Category Archives: Enneagram

The Enneagram’s Heaven Triad

In the final installment of William Schafer’s take on the enneagram, the members of the Heaven Triad seek to imbue life with meaning: FOURS through the importance of the individual and self-expression, SEVENS by radiating joy, and ONES by striving for an expression of divine perfection. Even as they reach for the sublime, they tell us how life fails to reach utopian possibilities.

  • enneagram heaven triadFOURS are disappointed idealists who focus on beauty and seek a world in which everything of importance or substance is attained (though they fixate on what’s missing).
  • SEVENS are excited idealists who focus on potential and are impatient for its realization. They seek an ideal, positive world that is free of suffering and pain and full of pleasant, free-flowing experiences.
  • ONES are exacting idealists who seek a perfect world according to their internal standards of the way things ought to be. They focus on order and work diligently (often too hard) to attain their standards.

The members of this triad are shut off: FOURS from appreciating the already perfect wholeness in all there is; SEVENS in embracing all of life – good and bad, mundane and ecstatic; and, ONES from appreciating variations and differences in life and in people.

Life Force Receptive
Emotional Regulation Reactive
Positive Outlook
Center of Intelligence Heart

Type Four: The Individualist

According to Schafer, FOURS have lost sight of how all physical and psychological forms spring forth from one source and connect with the field of Qi – a.k.a., Holy Origin. Our deepest authenticity and worth originate in one’s connection to the divine mystery. When disconnected from it, there is a deep sense of deficiency and endless preoccupation with retrieving what was lost.

FOURS experience envy rooted in a feeling that others possess what they lack. Melancholy arises in the wake of unquenchable longing. They seek intense emotions to feel real but may find they take over and runs on their own. Their desire to be seen results in searching for that which what is authentic, unique, and individual.

To establish reconnection with the Origin, FOURS must give up their dramatic external searching and settle quietly within. They find healing in Equanimity, recognizing that life can be meaningful without the roller coasters. Mindfulness of emotions enables them to observe emotions without letting them take control.

Type Seven: The Enthusiast

According to Schafer, SEVENS have lost sight of nature’s ability to sustain energy effortlessly, as the constant flow of water in a waterfall. There is a grand Work, Plan, and Wisdom in the universe that creates and sustains beautiful patterns. It requires neither our machine-like contributions nor our compulsively designed schemes. It unfolds and calls upon us to abide within it.

SEVENS have an abundance of creative energy and move outward mentally, constantly mapping and planning for the future. They’re always asking “what’s next” to seek pleasure and avoid boredom and pain.

SEVENS profit from heeding the call to Constancy, being grounded in the moment, allowing the holy weaving of my life to work out. It transforms unrestrained doing to an appreciation for the underdetermined surprises and delight. Pleasure shifts from the act of mental mapping (yang) to the experience of enjoying the moment (yin).

Type One: The Perfectionist

According to Schafer, ONES have lost sight of Being’s completeness be-ing – Perfection as it is. This loss of essence lands like a wave of wrongness, challenging ONE’s internal standard of rightness.

ONES’ fault-finding gives rise to the inner effort of improving. They want to re-create perfection. It renders them preoccupied with rules and correctness. They experience anger but hold it in all the while urgency trying to fix that which seems off-the-mark. The root of the problem lies not with the inflexible standards but in placing their hopes in standards in the first place.

The antidote lies in Serenity, leaving the maelstrom of perfection and anger. It implies a clear vision of each element as a manifestation of Dao to which one can be still and welcoming. ONES then receive every instance of life as a gift, perceiving the loveliness of the divine in the features of every human face. This is true serenity.

The Enneagram’s Human Triad

Continuing in a review of William Schafer’s characterization of the enneagram, the members of the Human Triad are core exemplars of the three ways to create enlightened human society: FIVES through science, EIGHTS through the politics of power, and TWOS through service. They stave off rejection by providing necessary, important functions and becoming powerful in their own right.

  • enneagram human triadFIVES offer thoughtful analysis and rational viewpoints; they move away from others to deliver reason and perspective.
  • EIGHTS offer strength and protection; they assert what is required at any given moment.
  • TWOS offer care and support; they move towards others to meet needs.

The members of this triad are shut off: FIVES from acknowledging that they have needs and cutting themselves off from them; EIGHT from releasing their grip on the environment to control their needs; and, TWOS from meeting their own needs through a natural flow of give and take.

