing of the mask. Once we see the ‘positive/negative’ as all part of the same game, we aren’t stuck with anything except our own inner longing and the constant, faithful presence of grace drawing us onward into love, hope, joy, peace…all the good stuff.

Also, remember that the sub-types offer you a far more nuanced perspective on the archetype. We’ll look more closely at those in the practices.

So, in this post we’re going to consider three triads of the archetypes which may help your narrow down your type if you aren’t there yet, and give you some interesting insight into the ways you relate to others as patterns of energy and attention.

Relationist, Pragmatist or Idealist?

As you continue to observe your principal way of perceiving and responding to the world regarding the energy centres of body, head and heart, it may also be helpful to include in your noticing where your attention and energy are focussed with regard to how you connect with and respond to others and the world in general.

Within the nine types there are three triads who all share a similar way of connecting and responding: the pragmatists, the relationists and the idealists.

The relationist triad comprises of 2,8 and 5

“Together Apart” by Debbie Millman

Twos relate to others by moving towards them, often repressing their own needs and putting their energy and attention into ‘reading’ the needs of others so that they can create and maintain a sense of connection and of being liked and approved of.

Eights relate to others by moving against them, often to challenge, declare or assert what needs to happen. They do this to protect the vulnerable and also to avoid their own vulnerability and maintain a sense of being strong and in control.

Fives relate to others by moving away so that they can take an objective stance and offer information, deliver reason and a rational perspective. They do this to maintain a sense of independence and self-reliance.

The pragmatist triad comprises of 3,6 and 9

The pragmatists want to maintain comfortable and safe relationships with people of things that matter to them. They want to hold on to whatever works.

Threes are goal and efficiency oriented and as pragmatists they are seeking a practical and sustaining role in the world and relationships that support their needs for recognition for what they do.

Sixes are looking for practical ways to ensure and hold on to a safe and secure existence in the world. They may do this by forging relationships with those who will offer protection.

Nines focus on whatever works to maintain comfort. This may mean allowing the distractions of other people’s drama to become the comfortable place for being the referee or peacemaker rather than acting from your own agenda.

The idealist triad comprises of 1,4 and 7

The idealists are always troubled by a vision for how the world could be for life and spirit to thrive. They are frustrated because they never seem to find what they are looking for.

Ones seek a perfect world according to their internal standards of the way things ought to be and are frustrated that this doesn’t happen. They have persistent unrealistic expectations of themselves and others.

Fours seek the ultimate ideal world in which nothing of importance or substance is missing and are frustrated and disappointed that this rarely happens. They engage in intense introspection in their quest for authenticity in themselves and the world.

Sevens seek the ideal positive world free of suffering and pain by going to something new and positive when frustration occurs. They attempt to avoid the sense of closure or limitation on their freedom to seek out new positive experiences.

The counter types

If you are still struggling to recognise yourself in any one type it may be that your dominant instinctual sub-type is the one that embodies the counter-type of the archetype.

The nine passions we considered in the previous post reflect the unconscious lack and longing at the heart of each type. The sub-types emerge as the passion of each type combines with one of three instinctual biases that all social creatures share, directed towards self-preservation, social interaction or sexual bonding. The instinctual drive combined with the passion create a more specific focus of attention and for each of the types, one of these combinations looks like the flip side of the archetype.

For a full coverage of each of the 27 sub-types you can listen to this series of three podcasts where Annie Dimond (student of Beatrice Chestnut, author of The complete enneagram) talks with Science Mike about each of the sub-types. There’s a separate podcast for each of the three centres of intelligence, so if you have narrowed down to one of those centres (8,9,1), (2,3,4), (5,6,7) then you’ll only have an hour to listen to.

If you are still wavering, here are precis of the counter-types, taken from Beatrice Chestnut’s book ‘The Complete Enneagram’:

Type 9 – social Nines express the passion of laziness (sloth) by being really active! They merge with the group and work hard in support of group interests and prioritise these needs over their own. Social Nines are friendly and need to feel like they are part of things although underneath they feel like they are different and don’t fit in. They will fight for the needs of the group, are extroverted, expressive and forceful. They are light-hearted, fun-loving, energetic and sociable. They can be workaholics but they work hard at being friendly and don’t show their own pain; they don’t want to be a burden to others. On the inside they still have a sense of laziness about their own needs and wants. They are gifted mediators and leaders. But social Nines like to control things and they like to talk a lot. They tend to have very full lives but no time for themselves. These Nines can look like Threes because they work so hard, but they don’t want the spotlight or admiration from others. They may also look like Twos but they aren’t looking for approval and appreciation in the same way

