The Enneagram & THe MBTI: The Head Triad
The last Triad in the Enneagram is called the “Head Triad”. While anger is the wound of the first Triad, and shame the second, it is fear that belongs to the third. Fear of the world. Fear of authority. And the fear of not having enough.
The Five, Six, and Seven feel an immense fear of the future. They are uncertain whether they have what it takes — or find what it takes — to navigate it.
When their fear is at its worst, the Five, Six, and Seven will respectively rely too much on others for support, completely deny any help from others, or shut down from the demands of the world. They must learn how to find security, even amidst times of anxious uncertainty.
Like the other Triads, each type goes about compensating for their wound in their own way. The Five moves inward in response to feeling fear externally. The Seven moves outward in response to their fear of their internal world. And the Six moves both out and in response to external and internal threats.
Here we will examine which MBTI types are most likely to correlate with these three Enneagram archetypes. Let’s dig in one more time and examine this last piece of the human experience.
Type 5 — The Investigator
“Fives want to understand how the world works, whether it is the cosmos, the microscopic world, the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom—or the inner world of their imaginations . . . Behind Fives’ relentless pursuit of knowledge are deep insecurities about their ability to function successfully in the world.” — Don Riso, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
Intellectual, withdrawn, and knowledgeable, the Five is driven by an unquenchable desire for knowledge. Uncertain and afraid of the demands of others and the world, the Five seeks to solve the puzzles of existence through the intellectual landscape. Knowledge, the Five believes, equals security.
The deadly sin of the Five is avarice. This may seem strange because, as those who know a Fives is aware, they are among the most minimalistic of them all. But it is not possessions or pleasure that they pursue in avarice. Knowledge is their medicine, and they often overdose.
The root of greed can be fear. And the Five fears that they will never have enough — in this case know enough — to combat their fear. They have lost their ability to trust themselves in face of the demands of the external world, and the pull of an overwhelming social sphere.
INTP & ISTP
With their Ti-Heros, IxTPs naturally seek to understand the world. The INTP is inclined to more abstract understanding, where the ISTP is inclined to the mastery of skills — yet both are intellectually curious.
Avarice can be seen in these types’ Inferior. The Fe-Inferior of the IxTPs can make them overwhelmed in social situations, and hoard their introverted energy. They can become greedy with their isolation and choose to not engage at all socially. Their fear of how others feel can cause the IxTP to withdraw.
However, solace is essential for them. But when it is motivated by their deep fear of not having enough to give, only more fear will come.
If the INTP and ISTP do not believe they are competent enough to navigate the world, then they will not find the strength to give to others. And they will never find that indeed they have much to give.
The INTP’s Ni-Critic may shoot down any attempt toward choosing a path. This keeps them in a state of inaction. And the Si-Critic of the ISTP makes them think they don’t yet have enough experience to contribute to others. Combined with their Fe-Inferiors, both types may choose to do nothing. Paralysis is a characteristic of the Five.
Fe-Inferiors will be effective thought leaders only to the degree that they are willing to engage and help others. This is the destiny of Fe-Inferior: to aspire, to heal, and to help those in need. They do this through their knowledge, and through their love.
Ti-Critic + Se-Inferior + Ne-Nemesis = Five-like characteristics.
A wise INTJ wants to be brilliant when their Ne-Nemesis and Ti-Critic become useful agents for detection. This motivates them to scour the modules of a given subject they are studying and form a comprehensive database of knowledge with their Te-Parent.
But the combination of their Se-Inferior, Ne-Nemesis, and Fe-Trickster makes them fearful of the world, the intentions of others, and their own ability to navigate the social sphere competently. Like the IxTPs, this leads the INTJ to withdraw.
This can be fine — and healthy — at times. But if their withdraw is singularly motivated by their performance anxiety and proclivity to paranoia, it is difficult for them to not hoard all their mental resources and ultimately prove themselves unhelpful.
The INTJ must learn to humbly approach the world with their Se-Inferior and risk having belief in others with their Ne-Nemesis. They will find that they have plenty to give. And when they engage with the world generously, it will help them pursue their own passions with even more vigor.
Other Potential Five Types?
INFJs are likely to demonstrate characteristics of the Five too. They share their Se-Inferior and Ne-Nemesis with the INTJ. Their Ti-Child gives them the desire for intellectual exploration, like the other Fives.
