A Few of Our Biographies:
The Enneagram Analyzes History:
Can the Enneagram provide insights into famous historical figures?
Can history and biography help us understand the Enneagram?
Is it worth the effort, trying to understand the Enneagram?
A lot of people think so.
The Enneagram of Personality is an ancient psychological profiling system with roots in Christianity and Islam, introduced to the West in the early 20th century, that describes nine "types," or categories, for human beings. Its claim is that every adult has all nine types within them and that one of the nine is dominant. Everyone supposedly has a core motivation - an essential worldview - a "chief feature" that determines his or her category/type.
The Enneagram has generated serious interest in therapeutic circles and in business and government. A good many Jesuits, among others, have found it interesting and/or powerful. With its focus on typing, it's in the same psychological ballpark as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Jain typology, the Keirsey temperments, and other systems.
So, can the Enneagram "type" people of the past? Can we use the Enneagram to figure out the core motivating factors of, say, John F. Kennedy?
No, says one prominent U.S. therapist who uses the Enneagram in his practice, speaking off the record. A person's chief feature, says this therapist, "really can't be discerned with accuracy" through second-hand sources such as books: "You need to sit down with people and talk in order to grasp their type."
Thomas Condon disagrees. A prominent Enneagram author and teacher based in Bend, Oregon, Condon, working with his students, is a pioneer in using the Enneagram to examine famous historical figures, doing so as an exercise in honing their counseling skills. He and his students have typed hundreds of people from the past, along with many living celebrities, also fictional characters from books and movies. They base their work on close readings of biographies and histories, and on watching and reading interviews and films. This article is based largely on their work. Don R. Riso, head of the respected Enneagram Institute, agrees with Condon's notion that historical typing is helpful and useful; this piece takes some of its material from Riso.
The Enneagram has attracted notable adherents over the years, including the spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff and author Helen Palmer. Charles T. Tart, a first-rate research psychologist, author of numerous books including "Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential" (1986), regards the Enneagram as important. He writes:
When the nature of my (Enneagram) type was explained to me, it was one of the most insightful moments of my life. All sorts of puzzling events and reactions in my life now made excellent retrospective sense to me. Even more important, I could see the central way in which my approach to life was defective and I had a general outline of the ways to work on changing it....(I find the Enneagram to be) helpful in understanding, empathizing with, and relating to others....Clearly the most complex and sophisticated personality system I had ever run across....(but) a sensible, intelligent complexity, not confusion....(The Enneagram reminds us) that we live too often in an illusory world because of defenses that are no longer needed, that we mistake ideas and feelings about reality for reality itself. Used with this in mind, the system can be a splendid tool for each of us.
Many or most psychological professionals either don’t know the Enneagram in any depth or ignore it, perhaps because it's not part of their education, perhaps disapproving of the idea of confining humans to a system, feeling that such a process is an assault on what historian Paul K. Conkin calls "the irreducible uniqueness of each person," what author George Steiner calls the "obstinate mystery of the human person." (Enneagram experts retort that the nine categories are subtle and complex - not reductionist at all, worthy of a lifetime of study.)
Academic historians have made essentially no public use of the Enneagram. No one, apparently, has ever published a paper in a historical journal about the system.
Thomas Condon comments, "Typing well-known people, historical people, is like typing anybody else. The key to doing it accurately is knowing the Enneagram well and conducting an adequate amount of research." Condon has not published the exact research methodology that he and his students have used for their historical work - i.e., how many biographies did they read of, say, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and which ones? Still, despite this lack of scholarly rigor, his work is, at least, interesting. (Don R. Riso, mentioned above, is better at listing source material.)
Here, then, are summaries of the nine Enneagram types, with lists of historical figures, living celebrities, and fictional characters who may belong to each category.
Reading a biography or two about one of these historical figures is an excellent way to grasp the subtleties of a certain type. In fact, if you like history, and your interest is piqued by these lists, and you wish to more deeply explore an Enneagram type(s), you might discover that a royal road to such knowledge is via reading biographies and watching history movies such as "A Man for All Seasons" (Type One), "Lawrence of Arabia" (Four), and "Becket" (Nine).
The summaries of types here are condensed from the work of author and therapist Lynette Sheppard (www.9points.com) and are used with her permission. Three caveats: (1) The descriptions of types here are bare-bones; Sheppard and others go into considerable detail in their books and Websites. (2) Different authors use slightly different language for their descriptons of the types. (3) Experts vary somewhat in their understanding of the types. (Not surprisingly, this fact generates considerable touchiness and debate in the Enneagram community.)
