Emotions: They’re beautiful, messy, complicated, and a huge part of the human experience.
Two people may go through a similar situation yet feel completely different ways. Others may notice their emotions are present but choose to avoid them.
Each person has a unique way of experiencing emotions. Whether they’re aware of it or not, their feelings influence their daily decisions and actions, both big and small.
So, understanding your emotions helps you effectively process them.
Research from 2007 showed that putting difficult feelings into words lessened participants’ reported pain and intensity.
Identifying your emotions may help you cope with your mental and emotional state.
However, it’s not always easy to pinpoint why you feel a certain way or where it’s stemming from. That’s where the Enneagram comes in.
The Enneagram, or “nine shapes” in Greek, is an ancient system detailing nine personality structures.
The symbolism of the Enneagram can be traced back at least as early as the works of Greek philosopher Pythagoras. In more contemporary times, it’s associated with Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo, Russian philosopher George Gurdjieff, and Helen Palmer, a core faculty emeritus member of The Narrative Enneagram.
The Enneagram’s purpose is to explain people’s motives. Most other personality typing systems explain behavior and what people do.
The Enneagram, on the other hand, explains why people do the things they do.
This insight opens the path to go beyond the ego through self-awareness and conscious intention.
In order to understand how your Enneagram type influences your emotions, it’s important to understand its foundational structure.
Each of the nine Enneagram types are divided into three triads known as the Centers of Intelligence.
Understanding the Centers of Intelligence
- The body, or Instinctive Center: types 8, 9, and 1
- The heart, or Feeling Center: types 2, 3, and 4
- The head, or Thinking Center: types 5, 6, and 7
The Center of Intelligence that you belong to explains how you filter the world and what imbalances exist in your personality structure. Each triad shares a common emotion that plays into the patterns of that type’s experience.
Each type in each triad expresses emotion in their own way. One will externalize emotion, one will internalize it, and one will deny it altogether.
Here’s how this looks at a high level:
- Body types share the emotion of anger. These types respond to life on a gut-feeling or intuitive level and have difficulty with issues of control.
- Heart types share the emotions of sorrow or shame. These typesare identity-conscious and have difficulty with not knowing or accepting who they are.
- Head types share the emotion of fear. These types experience anxiety around their safety and security as well as getting their needs met.
Of course, as humans, everyone experiences all three of the above emotions regardless of type. However, where your core type is housed is likely the underlying emotion that drives you.
Here’s a deeper look at how this plays out according to each Enneagram type.
Each of the nine Enneagram types has a core fear and core desire. This makes up the framework of a person’s ego structure, or what we know as our personality and self-image.
Each type exhibits patterns that stem from their motivation and serve the ego. By learning what drives you, you can better navigate your inner experiences and emotional world.
However, understanding your Enneagram type is not simply knowing your type. There are subtle nuances to understanding of this ancient system and truly using it as a self-reflection tool.
It’s not like the latest quiz in Cosmo.
There’s much more to the Enneagram than what’s described here. If you’re inspired to learn more, go for it. This is simply a jumping off point to provide the broad strokes of what the Enneagram is all about.
Type one: The Reformer
- Center of Intelligence: body, internalized anger
- Emotional pattern: resentment
Ones are motivated by the need to be good and do what’s right.
They may appear self-controlled and disciplined on the outside, but on the inside, they have a loud inner critic that judges their thoughts, feelings, and actions. This comes from their fear of being imperfect or flawed.
Ones put pressure on themselves to be perfect and live up to high internal standards. They dislike criticism and feel like they always have to be the responsible one or pick up the slack for others.
This can lead to feelings of resentment and isolation, which can make their inner critic go into overdrive.
However, ones can have trouble acknowledging their anger because they may see it as “wrong” or “bad.” They may look to justify it by placing blame on something, someone, or themselves rather than trying to understand it.
Eventually, their lid pops off, and they may become explosive.
Ones can be wonderful leaders who bring order, justice, and purpose to the world.
Tips for type one
- Acknowledge anger without judging it. Instead, look at where it’s coming from and what you can learn from it.
- Be kinder to yourself, and notice where and when your inner critic is loudest.
- Practice becoming centered and grounded in order to accept all that is, including imperfections.
Type two: The Helper
- Center of Intelligence: heart, externalized sorrow
- Emotional pattern: pride
Twos are motivated by the need to be needed.
They create an image of being likeable and helpful, but then feel sad if people don’t reciprocate and offer their support to them.
Their self-esteem can be greatly inflated or deflated, depending on how others respond to them. This comes from their fear of being unloved or unwanted.
Twos want to win the approval of others and can become stressed when they feel unheard, taken advantage of, or are accused of having the wrong intentions.
They externalize their sorrow by focusing on the needs of other people to enhance their caring and helpful image. In doing so, they develop a secret sense of pride in their selflessness, but become detached from their own wants, needs, and desires in the process.
This can lead to repressed emotions around who they really are and what they need to be their authentic selves.
Twos have the capacity to be empathetic and heart-centered leaders with their relational approach.