ISTJs and other research-oriented types can share Five characteristics. Though the ISTJ’s motivation for investigation is usually not fear, they still possess the book-worm characteristics of Fives.
As a temperament, all the NT “Intellectuals” will exude Five characteristics. The trick in distinguishing whether they are actually a Five or not is to ask why they are pursuing knowledge. A person can still be intellectual without being a Five.
Type 6 — The Loyalist
“Sixes lost faith in authorities when they were young. They remember being afraid of those who had power over them, of being unable to act on their own behalf.” — Helen Palmer, The Enneagram
The descriptions for the Six are typically broad. And being the only type with an internal subtype — phobic vs. counterphobic — Sixes can be difficult to discern. For reference: phobic Sixes retreat from potential danger, counterphobic Sixes engage the danger.
You may have noticed I have said this — “difficult to discern” — about three types in the Enneagram. The three types that exhibit both inward and outward energy because of their wound. The Nine, Three, and Six. Because these three types have a wider balance of internal and external energy, more MBTI types will relate to them. Many MBTI types will feel a pull to the Six.
Sixes are wary . . . of everyone. Confident that they can spot hidden motives, sniff coming betrayals, and live with justified disbelief in everyone, Sixes are not comfortable risking trust. The Six’s deadly sin is fear. This is fitting as they exist in the center of the Head Triad, dominated by fear.
While their deepest fear is that authority will misuse their power, one of a Six’s deepest desires is to find an authority that makes them feel secure. Just as Sixes do not trust others, they do not trust themselves either. And the quest for a trustworthy authority is just as much a quest to trust themselves as others.
They also fear for the worst, and are uncomfortable when pushed to make decisions.
The main function that comes to mind when considering the Six is low Ne. There are possible exceptions, however. The Ne-Inferior and Ne-Nemesis are the most common functions associated with the Six — the function that produces fear of intentions, outcome, consequences, and motives.
ISFJ & ISTJ
Si-Heroes make an interesting case study for the Six. With their strongest function ties them loyally to a cause or belief, the ISFJ and ISTJ feel pulled by duty. “Duty” often resembles obligation to an authority. But, even while in the ropes of obligation to an authority figure — a parent, teacher, boss, or government entity— ISxJs are simultaneously wary of the authority’s intentions.
This fear comes from their Ne-Inferior, which causes fear that the true intentions of others are misguided at best, and destructive at worst. Se-Nemesis contributes to this fear as it causes worry about the loyalty of others.
The fear of others’ intentions is likely a deeper wound for the ISFJ. When their Inferior combines with their Ti-Trickster, they become more insecure about others’ hidden motives than even the ISTJ.
More than all the Enneagram types, the Six must learn to have faith and to risk belief. This starts internally, where they learn to trust their instincts, trust their ability to guide themselves, and trust that they will be liberated through their faith in themselves.
With their Ne-Inferior freed through trust, their Si-Hero can boast all of the endurance in the world. It will be obligated to worthy causes, too noble authorities, and move through life with a perseverance few can match. They become free to act through faith instead of fear.
Their Ne-Nemesis makes them fearful of others’ intentions, of hidden motives, and of potential outcomes that they think few can see. Ne-Nemesis sees the worst consequence possible and, if it is not dealt with, it can devolve into maddened paranoia.
With their Te-Parent’s ability to jump into any rabbit-hole and emerge in one piece, and their Ne-Nemesis’ nose for anomalies, an INTJ can piece together delves of hidden knowledge that provides alternative explanations of history, current events, and the future path for society.
When their Ne-Nemesis combines with their Te-Parent, the INTJ can gain evidence to support all of their fears. It is through verifying with their Ti-Critic that the INTJ will be freed to the truth.
If the Ne-Nemesis does not act with wisdom the INTJ will become consumed by the projected fearful possibilities that their Nemesis produces. But, if it can be wise, something much better awaits. Madness or genius lies in the balance.
Most INTPs fall between the Five and the Six mark. Likely to have one of these types as their primary type, the INTP has a strong presence in the Head Triad.
