The heavy sexual repression of my childhood communicated a message I took straight to the heart: your natural instincts are bad; your energy is dangerous; you, as you really are, are not acceptable. I beat a retreat into mind and interior life.
But rejection, so keenly perceived, confronted me inwardly as self-rejection. Withdrawal from connection with others, impaired connection with self: This is the desert, the gray plain, the no-man's land of the Five fixation.
However, that same power of perception permitted me, if at times faintly, a vision of the world (with Keats) as "the veil of Soulmaking." Eventually a time came when I would dedicate myself wholly to being present to what is real in me, and to becoming permeable to that. Here are some of the things that helped me reach that point.
1) People with strong being-with qualities got through to me with their caring. (I remember thinking one day, "Drat! Suicide is no longer an option. I couldn't do it to _______.") These connections began to warm me up. Two of these people actually gave me heaters as gifts.
2) Individual and group Reichian-based emotional release work enabled me to discover and express my feelings and begin to trust in my body's intelligence. It was crucial for me that therapy be body-based. And nothing could have substituted for work in a group in helping me face and go through a lot of my fear of the world. (But my tent will always be pitched on the outermost ring of the camp!)
3) Then I learned about the Enneagram. For a long time I was mystified about how greed (avarice) functions as my passion. Withholding is one aspect of it, but I sensed that to really drive me internally, it had to be something more. (Of course withholding does have an important internal aspect - withholding nourishment from myself).
It was my body that finally answered the question. For a period of years I experienced great sensitivity in my back (part of abdominal release in my Reichian process, I believe). I kept hurting myself again and again, and gradually uncovered the inner state of driveness I was usually in when that happened. This pushing myself - in work, in relationship, in any way - is really greed, greed to make the grade, to fulfill the idea of how it could be. Now I could really feel greed as a ruling passion, insidious, destructive, habitual - but not me.
Fives begin to emerge into personhood when we stop clinging to ideas. Then we can start to make conscious use of our attention. The Virtue of Non-attachment expresses the having been attached, and the necessary letting go.
4) Engagement in an expressive art (for me, music) helped me keep the channels open.
5) Experience in nature has been of profound healing significance. Birds are very important to me - not what I know about them, but their flight and their song; they have brought me countless deeply needed messages. And they have taught me that, as with them, in al things it is not knowledge I really seek, but revelation. For me, this is the Holy Idea.
Rumi promises: "When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying, again and again, 'This is certainly not like we though it was!'"
From a female Five who is a longtime student of the Inner Work.
One of the areas that give me and most Fives difficulty is being in touch with inner emotional content. My experience with the benefits of the bioenergetic work begins on the mat with a pillow and tennis racquet. In a workshop with Peter, he kept up an ongoing dialogue to open me to various sensations within the body during the active movement on the mat. When emotion was aroused and began to appear he handed me the tennis racquet and invited me to strike the pillow. This eventually had the effect of releasing my usual control over the emotion and allowed it to come streaming out and through the body into the striking movement. Out flowed anger and deep rage along with the real instinct to kill. The rush of feeling due to his urging and constant dialogue led to the impulse to strike out at Peter. It was controlled readily by him with a subtle movement one step back from me to bring me to an instant realization that he was not the true object of my rage and fear. It came from something imprinted long ago. Beneath this, and shortly after this began flowing, there came the immense sadness emanating from my tender and vulnerable heart and fear was close thereafter. Now in full view of my awareness, these emotions no longer had the power to keep me so controlled from their unconscious hiding place.
From a male Five who is a physician, husband, and father.
As a Point Five, I needed to tear myself away from intellectual pursuits enough to develop my emotional and physical capabalities. This began long before I ever heard about the Enneagram, actually, but I've been focusing more directly on the balance of the three centers in recent months. Hanging around the "New Age" community exposed me to quite a bit of denigration of intellect, which ultimately was damaging to me, since it obviously denied me some of my greatest strength. Learning about Point Five has helped me accept myself as a thinker while also developing new ways of relating with people and situations.
Getting to my heart point of Eight would be an interesting story if I could tell it well. One thing I remember was reading about Eights describing anger in Helen Palmer's book. They talk about clean, pure anger as a thing of beauty. Very inspiring. Still, even as a Five, I knew that reading was no substitute for feeling and acting. So I made a gentle resolution to go ahead and get angry whenever it seems appropriate. I've done it several times now and it has worked well more often than not. I see two important things about it: 1) sometimes throwing anger at someone is a very effective way of communicating with them. 2) sometimes feeling angry at someone or something is better than deprecating myself or feeling depressed.
Of course, Point Eight means more than just anger. There's also pushiness, another thing that, as a sensitive guy, I am usually not too oriented toward. I've now decided that, hey, as long as I'm not too unfair about it, pushiness is another workable communication tool. Because I mean well, and I monitor the other person's reaction, and I'm not "coming from" a compulsive pushiness, I think I'm doing everybody a favor when I push for what I want.
I'm still not very good at translating my emotions into words. I've had a lot of frustration in dealing with women. There seems to be a lot of work yet to do in addressing the emotions involved there. As a sexual subtype, my intensity has drawn some people to me and repelled many others. That's the most important thing I've noticed. I'm often alone and lonely because I haven't had the patience to abide the lighter or more superficial activities that many people enjoy.
Michael J. Coffey is a computer software designer and musician who lives in San Franciso.
As a Five child, I was pretty happy when left to myself. My mind was active and curious, so I almost never got bored. I'd draw, listen to music, play the piano, invent stories with my dolls or my pet birds, watch people (from a distance), or just observe patterns in the clouds or the plaster on the wall. Being easily amused by incongruities and having a fascination with words helped equip me to become a cartoonist later in life. The trouble came when I was forced to interact with people. Being put on the spot was horrible. I hated school, especially recess. Every time the teacher called on me, my heart thumped with fear. I was afraid to speak. I was such a sensitive child that if someone asked me my name I would pray to vaporize into the air in order to not have to respond. Fortunately, there were one or two friends that I felt comfortable playing with and a whimsical uncle I liked to tease.
Meals with my family were stressful - my merging Nine mother was quite paranoid and my father, a witty but overly authoritarian Five scientist who leaned toward Six, was very hard on me. My older sister, possibly a Four, was intent on proving to me that I shouldn't have been born. My strategy for handling these people was not to achieve, space out, have tantrums or look at the good side - it was instead to be alert and take in information. The only thing that might save me would be knowledge. When I was five, I dreamed that action was taken in my behalf: one night, terrifying savages were crawling out of small holes in a 30 foot tall Indian drum next to the apartment house we lived in. They threw torches through our dining room windows and set the curtains on fire. The fire spread quickly to my family sitting around the dinner table. I escaped by running down the hall to my bedroom. The others perished.
My strong Four wing is supported by my MBTI type. While most Fives are INTPs (Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving), I'm an INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving). It took me a while to recognize myself as a Five because the Enneagram books I read described someone very different from me. For example, rather than being out of touch with my feelings, I agonized over them.
I've never been able to master small talk. I have in recent years, however, developed the ability to give speeches to promote my books. This took an immense amount of work, but getting unstuck in this area has liberated me in most aspects of my life. Raising four children also helped me feel more at home in the world.
It has always been important to me to appear calm and strong - so for years I was unable to identify with my anxious Six wing. The Enneagram helped me own my fears and allow them to show more. I've experienced anger for as long as I can remember, though I don't feel safe showing it. I try to use my Eight side by showing my feelings, putting my writing, cartoons, and music out in the world, and not caring so much about appearing stupid or foolish.
There's a drawing of mine in my book, The Enneagram of Parenting, that shows the ambivalence Five children feel concerning social interactions. You can tell the child is a Five because his head is almost separated from his body.
Friendly octopus babies reach their arms toward the Five and gently invite him to play with them; they're wise not to come on too strong. Some of them have their arms around the child's neck, however, indicating that affection and suffocation often go together for Fives.
Even though the child is clearly welcome in the group, he looks a little worried. This kid is in foreign territory. He has trouble breathing in the social and liquid atmosphere of his octopus friends. (See drawing).
As a child and young adult, I didn't feel seen and in a strange way I wasn't sure I existed, except as a big watching eye. Since finding out the Enneagram (thus the Universe) knew about me, I've come to believe I'm not on the outside looking in afterall. In my role as observer, I'm also one of the participants. Feeling seen, I don't panic around people any more, though I still feel a slight twinge when someone asks me my name. I like to have time to react to things, but when I'm put on the spot, either I let myself say the first thing that pops into my mind (instead of waiting until I can formulate a "perfect" idea into a "perfect" statement), or I tell the person I'll give them my opinion later.
Home - self preservation instinct
As a self-preservation sub-type ("my home is my castle"), I prefer to rely on myself to get my basic needs met. I hate it when I can't open a lid on a jar because I don't want to ask anyone to help me. If I am going to pursue my interests unhampered and make decisions that are right for me, nothing must interfere with my inner process. This requires quiet for concentration and no outside pressure. When people do try to manipulate or coerce me, I either seethe quietly or quickly snap at them.
