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Enneagram and Addiction part 1

To Whom It May Concern: this blog is one of three. Addiction is incredibly complicated as is the enneagram. As you will read and will be explained later, I am a One on the enneagram. If I cannot do it well, I would rather just not do it at all. I hope you will stick around as we journey through understanding ourselves better and how we cope with life.

Addiction. Where is the line between a little too much fun and, as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous calls it, a condition that makes us bodily and mentally different than our fellows? Men and women drink because they like the effect produced by alcohol. Now if booze is not your slice of the pie, maybe it is smoking pot, taking more than the prescribed amount of ADHD medication, or a little bit of cocaine on the weekend with friends. (Side note: I am continuously shocked at how many people do cocaine recreationally.) The stigma surrounding addiction has come a long way as the accessibility of drugs has become more prevalent but still, nobody wants to be an addict or alcoholic. The unappealing thought around those labels lends itself to the antithesis of the American ideal of control over everything in our lives. Traditionally, weakness is viewed in an extremely negative light. To admit that something could have enough power over us to completely ruin our lives is unsettling at best. So that’s idea one of this blog.

Switching gears—over the last several years, the enneagram has become popular coffee date and cocktail party talk. While some are completely new to the 9-type personality style framework, others are becoming increasing interested and educated on this deceivingly simplistic way of viewing themselves and others.

Here is a quick (and definitely not comprehensive) overview of the nine numbers. I have taken these from The Road Back to You written by the enneagram godmother herself, Suzanne Stabile, with whom I have done countless workshops and book studies. I highly recommend her podcast The Enneagram Journey. Type One: The Perfectionist. Ethical, dedicated and reliable, they are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame. Type Two: The Helper. Warm, caring, and giving, they are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs. Type Three: The Performer. Success-oriented, image-conscious, and wired for productivity, they are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure. Type Four: The Romantic. Creative, sensitive and moody, they are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings, and avoid being ordinary. Type Five: The Investigator. Analytical, detached, and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy, and avoid relying on others. Type Six: The Loyalist. Committed, practical, and witty, they are worst-case scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security. Type Seven: The Enthusiast. Fun, spontaneous and adventurous, they are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences, and avoid pain. Type Eight: The Challenger. Commanding, intense, and confrontational, they are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable. Type Nine: The Peacemaker. Pleasant, laid back, and accommodating, they are motivated by a need for peace, merge with others, and avoid conflict. Again, these are the tip of the iceberg in understanding each number but they are helpful for our purposes here.

You might be asking: What does the enneagram have to do with addiction? Why is it helpful to me even if I’m not an addict? And most importantly, how can understanding it allow me to have grace for myself and compassion for others? Those are three enormous questions that I am going to try and touch the surface of. The thing that separates the enneagram from other personality tests is that is based on motivation, not action. People can behave the exact same ways, but the reason for their behavior is completely different. Two people may be high achievers but one achieves for the image it creates and the circles it puts them in, while the other achieves in an effort toward perfection—if you have all of the information, you won’t make any mistakes. Same behavior, totally different reasons for said behavior.

Another part of understanding the enneagram is knowing how we operate in relationship to others. Ones, Twos, and Sixes are dependent—they look to relationships with others to know if they are okay and how they fit into the world. They move toward people for help. Fours, Fives and Nines are withdrawing. They are constantly looking within themselves to find out where they fit into the world. They also sometimes confuse thinking about a solution with actually carrying it out. And Threes, Sevens and Eights are independent or aggressive. They move through the world as they see fit and often struggle to think of how their actions might affect others.

Okay, so there’s further framework. Let’s get to it.

Ones. I myself am a One and let me tell you, there are some days I kill it at life and others that end in tears of my shortcomings and places I could have done better. Based on the idea of striving for an always-moving goal of perfection, Ones can seem hard on others but it is nothing compared to how hard they are on themselves. What separates Ones from every other number is they have an inner critic that is absolutely brutal. We all have self-talk but Ones self-talk is berating and never-ending. It undermines every decision and action all. day. long. Sometimes the inner critic is so insidiously interwoven that we don’t even recognize as criticism. Whatever has been done could have always been better, could have been done faster, or more efficiently. Ones spring into action in crisis. They have a heart for justice that can move into anger very quickly. While Eights project anger outward and Nines totally ignore it, Ones turn anger inward and, man, does that critic go into overdrive. Ones have the wounding message that “it is not okay to make mistakes” while they need the healing message of “you are good enough.”

