The Enneagram


The Enneagram is a sophisticated and practical tool for helping us to discover our inner selves, and to understand other people better. Since I first encountered it in 2001, I have been endlessly fascinated by its accuracy and insight, and find it crucial to my personal development and to my work as a parish priest

The Enneagram is a system of nine basic personality types – nine distinct and fundamentally different ways of thinking, feeling and acting. Of course we are all individuals and no system can take full account of all our quirks and idiosyncrasies, yet the Enneagram maps out with uncanny accuracy the broad patterns for each type, and still allows plenty of space for personal choices and characteristics.

Enneagram theory suggests that each of us has a central preoccupation or compulsion linked to our personality type, which causes us to search for certain things in life, and avoid other things. When we are running on automatic pilot this preoccupation is where our attention naturally goes, and this has both positive and negative sides to it.

Understanding our own strengths and weaknesses, our fixations, automatic reactions and blind spots, is fundamental to personal and spiritual development; it is also massively important in making us more flexible, compassionate and skilful in our dealings with those around us – a Godsend for many relationships.


Some people discover their Enneagram type very quickly, just by reading through a description of the nine types. Others need time to mull it over, perhaps discuss it with a friend, partner or Enneagram consultant, or attend a workshop where they can listen to people of different types talking about themselves. And there are numerous tests available, which, to be honest, are of varying quality. The Essential Enneagram test is one of the most successful. This was designed by one of my Enneagram teachers, Dr David Daniels, a retired clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School. You can access the test at where you will also find a wealth of resources about the Enneagram. I also recommend The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels & Virginia Price, a succinct introduction to the Enneagram, which also contains the personality test.

Any description of the Enneagram types is a crude oversimplification, but here is a brief thumbnail of each profile. The best strategy is to read through them and eliminate the ones that definitely don’t fit. Then try to narrow it down to the one that fits best. It’s more a case of seeing which type ‘feels’ most accurate rather than trying to find an exact match with each point.

Type One: the Perfectionist
These are responsible, independent, hardworking people with high standards and principles. They can come across as critical and nit-picky, but they are also very hard on themselves, seldom living up to their own expectations, rarely managing to placate their strident inner-critic. The attention of Ones naturally goes to spotting what’s wrong, and what needs to be done to get it right. They excel with detail, and make a priority of integrity.

Type Two: the Helper
Spending their lives attending to other people’s needs, Twos are cheerful, outgoing, warm and personable with a relentless knack of sensing what the rest of us want or need – perhaps before we realise it ourselves. However, this can lead to Twos being manipulative. Also, since they prefer giving to receiving, they often struggle to acknowledge their own needs or ask for help from others.

Type Three: the Achiever
Self-confident, ambitious and successful, Threes have boundless energy to pursue their goals and projects. They are born winners and great motivators. But, chameleon-like, they often change their image to suit the situation or to gain approval. Also, they may come across as unfeeling and calculating when single-mindedly pursuing their latest project.

Type Four: the Romantic
Fours detest mediocrity and are drawn to the extremes of emotional experience. Often melancholic, they spend their lives searching for the significant and meaningful, or for that ‘something’ they sense is missing. They generally have a distinct aesthetic sensibility, and though caught up in their own emotions, can be wonderfully empathetic in emotionally painful situations.

Type Five: the Observer
These are the most private types, who need their own time and space to recharge their batteries. They may come across as detached, especially emotionally; observing rather than engaging. The mind is where Fives feel most comfortable, and they make fine thinkers and analysts who have a love of information and knowledge, often in specialised areas of interest or study. They are self-sufficient and like predictable routines, but they make creative intellectuals.

Type Six: the Loyal Sceptic
If something can go wrong, the Six will probably have spotted it, because their attention naturally goes to possible hazards and threats, or to ulterior motives in people. On the other hand they are inquisitive and make excellent critical thinkers. Instinctively suspicious of authority figures and overly successful people, they readily align themselves with underdog causes. Yet once you gain their trust, Sixes are deeply loyal and committed friends and colleagues.

Type Seven: the Epicure
Pleasure is very important to these types: they can achieve almost anything, and work from dawn ‘til dusk, provided it feels like fun. Sevens are life’s optimists. They are charming, up-beat and adventurers. However, their tendency is to avoid the darker side of life. And if their interest isn’t maintained, they drop out or switch off, with their minds shifting to more pleasurable options. Naturally unconventional, with fast minds, they make great lateral-thinkers.

Type Eight: the Protector
These are the most assertive or aggressive personality types, with an all-or-nothing approach to life. Fiercely independent, Eights are natural leaders with a great sense of fairness and justice. They will go to any lengths to protect their loved ones and those in their care, or to pursue a cause they believe in. Yet people often find the passion of an Eight overpowering: Eights never do anything by halves, from drinking with friends to a theological debate. Passion is their life-blood.

