Category Archives: Enneagram

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.

Type Four – The Individualist

The Enneagram Type FOUR personality has a large capacity for emotional sensitivity and depth. These individuals want singular lives that take advantage of their one-of-a-kind gifts and sensibilities; they have no interest in being ordinary. They want to connect deeply with people who understand them and their feelings, yet often feel that the world doesn’t get them. They want others to notice them and draw them out.

FOURS often resonate with a feeling of abandonment and focus on what’s missing. They long for whatever they deem ideal. They assume that others have what they lack or have simply settled for second best. This belief gives rise to the emotion of envy. It grows out of a feeling that there is something good that is just beyond their reach. FOURS can be unreasonably yet intentionally drawn to the unattainable. This drive can engender competitiveness in the pursuit and melancholy when faced with reality.

In a dramatic view that life is suffering, the only thing that gives it meaning is beauty. FOURS check in constantly with their inner artist and take note of what is different, beautiful, and special. Their aesthetic touch helps them craft an inner world that inoculates them from an outer world that can be unpleasant or mundane. They bring people, moods, stories, and experiences inside themselves, often rendering them more appealing (“romantic”) than they really are. They can escape to this interior life whenever they want.

FOURS are stalwart family members, friends, and colleagues who will not shy away from crises or buckle under intense emotional pressure. They understand suffering and are not afraid to share in it. They want others to know that they are seen, heard, and remembered. FOURS want to make others feel that it is good and beautiful that they are here. Their capacity to explore and narrate the human experience gives them a distinctive edge in artistic expression.

enneagram type four individualist

FOURS have a Type FIVE wing of investment (thinking and percolating before engaging) and a Type THREE wing of success and industriousness with an eye toward encouraging others to have a meaningful experience. When the FIVE wing dominates, FOURS observe and stay out of the experience; they want to be left alone. When the THREE wing dominates, they want to share their experience with the world and broadcast what they’ve found. FOURS are naturals for the creative life.

FOURS are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation FOURS are the most practical and materialistic of the type, working hard to get what they perceive others have that they lack. They’ll surround themselves with beautiful objects whether or not they can reasonably afford them. They tend not to share their pain, preferring to suffer in stoic silence.
  • One-to-One FOURS hold to the romantic ideal of the knight in shining armor who will rescue them from the dreary suffering of this world. Failing that, they project their suffering outward, expressing their needs and making demands of others. A competitive drive propels them to be the best and secure their place among the chosen few.
  • Social FOURS experience their distinctiveness as both a gift and a burden. They revel in the intensity of their feelings and may look upon others as crude and insensitive. Yet they covet a place among the beautiful and elite and may doubt their ability to gain acceptance. This duality may lead to an affinity for unique groups and/or alternative lifestyles.

All FOURS tend to have an uneasy relationship with authority. They don’t think that rules and regulations apply to them. In fact, they may take pride in breaking rules, especially if they can get away with it. That notwithstanding, they still crave the respect and attention of folks who traffic among the “best people,” however defined.

Under stress, FOURS may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy TWO. When feeling isolated, disconnected, or misunderstood, they may respond with forced friendliness that borders on clinginess. While this behavior stems from a desire to put the relationship on solid ground, it may drive people away.

The antidote to stress lies in remembering that feelings are not facts. They are informed by the sum total of past experiences, sensitivities, and unrealized fantasies that may color current perceptions. FOURS need to take a dispassionate view of the current landscape and seek out friends who will speak the truth lovingly. They help themselves by moving forward with favorable interpretations of the facts wherever possible. FOURS also find that when they stop striving to be unique, they find their own voices.

FOURS find strength in movement toward a Healthy ONE. From this position, they commit to principles and actions beyond the constraints of subjective emotions. They become more grounded and self-disciplined. They accept the prevailing circumstances without lamentation and work toward meaningful goals to effect change. They stay present to themselves and others.

