Once you learn about the Enneagram, how do you determine your type?
There are three basic approaches to discerning type, but before mentioning those I want to emphasize that our type is ours to bring forward. Because the shaping of our type is partially confirmed to us though the experience of our Original or Childhood Wound, learning about our type can be painful to our memories and humiliating to our ego.
So it’s worse than a “party foul” to type someone; it is an intrusion or an overreach. It’s also an indication that someone doesn’t understand the power and potential of the Enneagram. Moving beyond a caricature of personality traits to understand the essence behind type unearths the true offering of the Enneagram: access to incredible transformation. Until someone is ready for that, their thin understanding of the Enneagram can lead to more harm than good.
So please be careful not to “out” someone’s type, even if you believe you’re helping someone you think has mistyped; their type is really theirs to discover and theirs to share when they feel ready to do so.
When attempting to determine your type, the most popular approach is taking one of numerous Enneagram tests. Many free Enneagram tests are available online, and most of them are a suitable start to exploring what your type might be. However, if an online test is your preferred method of typing, I’d suggest paying for the Enneagram Institute’s RHETI test because it is widely regarded as the most accurate, thorough, and time-tested.
Though online Enneagram tests are readily accessible, some experts advise against them for a variety of reasons, including racial, national, ethnic, or cultural biases built into the assumptions of the questions contained within a test.
Another caution is our human tendency to “test” the test, to try to force an outcome by answering questions based on hoped-for results. If you approach an Enneagram test in this manner you will not get an accurate analysis.
Finally, another common caution is that a lack of self-awareness could lead you to answer questions based on who you wish you were, who you want to be, or even how you think other people see you.
If you do end up taking an online Enneagram test, you may find that the way the results are compiled is confusing. At nearly every workshop I teach, I hear someone suggest they are a “Seven with a Four wing” or a “Two with a Nine wing” (both impossible, as these types do not live next to each other on the circle, and both lead to confusion, not clarity, about type). Many of the online tests produce outcomes that require the testee to appeal to a professional to translate the results, which sometimes requires additional financial commitment. I generally advise people to consider only their top result when reviewing the results of their tests. If the primary type isn’t accurate, then try another test or another method of determining your type.
Meet with a Trained Professional
A second approach to determining your type is meeting with someone trained in conducting typing process interviews. Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition offers an excellent typing process training that produces capable conversation partners who have been equipped with the skills to guide an interviewee through a series of questions that allows them to bring forward their own type through self-reflection and self-discovery.
A typing interview can last up to an hour and may require payment to the professional conducting the interview. A typing interview is particularly beneficial if you are stuck between two types and can’t figure out which is your dominant type. In an interview format, the professional helps an interviewee navigate through common mistyping pairs for clarity and type discernment.
Do Your Own Research
Finally, most experts agree that if you are honest with yourself and courageous enough to explore the borderlands of your own psyche, then merely reading the thick descriptions of each of the nine types will be a sufficient method for determining your type. As you read through the materials, the type you feel most exposed by or most uncomfortable with is usually the one that ends up being yours. Doing your own research requires a level of maturity that assumes self-awareness and truthfulness. Because these assumptions are critical to an accurate self-typing process, many of the Enneagram’s experts have cautioned people against exploring the Enneagram until they’ve reached their thirties.
Personally, I don’t think age needs to be a determining factor in this process. As noted earlier, we’ve seen rapid evolution in human
consciousness, and people are experiencing their “middle passage” (the Jungian term for what is often colloquially referred to as a “midlife crisis”) earlier and more frequently than in past generations. As people come into a deeper awareness of self at younger ages, or bump around the bottom of life making tragic and painful mistakes earlier in life, they seem to be capable of discerning their type at younger ages as well.
Regardless of how you find your type, your personal discovery of your own type is the key to opening the sacred map of the Enneagram and beginning your journey home.
Adapted from The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz.
Learn more about the Enneagram by reading What Is the Enneagram