Life Force Receptive
Emotional Regulation Competency
Positive Outlook
Center of Intelligence Head

Type FIVE: The Observer

According to Schafer, FIVES have lost sight of original awareness through Holy Omniscience and Transparency. This divine principal states that we are whole and complete, knowing whatever is known from the inside out. This endowment enables a generosity of spirit from a wellspring that never runs dry.

FIVES embody a scarcity mentally in which needs, dependencies, and interactions with others prove draining. They fear loss of resources and being left totally depleted. They erect boundaries, cling tightly to what they have, and resolve to do with less. The generosity of origin squeezes into avarice.

That path to growth lies in Nonattachment, surrendering everything and embracing life with an open and grateful heart. In self-emptying, they can experience the fullness of illumination.

Type EIGHT Protector

According to Schafer, EIGHTS have lost sight of Holy Truth, that gut-level openness to authentic presence. It’s an acknowledgement that life can never move against itself.

EIGHTS find embodiment a threat. They narrate the world through the lens of Self vs. Other, separateness, opposition. A lost inner source of energy morphs into a passion for excess and resistance to that which is threatening. They may even stir up trouble to make the outer world cohere with their inner vision of it. It’s all about power, where power suppresses frailty and vulnerability. They believe sheer force prevents them from being hurt.

EIGHTS must recognize that there is an element of weakness in all strength. Essential Being was never weak or insignificant. There is freedom in Innocence. The real defeat is to divide rather than belong, to fight rather than live.

Type TWO: The Connector

According to Schafer, TWOS have lost sight of the fact that life force is intentional and purposeful. Each moment unfolds meaningfully with the divine process concerning itself with personal destiny – a.k.a., Holy Will and Freedom. The individual and collective do not act in opposition. Rather, full individuality better serves the needs of the whole.

In early life, TWOS lost the feeling of personal significance, as though life force had forgotten them. They seek emotional connection in the world, often forcing the give-and-take in relationship rather than letting it happen naturally. It renders them uncomfortably pinned between their own needs and those of others. Their energies collapse into an intense effort to care for others while unconsciously calling attention to themselves. It may feel ego-gratifying but can be exhausting.

TWO’s antidote lies in Humility, accepting their limits and expressing gratitude for life as it is. While at root they manifest a spiritual longing for connection, they need to stop trying to act lovable and allow love to act.

The Enneagram’s Earth Triad

As noted in last week’s post, William Schafer views the nine types of the enneagram through the lens of energy (yin, yang, and balancing) and the clouding over of divine light as a function of shocks to our initial state of bliss. A loss of wholeness, emotional connectedness, and/or trust creates knots in our awareness.

The members of the Earth Triad evidence a deep preoccupation with embodied existence. NINES felt a loss of wholeness, THREES a loss of emotional connection, and SIXES a loss of trust. Each concerns itself with how to blend into, align with, and thrive alongside others in the world.
enneagram earth triad

  • NINES seek a comfortable, harmonious, go-along-to-get-along place in the world.
  • THREES individuate and seek a practical and sustaining, ambitious and productive role in the world.
  • SIXES see a safe and secure, predictable, and certain existence to survive in the world. They straddle individuation and union in service of that agenda.

The members of this type are shut off: NINES from their own action; THREES from their own feelings; and, SIXES from their own thinking.

Life Force Receptive
Emotional Regulation Positive Outlook
Center of Intelligence Body

Type NINE: The Peacemaker

According to Schafer, NINES have lost sight of the innate loveliness and inner radiance of all Beings – a spiritual endowment of Holy Love. They do not experience themselves as inherently beautiful, lovable, or powerful. They feel insignificant. Survival depends upon being attentive to those who have power and merging with their needs.

NINES tend toward inertia, either staying at rest (asleep) or staying busy. They may find it hard to start a task or to end one in progress. Decision-making proves challenging. Anger and resentment show up as stubbornness.

NINE’s spiritual task is to wake up and welcome discomfort and conflict. Right Action demands that they gain awareness of their own energy and internal world. They must notice with compassion their own reactivity and experience their own thoughts and feelings without judgment. Passivity can transform into active energy and allow them to reclaim Hold Love and open up to all aspects of life energy.

Type THREE: The Performer

According to Schafer, THREES have lost sight of the fact that life force unfolds naturally and creatively according to Holy Law, Harmony, and Hope without control or guidance from us. When losing this sense, they become identified with their own activity, disconnected from vital essence of the original source. With a firm belief that “everything is up to me,” they gloss over their inner emptiness with unrestrained drive and endless “to do” lists.