The lists of names here are based largely on Condon’s work at his Website thechangeworks.com and in his fascinating book "The Enneagram Movie & Video Guide" (1994). (Condon also has a presence at YouTube.com.) Another source for historical names here, as noted, is Riso's Enneagram Institute.
Therapists emphasize that no Enneagram type is "better" than another; each type has strengths and weaknesses. Experts also note that, while one’s type is permanent after childhood, people can evolve and grow - can become balanced and healthy - so that their chief feature doesn’t rule their lives. For example, there are "healthy" Sixes and "unhealthy" Sixes. Riso's site includes excellent explications of each type's gradations from healthy to unhealthy.
Some experts believe that the ideal way for a person to discover his or her Enneagram type is by consulting with a therapist who has been trained in the system. Other authorities say that in-depth reading, self-observation, taking a test, and other avenues can be useful in the discovery process. A good book for investigating one's type is "The Essential Enneagram:The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide" by David Daniels M.D. and Virginia Price (2000). Daniels is an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University; Price is a psychologist. Riso's Enneagram Institute offers several online Enneagram tests including two that are free of charge.
Ones are responsible and dependable, and often dedicate themselves to worthwhile causes and ideas. They’re passionate about excellence and often make good teachers. They’re highly motivated to improve things, and quick to notice what’s right, what’s wrong, and how to make things better.
At the same time, Ones have an inner critic that ruthlessly evaluates and judges themselves and others. Ones tend to think in black-and-white terms and often believe they possess superior knowledge of the correct path. Helen Palmer writes, "It is shocking for Ones to realize that others do not subscribe to the one-right-way approach to life, because (to a One) the idea of multiple correct approaches looks like an invitation to anarchy." The writer Andrew Sullivan, profiling a leading U.S. political figure of the early 2000s, summarizes an unhealthy perfectionist soul, and captures (unintentionally) the essence of an unhealthy One: "A tyrannical temperament that cannot abide another reality existing which isn't hammered or tortured into the shape he wants and demands."
A healthy One might be morally heroic; an unhealthy One might be repressive. "History," writes Don R. Riso, "is full of Ones who have left comfortable lives to do something extraordinary because they felt that something higher was calling them."
St. Augustine. William Bennett. Tom Brokaw. John Calvin. Cesar Chavez. Dick Cheney. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Confucius. Angela Davis. Morris Dees. Charles Dickens. W.E.B. Du Bois. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Jerry Falwell. Emma Goldman. Barry Goldwater. The culture of ancient Greece. George Harrison. Lillian Hellman. Jesse Helms. Charlton Heston. St. Ignatius. Joan of Arc. Samuel Johnson. Jack Kervorkian. Ted Koppel. Martin Luther. Nelson Mandela. John McCain. "Thomas More" as portrayed by Paul Scofield in "A Man For All Seasons" (the real Thomas More was "probably" a One, writes Condon). Ralph Nader. "Col. Nicholson" and "Col. Saito" as portrayed by Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa respectively in "The Bridge on the River Kwai." St. Paul. H. Ross Perot. Pope John Paul II. "Mary Poppins" as portrayed by Julie Andrews in the 1964 film. Emily Post. Colin Powell. The culture of the Puritans. Ayn Rand. Condoleeza Rice. Eleanor Roosevelt. Judy Schiedlin ("Judge Judy"). Phyllis Schlafly. Laura Schlessinger ("Dr. Laura"). Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Kenneth Starr. Meryl Streep. Margaret Thatcher. Emma Thompson. Harry S. Truman. Raoul Wallenberg.
Twos like to serve the needs of others, to become indispensable. They are driven to emotionally connect with people and may actually feel what others feel. They are good networkers and facilitators who enjoy helping people reach their potential.
At the same time, Twos are often so tuned to the feelings of others that they are not aware of their own needs. They may use warmth and flattery in manipulative ways, as tools, to get their own way, achieve power, and secure regard.
A healthy Two might be loving; an unhealthy Two might be dependent and hostile.
Alan Alda. T. Berry Brazelton (pediatrician). Claire Bloom. Ken Burns. Bill Cosby. Princess Diana. Celine Dion. Andrea Dworkin. Betty Friedan. Danny Glover. Lady Emma Hamilton. "Melanie Hamilton" as portrayed by Olivia de Havilland in "Gone With the Wind." Arianna Huffington. "Billy Kwan" as portrayed by Linda Hunt in "The Year of Living Dangerously." Jerry Lewis. John Lithgow. Madonna (especially clear in "Truth Or Dare"). Mary Magdalene. Imelda Marcos. "Katie Morosky" as portrayed by Barbra Streisand in "The Way We Were." Florence Nightingale. Merlin Olsen. Dolly Parton. Eva Peron. Nancy Reagan. Fred Rogers. Robert Schuller. Mother Teresa. John Travolta. Desmond Tutu. Lesley Ann Warren. Paul Wellstone.