Type 8 – social Eights are oriented towards protection and loyalty. They express their passion (lust) in the service of life and other people. They are overtly friendly, helpful, nurturing, protective and concerned with injustices that happen to people. Social Eights are about solidarity with the vulnerable or those with less power. This Eight is more mellow and outgoing and less quick to anger than other Eights. They are very active, may have a lust for projects and collecting things. Their strong ability to protect and care for others hides their abandonment of their own need for love – something that sits in their blindspot. Social Eights can look like Nines or Twos but they act in much more direct ways, engage more readily in conflict and express more power and control in seeking to protect and support others.

Type 7 – social Sevens consciously avoid the passion of gluttony. They want to be good and pure and not act on gluttonous impulses, so they tend to hide these in altruistic behaviour. They often work for a better world, chasing an ideal of themselves as well. The efforts to attain purity can lead to worry about diet, health or spirit. They give up more and take on responsibility in the family as an expression of sacrifice of gluttony and desire for more for the benefit of and in service to others. But they are hungry for love and recognition and this hunger can be insatiable. They also want to have a good image, reduce conflicts and create debts in others. They deliver service to others with great dedication but hide an inner sense of guilt for the self interest in their serving. They can have the sense of being on a Mission. They are enthusiastic, idealistic and have great social skills. They appear joyful and avoid dissonance and conflict. Social Sevens can look like Twos, but Sevens are self-referencing where Twos are other focussed. They can also look like Ones, because of the pure/good thing, but Sevens are looking for applause and refer to a social consensus of goodness while Ones have an internally generated sense of what is “right”.

Type 6 – sexual Sixes turn against the passion of fear by taking a stance of strength and intimidation – the best defence is a good offence. Their fear is often held unconsciously, so they appear bold, fierce and even aggressive. The strength of their stance is intended to be intimidating and they don’t allow any weakness within themselves. Sexual Sixes are often physically strong with intense self control. They want to feel independent, tough in the face of trouble, ready to avoid being cheated, manipulated, taken advantage of or attacked. They do not avoid trouble, though, they move toward danger feeling safer to confront rather than retreat. Sexual Sixes may be unaware of how intimidating they are and they have a tendency to disconnect and separate emotions and actions. They can be argumentative. They can look like Eights except that they are actually motivated by fear and while Eights like to create order, sexual Sixes stir up trouble. They can look like Threes because they are action oriented and fast paced, assertive and hard working, but Sixes have more paranoid fantasies and there isn’t the same need to achieve and accomplish goals that Threes have.

Type 5 – sexual Fives express avarice through an ongoing search for connection – the most perfect and satisfying union. They may still have all the regular Five inhibitions and introversion, but in one on one relationships there is a special value on connection. There is a high standard applied here, something like mystical union even with good friends or a spiritual teacher. Sexual Fives are intense, romantic and more emotionally sensitive than the other Fives, suffering more and with more overt desires. Sexual Fives have a vibrant internal life filled with ideas, theories and utopian fantasies about unconditional love. Trust is a basic issue with this Five – they are searching for the person who will be with them no matter what and can be trusted with all secrets. It is very easy to disappoint a sexual Five. There is still a need to withdraw and manage energy so this sub-type is often hard to discern between the others and is potentially but rarely mistaken for a Four.

Type 4 – self-preservation Fours can be hard to type. These Fours do not communicate their passion of envy and the suffering associated with it as much as the other two types of Four; instead they are long-suffering (in silence) – stoic and strong. Self-pres Fours work hard to get what they are envious of and what they sense they lack although whatever they get never feels like enough. Despite feeling the sensitivity, shame, suffering and envy common to Fours, the self-pres sub-types see endurance as a virtue while hoping someone will notice and appreciate their self-sacrifice. Because they need to endure, they tend to put themselves in challenging situations. They have a passion for effort. They may feel distressed if they have to slow down – they need the stress and pressure to keep them from living in and from their own fragility. They tend to be compassionate, empathic and nurturing, sensitive to the needy or victims of injustice, dealing with others’ pain to avoid dealing with their own. Self-pres Fours are less dramatic – not complaining is the way to win love. There is an unconscious taboo around happiness; they put off dealing with things and work at things they know will fail or frustrate. This Four can look like a One or a Three but Fours feel a wider range of emotions (ups and downs) than Ones; the tendency to work against themselves differentiates them from Threes who tend to achieve what they work towards, plus the emotions thing again.

