General FAQs

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality typing system with a foundation in spiritual practice. It can be used as a map to increase an individual’s ability to understand oneself and others.

Where did the name Enneagram come from?

The Enneagram name is derived from the Greek word’s ennea which means nine and gram meaning drawing or graph. Enneagram literally means nine points.

What is the origin of the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is from an ancient oral tradition that categorizes personalities into nine types. Spiritual teacher, George Gurdjieff is credited with bringing the Enneagram to the Western World.

Who uses the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is used by a wide array of professionals as well as for personal use. Over the past 60 years, the Enneagram has gained use with professional coaching, mental health workers, spiritual directors and others who work towards helping others lead a higher level of conscious living.

Is the Enneagram a psychological assessment?

The Enneagram is not a psychological test. It is based on an oral tradition that describes behaviors. It is for use in developing a pathway to enhanced existence. Enneagram personality assessments, such as the Howell Enneagram Profile Questionnaire, are a means for self identification of Ennea-type. No one should “type” you but you.

What does type mean?

The Enneagram has nine distinct personality types (sources of energy). The initial type points to an individual’s ego type. The Institute for Conscious Being ascribes to the theory there is a type number for the ego and that directs one to his or her soul child (essence), the type with which one was born before life experiences cause an individual to construct an ego for self-protection. The Institute — also following Enneagram traditional thought — believes the ultimate goal is to be able to draw from all nine types (energies) in a healthy manner to navigate our world.

What is ego identity?

The ego is a necessary part of human development that forms as it mediates the world. As a child develops, his or her ego becomes focused on avoiding what it fears and gaining what it desires. This ego identity leads to a sense of separate identity that an individual believes is who they are — sometimes referred to as the false self. The Enneagram provides information on how the nine types function in the world, identifying the root causes of their ego traps, compulsions, and fixations that cause repeated behaviors leading to suffering and unhappiness.

Does everyone fit into one of the nine ego types?

Yes, upon close discernment all individuals will fit into one of the nine ego types.

How can I find my type?

The Institute for Conscious Being recommends that search for one’s type (ego type) begin with taking the Howell Enneagram Profile Questionnaire that Dr. Joseph Howell developed. The next step would be to follow the tradition of the Enneagram by being in a workshop and groups that use open dialogue centered on each ego type to find where one resonates with other liked-minded individuals. The Institute uses “Table Talk” where individuals gather in one of the nine ego types and have open conversations. Some individuals quickly find the ego type with which they resonate while others may take years and move from one ego type to another.

Can you have more than one ego type?

No. Each person has only one ego type. However, you may resonate with other types and there can be many distinct nuances within a given personality type depending upon your wings, subtype and level of consciousness.

What if I can’t decide which ego type is mine?

Sometimes determining your “type” is challenging. If you are in mid-life, or have already done extensive work in self-discernment, you may have integrated beyond your Ego Type. Typically your ego is at its peak in your 20’s and 30’s. Try taking the Howell Enneagram Profile Questionnaire answering the questions as  you would have when you were 30 years old.

If you are still undecided, continue to learn more about the Enneagram and reflect on your motivation. Spending time with others — and learning more about the Enneagram — will assist in becoming clearer as to your Ego Type. Determining from which of the three Centers (Heart, Mind, and Body) you most readily identify can also help narrow your choices. Further study of the Enneagram and the three Instinctual Subtypes (Self-Preservation, Social-Affiliation, and Sexual-Syntony) and each type’s “wings” may also be useful in defining your type. For some complex individuals, it can be a lengthy journey to discover his or her ego type. Attending an ICB Enneagram Conference or Retreat is the best way to experience how each type functions and learn more about your unique personality.

How will knowing my ego type help me?

Awareness of your ego type may help you obtain a more objective understanding of yourself and the motives behind your actions. Many students of the Enneagram use knowledge of their ego type to let go of adverse behaviors and responses. Knowing your ego type may also lead you to greater compassion for others. Just as each Ennea-type is identified by its trap and passion, each type is also imbued with its virtues and distinct wisdom. Being able to draw on the virtues and strengthens of all nine ego types in a healthy manner can reduce day-to-day stress and the impact of major life events. Interpersonal skills may be enhanced.

Doesn’t knowing my Enneagram type put me in a box?

No. The Enneagram does not label individuals. In fact, the Enneagram is a means for growth and transformation. Your ego type is simply a place to start the journey of self-discovery and awakening. Knowing your ego type actually opens the door to become more conscious of your behaviors. As you grow in consciousness, you can push beyond your ego responses towards a more healthy, integrated self. The goal is not to remain in your ego type. The goal is to reclaim the sense of true self that you were born to be.

Does your Enneagram ego type ever change?

No. Everyone is born into his or her essence. When we are wounded (usually in childhood before age 6), this essence assumes its corresponding ego type. Your essence type can be found by following the point of the arrow away from your ego type number. For example, the essence of the Ego Type One is Seven.

