By Dr. A.J. Drenth
Having already explored common Myers-Briggs / MBTI and Enneagram correlations, in this post, I wished to incorporate the influential role of the inferior function into the equation.
The inferior function seems to be a primary culprit in type ambivalence and misidentification. It also accounts for, among other things, many of the paradoxes we see in the personality types. For those unfamiliar with the nature and workings of the inferior function, it is the least conscious of the four functions in each of the Myers-Briggs personality type’s functional stack. We should not assume, however, that because it is the least conscious that it is also the least powerful of the functions. To the contrary, there are times when the inferior function takes over as the driving and controlling force of the personality; such instances are sometimes described “grip experiences.” The power of the inferior function can be attributed to the fact that, in many ways, it represents the key to wholeness for each personality type, since it is in many respects the perfect complement to the dominant.
Since the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram are entirely different taxonomies, we should not expect perfect, one-to-one correlations between the types. Nevertheless, for those familiar with these two personality taxonomies, the process of wrestling with correlations and points of overlap can help us better see and understand the influence of the inferior function in our personality type.
In the following analysis, I will describe what I feel are “healthy” and “less healthy” Enneagram-Myers-Briggs correlations. Healthy correlations are those in which individuals of a certain Myers-Briggs type employ and identify with their conscious functions (i.e., dominant / auxiliary), leading them to identify with an Enneagram type that aptly describes and represents healthy functioning for their type. Unhealthy correlations occur when they identify with their less conscious functions (i.e., tertiary / inferior).
Enneagram Type 1
Healthy Correlation: Myers-Briggs Judgers (J)
Less Healthy: Perceivers (P)
Enneagram Type 1 is often called “The Reformer.” In the modern world, “reform” often involves an attempt to change or modify external systems. Hence, the One is probably best associated with Extraverted Thinking (Te), a function which is most conscious in TJ types (especially ETJs). However, reforms can also take place among people (Fe), which is why some FJ types may also rightly identify themselves as Ones.
The functional opposites of Te and Fe are Fi and Ti respectively. Therefore, when FPs (who use Fi) or TPs (who use Ti) are being driven by their less conscious functions (Te or Fe), they might identify themselves as Ones, indicating less than optimal functioning for their type.
Enneagram Type 2
Healthy: Feelers (F)
Less Healthy: Thinkers (T)
Twos are “Helpers.” They are described as prioritizing others’ needs over their own. While it is relatively uncommon for Thinkers to identify themselves as Twos, those who do so are likely under the spell or control of their less conscious Feeling function.
Enneagram Type 3
- For Promoting / Motivating: EFJs, ENPs
- For Status / Wealth: ESPs
- For Promoting / Motivating: ISJs
- For Status / Wealth: INJs
- For Fame / Affirmation: ITPs
The situation with the Enneagram Type 3 is a bit more complex. Threes are sometimes called “Motivators” or “Promoters,” both of which are suitable descriptors for ENFJs, ENTPs, and ENFPs. There is also a status-minded side to Threes which is most natural for ESPs to display, since their dominant function, Extraverted Sensing (Se), is naturally attuned to popular trends and material comforts. While many Myers-Briggs types (whether healthy or unhealthy) may score high as Threes, generally speaking, it is healthier for Extraverts to do so than it is for Introverts. When INJs identify as Threes, for instance, they are probably being unduly controlled by their inferior Se, which can become obsessed with acquiring wealth or status. When ISJs identify as Threes, they are likely to do so as aspiring promoters, which gratifies their inferior Ne. When ITPs identify as Threes, they often do so in hopes of seeking praise or affirmation craved by their inferior Fe.
Enneagram Types 4 & 5
Healthy: IN types, some ENPs
Less Healthy: S types
The Enneagram Type 4 (4w5 & 4w3) and Enneagram Five (5w4 & 5w6) are generally IN types. We might roughly associate the Five with INTs (INTPs and INTJs) and the Four with INFs (INFPs and INFJs). Introverted Intuition (Ni), which serves as the dominant function for INTJs and INFJs alike, can be healthily employed by either Fours or Fives. That is, it can be used creatively / imaginatively (Four) or theoretically / intellectually (Five). Despite this, because of their respective auxiliary functions, most INTJs (especially males) will type as Fives and most INFJs (especially females) will identify with the Four. While INTPs may function healthily as 5w4s and INFPs as 4w5s, it would be less common for INTPs to test as Fours or INFPs as Fives.
Most INJs, whose Intuition is dominant, will score as Fours or Fives. INPs, however, whose Intuition is auxiliary, are more prone to deviation. As I’ve written elsewhere, it can be easy for INPs to get stuck in Judging mode, hopping between their dominant and inferior functions, without allowing themselves to relax into Perceiving mode, where they can use and develop their develop their auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). Those who fail to regularly employ their Ne are more apt to identify with other Enneagram types.
While it is probably more common for ENPs to identify with the Enneagram Seven, those who show strong development of their auxiliary function may also function healthily as Fours (ENFPs) or Fives (ENTPs). Philosophers like William James and Colin Wilson are apt examples of ENTP Fives. While some ISPs (ISFPs, ISTPs) or ISJs (ISTJs, ISFJs) may identify as Fours or Fives, many will do so erroneously because the direction of their personal growth is toward Intuition, which resides in either the tertiary or inferior position of their functional stack.
Enneagram Type 6
Healthy: Most S types
Less Healthy: Most Intuitives, especially INJs
Like the Three, the Enneagram 6 is complex and multi-dimensional. One of the main features of Sixes is their lack of consistent self-confidence in formulating their own belief system. This prompts them to look outside themselves—to individuals, groups, organizations, etc.—for guidance and support. In this regard, the Six correlates with Myers-Briggs Sensing, since Sensing types are less equipped to deal in theories and abstractions.
Of all types, it would be least healthy for INFJs or INTJs to identify as Sixes, as they are the types best equipped to produce their own original theories by way of their Ni. Nevertheless, all Intuitives, given sufficient time, should be capable of developing and tweaking their own worldview on a largely independent basis.
Enneagram Type 7
Healthy: EPs (ENTPs, ENFPs, ESTPs, ESFPs)
Less Healthy: IJs (INTJs, INFJs, ISFJs, ISTJs)
The Enneagram 7 correlates with both Extraverted Sensing (Se) and Extraverted Intuition (Ne). Sevens are novelty seekers, whether sensory (Se) or ideational (Ne). Therefore, EP types can healthily identify with and function as Sevens. IJs, by contrast, may be apt to identify with the Seven when overutilizing or identifying with their inferior function (Se or Ne).
Enneagram Type 8
Healthy: ETJ (ESTJ & ENTJ)
Less Healthy: IFPs (and to some extent EFPs)
The Enneagram 8, sometimes called “The Leader,” “The Challenger,” or “The Boss,” correlates with Extraverted Thinking (Te), with ENTJs serving as the Eight’s purest embodiment. EFPs or IFPs, for whom Te is tertiary or inferior, may at times identify with the Eight, which would prove a less than optimal role for these types (especially for IFPs).
Enneagram Type 9
Less healthy: EJs
The Enneagram Type 9, often called “The Peacemaker,” is preoccupied with preserving inner peace and serenity. Nines tend to be unassertive in interpersonal contexts and avoid conflict whenever possible. Those who are FP types rely on their Introverted Feeling (Fi) function to maintain inner harmony. Feeling largely incapable of controlling others, they take an inward approach to finding peace and balance.
The following table summarizes what I see as the healthiest Myers-Briggs / Enneagram correlations:
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