Today I wanted to have a little bit of fun and talk about what we can learn about the Enneagram from the movie “Encanto.” I did a “just for fun” post on Instagram about how I would type some of the characters, and it prompted a lot of really good conversations and comments, so today I wanted to share a few things that you can learn about the Enneagram from typing fictional characters (in this case, “Encanto”.)
(Side note, I am not going to be providing any spoilers; I’m not going to tell you what happens in the movie “Encanto” so if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry. It’s really good though; you should definitely watch it!)
In my Instagram post, I typed a few of what I consider to be the main characters, those that have some more of the development that you want to see in a well-rounded character: a struggle, strengths, some hints at what past life has been, and a growth arc in the movie, so that we can see how they move forward in life. All of those things can give us a lot more hints on their Enneagram type than a more “superficial” character who is two-or three-faceted throughout the whole movie. That post definitely caused a lot of feelings about the types that I saw in these characters, and I love that it brings that up, as long as we recognize what’s happening. I wanted to bring up a few points about some of the things we can learn about ourselves and the Enneagram as we go about typing fictional characters.
- We Want Our Favorite Character to Share Our Type
This is completely natural! I’ve actually seen some people “grasping at straws” when it comes to Enneagram-typing these characters because we all want our favorite character, or the one that we resonate with the most, to share our Enneagram type! What this can tell us about ourselves and about the Enneagram is that we are more alike than we think we are. We have a lot more in common than we think we do, and even when we are a different Enneagram type than somebody else, we have a lot of similarities! So this is something we can learn about ourselves; what can we learn about the Enneagram from this?
I would say it is that the framework of the Enneagram itself holds so many more connections to other types and similarities and ways that we find overlap with other types then you might realize you have. I’m not going to have time to explain all of these today, but here is a quick rundown of those possible overlaps:
- Triads (groupings of three where we share similarities in how we approach life)
- Lines for stress, growth, security, rest…
There are also so many other things that could point to a connection piece to a different type without needing to share in the actual core motivations that make up your main type. I know I’m getting into the weeds a little bit here, but I do love typing fictional characters because this gives us so much insight into ourselves: what we aspire to be, what we connect with, the struggles that we feel so deeply when we see it in others… all of those things are a window into ourselves, which leads me to point number two.
2. We Are Often Typing Ourselves More Than We Are Typing the Fictional Character
This is because a character doesn’t have motivations any more so than are written for them. The backstory that is given is all that we have; they do not and can not have the nuance and complication of a, for lack of a better term, “real” human being who has lived a life. Well-written characters have a lot, but they are born out of somebody’s mind, and this brings about this phenomenon of getting to read into that character what we want to see.
Granted, we sometimes do this with real people (which I really want to stress, please try not to do that!) but when it comes to fictional characters, they are, even more so than we realize, a “fresh canvas” for us to paint whatever we believe about them.
So the insights that we often gain from fictional characters that we connect with are more about us than they are about the writing, or what was intended by the people who created that character, or the person who did (fill in the blank.) So that’s something we can learn about ourselves based on that.
The Enneagram also provides us with a reason why we do that, and that is that we see life from our perspective, and we assume and expect others to do the same. This is really a fascinating phenomenon; as you start to understand it, you can see yourself doing it and you can see other people doing it and projecting onto you; and that’s not fun, but it is quite fascinating to think about and to see how you may have done it to other people!
When it comes to fictional characters, we get to do that without any negative repercussions. There is no relationship to worry about, and no soul on the other end that we are projecting onto. When it comes to fictional characters, we get to live the story with them! We are bringing our own life perspective to that fictional character, which is why we see people typing characters widely differently, and seeing connections that are very different. And this is good! As long as we recognize one final thing…
3. When Typing a Fictional Character, There is No Right Answer
What can this tell us about ourselves? Again, it tells us that this character is only given as many facets as are written for it. You can’t have a conversation with that character; you can’t ask them about their past life; you can’t dive into their motivations beyond what is written for them, and maybe some dialogue or a song. There is no mistyping that is possible for a fictional character.
I get that this is quite a big statement for me to say, as an Enneagram coach!
I think that there are a lot of types for different characters that just don’t make sense; but you don’t know why they’re saying what they’re saying; you don’t know what pressures or expectations they have on them; you don’t know if they could be lying… So I don’t think that mistyping is possible when it comes to fictional characters.
What can we learn about the Enneagram because of this? Well, you’ve heard me say it before; I say it all the time, and it is probably one of the most prolific things that I say when I’m teaching about the Enneagram: it is all about motivations.
Only I can know, fully, my motivations. Only you can know, fully, your motivations. And often we have to do the work to uncover them even for ourselves, because even we can’t fully see them at first until we do the work.
So it makes sense why fictional characters can’t be mistyped, because we can’t get to their deepest motivations beyond what is created for them by an actual living human being.
Some Tips for Your Own Conversations About Typing Fictional Characters
In conclusion, I think the reason it is so fascinating and a lot of fun to type fictional characters is that we end up learning a lot more about ourselves in the process. And if we are having these conversations with other people, “nerding out” about the Enneagram over fictional characters with another person, we learn something about the other person, too.
So here are a few tips for you, if you are having these fun conversations about typing fictional characters and nerding out and geeking out, like I do:
- Leave lots of room for differences of opinion, because they are all valid. You might have a lot of valid reasons why you disagree, but you can’t ask the character! You can’t go to Mirabelle and say, “Hey, why did you do that? What was your experience leading up to now that caused this fallout and this inner struggle at this point in time?” You can’t have those conversations with them. So you have to just allow there to be differences. There is so much grace available in these conversations.
- Recognize also that in part, what you are sharing and what you are hearing from the other person is a reflection of what they wanted to see in that character. So while it’s not them telling you exactly about themselves, it can give a window into what resonates with them, what resonates with you, how you are different and unique; and that that’s a beautiful thing.
- As you are having these conversations, I want to encourage you not to allow these “typing sessions” to become arguments; because there cannot be one right answer. There just cannot be! When I myself type fictional characters, I try to get as detailed as possible and talk about where they might go in stress, what their survival instinct is, what their subtype might be, and fill it all out in a way that makes sense to me as an Enneagram coach and someone who understands the Enneagram pretty well; but I also recognize that there’s so much gray! There is so much I can’t see, and so much that I am bringing my own assumptions into (even though I try not to!), in order to draw a conclusion about that character’s Enneagram type. So I recognize that I could be wrong, even though I’m trying to come up with and see all the reasonable ways I could be typing this person, and that’s my advice for you as well.
- Allow there to be that “gray area” and just have fun with it. Typing fictional characters is like the Enneagram equivalent of a playground, so have fun and recognize that there’s really not many wrong ways to use a playground; you get to choose how you want to play and have fun with it! We’re all different; we get to be unique; and it’s just a lot of fun.
So if you have not seen Encanto, I highly recommend it. You don’t have to have your Enneagram glasses on to enjoy it, but if you’re like me, then you always have two pairs of glasses on: you have your glasses that allow you to see the big E at the optometrist’s office, and you have your “Enneagram glasses” on because you just cannot put them down! I hope you enjoyed this more lighthearted post; let me know if you would like to have more like this!
Enjoy this post? Have a question? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below or over on Instagram where I hang out the most. If you haven’t yet, grab a copy of The Enneagram for Beginner’s book (affiliate link, thank you for your support!) or you can shop through my favorite books and resources for using the Enneagram in the Amazon Storefront.
Want to purchase Enneagram stickers, hats and more? Click through to the Christian Enneagram Shop and check it out.