Doug Lynam

Can you reliably find your car in a parking lot? There are moments when you might confuse your vehicle with someone else’s, but not for long. You drive a distinct make and model with a unique color that includes customized dents on the door. While every car is unique, there are limited ways to design a vehicle and make it roadworthy. Stray too far from the archetypal automobile patterns, like an SUV, compact, or family sedan, and you no longer have a car.

Your ego, your sense of self-identity that regulates all your decisions, is designed similarly. Like a car, it has its own birth year, shape, and color, but it must fit specific archetypal parameters, or it can’t function properly. Your ego is the vehicle for your consciousness, and the Enneagram shows us the kind of car our consciousness drives around. The ego is a very good thing, and we don’t want to get rid of it, or there would be no way to navigate the world. But we need a healthy ego, just like we want a reliable, well-functioning car, or else we are likely to get into a severe accident should the brakes fail or the tires blow out.

The problem is that we never get a chance to step outside our ego; we are always trapped inside looking outward, which limits our perspective. We can’t see our ego structure clearly until it is mirrored back to us.  The Enneagram holds up that mirror and lets us look around the vehicle we are driving in and get a good look at it, perhaps for the first time. It can also help us make repairs, see where the dents are, or where there might be a broken taillight.

In short, the Enneagram is the driver’s manual and service guide for your unique ego, helping you navigate the highway of life more effectively and hopefully avoiding a collision or breakdown. When you do have a problem, it can help you get going again. But should you get a flat tire or experience an accident, it helps to have a little bit of extra cash in your pocket, or you’re likely to spend time in a proverbial ditch.

Most importantly, the Enneagram also shows our individual spiritual path to wholeness or which direction to point our car in so that we don’t drive the wrong way or in circles. It also shows us our greatest strengths, deepest fears, and the sacred gifts we can bring to the world when we become money masters.

Enneagram types, however, don’t determine our fate because we can drive our car anywhere and go on any adventure while stuffing the trunk with stuff we collect along the way. However, try taking your compact car on an offroad excursion or park your Hummer in a compact spot, and troubles arise.

The odd word, Enneagram, means “nine things drawn” in Ancient Greek. Ennea = nine, gram = drawn. The Enneagram has nine personality patterns (or ego vehicles), and we’ll examine them in a three-dimensional diagram shortly. To start, it helps to draw the nine types on the circumference of a circle because each type lies on a spectrum or arc.1 Since there are an infinite number of points on any arc or circle, the Enneagram has room for all humanity and infinite diversity within each Type. To mix my metaphors, it is also helpful to think of it as a color wheel, allowing for an infinite range of hues, textures, and tones.

We should always remember that the Enneagram is a model or heuristic, and as statistician George Box said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” We aren’t mass-manufactured like cars, and your personality can never be fully described by the Enneagram alone. Most importantly, all the behaviors that the Enneagram describes happen on a continuum or spectrum, with few absolutes. Still, the car metaphor is a helpful and playful narrative for framing the discussion. You can also think of it as the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter books that reveals the nature of your personality. My favorite metaphor is to think of the Enneagram as a prism that the light of the Divine shines through to incarnate, providing humanity with infinite variety but with structure.

At its most fundamental level, the Enneagram describes how a soul, or a fractal piece of the Divine, achieves independent self-consciousness, gaining the capacity to love.2

To determine your money monsters, you’ll need to know your Enneagram type (or Enneatype), and it’s often a slow process of self-discovery. Figuring out your Enneatype takes time because our deepest motivations, hopes, and fears come from unconscious beliefs about how the world works and are hidden from view.

When I started studying the Enneagram, I was sure I was a Type Four: The Individualist (or Custom Car) because that was what I wanted to be. It seemed like the coolest and most exciting vehicle on the road and fit a few of my personality traits. I only figured out my actual type when a wise elder gently assured me that I was definitely not a Type Four, but its neighbor on the Enneagram, a Type Three: The Performer (or Racecar). My nickname among some friends is “The Greyhound” because I’m always racing around chasing the next goal, or my tail, which is classic Type Three behavior. We often need help from others to help us understand who we are because it’s tough to see our blind spots or unconscious assumptions about reality.

