Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

August 20, 2006

Personality Drive Pointers through Exploring the Enneagram – Part 2

by Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW, MAT

Note: This is the second of a series of articles on the Enneagram. I recommend you read my first article on this subject in order to get the most out of this one.

What was your initial response to the note at the beginning of the article (recommending you read the first article before proceeding)? Chances are that your initial reaction and then action is probably indicative of your personality drive:

  • 1’s would be sure to follow the note exactly in order to “do the right thing”;
  • 2’s would do so to “give” the writer what they asked for in order to “help them out”;
  • 3’s would either read the first one to be able to feel they “got it all done” or just jump into this one to “check it off their to do list”; >
  • 4’s would follow the recommendation in order to give themselves the best chance of finding what they are looking for in their individuality/uniqueness;
  • 5’s would read it because they wouldn’t want to miss out on any knowledge source;
  • 6’s would read it in fear that they wouldn’t be able to safely proceed and, besides, they’d want to feel a part of group;
  • 7’s (if they even read the introductory note) would not read the first article—opting for the adventure of just jumping in;
  • 8’s would just read this article believing that they can rely on themselves to get what they need out of this one;
  • and 9’s would probably elect to start here as well because they wouldn’t think it really mattered if they got it anyway.

If you know your drive but had a different response than I predicted, it may be because you have already developed the ability to not allow your drive to drive you! Congratulations! But remember, I asked about the initial response. Even when we get to a place of consciousness, it usually means that we have learned to be aware of our knee-jerk reactions, acknowledge them and weigh their impact, and choose from there—sometimes to follow them, sometimes to stretch and try something “against our nature.”

And that’s the real benefit of discovering your drive—becoming aware of the “defaults” in your way of being and giving yourself the opportunity to CHOOSE your response in certain situations or to create a “custom” response that usually involves some motivation, momentum, and decision-making.

So What Do I Do Once I Discover My Drive?

Discovering one’s personality drive can be a fun and enlightening process. It can help us with our understanding of who we are and what has been the unconscious motivation of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. The discovery of your Enneagram drive is only the first step, though, as I mentioned in my first article on this subject.

After delving into a deeper understanding of yourself as mentioned in the first article, one of the most powerful aspects of the Enneagram is to find out where you are in the Levels of Development. From there you can begin elevating using your Path of Integration. First, let’s talk about Levels of Development and then discuss how to move to higher levels of development once you discover your current level.

Levels of Development

Just as with physical health and development, your psychological/spiritual health and development can fluxuate throughout your life for many reasons. As you live and grow and change, you may experience periods of good health, average health, and poor health. Each personality drive has nine levels of development ranging from healthy to unhealthy. At any given time in our lives (and at any given time during a single day for that matter), we are at a certain place of psycho-spiritual health and level of development along this spectrum.

The following is the spectrum of these levels of development and their descriptors. Notice that when people move between healthy and average levels, a “wake up call” experience is usually a part of it. And, in less healthy times—moving between average and unhealthy levels—it typically takes a “red flag” in that person’s life to alert them that serious change and help is needed. Oftentimes, it is at these “wake up call” and “red flag” transitions that people seek help—including seeking help from a psychotherapist.


  • Level of Liberation
  • Level of Psychological Capacity
  • Level of Social Value



  • Level of Imbalance/Social Role
  • Level of Interpersonal Control
  • Level of Overcompensation



  • Level of Violation
  • Level of Obsession and Compulsion
  • Level of Pathological Destructiveness

Each drive has distinct experiences, thoughts, feelings, and actions for each of these levels. For example, a level 5 for the 3 Achiever type will be different from a level 5 for a 7 Enthusiast type, even though they both involve Interpersonal Control themes. Reading through the levels of development for your drive will provide an important additional layer of insight into where you are now, where you’ve been at different times in your life, and—most importantly—where you’d like to be or your potential. Looking at the healthy levels can be very inspiring and directive to people, giving them hope for better living and a clear goal to have in mind in their efforts to do so.

So, how to get to the higher/healthier levels? The road is different for each drive and it’s called the Path of Integration, Path of Elevation, or the Response to Challenge.

Elevating To Healthier Levels Of Living

Moving up in the levels of development is the goal and purpose of discovering your drive in the first place. Each drive has a path of Integration (toward healthy) and a path of disintegration (toward unhealthy). The keys to how to move toward health lie in your drive’s Path of Integration. If you look at the Enneagram geometric figure, you will notice that in addition to being connected to other drives by being on a circle, each drive “point” has two straight lines that connect it to two different drives (either as part of the triangle 3-6-9 or as part of the hexad (1-7-5-8-2-4). These two lines indicate the different paths.

For example: if a 1 wants to get healthier, they need to focus on the healthy aspects of a 7 in order to be lifted out of their perfectionism and move toward health. When Perfectionist 1’s shift their attention to the fun/adventure/enthusiasm (7 drive qualities) of a given project/person/event instead of how it’s not quite right, their enjoyment of life increases and the way which they interact with and experience themselves and others moves up in the levels of development.
The following are the Paths of Integration for each drive:

1 to 7: Be Right focuses on Having Fun

2 to 4: Be Loved focuses on Being Special

3 to 6: Achiever focuses on Being Safe, and Loyal to Others

4 to 1: Be Special focuses on Drive 1: Reformer/Be Right/Perfectionist

5 to 8: Thinker focuses on Self-Reliance and Rising to Challenges

6 to 9: Safety-Security focuses on Being at Peace

7 to 5: Have Fun focuses on Investigating and Thinking

8 to 2: Self-Reliant focuses on Being Loved and Loving

9 to 3: Peacemaker focuses on Achieving and Doing

Integrating by focusing on and moving toward another drive is not becoming that drive or changing your drive. Your drive does not change throughout your life. However, reaching toward the healthy aspects of the drive that is your own on your path of integration while still being rooted in the trueness of your drive creates a powerful positive synergy that can catapult you to living a healthier, happier life.


