Does the Beloved MBTI Mix with the Enneagram?

When Renee Baron and I were doing research for “The Enneagram Made Easy,” we asked an esteemed therapist who knew both the MBTITM and the Enneagram if she would tell us her ideas about using the two systems together. She essentially said that they are both so precious that it would be blasphemy to combine them. I didn’t agree with her then, and now, 18 years later, I love both systems even more and continue to use them separately and combined, in my private life and in my writing.

In editing the chapters of “The Career Within You,” Ingrid Stabb and I used the MBTITM as to check the accuracy of the distribution of Enneagram traits, just as Renee and I had done in “The Enneagram Made Easy” and “Are You My Type, Am I Yours?” and I had done in “The Enneagram of Parenting” and “Finding the Birthday Cake.” This was especially important, because the traditional Enneagram literature and Enneagram lore has the nine types skewed toward a preponderance of intuitives or visionary personalities. The reason for this is that those interested in systems, such as the Enneagram and the MBTITM, are mostly intuitive types. Therefore, the subjects most Enneagram authors base their conclusions on (themselves, their students, and their friends) are also mostly intuitives. People of the opposite type, sensate, are rarely found studying systems like the Enneagram and the MBTITM. The MBTITM is also a valuable resource because it has statistics of how many of each type occur in the population:

Distribution of MBTITM Types in the US population

Source of General Population Data: Myers et al, 1998

51% Extraverted, 49% Introverted

73% Sensing (down to earth), 27% intuitive (visionary)

Thinking 40%, Feeling 60%

54% Judging (wanting closure), 46% Perceiving (keeping options open)

Based on the MBTITM statistics, then, Perfectionists, are made up of about half and half introverts and extraverts. Almost three quarters of them are sensing, and 60% feeling. Knowing what we know about Perfectionists, we might change the percentage of feelers (60%) and thinkers (40%)—there may be more thinking type Perfectionists than 40%. The U.S population is 54% judging. Judging is one of their basic traits so that should be raised to much more than 54%. Asserters probably reflect the statistics above, so there might be, for example, 27 intuitive types to 73 sensate types. Romantics will have fewer than 40% thinkers, however, because feeling is a common trait of theirs, and Observers will have more than 40% thinkers, because thinking is something they are known for. Still, there are thinking type Romantics and feeling type Observers (I’m a feeling type Observer myself).

I think the most misunderstood number by Enneagram writers is the Adventurer. They are almost always portrayed as intuitive types but I don’t believe it! My Adventurer son is a sensate type and I believe he’s one of 73% of Adventurers of the population that are sensate. It may be a mistake to portray more than 27% of Adventurers as visionaries.

In conclusion, I wish more people would apply the beloved MBTITM to the Enneagram in order to reflect the population more accurately. It’s inaccurate to present a picture of the kind of people who want to read about the personality system instead of a picture of the real population of the country.

Reminder: please send me a story of an interesting or uplifting dying or near-death experience along with the subject’s Enneagram type for my current book project. See my post of August 10, 2010 on Psychology Today for more details.

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