In the last entry, we went through our introduction to the Enneagram. We looked at its history as well as its basic function. This week I want to talk more about the structure of the Enneagram and how the numbers all interact with each other.
Think of the color blue. My question is: which color blue did you think of? Royal blue? Sky blue? Navy blue? Or perhaps one of the other of infinite number of ways that the color blue can be expressed? Each number on the Enneagram is kind of like that. Your number is expressed in a way that is unique to you based on the interplay of a combination between what we call wings, subtypes and stress/security points.
A wing is the number on either side of your core number. So, for example, a type 4 would have either a 5 wing or a 3 wing. Your wing adds nuance to your core number. Some people lean very heavily into their wing while, for others, the wing is a very light seasoning. While we can draw from the energy of either wing, one wing will be predominant. Some scholars, like Richard Rohr, believe that we use one wing in the first half of life and add the other for balance in the second half of life.
Remember the Enneagram is about motivation, rather than behavior. Subtypes are how we further distill the fundamental values and instincts that drive our decision making. In the Enneagram, there are three subtypes for each number: a one-to-one subtype, a social subtype and a self-preservation subtype. Again, while we utilize each of these subtypes, one will be dominant. The order in which we tend to use these subtypes is another layer of nuance in our unique expression of our number.
Finally, there are stress and security points. Take another look at the Enneagram chart. Note that there are arrows pointing toward and away from each number. These arrows represent the number that a given type will resemble when that type is experiencing either stress or security. Arrows pointing away from a number indicate the stress point, while arrows pointing toward a number indicate a security point. For example, a type 7 experiencing stress will begin to resemble a type 1, but a type 7 experiencing security will resemble a type 5.
This may seem a little confusing due to the number of moving parts. However, as we begin to fill in details about each type, things will become much clearer. That's where we'll be headed next week.