Type Three – The Performer

The Enneagram Type THREE personality wants to succeed, avoid failure, and be the best or first. These individuals are goal-oriented workaholics whose charm, ambition, energy, and competitive nature serve their need for personal advancement. They feel like the whole world is watching them, and they want all due approval and recognition. They aren’t particularly concerned with being liked. Feelings make them uncomfortable and impede forward movement.

THREES view life as though they’re climbing a mountain or working a machine. They are doers and go-getters who don’t like to sit around. They’ve got “to do” lists by the bed, on the kitchen table, in the car, and at work. They’re constantly multitasking and gladly take short cuts to make forward progress. THREES harbor the false sense that their worlds will crash and burn if they stop moving. There’s security in knowing that everything can be pushed aside in order to deliver the goods. They don’t like to sit around. Free time can make them feel lost.

THREES are chameleonlike and adopt personas that they believe will lead to a good result. They assume roles with the potential for reward and praise and get rid of everything else. People pay attention to them due to their confidence, lack of doubt, and inspirational personality. THREES focus on the art of persuasion and presentation to achieve results; it’s all about performance. They’ll tell you what you want to hear and believe it when they say it. They’ll massage their image until it works, and may lose themselves in the process. They can get so caught up in their own press releases that they disconnect from reality.

THREES won’t do something if they can’t win or will feel shame. Failure exposes inadequacy and will be avoided at all costs. (They may even avoid you if they think you’ll be a failure!) Rather than endure humiliation, they’ll cut-and-run and have a story about it. That attitude cuts them off from experiencing things that could bring joy but for which they may not be stellar and/or have an awkward beginner stage.

enneagram type three performer

The THREE’s wings draw their attention to those who are suffering and forgotten (FOUR) and compel them to take up the mantle to help them thrive (TWO). These influences transform compassion into a call for action. They’ll push information and encouragement onto others in the confident belief that the objects of their discourse will be better for it. They’re also driven to put their personal stamp on everything (FOUR) while creating devoted followers (TWO) under their leadership (THREE).

THREES are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation THREES work hard to attain a level of success that provides for their material security and stability. While they appreciate recognition for their achievements, they put more faith in the quality of their work and the efficiency with which they prosecute it. They value integrity and work hard to be who they say they are.
  • One-to-One THREES place greater emphasis on their personal appeal than their worldly success. They want to be desired and admired by important others; they take great pride in having an alluring mate to show off. To that end, One-to-One THREES are as invested in their physical packaging as they are in their personal and intellectual competencies.
  • Social THREES are status seekers who bask in the limelight and pine for influence and applause. For them, pedigrees and credentials matter as do neighborhoods, cars, social circles, and designer labels. They are great image makers and networkers. They use their political will to do good and work hard to raise everybody up.

While all of that external focus can pay dividends in terms of personal advancement, it can have a deleterious impact on THREES. Their chameleon nature can cause them to lose sight of who they really are or what they really want. They can become slaves to the images that they’re trying to maintain. They can also be so caught up in work that they fail to make time for restorative activities and authentically intimate relationships.

Under stress, THREES may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy NINE. They shut down and numb out in response to the relentless pursuit of success. While maintaining an outward appearance of busyness, their attention may be drawn to unimportant tasks. They may also get caught up in a fantasy world surrounding their next big success and put pressing concerns on hold until that day dawns.

The antidote to stress lies in developing the capacity to recognize when they’re living into a false image of themselves rather than speaking and acting authentically. The path to enlightenment requires that they drop the need for public acclaim. That level of clarity can be attained by taking time to relax and allow for thoughtful reflection on what is really going on. It’s also supported by cultivating trusted relationships that welcome forthright communication.

THREES find strength in movement toward a Healthy SIX. From this position, THREES discover the voice of their inner guidance and gain the courage to embody their true nature. They commit to projects and relationships that hold personal significance irrespective of public opinion. They are loyal and evoke loyalty in others.