It was hard to face the truth of being a Type Three, and I rebelled because it required me to face the deepest fear of a Three, a profound sense of shame and worthlessness at the core of my being. My lack of self-worth obsessively drives me to crave approval through carefully curated accomplishments because those achievements hold my shame at bay. What I didn’t want to face was that my superpower, the ability to get things done, is the product of my most profound vulnerability.

As a heuristic or rule of thumb, your Type usually humiliates you when you first read about it because it reveals your shadow or the dark side of your personality. The epiphany of discovering your type is often accompanied by an audible groan when you see your most self-defeating behavior patterns so clearly mapped out. On the positive side, the Enneagram also shows the path to your greatest gift to share with the world because your greatest gift is always connected to your deepest pain.

Discovering your type is sometimes challenging because the Enneagram does not determine what we do or where we’ll drive our ego vehicle. Instead, it shows us what motivates us and helps explain why we do what we do. For many people, slowly discovering their type is just as important as arriving at the answer because fully embracing your type requires a sobering level of self-reflection and honesty.

Below is a quick summary of the nine types, and we will dive deeper into each type soon.

Brief Descriptions of the Nine Types

TypeShort Description
1 – Improver (BMW)Has a compulsive need to be perfect in everything they focus on, with a strong inner critic that fears being bad or defective. They run on anger directed internally at their imperfections, leading to resentment when things are not done “the right way.” They are called the Improver because they see the flaws in everything and work tirelessly to correct them, especially in themselves, or what I playfully call the BMW of egos.
2 – Helper (Ambulance)Has a compulsive need to help or rescue others because they fear being unlovable and look to others to shower them with affection and praise because of their good deeds. They experience a deep, outwardly directed shame at not feeling loveable by others. They are called the Helper because they compulsively offer assistance to those in need to win their approval, or what I call the Ambulance of egos.
3 – Performer (Racecar)Has a chronic need to win social approval through carefully curated accomplishments because they fear being worthless and use their accomplishments to validate their worthiness. Has an inward and outwardly directed shame that fuels their sense of worthlessness in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Is called the Performer because they are always wearing masks to win applause from the others, or what I call the Racecar.
4 – Individualist (Custom Car)Has a compulsion to be unique and different from everyone else because they fear not having a unique identity. They compulsively look to stand apart and stand out to assert their individuality. Has inwardly directed shame that fuels their experience of not having special significance in the world. Is called the Individualist because they have to be different from the crowd in almost everything they set out to do. Every part of their lives is custom-designed, so I call them the Custom Car.
5 – Observer (Compact Car)Has a need to conserve their energy, withdraw from the world, and be extremely capable in their chosen field of expertise because they fear being incompetent. They have a deep fear that they direct inward, leaving them uncertain about their ability to meet life’s challenges, so they become extremely self-reliant, often living inside their minds. Is called the Observer, because they stand back and absorb information from the world without letting much out. Because of their quiet, reserved efficiency, I call them the Compact Car.
6 – Loyalist (Family Sedan)Desires safety and security because they fear being without support or guidance. They compulsively look for structure and authority to guide them and have difficulty making decisions independently while paradoxically being mistrustful of authority. Sixes have an inward and outwardly directed fear that leaves them uncertain about their abilities to navigate reality while also being reluctant to trust others. They typically have a committee of voices in their head offering advice, leaving them confused and indecisive. Are often called the Loyalist because once they commit to a person, institution, or idea, they are reluctant to change their mind because their commitment was hard to achieve. I playfully call them the Family Sedan of egos because they want every safety feature possible.
7 – Enthusiast (SUV)Has a compulsive need for new and fulfilling experiences because they fear being in pain or privation. Since pain is experienced in the present moment, they always look ahead and plan the next exciting adventure to avoid the here and now and to ensure their desires are constantly being satiated. They are driven by fear that they externalize, pushing them outward into the world in search of distractions. Is called the Enthusiast because they are so excited about whatever is coming next and are the go-anywhere, do-anything SUV of egos.
8 – Challenger (Hummer)Has a compulsive need to push against the world’s boundaries because they fear being harmed or controlled. They assert their will to control their environment before it controls them. Eights run on externalized anger that is always challenging limitations and boundaries. For that reason, they are called the Challenger, or more playfully, the Hummer that can run over or through almost any obstacle.
9 – Peacemaker (RV) Has a compulsive need for peace and calm because they fear a loss of wholeness should they express their anger. Nines have a volcano of rage inside them that they want to avoid confronting, so they always seek peace, often at any price. They have internalized and externalized anger that they never want to encounter, which is why they are also called the Peacemaker. They drive the RV of egos that often gets parked at a campsite, chilling out as the world passes them by.