THREES pump energy outward in multiple directions at once. They burn their feelings as fuel for production, considering them a waste of time. They’re preoccupied with image – successful, productive, useful – and believe you can only be measured by what you accomplish. The compulsion to create and re-create themselves through action renders them prone to exhaustion. Sadly, that predisposition reflects a false stimulation of vital essence.

THREE’s spiritual task is to transform from a human doing to a human being and set aside vainglory in service of Veracity. They need to see the real self and not the produced one, thereby exposing their tendency toward shallowness and gravitation toward image. In that process, the fear of failure (“I cannot act”) can find new life as a choice (“I can not act.”)

Type SIX: The Security Seeker

According to Schafer, SIXES have lost sight of our staying power amid life’s toils and tribulations and the promise that all Beings evolves according to universal love and hope – a.k.a., Holy Strength and Faith. They view the universe as predatory and lean on caution and doubt to survive.

SIXES energies collapse into a narrow preoccupation with safety, security, and predictability. They’re constantly scanning for real or perceived threats and developing plans to address them. They don’t characterize this behavior as fearful; they believe it simply renders them prepared. While they seek authority that is steadfast, solid, and certain, they tend to mistrust it even when found. They rely heavily on mental constructs and give short shrift to direct knowing by the heart or gut.

SIXES must recognize that the doubting, critical mind doesn’t produce certainty; it enflames fear. They need the courage to Trust their own strength and believe the deepest part of Being will care for them.

Another Perspective on the Enneagram

It has been a while since I’ve written about the enneagram, a model of nine personality profiles and three instincts. But since finishing William M. Schafer’s Roaming Free Inside the Cage: A Daoist Approach to the Enneagram and Spiritual Formation, I thought I’d share his perspective on the subject.

As noted in an earlier post, there are lots of books, websites, blog posts, podcasts, and articles on the subject, along with variations on how each pundit embraces the teachings of the enneagram. For the sake of brevity, here are descriptors that I use to capture the nine types:

  1. enneagramThe Perfectionist (a.k.a. Reformer or Idealist)
  2. The Connector (a.k.a. Helper or Giver)
  3. The Performer (a.k.a. Achiever or Motivator)
  4. The Individualist (a.k.a. Romantic or Sensitive Soul)
  5. The Observer (a.k.a. Thinker or Investigator)
  6. The Security Seeker (a.k.a. Planner or Loyal Skeptic)
  7. The Enthusiast (a.k.a. Epicure or Generalist)
  8. The Protector (a.k.a. Challenger or Commander)
  9. The Peacemaker (a.k.a. Mediator or Team Player)

Schafer suggests a need to study the enneagram to integrate and balance our differentiated parts and reclaim our essential qualities. We begin life in wholeness. Infancy provides an experience of pure presence, joy, wonder, curiosity, interest, and awareness of others’ awareness. Three shocks encumber our bliss:

  • Loss of wholeness upon birth as we enter the physical world
  • Loss of emotional connection when relationships prove variable
  • Loss of trust when caregivers fall short of our needs and expectations

These shocks disturb the natural balance of energies: yin as retractive, passive, and receptive, and yang as active, assertive, repelling, and expansive. In a struggle to survive, our egos either give undue to weight to their yin or yang energies, or hold too tightly to a balance between them. Personality forms around this energetic imbalance.

  • A yin person manifests a lack of edge and aggression. They have a soft, resting energy that either draws us in or demands that we lose energy in order to connect. [Types 4, 5, 9]
  • A yang person moves out with power, force, or intensity. We may feel taken aback by them. [Types 3, 7, 8]
  • A reconciling person neither invites nor overwhelms. In an attempt to preserve both yin and yang, they keep their energy contained. They may be hard to read. [Types 1, 2, 6]

Each type also has a distinctive emotional energy that reflects a distorted view of a holy ideal and virtue. Rather than resting freely in the bounty of its innate endowment, the type develops habits to suppress experiences it deems unacceptable. The more skillful the avoidance, the greater the barrier to personal and spiritual growth.

Type Holy Ideal Virtue Avoidance
1 Perfection Perfection Error, anger
2 Freedom, will Humility Personal need
3 Law, harmony, hope Veracity Failure
4 Origin Equanimity Ordinary living
5 Omniscience Non-attachment Emptiness
6 Strength, faith Courage Spontaneity
7 Work, plan, wisdom Constancy Boredom, pain
8 Truth Innocence Vulnerability
9 Love Right action Conflict

Schafer views the enneagram as a means to reclaim all the initial stages of wholeness. Working with the enneagram challenges us to invite sensations, feelings, and states of mind that we otherwise consciously avoid. Knowing one’s type is less important than inquiring within about the energies and processes that motivate behavior. We are encouraged to be observant, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and accepting in the journey. This approach provides a doorway to consciousness so that we can live freely within our types.

