5 Things People Get Wrong About The Enneagram System

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.
5 Things People Get Wrong About The Enneagram System

Image by mbg Creative x Delmaine Donson / iStock

The Enneagram has become a popular assessment these days, but with its popularity can come a lot of unfounded misunderstandings.

The Enneagram can be a liberating personality system to learn more about yourself. While most personality tests typically box people in, the Enneagram does the reverse with its intense level of engagement. It doesn't call people out as much as it calls people in to find self-awareness. The Enneagram symbol, or diagram, reveals how we can move toward transcendental transformation and how we can also get trapped in suffering of our own making. 

Here are a few facts clarifying the things people typically get wrong about the Enneagram system: 

1. You can't change your Enneagram type.

Many Enneagram teachers believe that our number in inborn, and it's forged and solidified during pivotal development years (ages 4 to 5) in our childhood. 

Once these patterns have been created and repeated enough, these entrenched habits of dealing with the world form into an ego fixation that continues to shape our fears, motivations, and how we relate to the world. 

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2. No types are better than others.

The Enneagram numbers are value-neutral, so having a small or a big number doesn't mean anything. The same goes for the names associated with the number, such as "The Reformer," "The Loyalist," or "The Enthusiast." The labels are oversimplications of a very rich archetype. 

Ultimately, there isn't an Enneagram type that's inherently better, or worse, or something to reject or strive toward since all of the types are equally dealing with their own unique pain points and limitations. 

3. You have only one type, but you'll be influenced by many others.

We will primarily inhabit one core personality type throughout our lifetime. However, because the Enneagram symbol is an interconnected structure and the nine archetypes represent varying perspectives, it's normal and expected to experience and act out patterns of the other numbers. 

Your type is also influenced by variables, like your Enneagram wings and triads, which wield a tremendous amount of influence. Since the Enneagram figure is focused on dynamism and movement, your primary type has lines and arrows connected to "stretch" and "release" embodiment points that serve to offer alternative options. As a result, you can take on and adopt the healthy and unhealthy qualities from other Enneagram types. 

For example, when people-pleasing Twos feel like they're being taken advantage of, they can move down to their Eight "stretch" point to have the confidence (and aggression) in expressing their anger and demands. Likewise, when they're moving toward positive growth, they access their Four "release" point, wherein they can tap into their desire for individuality and focus on their own needs. In both scenarios, depending on their health level, they have the capacity to go into the high and/or the low sides of those numbers. 

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4. Your type isn't here to box you in.

After reading about their Enneagram type, people can begin to over-identify with the qualities and take them as truth ("I'm a Four; it's OK that I'm always sad") instead of what it's intended to be: a reminder that we can make different choices to expand and grow. When we are aware of the whys behind our unconscious beliefs and its relationship to our childhood wounds, we can wake up to those unhealthy, psychological coping strategies. 

That's why promoting typist behavior can be harmful; it wrongly claims that we can't evolve from our number. By learning from the Enneagram as a whole and from a place of fluidity, we can avoid narrowly framed stereotypes. 

5. You can't use your type to explain away your bad behavior.

While you have a type, that does not mean that you are your type. The Enneagram is not fixed and static. It's a spacious personality framework that gives you plenty of space to develop into a more actualized individual who is aware of their behaviors, good and bad. 

The point of the Enneagram is to enter into a powerful growth journey that aims to empower you, not trap you. The system lifts the cover behind our mental stutters, forgotten parts, and deep wounds to illuminate a healthy path forward.

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