Type 3 – self-preservation Threes work hard and need to feel autonomous and self-sufficient. They seem solid and calm outwardly, but underneath they are anxious. They are assertive and aim to solve problems and get things done by working hard and not showing any stress. They want to be the best example of how to be in whatever role they play – not just to be seen to be good, but to actually BE good – and they do this to inspire admiration in others without being obvious about their vanity. Self- pres Threes have vanity for having no vanity. They want to look attractive and successful but they don’t want others to know that they want this – good people are not vain, no blowing your own horn etc. The mental habit of deception is deep for these Threes – when it comes to knowing their own motivations. These Threes are workaholics and feel responsible for making everything happen. They can experience panic when they need help or lose autonomy. They tend to oversimplify, reducing their focus to the task, goal or what is practical and useful. They want to know they can handle it all and it will all be good for everyone around them. They don’t show weakness. They may have trouble making deep connections because they are not much in touch with their feelings. This Three looks like a One: rigid, responsible, self sufficient and model of virtue – but Threes move faster, pay attention to creating an image (even if they don’t acknowledge it) and attend to the social consensus rather than an internalised standard.

Type 2 – self-preservation Twos have an unconscious need to be taken care of so they ‘seduce’ by taking the role of a child among grown-ups and employing youthful ways of gaining attention and affection – being cute and expressing a childlike sense of need. The self-pres Two is therefore able to elicit care from others without having to ask directly for it – in a family, the child’s needs must come first, so taking this position ensures a privileged spot. The pride aspect of this is that there is a desire for others to place a special emphasis on meeting these unspoken needs – they want to be seen without showing themselves. Self-pres Twos need to feel unique, want to liked by everyone – the teacher’s pet. The self-pres Two doesn’t fit the usual ‘giver/helper’ mode of Twos and is more guarded and fearful, less trusting, which leads to a general ambivalence about forming close connections, especially intimate ones. The threat of rejection or disapproval is a constant danger, along with the possibility of losing themselves, being judged, taken advantage of or humiliated. Self-importance, whimsy, playfulness, charm and irresponsibility are in the foreground. They may have tantrums and sulk or be hypersensitive to criticism. They can be self-indulgent and drawn to euphoria by parties, shopping, drinking, food, fun as a way to avoid feeling their inner self-abandonment. They can also idealise others, projecting their power onto others so they don’t have to be responsible. Self-pres Twos can look like self-pres Sixes – fearful and ambivalent about relationships, but Sixes are more general in their fears and this Two’s fear mainly shows up in relationships. They can also look like Fours with the level of emotionality and longing for love, but the Two represses their needs and feelings and focuses on others more than a Four does.

Type 1 – sexual Ones turn their perfectionist energy towards others making them more of a reformer than a perfectionist. These are the only Ones who are explicitly angry and can be impatient and invasive with a sense of entitlement. Anger fuels the intensity of their desire to improve others and it can be expressed as excitement, passion or idealism about the way things could be if…other people and society reformed their behaviour. They can be compelling and vehement, with a sense that they know what is right and moral obligation to pursue this (backed up by rationalisation of rightness). There can be a sense of Mission, drawing on a higher calling. This One is less perturbed by self doubt than other Ones. They are not afraid of confrontation and can be vengeful. They perceive themselves as strong, determined, brave and decisive and they are mostly unable to see the anger that is driving them. They do have a playful side oriented toward pleasure. This One can look like an Eight, but Ones are ‘over-social’ while Eights are ‘under-social’.

The Practices


Narrow down your type and listen to the appropriate subtypes podcast in the link above until you find the one where you resonate and recognise yourself. If you are still wavering, ask a friend for their perspective and listen again.

Give Attention

Once you have narrowed down your type and listened to a description of your sub-type (this will sound like some of your darker secrets are being broadcast, and also some of your brightest hopes about yourself are being affirmed), then start noticing the particular ways that your personality comes into play with your significant relationships, your work, your prayer and your inner conversations/fantasies/projections. It might help to keep a journal or make a date with yourself or another to sit/swim/weed/walk/whatever and reflect/ talk and download.


Return to the passion of your type and now with the laser focus of your sub-type, see if your can spot the places where your personality locks you into a limiting pattern and just notice what is happening inside you – sense, feel, think – with compassion and curiosity. Note that in your journal/with your conversation partner.

Silence, solitude, stillness

Keep returning to the practice, whatever it is that you have found to make that space to let go and to rest, consenting to Love’s presence and action within.

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