Type Two – The Connector

The Enneagram Type TWO personality focuses on relationships, helping others, and gaining approval. These individuals strive to improve the human condition through connection. They want to help others find the paths to their highest selves, get what they need along the way, and bring people into their lives for mutual benefit. And, of course, TWOS want to play a role in the unfolding of all that goodness. They are often employed as brokers in loving kindness (e.g., ministry), human potential (e.g., counselling, coaching), or business (e.g., human resources, real estate).

TWOS present themselves as upbeat, energetic, and friendly with an infectious positivity. They carry an underlying belief that they must be helpful and loving to be liked. That orientation makes them stellar colleagues, friends, and family members who go to great lengths to express their affection and provide support. They are great listeners who revel in others’ joys and tap deep wells of empathy in times of sorrow or strife. Woundedness provides fertile ground for nurturing and attentive care. While brimming with compassion, they have limited tolerance for negativity unless they have a role in making it positive.

TWOS process lots of data when meeting new people to determine who they are, how they move, and what they need. They consider themselves unusually skilled at reading people and may use flattery to gain trust and approval. Armed with keen insights, TWOS adapt their behaviors to suit the moods, preferences, and needs of others. (“I’ll be who you need me to be.”) While they clearly find fulfillment in attending to others’ needs, their generosity generally carries an expectation of reciprocal care. TWOS want their acts of service to build ties that bind and may get resentful when they aren’t forthcoming.

At root, TWOS have difficulty believing that they can be loved and accepted for simply being themselves. They form an identity around having a role, being of service, and helping others. They fear disapproval or being disconnected. TWOS relax when others create an opening for relationship and share feelings and concerns that they can internalize. This outward orientation may reflect a fear that others will assess their inner landscape and find it unworthy of attention or love. (“You are nobody until somebody loves you.”)

enneagram type two connector

The ONE wing empowers TWOS to set standards for their work in realizing human potential and reforming the environment. Their drive to relieve suffering finds companionship with a seriousness of purpose toward effective action. The THREE wing provides concern for social standing (i.e., who or what is worthy of attention) and recognition for their work. It also motivates them to be exemplars of interpersonal connection and helpfulness.

TWOS are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation TWOS hold a strong expectation that others will attend to their needs. They may work tirelessly to gain that reciprocity, or they may present themselves as child-like and needy to induce others to take care of them. They may also traffic in guilt trips to get what they want. (“After all I’ve done for you…”)
  • One-to-One TWOS find comfort in being a best friend, an intimate partner, or the power behind the throne. They crave private time with their significant others and seek exclusivity in the sharing of confidences. To attract this individual, a One-to-One TWO invests time and energy in becoming irresistible. (“I’ll puff you up and then be right beside you.”)
  • Social TWOS want to be at the center of the social arena and enroll others in their agenda. A desire to be noticed and remembered prompts them to show up as competent, knowledgeable individuals worthy of admiration. They gravitate toward those who are popular or powerful. They also scan the room to make sure that everyone is OK. (“Has everyone spoken? Do they have what they need?”)

All that helpfulness has a dark side. TWOS can get so caught up in serving others that they forget to take care of themselves. They may become so addicted to a relationship that they foster dependency. They may also become so adept at mirroring their compatriots’ emotional energy that they lose sight of their own emotional core.

Under stress, TWOS may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy EIGHT. They can be aggressive when fearing loss of an important relationship or when they don’t get what they need out of existing ones. They may become possessive and controlling, a response that likely adds fuel to the fire.

The antidote to stress lies in catching oneself in the act of flattering or serving others solely as a means of currying favor. It means recognizing the underlying fear of worthlessness that often drives this behavior. It calls for cultivating self-love and shedding the overwhelming concern for what others think.

TWOS find strength in movement toward a Healthy FOUR. From this position, they learn to acknowledge their own feelings, needs, and expectations and find more direct means of satisfying them. They give themselves permission to prioritize self-care and cultivate relationships that are genuinely nurturing.