Tips for type two
- Spend time alone to connect with your inner self.
- Redefine self-worth outside what you can do for other people.
- Ask yourself a few times every day what you’re feeling, so you can understand what you need on a physical, mental, and emotional level.
Type three: The Achiever
- Center of Intelligence: heart, forgotten sorrow
- Emotional pattern: deceit
Threes are motivated by success and admiration.
They create an image of being confident and accomplished in order to earn praise, often excelling at goals and working hard to prove themselves.
Beneath their image of having it all, they have anxiety and doubt about their self-worth. This stems from their fear of failure. They get stressed when they feel incompetent or directionless, or if they have to confront their emotions.
The sorrow threes feel comes from the subconscious belief that they’re not valuable for who they are, only what they do. As a result, they deny their feelings and often don’t let themselves experience pain or sadness.
Instead, they’ll keep moving forward on goals and plans in order to project a positive and successful image. They deceive themselves into thinking everything is OK by pushing their feelings aside. This can lead to a disconnection with who they really are.
Threes have the ability to put big plans into action and make waves in their field.
Tips for type three
- Make space for emotional honesty with yourself by exploring what it is you truly want — or don’t want.
- Practice presence. When you’re focusing on a task, be present with the task without thinking about the future. When you feel an emotion arise, be with it. Don’t push it away.
- Explore more of your personal qualities and passions outside your career and accomplishments.
Type four: The Individualist
- Center of Intelligence: heart, internalized sorrow
- Emotional pattern: envy
Fours are motivated by the desire to be significant.
In an effort to feel seen and understood, they create an image of being special and authentic. This stems from their fear of being ordinary, believing that, if they were different from who they are, they would be valuable.
Many fours are connected with their sorrow and even romanticize their suffering. They feel hopelessly flawed or different from others. Being connected with their emotions keeps them in touch with their inner self in order to maintain a strong identity that they can authentically express.
However, this sense of “lack” causes them to experience envy where they’ll compare themselves to others or create an idealized sense of self.
At the same time, they internalize negative reactions from others — whether real or perceived — that perpetuates their sadness and longing to be understood.
Fours are sensitive and emotionally attuned, making them wonderful leaders for bringing purpose into everything they do.
Tips for type four
- Practice letting go of emotions. Notice and acknowledge them without letting them control or define you.
- Learn to filter negative information to avoid absorbing it, and separate facts from feelings.
- Practice gratitude. Rather than focusing on what’s missing, appreciate all that is happening for you right now.
Type five: The Investigator
- Center of Intelligence: head, internalized fear
- Emotional pattern: avarice
Fives are motivated by being capable and competent.
They observe rather than engage, while gathering a great deal of information and data. Fives fear not having enough resources to handle the demands of the world and becoming dependent on others.
They are stressed by obligations, others invading their private space, or emotionally charged situations. This leads to “avarice,” or stinginess around their resources, believing they need to conserve energy and materials to avoid feeling depleted.
They operate with a belief that there’s not enough to go around, so if they hold onto what they have and gather more knowledge and data, they will be capable.
Because of this mentality, fives often rely on thoughts and logic and become disconnected from their feelings. Though they long to connect with others, they have a hard time trusting and opening up to people.
Many fives are deeply sensitive but don’t want to be burdened or overwhelmed by their emotions.
Fives can be true visionaries who carry a great deal of wisdom.
Tips for type five
- Connect to your feelings through somatics (i.e., meditative walking, qi gong, or dance).
- Give. Whether it’s offering help, advice, or tangible gifts, this will help you let go of avarice.
- Breathe into your heart and belly, and notice how your feelings may shift.
Type six: The Loyalist
- Center of Intelligence: head, externalized fear
- Emotional pattern: fear
Sixes are motivated by safety and security.
They seek consistency and stability, but can also be quite contradictory and skeptical. They attempt to minimize their fear by preparing for outcomes that may or may not happen, which ironically, can trigger more anxiety.
They tend to second-guess themselves, because their mind is always spinning with doubts, questions, or weighing both sides of something.
In response, they’ll look externally for answers, seeking alliances and people they can trust by becoming loyal to them. Their buttons are pressed when pressure is put on them or people tell them they’re imagining something.
As a result, sixes can be hot and cold with their emotions. Their anxiety drives their responses, and they’ll either be ambivalent and cowardly or bold and risk-taking.
Their emotional struggle stems from not trusting themselves and letting fear take over.
Sixes are great problem solvers and can be highly intuitive leaders when they trust themselves.
Tips for type six
- Question bothersome thoughts and consider whether the thought is true or if it’s rooted in anxiety. Often, assumptions drive beliefs and then create feelings.
- Be aware of how you might project your anxiety and feelings onto other people, which is a defense mechanism for unprocessed emotions.
- Develop your intuition through meditation, breath work, and the release of resistance.
Type seven: The Enthusiast
- Center of Intelligence: head, forgotten fear
- Emotional Pattern: gluttony
Sevens are motivated by being happy and fully satisfied.
