For a “heart-centered” type, I’m actually quite scientific-minded, and I believe it’s important to look at everything with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism. I also truly believe that personality tests can be helpful when you take it and look at your strengths and weaknesses, as well as when you take it all with a grain of salt.
So I don’t want you to think that I’m blasting Enneagram into oblivion or think it’s all rubbish… it’s not. So much of it can be helpful to many people. But Enneagram doesn’t account for a lot of things in life. Basically, life is more complex than Enneagram wants us to believe.
Let’s examine the concept of “Enneagram is a scam” and what’s a more productive way at examining your personality.
The Enneagram Personality Types
I’m not here to give you a huge description of each type or talk about the history of Enneagram. There are plenty of other places on the internet for that.
Basically what you need to know is that according to Enneagram types, there are 9 different types of people. People can also have a “wing” which means that if they’re a Type 7, for example, that they can have a little bit of Type 8 in them or a little bit of Type 6 (only their two neighboring types).
Each type has their own persona and traits and ways that they see the world. The basic 9 Types are:
- The Reformer (aka the Perfectionist)
- The Helper (aka the Nurturer)
- The Achiever
- The Individualist (aka the Romantic)
- The Investigator
- The Loyalist (aka the Security Guard)
- The Enthusiast (aka the Adrenaline Junkie)
- The Challenger (aka the Boss)
- The Peacemaker
There are a couple enneagram tests, here and here, that can help you determine your type… but be warned: this personality test cannot be determined with just a quick online test. And there are a lot of bad tests out there. One of the tests actually said that I was Type 5 (which, if you know me, is absolutely laughable!).
My Experience with Enneagram
So I have to be honest: I completely resonate with my type. I 100% fit into one type and I am absolutely compelled by everything that my type says. For those of you who are interested, I’m an Enneagram Type 4. This is the “Artist” or the “Romantic” type. Creative expression is my highest goal in life.
It’s pretty clear from my posts about wild women and being a Buddhist witch that I like being unique, standing out from the crowd, and being a little bit of a “rebel”. I can definitely be melodramatic, I love color and art, fashion and expressing myself, and I appreciate beauty in life everywhere.
These are quintessential Type 4 traits!
So… if I fully buy into my own type, why am I assessing the validity of this personality test? Because of trauma responses.
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Enneagram: Trauma, Not Personality
Now that you have a rudimentary understanding of Enneagram, let’s talk about where they get these personality types from, and what they actually are.
When I look at Enneagram types, I don’t see personality–I see trauma and coping mechanisms.
For example, Type 2s have a tendency to manipulate others when under stress. And Type 7s have a tendency to try to sweep their issues under the rug by covering it all up with adventure and adrenaline-seeking activities. Type 9s are peace keepers at all costs… including at the cost of their sense of self.
What is a trauma response?
Trauma response is another way of describing people’s stress response. The four main types of stress response are: fight, flight, freeze, fawn (fit in). These are different responses to fear, and each one of us has a different method of dealing with threats or situations that trigger our primal fear.
(I talk a lot about stress response in this post on non-judgment and threats.)
Let’s examine the examples above. When we put it in terms of stress response, Type 2’s tendency to manipulate others can be seen as a “fight” response.
And Type 7’s tendency to need to stay busy and distract themselves could be the “flight” trauma response.
Type 9’s sacrificing themselves to keep the peace is nothing more than an unhealthy “fawn” response.
You could do this with literally every type.
Type 1’s are perfectionists (a “flight” response).
Type 4’s have a tendency to get depressed (a “freeze” response).
Type 6’s are hyper-vigilant (a “flight” response).
Type 8’s can become bullies (a “fight” response).
Type 3’s frequently become workaholics (a “flight” response).
Once you start to see the stress responses embedded within the Enneagram types, you can’t unsee it. And you just might begin to realize that aside from a cool name and a very organized logo, Enneagram doesn’t have much backing it up.