Type Nine: the Mediator
No one can take in and understand the views of a group of people better than a Nine. However they are not so good at determining their own views, or identifying what it is that they want. Peace and harmony is the name of the game for these types, and they will often go along with other people’s agendas to keep the peace. But when the feeling of being pressurised becomes too much, the buried anger emerges in stubbornness and passive aggression. Nines make excellent arbitrators and lovely partners (I know: I have one).

Even though I have described some of the behaviours associated with each of the nine types, it is important to stress that Enneagram typology is less about the behaviours and more about the motives, spiritual energies and worldview of the nine personalities. People may behave in very similar ways but for very different reasons.


More coming soon…

11 Replies to “The Enneagram”

  1. Your book “How to be a bad Christian….” headed my way very recently. Been a bad Christian for about 6yrs and prior to that… a pagan for 10. A friend of mine sugested I got your book, to which I’m so grateful.
    I also have several other issues like most… (for another time maybe) Anyway, at 4am I found myself sat outside with a cigarette and brew wishing I could sleep (recently stopped drinking), when I went in, about to pop the TV on but I picked your book up instead and read till I had to wake my children and husband up.
    Although I’m only at pg 126 I wanted to tell you this…..
    At 20 past 6 I prayed, with tears to boot. Words cannot express how relevant your book has been to me. Your veiws make more sense to me than any I have read. I wasn’t a good pagan either, believing in one power/creator. I struggled so much with the trinity at first, to which I’m now comfortable with… Jesus entered my heart and I’m blessed to have the holy spirit on occasion.. but not so much as this morning..
    Dave Tomlinson,

  2. Jenny, I am so pleased you found the book and that it is so helpful. Writing books is a solitary and (for me) messy experience, but to read a message like yours makes it all worthwhile. Keep being bad – for God’s sake!

  3. Hi Dave,
    I found your book in Durham cathedral last weekend. It jumped out at me. Havin been a committed Christian for many years, my faith and trust in God has been obliterated by enduring a denominational process after making a serious complaint against someone who was held in high esteem.
    Being a bad christian sounds more what I am looking for. I will keep reading- for now.
    For anyone else I have found books by John Pritchard very useful too on a similiar theme.

  4. Hi Dave,

    The parish priest whom we asked to baptise our daughter recommended your book.

    The enneagram quackery made me chuckle as they brought to mind King Dahfu of the Wariri with his similar group of classifications (in ‘Henderson the Rain King’ by Saul Bellow). These ‘Eftagrams’ are:

    The Appetite
    The Agony
    The Fateful Hysterical
    The Fighting Lazarus
    The Immune Elephant
    The Mad Laugher
    The Hollow Genital

    These have the sophisticated and practical advantage that there are fewer than nine of them (and you could ignore all of them for an even more streamlined and effective profile).


  5. Dear Dave,
    Yesterday I had to have some new tyres fitted to my car and in the Kwik Fit reception I got chatting a lovely (ordained) lady , waiting like me, who had a copy of How to be a bad christian. That started a discussion about spirituality that ended with her giving me her copy of your book. Less than 24 hours later and I have just finished it. It is so refreshing to discover someone who if he were my local vicar would welcome me to the church BECAUSE I am reiki practitioner and a psychic reader rather than welcoming me DESPITE those little handicaps. I truly felt God calling me along the path that lead me to this point in my life and to the things that I do .I still regard myself as ‘Christian’ because there is no other drawer I fit into spiritually speaking. But I have a lot of issues with a body that doesn’t allow one sex to fulfil its true God given potential, and condemns another resection of the community for their unique way of loving. Last year I didn’t go to church at all. This year your book may well inspire me to give it another go.

  6. Dear Reverend Tomlinson,
    I always buy the War Cry when I see a SA person, as I worked many years ago with a lovely retired SA officer, who like you, practised what he preached. I don’t always read it – I’m not that keen on their theology – but happened to see the interview with you ‘Meet the man who buried Ronnie Biggs’. I’m really glad I did read it as if you were a vicar around here (I’m in north Scotland) I’d definitely be back in church! Your view on theology is just what I think only better expressed! I so agree with you about the ‘goodies and baddies’ – I’m fed up with Evangelicals who think – and keep telling the rest of us – that they are going to be saved and the rest of us – who don’t happen to think exactly as them – are all damned. I’m sure God hates that attitude (even if She doesn’t hate them!) And of course Jung, who was a believer of sorts, is saying just the same when he talks about accepting our shadow ‘baddie’ side. I’m currently a believer without belonging (and incidentally a Type 4 Enneagram) but it really cheered me up to think there’s at least one (fairly!) conventional member of clergy who agrees with me!
    All the best,
    Mary B

  7. Thank you Mary. I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece in the War Cry. I’d never read a copy until they came to interview me. Pity we don’t live closer. I think you’d enjoy the fantastic gang in St Luke’s and find a kindred spirit. So consider yourself a member at a distance!
    I am also a big fan of Jung. I think many Christians would be so much healthier spiritually and psychologically if they could embrace their ‘shadow side’ instead of denying its existence. Unfortunately, churches are seldom good at helping us to do that.
    I’m a 7 by the way.
    Come and see us if you’re ever down south.

