My brother is an eight on the enneagram scale—which is to say that he shares the same number as Donald Trump and is fiercely loyal, creates his own reality, and believes in most every situation that he knows best. I didn’t always know that my brother was an eight, but I’ve always had to deal with his overbearing, overreaching certainty.
As kids, he would borrow money from me—and then, several days later, say that I owed him money. He would regularly complain that our parents didn’t treat him fairly, and he was quick to pick a verbal fight. He would stick up for me at school, but ignore me or pick on me at home.
When I discovered that my brother was an eight, my life transformed. I no longer blamed him for his behavior—and I was, instead, compassionate for him, realizing that his job (should he choose to accept it) was to evolve within the enneagram eight archetype. It wasn’t my job to change, fix, or otherwise have him be even one bit different than he was.
So, when my parents passed, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when my brother wanted most of the inheritance. I didn’t have to bend with or resist his wishes; I could, instead, not respond to his predictable grab and wish him well.
When I first met the enneagram, an ancient categorization tool composed of nine numbers and personality traits associated with them, I already had a degree in psychology and philosophy. I was hip deep in learning about Neuro Linguistic Programming, Other than Conscious Communication, and I wasn’t interested in one more self-help tool.
Besides, the people I met who “knew” the enneagram treated it more like a belief system or mental construct, rather than a powerful way to love more fully and discover compassion for brothers, lovers, mothers, and others. They didn’t know the dynamic power of what they had, nor did they enrich their own lives with it.
The first enneagram teacher I met was himself a six—a thinker—driven by intelligence and fear, always attempting to understand everything. He mislabeled me as an eight. Luckily, the enneagram is dynamic, and discovering one’s own number is the beginning of the benefits it offers—not the end.
I tried unsuccessfully to be an eight for several months, but it just wasn’t happening for me. But one day, while walking up a flight of stairs at a friend’s home in California, I realized that I am an enneagram one. At that time, a couple of decades ago, I had rules for everything and everyone. I was a martyr, tirelessly attempting to make the world a better place and wearing myself out in the process.
To evolve as a one, I needed to relax, lighten up, and let go. Laughing was medicine for me, and so was not taking things so seriously. I could still attempt to save the world, because that was my nature, but I could do so with levity.
Finding your number.
You can take a test online to approximate your enneagram type. And the test might even give you the “right” number. But don’t stop there—use the test as a launching pad for self discovery, not as an answer.
Get curious about why people do the things they do—what makes them tick and what makes them tock. Become an amateur therapist and loving explorer of human kindness. Use the enneagram to fill in the blanks with the bright colors of others and to discover the roots of personal compassion.
No need to become an enneagram-ass, attempting to lock yourself or others into particular categories. Instead, consider the enneagram to be a flowing, evolving, and dynamic way to learn about self and others.
Enneagram and parents.
Discovering that I was a one quickly lead to the realizing that my mother and her father were ones as well. I came from a long line of ones, and it explained a lot about my grandfather’s seriousness and need to teach—and my mother’s soft-hearted attempts to shape everyone around her into the best people they could be, while always imagining that she could be better.
The enneagrams of your parents have played a vital role in who you are and how you relate to others. My mother, as I have said, was a one. My father was a deep thinking island of a man, an enneagram five, who knew much but spoke little. We all wished he would speak more, but the only time he would open up was with strangers.
Visiting home, my mother and I would chat non-stop, while my father would retreat to the garden by himself. When I realized that he was an enneagram five, I joined him in the garden, quietly weeding tomato plants and picking Swiss chard. I let him speak when he was ready, and our relationship transformed before my eyes.
The enneagram unlocked our love, making us good friends with respect for our many individual differences.
Get curious about your parents and siblings enneagram numbers.
Enneagram and kids.
My daughter is an enneagram two, and my son is a nine. They deserve to be treated equally and very differently. My daughter always wants to help and will stretch herself so thin, she breaks down with too many people to contribute to and too little time. My son, as a nine, can play video games all day long and seeks peace while avoiding confrontation. He has a sense of humor that won’t quit, but at the same time, he can hibernate for days without the human contact my daughter demands.
Parenting often isn’t easy, but the enneagram makes it more fun and an ongoing revelation. It doesn’t make relating a paint by number, but offers intimacy and connection without a whole lot of effort. I home-schooled both of my kids, and due to their different numbers, celebrated, rather than resisted, their differences.
Enneagram of relationship.
I am wildly attracted to enneagram fours, but don’t seem to be able to live with them. Their drama and artistic nature lures me in—but then, when I attempt to “fix” them, they don’t appreciate it. Before discovering the enneagram, I spent many fruitless years chasing enneagram fours.
Any two enneagram numbers can get along, fall in love, and live together. But there are likely certain numbers that attract you and other ones that repel.
Could be you like talking to a six, sleeping with a nine, and sharing quality time with a one, while going to Six Flags or dinner with an enneagram seven. Learning the types—and your proclivities for one over another—makes relating easier, exciting, and way more fun.
Integrating the enneagram.
The enneagram is a powerful, practical tool for getting to know yourself and others. Knowing your waiters/waitresses enneagram makes dinner more delightful.
Your bosses enneagram number is the combination to unlocking your ability to work well together, and your spouse’s number contains the keys to living together and better sex.
Learn the enneagram through practical application, and you will find yourself celebrating individual differences, being more intimate, and experiencing all that other people have to offer.
The enneagram can help us make the most of our earthly differences on the way back to our divine wholeness.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina