The Enneagram & The MBTI: The Gut Triad
As we discussed in the first installment of the series, we have a piece of every Enneagram type within us. Our primary Enneagram type is the most helpful in unlocking our motivations, behaviors, and pasts. And it will resonate profoundly with us. But knowing your primary type is not enough. We must become knowledgeable in every type because knowledge of all the types guides us to more of lost shards of our soul. Through picking up each one, we can find the path to a deeper and richer self-understanding.
Our understanding of our MBTI type will only be enhanced and grown through an understanding of the Enneagram. We begin that process in this article as we examine the three first Enneagram types.
In this second installment, we will specifically be examining the first Triad of the Enneagram. The Gut (or “Instinctive” Triad) is composed of three types: the Eight, Nine, and One. We will look at the most likely MBTI types to align with them.
If you are new to the Enneagram, this article and the remaining two will also provide a basic overview of the Enneagram. And we will continue our conversation on the correlating elements between these two dominant personality systems.
Anger is the common word attached to the Gut Triad. But “anger” can be misleading. As we discussed in the previous article, each Triad has its own root wound. Shame for the Heart Triad. Fear for the Head Triad. And anger for the Gut Triad. But anger is not necessarily the “issue” with these three types. This means that they aren’t more in need of anger management than the other types. Nor that they are particularly ragey. However, “anger” reveals their driving motivation.
The types within this Triad are the most aware that the world does not always work as it should. Terrible things happen to people. Things don’t work. People are upset and need solutions. Life is suffering. Sometimes.
These types are angry because of the state of the world. It is this anger that drives them to bring change to the world. It is the responsibility of each type within this Triad to get in touch — in some cases, wake up — their anger in an appropriate fashion. Sometimes, even an inappropriate fashion will do too.
Other words such as “resistance”, “opposition”, and even “rebellion” give a clearer picture of the driving force of the types in Gut Triad. I personally like the word “fix”.
The Eight, Nine, and One rebel against, oppose, and resist the world and its accompanying disorder. This can also be directed at other people who live disorderly too.
The types in the Gut triad seek to establish order through various methods. Justice, efficiency, quality management, integrity, and discretion are among them. They are reformers. But this reformation isn’t always of a moral or philosophical nature. It can be of a practical, structural nature too. But the root motivation is still the same.
Things could be better. Things should be better. And we will make them better.
The Eight — The Challenger
“Eights describe a combative childhood, where the strong were respected and the weak were not.” — Helen Palmer, The Enneagram
The first Enneagram type within the Gut Triad is known as “The Challenger” and sometimes “The Protector.” The Challenger exacts order through creating structure. This is our first clue into which MBTI types are likely to correlate. Eights point their desire for order externally, where they push against the physical world and exert their will upon it.
But Eights also despise being controlled by others. They live for freedom, a symbol of their never-ending battle against a world that would rather have them conform than reform. Their freedom is won by effectively transforming the chaos of the world into the order of their desire. The Eight sometimes creates freedom by ordering others around. While this isn’t always a bad thing, they tend to believe they always know best. Often, they are right.
One of the primary testing grounds for the Eight is in their relationships — work, family, or intimate. They are notorious for testing the strength of others.
But, at the risk of coming across as disagreeable and aggressive, the heart of the Eight feels that genuine connection is only possible through testing. They cannot bond without conflict. Hence, “The Challenger” is born.
Even though the Eight can be rough and domineering at times, they are also quite warm on the inside. But they have difficulty expressing this part of themselves. This is our second clue in connecting the Eight to the MBTI types.
If you are familiar with CSJ’s type grid, you will see that there are four types belonging to the “Structure” temperament. Because an Eights priority is to bring order and — literally — structure to the world, nearly all Eights will be one of the four “Structure” types. But not necessarily the other way around. Let’s examine the types.
Who is better at establishing external order and being an efficient leader than an ENTJ? With their powerful and abstract Te-Hero and auxiliary Ni-Parent, the ENTJ guides and oversees projects with controlling ease. They are often put into high-ranking leadership positions such as CEO, COO, and many other kinds of managerial roles.
They are not afraid of confrontation. Their Te-Hero seeks out confrontation, and tests, as a matter of course.
But, the connection between the ENTJ and Eight is only secured if we can explore the ENTJ’s place of vulnerability and wound. This “wound” that is shared between the deepest hurts of our childhood (Enneagram) will be connected to the MBTI by a type’s lower function — where they are literally vulnerable.
The lower functions — Inferior, Nemesis, Critic, and even Demon — are where your vulnerability primarily exists.
Where is the vulnerability for the ENTJ? How does it compare with the Eight’s wound? The Eight came from an environment where “only the strong survive.” To survive, they needed to become tough and reliable — and others needed to know it.
ENTJs grew up believing that they were not allowed to feel okay about themselves until they established themselves as being dependable and tough. Until they were reputable, in one way or another. When others perceived strength in the ENTJ, it gave the ENTJ permission to feel good about themselves, and gain security in their vulnerability.
But, even while gaining status, many ENTJs’ vulnerability was too deep for reputation alone to protect. So, like all wounded animals, they sought to conceal and protect their wound at all costs. The ENTJ’s ability to challenge others, gain status, and guide their lives through their Te-Hero and Ni-Parent allow them to shield the wound of their Inferior.
The wound of the ENTJ was likely made from an early experience when their Fi-Inferior was violated. Perhaps by someone close to them. They were taught that it was never okay to show vulnerability. They instead learned to be self-controlled, competent, and fierce.
An Eight ENTJ needs to learn what it feels like to reveal their own vulnerability from time to time. They need to risk engaging their Fi-Inferior with those who have earned their trust.
Expressing themselves genuinely in some expressive medium — art, conversation, writing, sport, etc. — teaches them that it is okay to express their deeper emotional and moral intelligence. They will learn that their vulnerability doesn’t always need to be covered up with control and power.
Accessing their wound will actually make them less vulnerable, and it will show the ENTJ a side of life that they didn’t feel was possible. Having confidence in their own moral worth and ability to a fair judge of value, the ENTJ will access the power of their Fi-Aspirational as it takes them into their ISFP Subconscious.
They will complete one of the most important steps toward becoming an integrated — whole — human being.
“Eights discover boundaries by testing them.”— Don Riso, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
As Chase has said on multiple occasions, ESTPs exist to test boundaries. And like the ENTJ, the ESTP tests the boundaries not just of society and individuals, but with ideas and tradition as well. It is only through testing boundaries can the ESTP gain respect for a rule, a person, principle, or institution. Until a boundary has proven its necessity, it remains arbitrary — and therefore pointless — in the eyes of the ESTP.
The Se-Hero of the ESTP combined with their Ti-Parent makes them a congruency-sniffing bloodhound. Extraverted Sensing exists to make others better and stronger. And the ESTP has a deep awareness of the strengths and weaknesses that lie within other people. Their Ti-Parent is a scathing testing ground for anyone brave enough to lock swords with their powerful truth-detector.
One of the deepest fears of the Eight is being controlled by others. While this is a fear that belongs to all Introverted Intuition users on the MBTI, it is most deeply felt by those who have Ni-Inferior. This is where the ESTP’s wound exists in relation to type Eight. They fear being controlled by others, losing their freedom, and being unable to choose a path for themselves.
The ESTP archetype has also gained a reputation for being the ideal alpha, “Don Juan”, of the MBTI. This is closely associated with the deadly sin of Eight: lust. With the fear of making the wrong choice looming at every moment, the ESTP resists being tied down by commitment until they are absolutely sure it is what they want.
But the ESTP is rarely convinced that they absolutely want anything. But, when they do, when their Ni-Inferior goes to Ni-Aspirational, they desire with a hotter flame than even the Ni-Heros. But, until that happens, Eights and ESTPs face the risk of jumping from one pleasure to the next, never settling and never committing.
Growing out of this weakness begins when the ESTP learning to trust themselves. With a little trust, their ability to make good choices is strengthened. Chase’s aphorism for the Ni-Inferiors remains useful for all ESTPs: there is no wrong choice. This is what ESTPs need to hear more often. Though it may scare some, the ESTP needs the ultimate permission to choose.
All Templars, especially the ESTP, learn best through making any decision. Each and every decision that an ESTP makes strengthens their Ni-Inferior, builds courage in their vulnerability, and allows them to get what they most deeply want from life.
While I maintain that the ENTJ and ESTP are the most likely Eights, is it possible for other types to be Eights too? Let’s start with the other two structure types — ENFJ, ESTJ.
It is possible for an ENFJ and ESTJ to be Eights. Regardless of if they are actually Eights, both the ENFJ and ESTJ will possess Eight-characteristics. With their vulnerability of low Fi (Fi-Inferior and Nemesis), as well as their powerful extraverted decision-making Heroes, there is a fair chance they will be Eights. Though, another type is more likely to be home for each of them.
Any other types? The ISTP and ESFP could be considered possibilities for the Eight. An argument could be made for the INTJ, but they are much more likely to identify with one of two other archetypes, even though the INTJ can be confrontational like the Eight.
The ESFP is not usually testy in the way that the ESTP and ENTJ are, even though they fear losing their freedom and have Se-Hero. They will belong to other types.
The ISTP is the most likely other type to share at least some Eight characteristics. Their Ti-Hero and Se-Parent are typically unafraid of confrontation — and may even seek it — and they will do all they can to secure their freedom with their Ni-Child.
The Nine — The Peacemaker
“We have sometimes called the Nine the crown of the Enneagram because it is at the top of the symbol and because it seems to include the whole of it. Nines can have the strength of Eights, the sense of fun and adventure of Sevens, the dutifulness of Sixes, the intellectualism of Fives, the creativity of Fours, the attractiveness of Threes, the generosity of Twos, and the idealism of Ones. However, what they generally do not have is a sense of really inhabiting themselves — a strong sense of their own Identity.” — Don Riso, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
The second Enneagram type within the Gut triad is known as “The Peacemaker”, and sometimes “The Moderator.” The Nine can seem a bit of an enigma. Being one of the three types whose energy moves inward and outward, there is a wider range of MBTI types that can be Nines than other types.
Being labeled the “Peacemaker”, and belonging to a triad with a central wound of anger, the Nine has numbed themselves to their own true feelings and honest thoughts. They seek external and internal peace to avoid feeling the pain of their wound. They avoid more than engage, and are often uncertain of their own path.
The Nine is usually the most non-confrontational of all the types, and their anger away until they don’t feel it. Nines desire to maintain balance in all things and try to avoid stirring up violent emotions if possible. Their deadly sin is sloth.
ISFJ & ESFJ
This pair is affiliative, so interdependency and harmony are naturally how they prefer to live.
The ISFJ, with their Ne-Inferior fearing others not wanting them, seeks to be in good favor with others. Mixed with their Fe-Parent‘s awareness of other people’s emotions and values, an ISFJ — as a background type — wants others to take center stage as they generally try to not upset them or otherwise get in their way. An ISFJ must learn that their presence does matter, as does their thoughts and insights. And that they have an identity beyond when they bond with others and help take on their burdens.
Though the ESFJ is not a background type (and can at times be center stage), their Fe-Hero and Ne-Child shares similar qualities to the non-confrontational, harmony-seeking characteristics of the Nine.
The Ti-Inferior of the ESFJ can make them extremely hesitant to share their thoughts too. However, Ti-Inferiors can also talk your ear off. It’s the dual nature of the Nine — outward and inward — that might account for this.
For both of these types, having such low Introverted Intuition (Ni) can leave them with deep feelings of confusion, uncertainty, and even discomfort or anger as a result of their future path being unknown. Identity is strongly tied with one’s path. Without a clear path, we can see why the Nine may struggle to find themselves. But, it is loyalty to a worthy cause that will resolve this issue for them.
ISFP & INFP
Te-Inferior cannot bear being thought poorly of by others. And few types are more concerned with their image than ISFPs and INFPs. Te-Inferior will often not speak up, not rock the boat, or otherwise stand in the way of popular consensus for fear of rejection. Fi–Hero can make these types particularly prone to feeling perfectly satisfied — and sometimes slothful — in their own worlds, without taking a social risk.
The INFP’s low, Ni-Critic will leave them feeling torn over which path to take. This is similar to the ISFP’s Si-Critic, where they feel internally criticized for not working hard enough, being disciplined enough, or working towards a goal that will satisfy the dutiful demands of their critic.
While INFJs mostly fall into another type, they can be Nines. Their Se-Inferior can appear much like a Te or Ne-Inferior, where they seem avoidant like the ISFJ and IxFPs, albeit for different reasons. This is especially true if INFJ is not comfortable around others in a social situation.
The INFJs Ne-Nemesis can produce a similar type of fear to the ISFJs Ne-Inferior. They are wary of others’ intentions and fearful of consequences. And, like the ISFJ, who shares Fe-Parent, they may avoid rocking the boat entirely — even though their Se-Inferior really wants to rock the boat deep down.
The Fe-Parent also seeks fairness, leading the INFJ to not always commit to a certain view. They are often aware of the ethical validity of differing perspectives and have difficulty resolving the murkiness. But, if their Ti-Child has time to work through the murkiness, they can usually sit in a comfortable tension between two perspectives.
It initially seems strange to have a Ti-Hero as a Nine. Though INTPs can be found mainly in two other types, some are Nines. As Chase has elucidated, the vice of the INTP is apathy. The Sloth of the Nine and apathy of the INTP are as closely associated as it gets.
Generally, a Ti-Hero is unlikely to feel afraid of sharing their opinion and point out flaws in other people’s reasoning. This is unlike a Nine almost entirely. However, the threat of apathy mixed with the INTP’s Fe-Inferior makes them anxious of other people’s feelings. They don’t want to make others feel bad. Ultimately they must be valued by others. The fear of not being valued can lead them to be comfortably numb as their Si-Child drinks of a few pleasures.
This is the reason that Chase has warned INTPs against their propensity to become doormats. If their apathy sets in, the INTP will fall asleep and numb themselves, just as the Nine does.
Instead, they must engage with others, be as helpful as possible, and never fear the truth. This allows the INTP to stay alert, to be engaged with their search for higher-order love, to not fall into a numb slumber, and be on the lookout for their communities and for humanity.
You may have noticed that each of the “Background” types are possible Nines. In fact, they are probably the most likely Nines of all the types listed. The central characteristics of the Nine — not wanting to rock the boat, not wanting the spotlight, often avoiding sharing their whole presence — are all characteristic of everything that “Background” means.
The wounds for these types can most strongly be seen in their vulnerable Inferior slots. Te, Ne, Se, and Fe–Inferior are all afraid of not being valued, desired, and coming across or being thought of in an unpleasant way.
The Nine has received the message that their presence is not worth anything. The Nine’s path forward is to realize that their voice does matter. This may mean accepting that they need to work to make that voice more valuable — particularly for Te-Inferiors. This comes from learning to value themselves enough to respect what they think, put in consistent work to sharpen what they can offer to others, and then be confidently present around others too. Above all, the Nine must allow themselves to be seen, in their own way.
Type One — The Reformer
“They strive to overcome adversity—particularly moral adversity—so that the human spirit can shine through and make a difference. They strive after higher values, even at the cost of great personal sacrifice.” — Don Riso, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
The third Enneagram type within the Gut Triad is known as “The Reformer”, or sometimes “The Perfectionist.” The One wants to be good. Ones feel immense internal pressure to be morally upright, to have sound judgment, and to live with integrity. They always have an idea about right and wrong, and how things should be. Their drive is to uphold the standards for the reform of the world, which aligns with their moral vision.
In their childhoods, the One may have been punished for even the slightest slipup. Many who are brought up in strict religious homes are likely to carry some characteristics of the Reformer.
One’s deal with their anger by repressing it — most of the time. Where the Nine numbs their anger, the Ones let it churn and simmer in coals that are not externally aflame, but boil within. Their anger is not usually reactive, but compelled by the bitterness of past experiences and the internal war for perfection.
What functions hold bitterness, particularly in relation to memory? Si, which governs memory and our history of experience, is the most influential function that dictates resentment. Any Si-user can be bitter, whether it be a Hero or an Inferior. But, those lacking Si, such as the Si-Demon, can experience tremendous hatred through the Demon’s memory, and experience the deep rage of injustice too. A lower Si function will “come out” less often.
Ones are also their own harshest critic and need to learn that they don’t constantly have to judge themselves. And that the judge within them doesn’t have to and shouldn’t dictate their life.
As a stand-alone function, Si-Hero is arguably the most concerned with the “should” of life.
The ISTJ is probably the most aware of the rules of all the types. ISTJs look to constantly uphold the norms of a community, society, or institution. Si-Hero and Fi-Child love to do what they feel is right. Though they are motivated partially for the sake of perception (doing good to be seen doing good), the Fi-Child holds a special proclivity to carrying out its moral principles for it’s own sake.
The quest for being “good” and for possessing integrity speaks to the ISTJ through their Ti-Critic too. The Ti-Critic, one of the ISTJs’ potential wounds, pushes the ISTJ to seek the truth and to live in accordance with it. But it is their enduring Si-Hero and divine Fi-Child that guides their life, and allows them to uphold the good and the right, as they see it.
The other Si-Hero, the ISFJ, is a rule and norm upholder too. They carry this drive out more socially with their Fe-Parent than does the ISTJ with their Te-Parent. But the ISFJ, with the wound of their Fi-Critic, believes that they can only feel good about themselves if they are good.
The standard for “goodness” that the Fi-Critic demands is extremely high. The Critic’s influence leads them to strive for — and project onto others — moral perfection. This is the characteristic trait of type One: the quest for moral perfection.
Because the ISTJ and ISFJ have Ne-Inferior, they may also believe that they are not desirable unless they are good. This pumps extra motivation for them to be as integral as possible.
The Ti-Child of the ISFJ also demands integrity. With the combination of their Fe-Parent and Si-Hero, the ISFJ is, in the most literal sense of the word, a crusader for justice.
Like the ISTJ, the INTJ has the desire to be moral through their Fi-Child, and the pressure to find the truth and live by it through their Ti-Critic. While the INTJ lacks Si — which governs duty — almost entirely, their source of pressure to be “good” can arise from their Se-Inferior and Fi-Child combination.
Se-Inferior is known for its perfectionistic tendencies as well. These functions put pressure on the INTJ to be morally sound and without flaw. This is amplified if their environment — like a religious community — demanded it growing up.
The INTJ will also make it a priority to build a perception of possessing high moral fiber. Like the ISTJ, their Fi-Child guides their choices with moral principles about good and bad. They seek goodness.
The governance of Te-Parent seeks reformation, as it is an organizing function and acts like the Te-Hero of the ENTJ.
If an INTJ’s childhood environment rewarded attention only when the INTJ was morally upright, the INTJ will likely develop an Fi principle that motivates them to be morally integral for the sake of their vulnerable Se-Inferior — and for survival.
The INFJ shares Fi-Critic with their ISFJ counterpart. Fi-Critic demands one to have high moral fiber. Whether or not the IxFJ is actually a One, they will likely carry a couple of strong One-characteristics.
Their perfectionistic Se-Inferior combined with their Fi-Critic makes perfectionism an inborn trait for INFJs. The INFJ’s Ti–Child puts honesty and truth on a pedestal. And their Fe-Parent seeks fairness and consistency, which guides them to seek the right way of acting.
Food For Thought
Within the Enneagram theory, each type has a transition when they will resemble another time. Two types in fact. One when they are stressed, another when they are secure.
In this final section, we will talk about a few Enneagram types that we haven’t mentioned yet. But to explain this theory, we must do it. So, if you feel a bit lost about which types we are talking about, bear with me and it will make more sense with the added information in the next two article installments.
Each of the types forms a triangle with two other types that they resemble when stressed or secure. The One appears like a healthy Seven when they are secure, but they can look like an unhealthy Four when stressed.
A type Seven looks like an unhealthy One when stressed but resembles a healthy Five when they are secure.
Is it possible that there is a correlation between cognitive transitions within the MBTI and the type transitions within the Enneagram?
Let’s look at a type One ISTJ in depth. When stressed, this ISTJ One will resemble a Four. But, when feeling secure, the ISTJ One will resemble a Seven. If we look at the four sides of the mind, we attempt to trace this transition accounted for by the MBTI.
Conveniently, one of the core concepts of the Four-Sides Dynamics is something called a cognitive transition. This is where we access a different side of our mind — and gain access to different types’ cognitive makeup.
The ISTJ’s Subconscious is the ENFP. This means that the ISTJ can resemble an ENFP when they are secure in their environment when their Inferior function goes aspirational.
An ENFP (hint hint) is one of the types that can be a Seven. And, since the Subconscious is typically what develops second after the Ego, it would stand to reason that when feeling “secure”, a One ISTJ would and does resemble a Seven ENFP.
But what about when the One ISTJ is stressed? If the ENFP transition exists when the ISTJ is feeling secure, we need to look somewhere else to see what happens when the ISTJ is stressed. A different side of the mind.
The ISTJ’s Unconscious belongs to the ESTP. When a One ISTJ is stressed, they will resemble a Four. However, it is very unlikely for an ESTP to be a Four. The “stressed” transition of the ISTJ when they go to their ESTP Unconscious does not line up with their Enneagram transition of the One going to a Four.
It seems, based on this one analysis, that the Enneagram’s system, at best, only lines up half-way with the Cognitive Transitions of the Four Sides Dynamics. But there is one more place to look.
Maybe we can’t account for the Unconscious just yet when it comes to Type One in Enneagram for an ISTJ, but there remains one more side of the mind to explore. The Superego.
What is the Superego of the ISTJ? And what type is the ISTJ’s Superego most likely to resemble on the Enneagram? The Four INFJ. A stressed One ISTJ could resemble a Four INFJ from the source of the ISTJ’s Superego.
There are certain Enneagram types that line up nearly perfectly with the Subconscious and Unconscious of the Four-Sides Dynamics. But others — such as the One — seem to line up better with the Subconscious and the Superego, but not the Unconscious. It is a difficult puzzle to solve, but it is worth looking into.
Two questions to leave you with:
- Are the transitions in the Enneagram legitimate maps for Cognitive Transitions within the MBTI too?
- Is the Enneagram missing something as it doesn’t appear to account for all four sides of the mind — or are we?