However, your level of consciousness may change or you may transcend your ego type as you integrate into essence.

Can someone else tell what my ego type is?

No one can accurately type another. While each of the nine ego types has certain patterns that are consistent with that type, the motivation behind the behavior is known only to that person. Students of the Enneagram often can see these patterns and thus have a general idea of an individual’s ego type. It should be noted that “typing” others is not healthy or always correct.

Are certain ego types compatible or incompatible?

Although there are some Enneagram experts who gauge type compatibility, there no strict rule as to compatibility of various combinations of ego types. It has also been observed that couples frequently share a wing. Healthy individuals generally can negotiate any other ego types and gravitate to other conscious, healthy individuals. Unhealthy individuals however may unconsciously seek out other ego types that support their passion, trap, or pride. In general, understanding another person’s ego type can create a more compassionate responses and lead to more harmonious interactions.

How can individuals with the same ego type be so different?

While each ego type identifies with a specific way of moving through the world, environment plays a key role in how the ego type is expressed. Likewise, an individual’s subtype and dominate wing can flavor the way he or she expresses her ego type. Another point of distinction is the individual’s level of consciousness. For example, an Ego Type Two at a average level of consciousness will respond very differently than an Ego Type Two who is in an unhealthy, disintegrated state.

Is one number better than another?

No. Each ego type has healthy and unhealthy traits. The numbers used have not value. A person who identifies as an Ego Type One has no less value than someone with an Ego Type Nine. The numbers are used merely for designating a behavior type. Some Enneagram systems even name the various types after colors or flowers, so the number is not confused with a numbering system based on value.

What are wings?

The wings are the ego types on either side of your ego type. Individuals may draw on the energy of the wings when his or her ego type is not effective in a given situation.

What do the lines and arrows mean?

The lines contain arrows which connect to two different ego types within the Enneagram. They indicate the directions in which individuals can move to under different conditions. The arrows give a specific pathway all individuals travel. Moving against the arrow (which takes more effort) leads to a healthy integration of ego type. Going with the arrow indicates movement towards disintegration through unhealthy responses within an ego type. (Example: The Ego Type Nine goes against his/her arrow to integrate at Three. Going with the arrow, the Ego Type Nine disentegrates at Six.)

What are the Holy Ideas of the Enneagram?

The Holy Ideas are universal spiritual truths that are inborn and available to all. One of these spiritual truths predominates to form the core of an individual’s essence and spiritual nature. Through the study of the Enneagram, and the journey of understanding the Holy Idea for their Ego Type, an individual is led to finding and remembering their essence.

What is essence?

The real you is your essence, which is the set of spiritual energies and principles that underlie your being. Essence is also referred to as “true self”. This essence is present before ego forms.

Is the Enneagram compatible with religious tenets?

The Enneagram is very consistent with the core beliefs espoused by all major religions of the world. The basic goal of the Enneagram is to find peace within oneself and with others. The Enneagram provides a specific pathway to living a more conscious life.

Can the Enneagram be useful in organizations?

The Enneagram is being widely applied to the world of work in various organizations. Because the Enneagram provides a method for understanding motivations and preferences, it can shed light on the distinct ways individuals work together. The Enneagram can assist in teams understanding the various skills, gifts, and behaviors of the individuals comprising the group thereby assisting in increasing group harmony. ICB intensive trainings provide instruction for how to use the Enneagram’s principles in group dynamics.

Is the Enneagram the same as the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)?

The MBIT was developed based on Jungian thought and is divided into 16 types. It is based on observation and has been scientifically verified according to modern psychological standards. The MBTI primarily looks at how individuals think. The Enneagram is not based on such measures. The Enneagram is a more dynamic system that centers on reclaimed true self or essence by gaining awareness for what informs our desires and behaviors. It also espouses that the energies of all nine types can be utilized by a healthy individual. The Enneagram provides a pathway to increased wisdom and consciousness.

What is a good book to read about the Enneagram?

The Institute for Conscious Being recommends Dr. Joseph Benton Howell’s book, Becoming Conscious: The Enneagram’s Forgotten Passage Way. This book is a holistic approach to knowing and using the wisdom of the Enneagram.

Can I just read a book to find my ego type?

There are many wonderful books and online resources that explore the Enneagram and its principles. We encourage all of our students to read and study Dr. Howell’s book, Becoming Conscious: The Enneagram’s Forgotten Passageway. For most people, however, realizing one’s ego type is a journey. Although you can learn a lot about your type through study, we have found that the Enneagram is best learned in the company of others. When an individual has the opportunity to interact with others of the same type, the distinctions of ego and essence become apparent in a way that no text can reveal.

Why am I just now hearing about the Enneagram?

While the Enneagram is from an ancient tradition, the Enneagram has only been used in the Western World and put in a written format since the 1970’s. George Gurdjieff, who is generally credited with bringing the Enneagram to Western World, only introduced this system in the US less than 100 years ago.

