What is the Enneagram of Personality? 

 December 13, 2017

By  Donna Woodrow

Newcomers to the Enneagram might be wondering what all the hype is about. You might be asking, what is the Enneagram of Personality? And how is this odd looking symbol below relevant to me and my personality? Represented in the symbol is the Enneagram philosophy, which we discuss briefly in this post. We will also take a look at how the Enneagram can positively influence your life. 


The Enneagram of Personality

Let's start with clearly defining the Enneagram's function. Then we'll explore what it can do for you and how it helps to transform lives. Here's a one-line definition...

The Enneagram is a psychological framework for understanding the human personality. 

The Enneagram is often referred to as a personality typing system or typology. But it is really a tool for personal development. It's especially useful if you seek to understand yourself and others. If you read an Enneagram book or attend a workshop and didn't once inquire within, you've missed the point of the Enneagram. It helps us to discover how our personality reacts to our environment and most importantly, how to identify when we are reactive, as opposed to responsive. If we're reactive and behaving in ways that aren't serving us, then the Enneagram offers some insight and a pathway to how we can step into healthier, more responsive ways of being. The Enneagram also describes what's intelligent and right about us as human beings, it explores the gifts of the nine types and shows us how we can step more fully into these gifts. If you would like to understand the Enneagram more  fully check out our blog - The purpose of the Enneagram.

Symbol with Numbers - What is the Enneagram of Personality?

Are you learning about this framework for the first time? Then notice that there are nine points around the circle. These nine points represent the nine different ways that we show up in the world. Also known as the nine personality types. 

The lines and colours used on this symbol are not arbitrary. In fact, they are an very important for understanding the Enneagram. They indicate the movement of each Enneagram Type as each type reacts to stress or growth points in their life. The colours represent three different centres of intelligence, our gut, our heart and our head. To learn more about these three centres, read out blog You're more intelligent than you might think. 

The most important point I could make to anyone who is learning about the Enneagram for the first time, is that it is so much more than simply a personality typing system. When you understand the depth of the Enneagram, you see that it's wisdom is much deeper than 'typing' you and putting you in a box. In fact in my experience, learning about the Enneagram has had the opposite effect. It has helped me identify the box I was already in, and it showed me a pathway outside the box, so that I could find freedom from automatic, reactive behaviours and to step into healthy responsibility in my type structure. The Enneagram highlights a pathway toward liberation of personality for all 9 types.


  • It's a psychological framework to understand human behaviour.
  • The symbol acts as a map for the philosophy of the Enneagram.
  • It's a framework which can light a pathway to liberation of personality. 

How it can change your life...

So, I've mentioned liberation of personality, what does this mean? How can we become free of our personality, if we all have one?

The Enneagram can help us decode decades of behaviour patterns in ourselves and others. It's powerful in helping us understand why we do what we do. Once we understand the why and how we do things, this tool highlights the pathway to new behaviours we can choose. Almost as though our nature no longer has a hold on us, because we now have a choice. 

For example, were you ever angry at yourself for acting or responding in a certain way? Could you see the unhelpful behaviour, but weren't able to stop behaving the same way? Have you ever had the feeling that you're 'hooked' or 'triggered'? That you feel like you have no choice in how you respond?

Through the wisdom of the Enneagram, you can find new ways to respond and obtain a deeper awareness of why you react the way you do. The Enneagram simply reinforces that Awareness which is a key factor to developing ourselves and personal growth, as has been noted by many spiritual teachers and gurus. 

At our Enneagram Workshops, we introduce you to the concepts of awareness, and give you some helpful models for practising awareness and inviting awareness into your daily life. In a safe group environment throughout our workshop series, we dive deep into the framework. We begin the journey by learning the 9 types of personality and we discuss how our three centres contribute to how we filter the world. Modo's Enneagram training invites you to discover yourself in this profound system. Check out Enneagram Part 1 here. 


  • The Enneagram can help you understand why you do what you do.
  • Cultivate a greater self-awareness through the Enneagram.
  • Modo's Workshops dive into Enneagram knowledge and practices. 
  • Try a Modo Enneagram Workshop to deepen your self-awareness.

Where did it come from?

There is not a single truth or source for the origin of the Enneagram. Being that many different scholars and sages have developed it over time, all who have contributed their own wisdom. So this next part is for those who enjoy piecing together multiple streams of history. Here is a brief timeline of how it came to be in our world today. The philosophy behind the Enneagram has many influences. We see connections from Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, even Taoism, mystical Judaism and ancient Greek philosophy. The Enneagram could be considered secular in nature and although it includes wisdom from ancient traditions it doesn't require religious background or education to understand the wisdom that it holds. Below is a basic history of the Enneagram, if you would like a more in depth look at its history, then read our blog The History of the Enneagram.

570 - 450 B.C.

We can trace the symbol back to the Greek Philosopher Pythagoras. This is also where we reveal the meaning of the word Enneagram. Since it is composed of two Greek words, ennea (nine) and gramma (something written or drawn).  


George Gurdjieff reintroduced this ancient symbol in the early 1900's. He taught his own philosophy through the use of sacred dances and symbols. According to Gurdjieff, the Enneagram is "the fundamental hieroglyph of a universal language" and his work is titled with another name - The Fourth Way Enneagram. According to Gurdjieff, the Enneagram shows the universal Laws of Seven and Three. 


In the 1960's Oscar Ichazo developed the Enneagram of Personality. He began using the Enneagram symbol in his teaching at Arica Institute which is a not for profit aimed at the human potential movement. Ichazo designed his teachings to help people transcend their identification with — and the suffering caused by — the mechanistic thoughts and behaviour patterns of their personalities.

1990's - Present Day

Indeed there are many present day contributors to the work of the Enneagram. Of special note is Russ Hudson and Don Riso. They published the Riso-Hudson Type Indicator Survey (RHETI) together. The RHETI is a question based, scientifically validated test. This Enneagram test is quite useful when discovering your Enneagram type for the first time. We highly recommend beginning your reading journey with The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson.  

If you're ready to explore more authors, I also recommend Ginga Lapid Bogda, for a look at the Enneagram in Business, or  Sandra Maitri to deeply explore the spiritual aspects of the Enneagram. 

This is a very brief and incomplete list, there are many accomplished authors on the Enneagram and there is such a vast history behind the Enneagram that we couldn't hope to represent it here fully. There are many more people who have contributed to the work. This is why we've written a blog - Further Reading on the Enneagram.


In conclusion, ancient philosophy and modern day psychology support the framework of the Enneagram. With the wisdom of these two areas combined we get a framework like no other - a framework that helps us understand ourselves and others like never before.

The Enneagram takes Modo's coaching and training with you to the next level. This means you get a deeper understanding of yourself when you choose to work with us. Are you ready to take a look inside? Are you ready to discover what gifts you have to offer this world? Then we invite you to join us on this journey. We hope to share with you how the Enneagram can bring a deeper sense of self awareness, and light the path to freedom from personality.

Find out more about Modo's Enneagram Pathway and reserve your seat today!

Donna Woodrow

Donna takes a genuine interest in the collective and personal growth of the human race and its individuals. Donna is a seeker who loves to travel and invests considerable time in her own personal growth. Donna is a professional coach and trainer, experienced Enneagram facilitator and the Managing Director and Partner of Modo Coaching & Training.

Donna Woodrow

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