It is important to note that there are no good or bad Enneagram types; each expresses the Divine manifesting as a conscious being (an embodied soul) and comes with its own joys and challenges. Each Type offers incredible gifts when healthy and can carry us to remarkable destinations. However, each type can also bring untold misery and destruction through road rage when unhealthy and narcissistic.

Many people resist learning about the Enneagram or engaging with any personality assessment because they fear it puts them in a box and limits their freedom to change and evolve. This concern is perfectly understandable. It helps to remember that although your Enneagram type never changes, there is infinite room for growth on the 3-D vertical dimension of the Enneagram, as you’ll soon learn. Each type can be healthy or unhealthy in the vertical dimension and is called to grow into the best version of their type. Unlike many other personality systems, the Enneagram has a growth mindset built into it. Staying still on the Enneagram, or regressing on it, is a guaranteed way to maximize the suffering you’re likely to experience in life. Refusing to grow in spiritual maturity will also cause you to miss your unique and sacred purpose, which would be a tragedy.

Sadly, what drives all of us is a core, unconscious fear unique to our type, and that fear determines your ego’s archetypal structure. That same fear also feeds your money monsters and generates most of your self-created suffering. To tame your money monsters, we must identify and confront your deepest fear that formed your ego structure and begin to heal the trauma that produced it.

In short, the Enneagram is a call to adventure, to explore the darkest and most terrifying parts of your psyche where your money monsters lie. When we courageously and compassionately face the trauma that caused our deepest fear, or what I call the “sacred wound,” it transforms into our unique “sacred gift” to share with the world. With some money and resources, you can then share that sacred gift with a wider circle, which is a blessing for you and the world.

It is important to note that the goal is to tame your money monsters, not kill or destroy them. Taming your ego means learning how to drive your ego skillfully and repairing it so it drives more efficiently. Our ego is not bad; it just needs help to evolve into a higher level of consciousness. Without an ego, there is no self-consciousness or capacity to love, so we never want to destroy it. Besides, the ego doesn’t want to die, so the more you try to kill it, the more it fights back. However, offer your ego compassion, acceptance, and loving kindness, and it will gladly serve a higher purpose.

What Type of Driver Are You? Anxious or Avoidant?

No matter what kind of ego car we are driving around in, when it comes to money, some of us are anxiously aggressive drivers, clutching the wheel a little too tightly, driving with a lead foot, or are prone to road rage when we hit traffic and potholes. Others of us tend to be defensive and avoidant and would rather stay in the slow lane, stick to side roads, or chill at a rest stop indefinitely.

There is a third option, a jumbled mix of money styles, where we vacillate between being money-avoidant and money-anxious in different parts of our lives at different times. Most people I’ve encountered are jumbled up in how they approach money, but to build wealth, you have to be at least proficient at all parts of what I call the Four Pillars of Finance: earning, saving, investing, and giving.

For example, some folks may anxiously earn a ton of money and donate generously to causes they care about but fail to save and invest. Others may earn, save, and invest but fail to give back to their community. Others anxiously save but underearn and don’t invest. There are endless combinations of being jumbled or disorganized in our money style, where we are anxious in some areas and avoidant in others. When we develop a deeply healthy, secure relationship with money in all areas of our financial lives, we become a money master.

In some ways, the anxious types who indulge in philargyria, or an unhealthy love of money, have an easier path to taming their money monsters because they are already playing the money game — but for the wrong reasons. The avoidant types haven’t learned to play the game, so they have a double hurdle to overcome. First, they need to embrace agape-argyria (divine love of money) and learn the rules of money management.

Those of us who are a jumbled mix of money styles need to reduce our money anxiety in one or more areas of our financial life and increase it to those parts where we are avoidant. Otherwise, it is like driving and only making right-hand turns or simultaneously slamming on the brakes and the gas.