Threes get things done. They’re competitive multi-taskers with lots of energy and charm. They learn fast, can adapt to any environment or group, and are often good on stage. They can be gifted leaders and promoters.
At the same time, Threes can be cold and unsympathetic. They can identify excessively with their image or with the things they produce, and can feel that there’s nothing inside them, that the surface is the whole show. Their focus on tasks and goals can swamp other aspects of their lives - they often ignore feelings in favor of getting stuff done. They may cut corners to complete a project.
A healthy Three might be truthful; an unhealthy Three might be false.
Halle Berry. Tony Blair. Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton. Johnnie Cochran. Tom Cruise. Walt Disney. "Quincy Drew/Capt. Nathaniel Mountjoy" as portrayed by James Garner in "Skin Game." Nora Ephron. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Jesse Jackson. The culture of Japan. Michael Jordan. Henry Kissinger. Carl Lewis. Clare Boothe Luce. Douglas MacArthur. Paul McCartney. Admiral Horatio Nelson. Peggy Noonan. Oliver North. Barack Obama. Kim Philby. Elvis Presley (possibly a Two). Sally Quinn. Tony Robbins. Diane Sawyer. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Will Smith. Sharon Stone. The culture of the U.S.A. "Vicomte de Valmont" as portrayed by John Malkovich in "Dangerous Liaisons." Kurt Waldheim. George Washington. Oprah Winfrey. "The Wizard" and "Prof. Marvel" as portrayed by Frank Morgan in "The Wizard of Oz." Tiger Woods.
Fours are artistic and sensitive; they have a strong aesthetic sense and believe that they are special and different. They crave emotional intensity. They’re familiar with the dark night of the soul. They bring creativity and originality to enterprises and are driven to make a unique contribution.
At the same time, Fours have a pervasive sense that some key element is missing from their lives – something that other people have, perhaps a person, a job, a place to live. They long to find this elusive thing and believe that by finding it they will achieve wholeness. They rarely live in the present; the romantic past captivates them. They are attracted to feelings of melancholy; an unhealthy Four may go too far in that direction and plunge into depression.
A healthy Four might be artistic; an unhealthy Four might be negative.
Marlon Brando. "Rose DeWitt Bukater" and "Juliet Hulme" as portrayed by Kate Winslet in "Titanic" and "Heavenly Creatures" respectively. Roseanne Cash. Kurt Cobain. Leonard Cohen. Bette Davis. Isak Dinesen. Bob Dylan. The culture of France. Judy Garland. Martha Graham. "Hamlet" as portrayed by Laurence Olivier in the 1948 film. Billie Holiday. Jesus as depicted in the Gospel of John. John Keats. T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"). John Lennon. Maya Lin (especially clear in the documentary "Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision"; Thomas Condon comments, "I’d recommend this film to any Four who needs a positive role model."). Carson McCullers. Yukio Mishima. Joni Mitchell. Edvard Munch. Stevie Nicks. Anais Nin. The music of Pink Floyd. Sylvia Plath. Edgar Allan Poe. Anne Rice. "Sarah" as portrayed by Meryl Streep in "The French Lieutenant’s Woman." "Salieri" as portrayed by F. Murray Abraham in "Amadeus." Percy Bysshe Shelley. Simone Signoret. Michael Stipe. August Strindberg. Vincent Van Gogh. Alan Watts. Orson Welles. Tennessee Williams. Virginia Woolf.
Fives are good at detachment, at exhibiting coolness, clarity, and keen observational powers. They are independent and self-contained. They can analyze and synthesize complex information; they understand the value of expert knowledge. They often have a good sense of humor, frequently quite dry.
At the same time, Fives can be too "in their head" – too disengaged from life, feelings, and other people. They often prefer to not get involved. They may feel their energy is limited and must be carefully parceled out. They dislike open-ended, unpredictable situations.
A healthy Five might be wise; an unhealthy Five might be stingy.
