Enneagram Basics

Everyone has a primary number or archetype. Unlike most personality systems, your type or number is not determined by your outward behavior, but instead by the core motivation and fear that drives your behaviors.


There are three “centers of intelligence” or “centers of expression” within the enneagram. These three centers refer to the primary way each type takes in information and expresses itself in the world. These three centers are: the Instinctive Center (Types 1, 8, and 9); the Thinking Center (Types 5, 6, and 7) and the Feeling Center (Types 2, 3, and 4).

All types use all three centers of intelligence, but each type has a preferred or habitual mode of operating.


While everyone has a primary type or number that drives how we engage with and show up in the world, we also have what are known as “Wings” and “Instinctual Variants” that add additional nuance and complexity to each of the nine types. Wings can be found on either side of your primary number: for instance, someone with a primary type of One can have either a 2-wing or a 9-wing and someone with a primary type of Seven can have either a 6-wing or an 8-wing. Additionally, each number is further influenced by an individual’s dominant “instinctual variant”. All told, there are 54 subtypes within the enneagram!


There is no ideal type. And there is no type that is without its burdens. Every type has its strengths and its struggles. And while you can certainly put a fine point on your particular style, the goal of studying and applying the enneagram to your personal growth is not to label yourself or others but to become more fully conscious of and less restricted by your particular style. The enneagram shows us where we most need to practice courage in our work and in our relationships – and where we most need to practice self-compassion and empathy.

We know we are engaging with the enneagram in a healthy way when we are becoming more fully ourselves while at the same time allowing others the space and the grace to do the same.


Mandy Persaud is a licensed marriage and family therapist, leadership consultant, certified Dare to Lead and Daring Way facilitator, and owner of Simply Brave therapy center in Orlando, Florida. She helps clients access the wisdom, courage, and self-compassion needed to live a more meaningful life.