Enneagram chart

Waking up from false identity with the Enneagram

In Insight and Experience, Insight and Self Awareness by LivingNowLeave a Comment

Eli Jaxon-Bear writes about The Enneagram as a means to moving from fixation to freedom


The Enneagram System

The word Enneagram comes from Greek and means ‘nine-sided’. The Enneagram of Character Fixation is a way of identifying nine different egoic masks. These nine masks of ego are clustered into three primary classifications, depending on which ‘body’ the egoic identity is crystallized in.

When the identification arises in the physical body, the fixation is anger-based. When the identification arises in the mental body, the fixation is fear-based. When the identification is in the emotional body, the fixation is shame-based hysteria. These three primary fixations are all based in fear: fear of anger, fear of love, fear of fear and fear of death.

Within each of the three basic classifications – anger, hysteria, and fear – there are three different versions. There are three anger points, three hysteric or ‘image’ points, and three fear points, which make up the nine basic types of ego.

When I first heard this teaching almost 30 years ago, it was called the Enneagram of Personality, and it had been taught as such for many years. My understanding of the Enneagram is fundamentally different. Rather than working from the level of personality, I find that the Enneagram is actually describing a deeper layer of character fixation.

Personality is a surface phenomenon occurring on the landscape of character fixation. Personality refers to conditioned qualities or tendencies, which can change over time. One may have a ‘grumpy’ personality trait and learn to be more pleasant, or have a ‘shy’ personality and learn to become more sociable.

Character fixation, however, remains constant throughout one’s life. As long as one is identified as being a human animal, character fixation is the primary mode of perception and identification, which quite predictably determines one’s thinking, feelings and behavior. The character fixation is the bedrock upon which personality is built. In hypnosis for example, an individual can drastically change personality traits by changing certain patterns of behavior. This personality change does not, however, change the underlying character fixation.

The Enneagram of Character Fixation is much deeper and more meaningful than mere personality manifestation. If it merely described personality, it would be useful only in a limited and superficial way. By giving us a detailed map of how consciousness is fixated for each of the character types, the Enneagram of Character Fixation is an invaluable support in the process of self-inquiry and self-realization.

As a wisdom mirror, the Enneagram reveals the habitual patterns of mind that we identify with and believe to be who we really are. The patterns are so familiar to us that they are believed to be our essence when, in fact, they are an impostor, a shallow covering of our true essence. It can be quite a shock when we first discover the point on the Enneagram that we have been subconsciously identifying as ourselves. What we thought was unique to ourselves is not so special after all.

What is truly lovable is pure essence, which naturally shines through when the fixation is not running and the mind is still. True essence does not need to be healed, created, or attained, but simply directly realized to be the permanent nature of one’s being.

In order to believe that you are limited to what is commonly referred to as ‘me’ – my name, my body, my thoughts, feelings, and sensations – you must overlook the ever-present truth of who you really are: pure, unlimited, empty, silent, conscious love. The tendency to overlook the truth of who you are is considered normal.

From early childhood onward, others who share this misperception continually reinforce it. It is usual that this subconscious idea of who we think we are becomes the driving motivation that compels us to live and react mechanically: searching for happiness and running from fear. Meanwhile, we remain mostly unaware of the deeper motivations, which are rooted in the false belief that we are our persona, separate and unique from everything else. To question the reality of what we call ‘me’ has, in the past, been very rare, although now in our spiritual community what often happens is that the ego incorporates spiritual beliefs, concepts and experiences into the egoic me, such as, “I know I am one with everything”, “I have emptiness inside me”, “It’s all just a story”, or whatever else may have been glimpsed, experienced for a moment or believed.

Character fixation in itself is not the problem. The problem occurs when the fixation machine is running and taken personally. Once you start to recognize the fixation as a machine, you can stop any personal involvement. This personal involvement is the ego. When personal involvement is gone, problems are gone and everything unfolds naturally.

Fortunately, once we recognize that what we are calling ‘me’ is just a pattern (and there are a hundreds of millions of others who have the same pattern), then we can no longer take it quite so personally. We may then choose to stop identifying with the pattern. If one is firm in the willingness to not indulge in false conceptions of self, and to search directly for truth, then one dies to the unreal and lives in the revelation of true being.


Characteristics of fixation

Point nine: the core anger point

Essence: Awareness

Holy idea: Divine love

Holy path: Right action

Chief feature: Indolence

Passion: Laziness

Idealization: ‘I am comfortable’

Talking style: Saga

Trap: Seeker

Defense mechanism: Self-narcotization

Avoidance: Conflict

Dichotomy: Believer/doubter


Point eight: the externalized anger point

Essence: Shakti/cosmic power

Holy idea: Truth

Holy path: Innocence

Chief feature: Vengeance

Passion: Lust

Idealization: ‘I am competent’

Talking style: Laying trips

Trap: Justice

Defense mechanism: Denial

Avoidance: Weakness

Dichotomy: Puritan/hedonist

Point seven: the exteriorized fear point

Essence: Absorption

Holy idea: Holy work

Holy path: Sobriety

Chief feature: Planning

Passion: Gluttony

Idealization: ‘I am okay’

Talking style: Stories

Trap: Idealist

Defense mechanism: Rationalization

Avoidance: Pain

Dichotomy: Inferior/superior

Point six: the core fear point

Essence: Emptiness, pure intelligence

Holy idea: Trust

Holy path: Courage

Chief feature: Paranoia

Passion: Doubt

Idealization: ‘I am loyal’

Talking style: Setting limits

Trap: Security

Defense mechanism: Projection

Avoidance: Deviance

Dichotomy: Pushy/surrender

Point five: the interiorized fear point

Essence: Peace

Holy idea: Omniscience

Holy path: Nonattachment

Chief feature: Withdrawal

Passion: Avarice

Idealization: ‘I know’

Talking style: Treatise

Trap: Observer

Defense mechanism: Isolation

Avoidance: Emptiness

Dichotomy: Social/antisocial

Point four: the interiorized image point

Essence: Joy

Holy idea: Origin

Holy path: Equanimity

Chief feature: Melancholy

Passion: Envy

Idealization: ‘I am elite’

Talking style: Lamentation

Trap: Authenticity

Defense mechanism: Introjection

Avoidance: Feeling Lost

Dichotomy: Analytic/disoriented

Point three: the core image point

Essence: Love

Holy idea: Compassion

Holy path: Veracity

Chief feature: Efficiency

Passion: Deceit

Idealization: ‘I am successful’

Talking style: Propaganda

Trap: Efficiency

Defense mechanism: Identification

Avoidance: Failure

Dichotomy: Overactive/fantasy

Point two: the exteriorized image point

Holy idea: Freedom

Holy path: Humility

Chief feature: Flattery

Passion: Pride

Idealization: ‘I am helpful’

Talking style: Giving advice

Trap: Will

Defense mechanism: Repression

Avoidance: Needs

Dichotomy: Militant/libertine

Point one: the interiorized anger point

Essence: Purity

Holy idea: Perfection

Holy path: Serenity

Chief feature: Resentment

Passion: Anger

Idealization: ‘I am righteous’

Talking style: Preaching

Trap: Perfection

Defense mechanism: Reaction formation

Avoidance: Anger

Dichotomy: Rigid/sensitive


This article is based on an extract from Eli Jaxon-Bear’s powerful book The Enneagram of Liberation – From Fixation to Freedom.


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