Brief Description of the Money Monsters and Money Masters

TypeMoney Monsters and Masters
1 – Improver (BMW)Money Monsters The Prude (money-avoidant): Needs to feel perfect and morally pure, so they demonize money instead of feeling bad about themselves. They can’t tolerate being bad at dealing with money, so they do a moral tap-dance and make dealing with money bad instead. The Improver then becomes prudish about finances, negatively judging others with a more robust financial life. A Prude has a spotlessly clean fiscal life that sits in the garage, going nowhere.
The Pious (money-anxious): Needs to be perfect and is fearful of making mistakes, so they obsess over their finances, becoming tight-fisted and neurotically attentive to detail. Will judge themselves and others harshly for any mistakes. They drive the financial highway of life with their hands clutched to the wheel in perpetual road rage and honk aggressively at anyone who violates the slightest traffic rule. Money Master The Poised (money-secure): Has a robust financial life, is attentive to detail, but understands that everything belongs and is intrinsically good just as it is – which includes themselves. They are emotionally poised and financially stable, not getting upset or disappointed by the vicissitudes of life. They stop worrying about their own perfection and give generously of their time, talent, and treasure to help relieve the world’s suffering, but without judgment, resentment, or anger.
2 – Helper (Ambulance)Money Monsters: The Bleeder (money-avoidant): Puts others’ financial needs and desires above their own, neglecting their personal goals. The avoidant Helper bleeds out their money or time in service to others to feel needed and wanted. They stop at every traffic accident and fender bender to help and will even take hitchhikers to their destination but never get anywhere themselves.
The Bonder (money-anxious): Uses their resources to bond with people and make them co-dependent, enslaving others financially to maintain a steady flow of gratitude and appreciation. They rescue victims along the road, but never let them out of the ambulance.
Money Master: The Beloved (money-secure): Is financially stable and learns to love the world unconditionally without needing to give or receive anything in return. They set healthy boundaries on their time, talent, and treasure by not over-extending themselves. When they do give to others, absolutely no strings are attached. At their highest level, they bring genuine, unconditional love and compassion into the world.
3 – Performer (Racecar)Money Monsters The Burier (money-avoidant): They stick their heads in the sand and pretend everything is fine to avoid feeling ashamed about their financial illiteracy or mistakes. Or they race away from their money problems, going quickly in the wrong direction rather than facing their issues.
The Blinger (money-anxious): Accumulates the trapping of wealth to look successful in the eyes of others to assuage their shame and lack of self-worth. Their car looks amazing and turns heads as it whizzes by, but they can’t afford the monthly payment. Metaphorically speaking, they spend far more than is wise to have the best-looking car on the road.
Money Master The Builder (money-secure): Instead of trying to look good in the eyes of others, they use their abundant talent and resources selflessly to build something for others that is of lasting value and significance. Money, status, and power are no longer used to win validation from others, but as tools for building something in service to the greater good.
4 – Individualist (Custom Car)Money Monsters The Flop (money-avoidant): The Flop is averse to conforming to societal norms around money and rebels against prudent financial practices. Their financial life is a total flop, and their car is always broken down and barely road-worthy.
The Flinger (money-anxious): Accumulates resources to express their unique identity, and flings money at art, beauty, or any form of personal expression. They make sure their car turns heads as they cruise by, but their financial life is based on selfishness and self-aggrandizement.
Money Master: The Flame: (money-secure): Uses their wealth and talent to bring beauty, truth, and creative expression into the world as a gift to others, rather than for themselves. They burn bright and steady like a beacon, rather than flickering in the breeze like a candle.
5 – Observer (Compact Car)Money Monsters The Moot (money-avoidant): Sees money as irrelevant and unnecessary, preferring simplicity and minimalism to maintain their independence. The Moot neglects material pursuits and has the simplest, most efficient car on the road that needs the least maintenance. They may even ride a bike instead.
The Miser (money-anxious): Feels anxious about being dependent on others or running out of resources, the Miser becomes extremely tight-fisted and greedy. They metaphorically stuff their trunk and every available space inside their tiny car with gas cans to ensure they don’t have to stop for anyone or anything.
