Personality Drive Pointers through Exploring the Enneagram – Part 2

by Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW, MAT

Note: This is the second of a series of articles on the Enneagram. I recommend you read my first article on this subject in order to get the most out of this one.

What was your initial response to the note at the beginning of the article (recommending you read the first article before proceeding)? Chances are that your initial reaction and then action is probably indicative of your personality drive:

  • 1’s would be sure to follow the note exactly in order to “do the right thing”;
  • 2’s would do so to “give” the writer what they asked for in order to “help them out”;
  • 3’s would either read the first one to be able to feel they “got it all done” or just jump into this one to “check it off their to do list”; >
  • 4’s would follow the recommendation in order to give themselves the best chance of finding what they are looking for in their individuality/uniqueness;
  • 5’s would read it because they wouldn’t want to miss out on any knowledge source;
  • 6’s would read it in fear that they wouldn’t be able to safely proceed and, besides, they’d want to feel a part of group;
  • 7’s (if they even read the introductory note) would not read the first article—opting for the adventure of just jumping in;
  • 8’s would just read this article believing that they can rely on themselves to get what they need out of this one;
  • and 9’s would probably elect to start here as well because they wouldn’t think it really mattered if they got it anyway.

If you know your drive but had a different response than I predicted, it may be because you have already developed the ability to not allow your drive to drive you! Congratulations! But remember, I asked about the initial response. Even when we get to a place of consciousness, it usually means that we have learned to be aware of our knee-jerk reactions, acknowledge them and weigh their impact, and choose from there—sometimes to follow them, sometimes to stretch and try something “against our nature.”

And that’s the real benefit of discovering your drive—becoming aware of the “defaults” in your way of being and giving yourself the opportunity to CHOOSE your response in certain situations or to create a “custom” response that usually involves some motivation, momentum, and decision-making.

So What Do I Do Once I Discover My Drive?

Discovering one’s personality drive can be a fun and enlightening process. It can help us with our understanding of who we are and what has been the unconscious motivation of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. The discovery of your Enneagram drive is only the first step, though, as I mentioned in my first article on this subject.

After delving into a deeper understanding of yourself as mentioned in the first article, one of the most powerful aspects of the Enneagram is to find out where you are in the Levels of Development. From there you can begin elevating using your Path of Integration. First, let’s talk about Levels of Development and then discuss how to move to higher levels of development once you discover your current level.

Levels of Development

Just as with physical health and development, your psychological/spiritual health and development can fluxuate throughout your life for many reasons. As you live and grow and change, you may experience periods of good health, average health, and poor health. Each personality drive has nine levels of development ranging from healthy to unhealthy. At any given time in our lives (and at any given time during a single day for that matter), we are at a certain place of psycho-spiritual health and level of development along this spectrum.

The following is the spectrum of these levels of development and their descriptors. Notice that when people move between healthy and average levels, a “wake up call” experience is usually a part of it. And, in less healthy times—moving between average and unhealthy levels—it typically takes a “red flag” in that person’s life to alert them that serious change and help is needed. Oftentimes, it is at these “wake up call” and “red flag” transitions that people seek help—including seeking help from a psychotherapist.


  • Level of Liberation
  • Level of Psychological Capacity
  • Level of Social Value



  • Level of Imbalance/Social Role
  • Level of Interpersonal Control
  • Level of Overcompensation



  • Level of Violation
  • Level of Obsession and Compulsion
  • Level of Pathological Destructiveness

Each drive has distinct experiences, thoughts, feelings, and actions for each of these levels. For example, a level 5 for the 3 Achiever type will be different from a level 5 for a 7 Enthusiast type, even though they both involve Interpersonal Control themes. Reading through the levels of development for your drive will provide an important additional layer of insight into where you are now, where you’ve been at different times in your life, and—most importantly—where you’d like to be or your potential. Looking at the healthy levels can be very inspiring and directive to people, giving them hope for better living and a clear goal to have in mind in their efforts to do so.

So, how to get to the higher/healthier levels? The road is different for each drive and it’s called the Path of Integration, Path of Elevation, or the Response to Challenge.

Elevating To Healthier Levels Of Living

Moving up in the levels of development is the goal and purpose of discovering your drive in the first place. Each drive has a path of Integration (toward healthy) and a path of disintegration (toward unhealthy). The keys to how to move toward health lie in your drive’s Path of Integration. If you look at the Enneagram geometric figure, you will notice that in addition to being connected to other drives by being on a circle, each drive “point” has two straight lines that connect it to two different drives (either as part of the triangle 3-6-9 or as part of the hexad (1-7-5-8-2-4). These two lines indicate the different paths.

For example: if a 1 wants to get healthier, they need to focus on the healthy aspects of a 7 in order to be lifted out of their perfectionism and move toward health. When Perfectionist 1’s shift their attention to the fun/adventure/enthusiasm (7 drive qualities) of a given project/person/event instead of how it’s not quite right, their enjoyment of life increases and the way which they interact with and experience themselves and others moves up in the levels of development.
The following are the Paths of Integration for each drive:

1 to 7: Be Right focuses on Having Fun

2 to 4: Be Loved focuses on Being Special

3 to 6: Achiever focuses on Being Safe, and Loyal to Others

4 to 1: Be Special focuses on Drive 1: Reformer/Be Right/Perfectionist

5 to 8: Thinker focuses on Self-Reliance and Rising to Challenges

6 to 9: Safety-Security focuses on Being at Peace

7 to 5: Have Fun focuses on Investigating and Thinking

8 to 2: Self-Reliant focuses on Being Loved and Loving

9 to 3: Peacemaker focuses on Achieving and Doing

Integrating by focusing on and moving toward another drive is not becoming that drive or changing your drive. Your drive does not change throughout your life. However, reaching toward the healthy aspects of the drive that is your own on your path of integration while still being rooted in the trueness of your drive creates a powerful positive synergy that can catapult you to living a healthier, happier life.


There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute ( and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Daniels & Price’s The Essential Enneagram, and Concept Synergy’s Harnessing Your Personality Drive Through Exploring the Enneagram

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One Response to Personality Drive Pointers through Exploring the Enneagram – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Personality Drive: A Holistic View « Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

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