Who doesn’t love personality tests? Many of us have taken tests like Myers-Briggs, the Birkman Assessment, or the Enneagram indicator, perhaps with enthusiastic interest but not much follow-through. That is, until we had the opportunity to chat with Ian Morgan Cron — psychotherapist, bestselling author, Episcopal priest, and Enneagram teacher. Now, we’re seeing our Enneagram results in a whole new light.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, Ian explains it as an ancient personality typing system. “It teaches that there are nine basic personality types or styles in the world,” he says, “one of which we gravitate toward and adopt in childhood as a way to cope, to protect ourselves, to feel safe, to get our needs met, and to navigate the new world of relationships in which we find ourselves.”
The nine Enneagram types are as follows:
- The Perfectionist — Ethical, dedicated, and reliable, they are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame.
- The Helper — Warm, caring, and giving, they are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs.
- The Performer (or Achiever) — Success-oriented, image-conscious, and wired for productivity, they are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure.
- The Romantic (or Individualist) — Creative, sensitive, and moody, they are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings, and avoid being ordinary.
- The Investigator — Analytical, detached, and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy, and avoid relying on others.
- The Loyalist — Committed, practical, and witty, they are worst-case-scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security.
- The Enthusiast — Fun, spontaneous, and adventurous, they are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences, and to avoid pain.
- The Challenger — Commanding, intense, and confrontational, they are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable.
- The Peacemaker — Pleasant, laid back, and accommodating, they are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others, and avoid conflict.
Ian says he came across the Enneagram system while working on his master’s degree in psychotherapy. He’d just finished his first year of the program and was on a retreat at a monastery in the mountains of Colorado. While perusing books in the library, he came across one simply titled, The Enneagram.
“I pulled it off the shelf and could not stop reading it,” he recalls. “[It was] uncannily accurate. … I was blown away by it and decided to become a student [of the enneagram].”
That was in the mid-’90s. Today, Ian helps people around the world not just identify their personality type but also understand that, though certain traits may have helped them cope when they were children, the same does not hold true in adulthood.
Many folks enjoy personality tests for the “wow!” moment of receiving uncanny results, delighting in a moment of surprise at how spot-on they can be — but don’t look beyond the results for ways they can actually use them. Ian asserts that we can use insight into our Enneagram type to live more intentionally. We can take the good, the bad, and the ugly, and use it all to rewrite narratives that no longer serve us.
“We think about our lives as a story,” he says, adding that unfortunately, those stories are built upon mistaken beliefs and negative messages we’ve picked up from our culture, the environment, and people around us. “Those stories help us make sense of our lives as little people, and it helps us understand how we think the world works. But when you drag those into adulthood and continue to live by their rules and instructions, they end up [ruining everything].”
To better illustrate this idea, Ian offers me a personal explanation. Utilizing my own Enneagram number — five (the investigator) — he offers an example of what is referred to as a ‘broken story.’
“The five sees a world in which more demands are placed on them than they have resources to meet, particularly in the relational sphere,” he says. “They see a world that’s intrusive and draining. In order to fend off feelings of inadequacy and ineptitude, they just start sucking up information and learning [as much as they can] in order to bolster their sense of adequacy. But when they get stuck in that story, they start to isolate. They get stuck up in their head. What they’re really looking for is safety and security, so they go up into their brain where they can feel safe and secure in a world that feels like it could engulf them.”
At this point, Ian pauses to ask if any of what he’s saying is resonating with me. “So much so, it’s a little scary,” I reply.
“I would say to you, as a five,” he continues, “that story is not true. It helped you as a little person to meet the demands of life, [but] it doesn’t help you as an adult. And though you may never like it when people intrude on your privacy, there’s a better way to be in the world to meet those challenges. You have what it takes.”
Ian adds that this is just a summarized version of a five’s story. He offers in-depth descriptions for every enneagram number. More importantly, he provides tips and solutions for people to begin moving the needles of their lives in a more positive direction. People tend to think they’re stuck with their stories, he says, and that’s when they start falling into depression, anxiety, a feeling of malaise, and a sense that they’re reading off a script that someone else has handed to them — but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“You’re the narrator of your own damn life,” he exclaims. “You have the freedom, and the responsibility, and the joy to rewrite a new narrative that aligns with who you are as an adult.”
The quickest way to begin rewriting that narrative: take the iEQ9 Enneagram assessment. The 175-question assessment took eight years to create; it’s quantitatively researched and uses advanced algorithms and predictive analysis to produce a report that includes your core Enneagram type, 27 subtypes, as well as information about your strain levels, self-awareness, lines of tension, and more.
“A lot of these other tests don’t give you a path to transformation,” Ian says. “That’s one of the beautiful things about the Enneagram. It’s like, here’s what’s beautiful about you; here’s what’s broken; here’s a path.”
Another useful tool to help people along their path is Ian’s latest book, The Story of You: An Enneagram Journey to Becoming Your True Self. Loaded with true stories and real-life examples, the book also provides readers with a practical, four-stage process to utilize what they’ve learned to start breaking free from the old story of their life.
“It’s an ongoing journey,” Ian adds. “The Enneagram can revolutionize your marriage, your friendships, how you think about yourself in the world, and elevate your appreciation for who you are.”
For more information about Ian Morgan Cron and the iEQ9 assessment, visit ianmorgancron.com, listen to the Typology podcast, or pick up Ian’s book, The Story of You: An Enneagram Journey to Becoming Your True Self. (You can listen to the first chapter here!)
All photos courtesy of Ian Morgan Cron.
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