What are enneagram personality types?

This girl isn't likely to fall into a personality type that values conformity.
This girl isn't likely to fall into a personality type that values conformity.

Throughout recorded history, writers and storytellers around the world have populated their myths, legends and adventures with distinct characters that each have specific traits. Regardless of the era or location of the tale's origin, heroic characters from one tale share traits with heroic characters from another tale, and the same holds true for the fool of the tale, the helpful assistant and the bad guys.

These archetypes (prototypes of different personalities and life paths) pop up again and again throughout ancient and modern storytelling, religion and even the naming of children (nobody names their son "Hunter" in hopes that he'll languish in middle management one day).

These archetypes can be found in Greek mythology, the Chinese zodiac and the enneagram personality types. What's an enneagram? It's a geometric figure consisting of a circle with nine points spread evenly along its circumference. The system of enneagram personality types uses the shape to define nine basic human personality types. The points connect in multiple ways to each other across the circle, showing personality subtypes for each variation within one of the nine primary personalities.

Though often passed off as "ancient knowledge," the personality types were actually developed fairly recently (though the enneagram shape itself has been around at least as long as Pythagoras).

The use of the enneagram shape with mystical concepts was introduced by George Gurdjieff, a spiritualist who founded a school for "inner work" in the early 20th century that featured the symbol in some rituals, as well as Sufi teachings (causing many to later mistake the enneagram personality types with Sufism). Gurdjieff didn't teach about personality types, but a student of his, Oscar Ichazo, eventually blended other teachings and insights he encountered in later years into a new system involving enneagram personality types, beginning in the 1960s.

Ichazo developed more than a hundred different enneagrams, categorizing nine different "Personality Types," "Holy Ideas," "Ego Fixations," "Passions," "Virtues" and so on. Since its invention, this system of personality types has been expanded upon and analyzed by spiritualists and psychotherapists alike.

Let's take a brief look at the different types.