Ne-Parent is not nearly as paranoid as its Inferior and Nemesis counterparts, but it still possesses enough skeptical energy to make the INTP second guess what’s really going when something smells off. Ne-Parent is more cautious than afraid. INTPS seek to verify others’ intentions with their Ti-Hero.
Possessing Te-Nemesis puts the INTP in a position of challenging authorities and lacking belief in the authority’s ability to make correct decisions. The INTPs Ne-Parent brings an air of caution toward the intentions and futures of those around them.
Other Potential Six Types?
INFJs can exhibit strong Six characteristics too as they share their perceptive function slots with the INTJ and fear with their mutual Ne-Nemesis.
ISTP’s will have many Six-characteristics too. Their Te-Nemesis can be ruthless toward authority and, mixed with their logical Ti processing and Se-Parent, they desire to secure freedom for themselves and others under an untrustworthy authority. It is also due to their pragmatic nature to question the affiliative institution.
ENTPs are another possible Six-candidate. Prioritizing originality and free-thinking by nature, the ENTP naturally pushes against authority. But the Six archetype does not explain the full range of their behaviors.
Their Ti-Parent is accompanied by a (usually) wide breadth of knowledge that makes them seem unmistakably like a Five. But they are rarely Fives. Their quest for knowledge comes from a different source.
Others think ENTPs are Eights. Their rebellious nature, and their assertive Ti-Parents (which can be argumentative and seem domineering) appears to be a sure Eight-lock. However, a deeper analysis of the ENTP reveals a more likely proposition. Feeling a strong pull to the Six and the Eight, perhaps the type between those two is their true home.
Type 7 — The Enthusiast
“Sevens are full of fear, but not of the outside world: they are afraid of their inner world—of being trapped in emotional pain, grief, and especially feelings of anxiety. So they escape into activity and anticipation of activity.” — Don Riso, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
It may seem initially strange that Sevens belong to the Head Triad. Labeled as the “Enthusiast” or “Epicure” — sometimes even the “Hedonist” — the Seven is perceived as being completely pleasure-seeking, lacking all substance other than what they consume.
The reality is that Sevens can be quite substantive. They can be the world’s leading intellectuals, performing artists through acting or dancing, consultants, thought-leaders, designers, and much more.
While the excitement and pleasure-seeking of a Seven can and will be directed toward physical pleasure, it will also be guided toward whatever other pursuits the Seven is engaged in — often intellectual, and often revolutionary. It is perhaps because of the strong misperceptions of the Seven that makes them difficult to understand.
According to Riso’s book, the fundamental fear of the Seven is “of being deprived and trapped in pain”. This plays into their deadly sin of gluttony. Through their fear of not having enough, sometimes they take too much.
Sevens hate to feel uncomfortable or tied down. This gives a hint at some of the difficulty in typing the Seven. If you look closely, there are two similar but distinct fears that drive the Seven. Examining these will guide us to the likely Seven MBTI types.
The first kind of “trapped” used in reference to the Seven is caused by physical discomfort — emotional or sensory. The second type of “trapped” is a psychological prison — as if the “walls” were closing in.
This dichotomy reveals low Si or low Ni as the driving wounds of most — perhaps all — Sevens. Let’s examine the types.
ENTP & ENFP
No one fears discomfort more than Si-Inferiors. To be stuck in pain, anxiety, or physical irritation equals torture to an ENxP. ENxPs are the most sensitive to disgust as well, and disgust is a trigger activated as a result of discomfort.
Sevens love to procure possibilities. No one is more attuned to seeing the possibilities — especially in an enthusiastic manner — than Ne-Heros. The ENFP and ENTP’s most obvious contribution to the world is through their pattern-recognizing ideation that is attached to the metaphysical plane.
Ne-Heros, particularly undeveloped ones, will shy away from difficult or painful topics, which will only lower their tolerance for discomfort. When they avoid all discomfort, they form a vision of life that is naive. A mature ENxP will have been exposed to the harsher side of life. And they will reap the benefits of a strong and precise Ne-Hero through a catalog of experience with their memory-holding Si-Inferior.
But ENxPs also have Ni-Nemesis, and are worried about their own futures. They worry whether they will remain comfortable, free, and capable under any circumstance. They worry about making the wrong choice for themselves. This only puts extra pressure to their Si-Inferior.
