IS THE ENNEAGRAM PERSONALITY, CHARACTER OR EGO STRUCTURE?
The Enneagram, a profound way of understanding people from all cultures, describes the nine fundamental architectures of human beings. Although the Enneagram is often referred to as a personality system, it is far more than that. The Enneagram is also more than character structure. Both personality and character refer to persistent features of human behavior; the nine Enneagram types represent nine distinct aspects of the human Ego.
What is personality?
Personality exists in the domain of empirical psychology – that is, research and theory based in the field of applied psychology – and as such, personality represents a set of traits and behaviors capable of being measured. For example, traits and behaviors such as introversion, ambition, agreeableness and sociability can be both observed and, with some degree of objectivity, measured.
The nine Enneagram types are not nine sets of distinct traits or behaviors. In fact, several Enneagram types may have some similar traits and behaviors – for example, being hardworking or being sociable-relational – but the particular ways in which they demonstrate these traits and, more importantly, the motivations driving these traits are categorically different.
What is character structure?
Character structure refers to aspects of a person that go deeper than personality and typically involves qualities to which we assign positive or negative values – for example, kind or cruel, honest or dishonest, having integrity or being deceptive. Character falls more into the domain of philosophy, qualities of the inner life that have a moral component and are also more subjective and, therefore, harder to measure.
The Enneagram is closer to character structure than personality, but the Enneagram types are not character in the sense described above. In general, each Enneagram type has positive and negative qualities. However, positive and negative qualities do not mean good or bad in a moral sense; they are simply aspects of a person that they and others may like or dislike or that support or hinder them. In addition, the positive and negative characteristics have specific meanings related to that type; the meaning of the characteristics can only be accurately understood in the entire construct for that type.
As an example, Enneagram 3s are described as “deceitful,” but this does not mean that they chronically lie or that they are more deceptive than the other Enneagram types. Deceit, in this context, refers to how Enneagram 3s hide parts of themselves from themselves, as well as others, and that these hidden parts are qualities that do not conform to the 3’s self-image as a successful, competent, and capable person. Taken in context, “deceit” for 3s is more about self-deception or not being honest with oneself, although it does impact what they share with others.
Part 2 blog in this series focuses on what exactly is Ego-structure from both a psychological and spiritual perspective.
The Art of Typing | This blog is an adapted excerpt from Ginger Lapid-Bogda’s new book, The Art of Typing: Powerful Tools for Enneagram Typing. In it, you’ll find infographics of the 9 different Enneagram Ego- structures, insightful questions and delightful illustrations to help differentiate between types, and other important factors to consider: overlays such as family, culture and gender, Centers of Intelligence, wings and arrows, Enneagram subtypes, and more.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com. firstname.lastname@example.org