  8. Thanks for the invitation Dave! A visit to a fun-loving 7 would be well worth the trip, so I might take you up on it!
    Keep up the good work, as they say in Private Eye!
    Mary 🙂

  9. hi Dave,

    I was recommended your book by my vicar and so downloaded it onto my kindle there and then. I have struggled with where my spirituality best fitted. I threw away my parents christian religion after i became ill age 9. “God where are you now?” was often a theme during those 10 years until i forgot all about there being a god. Having recovered around the age of 20 after a new diagnosis and new medicine (I’m now soon to be 27) I was spiritual without really thinking about it. I was going down the pub too much, but also spending time talking to the monks and getting cheap food from the local buddhist centre as a student. After my relationship with my fiancée broke down towards my third year. I had 2 or more years of “going off the rails” where i experimented with sex,drugs and rock n roll, but the rock n roll was often left out. This brings me to present day where i began searching. I met a Malaysian muslim who is now my girlfriend, i gave up drinking and the party life style 2 days after meeting her while at a gig and thinking why do i need to drink to enjoy this? We’ve been together 2 months and my search has begun. Ive finished the book and I can relate to “But, chameleon-like, they often change their image to suit the situation or to gain approval.” Its not that i change as such, i just mirror and enhance those sides of myself, showing the sides/the cards in my hand that i think are most beneficial and likeable. However i do sometimes agree to things because i can see their point of view, and forgetting what mine might be. Having read through i think i had a bad idea of what christianity was, could i believe in the facts, “is jesus the son of god?” i don’t know! I got caught up on these facts But having read the book i realise that love, compassion and connecting with others (all the things i naturally go towards) are things i can believe in. In order to have a future with this girl i would have to embrace the muslim faith, which i have done but i don’t know if i fully believe in it, i have fallen in love with both her and her religion through the person she is. But there are a lot of things i don’t get abut the religion with the way they view god. I believe in a loving father like figure god and the one you describe throughout the book. As an energy throughout and one who is there with us in suffering. Does it really matter which religion we choose, should we go with a more heartfelt feeling? Ive always been a critical thinker, so i find “blind” faith difficult. I would love to have my own mind and stay firm in my beliefs but difficult when youre not sure what those beliefs actually are. I find myself going more towards the muslim faith but there must be some key differences and maybe i am just going for it out of love for my girlfriend. I do however feel a better person with support from the muslim community ( there isnt any young people i connect with in christian faith) and do feel a greater connection with god because of it. I just worry ive gone against my parents, their religion and my idea of god.I feel a happier person but worry about being authentic.

    Anyway i wanted to say thank you, as your book shows what faith, spirituality and religious practise should feel and look like.


  10. Hi, I just discovered your site this evening. Feels like I’ve just arrived home or at least at an Oasis. I used to be in the House Church in Tavistock Devon back in the 70’s-80’s. Good times to start… I used to lead worship at some of the renewal conferences etc. But then a teaching which embodied a very despotic style of leadership came along. … and we found ourselves in chains. Even though I was an elder I could never embrace this teaching and finally left and went to Selection Conference, on to Trinity Bristol and ended up serving in the Church in Wales. Probably know best for worship leading… A.R.M. Wales conferences etc. But I was on a journey. Got asked to be a chaplain for ‘Faith and Light’. A movement that sprang out of Jean Vanier’s L’arche communities. Here I met R.C.s who love’ d Jesus far more than I did and I loved it. Actually as a National Chaplain got to see the Pope in Rome. Spent a bit of time in Uganda which profoundly touched my heart.
    During this journey , however, unresolved problems have arise. The main one is ‘Hell’. Don’t understand it? The best book I’ve read is C.S. Lewis’ ‘ The Great Divorce.’ but still the problem remains. The other, in a way, is the Bible. I find it impossible anymore to be a fundamentalist or even that Conservative. I believe it’s inspired but I don’t know how to quantify or function within its pages.
    Does that qualify me as a bad Christian ? O by the way I’m an enneagram 4 and find it very useful in understanding me…. Oh and that other lot.. the rest of the World. Seeking Bob

  11. Hello Dave
    I read The Post Evangelical years ago – it made a lot of sense. I think I’m post post post evangelical now in my old age. I am very interested in the Enneagram – it is espoused by several of my friends and used by a community with which I am involved. I have ‘done’ 2 basic Enneagram weekends with different facilitators and I’m still not sure where I fit.
    Can you possiblY recommend a good basic course please, preferably more than one day although will consider anything. I live in South London but would travel some distance for a residential.
    We need more people like you – prepared to be honest about the realities of life and no sugar coating of Christian jargon!

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