Many thanks to Jeanette van Stijn, author of Coaching and Counselling to the Point (being printed in English  soon), for much of the material in this section.

Jeanette says: “The Enneagram to me is much more than a model that describes nine personality structures. Besides self-insight it above all offers a powerful method for healing, self-actualisation and transformative work for self-realisation. “

We encourage you to share this information, but please acknowledge where you got it from – thank you!

Most people contact the Enneagram through its descriptions of the nine types, and these are very useful.  However, when we are in our type mechanism we only see one ninth of reality.  The Enneagram transformational journey is about exploring what lies behind our type mechanism so that we can use it more mindfully, and even step out from behind our type so that we can reconnect with our true Self.  Enneagram Training courses all start with this aim in mind, and use the transformational method developed by Jeanette and Enneagram Europe.

Type mechanism and the life journey

The premise of the spiritual philosophy of the Enneagram is that our state of awareness in our mother’s womb is Unity, which is a paradise-like state of being where we at one with all that is.   As babies we have no sense of past, present and future; we live in a state of serenity and innocence.

When we grow up and develop physiologically, we slowly move out of the paradise-like state of being. We become aware of our separate self; we develop the capability to recollect, to remember what’s nice and what isn’t.  We learn to anticipate in order to ensure that events have less impact or hurt less. We develop a contraction, a reaction against impact, usually in order to avoid feeling it. The contraction is the root of the defence mechanism and coping strategies and thus forms the foundation of the type mechanism.

We need to develop a personality and a healthy ego in order to survive in the world, but the contractions we use to protect ourselves form an internal blockage which keeps us from being connected with ourselves and others. Around the age of 40 (for some much earlier or later and for others never) we become aware of this – we encounter the limitations of our personality and become aware of our inner blockages. At this point the desire emerges to journey back to our core/essence: back to the paradise-like state of being where there is reconnection with the Self, others and life. This life journey takes us to the joy of coming home to ourselves and also to the awareness of our own pure state of being. Only then do we start to see through what we suffered during all those years when we weren’t living from our core, and we start to realise what we have been missing  – our Self.

When we function at the level of the Self we demonstrate it by characteristics such as our ability to adapt, boundless energy, congruence, wisdom, justice and stability. But we also have the ability to repair ourselves.  We can still make mistakes, but thanks to our ability to repair the damage, this damage isn’t permanent. We recover more quickly from a state of reactivity and return to functional and satisfying communication.

The healing journey

We usually start on this journey because we realise that the distress our type mechanism causes us has become too great; we need to do something different.  The type mechanism is one big energy drain, and healing or transformation is about stopping the energy drain by managing our own energy. The nature of the energy drain differs for each type, for example:

“I am so tired of …”

Type 1               doing my utmost, feeling so responsible

Type 2               wanting to be liked, being available for others

Type 3               having to prove myself, having to achieve

Type 4               searching for something, having severe mood swings

Type 5               being alone and isolated, having to withdraw

Type 6               having to be alert, doubting

Type 7               always being so busy in my head, not being able to confine myself to one topic

Type 8               being in battle, carrying everything on my shoulders

Type 9               the effort needed to stir myself, struggling to get moving.

Healing consists in gaining freedom from the confusions, illusions and entanglement of our type mechanism.  It is aimed at knowing and learning to accept all aspects of ourselves, including what’s hidden in our shadow.  We may need to heal our basic fear, let go of our idealised self-image or limiting beliefs, etc.

Getting real and honest about our type mechanism and having real self-knowledge are necessary ingredients for stepping on to this road. But looking at our own limitations and bad habits with judgement and disapproval causes inner frustration, and still causes an energy drain – we end up depleted by it. If we are tired and have little energy we will have more difficulty staying grounded and close to ourselves.  We will have more trouble controlling ourselves and more easily lose ourselves in reactivity when something happens

We need to learn to look with compassionate eyes on our type mechanism; it has helped us through life.  As soon as we are able to look at ourselves and our own limitations and bad habits with love and without judgment, relaxation occurs. The energy leak closes and something changes inside, all by itself.  We feel good about ourselves and have abundant energy.

People often say that this healing makes them feel like a more complete person.   Self-esteem and self-appreciation increase; we embrace all there is in our life, within our character.


The path of self-realisation is specifically about reconnecting with our own Higher Self. It often comes from a deep desire to be a good or better person, to be able to rise above ourselves in difficult situations, to become the best version of ourselves. Here, the inner work mostly focuses on making ourselves more receptive to the higher qualities of the higher virtue and higher idea of our type; it is about the transformation from the passion or vice to the virtue.

Our task here is therefore to:

  1. Bring the type mechanism back under the control of the inner observer. This will enable us to see objective reality as it actually is, without the distortions and perceptions of the type mechanism.
  2. Empty or learn to free the type mechanism when it comes up (the type mechanism never disappears completely). Where there is emptiness, there is room and space to receive.
  3. Reconnect with the higher qualities.  The highest quality is that of love; the other higher qualities such as compassion, mercy, loving kindness, gratitude, serenity, courage etc. are derived from this. This is the path (and practice) to open our heart to what is higher/greater than us. Some call and experience this as god, others as love or the higher self.
  4. Ask ourselves deeply: “Does this (behaviour, thought, feeling) come from ego/type mechanism or from my true self?”For example: am I really doing this for the other person or if I’m honest, am I doing it more for myself?

Most of us find it hard to move beyond our illusions about life; we experience fear and/or anger. Fear shows up as an impulse towards flight, and anger as an impulse towards fight.  These kinds of emotions are a signal that a defence mechanism has been triggered, that reality isn’t being accepted.

In order to work toward self-realisation, we need to be able to see reality and accept it for what it is, not to move away from it or fight against it but to breathe through it. These things happen in life – they hurt and that is also part of life. If we can do that, the fear and anger will dissolve and acceptance will arise, and with that a sense of inner quietness and stillness – and at this moment we come home to ourselves, to our true self.

Benefits of undertaking the journey

Self-realisation is about coming home to our true self and living and interacting with the world and others from that stance. As they enter the healing process many people feel that they have no value.  However through the process of self-realisation they experience not only their true value but also the fact that they have always been of value.  Here is often where people find purpose in their life and meaning in their suffering.  Their journey now appears to have served a clear purpose and this gives life meaning.

We need the belly centre in order to notice things in the inner and outer world. We need the head centre to take in and translate the signals, to manage the self during the reaction, to develop the self and decide on the course of action needed. The heart centre is necessary in order to transform the passions and emotions into love. Love is the necessary energy for the process of psycho-spiritual integration. Without love, nothing will blossom. It is through the heart centre that the way leads to the Self and from which we are capable of True Love and living our True Potential.

We practise these approaches on our Foundation Programme courses .  These courses will help you to get to know yourself deeply, to understand and have compassion for the blessings and traps of your type mechanism.  And they will also give you practices to support you so that you can journey towards the freedom and joy of living from your true self.  Find out more here!