They want to experience life to the fullest through planning future events and exploring new possibilities. By focusing on positive experiences, they are in denial of the fear they feel of being limited or trapped in emotional pain.
Though sevens are upbeat and charismatic, they have a difficult time dealing with feelings, especially when it involves pain or sadness.
Many times, they’ll reframe negative experiences into positive ones, so they don’t have to confront what may be happening on a deeper level.
Their emotional pattern is gluttony because they seek to avoid suffering by filling themselves up with what makes them feel good.
This leads them to always seeking more and never feeling like they are or have enough as a way to escape their underlying fear of having to deal with pain.
Sevens can be innovative leaders with a joyful presence and head full of ideas.
Tips for type seven
- Practice stillness. When you feel yourself moving too fast, explore if there’s a deeper emotion driving your action. Allow yourself to be still with it, then let it pass.
- Try grounding techniques, like putting your hands in water, taking a walk, or breathing deeply.
- Learn to savor the moment by focusing on details, sensations, and your own feelings in any given experience.
Type eight: The Challenger
- Center of Intelligence: body, externalized anger
- Emotional pattern: lust
Eights are motivated by being in control of their own life and destiny. They see the world as divided into the strong and weak, believing they must create an image of toughness in order to survive.
Because eights fear being controlled or hurt, they put up a shield and have a difficult time being vulnerable with others.
Many eights are accepting of their anger, and use it as a means of expressing themselves honestly and directly. They are especially passionate about issues surrounding injustice as well as protecting themselves and their inner circle.
However, their anger is often a cover-up for other emotions they may be experiencing but don’t know how to deal with. Rather than feel sad or vulnerable, they get angry.
Their emotional pattern of lust is their passion for intensity, which is fueled by anger. They’ll often move into immediate action and make their energy “big” in order to diffuse what they’re really feeling.
Eights have the ability to be highly influential and use their power to help the greater good.
Tips for type eight
- Challenge your viewpoint of vulnerability to see it as a strength and a way to protect yourself.
- When you feel intensity arise, take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to slow down before moving into action.
- Explore and question your anger. It’s, of course, OK to feel angry. But is it a mask for sadness, fear, or anxiety?
Type nine: The Peacemaker
- Center of Intelligence: body, forgotten anger
- Emotional pattern: sloth
Nines are motivated by peace and harmony within themselves and their environment.
They’re easygoing types who love when there’s no tension or conflict. On the outside, they come off as relaxed and patient, but on the inside, they can be more tense and stubborn.
Because they fear feeling disharmonious or pushing people away, they tend to keep their emotions and opinions to themselves while carrying a quiet anger about it.
Nines have a hard time with accessing or expressing their desires and anger. In fact, they feel stressed when they’re upset with someone or someone is upset with them. They tend to push their feelings to the side to not cause any conflict.
However, anger, even if they’re not fully aware of it, stays within the body.
Nines deal with their anger through “sloth,” their emotional habit of falling asleep to their inner self. They’ll resort to rhythmic and comforting routines in avoidance, or “merge” with people and absorb their feelings and opinions about something in a co-dependent way.
Nines are gifted mediators and have a natural ability to relate with others on many levels.
Tips for type nine
- Get in touch with your anger. Notice when anger arises, welcome it, and use it as insight to assess how you feel.
- Set boundaries, as you often feel emotionally burdened by saying yes to everything.
- Express your feelings and preferences more often. You can do this in baby steps, starting with small decisions or reactions to things.
If you don’t know your Enneagram type, you can take the official Riso-Hudson test for a fee or find a free test online.
You can also check out Riso and Hudson’s book on the topic, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram.” The book offers in-depth questionnaires and tools for reflection.
While tests can provide insight, they aren’t always accurate. The best way to find your type is by reading about each one while paying special attention to the core fear. The Enneagram is all about self-reflection.
As mentioned before, the Enneagram is a rich and nuanced system. Because of that, you may want to enlist the help of a trained professional as you explore yourself through the lens of the Enneagram.
Many mental health professionals, therapists, counselors, and coaches use the Enneagram in their practices.
It’s best to work with a qualified mental health professional or find a practitioner with a certification from a recognized accrediting body, like the International Enneagram Association or the International Coaching Federation.
The International Enneagram Association offers a directory to find professionals accredited by their association.
There are many books about the Enneagram, though those by Riso and Hudson are the most authoritative.
Some popular enneagram educational and certification programs include:
- The Enneagram Institute
- The Narrative Enneagram
- Integrative 9
- Your Enneagram Coach (based in the Christian faith)
The Enneagram is an invaluable tool for working with emotions.
It shows how your thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected. By understanding how your core fear operates in your day-to-day life, you can better handle life’s challenges.
The Enneagram also presents a roadmap of your patterns, along with a clear path to growth and self-healing.
Julianne Ishler is a freelance writer, creative mentor, and certified Enneagram practitioner. Her work revolves around helping people live more mindfully and aligned with themselves. You can follow her on Instagram for self-discovery resources or visit her website.