Seeing possibilities and initiating upon the best ones is the primary role of ENxPs. This is second nature to them. But follow-through, seeing their ideas through to their end, does not come naturally to ENxPs. Or Sevens. As Helen Palmer states in her book, The Enneagram:
“Sevens lose enthusiasm after the initial idea and planning stages. Interest phases out during the middle of the project, and endings, when the options close down, are very hard.”
It’s very likely that a Seven will be a starter type.
ESTP & ESFP
Whereas Ne-Hero loves to create possibilities through providing choices, Ni-Inferiors love to have all the possible choices in the world at their fingertips. Anxious about choosing an enslaving future and ultimately losing their freedom is the single greatest fear to both the ESTP and ESFP.
Like the Si-Inferior and Ni-Nemesis combination for ENxPs, the ESxPs share the reverse: Ni-Inferior and Si-Nemesis. ESxPs’ also fear for their own future, their comfort, their obligations, and their memory.
Another deep fear of the Seven is being unable to fend for themselves. In their childhood, the Seven learned that they needed to take care of themselves to get their needs met. The Seven’s point of pride is in being able to provide for themselves under any circumstance.
Si-Nemesis is one of the motivations that make ESxPs seek external gratification on a consistent basis — a tell-tale sign of the Seven. Si-Nemesis fears not having good experiences, so the ESxP will move from experience to experience, trying to gather as many memorable ones as possible. They do not want their Si-memory database to be filled with regret.
Summary of the ExxPs
For all the ExxPs, this jumping behavior can make them seem inattentive or unstable — some belief to a psychiatric degree. But it is a Seven’s nature to push out into the world to combat their internal fear of their own discomfort and future.
While this can occasionally give them a manic ambiance, they are usually acting out of their own desire to secure the power to choose for themselves and create choices for others. And they wish to be comfortable and full of good memories to hold onto into old age.
The ESTP is more likely to exhibit Eight-characteristics than then ESFP. The ESFP will almost always be a Seven. For the ESTP, the line between the Seven and Eight can be blurry. Both despise their freedom being taken away. And the deadly sin of lust for the Eight can make them seem like a gluttonous Seven, who often jumps from pleasure to pleasure.
In addition to being a structure type, a mature ESTP with their Ti-Parent and Se-Hero will resemble the Eight more and more as they age. But some of their driving forces — particularly Si-Nemesis — will remain distinctly characteristic of the Seven.
Other Potential Seven Types?
Why not the ESFJ? While ESFJs are starter types, their priorities are different from the Seven. The wound of shame — and of the Heart Triad — will resonate more deeply with them than fear. Ni-Trickster is also not overly concerned with its future.
All SPs will demonstrate some Seven-Characteristics. The live-in-the-moment, “ride or die” attitude can be attributed somewhat to the artisan temperament.
Wrapping It All Up
As you can see from our discussion here, the Enneagram is not concrete. While the possibilities for connections between the MBTI and the Enneagram are not endless (i.e. an ISFJ will not be an Eight), there is plenty of room for malleability and disagreement.
We discussed that the root wound of the Three Triads is anger, shame, and fear. But, if the world does exist in a Yin, Yang equilibrium, then there must be an equivalent healing-property that these Triads can experience.
With the wound of anger, the Gut Triad can experience peace. With the wound of shame, the Heart Triad can experience worthiness. And with the wound of fear, the Head Triad can experience trust — both in themselves and of the world. But how do we get there?
As with all the Enneagram types, where the most painful wound is, there too is the deepest desire. With the wound of not feeling lovable, the desire is to be loved. With the wound of not being seen, the desire is to be seen. With the wound of not having enough, the desire is to have plenty.
Engaging with our wounds does not make them bigger or worse. It heals them. It is through ignoring our wounds — and the ignorance of them to begin with — that keeps us in the same cycle of repeating behaviors of lack and pain. Only through giving them our attention, can they heal. It is our wounds that guide us home.
Perhaps at a later date a deeper analysis of the Enneagram and the MBTI — complete with the correlation of Wing types and type transitions, and how the Enneagram system relates to cognitive focus and the Four Sides Dynamics — will uncover hidden pathways at the root of the psyche.
If both systems are true at any level, they necessarily must link somewhere.
What are your thoughts on the Enneagram and MBTI overlap?