This is a fantastic article. All creds to Joanna Roddy. Make sure to check out all the bloggish awesomeness at Project Mayhem.
The Enneagram for character development by Joanna Roddy
I have to confess, I put little stock in personality tests. They seem too generic, like magazine horoscopes that, with a little finagling, could apply to anyone. The tests are fun to take, but they’re more like acceptable vanity exercises. Only the saints and psychologists among us really dig into understanding types other than their own. At best we say: “Oh you’re an INFJ? I’m an ENFJ!” and remark on our shared traits and the differences between introverts and extroverts.
But recently a psychologist friend introduced me to a personality system she uses in her practice, and I have found it incredibly helpful, both personally and in my relationships. Recently I decided to use it in my writing as well. I was having a hard time making certain characters distinct and clear. Using this system, two-dimensional characters suddenly popped up off the page. I began to understand what motivated them, how they would react in situations, what they might say (or not say), what vice they might gravitate toward, and what core virtue would emerge under the right circumstances. In short, it was character development magic.
The personality typing system is called the Enneagram, and it articulates nine personality types that are interrelated. In an extremely condensed form, here are the nine types and their core motivations:
Type 1: The Reformer/ Perfectionist. “I must be/ do right.”
Type 2: The Helper/ Giver. “I must help others.”
Type 3: The Achiever/ Motivator/ Performer. “I must succeed.”
Type 4: The Individualist/ Artist/ Romantic. “I must be unique.”
Type 5: The Observer/ Investigator/ Thinker. “I must understand the world around me.”
Type 6: The Loyalist/ Skeptic. “I must be secure.”
Type 7: The Enthusiast/ Adventurer. “I must seek new experiences.”
Type 8: The Challenger/ Leader. “I must be in control.”
Type 9: The Peacemaker/ Mediator. “I must have/make peace.”
Each personality type perceives these motivations as the means for them to be safe, to have meaning in their lives, or to be loved.
There are a lot more details to each type, like key fears and desires, and basic virtues and vices. Check out this cheat sheet from Wikipedia (click to enlarge):
What I like about the Enneagram is its nuance and complexity. We all know that a healthy or growing person and an unhealthy or stressed person behave in totally different ways, even if they share personality traits. The Enneagram predicts what traits emerge under stress and during personal growth. [Click here to continue with this awesome article! It is totally worth the read!]