The next three posts will provide a deeper dive on Schafer’s teachings regarding the nine types of the enneagram. They are organized by triads, with each triad containing representations in:

  • The three centers of intelligence: Body (instinctive), Heart (feeling), and Head (thinking)
  • The three great life forces – Receptive (yin), Active (yang), and Balancing (yin/yang)
  • The three forms of emotional regulation: Positive Outlook (a.k.a. Reframing), Reactive (a.k.a. Expressive), and Competency (a.k.a., Containing)

Stay tuned!

The Three Instincts of the Enneagram

In the final weeks of 2018, I wrote a series of 10 posts on the enneagram – a brief introduction to this personality typing system plus high-level descriptions of each of the nine types. Since then, I attended a workshop on the 3 instincts: Self-Preservation, One-to-One, and Social. Here are a few tidbits that I picked up from that experience.

If we look at ourselves as animals, we can view the three instincts through the lens of behaviors necessary to further our survival. We must attend to our material needs (food, water, shelter, clothing) and provide for our safety and security (Self-Preservation). We need to find a person with whom we will mate or be “besties” (One-to-One, a.k.a. Sexual). And we need to figure out how to get along with others in community (Social). Most of us lean heavily on one of these instincts to alleviate our anxiety and relax. We typically have a back-up instinct when the primary one is not engaged. And we tend to be less attuned to whichever instinct remains.

Here’s how our teacher characterized the instincts:

lone wolf


love birds


border collie


Attention Goes To: Physical environment Individual people Group identity and welfare
Concerned About: Material security and resources Bring seen and loved as an individual person One’s place in the group; the pecking order
Energy Goes To: Being prepared; avoiding shortfalls Attracting affection, intimacy, partnership Membership in groups; collaboration
Values: Having enough
Putting things in order
Setting priorities
Meaningful exchanges

Here’s how panelists who self-identified with these instincts described their perfect days (excluding work days):

Self-Preservation One-to-One Social
Awaken, wash, brush teeth
Morning routine
Organize for the day
Putter around the house and garden
Exercise; go for a walk
Relax in the evening, curled up with a good book
Walk with a friend
Run errands with a partner
Have lunch with a friend
Spend one-on-one time with children
Go on Facebook to connect with friends
Spend time with pets, listening to music, working on hobbies
Go to an exercise class
Volunteer at a nonprofit
Go to lunch with friends
Attend a lecture
Share a meal with family
Go to a community gathering (e.g., choir, service group, book club)

While this may seem quite academic, the “light bulb” goes on for me when I think about how it plays out in relationship. In particular, I have a strong “social” instinct with a back-up of “self-preservation.” I’m not natively a good fit with someone who has a strong “one-to-one” instinct as that level of intensity feels intrusive to me (and its absence feels cold and empty for them!) Likewise, a “self-preservation” oriented person with a “one-to-one” secondary instinct is not going to take comfort with a partner who is relentlessly social.

Of course, we can all find ways to accommodate the needs and predilections of our compatriots and loved ones. The enneagram provides a framework through which we can unearth these aspects of our personalities and have conversations about how we’ll engage them.

Which instincts resonate for you?

Type Nine – The Peacemaker

The Enneagram Type NINE personality has a strong desire for inner and outer harmony. These individuals focus on others and on conflict avoidance in order to stay comfortable and peaceful. They are steady emotionally and rarely let their anger show. Being assertive feels risky because it might bring conflict. In fact, they’re rather good at distancing themselves from strong emotion for the sake of sustaining connection with others.

NINES bring a certain pacing to the world. They see the universal in all things and invite us to slow down long enough to take it all in. They like to explore options and are masters at applying slow pressure over time to achieve results. They’re also susceptible to procrastination and may have difficulty staying on course.

NINES are natural mediators due to their ability to see all points of view and render compassionate responses to heated emotions. They are nonjudgmental and accepting, often to the point of rendering themselves and their opinions invisible. They model courtesy in a way that shows everyone respect. They draw attention to what the affected parties have in common and are skilled at charting the path to compromise. They want solutions that are appropriate and fair for all concerned.