I don't like owing or being owed, mostly because I don't like the encumbrance of keeping track of who has borrowed what. Asking someone to return something of mine is difficult, and I can feel very guilty when I realize I've kept something belonging to someone else longer than I agreed.
Though I can be fond of people and need them in my life, the more I'm around them the more drained I become. (Cartoon "DRAINED" from Are You My Type with credits: "This cartoon by Elizabeth Wagele is reprinted with permission of HarperCollins from the subtype chapter of Are You My Type, Am I Yours? by Elizabeth Wagele and Renee Baron")
Being introverted puts us Fives out of synch with many cultural values, and in turn we often become skeptical or negative. The Enneagram is objective and validating: it tells us Fives that our personality type tends to amplify our fear-responses. When we know this, what scares us seems less scary and not running away from it becomes a viable option.
Elizabeth Wagele is the author of "The Enneagram of Parenting," and the co-author of "The Enneagram Made Easy" and "Are You My Type, Am I Yours?"all published by Harper/Collins.
I am a Five. I realised this when I saw a handout in a self development course I was doing in London, England. One set of words jumped off the page at me: “EGO-STINGINESS - OBSERVER. For these people life is fascinating to watch from a safe and hidden place. These people are on the edge of the group - the film goer, the TV watcher, the silent person sitting on the park bench who never really gets to talk with anybody - and they are really much too terrified to take part in life.” I had looked for myself in every personality description system I could find and had found but a few echoes, most of which turned out to be inaccurate. Substitute “avaricious compulsive reader” for “TV watcher” and this handout described me so accurately that I had a rush of feeling, of no longer being alone.
I am the only child of older parents, my mother was forty and my father sixty eight when I was born. My father died of a heart attack that same year. I have known some intrusive people, but my mother really took the biscuit. I could not be alone even in the lavatory. She would often come banging on the door. I had a room of my own, but I might just as well not have had a door. I found that I could hide myself in a book, anything, any printed page, as long as it had some style to it. It’s like being very thirsty. I think I am looking for the secret of the universe.
I was eight years old when I went away to a boarding school in the Hertfordshire countryside, just north of London. Any notion of privacy I might have learned, earned and cherished, disappeared overnight. I shared my house with forty nine other males, my bedroom, a dormitory, with twenty four. I entered a male dominated society which had what seemed like absolute authority. I made no friends at that school of four hundred boys, though there are a couple of fellow students I remember with affection, and a couple of the masters. After a few attempts at friendship, I did not trust anybody not to betray me to the authorities, which consisted of anybody older than me.
Although fear was the prime feeling, I felt joyful at times when I was absorbed in some activity. More often my feeling would be a kind of swirling anger, which could be relieved for a while by verbally tormenting some fellow boarder or some other devious act. Most of the time I was switched off, not present, either in the fantasy world of some book, or daydreaming, which was called idleness by the authorities, and was a punishable offence. I disliked team sports, feeling physically awkward, which astonishes me now seeing how much I delight I take in my current yoga practice. In my twenties I had great pleasure while walking, anywhere, preferably in wild country.
I once heard a Five say, “I don’t know how I do it, but I seem to have a way of telling people that I don’t want them around me.” This is also how I behave. I have been told by people that I do not acknowledge them, that I can turn away in the middle of them speaking to me and leave. It looks like I'm forgetting the other person, but I have slipped up into that safe place in my head where I'm lost in my mind world. Since the Enneagram, I no longer see this mind world as that rich, or even a safe haven.
Despite all this, I function well in the world. After a few false starts, and a fortunate accident, I found my metier as a photo-journalist, working for magazines, preferably alone, a powerful use of the observer role. I married, we had two children, and I thought, a good life. Twenty five years later she left me. We communicated badly, especially about the taboo essentials, sex and money. I have a good relationship with both my daughters, who, like a lot of my friends, live at least three thousand miles away
I am a good listener, I teach Focusing, which means teaching listening, though I can get into a lecturing, intellectual mode which bothers people. James Thurber had a little girl in one of his stories, who said of a book “It told me more about penguins than I needed to know.” I can be like that.
I can also play roles very well. The more clearly defined, the easier. Once the role is agreed, then I have social skills. I play the photographer, the visiting lecturer, the inspector, the drill instructor, the committee man, though I don’t understand committees. “What decisions? how did we do that?” I was in Hawaii or on Mount Everest at the time (in my mind).
I view the world as the world outside. It is somewhere I visit, that I observe from a safe place, that I must prepare myself for. I can be charming, outgoing. I am genuinely interested in other people. But it has to be a limited trip. Ten hours say, of the world and I would need a dose of "alone therapy." Where others then want to go out and party, I go off alone, eat alone, read alone, go to bed alone. This is not to say that that is actually what I want to do. I would like to party, eat with the group and not go to bed alone. I have found it too much of a drain on my energy.
Nowadays, I get a lot of my "alone time" from my meditation, my yoga. I am married, to a delightful Eight, who spends a lot of time in Five and understands the place, as I am beginning to understand the place of Eight. We can give each other space, and make demands on each other, and negotiate those demands. It’s a tightrope, aren’t all relationships? I feel that I am blessed, and can leave the door open. That is a really big step, and feels very scary. I have learned to not run scared when she says, “I love you.” I know she does not have an agenda when she says that. And I have learned not to run scared from saying “I love you.”
From a male Five.
On being a One-to-One Five
One of the gifts we fives can have is the gift of clarity - clarity of thought and expression. Yet when it comes to trying to describe what it is like to be a sexual five, I find my supposed clarity deserting me. I have to give two descriptions - first the sometimes desire of the 5 to push people away, and second the desire of the sexual five for intense closeness, and sharing.
1) As a five I can find people’s mere presence irksome, even if they are watching TV for example and not looking for attention from me. This is when I am stressed and feeling the need for space. I also hate unexpected callers, and indeed sometimes even expected ones!
When I come home from giving classes, I would dearly love to be alone to replenish, and relax, after giving so much of myself for a few hours while engaged in teaching. The last thing I want is more company, even though I have so enjoyed giving the class.
Sometimes when stressed, I can feel so drained by the presence of even one person, that the sense is of a river flowing out of me, with an accompanying almost panic, at the sense of running dry, or of having no fuel left in the tank.
2) As a one-to-one sub type, on the other hand, what I need most in my life, and this need is very passionate, is connection – what feels like real and genuine connection and communication – with other human beings. As I wish the connection to be deep and meaningful, it needs to be at times with one other person, or a small intimate group of like minded people.
This (passionate) need for aloneness at times, and passionate need for connection, are contradictory, and it feels like it makes me a very complicated person. Indeed while it is my sense of things, (but of course I have only ever been me, so am not so sure of how complicated others might feel,) the feedback I get from significant others bears out my own feeling. They find me complicated too.
The one thing in common between my two needs is that they are both, as already expressed, very strong, very passionate, and this is the passion and intensity that can accompany any one-to-one sub type.
I am even passionate about not being passionate about some things! I either care hugely about an issue or an interest, or it does not get on my radar at all.
When I was a child I felt in the world, but not of it. I felt communicated with as an object, not as a subject. I don’t recall ever as a child having a sense of deep connection with another human being .(My parents were both social sub types). I played with other children and went through all the motions of what was expected in life, but my real joy then was in my imagination – the only satisfying place. I had a wonderful alternative world, which in later life I called ‘my utopia’.
When I was about 12, one day I heard the phrase ‘kindred spirit’ for the first time and I asked what it meant. When it was explained to me a real chord was struck in my heart, and I thought – that is exactly what I would love, it would be heaven, and indeed it was heaven, and still is, when I later discovered that there were for me kindred spirits – people I could REALLY communicate with.
I still cannot get enough at times of this ‘real’ communication, and can talk to my favorite friends for 5 – 6 hours at a time, they too being one to ones. The difficulty here is the puzzlement of our partners, who simply cannot understand that people can talk for so long and not notice the time going. I have to confess that although I am blessed with many friends, my favorites are my type 3 friend and two type 2 friends, all of us partnered with non one-to-one sub types.
Perhaps as heart types, they are merely reading me and giving me what I want? However I have a well attuned bull shit detector and I know this is not so. In fact what they like about me is that they can be themselves, because I never bought the performance anyway.
In my romantic relationship, with a social sub type partner, my intense friendships have occasionally caused jealousy, “you tell your friends far more that you tell me”.
The difficulty here for me is that I would love to communicate with my partner equally deeply, but feel the fear rising in him sometimes when I go too deep (for him) into internal complications, so I back off.
What really works, with a social type for me though is that he too is passionate about some things, and likes ‘juice’ in his life – things happening. Neither of us are stay at home types, so we don’t bore each other, and of course with him being social, and going to his meetings, groups, boards etc, I get my space. In fact living with another 1 to 1 could be overwhelming.
