Origin and Rationale
MBTI and Enneagram -
and Complementary Use
Tom Flautt and John
Originally the Enneagram was taught by secret oral tradition. At first it was used
for spiritual development. More recently it has "gone public"
with numerous books, workshops, and applications. Is this a lasting important
is it merely the typology of the moment? In some ways people who use the Enneagram are
similar to those who developed MBTI. There is great enthusiasm, new applications are
being developed, new publications are being offered, and the first international
conference was held in 1995, with over 1000 participants. In other ways it is very
Why do we need another typology system, particularly one built on a system of 9 types?
The hypothesis which seems to fit the two systems is that each system measures a different
part of our mental apparatus which Jung calls the psyche.
MBTI appears to be concerned
with the conscious, cognitive part of the psyche, while the Enneagram is focused on
unconscious, motivating forces in the depths of the psyche, perhaps associated
with its archetypal structure. The two systems come at the psyche in two contrasting ways.
The MBTI starts with the assumption that there are four sets of fundamental choices,
E/I, S/N, T/F, J/P, each of which are equally good. The description for each of the 16
types is presented in mostly a positive light. There is an emphasis on goodness: different
styles and patterns, but the overall focus is on positive attributes. Only after one has
learned the basic system does attention go to the negative attributes of a
personality, for example, when in the grip of the inferior function.
The early teachers of the Enneagram started with a consideration of negative behavior.
In fact some related the different styles to the "Seven Deadly Sins" of the
Christian tradition plus two additional "Sins" of Deceit and Fear. The learner
may be asked to choose their chief fault, which lies at the basis of their life
script. In Jungian terms, it's as though how we structure our Shadow archetype describes
the underlying motives of our life. Enneatype descriptions can range from extremely
healthy (noble or altruistic) to extremely unhealthy (psychotic).
Theory of the Enneagram:
Centers of Intelligence
The nine different Enneagram types arise from a consideration of three centers of
intelligence: the Head, the Heart, and the Gut (or Instinct). These may be thought of as
the basic "functions" for the Enneagram. It's been suggested that they
correspond to three parts of the brain which represent evolutionary stages: the reptilian,
the early mammalian, and the late mammalian. The Instinctual center consists of action
processes (doing, being active or passive, power). The Heart center consists of relational
processes (caring, loving, influencing, accepting, rejecting, affiliation, affects). The
Head center is the home of the mental processes; for example, the Jungian functions of
Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, and Intuiting.
||thinking & reflecting
||affecting & being affected
||instincts & habits
||intellectual, thinking, doing center
||emotional, feeling center
||instinctive, moving, or vital center
||to step back from reality as perceived and to reconstruct it
according to some pattern or meaning
||way of experiencing personal encounter with others
||concerned with being, moves spontaneously, often in
relationship to an external stimulus
||experience being reflective and to act with considerable
||to experience a personal encounter with others (or one's
self)--to be aware of motivations
||experience of being in one's body and letting one's body
react to a present situation
|Attitude on entering a gathering
||How does this all fit together?
||Are you going to like me or not?
||Here I am; deal with me!
Each center can not only
act for itself, but also take the place of another function.
This gives each center a certain autonomy. In the Enneagram personality types, the ego
consciousness has chosen a particular center as the way to be a person to the
detriment of the functioning of the other two processes. This results in an imbalance in
functioning as a human being. Ideally the three centers are used interdependently with
each center used for its own functioning in any given situation. This amounts to accepting
one's whole human essence; no one center predominates by regularly substituting its
functioning for that of one or both of the other centers. To choose one center as the way
to express personality disrupts the inner harmony of energy, narrows down the experience
of being a person and creates an imbalance or awkwardness. Instead of dwelling in each of
the centers according to what's appropriate in the circumstances and using their mutual
functioning like a team, the ego consciousness causes people to identify with some one
center and to make its functioning predominate as the way to experience life and
be themselves. [This probably happens because it's difficult or impossible to develop
more than one center at a time. A choice must be made as consciousness is developed in the
young child. The situation would be similar to the hypothesis that one of the Myers-Briggs
functions is developed first: the dominant function.]
Each of the three centers has three Enneagram types associated with it. The Gut center
is preferred by Enneatypes 8,9,1; the Heart center is preferred by
Enneatypes 2,3,4; the Head center is preferred by Enneatypes 5,6,7.
From the Centers to the Types
We can get to the final differentiation of the 9 types by considering another principle
of separation: the three personality stances first described by
Karen Horney. In her
system, there are three groups of people, those who are assertive (moving against people),
those who are compliant (moving towards or dealing with people), and those who are
withdrawn (moving away from people). In each of the Centers there is one
type corresponding to each of these three preferences. For example in the Head center,
7 represents assertive, 6 compliant, and 5 withdrawn types:
Enneagram Type Descriptions
Reformer: rational idealistic type; reasonable, principled, orderly,
perfectionist and self-righteous.
Helper: caring, nurturing type; concerned, generous, well-meaning, possessive, and
success-oriented, pragmatic type; adaptable, ambitious,
goal-oriented, image conscious,
sensitive, withdrawn type; intuitive, artistic,
aesthetic, self-absorbed, and depressive.
cerebral analytic type; perceptive, original,
innovative, provocative, and eccentric.
committed, traditionalistic type; engaging, responsible,
hardworking, cautious, and anxious.
hyperactive, uninhibited type; enthusiastic,
accomplished, versatile, excessive, and manic.
powerful, dominating type; self-confident, decisive,
challenging, authoritative, and combative.