St. Thomas Aquinas. Samuel Beckett. Sister Wendy Beckett. The Buddha. "Woodrow Call" as portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones in "Lonesome Dove." Anton Chekhov. Marie Curie. Rene Descartes. Emily Dickinson. Joan Didion. Amelia Earhart. Albert Einstein. T.S. Eliot. The culture of England. Bobby Fischer. E.M. Forster. Sigmund Freud. William Gibson. Graham Greene. H.R. Haldeman. Anthony Hopkins. Howard Hughes. Jeremy Irons. "Jeremiah Johnson" as portrayed by Robert Redford in the film of that name. Jesus as depicted in the Gospel of Luke. Ted Kaczynski. Franz Kafka. Stanley Kubrick. Brian Lamb. Gary Larson. Ursula LeGuin. Charles Lindbergh. George Lucas. Leonard Maltin. Karl Marx. "Stephen Maturin" in the novels of Patrick O’Brian. Thelonius Monk. John Nash (mathematician). Joyce Carol Oates. Patrick O’Brian. Georgia O’Keefe. J. Robert Oppenheimer. Michelle Pfeiffer. Thomas Pynchon. Oliver Sacks. Jean-Paul Sartre. B.F. Skinner. Susan Sontag. Albert Speer. George Stephanopoulos. Nikola Tesla. St. Thomas. Vincent Van Gogh. Ken Wilber. Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Sixes tend to see the downside or danger in a situation. They’re good planners because they want to avoid the occurrence of bad things. They’re skeptical, with an excellent ability to detect phoniness. They are intensely loyal to causes or people they believe in, and are especially fond of underdogs and uphill battles.
At the same time, Sixes can activate their sense of danger even when the threat is slight. They can worry excessively. Their loyalty can be misplaced. Their sense of commitment and duty can exhaust and overwhelm them. They can resist success, feeling it will expose them to criticism and danger.
A healthy Six might be courageous; an unhealthy Six might be cowardly.
According to Enneagram scholars, Sixes can be divided into "phobic" and "counter-phobic." The former tend to deal with their fear by vacillating and feeling persecuted; the latter tend to feel cornered, and go out to confront their fear.
Phobic: Woody Allen. Albert Brooks. George Bush Sr. "C-3PO" in "Star Wars." Sally Field. "Joel Fleischman" as portrayed by Rob Morrow in "Northern Exposure." "Henry Fleming" as portrayed by Audie Murphy in "The Red Badge of Courage." Cathy Guisewite. Ed Harris. Jim Jones. Jack Lemmon. Jesus as depicted in the Gospel of Matthew. Marilyn Monroe. Mary Tyler Moore. Richard Nixon. Sydney Pollack. Pat Robertson. "Karen Silkwood" as portrayed by Meryl Streep in "Silkwood." Carly Simon. Bruce Springsteen. Doubting Thomas. Meg Tilly. Brian Wilson.
Counter-Phobic: John Adams. Ellen Barkin. Warren Beatty. George Carlin. "Fred C. Dobbs" as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Phil Donahue. Mel Gibson. Andrew Grove (Intel executive). Gene Hackman. "Hamlet" as portrayed by Mel Gibson in the 1990 film. Adolf Hitler. Dustin Hoffman. Sherlock Holmes. J. Edgar Hoover. Elton John. Tommy Lee Jones. Sebastian Junger (author). John the Baptist. Robert F. Kennedy. J. Krishnamurti. Spike Lee. David Letterman. G. Gordon Liddy. Malcolm X. Charles Manson. Billy Martin. Steve McQueen. Paul Newman. "Maggie O’Connell" as portrayed by Janine Turner in "Northern Exposure." Lee Harvey Oswald. Rosie Perez. Robert Redford. Wilhelm Reich. Janet Reno. Meg Ryan. Steven Seagal. Sissy Spacek. Linda Tripp. Ted Turner.
Sevens tend to be happy, optimistic, charming, high-energy, upbeat people who love envisioning possibilities and options; they’re keen on planning fun and pleasure, and are skilled at turning negatives into positives.
At the same time, the one-sided focus of Sevens on the bright side of life can lead them to deny or repress a large part of human experience, i.e., loss, sadness, and difficulty. This denial extracts a substantial price in terms of lack of fullness and depth. Sevens can have trouble with commitment and can avoid meaningful human contact in favor of superficial talk, planning, and intellectualizing. They may not always finish projects in their eagerness to rush on to the next cool thing.
A healthy Seven might be well-rounded; an unhealthy Seven might be narcissistic.
