Thursday, April 19, 2012

Personality types

I've always been something of a fan of quizzes and personality tests. When I step back and think about it, my fascination isn't entirely logical – I mean, I do spend more time in my own head than anyone else does.

But in any case, its fun to find patterns in my own thoughts that I might not have previously recognized. Of course, most quizzes are pretty silly – like What Color is Your Aura? Or Which Harry Potter Character Are You? (which is pointless, because the multiple choice answers are so obvious that it's not really hard to figure who you're going to get).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum of usefulness is something called the Enneagram. It's made up of nine main personality types, each of which has a wing, or subtype. It also describes how your personality can change if you're healthy or if you're troubled.

Look, here's a picture. The arrows show the directions of integration and disintegration.

It apparently has some sort of Greek or Babylonian origin, which I'm guessing means that, thousands of years ago, stone tablet quizzes were very popular, with subjects like "Which Greek Philosopher are You?" or "Which Invading Hoard Will Ransack Your Town This Year?"

Anyway, properly explaining the whole thing would take forever. There's also, for example, the triads: thinking, feeling and intuition. Here is the website if you want more detail.

Anyway… I'm kind of in love with the Enneagram. Because the description of my personality type is somewhat alarmingly accurate. I mean, when I first took the quiz, it was like the internet could read my mind.

Here are some descriptors of my personality type, from the book The Wisdom of the Enneagram (p. 179)
-I often feel alone and lonely, even when I'm around people I'm close to (check)
-I can forgive almost everything except bad taste (check - this one made me laugh, because it's silly of me, but so true!)
-I tend to brood over my negative feelings for a long time before getting free of them (check)
-I tend to spend quite a bit of time imagining scenes and conversations that haven't necessarily happened (CHECK CHECK CHECK)

But I didn't bring this up to talk about my own psyche. Another big part of the Enneagram that I like is its insights into other types of personalities. I see it as a tool to explore other ways of thinking and other approaches to the world - for that ever difficult character development.

For example, when I first come up with a character, and I've spent time developing their history and characteristics, I go look at the quiz on the Enneagram site. The quiz, which is used to determine personality type, presents a series of questions and asks you to chose which of two choices fits you best.

There are the obvious ones:

1. I have tended to
a. Take on confrontations
b. avoid confrontations

But then there are ones that are less intuitive:

2. When I have a new experience, I ask if it will be:
a. Useful to me
b. enjoyable

3. I have been more:
a. relationship oriented than goal oriented
b. goal oriented rather than relationship oriented.

4. I've typically been interested in
a. Asking the tough questions and maintaining my independence
b. Maintaining my stability and peace of mind

In relation to character development, my very favorite part about the Enneagram though is their list of basic fears and desires for each personality type. It wasn't something that I really thought about before, and yet these things are at the heart of everyone's personality. So now it's something I ask myself about my characters. What do they really want? What do they fear most in life?

Basic Fears (The Wisdom of the Enneagram , p. 32)
Type 1: fear of being bad, corrupt, evil or defective
Type 2: fear of being unworthy of being loved
Type 3: fear of being worthless or without inherent value
Type 4: fear of being without identity or personal significance
Type 5: fear of being useless, incapable or incompetent
Type 6: fear of being without support or guidance
Type 7: fear of being deprived or trapped in pain
Type 8: fear of being harmed or controlled by others
Type 9: fear of loss of connection, of fragmentation

Basic desires (and their distortions)  (The Wisdom of the Enneagram , p.33)
Type 1: the desire to have integrity (deteriorates into critical perfectionism)
Type 2: the desire to be loved (deteriorates into the need to be needed)
Type 3: the desire to be valuable (deteriorates into chasing after success)
Type 4: the desire to be oneself (deteriorates into self indulgence)
Type 5: the desire to be competent (deteriorates into useless specialization)
Type 6: the desire to be secure (deteriorates into an attachment to beliefs)
Type 7: the desire to be happy (deteriorates into frenetic escapism)
Type 8: the desire to protect oneself (deteriorates into constant fighting)
Type 9: the desire to be at peace (deteriorates into stubborn neglectfulness)

If you're interested in taking the quiz for you, or for your characters, copy and paste this link into your browser (it won't hotlink, not sure why): . If you take it for yourself, you'll know you answered the questions right if you come up with a description that is alarmingly accurate. J If not, try one of your secondary results.