Money Master The Midas (money-secure): Embodies the virtue of non-attachment and gives generously from their vast knowledge, talents, and treasure to serve a suffering world without neglecting their own needs. When they learn to fearlessly share their gifts and truth with the world, whatever they touch turns to gold.
6 – Loyalist (Family Sedan)Money Monsters The Paralyzed (money-anxious): Gripped by so much fear and anxiety, not knowing what to do, they become paralyzed by indecision. They are stranded on the side of the road, looking for a map, not knowing which way to go.
The Puppet and the Pugilist (money-anxious): Feeling anxious about financial uncertainty and a fear of being unprepared for emergencies, they become hyper-prudent, or a puppet, doing whatever they are told to obtain financial security. If their security is threatened, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, they flip from being extremely compliant into a fierce fighter or pugilist, who knocks down anyone or anything threatening their safety. They stay with traffic and carefully follow the crowd but lean on their horn and scream out the window if anyone cuts them off.
Money Master The Pioneer (money-secure): Offers support and guidance to others rather than seeking it for themselves. Equipped with a strong inner guidance system and secure financial foundation, they courageously use their ample resources to bring hope and trust into the world.
7 – Enthusiast (SUV)Money Monsters: The Gorger (money-avoidant): Unable to control their appetite for experiences and adventures, they sacrifice long-term financial stability for immediate gratification. Money is often spent on indulgences, which they gorge themselves on, leading to financial difficulties. They run their car into the ground by skipping routine maintenance or getting stuck in a ditch while off-roading.
The Grabber (money-anxious): Fearful of being unable to satisfy their needs and wants and scared of privation, they hungrily grab money and resources. They have a rooftop cargo carrier, tow a camper, and have every piece of wilderness gear available to ensure they are never without material comforts while adventuring.
Money Master The Grounded (money-secure) experience profound inner peace and contentment. They no longer restlessly seek external stimuli to fill an inner void but find fulfillment in the present moment and from their internal resources. Financial security becomes a tool for serving and fulfilling the needs of others, bringing joy and delight into the world.
8 – Challenger (Hummer)Money Monsters The Detonator (money-avoidant): Hates being controlled by money or financial constraints, so they detonate any budget or prudent limitations. The Hummer rams through reasonable financial boundaries, much to their detriment.
The Dominator (money-anxious) wants extreme control over their financial life and the lives of others, so they obsess over money. They dominate every aspect of their financial lives, harming their relationships and personal growth. The Hummer runs over anything and anyone to secure what they want.
Money Master The Dynamo (money-secure): Uses their extraordinary strength and ample resources to defend and protect others from harm, bringing justice into the world.
9 – Peacemaker (RV)Money Monsters The Spud (money-avoidant): A couch potato who avoids engaging with financial matters to maintain a sense of peace and harmony. The RV gets parked at a campsite and never goes anywhere.
The Dud (money-anxious): Feeling anxious or stressed about money, the Dud engages in a flurry of activity, but never confronts their real issues out of fear of conflict. The results from all their efforts tend to be a dud. The RV swerves erratically on the road while driving in wide circles.
Money Master The Doer (money-secure): Rather than placid peace from non-action, they courageously bring true harmony into the world through assertive action. Instead of avoiding problems, they bravely confront them and use their wealth to create the harmony that only arrives after a conflict is skillfully resolved.

Knowing your money monsters is the first step to becoming a money master. Still, the journey to financial freedom and developing a healthy relationship with money requires several more stages. In the next article, we’ll explore how and why your type developed the way it did so that we can identify, confront, and heal the trauma that created your money monsters, helping you to become a true money master.

1 Those already familiar with the Enneagram will likely note that I avoid using any interconnecting points or lines inside the Enneagram. While historically useful, for the purposes of my discussion they create more confusion than clarity.

2 For love to flow, there must be duality or a subject-object relationship. There must be something completely independent from you to love or to love you back; otherwise, you’d be all alone in an empty universe. Love also requires free will, because love can never be coerced; it can only be freely given and received. Hence, the Divine needs to incarnate and create the illusion of separation to gain independent self-consciousness and facilitate the exchange of love, but more on that in future book.

This article first appeared in Enneagram Monthly July 2024 . © Doug Lynam. Do not reprint or share without permission.