Of course, all that agreeableness can have a dark side. NINES can identify so closely with others’ agendas that they lose touch with their own. Everyone else’s needs, priorities, and sensibilities can dominate the NINE’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. They “fall asleep” to themselves to avoid pain, discomfort, and individuation. They lose touch with their own needs and preferences and may harbor a simmering resentment when taken for granted, overburdened, or ignored. Their wish for peace and harmony comes at the expense of a personal agenda that requires conflict, priorities, and right action.

NINES can find a lot of ways to move into inaction. They can get really busy, where everything calls for their attention and nothing comes into sharp relief. They can get stuck in their heads considering all the options, a form of procrastination. They can zone out and contemplate the universe or binge watch television. NINES need helpful friends and/or visual reminders to get them back on task.

enneagram type nine peacemaker

When subject to the influence of the neighboring EIGHT, Healthy NINES combine their penchant for agreeableness with endurance, strength, and political sensitivity. They get things done with a velvet glove. When subject to the influence of the neighboring ONE, Healthy NINES synthesize ideas from a variety of input and set a course in the right direction.

NINES are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation NINES are easygoing folks who revel in simple pleasures, e.g., food, drink, shopping, TV. They don’t ask much from life and aren’t terribly ambitious. They are practical, down-to-earth people who focus on everyday things rather than abstractions.
  • One-to-One NINES like to bask in the glow and energy of their partners, often choosing flamboyant or aggressive mates. Their partners become the centers of their worlds and may cause them to sacrifice their own sense of independence and identity. They tend to be kind and gentle characters who are not very assertive.
  • Social NINES want to live harmoniously among a collective of family, friends, and colleagues. They are fun-loving, sociable, and congenial types who work hard to secure membership in their collectives. They are attracted to the energy of working collaboratively and can be highly productive in service of others.

Under stress, NINES may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy SIX. They downplay their own choices and desires and hang their hats on ideas, relationships, and institutions that hold the promise of providing security and stability. They may fill their calendars with activity as a means of avoiding the reality of their circumstances.

The antidote to stress lies in investing the time and energy to know what they want out of life and set about the business of developing the skills, experience, and connections to get it. For a NINE, that’s no small order. It starts with learning the value of saying NO if for no other reason than to create the space to connect with one’s inner wisdom. It also calls for acknowledging anger and other disharmonious emotions and taking the time to learn what they’re all about.

NINES find strength in movement toward a Healthy THREE where they learn to connect to their individual identities. From this position, they recognize their value and recover the ability to act and express themselves authentically. They can retain their calm demeanor yet assert themselves when needed.

Type Eight – The Protector

The Enneagram Type EIGHT personality lives in a world in which they believe external forces threaten to exert control and expose vulnerability. The attention goes to power and building strong defenses. These individuals protect the weak and seek justice for the aggrieved. EIGHTS don’t see themselves as forceful; they just do what needs to be done. As rugged individualists, they know their own minds, act on their own counsel, and resist unwelcome influence. What you see is what you get.

EIGHTS take up space; they won’t settle for anything small. They have a zeal for life and want to immerse themselves in interesting work, fun activities, and good food and drink. They don’t have a rheostat; they’re either ON or OFF. They stand ready to move into action at a moment’s notice. EIGHTS have a big appetite for getting things done and will move mountains to achieve their goals. They’ll be confrontational when the need arises and can become irritable when bogged down by minutia. They refuse to experience feelings that might slow them down.

EIGHTS have an orientation toward truthfulness; they can see BS coming a mile away and have no trouble calling people out on it. They have little tolerance for manipulatively weak or whiney people. Contrived vulnerability poses a threat to survival. Saccharine sweetness and flattery also make them uncomfortable. They prefer direct, forthright, no frills communication. (“Just the facts, ma’am.”)

EIGHTS project an air of certainty and make decisions confidently. (“I am frequently mistaken, but I am never in doubt.”) They can be able leaders, but they’re not driven to take the reins. They just want to know that power is being used well and trust those who take charge. When they sense a leadership void, they’ll fill it without necessarily wanting to do so. It’s their way of taking care of themselves and others.

EIGHTS take their time relating to others emotionally. They project strength and have easy access to anger which often intimidates those with whom they might forge connection. At root, they want a measure of assurance that you can bear the weight of their friendship. Until proven, they’ll hide their sensitivity so that you won’t know when or if they’ve been hurt. They’re like an armadillo – a tough outer shell with a soft underbelly. That being said, EIGHTS care deeply about important others and will take great pains to protect and nurture them.

enneagram type eight protector

EIGHTS experience their NINE wing as a connections to the big picture where they stand ready to fill gaps when they find them. It also compels them to want to share (or merge) experiences with the people they love. The SEVEN wing longs for an amped up experience of being free, vibrantly alive, and never bored. In short, they’ll go along with an external agenda (NINE) until they are bored or restricted (SEVEN); then they’re out.

