I’ll do my best to break this very complex system into bite sized bits. There are many resources I’ll be drawing from.
I’ll start with breaking down the diagram. In one sense it will demystify it. Those among us who love to step into the mysteries of God can explore more and will find it all fascinating. I did!
Anger/Gut Triad 8-9-1
Feelings/Heart Triad 2-3-4
Fear/Head Triad 5-6-7
It’s easiest to explore the numbers by their Triad grouping. The Enneagram is broken into 3 groups of 3. These are known as triads or intelligence centers. Each triad comes from a specific perspective that colors how they will view, react, and experience the world. Being from the same triad however, does not mean that you will express that/those emotions in the same way as the number beside yours. The primary emotion may be felt consciously, or it may be repressed, suppressed, or hidden. It may be obvious to all, even though we are blind to it in ourselves. This blindness in the end can result in so much self-revelation as we grow to really see ourselves using Enneagram principles.
Numbers 8-9-1 share the common emotion of anger but in very different ways. They are in the gut triad
The Eight, also known as Challenger, easily expresses anger. It may be said the energy they run on and with has an angry flavoring to it, using it as a motivational force. They may not even view it as anger per se. It’s an energy thing for them. Largely their intentions are pure but unfortunately the result may not be.
The Nine suppresses or represses anger to avoid conflict at all costs. You may not even know a 9 type is capable of anger—until it erupts that is. At some point in their lives, most 9s will explode and it won’t be pretty. (Sadly, I know whereof I speak!)
The One is often seen to be angry at the world and may be completely blind to this energy they project. This type can direct their anger at things or situations. What’s underneath the anger is frustration that something, someone, or they themselves are not perfect. They have an expectation that everything including themselves should in fact be perfect. Their general expectation is perfection. This anger in the One, I believe, can often be directed at the self and may be expressed by the inner critical voice that is a near constant companion to the 1 type. They live with a very loud and persistent Inner Critic.
Here’s a quote from the Road Back to You that makes it about as simple as it gets,
“These numbers are driven by anger—
Eight externalizes it,
Nine forgets it, and
One internalizes it.
[Those in this triad] They take in and respond to life instinctually or ‘at the gut level.’ They tend to express themselves honestly and directly.”
Numbers 2-3-4 are in the Heart or Feelings triad. The emotions are central to the viewpoint of this triad’s type.
Twos tune into the feelings of those outside themselves. They have a level of self-forgetting similar to the Nine so many find similarities between Twos and Nines and get confused. I believed I was a 2 for awhile. (Hang tight if that’s you and we’ll add more info in time that will help you hone in on exactly what type you are.)
Threes have a feelings blindness and can’t seem to tune into their own or others’ feelings well or for very long. Fours tune deeply into their own feelings and hold them very close.
Fours can be almost happily melancholy. In a recent podcast, Ian Cron who is a Four, was interviewing someone trying to find their type. When asked if sadness made this person uncomfortable he replied, “Of course! Who wants to be sad.” My immediate thought was well it looks less like he might be a four! They also can be very creative. There is a high percentage of Creatives and Artists who are fours.
Types 5-6-7 are in the head triad. Their energies are up in their head in some way. Quite often people in this triad are accused of thinking their feelings and may even use language that belies this tendency. When asked what they feel, they may reply with, “I think I feel…” Fear is the core emotion of this type.
“Five externalizes it,
Six forgets it, and
Seven internalizes it.”
Fives may tend toward introversion though this is not always the case. They easily lose themselves in gathering details down to exactitude and somehow this alleviates the fear lurking beneath. It’s as if they feel if they get enough information, they won’t feel the fear.
Sixes have two types in one—a phobic and counter-phobic. It gets complicated and I’ll address that later. Both experience high anxiety. The counter-phobic may invite or run toward what they fear, seeming brave or foolish. This is not true bravery since the fear is what is driving them and the action is not taken so much intentionally to overcome the fear as it is a reactive response denying the mind’s or heart’s wisdom. This may create problems or unwise risk taking. The phobic Six is a planner and worst-case scenario thinker.
Sevens desire to avoid pain above all else. They are often the life of the party, perhaps the class clown and can be very fun to live with until pain has to be addressed.
These are way simplified but we’ll work through the types over time.
If we break the diagram down into its parts and shapes it will look less like a weird symbol you’ve seen in horror movies and one that people seem to fear until they look deeper. It is both symbolic and pragmatic, even mathematical!
The circle‑symbolizes completeness, flow, ongoing energy.
The triangle represents balance.
The points 9, 6 & 3 suggest the mid points of each triad. When we live life from a balanced perspective we will utilize each of the triad centers in our decisions and life choices. Current neuroscience tells us our nervous system has three “brains.” Philosophers and mystics have told us this for millennia. Head, Heart and Gut—each are a part of the entire limbic system and have neuronal and chemical communication going on all the time.
WHO YOU ARE AND WHO YOU AREN’T
The strength of the Enneagram is that its purpose isn’t really to tell you who you are so much as to tell you who you aren’t. It does this in two ways. As you are assessing the various types, you will clearly see characteristics that are most definitely NOT you. Examination of the types narrows it down for you and gives you a clearer sense of how you have been shaped to live life.
But this is not the only way it shows who we are not. It shows us that we are not our personalities. We are not limited to the sum total of our genetics or environment. We are so much more! By using the Enneagram tool as it is Divinely designed, we can transcend these messages and tendencies. Grace also is free to move in and around us as our awareness of our darker passions and tendencies come to light. We can be freed to become who our souls are meant to be, not just who the worries and cares of the world have shaped us to be. We grow. We transcend. We learn to love with our whole being just as the greatest commandments according to Jesus instruct us to do. (If you are not familiar with Jesus or this statement of his, message me and we can discuss. Please know this tool’s strength is not limited to followers of a particular faith.)
The arrows are not scary I promise! But they are powerful! They help us know if we are in stress or in growth. Each type has two directions they will move toward or display the characteristics of another number. For example: As a 9 type, when I’m stressed out, stuck, panicked, etc. I’ll move to the position of Six. I will display or act out anxiety, I’ll repress, retreat, overthink, and generally look like a six. (See why it’s dangerous to type another person?) I may look like a six but I’m really a 9 under pressure. If you look at the diagram, you’ll notice the arrow going from the 9 to the 6 is in the direction of the arrow meaning it’s easy peasy to go this way, little to no resistance is required. It’s a natural but unhealthy flow.
Now look at the 9 and find the arrowhead right by it. Follow that line back to its number, the Three. Growing can be hard work. It can feel a bit like you’re going against a current. You hit resistance. The human tendency is to assume this means that can’t be good right? Well, wrong! When I move against the arrow toward a Three, I am in growth. I’m learning, healing, changing my perspectives and habits. I will instead of being a self-forgetting, conflict avoiding, slothful (more about that later) 9 type. I begin to look more like the healthier aspects of a Three. I am more often coming from my heart in a healthy way instead of from the energy of anger. Each type has two arrows. We can discover more about this as we grow together!
OK! That’s a lot to chew on! Let the discussion begin! Questions?
Please note, in addition to today’s blog, I’ve created a second one listing resources for those who want to read or listen on their own. I’ll update it as I find more. Please feel free to share others if you have them.