ICB Training FAQs

What is distinct about ICB’s approach to teaching the Enneagram?

There are many ways ICB’s intensives are different than other Enneagram programs. First, our programs focus on the spirituality of the Enneagram. This means we provide instruction on how to rediscover your essence  (true self) rather than just identifying ego type. Secondly, because of our dedicated faculty, ICB provides an intimate approach to instruction with a low student to instructor ratio. In addition, Dr. Joseph Howell, founder of ICB, provides and/or oversees all of the instruction. He is present at all training intensives and accessible for one-on-one discussions. And finally, although taught from a Christian perspective, our teachings are inclusive of all faiths. Read more about our intensive Enneagram programs.

Why is the study of consciousness and the spirituality of the Enneagram so important in today’s world?

Instruction in the spirituality of the Enneagram and consciousness helps diffuse inner conflict, provides tools for greater empathy and compassion, and reconciles dualistic thinking. When inner struggle is resolved only then can healing begin within families, communities and societies.

What is the difference between ICB’s Scholars and Masters programs?

ICB’s Scholars program is a two-year intensive course of study that is open to anyone who has interest in learning how to apply the principles of the Enneagram to everyday life. We recommend that all Scholars read Dr. Howell’s book Becoming Conscious: The Enneagram’s Forgotten Passageway  before attending. Read more about how to apply now.

Only those who have completed the ICB Scholars’ program may apply to attend ICB’s 1-year intensive Masters’ Program.

What can I expect at ICB’s intensive trainings?

Throughout the training intensives, the faculty encourages group discussion and the sharing of insights as the students gain deeper understanding of the transformations occurring within their own lives and in the lives of others. Our diversely skilled faculty lives according to the spiritual principles they teach. Dr. Howell is present and accessible at trainings. Students often receive exclusive access to his latest insight via his papers and lectures.

In addition to lectures, the Institute uses various training modalities to present course information during the intensives. For example, students gain deeper personal insights while participating in meditative writing exercises and creative art work. A clearer understanding of the nuances of each ego type occurs as students view and participate in ICB’s signature demonstrations, the Living Enneagram and Consciousness Theater. Read more about ICB’s Scholars and Masters programs.

What type of support do ICB’s Scholars and Masters receive?

The Institute’s faculty is committed to providing a supportive and nurturing environment for exploration of in-depth spiritual and transformative teachings, and to share the spiritual wisdom they have gained through their own journeys. Students are assigned faculty mentors with whom they meet with during the training intensives. The mentors remain available to assist students with any questions throughout the six-part certification course. The diverse backgrounds of the faculty members and their years of experience “living the Enneagram” offers the Institute’s students a unique opportunity to learn from — and be supported by — seasoned mentors throughout their studies.

Upon certification, how can students utilize the knowledge gained through the Institute’s intensive training programs?

The Enneagram is a powerful spiritual tool for self-realization, discernment, and consciousness. One of the most important transformative actions that occurs through receiving the wisdom of the Enneagram is the “peeling back” of many layers of ego revealing the true self and God’s divine plan for our lives. As each student’s consciousness grows, they are more able to clearly discern the path they are being led to follow. Each of the Institute’s students are unique and present with many different backgrounds and have diverse callings. All students are able to apply the knowledge and principles learned in their own lives and relationships. Some students may also choose to use the wisdom and knowledge gained through the Institute’s certification program to lead workshops or retreats, assist with counseling, apply within spiritual direction or incorporate in other professional programs within their own communities.

Is there a specific order in which the training intensives must be completed?

The Institute’s six-part certification course is comprised of training intensives structured around the three essential Centers (Mind, Body and Heart) of Enneagram type over the course of two years. The three-day training intensives are taught in the spring, summer, and fall/mid-winter of each calendar year. Upon acceptance, students can begin their study on any of the dates listed on our Schedule. It is recommended when students begin their studies, they attend the training intensives in sequence. All six training intensives must be completed for certification. Read more about the ICB School.

Where are the Institute’s training intensives held?

The Institute’s six training intensives are onsite residential workshops held at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama. The onsite training intensives are supplemented by off site study and assigned practicum work to be completed prior to the next training intensive.

What is the process of application to the Institute’s training and certification program?

Prospective students are asked to commit to a two-year formation process that includes six intensive training sessions which are supplemented by further study and assigned course work. To apply, the Institute requires a non-refundable fee of $150.00 and completion of an application form which will be reviewed and evaluated along with two letters of recommendation for the student requesting acceptance into the program. APPLY now to find additional information and the downloadable application and applicant recommendation forms.

How can I obtain additional information?

The Institute’s website has many areas of interest and resources available to help provide information. Additional information may be obtained by submitting a form request on our CONTACT page or by calling 256-238-8113.

Have a question not answered here?  Please contact us for more information.