EIGHTS are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation EIGHTS are no-nonsense types who don’t mind ruffling feathers to get (and protect) what they need to survive. They are unabashed workaholics who put their excess into material things and live big. They are well-armed, territorial, and the rulers of their roosts.
  • One-to-One EIGHTS are intense, magnetic individuals who are passionate about the people in their inner sphere. (“I’m yours, and you are mine.”) They love a good time and find heated arguments stimulating. They may push hard on their intimates to test their ability to stand up to, and with, them.
  • Social EIGHTS look to create powerful bonds within groups. As the most socially minded of an anti-social type, they are willing to bite their tongues and use diplomacy to wield influence and maintain membership. Their social causes generally focus on securing justice for the oppressed or protecting the vulnerable.

Under stress, EIGHTS may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy FIVE. They retreat from conflicts to reflect on what’s happening, gird their loins, and prepare for a confident re-entry into the scene. They may be seen as brooding while they gather and reflect on information. Left to their own devices, they can get stuck in contemplation that turns cynical and contemptuous.

The antidote to stress lies in getting in touch with one’s vulnerabilities while letting others in to provide support and reassurance. Trustworthy associates can break through the wall of defenses to allow for consideration of fresh interpretations of current events and productive courses of action. They can also take note of impulses that could prove self-destructive.

EIGHTS find strength in movement toward a Healthy TWO. From this position, they reconnect with their hearts to acknowledge how much they genuinely care about others. They recognize boundaries and limits – their own and that of others. They still work hard and get a lot done, but they know when it’s time to pull back on the throttle. Their zeal for life is experienced as joy in being alive.

Type Seven – The Enthusiast

The Enneagram Type SEVEN personality  approaches life with curiosity, optimism, and a sense of adventure. These individuals use their life energy to help themselves and others find happiness, hope, and freedom from restriction. SEVEN energy insists upon “OK”: I’m OK, you’re OK, it’s OK, often simply to avoid dealing with pain or unpleasantness. They want to live fully and encourage others to do the same. They enjoy being the life of the party and having lots of interesting people, ideas, and events around them.

SEVENS love to contemplate possibilities. They are big-picture people who love to envision the future, consider all the options to get there, and instill confidence and enthusiasm among their cohorts as they embark on the journey. If something fills their heart’s desire, they’re all in. They don’t want to sit still and be quiet. However, it can be challenging for them to stick with a concept or plan long enough to see it through to fruition. The next interesting idea or opportunity always beckons at their doors.

SEVENS want variety and stimulation in relationship. They like to meet new people and peek into their lives to see if there is something that they might like to experience. They get antsy when others start to have expectations of them for fear of missing out on another opportunity. They often feel that other people cannot keep up with them.

At root, SEVENS think the world can restrict and limit you, and that you must be on guard at all times to be creative and free. They like having lots of options and back-up plans, even if they don’t act on them. They want to keep things open. Being forced to make choices can annoy them. If something gets dull, they’ll either find a way to make it interesting or get on with the next thing. When facing unavoidable difficulty, they’ll find a way to make everything OK. They don’t want to be settled, bored, or down.

enneagram type seven enthusiast

From the influence of their wings, SEVENS fear (SIX) missing out on a great experience (EIGHT). If they make a firm commitment, they’ll be loyal to it (SIX). Broken commitments suggest they never really made them in the first place or that they didn’t matter anyway. From their EIGHT wing, they want something powerful and lusty to draw their attention and engagement. The wings also speak to advocating for the underdog (SIX) to right wrongs and protect (EIGHT) the weak.

SEVENS are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation SEVENS focus their ambition on securing creature comforts. They’re classic consumers who are unabashed about pampering themselves. They like inviting people over to have new and interesting experiences.
  • One-to-One SEVENS seek an intense experience of being alive. They collect social data one person at a time (much like a bee pollinating flowers) and are drawn to people who they find especially interesting or charismatic. Their passion for future adventures can engender restlessness in intimate relationships.
  • Social SEVENS cultivate a wide circle of friends for stimulating companionship and for the sake of staying apprised of future possibilities. They like having a full social calendar. They are also most prone to make personal sacrifices for the sake of gaining freedom for others.

