Out of the Box Coaching and
Breakthroughs with the Enneagram, Mary R. Bast, Ph.D. 
Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. Revised: October 08, 2013 





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MBTI and Enneagram -
Their Relationship and Complementary Use
Tom Flautt and John Richards (with permission)

Origin and Rationale

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 typology, or 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 different.

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.





Functional level thinking & reflecting affecting & being affected instincts & habits
Other names intellectual, thinking, doing center emotional, feeling center instinctive, moving, or vital center
Process 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
Inner experience experience being reflective and to act with considerable deliberation 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!
Time focus future present past

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:

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Enneagram Type Descriptions

  1. Reformer: rational idealistic type; reasonable, principled, orderly, perfectionist and self-righteous.

  2. Helper: caring, nurturing type; concerned, generous, well-meaning, possessive, and manipulative.

  3. Motivator: success-oriented, pragmatic type; adaptable, ambitious, goal-oriented, image conscious,
    and arrogant.

  4. Individualist: sensitive, withdrawn type; intuitive, artistic, aesthetic, self-absorbed, and depressive.

  5. Thinker: cerebral analytic type; perceptive, original, innovative, provocative, and eccentric.

  6. Loyalist: committed, traditionalistic type; engaging, responsible, hardworking, cautious, and anxious.

  7. Enthusiast: hyperactive, uninhibited type; enthusiastic, accomplished, versatile, excessive, and manic.

  8. Leader: powerful, dominating type; self-confident, decisive, challenging, authoritative, and combative.

  9. Mediator: easygoing, phlegmatic type; receptive, optimistic, complacent, tolerant, and disengaged.

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 presented below.

Enneagram Type

Number in Group

Associated MBTI Types(I)

I > 1 and p .05

Associated Preferences & Temperaments



ISTJ(3.2), ESTJ(2.6)

I, S, T, J, SJ



ESFJ(2.8), ENFJ(2.7), ISFP(1.8), ESFP(1.8), ENFP(1.6), ISFJ(1.5)




ENTJ (3.2), ENTP (3.2)

E, T, NT



INFP(5.1), INFJ(2.9)




INTP(4.3), INTJ(3.7), ISTP(3.5), ISTJ(1.8)




ISFJ(6.1), ISTJ(1.8)

I, S, J, SJ



ESTP(4.6), ENTP(4.6), ENFP(3.1), ESFP(2.8)

E, N, P



ESTJ(5.5), ENTJ(4.1)




ISFP(9.1), INFP(3.8)


Some Generalizations for Relating the Enneagram and MBTI Data

  1. Each Enneagram Type can be correlated with several MBTI types and vice versa. 

  2. 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. 

  3. Each system complements the other. 

  4. In 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 complicated—many 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 pragmatic issues.


  • 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.

  • Palmer, Helen. The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

  • Palmer, Helen. The Enneagram in Love and Work. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.

  • 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 Company, 1990.

 Comparison Of Myers-Briggs and Enneagram Typologies




Origins Jung--20's, Myers & Briggs 40's, Instrument 60's. Gurdjieff, Ichazo, Naranjo--late 60's
Number of Types



Describes Mostly conscious behavior--4 components--Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/iNtuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving. 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.
Instrument MBTI overwhelmingly used--validated by psychological test criteria Several--none validated using psychological testing criteria.
How taught Theory, behavior descriptions, exercises, panels Description of behavior (positive & negative), traits and motives; panels
Applications 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 Growth path related to "balance" --development of less favored preferences Specific growth path part of theory
Development issues Can work on preferences directly; development of less preferred functions Suggestions based on healthy/unhealthy model, and going beyond personality
Degree of conscious control Mostly under conscious control, especially two favorite functions Difficult to go "beyond personality" directly--to work on unconscious motives.
Spiritual issues 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
Key Question How does a person behave? Why does a person behave in a certain way ?

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