It is hard to give good examples of one-to-one Fiveness. In a general way, I would know if I am going to ‘click’ with someone usually very quickly. When I met my type 3 friend, we connected instantly, and have been very close since, for many years now. For her an even bigger step as she has very few ‘real’ friends – her fear of exposure. For me there IS no fear of exposure. If I feel on the same page as someone, I will tell them anything about myself, (my secrets), probably very unfive like, but it is a chosen few. I want them to want to know me, and I so want to feel accepted for who I am, - a subject not a conforming object. My beliefs and ideas are rarely conventional, and people who would judge that will never get ‘in’. It is not that I need or want people to agree with me, on the contrary I love a good debate, it is just I need them to respect that I have thought about things deeply, and am incapable of accepting a belief just because it has been around for a while. All the more reason to take a good look!
Because of this need to both have space, and connection, ideally for my comfort, I would like to be able to control the when, where, and how much of the connection, fortunately something that is not possible. If it were possible, what a control freak I would be! In fact because I am aware of this tendency, I try to guard against it, but I believe the innate tendency of fives is to be control freaks.
The last thing I want to talk about is what happens when a one-to-one Five finds this special connection/communication, with someone of the opposite sex, while in a relationship already. What a Five seeks is meaning, and what a one-to-one Five seeks is meaningful relationships, so here can be a quandary, no doubt solved differently by different one-to-one Fives. If the 6 wing predominates probably loyalty wins the day, and if the 4 wing predominates, unrequited longing will possibly kick in. For me I will keep my secrets. On the relationship end of things, my guess is that a lot of one-to-one subtypes have affairs.
From a female Five.
I have been a student of the Enneagram for about ten years, and it has provided me with clarity and understanding of patterns in my own life, and in the lives of others. It has shed light into many murky corners, and provided connections between otherwise confusing elements. It is very clear to me that I am a Self Preservation Six (Warmth) with a strong Five wing. Of course, this is a very "heady" place to be. I tend to think and worry a great deal, trying to figure out all the angles of what other people might do, in order to protect myself. I rarely miss signs of trouble when they exist, but sometimes I completely misjudge others, seeing trouble when there isn't any.
The two things that have helped me the most, as a Six, are hospice work and Buddhist meditation. Both are non head-based types of work. In Zen meditation you follow your breath and let thoughts go, instead of immersing yourself in them and letting your energy stay there. In hospice work, you have to be present and let your heart lead; focusing your attention on, and taking care of, a suffering fellow human is not very intellectual.
Physical work, such as spading up the garden, or house painting, or hiking, or even cooking (things that are not emotionally or mentally stressful, yet not too boring) are terrific for engaging the body and soothing the worried, restless mind.
My sexy, yet cuddly, Nine husband is great, too. I try not to "Six him out" too much. He is loyal and supportive (we've been together 32 years), but he won't go along with paranoia and forces me to calm down by questioning the conclusions I jump to. Sometimes he teases me a little: "We're all doomed!" he'll intone.
Actually, I like many things about being a Six. I'm a great planner and troubleshooter. I work well with others (if they don't try to bully or manipulate me too much). I am very loyal, hardworking, reliable, and careful. I appreciate life's brevity and beauty, as well as its mystery and absurdity. I don't take things for granted. Lust, greed, and gluttony are doubtless more amusing than fear as a passion, but Fear is just a side of Awareness, and I'm glad to be aware.
Here are a few Six stories. When I started a new job about a year ago, I went around to each person I would be working with, finding out what they were doing and telling them how much I looked forward to working with them. I was consciously very warm to everyone. There is a Japanese phrase that you use when meeting a stranger, Hajimemashite, meaning "Glad to meet you," but it literally means something like, "Please favor me with your kindness and protection." I wish I could say that in English during introductions.
Timid though I usually am, I'm surprisingly fearless in certain crisis situations. When some scary or dangerous things happen, I'm not conscious of being scared at all. When someone enters my personal space aggressively and I feel backed into a corner, I may fight back without thinking, and thinking is where the fear comes in. Once, many years ago, a man grabbed me on the street. I punched him hard in the face and knocked him down before I even thought about it. He was shocked and so was I.
A relative of mine, who is probably a Six, told me a story of getting some threatening phone calls after testifying in an injury lawsuit. She saw a man in an unfamiliar car parked in front of her house one night. She realized that she had loaded her son's rifle before she figured out the guy was passing out leaflets for a garage sale.
Warmth - the self preservation instinct
If I extend warmth, loyalty, and attention to someone and receive the same in return, then I tend to relax. If the other person does not respond in kind, then I tend to exaggerate the danger to me that this person poses, and try to avoid him or her, imagining in extreme cases that they are "out to get me." I've quit jobs over this! The Enneagram has helped me see this pattern and lighten up a bit.
Little, harmless me (nobody here but us chickens), don't bother to fight with me. I pose no threat to anyone. I have camouflage. I smile when the Highway Patrol goes after those bright red Porsches, while I, in my boring old beige Honda, am left alone. I like to appear a less interesting person than I know myself to be, because it feels safer. This can backfire, however, with some people who may like to dominate or manipulate those who seem weaker.
Then rejection and rapid departure become necessary, or even fiercely fighting back, which blows my cover and can shock the other party since such trouble was taken to seem weak and harmless. This may all sound, since stated so baldly, like a conscious strategy, but it really isn't, and I would never have understood it had I not discovered the Enneagram.
From a female Six.
As a Six with a social subtype, my behavior usually emanates from impulses that are intellectually- based, in my head. I get stuck there easily, so that I find myself living within a matrix of stories about myself and about others which I am continually and to some extent automatically creating, interpreting, and revising. My critical, Six-style nature means that I'm forever in a mental process of rating, evaluating, assessing, comparing and critiquing. That includes, of course, my own performance in realtionship to others, how I think I'm doing, how I'm liked or disliked, how I'm accepted or dismissed - in short my own hyper-analyzed self image. But these critical voices also extend to how I view and appreciate other people. Most social and professional situations are continually charged and then dampened by my compulsive tendency to evaluate others on the axis of "okay" - "not okay." I am, in a sense, a kind of hostage to these stories, these mental converstaions, because the inner dialog centers my experience, my "being," in an energetic sphere whose orbit intersects with, but often manages to circumnavigate the experience of bodily sensation and emotions.
Bioenergetics has been an extraordinary experience for me because, through it, I've discovered the possibilities of expressing myself and literally living and breathing from another center of impulses. Doing the bioenergetic practices, the breathing, the kicking, the hitting - and so importantly, the vocalizing - has introduced me to a depth of self expression that is at once alien to me and yet oddly familiar. Finding that place where I can express myself from the dynamic energy of the body, and to actually move with feelings instead of in opposition to or ignorance of them is very exciting for me. Alien because it's so distinct from my normal way of being. But familiar because there is the inescapable recognition of these parts of me that I've always known are present, always known are there, someho waiting patiently (all these years) to be liberated.
Doing the exercises in a bioenergetics session with Peter is kind of like a ritual conjuring experience. At first it seems forced, so unlikely. I mean what am I doing here kicking and screaming anyway? It's like a performance. And I can feel how my familiar everyday intellectual center is calling all the shots. "Well maybe I could express something about this or that," I'll hear myself instructing. But what's so powerful - and utterly fascinating - is that these exercises gradually accumulate their own momentum and begin to take on their own life apart from the controlling impulses of my mind.
I'll start kicking for example, while vocalizing about some mundane disappointment at work or in relationship. At first it's like I'm doing two separate activities that are unrelated while being guided in what feels like a contrived fashion by my mind which says, "Okay, this is what the exercise is supposed to be - just keep on doing it."
But then, without particularly noticing any one point of transition, the experience of these separate activities somehow integrates of merges and all of a sudden there's just one person, one me, expressing myself in a way that's much deeper and more soulful than my usual pattern. In this mode of expression, suddenly the mundane complaints reveal themselves as more profound, perhaps archetypal, experiences of feeling abandoned, or shamed, or disempowered. And the cries for relief can often lead to reclamations of my own strength, power and self -love that aren't mere New Age affirmations sprinkled like sugar on top, but actually healing, integrated expressions of self that help re-organize my patterned behavior.
Still, as happy as I am about bioenergetics, I do find the process of integrating these other centers of expression into my normal daily experience a challenging one. I have no doubt that the experience of doing the work has strengthened me in a variety of ways - given me tools to cope with all sorts of challenges that are particular to Sixes - but being able to express myself in a fluid, unselfconscious way remains elusive. My intellectual center likes to stay in charge. Operating from my intellect is what's most familiar to me, and ironically, most comfortable. Giving up control doesn't come easily, and the hed center, as most Sixes know, is a very stubborn animal indeed.
From a male Six.