Mediator: easygoing, phlegmatic type; receptive, optimistic, complacent, tolerant,
Correlation Data Between MBTI
and Enneagram Typologies
A research study was undertaken using members of the APT. This group was chosen because
it was thought they had a good understanding of their own MBTI type. An instrument for
sorting Enneatypes developed by John Richards was sent to over 1500 people in response to
our article in the Bulletin of Psychological Type. The results here represent
responses from 964 people. The correlation of MBTI and Enneagram types was measured using
a SRTT program developed by CAPT. This program calculates selection ratios (I) and
identifies those which are statistically significant. A summary of the correlation data is
Number in Group
Associated MBTI Types(I)
I > 1 and p £ .05
Associated Preferences &
I, S, T, J, SJ
ISFP(1.8), ESFP(1.8), ENFP(1.6), ISFJ(1.5)
ENTJ (3.2), ENTP (3.2)
E, T, NT
I, S, J, SJ
E, N, P
Some Generalizations for Relating
the Enneagram and MBTI Data
Each Enneagram Type can be correlated with several MBTI types and vice versa.
The relationship between the two personality systems is complex. Some Enneagram ego
states are concentrated in one or two MBTI types. Others have a nearly equal distribution
of the MBTI types.
Each system complements the other.
describing Enneagram types it's useful to take into
account the various MBTI preferences; for example,
Extraverted Fives, Thinking Fours, and Perceiving Ones.
Advantages and Limitations
of Each Typology System and When to Use
The major advantages of the MBTI typology are 1) its origins are more clearly in
line with accepted psychology (Jung and Myers-Briggs); 2) it uses a psychologically
validated instrument; 3) it has well-developed applications, especially career
counseling, management and team building; 4) powerful exercises have been developed
to demonstrate the theory; 5) it's widely accepted by counselors, business, and
education. The disadvantages of this approach are 1) it's complicatedmany people
report difficulty remembering each of the 16 type descriptions; 2) it
measures the part of the psyche relating to consciousness and cognitive behavior, not
motivations; 3) so many people have been exposed to Myers-Briggs typology, they
think "been there, done that;" 4) the results of the instrument can be taken
literally to label people.
The major advantages of the Enneagram typology are 1)
it's easier to remember the key
motivations of 9 Enneatypes than the description of 16 Myers-Briggs types, 2)
it's a relatively new system that's attractive because of its novelty, 3) self-development/personal growth is an integral part of the theory, 4) use for organizational
development or team building brings a new perspective to these subjects, 5) it has
been shown to be very engaging and helpful for people interested in spiritual development.
The major disadvantages are 1) the origins come from obscure esoteric "teachers of
wisdom" who've been secretive about this system, 2) there's no common terminology
or description for each of the 9 Enneagram types, 3) there's no validated instrument.
Ideally speaking, both systems should be used to complement each other, enabling a
better comprehension of the psyche. This approach might be used in situations where one is
being counseled about personal development, or an in-depth study about relationships.
However, in many cases it will be possible to use only one or the other because of
Baron, Renee and Elizabeth Wagele.
The Enneagram Made Easy. San Francisco, CA.
Harper SanFrancisco, 1994.
Baron, Renee and Elizabeth Wagele.
Are You My Type, Am I Yours, San Francisco,
CA. HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.
Beesing, Maria, Robert J Nogosek, and Patrick H. O'Leary. The Enneagram: a Journey of
Self Discovery, Denville, NJ. Dimension Books, Inc., 1984.
Hurley, Kathleen V., and Theodore E. Dobson. What's My Type?, San Francisco, CA:
Harper San Francisco, 1992.
The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life. San
Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.
The Enneagram in Love and Work. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco,
Riso, Don R with Hudson, Russ. Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for
Self-Discovery, Revised Edition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
Rohr, Richard and Andreas Ebert.
Discovering The Enneagram. Crossroad Publishing
Comparison Of Myers-Briggs
and Enneagram Typologies
||Jung--20's, Myers & Briggs 40's, Instrument 60's.
|Number of Types
||Mostly conscious behavior--4
components--Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/iNtuition, Thinking/Feeling,
||Attitudes and Behavior-relating to three centers--mental,
emotional and instinctive
|Character of Type Descriptions
||Mostly positive--stressing that each type has advantages and
disadvantages which make each type of equal value.
||Healthy & Unhealthy attitudes and behaviors,
traditionally focus on personality defects
|Internal structure of the Types
||Each type is composed of four sets of four bipolar choices.
||Each Type can be related to one of three
"intelligences", i.e. Head, Heart, Gut.
||MBTI overwhelmingly used--validated by psychological test
||Several--none validated using psychological testing criteria.
||Theory, behavior descriptions, exercises, panels
||Description of behavior (positive & negative), traits and
||Personal understanding, career counseling, management
training most developed. Spirituality less developed.
||Personal understanding growth and spirituality most
developed. Organizational and management training less developed
||Growth path related to "balance" --development of
less favored preferences
||Specific growth path part of theory
||Can work on preferences directly; development of less
||Suggestions based on healthy/unhealthy model, and going
|Degree of conscious control
||Mostly under conscious control, especially two favorite
||Difficult to go "beyond personality" directly--to
work on unconscious motives.
||Some guidance for different types of prayer and worship
services. Not as clear about interior practices
||Dealt with directly--model is based on "seven deadly
sins" Meditation found to be useful for "going beyond personality".
|Origin of the Types in a particular individual
||Primarily genetic--like handedness. The expression may be
influenced by family and cultural environment
||Primarily genetic, with "health" determined from
early childhood relationships
How does a person behave?
Why does a person behave in a certain way ?
More About the Enneagram
More About the MBTI