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The Psych Up, Issue #004 -- Inherent Flaws in The Enneagram Tests
November 04, 2005

Monthly Electronic Newsletter

Prickly Issues and Innovative Solutions

Issue# 4

Editor: Saqib Ali Ateel

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"Collective Death of PersonalitY"


"Inherent Flaws in The Enneagram Tests."




When you discuss personality, you can’t ignore two basic factors...

One, the birth of personality and second your death.

The current stage of man is result of centuries old evolution of life. Man was once like animals following his instincts.

However, time and nature has not only taught him to adapt but also gave him a unique personality.

Animals can’t imagine at all what a man has become...

Similarly, man does not know what is hidden in death. Is it complete extinction? Or next stage of evolution? Or life continues as it is?

Whatever it is, the death is a natural phenomenon...

You see people dying one by one. Some die with diseases. Others die in accidents. Some commit suicides. And some die when their physical bodies fail to sustain life.

But it becomes horrifying when collective death occurs. Tsunami in South East Asia, Katrina in the United States and earthquakes in Pakistan are examples of the collective death.

I live in Pakistan...

In the morning of 8th October 2005, my country in general and northern hilly areas in particular started to jolt. The mountains started to walk and land slides disconnect communication. The earth started to rip at many places and cities fell down like houses of cards.

And after JUST six minutes...

It was debris. More than 500,00 people died and millions were injured. No cinema picture can be more horrifying than the real scenes of collective death.

We people, as a nation, opened our hearts, houses and pockets for the injured part of our body. Our brave army started the biggest relief operation in the world history. The UNO termed it the worst tragedy of the running century. More than fifty countries including United States, UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and UAE helped us to bury our dead ones, cure our injuries and feed our people.

We are thankful to you all...

But tragedy is so bigger that we still are unable to meet the needs of the time. We have already lost our 22000 children. Most of them were buried alive in their class rooms. Now they are dying of cold. There is acute shortage of tents, food, clothes and medicine. Then the issue of their rehabilitation can’t be solved individually.

It is my call to my people for my people. Please visit Pakistan Embassy website to share our grief. Pakistan Embassy Pray for us and Stay Tuned,

Saqib Ali Ateel,

Editor “The Psych Up”


Inherent Flaws in The Enneagram Tests.

Proponents of enneagram tests believe that you get an essence from your birth which determines real self. However, your environment, education and culture develop behavioral trends which may be in consonance of your essence or conflicting.

The enneagram tests claim to measure not only your essence but also variant dimensions of your acquired personality. This way they try to assess how you will behave in future.

Having spiritual kind of background, the enneagram tests are still not very popular for screening purposes. However, the craze for ‘the right person for the right job’ may force employer organizations, corporations and other such institutions adopt them soon.

They must not ignore important flaws in the enneagram tests philosophy, typology and interpretation.

Not a Real Psychological System

Myers Briggs Personality Tests, Big Five Personality Tests and DISC follow some kind of psychological theory. Of course they are ambiguous too but they have conviction of practical observations.

On the other hand the enneagram tests don’t possess such kind of psychological pseudo-authenticity. The enneagram model was originally construed a source of knowledge of the whole universe. Gurdjiif and his student Ichazo claim that they had learnt the system in some kind of mystic trance. Gurdjiif claims:

“All knowledge can be included in the enneagram and with the help of the enneagram it can be interpreted. And in this connection only what a man is able to put into the enneagram does he actually know, that is, understand. What he cannot put into the enneagram makes books and libraries entirely unnecessary. Everything can be included and read in the enneagram.”

However, later developments, works of Helen Palmer, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson have given it modern psychological flavor.


Like other psychological instruments, enneagram tests strive to determine your future behaviors with the help of enneagram personality types. They believe that you ‘have to’ fit in one of the nine enneagram personality types.

Whatever you think, say or do is predetermined by your type. When you are responding to your environment as specified for your type, an enneagramists would suggest that your personality is in conflict with your essence. However, your real self or essence remains the same throughout you life. You can’t change your type ever.

Origination of 9 Enneagram Types

Mistakenly, the 9 enneagram types are related to the name of Gurdjiif and Ichazo. Gurdjiif believed that you have three brains; instinctual, intellectual and emotional. Your personality is determined by the dominance of either of the three brains.