7 Reasons Why Enneagram is a Scam
1. These are trauma responses, plain and simple
Enneagram is just a way to classify 9 different trauma or stress responses. If you go to the same website I linked above (find it again here) that lists the 4 different stress responses, you’ll notice that they have healthy and unhealthy traits for each stress response.
This is EXACTLY what Enneagram has. Except that stress responses are scientific and have been studied, whereas Enneagram is not scientific or studied.
If you want to learn more about yourself, I might recommend cutting to the chase and going straight to learning about the body and stress response. I found Kimberly Ann Johnson’s book Call of the Wild a great resource about this topic.
2. 60% of the population is a Type 6
Supposedly, about 60% of the population is a Type Six. I find this to be incredibly problematic. I know two people who are supposed to be Type 6s who could not be more different in how they interact with the world.
How does Enneagram account for the differences within a Type? Some would say that Wings account for that, but there are honestly so many aspects to a person’s personality that get completely left out in the Enneagram personality model.
3. Wings don’t account for other aspects of personality
Wings are another problematic aspect of Enneagram. If you’re a Type 3, you can only have a Wing (or subtype) of 2 or 4.
For myself, I am quite obviously a Type 4, but I also find that I have a lot of aspects of Type 7. However, in Enneagram types, I cannot have a Wing 7. But I find myself playing out a lot of Type 7’s typical reactions and responses depending on the situation.
Wings are very limited.
4. Stress and relaxation arrows don’t always work out
Another aspect to Enneagram that is a bit confusing and doesn’t always ring true is the stress arrows. As a Type 4, when I’m unhealthy, I should be prone to depression and melancholy. However, I find that in my unhealthy levels, I’m actually more prone to anxiety, which is a Type 6 trait.
Truity says that when 4s follow the stress arrow to Type 2: “Stressed-out Fours can degenerate into clinging, people-pleasing individuals who blame others while playing the victim.” This only played out in my life when I was younger, and I believe it has to do with power dynamics that Kasia Urbaniak discusses in her book Unbound: A Woman’s Guide to Power.
However, my more natural stress response is that of unhealthy 8s: “They over-extend themselves, which will result in a cycle of overpowering stress, burnout, anger, and fatigue.
Once again, both of these are conditioned responses based on trauma and stress and have little to do with my actual personality.
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5. Enneagram has built an empire
One of the things that quite frankly makes me skeptical of Enneagram is that it has almost a cult following. Most people I know who participate in Enneagram functions and teach about Enneagram have a pretty healthy view of this personality test and typing system. But it’s almost a little frightening to see how quickly people buy into it and become absorbed.
It’s totally normal to want to classify people in your life in order to make sense and understanding of the world and your interactions. It’s not normal to want to capitalize on highlighting people’s differences.
6. So many people don’t fit neatly into one type
I have many, many friends and family that don’t seem to fit quite as neatly into one type as I do. I have to be honest that even when I took 4 different Enneagram tests online, they each came back with a different result.
I wonder what it would be like for people whose Type is not so clear-cut. I imagine there is a large volume of people out there who were perhaps interested in Enneagram, then, when they became frustrated with the result and unsure of where they belonged, abandoned the idea altogether.
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7. People have always been and always will be more complex than this
At its core, Enneagram is an absurdly simplified system of classification. Whether it actually tells people about their personalities (and not just about potential trauma responses) remains a question in my mind.
But people are individuals. They each have their own thoughts, ideas, responses, needs, desires, likes, and dislikes, regardless of their Type. Maybe I’m just saying this because I’m a Type 4: Individualist, but I do believe it to be true:
People are more complex than just 9 types, plain and simple.
I’m not at all saying that it isn’t valuable to learn these things about yourself. If you’re someone who finds out your Enneagram type and decides to look for these traits in your own life (and how you can handle problems, then that’s a great thing. Take it with a grain of salt and do your own research.
Is Enneagram a scam?
But is it actually your true personality underneath all your trauma? Probably not.
What do you think? Is Enneagram a scam or is it legit?
Drop me a comment below!
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