The Many “I”s
The categorizing of personality under a group of different headings is commonly tried. There are a multitude of such schemes:
1. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): Based on Carl Jung’s work, the MBTI identifies 16 different personality types formed by four dichotomies: Introversion/Extraversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving. It emphasizes cognitive preferences and decision-making styles.
2. The Big Five: This asserts that there are five fundamental dimensions of personality: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. This system has some empirical support.
3. Temperament Theory: This is an ancient system (from Ancient Greece) with categories based on four temperaments: Choleric (energetic leaders), Sanguine (social and optimistic), Melancholic (analytical and introspective), and Phlegmatic (easygoing and adaptable).
4. Jungian Psychological Types: This system delves into archetypes and functions beyond introversion/extraversion. It explores eight cognitive functions and their interactions, engendering a complex map of the human psyche.
5. Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory: This identifies three psychic structures (id, ego, superego) and focuses on defense mechanisms and their impact on behavior.
6. Social and Cognitive Models: There is a variety. They consider social and cultural influences on personality. They explore individual roles within societies, cognitive biases, and how context shapes behavior.
7. Trait Theories: Again, there are more than one. They categorize personality based on various specific traits like assertiveness, anxiety, or empathy.
8. Genetic Personality Types: Bob Cooley’s 16 types based on the acupuncture meridians. (see this link for more details.)
None of these typing schemes relate to the enneagram.
The Enneagram of Personality
The one that does was introduced by Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranja, and proved to be immensely popular – with hundreds of thousands of books being sold and many many courses being taught over the Internet and in-person.
The question arises as to whether this typing scheme is:
b) useful in the Work.
It seems from the literature that the “personality enneagram” was created by putting three different centers (moving, emotional and intellectual) at the points of the enneagram triangle, and associating the adjacent points with those three centers.
Now, it is the case that an individual’s personality is likely to emphasize one of those three centers, as carved out by the experiences of one’s life. So it seems likely that you could build personality profiles based on those centers and, perhaps, even the three parts (moving, emotional and intellectual) of each of those centers to give you 9 types.
Doing this provides a general categorization to which descriptors can be attached, as shown in this diagram: Enneagram-Personality. It only remains to create a long and detailed questionnaire of questions that will help to categorize someone according to the nine types, and you have a scheme that is likely to have a general accuracy.
This personality scheme can be and is further elaborated by adding narratives to explain the 1-4-2-8-5-7 inner circulation of the personality enneagram.
So it may indeed have some accuracy, but not a particularly precise one.
It is hard to find a use for this typing scheme in the Work. Individuals in the Work observe their personality – but not from the perspective of some classification. They do so on a habit-by-habit basis, endeavoring to replace the unhelpful and negative habits with more useful ones. However, that’s not the main objection to these personality types. The main problem seems to be that people identify with these types and may even be proud that they are a “5” or an “8”, when in respect of the Work, it doesn’t and cannot matter.
Personality types are A influence. In my view they are probably not a correct use of the Enneagram because they do not mark out the workings of a true cosmos. At best, they are an entertainment.