I needed to be held, to have contact. My body couldn't let the contact in. My nervous system was so tight; it was frozen both in the diaphragm and in the throat. When I first came to the Center for Human Growth in Berkeley, all I had done was head type stuff: Freudian, Jungian, talk therapy. Besides psychoanalysis, I spent many years working out, pumping iron, kung fu, strengthening and toughening the body to prepare to combat a hostile world. To soften the body - to open up the belly and the whole central part of my body, to let out any sound - took much work. Of course, there was resistance in the form of fear. What would happen if I let others in? How would I be hurt? Would they use that knowledge to "get me?"
Being a counterphobic six, my bodybuilding, my aggressiveness was part of the persona that people couldn't get through...I was protected, but I also lost contact. Part of my persona was the intrusive six - asking questions, trying to find out where everybody is, being hypervigilant. Who are these people, what are their secrets, are they having false faces. A lot of energy was tied up in protecting that barrier. My body was suffering. I sustained a sciatic nerve injury, a torn hip muscle. There were so many feelings not being expressed or felt. And rather than taking responsibility for it all, it was easier to project externally that others were hostile.
Then I felt sheer impatience. I was not experiencing my full life. Either I was going to die or I was going to learn some new skills, some new perceptions. The new systems that I learned were the Enneagram and Reichian bodywork. As a counterphobic Six, I had to learn to soften my eyes and let other people in, to breathe and relax my diaphragm. I had to learn how to open my belly and my center so that I could be in real contact.
The breath work slowed me down. When I could remember to breathe, I could sense myself in my body. I could use my mind to perceive my feelings. Breathing and sound work provided new gateways for my attention. I was able to work with my aggression in a safe way, releasing it so that I had room in my heart for love and feeling. The Enneagram provided a context, helping unlock my pattern of suspicion and worry about other people. It was a relief to have a language that unlocked the mysteries, a way of talking to people about what they were seeing or feeling, and appreciating them instead of being freaked out.
My partner Dick, who was a sweet, handsome Three, helped me finally let in the unconditional love and start loving myself unconditionally. Of course, Dick had to be persistent - he had to really go after me and break through the barrier of resistance, my fear. I came into faith when Dick died. Through his death I learned about the mortality of the body, but not the spirit. His death gave me the realization that life is short and you better appreciate everybody you have. I didn't feel abandoned; I had incorporated in my heart and body his unconditional love for me. When he died, I experienced a deep surrender. On a beautiful full moon night, I gathered his spirit into my arms and released him into the light. There was the sense of the light being continuous, and holding us all.
Duty - social instinct
When I first heard the term "Duty Six," it had an onerous sound. But now, after many years of work, duty is a joy rather than an obligation. Instead of using it to maintain my personal barriers, I can harness it to the higher aspects of social service. In my work as a teacher and union leader at city, state and national levels, I have worked with others to create conditions in which people can truly be free to be who they are. In the practical sphere it means doing the nuts and bolts work to create the wages, hours, and working conditions people need to practice the art of teaching.
As a social type, I have the perception of operating in a larger tradition with people who have gone before me. This line of work for human freedom and dignity is not only coming through the psychology or religious communities, but also through the labor community. As part of the labor movement we have the songs, our icons: Joe Hill, Mother Jones, Cesar Chavez, et al. When I read about the women of the French Revolution, I see the beginnings of the modern women's rights. I feel connected to Liberty in Delacroix' painting, "Liberty at the Barricades." Perhaps she is a Six like me.
When I look at paintings such as Van Gogh's "The Potato Eaters," I know that there have been workers who have trod this soil before me. I know of their struggles to survive, to obtain their human rights. We still have people who work under cruel conditions, but because of our affluence, many of us have been able to develop other parts of ourselves and not just spend all our time getting food. The union work I do is a continuation of the struggle to free people to be their entire selves.
Jacki Fox Ruby is a teacher and union leader in Berkeley CA.
During my first Enneagram class with Kathy Speeth, she grabbed me out of the audience and said, "So you're a Beauty Six aren't you?" I'll never forget that. She scanned the room and pointed to me. I was absolutely petrified. I didn't even know what we were talking about, but she was completely right.
There was a sense of relief. It felt good to not be alone, to have company. I was glad to know that there was a reason for all of this neurosis and panic, that it actually has a "purpose." Now, after many years of studying the Enneagram, I find the real value is being able to distance myself from my fixation. It's helped me understand others, and it helps me to distance myself from other people's presumed attack or criticism. I don't have to take it so personally. I must say that 20 times a day. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't work, but at least it takes the edge off it.
Mostly when people say to me, "Don't take it personally," I want to kill them, because I know they're lying and I really should take it personally. That's just their excuse when they've laid some incredibly personal trip on me, and they don't want to own it. But the truth is, I'm afraid of everybody somewhere underneath it all. It doesn't matter what the situation is, it doesn't matter how good it is, there's a level of fear that underscores it. Now I know it's an undercurrent that's always there. When I was first asked if I knew how fearful I was, I said, "What are you talking about?" I had no concept that I was fearful. To me that was a revelation. If you're fearful all the time, you don't necessarily notice it. And if you're counterphobic, you just block it out. I'm out in the world and I'm slaying dragons all day long, but the more aware I become the more I hear that background, fearful chatter. Now after 20 years of awareness, I have a sense of separateness from it that I didn't have before.
Being counterphobic, I have a lot of energy that goes out to the world. It doesn't look very receptive, but on the inside it feels like I'm way too receptive, I'm receiving too much information and too much stimulus. It's a matter of shutting it down, since I'm so hyper aware and sensitive. It think that's a big part of what creates a fearful person, not being able to screen it out and not having anyone around to screen it out for you. I was one of those kids who was hyper from the minute I was born.
I have a sort of duality, with some people seeing me as cold, aloof and hard to reach, while underneath feeling like I'm way too available. What it leads to is a certain amount of chaos in my mind, because I'm trying to figure that out, as if there's a way to figure that out! There's this big dichotomy between feeling overly vulnerable on the inside, and how I act on the outside, staying on the output and coming on strong as a way to handle it. Through the Enneagram, I have learned some self acceptance about it all.
Bioenergetic bodywork was important for me. It got me out of my head. I didn't even know that there was anywhere else to be. There was a whole other domain of existence and reality. If you just to say to a Six, "You've got to get out of your head," we don't understand that, it doesn't make any sense. We just try to think about it. The only way to get out of your head is to have the other experience. It's important to spend time outside of that continual, closed circuit of thinking, even to learn how to breathe. I'm aware that when I walk up to meet someone or somebody walks up to me, my first response is to stop breathing. It's a conditioned response. There's an immediate clutch in the diaphragm. It's almost like I have to disappear before I can reappear.
Before I learned to be in my body I was sick a lot. It was very psychosomatic. It was a last ditch effort to take control. When I was really sick, I got a little bit of control over my environment, because I had a focus. It gives you a little world to be in, which is a good thing if you're scared of the big world. Bodywork helped me become physically whole and gave me a sense of confidence that I never would have had.
Beauty - sexual instinct
The pursuit of beauty is my everything, it's my battle cry. What's great about the Enneagram is that you get both sides of it, the positive and the negative. It's security, the way I preserve my integrity. By using the gifts that I have in visual perceptivity, I am able to order my world. Everything is run through that filter, everything people say or do, what I look at when I'm driving down the street. If I become fearful for some reason, I will start to think about how I would have arranged that building differently. All of sudden I've got a focus, I'm in a dialogue about beauty and visual structure. It's a way to keep me safe, that's the bottom line. When I go to a restaurant, I spend the first ten minutes looking around, figuring it all out, understanding the design of the place. That's a good example of how I'm creating safety. I'm not just there critiquing the design, I'm there making it a safe place for me to exist in for the next two hours. I'm creating a relationship with my environment that gives me some control and structure. If there is no relationship, that's when I become fearful. That's true about people also. If I can create a relationship, the fear melts away. I'll just jump right in there to make it happen.
Design is about my clients, but painting is about my relationship with myself. My design business is very service oriented, but it doesn't have that element of pure creativity. That's what my painting is for. There's an incredible thing that happens when you have a blank canvas and you start to work on it, and all of sudden you've created something you can look at and relate to. You've created some sort of order out of chaos. That's a big part of the creative process. It helps create structure. I'm pretty uncomfortable just being out there in the sensory soup. The beauty thing is a subtle kind of control. Also, it means that there's something bigger than me. It's such a relief not being the focus of attention. And the purity of it is very appealing.
From a female Six who is an interior designer.
As a Seven, I avoided pain and difficulty - until I encountered a pain so great that I was helpless to escape it. In the midst of this dark night of the soul, I was given the Enneagram. Understanding my life-long avoidance and habitual behaviors gave me the courage to stay with my suffering, leading me to a fuller experience of what it means to be human. The Enneagram illuminated areas that I needed to observe carefully, in order to make authentic and appropriate life choices. I can observe how an urge to learn or experience something new that comes out of nowhere is a sign that some anxiety or “painful” emotion is rising in me. Formerly my habit was to rush off to the new experience and “dump” the energy in order to feel comfortable again. Now, I sit quietly and wait for the emotion to rise, feel it, and allow it to move through naturally. That process takes as long as it takes.
