Wings in the Enneagram

How come two individuals with the same Enneagram Type can be so different from each other? This question gets raised frequently by those new to the Enneagram. Well, there are several factors which fine-tune the dimensions of our basic type. This post is about one – the Wings. 

In order to have a more accurate snapshot of someone’s character, it’s worth taking into consideration their wing(s) as well. So what kind of ‘wing’ can you have? Can it be any number?

No, this is a misconception. A wing is always adjacent to the individual’s core type – either to the left or to the right of it. Because the nine archetypes are evenly arranged on the Enneagram circle, each type has two neighbors. For instance, a Type 2 can be either 2W1 or 2W3 that is Type 2 with a One Wing or Type 2 with a Three Wing.

The wing(s) – which sometimes add contradictory elements to the core type – shape the big picture with important aspects. If someone depicts some qualities which are characteristic of a wing of theirs, it is an indication that they actually borrow energy from that source as well.

Wings add uniqueness to the personality just like spices add flavor to a dish.

Because pure types are very rare, the majority of people have one dominant wing. Considering the fact that each type can have two variations we end up with a total of 18 wing combinations.

Color wheel

Imagine a color wheel with nine easily distinguishable colors. Each color is imbedded in a family of related shades. No shade looks exactly like the other yet you can easily tell a red from a blue.

“There is a continuum of human expression, just as there is a continuum on the color spectrum. . . . Individual differences are as unique as different shades, hues, and intensities of color.” (The Wisdom of the Enneagram)

Riso-Hundson have named the 18 wing combinations as these:

1W9: The Idealist

1W2: The Advocate

2W1: The Servant

2W3: The Host/Hostess

3W2: The Charmer

3W4: The Professional

4W3: The Aristocrat

4W5: The Bohemian

5W4: The Iconoclast

5W6: The Problem Solver

6W5: The Defender

6W7: The Buddy

7W6: The Entertainer

7W8: The Realist

8W7: The Independent

8W9: The Bear

9W8: The Referee

9W1: The Dreamer

Blurring lines

One of my favorite Enneagram teachers, dr. Tom LaHue dedicated a separate video to the values of blurring the lines between our core type and their next-door points. While most people have one dominant wing, some says they do not really lean on any of the two sides. Whichever the case, there are circumstances when borrowing from one of your adjacent numbers (or from the less dominant wing) can provide enormous benefits.

For example, let us take the example of Type One. Ones like to be productive and get chores done as quickly as possible. Also, being responsible people, they feel a compulsion to do the right thing. According to them, everyone needs to ‘do the right thing’.

Right next to them on the Enneagram circle, Type Nine have a different approach to life. They think they need to put themselves in the other person’s shoes to see things from a different perspective. ’What makes me think that I am right about this? Instead of preaching a sermon I want to understand their point of view.’ Also, rather than getting things done as soon as possible Nines tend to procrastinate.

Now, which of the two orientations is appropriate?

Well, it just depends. It depends on the circumstance. But what is true: blurring the dividing lines always helps us see our blind spots better as well as improve our relationships. For instance, if you have a Type 5w4 son, putting yourself in the shoes of someone with a mentality of a Type 5w6, while talking to him, could signpost him to new perspectives. He could then benefit a little bit from his untapped Six wing.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all blur those lines more often?

Want to learn more about the Enneagram?

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