Spinozian school of thought believes that your instincts and intellect lead you to will a thing and your emotions help you to do. However, you know, the basic urge of life is survival. In all forms, it adopts two secondary instincts; self-reproduction and self aggression. Your intellect searches the ways and your emotions help you to achieve whatever you desire.

Ichazo explained these three brains into nine descriptions. It was Helen Palmer who drew 9 enneagram types.

Later on Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson introduced ideas of wings, stress and security points and levels of development. They stated that there are three development levels for each enneagram type; healthy, average and unhealthy. And each of these three levels has three sub-levels. This way they increased the number of types to eighty one.

Personality Development

The enneagram model is mainly used to bring your personality in consonance with your essence. You are considered made of a physical body, an essence and a personality.

The enneagram model suggests that you can develop your overall personality by creating harmony between your nature and nurture. Ichazo termed this process of harmonization as ego fixation. The modern experts call it personality development.

Some enneagramists suggest that you don’t carry an essence but a behavior that dominates your life. You continue getting influenced by your wings and by your points of security and stress.

To develop your personality you need to believe that you have one of the nine types. Then you will have to read how you react to your environment. Then you need to remove those influences which your environment has developed in you since your childhood. This way you can develop your personality.

Some exercises suggested for your self-control, ego fixation and personality development are similar to concentration practice, Yoga and magical.

The philosophy is similar to that of mystics of almost all religions. They suggest that you are given a spirit and duty bound to cleanse it. You can purify your spirit by abandoning the world, killing your desires and getting rid of environmental influences.

Gurdjiif suggests:

"Essence in man is what is his own. Personality in man is what is 'not his own.' 'Not his own' means what has come from outside, what he has learned, or reflects, all traces of exterior impressions left in the memory and in the sensations, all words and movements that have been learned, all feelings created by imitation -- all this is 'not his own,' all this is personality"

(Gurdjiif quoted by Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous)

Numerological Influence?

Some critics suggest that the enneagram tests follow the idea of power of numbers. The model is considered akin to numerology. They suggest that Gurdjiif believes in the power of numbers 1, 3 and 7. The model utilizes the figure of zero and decimal system, which is an attempt to modernize it.

However, the supporters of the enneagram tests reject this criticism by saying that numbers are nothing more than identification of nine points on the enneagram model. They are neither considered important nor have any kind of power behind them.

They also claim that Gurdjiif simply believed that the figures 1,3 and 7 are the basic numbers for this universe. Some identification points are generated by diving 1 into 7. The other numbers are derived by multiplying 3 with 1, 2 and 3.

Different Ideologies

The enneagram model has gone through so many ideological revolutions that its originality has been overshadowed. Currently, different people like to explain it with different context.

Some believe that your type is your:

• Fundamental strength

• Basic evil

• Basic sin

• Basic energy

• Biological instinct

• Emotional direction

• Essence

• Ego fixation

• Motivational force

• Spiritual direction

What is the truth?

What enneagram type stands for?

The exponents of this model don’t give any practical and logical reasoning for the enneagram tests. They suggest that you need to study the system instead of depending upon your test results.

You have only two options.

Either accept the enneagram test results without any question or reject them altogether. Frankly speaking it seems a lot easier to reject the model instead of accepting it.

Does Background Matter?

The proponents of the enneagram tests claim that it doesn’t matter how Gurdjiif and Ichazo realized the system. However, they argue, you should focus upon the benefits and results of the model.

However, a building constructed upon marshes is destined to be drowned. If enneagram model is understood in the light of modern psychology and the original structure is ignored then these issues become more important.

1- ‘Essence’ is the main idea of Gurdjiif. Modern day enneagram model can’t be explained without this idea.

2- Personality development in the enneagram model is different from psychological personality development.

3- A system without belief is groundless.

4- What shall happen to the determinism philosophy?


Read enneagram types and their descriptions. Then choose the description that fits or dominates you. It is your type.

However, never make an important career decision on the results of enneagram tests. They are useful to visualize your strengths and remove your weaknesses. This model is not only a bit complex but more idiosyncratic.

About the Author

Psychometrics? Some believe in them and others reject them altogether. Saqib Ali Ateel explains reality in between.



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