Let me know what you get if you take the quiz, or if not, what basic fears/desires seem to most match you or your characters.

(And if anyone is wondering, I'm a Type Four with a Five wing).


  1. I love personality tests! But I'm less than happy that you got me working on this when I'm supposed to be working on my post. says I am a 7 (an enthusiast). I got 7 points on that, but I only got 2 points on both 6 and 8, so I don't appear to have any wings. My next highest one was 2 (Helper). This probably means I am crazy. Am I right??

    This seems like it could be very useful with characters. I might have to take it again as Anastasia. But not until my post is written!!

  2. I dug a little deeper and realize it's because I'm a classic 9, who often mislabel themselves as 7 or 2. How cool is that? This is kind of amazing. I still don't seem to have any wings. :(

    1. Very cool, Melanie!

      I forget if they have this on the website, but you can read the description of a Nine with a One wing or a Nine with an Eight wing. My wing wasn't immediately obvious when I first took the quiz. It's only the short version, anyway, so some nuances might get left out.

    2. Can you be a nine with nothing? I think I ought to get the book.

    3. I do recommend the book. I think it's wonderful, inspiring reading, especially for people as fascinated by personality as writers are. There's a few of them out there, but the one I quote above is my favorite.

      The authors of the book say that it's common not to think you have a wing, but most people do. But then, to be honest, I'm not entirely positive about my wing. I was just reading the descriptions again today, and I think I might be more of a Four with a Three wing. Anyway, it's knowing the core personality that's really important. The whole wing idea is rather secondary.

  3. Oh, this was fun! I threw in one of my mc's character traits and it got him pretty much spot on and gave me a few angles of his personality I hadn't explored yet, but I think would round him out nicely.

    Very excellent post!

  4. Wow, this test is too much fun. I could spend my whole day playing with it. I especially love how it gives the basic desires and basic fears. I think that tells you a lot about a person.

    Awesome post, Sabrina.

  5. Fascinating. Apparently I'm an individualist (Type 4 at 7pts).

    Unlike Melanie above, I'm nothing but wings...
    Type 3 at 6pts (achiever)
    Type 5 at 5pts (investigator)
    Type 6 at 5pts (loyalist)

    Thanks for the link!

    1. Hooray for fellow Type 4's! I think the wings can be harder to identify, as they're more the minor part of our personalities.

  6. This...

    "thousands of years ago, stone tablet quizzes were very popular, with subjects like "Which Greek Philosopher are You?" or "Which Invading Hoard Will Ransack Your Town This Year?"

    Instant Classic!

    I'm apparently a 7,(with six points) but I had two wings (2,3) with five points, and type 6 with four points.

    A bunch of the questions though were confusing, like they are asking

    I like
    a) Ice cream
    b) Pizza

    and obviously the answer is both, but they won't let you do that.

    Or then other questions are...

    My favorite food is
    a) etched glass
    b) decayed

    and the answer is obviously, who come up with these questions?

    But I gotta say, the type(s) they gave me make sense. Fun post!

  7. Sheena, I'm curious - which questions didn't make sense to you? There are some that seemed odd to me as well - I'm wondering if it's something unique to each personality type, like some divisions in one person's life are very clear, where they aren't in others. For example, a vulture would have NO trouble answering your second question. :D

    1. I don't remember exactly. I just remember trying to answer a few questions and thinking, "I never annoy my friends"...which might tell you more about my personality than I meant to.

  8. Ha, finally took the test for myself, and, uh, I think I must have multiple personalities or something. I squeaked out a six (loyalist), and then had a virtual tie for second with 1,4,5 & 9. Apparently the only thing I'm really not is a challenger. No wonder I can never figure myself out.

    1. Susan, I looked at the misidentification part of the webpage, and it says, "If you have a scattered distribution of scores across three to five types so that there doesn’t seem to be any discernible pattern, you could be a Six."

      So maybe that's it. :) Did you look at the personality description and see if it fits? That's how I figured out for sure what I was.


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