The vice of SEVEN is often described as gluttony, but it’s really impatience. They are anxious about not getting the most out of life. They don’t want to suffer as a function of making choices that deny them an ideal life. As such, they have a wandering eye that’s constantly on the lookout for more interesting experiences. They can become so fixated on future possibilities that they fail to revel in the here and now. This restlessness may deny them the pleasure of experiencing life deeply or providing an enduring sense of satisfaction.

Under stress, SEVENS may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy ONE. They impose discipline on themselves to meet their obligations but chafe under the structure and limitations. They may strive for more freedom by trying to convince others that they are right about changing the rules of the game. They can become surly and impatient with those who disagree or fail to meet their standards of excellence.

The antidote to stress lies in processing anxiety when it threatens to take over and spur impulsive action. The circumstances may call for a simple act of finding contentment in the ordinary rather than seeking the next mountaintop experience. The growth path for SEVENs lies in learning to be still.

SEVENS find strength in movement toward a Healthy FIVE. From this position, they learn to quiet their hyperactive minds so that they can live more fully in the moment. They stay with their current experiences long enough to assess what is really happening and make more conscious choices about how they want to live.

Type Six – The Security Seeker

The Enneagram Type SIX personality finds the world hazardous and unpredictable and expends a good deal of energy building defenses. This type is future-oriented, constantly on the lookout for danger. They want to know what is trustworthy and where they might find safety. They carefully scrutinize outside input in the process of discerning to whom or what they should be loyal.

SIXES repress their intuition; they cut themselves off from what they know instinctively. They go into their heads and spin on the data they collect. This gluttony of ideas can create analysis paralysis. While a trustworthy authority might break the cycle, they often harbor suspicion toward the ones they encounter in real life. Their quest for certainty creates more uncertainty.

SIXES wrestle with projection. They’d rather imagine others’ motivations than wallow in not knowing. This predilection may engage quickly and trend toward negative expectations. (“If I can anticipate the worst that may come at me, I can prepare for it.”) It’s a refusal to stay in uncertainty.

Phobic SIXES overcome uncertainty by trying to make their lives safe, secure, and predictable. They may present themselves as small, meek, and powerless to get others to protect them. Or, they may assuage their fear by adopting conservative patterns of behavior. They defer decisions until they’ve researched matters thoroughly and developed considered opinions on the opportunities, risks, and rewards. They anticipate the worst and develop contingency plans. Counterphobic SIXES push against fear and move toward perceived threats (often aggressively) to test their mettle. They deal with anxiety by denying it or putting it in the background. They align themselves with sources of power to stand clear of blame should things go awry.

SIXES make people uncomfortable because they tell them the truth and make them face it – that is, life is uncertain, and we need to be careful. They point to a precariousness that we would rather not acknowledge. They tell us that any expression of certainty is false. SIXES are willing to sit in a doubting place and force our discomfort because it is the right thing to do.

SIXES earn predictability and safety through loyalty. They are devoted companions who expect trusted associates to be loyal to the people, things, and organizations to which they are loyal and hostile to their perceived antagonists. They have a special affinity for the downtrodden with whom they share an identity of being underdogs. When SIXES find organizations, leaders, systems, and structures that align with their sensibilities, they are committed and hardworking. However, when trust has been called into question, they’re out.

enneagram type six security seeker

SIXES sit between the influence of a FIVE that argues for doing nothing to conserve energy and the SEVEN that is always ready to explore new opportunities. Healthy SIXES leverages the FIVE capacity for subject matter expertise that empowers them to take action based on their own hard-won knowledge. They let the SEVEN zeal for life propel them toward opportunities for which they might otherwise miss out.

SIXES are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation SIXES generally adopt a strategy of being small, careful, and compliant. While they make friends slowly, they are warm, friendly, upbeat, and trustworthy when on solid ground. As colleagues, they are competent, reliable, and loyal. They have a tendency to sweat the small stuff and take their time when making decisions.
  • One-to-One SIXES work on their physical strength, power, and/or attractiveness to feel safe. If counterphobic, they mask their insecurities by projecting toughness; if phobic, they’ll leverage flirtation, coquettishness, and seduction to secure powerful allies.
  • Social SIXES put their faith in organizations (e.g., union member) and/or systems, and expect them to take care of them. They like being part of something that is greater than themselves and can feel anxiety in the face of disharmony within the collective.

Under stress, SIXES may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy THREE. Fear and anxiety drive them to work harder to avoid criticism or simply triumph over others. It also causes them to worry about their public image and push hard to be accepted. The latter can come off as forced friendliness and may be off-putting.