A rush or intense feeling of euphoria - what Helen Palmer calls “champagne in the veins” - signals my fixation in full swing. When I notice it, I breathe deeply, drop to my belly, and inhabit my body. I ask myself where my attention is, and find a neutral place devoid of content, in the belly. I wait for feelings to arise and practice staying present fully in the moment. Sometimes feelings arise, other times nothing happens, but the automatic cycle is broken.
Sevens resist the “ordinary” as much as Fours, though for a very different reason. So the path for me has been to immerse myself in being fully present in each mundane moment. Housecleaning takes a lot longer now, but I’m actually experiencing my life in the here-and-now, rather than future tripping about my next enjoyable experience. I’ve found as a mental type that insight meditation practices are not a useful path for me. I find consistent grounding in belly-based meditation, tai chi, and hula. Walking meditation and mindfulness in daily life practice are also useful in breaking my Seven patterns.
Solitude and limitation of options have been critical parts of my growth. For six months of each year, I live on a small island, with no movie theatres or night life, and only one restaurant. There’s almost nothing to do. It’s a saving grace for my Three spouse and I, to work on presence and just being. I imagine that if we were really spiritually evolved, we might be able to live the contemplative life anywhere, but it seems we need to absent ourselves to find ourselves.
I rarely experience that dizzying, giddy sense of happiness any more, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it occasionally. Yet, I believe the these practices that support my Enneagram work have led me to a true joy; a fulfillment and quiet peace with “what is”. And it is enough.
From a female Seven.
When I first discovered the Enneagram, and my type, I was enthralled, excited, fascinated. A Glutton! What a wonderful thing to be, I thought. I became totally immersed in the system, typing everyone I came across, from my closest friends to absolute strangers. Something in me gently suggested it was I who needed waking up. Something in me sobered up. This "sobering" process first manifested itself in my body. As a Seven, I've been aware of my body only in the most peripheral sense. And as a one on one sub-type, when I thought about my body it was only to see if it looked attractive, worthy, exciting. But my body shook me awake during my first week of Enneagram training with Helen Palmer and David Daniels. I was sick through most of the week. I was nauseous. I had headaches. I look back on this as the first "detoxifying" I did from my addiction to myself.
In the ensuing months, I discovered I was completely depleted physically, suffering from chronic headaches and severe anemia. I fell into a black hole. I felt I was dying. To be without energy, to be in constant pain, to not know who I was, felt like death. Suddenly I wasn't OK any more. I wanted out: of my job, my family, my life. Instead, I stayed where I was. Instead of escaping, I continued meditating. I studied myself through the lens of my addiction. I deepened my spiritual practices. And I started paying attention to my body. I changed how I ate. I walked by myself for an hour a day. I added yoga to my daily practice. I participated in Peter's bioenergetics workshops. I discovered that it is through my body that I can find my feelings. I hold my rigidity in my neck, my anger and fear in my stomach, my heart breaks in sadness. I try to be kind to these messages. It helps me soften to my needs and accept them.
Because the Enneagram has been such a powerful tool in changing me, it goes without saying that my relationships with others have changed as well. My 16 year old daughter is an Eight. She is immensely talented and incredibly intense. I used to run away from her when she got angry, or so emotional I couldn't stand it. I didn't know what to do. Now I don't do anything. I stay there with her. I hold my ground. I remember my feet are rooted to the earth, even as my stomach is tightening and I want to get out of there. Sometimes I just hold her. Sometimes I stay in my room and let her holler. But I stay with it. When my Five husband withdraws from me, I hold him until he can find the voice for his feelings.
And my body tells me when it's my turn to be listened to; that anger is just an energy that needs to be expressed; that sadness can sit in the heart for weeks at a time. And that happiness and joy can be contained there too. My feelings need a voice, and my body can help find that voice. When I became a certified Enneagram teacher, my fear during the process was so intense I had no choice but to confront it. Fear, me? Only by meeting it directly did my anxiety lessen. The Enneagram, most importantly, has helped me see what I am not, and deepened my inquiry into "Who I Am." And that's a journey I want to stay sober and awake for, minute by minute.
Nancy Allen Wolter is a certified Enneagram teacher, a storyteller, and an arts administrator in Phoenix.
I shall never overcome my chief feature as a Seven, which is planning. It goes on in my head almost ceaselessly. However, I have found it stops when I'm immersed in certain activities. One of those is when I'm with someone who is sharing something at a deep, personal level. At my best I then find the Virtue of the seven: sobriety. An example of this is a recent occasion when a vicar's wife asked if we could do some further work on her Twoness. "How is your prayer life?" I asked, without too much thought. "What?" she laughed grimly looking at me. Thinking she or I hadn't understood, I asked again. "What prayer life?" she said as she laughed even more grimly. I closed my folder and looked at her. She quailed visibly. Then I realised how formidable a sober Seven is. "Oh, missus," I thought. "If you only knew!"
I am a social Seven so I can appear serious, but I am still a Seven. In my twenties someone asked me: "And what are you doing now, Veronica?" Odd how you remember certain comments, and how pertinent they are. I've had lots of jobs but process has always been more important than product. Unless I keep changing within a job the interest wanes. Having said that I did stay in one job, with a break, for 19 years. I've been "saved" by a fascination with goodness, goodness in people. The one-on-one subtype with Sevens is "fascination," and I can see how that slant has worked to beneficial effect in my life.
Sevens are bedevilled by narcissism and the avoidance of pain. At some stage a Seven is going to be faced with unavoidable pain, probably public pain, and will have to sit in it. It is a searing experience.
"Ah! must -
Designer infinite! -
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?"
(The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson).
The first major pain hit me when I was in my teens at school. The second occurred when I was 24 and got sacked from a job. Decades later I can still feel the effect. Yet when I reflect on those two events I see they were followed, within months, by extraordinary happiness in that I was given exactly what I wanted. (I have never been given who I wanted!) About the latter Peter O'Hanrahan once said to me: "Something in yourself which is authentic is wrapped up in him. You need to identify it and take it into yourself." I still ponder those words. The body work I did with Peter and his group meetings in Berkeley uncovered the paranoia buried in childhood incidents. Sevens are fear-based but it took this work to really release it. For that work I shall never be grateful enough.
The Holy Idea of Co-Creation is much more a part of my life than the Holy Virtue of Sobriety. I believe that this is possible for even the 'ditziest' of Sevens. We are meeting people all the time and we can offer something to others that is beneficial to them.
Veronica Whitty is a certified Enneagram teacher who lives in England.
As a business consultant, much of my time is spent speaking and training to groups of individuals. As an unaware Enneagram Seven, my focus tended to be on the material that I was presenting. I thought everyone was like me - in their heads and wanting a lot of variety in their sessions, including a lot of hands on involvement. Although I presented in front of people, I realize now that I never actually saw them. My major concern was whether the material was interesting.
As I study the Enneagram and learn more about myself and others, I’ve started to actually connect more with the indiviudals in the various groups I’m training or meeting with. I try to notice what they are feeling. I pay more attention to their body language - are they bored, unsure, or hesitant to try something new? Are they angry at having to attend a workshop or meeting they have no time for or do not believe in? I also tend to listen more closely to what people are saying. I try to “disconnect” from myself and see how they are experiencing the situation. I feel that a greater understanding of the Enneagram has moved me from being an “I” consultant to a consultant that focuses more on the “I-Thou” relationship that takes place between individuals.
From a female Seven.
I first learned about the Enneagram through being around people who were into psychology and bodywork. I had always been into touch and massage, since I was very young. I used to rub my grandfather's feet when I was six or seven years old. I was always a high contact person. I grew up in a very unconventional way during the 60's in Berkeley. My mother's a feminist, my father's an artist. I went to a lot of peace rallies, where our slogan was "make love, not war." That fit for me. I was sort of a living exmplar of that in school, always trying to cool out fights and promote brotherly love. Being part of the counter culture, I was exposed to sex and drugs at an early age. I did LSD when I was thirteen.
The good part of all that was that it opened my eyes to what was beyond the social persona. I had experiences of being in touch with both soul and spirit. I was a young Seven in a Seven counter culture. It was also a very chaotic time. I was slipping out of the house at night to party with the older guys, smoking pot. I had a parole officer when I was thirteen from causing trouble in various ways. But I didn't like doing mean things, or hurting people. It was more about being daring, exciting, and thrilling - about having life as an adventure.
When I was about 23, my psychology friends were telling me all the time that I was a Seven, which kind of pissed me off. However, I was into Jung and his synchronicity theory, and I was driving along in my car and the odometer turned over to 77,777 right when I was thinking about the Enneagram! I was trapped by the stars so to speak.