There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com) and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Daniels & Price’s The Essential Enneagram, and Concept Synergy’s Harnessing Your Personality Drive Through Exploring the Enneagram

Personality Drive Pointers through Exploring the Enneagram – Part 1

by Metta Sweet Johnson, LMSW, MAT

You may have heard a lot of talk lately about personality type tests and how they’re used to help people with career choices, relationship issues, and personal growth. They’re also used by businesses to screen candidates for positions and contribute to team building and organizational health. One that has received increased attention in recent years, including at Karuna, is the Enneagram.


Enneagram simply means “nine pointed figure”: ennea> = “nine” in Latin, and gram = geometric figure. This figure/symbol is ancient in origin and its exact birth date is debated among scholars (some dating it to 500BC). The Enneagram is the matrix upon which the nine basic personality drives in human nature flow. These nine core drives are also influenced by subtypes and variations. In addition, these drives are interrelated as shown by the three shapes that make up the Enneagram: the circle (oneness/divinity), triangle (trinity/tree of life), and hexad (law of seven/evolution). The 4th century A.D. introduced personality types and the Enneagram symbol and personality types came together under Gurdjeff’s 1875 work, thus, combining ancient wisdom with modern insights as well as bringing eastern and western philosophies together.

Know Your Type, Know Yourself–Not Exactly!

Well, not exactly. Knowing your drive can help you know what drives you—your core Self is more than that. This is key: You are not your personality drive. Your personality drive is simply a force that drives you (your thoughts, feelings, and ways of relating to yourself and others) if left unnoticed and unattended. You can discover it, though, and by discovering it, harness its power and get into the driver’s seat of your life instead of it driving you. Not to get out of “the car” entirely, but to harness the power of that moving vehicle (your drive) to go in directions you want to go in life instead of just being “along for the ride.”

Every person is a unique, complex being with reactions and responses that are impacted by many forces both internal and external. It may seem strange, then, that I would find such interest in a personality typing tool that, to some, can be used to place people in confined boxes or “types.” Instead of viewing the Enneagram as a static grid for typing and labeling people, though, I view it as a living matrix of energy that flows through human consciousness. Each person is born with a strong connection and certain rapport with one specific part of this living matrix—their personality drive.

Discovering your drive can provide awareness and insight into the following:

External behaviors

Underlying attitudes

Sense of self

Conscious and unconscious motivations

Emotional reactions

Defense mechanisms

Object relations

What we pay attention to

Spiritual potential

Before Getting Started, Keep in Mind

Aside from remembering that your drive is not who you are—it is what drives your personality (Drive vs. Type), consider the following as well:

You are born with a drive and keep it throughout your life

No drive is better than another (all have healthy, average, & unhealthy “Levels of Development”)

Take time to discover your drive (only YOU can know)

Don’t use your drive as an excuse

Don’t type others

You have aspects of all types in you to some degree

This is a test…This is only a test…

Sorting Tests are a popular and effective way to narrow down the drives to a few that may be more likely than the others. Don’t take these tests as the determining truth, though. Treat them as, say, taste tests—for only YOU can know your drive! You—yes you—are your own authority (being honest with yourself is pivotal to the reliability and validity of that authorship, however!). After taking a test, study more about that drive, checking in with yourself and your authentic experiences as you do so. There are many online resources and printed materials about the Enneagram (referenced at the bottom of this article).

The Drives and Their Descriptors

The following are each of the drives and some of the names associated with each. For further descriptions as well as basic fears and desires, visit http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/descript.asp:

Drive 1: Reformer/Be Right/Perfectionist

Drive 2: Helper/Giver/Be Loved

Drive 3: Achiever/Performer

Drive 4: Individualist/Be Special

Drive 5: Investigator/Thinker

Drive 6: Loyalist/Safety-Security

Drive 7: Enthusiast/Adventurer/Have Fun

Drive 8: Challenger/Self-Reliant

Drive 9: Peacemaker/Mediator

Discovering your Drive: A Beginning, not an End

It’s only the beginning! Sadly, many stop at this point, though, satisfied at simply finding a type or label to simply explain or justify much of how they are in the world. This short cut, though, cuts them off. Cuts them off from the movement and growth and healing that can happen when one deeply works to not only discover but to harness and direct the powerful energy of their drive toward “integration” and more healthy living and relating. This is a misuse of this valuable, living, matrix that invites us to look deeply into the mystery of our true identity.

Since our perceptions are often what’s reality to us and since our personality drive plays a key role in determining those perceptions, discovering one’s drive is an invaluable tool for changing one’s reality —that is, changing one’s life. And that’s why people come to therapy in the first place: to change something about their life through healing and growth. Therapy’s purpose of providing a space and relationship for healing and growth, therefore, provides a powerful setting to work with the Ennegram.

Because I don’t believe that any healing or growth path—including psychotherapy—is “one size fits all,” awareness of a client’s personality drive is helpful to both client and therapist. Some clients choose to use the Enneagram as integral to their work and others don’t. I simply introduce it in the initial sessions and ask clients to take a short sorting test and work with me briefly to discover which drive seems to “fit” with their experience of themselves. I use this in work with individuals and couples and also lead a weekly group called Beside Our Selves.


There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com) and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Daniels & Price’s The Essential Enneagram, and Concept Synergy’s Harnessing Your Personality Drive Through Exploring the Enneagram.

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