Robert Altman. "Andre" as portrayed by Andre Gregory in "My Dinner With Andre." Honore de Balzac. Jack Benny. Chuck Berry. Robert Bly. Stewart Brand. Jimmy Buffett. George W. Bush. Joseph Campbell. James Carville. The counter-culture of the 1960s. Katie Couric. Leonardo da Vinci. Ram Dass. Dana Delaney. Cameron Diaz. Diderot. Duke Ellington. Federico Fellini. Malcolm Forbes Sr. St. Francis. Benjamin Franklin. Newt Gingrich. Hermann Goering. Goethe. Cary Grant. Tom Hanks. Phillip Johnson. John F. Kennedy. The author of the book "Jonah" in the Bible. David Lean. Timothy Leary. John Madden. Groucho Marx. "Gus McCrae" as portrayed by Robert Duvall in "Lonesome Dove." Henry Miller. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. "Mozart" as portrayed by Tom Hulce in "Amadeus." Eddie Murphy. Jack Nicholson. Peter O’Toole. Camille Paglia. Regis Philbin. Brad Pitt. George Plimpton. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Charlie Rose. "Homer Smith" as portrayed by Sidney Poitier in "Lilies of the Field." Barbra Streisand. Henry David Thoreau. "Preston Tucker" as portrayed by Jeff Bridges in "Tucker: The Man and His Dream." Tina Turner. Voltaire. Jack Welch. Jann Wenner. Robert Anton Wilson. Tom Wolfe.
Eights often have bigger-than-life energy. They’re straightforward what-you-see-is-what-you-get people. They’re action takers, ebullient leaders who can’t help taking charge and making decisions. They drink deeply of life’s pleasures. They love a good hard fight and despise people who won’t fight back.
At the same time, Eights tend to assiduously avoid their own vulnerability, fearing that, deep down inside, they might be weak. They conveniently convert their softer feelings to boredom. Their approach to life can feel brutal and controlling to others. Decisions made by Eights on gut instinct may not be tempered with thought and reflection. Their lust for life can lead to abuse of drugs and alcohol.
A healthy Eight might be powerful and committed. An unhealthy Eight might be destructive.
Edward Asner. Kemal Ataturk. Napoleon Bonaparte. Leonoid Brezhnev. Patrick Buchanan. Fidel Castro. Julius Caesar. "John Claggart" as portrayed by Robert Ryan in "Billy Budd." Eldridge Cleaver. Russell Crowe. Mike Ditka. Robert Dole. Sam Donaldson. Indira Gandhi. "Garfield the Cat." Geronimo. Kirk Douglas. Che Guevera. G.I. Gurdjieff. Ernest Hemingway. "King Henry II" as portrayed by Peter O’Toole in "Becket." King Henry VIII. Jimmy Hoffa. Saddam Hussein. "Jack Jefferson" as portrayed by James Earl Jones in "The Great White Hope." Jesus as depicted in the Gospel of Mark. Lyndon B. Johnson. Nikita Khruschev. Rush Limbaugh. The culture of the Mafia. Norman Mailer. Winnie Mandela. Mao Zedong. Wynton Marsalis. Golda Meir. Slobodan Milosevic. Friedrich Nietzsche. Shaquille O’Neal. Bill O’Reilly. George S. Patton. "George S. Patton" as portrayed by George C. Scott in "Patton." Sean Penn. Fritz Perls. St. Peter. Pablo Picasso. Suzanne Pleshette. Theodore Roosevelt. The culture of ancient Rome. George C. Scott. The culture of Serbia. Ariel Sharon. Grace Slick. Joseph Stalin. Tamerlane. Jesse Ventura. Mike Wallace. John Wayne.
Nines are accepting of people and don’t judge. They’re superb listeners - calm, affable, and easygoing, able to see all sides of an issue and skilled at making peace. They’re good at organization and detail.
At the same time, Nines can overlook their own desires and priorities and "forget" what they really want or need. Their ability to merge with the agendas of others can leave them asleep to their own preferences. Their anger comes out in indirect ways. Their "all things are equal" viewpoint can lead to an inability to prioritize, which results in internal turmoil, which they deal with by numbing themselves with TV, books, food, drink, etc.
A healthy Nine might be loving and holistic; an unhealthy Nine might be lazy.
Bruce Babbitt. "Thomas Becket" as portrayed by Richard Burton in "Becket." Ernest Borgnine. John Candy. Warren Christopher. "Columbo" as portrayed by Peter Falk. The Dali Lama. Clint Eastwood. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Queen Elizabeth II. R. Buckminster Fuller. Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi. "Old Lodge Skins" as portrayed by Chief Dan George in "Little Big Man." Tipper Gore. "Emperor Joseph II" as portrayed by Jeffrey Jones in "Amadeus." Carl G. Jung. Grace Kelly. "Kicking Bird" as portrayed by Graham Greene in "Dances With Wolves." Jennifer Jason Leigh. Abraham Lincoln. "John Merrick" as portrayed by John Hurt in "The Elephant Man." Randy Newman. The culture of Poland. Ronald Reagan (possibly a Three). Ringo Starr. Gloria Steinem. James Stewart. Studs Terkel. "Wally" as portrayed by Wallace Shawn in "My Dinner With Andre."