I attended some of the earliest Enneagram classes in Berkeley with Kathy Speeth, and it was very impactful. It made me feel very depressed initially. My girlfriend broke up with me at that time, as she learned about the Enneagram. I remember Speeth saying to the women, "Are you really getting what you want? Is he enough, are you feeling fulfilled?" And I guess my girlfriend wasn't, nor was I with her. So it hit my relationship at the time and showed me my worst aspects - being non-committal to anything, being something of a charlatan, skimming on the surface, not going deep.
The Enneagram gave me an outline of how to work on myself. It gave value to being more committed. If I struggled with work and staying focused, there was a payoff. I could develop myself rather than being stuck in this place that was driving me crazy, and everybody around me crazy. I wanted to mature, I just didn't know how. I couldn't accept my pain and suffering. I couldn't talk about it. It was important for me to be around other people who were working on themselves, and to see that I wasn't so alone or isolated. My peer group at that time was all into getting careers and starting families, and didn't seem to have so many problems. I seemed so restless in comparison, unwilling to settle down.
Although it was hard for me at first, body based therapy was very important. Bioenergetics gave me access to a full range of feelings and postures. It gave me my body back. I had felt pretty cut off from my feelings and my sexuality, and I was armored against rage and sadness. The breathwork opened up my resistances, helped me express my negative emotions, and got me to my feelings of vulnerability and neediness.
There was definitely an ecstatic part to the body work. I can remember feeling really high and full of life energy, without drugs. There was drama also. People in the groups (at the Center for Human Growth in Berkeley) were often crying, and angry, and full of expression - it was like theater. People were learning like actors learn, to get in touch with different feeling states and sources of energy. It helped integrate the positive and negative emotions. I had been polarized between trying to be good and charming and then being kind of violent and angry.
Now if I find myself doing certain behaviors, like staying up too late, drinking, or having sex when I shouldn't be having sex, it's a signal that something is going on, most likely feelings of sadness. I tend to go out in order to feel better. It's hard to stay home and be quiet. One advantage of getting into my grief is that I'm more available to other people when they're having grief. I have more empathy now, and it's given my relationships more quality. It's helped me get down and in, and more present in the moment. That is what sobriety means to me, staying centered, instead of latching onto the high energy thing and expecting everybody to be high and happy. I also had to quit being so suggestible to everything, having constant reactions or projections with people.
The Enneagram helped describe my moving to Five as a heart point. I would go from being very expanded to very shy and quiet. The women would ask me "What happened, where did you go?" When I'm in Five it feels like I'm digesting my experiences, rather than consuming new ones, or putting all my energy out into the world. I can get down and think about what's going on in my life. When things get too chaotic and scattered, then I know I need to do some Tai Chi or take a hot bath, and slow down for a while. I practice being quiet.
What I like about being a Seven is being able to do so many different things. I'm able to go between different groups of people. I can accept people where they are. I don't have to believe what they believe, and I don't need to judge them.
Suggestibility - the sexual instinct
I know I'm suggestible because my sense of identity changes so much. If I hang out with you, I'll do the things that you do. I've ended up in adventures and strange situations all over the world, from having new romances in Moscow, to wandering the streets of Amsterdam; from being with the Moonies in Mendocino to the Hippies in Berkeley, and the Quakers or country folk in Oregon. I fall in with people, at least for a while. I have to get past my initial fascination with other people and their trips. It seems to be related to that lack of early mirroring. I would try out different people's trips, because I used to have no clue what mine was. I was always going in and out with people, and they were often getting disappointed.
I have the Lover archetype, and I've slept with a lot of women. Wherever I go I'm attracted to women. And I attract them too, probably first with my eyes. I have an appreciation of them, combined with a seductive charm. I love their beauty. The problem is that I don't want to feel limited. I can get to certain level of depth and then I'm not able to commit, or it doesn't seem that I want to. If I'm with one woman, and I appreciate her qualities and gifts, I can still be attracted to the qualities of another. Some women get very unhappy with me, but some are able to stay friends. One thing I've learned is to be honest about who I am and what I can give, and that's one thing that women give me credit for doing. I've learned to not make so many promises which lead to disappointment.
Jonevan Goertzen is a massage therapist, musician, and community leader in Berkeley, California.
Before my study of the Enneagram, I used to hold in my energy so as to be accepted and loved by others, so that the bigness of my personality didn't frighten people away. After the Enneagram, I learned to be more expansive as I accepted being an Eight. I attempt, now, to choose consciously when I want to be expanded and passionate and fierce.
We Eights can have a huge swing from Points Two to Five, or Five to Two, going away from people and going towards people (as described by Karen Horney). I used to think that there was something very wrong with me as I observed these incredibly opposite parts of my personality. The first time I heard an Eight panel, I felt this great sense of relief and self acceptance wash over me as I learned of these two parts of my personality that I was "supposed" to have in my heart space and stress point.
I could freeze anyone out when I was in Point Five (stress). My face was like a stone. If people couldn't read me I was safe. It became very important for me to be able to get to my Two Heart Point to bring warmth and security and reassurance to myself and others. The Enneagram work allowed me to smile, break my face mask, and move towards people. The more consciousness I have, the more choice I have. Animals always help me to move to my Two Heart space. The principle "Provide others with the opportunity to give" helped me practice receiving when I was stuck in Point Five, unable to reach out with my needs drastically reduced.
As a result of my father's sexual abuse and random beatings, I grew up with a lot of holding in my genitals and my shoulders were up around my ears for protection. With the help of bioenergetics and Reichian breath work I learned to release those areas. In my process of healing and growth I have also learned to reach out with my arms that were held so tightly to my body. I used Motivity (movement work which includes trapeze), dance and theatre to work on this. I had lots of holding in my mouth, abdomen, and throat. Lots of singing, chanting, and toning has been most helpful here. Reichian and Holotropic breath work unlocked deep sadness and helped me sob from my belly. So did just plain good massage.
Eyes are the body part for Point Eight. I formed a habit of not looking at people as a protection from the dangerous jungle world. And I instinctively knew I could get back at my father (vengeance) by never looking at him as though he did not exist. Bioenergetic exercises in partners helped me to make eye contact and to take in energy from others through my eyes. To this day I have to consciously work on being present in my eyes when I speak to other humans. It has always been easy with animals.
A story illustrating my becoming a venge: As a very young girl, my father would beat me and tell me he was going to beat me again after the 30 minutes or so I had to sit in the corner. During that time waiting, I remember soothing myself with thoughts of vengeance towards him which got me through the dread of the second beating. In high school, his strict and restricting rules filled me with incredible rage. Every night I soothed myself by fantasizing how I would kill him and when caught how I would recite to the kind judge the huge list of all the things he had ever done (Eights never forget) and I was excused.
The awareness from Enneagram study of my vengeance has been very helpful in forgiving myself for past actions. Vengeance, coupled with the "door of cruelty" for Point Eight can be a lethal combination. Especially when attempting to "correct" others. As a daycare center teacher, I once pulled a child's hair because she hit another child. I have hit my beloved animals and my younger brother when I was growing up. I got back at an ex-lover by reading him my journal where I described his poor performance in bed. I have attacked cars that were illegally parked in my rented space.
The Enneagram has helped me curb this tendency along with my understanding of Karma. Spiritual growth has enabled me to see that by keeping out my abusive father, I was also keeping me in. The gift of acid (LSD) allowed me to see that we are all One and that attacking another is to attack myself. I have learned to keep my mouth shut.
Learning that my "trap" is Justice enabled me to look at my revolutionary political days as more than just having compassion for all oppressed peoples. Eights care for the underdogs and that, coupled with the drive for justice, has led many Eight friends to be sent to prison. When I was a prison guard at Riker's Island I met many of my sister Eights who were incarcerated. Now that I'm less fixated, I try to ask myself "Can I truly make a change here, or am I caught in my Justice trap?"
Friendship - the social instinct
As a social subtype with the word "Friendship" for Point Eight, the Enneagram helped explain why I had no friends until college. Later, I had lots of friends. Now I am highly selective and lucky to have a very few magnificent friends who help make difficult earth existence possible and exciting. My greatest therapeutic breakthrough was when I stopped being indiscriminate socially. I learned to say no to people who sucked my energy, people who didn't have a cork in their bottom so what I gave them went right through them, people who didn't match me in any way, groups that did not feed me. My Nine wing (participation) made this an added issue. Once I became less co-dependent and highly selective in social participation, I truly felt "born again" and life became an exciting adventure with me in charge. Blessed be. Saying no to "dead wood" allowed room for real friends to enter.
bonnie bramble (Lone Wolf Woman) is a therapist and teacher in Taos, New Mexico.