Type One – The Perfectionist

The Enneagram Type ONE personality has a highly attuned sense of right and wrong based on a carefully crafted set of internal standards. These individuals deem it virtuous to do the right thing; they take action based on what they think they should do. This impulse may lead them to see the highest good and motivate diligent efforts to attain it. It may also give them an eye for seeing error, driving them to reform what has gone awry.

ONES take their time forming opinions, making decisions, and taking action. Everything goes through an inner law court during which they act as plaintiff, defendant, judge, and jury. Judgments will be defended rigorously at the conclusion of this exacting process. ONES have a hard time making mistakes and an even harder time accepting blame. When at fault, they ruminate, self-criticize, and then institute self-improvement so it won’t happen again.

ONES like well-defined boundaries. They’ll establish one or more territories over which they exercise mastery, generally something at which they are skilled, experienced, and/or natively interested. Once they define their territory, they like to make progress toward worthy goals using efficient, methodical systems and time tables. They’re realistic about what they can accomplish and practical in their approach to getting it done.

ONES prefer individual effort and have faith that they can do things better than others. When in charge of groups, they feel the weight of responsibility for everyone’s work products. To assuage their anxiety, they’ll define roles, responsibilities, and outcomes to ensure that everyone is clear on expectations. They have no problem letting others know when things could be done differently and better. They don’t think their critiques deal harshly with others; that’s how they talk to themselves. Moreover, they don’t want to have to clean up other people’s messes. They’re not terribly concerned with being liked; they want to garner respect and do good work.

Healthy ONES strive to be honest in all of their dealings. They say what they’ll do and do what they say. They have great powers of discernment. They have keen analytical minds and a strong work ethic that supports planning, execution, and problem-solving. They adhere to standards of fairness and set aside their own needs for the benefit of the collective. ONES tend to influence others by example and by the consistent exercise of sound judgment.

enneagram type one perfectionist

ONES want to be useful. From their NINE wing, they are broad systemic thinkers who have a passionate desire to improve the world around them. From their TWO wing, they empathize with the people they serve and work tirelessly in their behalf. A sense of being responsible for everything (NINE) and needing to be good (TWO) reinforces their natural instinct to be correct, be right, be competent, and be in integrity.

ONES are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation ONES tend to be workaholics driven by a commitment to excellence in themselves, their work, and their immediate environment. They may have a difficult time letting their guards down for fear that things will go wrong and/or threaten their material well-being.
  • One-to-One ONES seek perfection in their intimate relationships. They’ve got high expectations and aren’t shy about expressing their opinions in service of improving others and getting what they want. Fidelity and commitment rank high in their esteem.
  • Social ONES seek to be moral exemplars who leverage their time and talents for the greater good. As gifted educators, advocates, and orators, they’re unabashed about speaking their minds in public forums. They’re frequently drawn into politics, community organizing, and journalism.

Unhealthy ONES can be experienced as arrogant, inflexible, critical, and controlling. They may beat themselves down by a relentlessly judgmental inner voice that tears at their self-esteem and denies them simple pleasures. This voice may also find fault with others and give little weight to their ideas or opinions. While the vice of ONE is anger, they experience resistance to it and judge themselves for feeling it. As such, they may not recognize the tempests brewing in their own teapots.

Under stress, ONES may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy FOUR. They seek relief from their inner critic and hefty burdens through flights of daydreaming and romanticizing. They’re prone to moodiness as they come to terms with a sinking feeling that no one understands or appreciates them. Their heretofore reliable discipline and self-control may abandon them.

The antidote to stress lies in developing the capacity to listen to the nurturing inner voice who sees goodness and is lenient toward faults and failings. It grants ONES the freedom to set healthy limits and accept help from others. It gives ONES the space to be open to their needs and vulnerabilities without judgment. It also engenders awareness of repressed anger as a bellwether of underlying issues that need to be addressed.

ONES find strength in movement toward a Healthy SEVEN. From this position, they learn to be affected by their environment without tensing in resistance to it. They realize that there are many ways to do things, and that pleasure can be sought rather than avoided. As they free themselves from the grasps of their inner critics, they imbue their lives with more joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and open-mindedness.