Separately, they are rich. Together, they are powerful.
When it comes to understanding yourself and the way your inherent personality traits affect all aspects of your life and your relationships with others, gaining deeper insight into two of the most highly regarded theories and instruments for assessing personality types — the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram system of personality— can help you learn far more about the core of who you are and how you operate in the world, both when you are centered and when you are under stress.
Of course, while these two personality tests are well-respected tools for uncovering multiple layers of knowledge about what makes each of us tick, neither can truly explain any person in totality.
When Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram are used together, however, they offer a fairly comprehensive portal into a truly meaningful understanding of self.
Separately, they are rich. Together, they are powerful.
The Myers-Briggs system of personality typing, based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, describes your true self, sometimes known as your essence or spirit.
This is the part of you that is innately wired into your system and explains who you were truly designed to be, way back before you took your first breath and the world started telling you who to be, how to be, what to do, how to look, how to act and so on.
Many of these messages from the world were implicitly absorbed when you were very young, which is why you often do not remember how you came to believe some of the internal rules that operate much of your life.
Some of these messages are helpful, such as how to hold a fork, drive a car or persevere in the face of adversity. Others cause distress and keep you restricted to particular ways of being that are limiting and dissatisfying.
Most of the time, these implicit messages operate in the unconscious part of who you are, so in order to unearth them and clear them out, you have to be willing to dive deeply into a process of self-growth and healing.
Your Myers-Briggs personality type describes the innate part of yourself buried under all this informational rubble and is waiting to be brought back to life.
It provides you with information and knowledge around the kinds of traits and values that are unique to our particular personality type. It also teaches you how to move towards more satisfaction or flow in your life and away from the experiences and things that drain your energy.
The MBTI helps you understand why you are proficient in some areas and struggle with others. It explains how you learn and why certain subjects delight you, while others might make you want to shut down emotionally or pull your hair out.
It describes how you like to operate in the world and why you might have difficulty with others who aren’t as structured or organized, or perhaps are as flexible and spontaneous, as you are.
Your Myers-Briggs personality type is an incredibly rich resource for helping you reconnect back to your true spirit so you can find more satisfaction in your life and relationships.
The Enneagram system is equally important when assessing your personality type, because it describes your emotional defense system.
This is an essential part of us that we could not survive without. So in essence, your Enneagram personality type illustrates how you protect your Myers-Briggs personality type.
Quite often, your defensive structure gets bad press. When a person begins to learn about how they operate under stress or when they’re emotionally triggered by something, they have some judgment or negativity about this part of their structure and work like mad to disown or deny this part of their personalities.
What’s true about the Enneagram defense system, though, is that it’s your ally — you need it!
It is just as important as your spirit, your soul, and your true essence that’s described by your Myers-Briggs personality type.
It is the part of you that provides protection when you’re under stress or distress. Think of it like your skin, which protects your internal biological systems and vital organs from disease and injury.
In a similar way, your defense system, illustrated by your Enneagram type, protects you from further emotional injury when you are facing threats, real or imagined.
But here’s the thing about emotional protection: It doesn’t always bring you satisfaction.
When under stress, your Enneagram personality type kicks into action automatically. It’s governed by the autonomic nervous system and has only one purpose: to stop or minimize pain or threats.
This defense system is generally limbic and irrational, in that it doesn’t stop to consider the consequences or impact of your next actions or words. Rather, it reacts unconsciously to help you survive the situation at hand.
In this way, understanding your Enneagram personality type can help you learn more about how your protect your vulnerable self, as well as teaching you how more consciously recognize when this part of
your personality is in charge.
Your Enneagram defense system’s only concern is survival.
It does not concern itself with life kinds of issues, such as, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” or “How do I like to be treated?” or “What is my favorite color?”
So decisions you make when this part of your personality is running will be geared toward survival, not geared towards your life satisfaction, which the Myers-Briggs portion of your personality is concerned about.
That’s why many of people, as adults, end up in marriages, relationships or careers that they find no longer satisfying and, in fact, might create depression or anxiety.
When you’re driven by your Enneagram/defensive structure, it is only a matter of time before these choices, which are based on survival criteria, no longer bring you the relief they once did.
At this point, it is time to get some help learning how to create different emotional safety and supports that are much more in line with your innate MBTI type.
This process requires the willingness to go in and heal unresolved developmental issues from your childhood, which continue to unconsciously keep your Enneagram personality type front and center, while not allowing your Myers-Briggs personality type to make many choices.
It can be hard to understand how both personality types and sets of circumstances can be true for you.
Ultimately, your MBTI type is about your essence when you are centered, grounded and in connection with your spirit, and your Enneagram type is about your defense response when you try to protect yourself emotionally.
Understanding how the two interact opens up a whole new level of understanding that neither personality tool can provide on its own.
Together, these two typing systems can be powerful agents for personal healing and growth.
Kate Schroeder, M.Ed., LPC, NCC is a psychotherapist and coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Enneagram, as well as experiential body-mind-spirit healing practices to access one’s inner wisdom in order to create a life filled with satisfaction. Start changing your life today by downloading her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts or sign up for her newsletter for more information on how to connect with your best self.