As an Eight, I have to be constantly aware of letting go of the impulse to correct people or to go against them. A story comes to mind that illustrates this in a very concrete way. I was walking in the park one day in a very open or blended state (borrowing from my Nine wing) and enjoying the peace and quiet. My wife Pat was with me, which is an important part of the drama. Coming toward us up the path was a man jogging, swearing, and hitting the air with his fists. He was definitely angry! As he pulled along side us, without thinking or considering the consequences I moved over and gave him a shove, or rather bounced him off my raised arms. It was a purely instinctual reaction straight from my gut. (It was a good bounce also). Angry, aggressive energy was coming into my personal space and I went against it. Boy was he surprised, and further enraged, but also woken up a bit. We faced off for a few moments while I explained the nature of his improper conduct, and then he jogged off. (Pat tells me to say that my reaction was accentuated by needing to protect her. I thought this was obvious, but maybe not to everyone).
Now did my reactions make sense or not? I really didn't want to precipitate a fight, but his actions deserved correction. I experienced his behavior as threatening, not to mention rude. Besides, my wife was there too. However it didn't even occur to me that we could move off the path and get out of his way. (This option was later pointed out to me by my therapist). But in the Eight universe you just don't invade someone's personal space in such an aggressive way. He was definitely not an Eight, and didn't operate by the same rules. On the other hand, I did not make a conscious choice to take him on. The situation could easily have escalated into violence. I'm out for a walk in the park. Why do I want to end up in a fight with someone?
Eights I have talked to understand my reactions. We seem to share a set of unspoken rules about what constitutes acceptable behavior. And our way is instinctually correct! However, lots of other people don't share these rules and we can't spend all our time getting upset or angry when they don't do what we feel is the right thing. Of course there are places and times when it's best that other types follow these instinctual rules. Again, to use a physical example, there are urban neighborhoods where just looking at someone the wrong way will get you in big trouble, real quick.
There are also plenty of situations that may involve conflict that is not physical, but the same basic principles apply.
As a Point Eight, I had to come to terms with my anger toward the world. It was very important for me to physically release the rage using the kicking and hitting exercises so that I could make room for more vulnerable feelings, like sadness and longing. I found that I had lost the ability to cry deeply. My throat and diaphragm would clamp down and choke off all expression. Bioenergetic bodywork in the presence of caring people was crucial for me to work through the armoring and restore the capacity for crying, which opened up many possibilities for loosening the grip of the Eight fixation.
I think that fear is often an important issue for Eights which we have a hard time acknowledging. After all, our whole personality it about being strong and in control. But for myself, and many of the Eights I have known, fear has been a key issue, an important layer of emotional experience and holding patterns that has been for the most part pushed way beneath the surface. I think for an Eight to work directly with fear is very advanced (and necessary) work. It challenges the denial system and make possible a profound loosening of the character structure. If we can feel our fear, and our "helplessness," we don't have to be so much in denial.
Possession/Surrender - the sexual instinct.
As a sexual sub-type Eight I feel under-represented in most descriptions of Point Eight. I see myself as self reliant, but I'm very devoted to those I love, and I wish to possess the devotion of my loved ones in return. I most want equality in relationship, someone that can match me, stand up to me, and more importantly stand up for me so that I can surrender control. "If I can control someone, they are weak, and I can't count on anyone who is weak." I do however, understand that my loved ones might experience me as controlling. I do feel I have the right to what is mine which intimates might experience on the high side as protection and devotion, or on the low side as demands and control.
I like to champion others and am willing to do whatever is necessary for my mate and intimates, and I want to be able to count on their support as well. Generally, I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and would prefer to be treated in the same manner. My view of life is that it's a struggle and that survival depends on being able to count on the support of my mate and my intimates. My internal experience is that I have fully surrendered to those I love and therefore am at their mercy. To share anything of intimacy is to make myself incredibly vulnerable and give away the power to hurt me which is potentially devastating. It feels totally incongruent to be an Eight and simultaneously need autonomy and connection. It's a constant struggle, for how does one stay connected and remain autonomous?
Katherine Chernick is an Enneagram teacher in Menlo Park CA and is the author of the "Instinctual Subtypes Study."
When I first began to accept the awful truth that I was probably an Eight, I was horrified. The very qualities I had spent a lifetime (I was about 50 when I first began studying the Enneagram) trying to subdue were still popping up to haunt me - that I was often loud, clumsy and embarassingly direct in my speech. Shortly thereafter I became gleeful. It became fun to be this obnoxious person I had always been ashamed of. I spent a year of two convincing myself I no longer cared what others thought. Most recently, I have been learning to live with the knowledge that my energy is large and overwhelming to many even if I say nothing. Since I have a strong Seven wing, that is hard for me to do. But I am finding that the results are well worth it. People come to me more easily, and I am finding again that I do care what others think of me. I enjoy people and feel honored when they want to reveal themselves to me.
Anger has always been a big part of my personality, though I would not have identified it as such until recently. It works like an irresistible urge to action welling up in my chest. It swirls around in the area of my heart and causes me huge anxiety if I can't move with it, either in speech or physical action. I am a singer, which helps me let off some of this energy. I know I often shock people with my direct speech. I talk about anything that comes into my head if I don't keep a conscious filter in place, and I often find it surprising that others don't speak of the reality of their lives as I do.
My biggest horror is being controlled by someone or something else. Space to move and physical escape plans are very important to me when I am away from my own home. I avoid being trapped in crowds, but I love roaming in cities and am infrequently afraid, even when alone, though I am not a large or physically strong woman. I always have two escape paths, if possible. When I don't I am hypervigilant until I get back to that place of free movement. When I feel trapped I will stop at nothing to get out, even if I have to shove people or step on them. I usually say "pardon me," but I don't wait to ask or hear their reply! I know I upset people this way, but my need for freedom is stronger than my desire to keep them pacified. When I am getting out of a trap my anger energy is rolling at full roar in my chest.
This anger energy can erupt very quickly when I am feeling psychologically trapped or misunderstood. I become indignant very quickly and am compelled to set things right. I am learning to sit with this feeling and give myself some time to assess the situation, but sometimes it is very hard to wait. My impulse to act quickly is sometimes a good thing if I am in an adversarial position, but can make me enemies, as I am perceived as invading boundaries. That is not my intention, but I know now that it happens, so it's best to give people time to establish their boundaries before I move.
My intimate relationships are in good shape. I have many close friends and an extended family that I know can be trusted to be there for me no matter what. In turn, it is very important to me that they know that I will be there for them the same way and will not take advantage of them if they LET ME KNOW when they feel I'm being too much. I emphasize the "letting me know," because it doesn't hurt my feelings to be told to lay off, as long as it is done matter of factly, without anger. People who don't know me well often wait too long to do this and then react with anger, as they perceive my energy as anger, which it often isn't - it's just my energy. Then I feel "blind-sided" (my term for being attacked for no apparent reason) and do get angry - justifiably so, in my book, as I have been "attacked for no reason!" I know that I am loved and valued by those close to me for my loyalty and depth of affection for them.
Friendship - social instinct
As a social sub-type, I am probably more concerned with how others perceive me than Eights of another sub-type. I know I am a social type becuase friendship is more important to me than making a living or my marriage (only in the short term - before I start thinking!) I have a great passion for helping others, and enjoy being expansive when my heart is valued by others. I like to defend other people. I seek out, carve out if necessary, and defend with vigor a "level playing field," so all have a fair shake. It matters little to me that people think or feel as I do, but it matters greatly to me that we are all free to think or feel as we like.
I often attract people who want to lean on my strength, but I do not put up with people who I do not perceive as growing for very long. Best of all are people who can truly keep up with me, lean on me sometimes, let me lean on them sometimes ( and not cave in or run away), and who participate in a lot of "parallel play."
I often find it painful to be an Eight because I like to have people as my friends and many people have projections of fear around Eight energy. Unless I am in danger, I don't like it when people are frightened of me, and I don't often feel that I am in danger. I usually find it painful to be in conflict, though I take it on easily if it comes. What I really want is to love and be loved. I enjoy exercising what I feel is my great big heart to help others.
Jan Cummins is a certified Enneagram teacher in the Bay Area.
At one time I just took on more, did responsibility, pushed through difficulty and did not share any vulnerability (what was really going on with me inside) when I was in difficulty or crisis land.
Sitting on a panel in front of a 100 people in California on my Eight panel, while I was in crisis land , I was told by Dr. David Daniels, a psychiatrist and teacher of the Enneagram to share vulnerability. That was my hardest piece of work you know. Here I was this helper with many degrees, having to walk around with this belief system that said “be strong and don’t show weakness”. I brought a lot of appetite to a relationship with work, but at mid life, you find yourself humbled as you “go inwards”.
But if you get underneath anger, stop blaming others, and share your real feelings, you discover that softer side. But boy that is hard work. Initially you are scared you might get hurt or others won’t accept that softer side. You discover though they like you more.
From a male Eight
As a Nine I am acutely aware of and supportive of other's agendas at the expense of my own. In order to move forward with my own agenda I must first step back and realize that there are indeed things I want and that I can bring them within my reach. But it's difficult to focus on myself because of the despair and sense of "love lost" that comes up. So the first task is to face the automatic negativity that kicks in when I look at what I want. The next step is to reach inside and calm the part of me consumed by the anger, fear and my long history of frustrated desires.
