People (this means you) are infinitely complex and dynamic. No one human being is the same as another. That’s one of the wonders of life. So aren’t personality typing systems a futile waste of time? It’s true that no one can be summed up by a set of letters or a single number. That’s absurd. And yet, it’s informative to discover where you fit within these types, because you gain insight into who you are. What’s your underlying motivation? What lens do you view the world from? How does your perspective differ from that of others? What are your patterns? Your deepest desires? What makes you tick?

As a clinician, I sometimes employ the complex and fluid personality typing sy220px-enneagramstem of the ancient Enneagram. As anyone who delves into it discovers, a predominant type is attached to many others. Each type draws upon the 2 types on either side of it and also has lines of flow which lead to yet 2 other types, in times of stress or security. So, if you’re leery about being categorized as a single type, relax. Your dominant type will show you the handful of ways you tend to operate, not a single, predicatable way of being.

At a recent professional development program called The Enneagram for Psychotherapists, Karen Van Zino, a Stanford trained M.D, teacher and coach, offered a wonderful analogy. She likened the Enneagram to a Craftsman Tool Box with 9 drawers. The top drawer represents your dominant type, where all your go-to tools are stored, so you can use them easily and often. The next 2 drawers down symbolize the types on either side of your dominant type. These drawers contain tools you access regularly, but not as automatically as those in the top drawer. Below that are drawers 4 and 5, which contain the tools you’re most likely to use in times of extreme stress or security. The remaining 4 drawers at the bottom are full of tools available to you, although you don’t pick them up daily.

It’s reassuring that regardless of what drawer (or type) we favor, we freely access the myriad tools in all of them. For a glimpse into the 9 types, ask yourself: What’s your basic desire? To have integrity (1), to be loved (2), to be valuable (3), to be yourself (4), to be competent (5), to be secure (6), to be happy (7), to protect yourself (8), or to be at peace (9)? Discover your dominant type by taking the RHETI test at or investigating other recommended resources. Hold it lightly and have fun with your self-exploration.


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