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/// Sep 13, 2017 6:00:00 PM

Understanding the Enneagrams - The Self-Defeating Irony of Personality

Posted by James Hayes

A Desire to Feel Loved

The Enneagram identifies personality patterns that help people to better understand themselves and the people in their lives. In a way, our personalities become a tool that we use to feel loved, and develop as a defense mechanism against the experience of not getting it. The Enneagram is comprised of nine different personality types (infographic), each with its own way of attempting to feel loved.  However, there is an ironic twist as it turns out that these strategies to feel loved can become counterproductive, undermining the very thing they set out to achieve...being loved.

Below gives you the way in which each type behaves in the manner outlined above.  See if you can spot your own and other people’s patterns...

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Type 1: The Reformer

The first personality identified by the Enneagram is known as the Reformer.  This type has a drive for perfection.  They believe that to feel loved they must be perfect.  Striving to be perfect, they are constantly looking for their flaws and constantly finding them even when they are not there. This drive for absolute perfection creates a simultaneous inability to see it.  The irony is that as Reformers strive for perfection, they focus on the opposite, finding a lack of perfection.  This creates a cycle where they will never be able to see perfection whilst forever pursuing it.

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Type 2: The Helper

Type 2s are consummate helpers. They are there to help without being asked. This stems from a feeling that they cannot care for and love themselves, so they need others to do it for them. Helpers are desperate for others to help and care for them because that is how they experience being loved. The problem is that this creates a dynamic of dependency in relationships where they put others’ needs first and theirs last. Because they do not tend to their own needs and often will not voice their expectations, helpers frequently find that their needs are overlooked by others.  These helpers eventually burn out and become run down because they are focused on helping everyone but themselves in an effort to meet the very needs that are not being met.

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Type 3: The Achiever

Achievers are go-getters. They are success driven and on a constant mission to achieve more. The downfall for this type is that they are trying to be loved through their achievements. Their self-esteem and sense of worth are highly dependent on what others think of them. The problem is that because they are highly sensitive to the opinions of others, this type can be socially inauthentic as they constantly change who they are to suit different people. Achievers struggle to experience their own value and authenticity as their whole approach to being loved depends on showing people a successful achievement oriented façade. The irony is that they want to be valued, but they are placing their value in achievement which means they only ever get to experience their value when they achieve something.  Unfortunately, the achievement is fleeting, and they are driven to continue achieving to experience their value.

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Type 4: The Individualist

The creatives of the world are usually Type 4s, known as the Individualists. This group derives their sense of value from being unique and avoiding the mainstream. Their desire to stand out is actually a struggle with identity. Individualists feel an innate lack of identity, which causes them to constantly look for their own uniqueness. This mentality drives them to be different and constantly mismatch other people and society. Type 4s are trying to find their identity outside of the self. The irony is that they are looking externally for who they are but will never find it in constructed identities. As soon as their uniqueness catches on and gets the recognition and value they are craving, they will feel ‘mainstream’ and the need to find something else different again. Type 4s have a strong desire to be themselves, but spend all of their time trying to ‘be’ something different.  

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Type 5: The Investigator

Investigators are commonly scientists and researchers. This type is very cerebral and cognitively focused. They are trying to experience love and value in the world based on what they know. Their value is based on their ability to know more than others. Behind the Type 5 is the fear and inability to effectively deal with the world.  There is a constant focus on needing to know more which keeps them from moving forward. The more they are stagnant, the more unequipped they feel to deal with life, the more they feel compelled to retreat into the safety of their minds. Investigators withdraw in their search for knowledge that will help them live more effectively in the world. The irony here is that this constant retreat is what keeps them from engaging effectively with the world.

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Type 6: The Loyalist

Type 6 is the Loyalist. They are constantly worrying about what could go wrong. At the heart of the Type 6 personality is a distrust of the environment and a perception that something is going to go wrong. They do not feel safe and are driven by the need to be aware of all dangers. As Loyalists think about the future (and they often do), they are considering what could go wrong. They are driven to seek a sense of safety, but the irony of this structure is that they assume they are not safe, and this assumption leads them to constantly look for danger. They think they will feel safe when they can spot all of the danger, but then looking for danger causes them to find it (even when it’s not there) and prevents them from feeling safe. The deception for Loyalists is that they do not trust themselves, but instead of finding the courage and doing the work within, they live frequently looking outside of themselves with states of anxiety trying to manage imagined threats they see in the future.

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Type 7: The Enthusiast

The Enthusiasts are the life of the party. They are enthusiastic and optimistic. Underneath their outgoing personalities is actually a fear of being deprived. Their framework is to constantly try new things because they do not want to miss out on anything. This leads to commitment issues and a struggle to commit to partners, jobs, hobbies, and life in general.  As soon as Enthusiasts experience pain or discomfort, they move on.  Staying with one thing is very difficult because they have such a fear of missing out. The irony is that their fear of committing to one thing leads to them to committing to everything. They are missing out on the depth of life and rich relationships because of their constant state of change. This type imagines that deprivation is an external reality, and cannot see that it is their very attitude and outlook that causes them to live in a constant state of deprivation, bouncing around in very shallow waters of life.

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Type 8: The Challenger

Assertiveness is the hallmark of Type 8, the Challenger.  These people want to lead and control everything. Their strength is their ability to get things done, but their shortcomings are an inability to work with other people and function in a collaborative space. At the core of the Type 8 personality structure is a fear that they will be taken advantage of and violated. These feelings create a compulsion to be in control. The irony is that their need for control creates situations where people turn against them. Because they can come across as abrasive and confrontational, Challengers often suffer from relationship problems. Ironically this is the very thing they are trying to prevent.  To avoid being taken advantage of, they act as if they are taking advantage of other people. They create a self-fulfilling prophecy where they are in control and often alone. They believe that to be loved they must control everything but this belief is what turns people away from them.

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Type 9: The Peacemaker

The final type is the Peacemaker. These people dislike conflict and are constantly trying to smooth things over. They are friendly and tend to get along with everyone. Their downfall is that they believe love to be locational and they only feel love if the environment is safe and peaceful which drives an attitude of ‘maintaining the peace’ and avoiding conflict. The irony is that the avoidance of conflict keeps them in unhealthy relationships and unhealthy life situations.  Peacemakers ignore issues and ‘sweep things under the rug’ to avoid uncomfortable conversations, and they do not voice their needs if they may cause a disturbance. This behaviour actually leads to the conflict they are trying to avoid. They find themselves in situations and environments that do not make them feel loved but they continue to avoid the ‘conflict’ of dealing with life.  However, by avoiding dealing with conflict, they are are through neglect, cultivating and perpetuating it.

The Importance of Your Enneagram

Understanding your Enneagram type is key to being free from the delusion and chaos of looking externally in life to get something you will never find where you are looking. If you do not know your type, you may spend your whole life taking action that is the very action preventing you from obtaining what it is that you desire. You need to understand your personality and understand the traps that it creates.  This will help you to grow and mature in a way that allows you to find what you have been looking for within yourself.

 

FURTHER READING
Is Your Self Esteem Conditional or Unconditional?