It's a challenge to bring my attention to taking action. I have to fight the desire to look out the window and daydream instead of picking up the phone, writing a letter, or getting out to the studio. It's important for me to have a supportive routine. Otherwise, it's easy to slip back into the fog while hours, days, months or years slide sedately by me.
I often find it difficult to stay focused on what is important to me. Often it seems truly impossible to do so. I find myself doing what I think other people want me to do. Other people seem to have an inordinate level of power over me and my life, far out of proportion to the power that they actually have. It's as if I am swimming on a constantly shifting sea of my perception of others' expectations, with what I want always just out of reach. Enormous time and energy is lost in swimming against the fantasy tide of what I think other people want.
As hard as it is for me to differentiate between my needs and the needs of others, it is very easy for me to become rigidly and idealistically attached to a stance or viewpoint on an issue. "All or nothing!" is my battle-cry. In order to maintain my position and not be drawn off course, it's as if I need to build an immovable wall of facts and opinion.
My desire to achieve accord with others is nearly overwhelming. I frequently sacrifice what I want in order to keep the peace. This almost always makes me angry, but I'll usually stuff it. By the time I get around to expressing my anger, the pent-up energy behind these feelings often produces negative results.
Bioenergetic work has been helpful in to me in many ways. It brought me in close contact with my feelings and my sexuality. I discovered that there were things that I wanted, things I was neglecting. Working on the mat, I found that the numbness in my lower torso and the tension in my belly would quickly dissolve. I have learned to feel and own my anger and at the same time express it more honestly and gracefully. Working in a group has been a great help. Witnessing other people expressing anger has helped me to accept and befriend an emotion that before had always brought shame and destruction into my life.
Bioenergetic work has also empowered me as a singer, a songwriter and a guitarist. I find my singing and song writing coming through me in a way that is embodied and authentic. I'm using my whole self. During one recent performance with my band, I felt a very streaming, tingling energy running between the base of my spine and my hands. I felt fully alive and connected to my body, my music, the band members, and the audience.
From a male Nine who is a professional musician.
I had been married for about two months when my wife, then 33, informed me that any baby born before she reached the age of 35 would be happy and healthy and any baby born after the age of 35 would be deformed. In sum, "We need to have children now." Prior to this announcement, my concept of when we were going to have children was somewhat further than the hill at the edge of the horizon. Why should I encumber myself with such responsibility when the life I was living seemed so comfortable? This of course brought on much arguing and severe panic on my part as I felt the cage bars closing in around me. At her suggestion, I went to see a therapist who would most certainly agree with me that there was no need to rush into things. Much to my dismay the therapist, a body worker, suggested that independent of whether or not I wanted to have children, it did seem important that I deal with the issue if only for the person I married.
As someone who spends much of their time in their head, what bodywork enabled me to do is to short circuit the myriad of thoughts and get in touch with "I feel bad. I feel angry. I feel sad." Feelings, that for the most part had been smothered by my need to survive my childhood. Surviving my childhood meant being a tough guy who could take care of myself and my mother. The caretaking of my mother was done in the hopes that if I worked hard enough she would indeed love me. In retrospect it was quite clear who was the real parent and who was the real child. My mother did help make me a bonafide NINE, a caretaker and peacemaker. And someone who was so deprived that being comfortable became a guiding force in my day to day existence.
I don't think therapy helped me to become any less stuck or less fixated on my point. It did help me understand the underpinnings of my character. It did allow me to become aware of the fact that "doing things for people" probably wasn't going to make them really love me either. This hasn't stopped me from doing such things --it has helped me change my expectations. As I have gotten older I have become more in touch with myself, more importantly accepting of myself. I acknowledge that I work very hard and feel as though if what I am doing isn't good enough -- it's just too damn bad. As much as I would like to say that therapy has cured me of my heedlessness, alas, it has not. It has, however, made me MUCH more aware of my inner child and has given my child a bigger voice in how my life is lived. I view psychological development as evolutionary in nature. I have made some large steps. Hopefully this translates to my children and they will in turn make their own large steps.
Participation - the social instinct
Whenever I read a description of my "type" whether in the Enneagram or some astrological assessment I almost always find myself saying, "Oh, these are the good things about me and these are the bad things." For the Enneagram, the word "heedlessness" is one of those bad things. However, I would not continue to be "heedless" if I didn't receive some positive reinforcement.
My heedlessness generally takes the form of getting involved in some project where I am taking care of people. Initially the project seems quite manageable but then, largely through my own efforts, it takes on a life of its own and grows to the point where I am overwhelmed and oppressed by my own creation. I begin to resent the fact that others are not doing their share, even though they never committed to do any work at all on the project. A good example is a five acre athletic field I helped develop for children in the community.
The project went from a few phone calls and a drawing of what we would like to see developed, to my spending hundreds of hours fund raising, hiring contractors and overseeing the development. Yet at no time in the process did I ever allow my inner child to control the outcome by accepting the fact that the project had moved from the fun child idea stage to the hard work and countless hours adult stage. Had it been up to the child the field would have been left in disarray while the child skipped onto the next fun project which was long on imagination and short on actual work. People who are outside of me can readily see the adult driving over the child in an effort to reach completion.
But, I have a soccer/softball complex named after me. There is no question that without my efforts, this field would not exist and a large number of people in the community acknowledge my efforts with a Hi or Hello as I pass by them in the parking lot. At the opening day ceremony and announcement of the field's name, someone who knew me slightly turned to my wife and said, with sincerity, "I had no idea your husband had passed away. I'm so sorry, he seemed so young."
It may sound self-serving but I believe the society needs "heedless" people like me. I am known, along with a dozen or so other people, as a "worker bee" within the local athletic community. These are the people who almost always make the time to line the fields, referee the games, come to work parties, etc. They are among the 10% of the people who do 90% of the work. When they drop out the qulity of the effort is diminished. I would imagine most of them are Nines. You find them everywhere, in all areas of endeavor.
Doug Fielding is a businessman and organizer of youth sports activities in Berkeley CA.
I am a fifty-three year old Nine, living and working in London. My work in the human resources department of an international satellite company involves problem-solving with people from fifty-eight nations. The Nine knack for seeing different sides of issues including different cultural orientations helps enormously in my work.
I began active inner or 'waking up' work when I was thirty and had analyzed my problems, primarily in relationships, but did not know how to tackle them myself. My issues included depression and a sense powerlessness. I was very quiet and withdrawn and frequently described as "nice." I joined re-evaluation counselling (peer counseling) and learned about recovery from 'old wounds' through releasing feelings with a supportive listener. I continue to appreciate the knowledge I gained in the counselling classes about the systems of oppression (all the 'isms) and the daring work done to teach us about the personal impacts of these oppressions. This has been especially helpful in my current multi-cultural working environment.
I next worked with Peter O'Hanrahan doing bioenergetics. Through this breath and bodywork, I connected with my more instinctual and powerful self and my anger surfaced. A healing began when I felt the release of my anger welcomed in this work rather than being punished for it, as had been the case in my childhood. I realized I was not as "nice" a person as I had imagined, as I became more aware of and immediate with my feelings and less withdrawn and depressed. A good friend at the time suggested I should warn people of this change by wearing a "Formerly a Nice Person" button.
In the group work connected with bioenergetic therapy, I also discovered my ability to see both or all sides of an issue and to help build meaningful agreements following conflicts. I enjoyed this work and my reputation for fairness and, after a while, began a private practice in mediation, working with couples, households and small businesses. This in turn led to my conflict resolution role in business organizations.
I also studied the Enneagram at this time and found the writing and images helpful in understanding and approaching my issues. Phrases like "sleeping volcano" and "going to sleep on my own needs" spring to mind. I began to notice how I made doing the laundry as important as seeing someone I really liked. I also clearly enjoyed distracting myself and have used, at various times, compulsive care-giving, overeating, impossible relationships, working, shopping, drinking, reading mysteries and watching movies to distance myself from my own feelings and needs.
My inner work for the past four years has centered on Jungian analysis. I consistently explore and pursue what has meaning for me and as I live with this additional richness in my life, my methods of distracting myself seem to have diminished in their "usefulness." In the Jungian work, I have experienced very painful early feeling states which have often been accompanied by a sense of despair, a "this is it" (I'm always going to feel like this). Fortunately, I don't! I am becoming more present, and have remained so through a difficult period of the deaths of family members and friends.
As I continue on my waking up journey, my health has improved (I'm less tired) as has my day to day satisfaction with my life. I still wrestle with the feeling that I must give up part of myself to be accepted, or that I'm not being listened to, but this too is diminishing. I now know "a cure" isn't what's on offer, but rather deeper and more satisfying ways of relating to myself and others.
Marsha Grothe was a human resources manager who lived in Berkeley and in London. She was a part of the early Enneagram community in Berkeley in 1978.