What Are Your Enneagram Wings? Understanding Your Type On A Deeper Level

mbg Contributor By Julie Nguyen
mbg Contributor
Julie Nguyen is a relationship coach, Enneagram educator, and former matchmaker based in New York. She has a degree in Communication and Public Relations from Purdue University.
Enneagram Wings: How To Find Yours + Why They Matter

Graphic by Sharon Wong / mbg Creative x W2 PHOTOGRAPHY / Stocksy

The Enneagram is a powerful self-improvement tool that can be used to home in on the underlying ego fixations that motivate our actions. The complex system represents nine personality archetypes and the unconscious behaviors that each type deploys to make sense of the world. Determining your core Enneagram number is just the beginning of the journey; figuring out your Enneagram wing is the next step to see how it uniquely relates to your personality. 

What is an Enneagram wing?

"An Enneagram wing is the numbers directly on either side of your Enneagram type, i.e., the wings of a type Two are One and Three," Enneagram educator and coach Funlola Fagbohun, tells mbg. "We 'borrow' energy from our wing, which allows for a lot of dimension and personality to our overall Enneagram type. Borrowing energy shows up as resembling many of the qualities of the number that border our type."

For example, a Type Two's wings are One and Three. There is debate about whether every type is equally influenced by its two wings (known as two-wing theory) or if only one of your wings is the dominant wing that affects your personality (known as one-wing theory). In one-wing theory, a person's full Enneagram type is expressed with both their main type and associated wing together. So a Type Two could be a 2w1 (a Type Two with a One wing) or a 2w3 (a Type Two with a Three wing). 

A recent study from the American Journal of Psychiatry signals validity for both theories: "Individuals are generally more influenced by one wing than the other, although traits from both wings may emerge in response to different environments." In that way, wings can be seen as personality options that people can toggle between depending on their context and health level. 

"An Enneagram wing is the flavoring for the Enneagram. We always remain our main type, but the characteristics of either side flavor our personality," says Enneagram coach Myrna Cervetti. "A great way I've heard wings described is like using salt and pepper to flavor a dish. The main dish doesn't change, but adding varying degrees of salt and pepper affects the taste. Similarly, with our wings, too much of either can make even the tastiest dish—or in our case, healthiest type—inedible, but the right balance can enhance our enjoyment of it significantly."

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How to find your Enneagram wing.

Your Enneagram wings are the numbers on each side of your main Enneagram type. For example, Fours have Three and Five as wings—though one may be more dominant than the other. There are a few approaches to finding your more dominant Enneagram wing.

You could take a test online to receive a scored assessment that analyzes your results. The more dominant wing can be ascertained by looking for the higher score on either side of your basic type. A caveat though: While tests are a good starting point to see what types you naturally identify with, complete accuracy depends on your ability to see yourself clearly—warts and all. Since the test works in nuance, and variables like life stressors or mood can throw it off, it's not always the most accurate representation.

If the test doesn't provide clear results, self-typing is another method you can use to get closer to your true number. To self-type, read all of the nine Enneagram descriptions in detail to search for patterns and lived experiences you strongly identify with. Fagbohun shares the best way to determine your wing is to really look into the two types that border your main type.

Some questions to ask, according to Fagbohun: "What stands out to you? What parts of the type do you resonate with? Your wing will be the one you borrow the most energy from. It is possible to access both of your wings, but often one is dominant."

How much do Enneagram wings matter?

"Enneagram wings have a large effect on how your type shows up in the world and are just as important as your primary number. They add a lot of flavor and depth to your type and, depending on your wing, the overall profile can show up very differently," notes Fagbohun. 

By only knowing your Enneagram number, you will be working off of limited information. Finding out your preferred, dominant wing allows you to get into the granular details of your personality. For example, a Two is still empathetic and overly focused on helping others, but a Two with the perfectionistic energy of a One wing (2w1) will integrate principled integrity and a strong moral compass into their personality. As a result, they are infused with a stronger sense of duty, and their commitment to helping may be directed toward community and through amplifying social justice issues instead of just focusing on their loved ones. 

In comparison, a Two with the ambitious Three wing (2w3) is less concerned about morality and instead emphasizes traits like confidence and competency. This type won't be as oriented around service as they will be around image, but their goals remain the same. Twos still work on fulfilling other people's desires to get what they want since they fundamentally struggle with vocalizing their own needs. This is why people with the same core type can react differently in similar conditions because the wing lends influence to the situation.

Since the Enneagram system represents movement and growth, knowing your wing offers a wealth of context as you navigate across the system and do the inner work necessary to confront any compulsive habits that may be holding you back. 

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Does every Enneagram have a wing?

Yes! If you find yourself equally preferring both of your wings, Cervetti says it likely means you have found balance.

"A person can access either wing depending on what is needed in a moment," she notes. "Everyone uses their wings at different levels and can depend on circumstances. Most people rely on one wing more than the other, but there are some who are adequately balanced with both sides."

Do Enneagram wings change?

"Unlike your Enneagram type, which you only have one of, it is possible to borrow energy from both of your wings—there does tend to be a dominant wing, but that's not the case for everyone," says Fagbohun.

She further explains that it's dependent on your overall health and individual growth, and it's possible to see the dominant wing fluctuate from time to time. "People are multilayered and complex, and so are your wings. Your wing doesn't show up in a perfectly packaged box. Your wings are not meant to limit the type; instead, they expand the type."

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The bottom line.

"Wings influence the main type, both positively and negatively. Knowing your wing increases that self-awareness to strive for a healthy balance," Cervetti says.

Knowing your Enneagram wing will deepen your own self-knowledge and help you understand why you demonstrate specific behaviors when you're feeling secure or anxious. Sifting through the intricacies of Enneagram's psychodynamic framework can be a challenging process at times, but the wisdom that comes from your lessons can inspire you to step into a healthier way of being.

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