The antidote to stress lies in developing the capacity to see the world as fundamentally benevolent and supportive. From this vantage point, SIXES can relax into their daily routines and encounter new persons and experiences from a position of openness. They can also learn to trust their instincts rather than assume that everyone and everything may pose a threat. This trust gives them the freedom to live in the moment without undue concern for the future.

SIXES find strength in movement toward a Healthy NINE. This position allows them to feel grounded in the here and now rather than worried about the future. They’ll stop agonizing over choices and realize that several options can deliver a good result. They’ll learn to feel secure in and of themselves without concern for validation by their colleagues and significant others. They’ll also feel inclusive and accepting of others, not threatened by them.

Type Five – The Observer

The Enneagram Type FIVE personality believes that knowledge is power. These individuals enjoy being subject matter experts and do not want to be passed in competency. They like to observe what’s going on in the world and then assess the information to understand how things work. They hide in plain sight. FIVES are skilled in rational, objective analyses and calm in a crisis. They find the way forward rather than wallow in chaos or indecision. They’re emotionally reserved, preferring to analyze and synthesize their experiences rather than simply live them.

FIVES see other people as potential drains on their time and energy, which they perceive as being in scarce supply. They don’t give a lot of social data and may prefer to experience relationships in their heads without having face-to-face contact. They assess situations before entering into them to determine how much energy or attention they will take. They want each experience to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. When the parameters are not known, FIVES withdraw or shut down. They’re sensitive to emotional demands placed upon them and are hesitant to make commitments. (“If the world presents itself as uncomfortably nonnegotiable, the only thing I know how to do is say no.”)

FIVES want boundaries; they don’t like spontaneity. They process life by anticipating an event or interaction, engaging with it, and then thinking about it thereafter. They need time alone to unpack their feelings and experiences. Solitude is a necessity of life. When interrupted in their reflective process, they feel lost. To that end, FIVES might be content to live in a castle protected by a moat and drawbridge. It would enable them to set office hours and regulate who gains entrance. It would also afford them a shield from the noisy, overcrowded world.

FIVES work hard at being self-sufficient so as not to require support from others. They minimize personal requirements and limit outside connections. This tendency has the unfortunate consequence of cutting them off from nourishing and mutually supportive relationships. They fail to recognize the potential for renewal and rejuvenation through social contact. That being said, when FIVES find compatible friends and mates, they are uncommonly loyal and trustworthy.

enneagram type five observer

FIVES live between the FOUR-ish depth of feeling and the SIX-ish fear of getting trapped. They hold to a clear and distinct vision of their place in the world and resist structures that get in the way (FOUR). They question authority and exercise powers of discernment to know who or what merits their attention (SIX). They know when to care and when not to; everything else gets no (or minimal) energy. Healthy FIVES render these judgments without fear (SIX) of emotional pain or grief (FOUR).

FIVES are influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation FIVES have particularly strong needs for boundaries to guard their space and protect against unwanted intrusions. They want to be at home with their projects, information, and ideas. They’re the least expressive of their type and limit their needs to avoid being dependent on others. They’re easily overwhelmed by people and blend into the landscape in social situations.
  • One-to-One FIVES look for the ideal partner with whom they can safely share their inner life. They’re driven to engage intensely but may have their eye on an escape hatch should they feel overwhelmed by the experience or insecure with their partners. They can be open and forthright yet shut down when feeling judged or misunderstood.
  • Social FIVES participate in communities where they can be valued for their knowledge and skills. They’re intellectuals who use information as bargaining chips and enjoy spirited discussions with highly engaged, competent individuals. They seek recognition and prestige and generally consider themselves to be superior to others.

Under stress, FIVES may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy SEVEN. They become increasingly narrow in their focus and pull back into the safety of their own thoughts. If they sense attachment, they find a way to do without it or convince themselves that they never experienced it in the first place. They may distract themselves with random activity to avoid dealing with the underlying source of discomfort.

The antidote to stress lies in giving space for disquieting thoughts and feelings to emerge. They consider why these sentiments arise and what can be done to address them. They may set aside the fear of being caught unaware and let experience be their teacher. They may also take into account the relationships that have been cut off to avoid feeling their feelings. They need to reach out to others and let the world in.

FIVES find strength in movement toward a Healthy EIGHT. From this position, they “get out of their heads” and feel their presence and power in the world. They embrace their gut instincts and use them to take action in confidence. They stop trying to figure out how life works and just start living it.