Twos. Twos love to help. They help, and they help, and they help, until they’ve helped people become disabled by enabling, and then they get resentful. Twos are caretakers. They are the person that organizes the meal train after you have surgery or a baby. They show love through acts of service. They are planners that can be easily distracted by a problem in front of them, and it derails their whole day. They struggle to know “what is mine to do.” Twos desperately want to be loved, and they achieve that feeling by doing for others and lose themselves in needing to be needed. They believe that if they are not helpful, they will not be needed or wanted. Twos have the wounding message of “it is not okay to have your own needs” and need the healing message of “you are wanted for who you are.”

Threes. There is nothing more sad than an unhealthy three. Threes take in information based on other’s feelings, think about their own feelings, and then set them aside to do whatever is going to get the job done. Threes have the beautiful ability to set aside misunderstandings and differences and achieve a common goal. They are also extremely image driven. When unhealthy, threes spend a lot of time working the long game: constantly keeping score of who’s doing what, what that will mean later on, and how it will serve them. Threes are outwardly personable but inwardly distant. Threes have the wounding message of “it’s not okay to have your own feelings and identity”, and they need the healing message of “you are loved for who you are and not what you do.”

Fours. The Romantic. What does that even mean? Fours romanticize about what the world could be. They long to be understood and have authentic relationships. Authenticity is paramount. They love long conversations contemplating the mystery of the universe. They are characteristically artistic and creative. Fours are intense in relationships—they want too much too fast and overwhelm the other party. They love to live in the “melancholy” of life. It’s not depressing, it is comforting to them. They are the only number that can bear witness to pain without trying to “fix” it. They are completely black and white. They experience the amount of emotions that most people experience in a month, in hours. They very much struggle with balance and staying committed to one task. They desperately want to stand out but are constantly worried about being abandoned. Fours have the wounding message of “it’s not okay to be too functional or too happy” and need the healing message of “you are seen for who you are.”

Fives. I love a Five. My husband is a Five and simply put, he is just the best. Fives are constantly working to preserve energy. The best explanation I have heard on Fives’ energy level is like a cell phone battery that starts out the day with 25%. Every interaction they have depletes a small amount. Talking to people, texting people, people physically touching them, it takes a small bit. They avoid depleting that energy by keeping people at an arms length. The less involvement the better. You might think, “They should just save up their energy,” nope, it doesn’t work that way. Fives value patterns and predictability. Fives could be at the same job for years and never be bothered. Fives take in information using logic, and information is king. They hoard information. Fives have the enviable skill of truly seeing things from both sides (Let me tell you, sometime that plays out well at our house and other times…) Fives have the wounding message of “it’s not okay to be comfortable in the world” and need the healing message of “your needs are not a problem.”

Sixes. If you have a friend that is a Six, you have that friend for life. Sixes are loyal. It takes them a while to buy in, because they want to make a very educated decision after extensive investigation of the person or organization. But once they are in—they are in! Sixes are ruled by fear. Worst-case scenario planning is their forte. When COVID hit, the Sixes were like “I was made for this!” They gather information and support from other people to feel safe in the world. Sixes are most concerned with the greater good, and that is why they make excellent team members. They find rules and structure to be very comforting because they struggle to trust themselves and their decision-making. Sixes experience the wounding message of “it’s not okay to trust yourself”, and need the healing message of “you are safe.”

Sevens. The most fun guy in the room! Sevens are full of energy and ideas. They can make anything fun. For Sevens, the world is their oyster. Everyday is a new day; lessons of old no longer apply. They are logical planners. They weigh the options of, “Is getting in trouble for this going to outweigh pleasure I get from doing it?” Sevens are the most logical on the enneagram. They are charming, they are funny, they are fun-loving. They also majorly struggle to stay in the present. They love to plan but nothing is ever as good as they think it will be. They are the mascot of their family that keeps things light and people’s spirits up. The flipside of that is they are often pigeonholed into being Goodtime Charlie, and nothing more. Sevens have the wounding message of “it’s not okay to depend on anyone for anything” and long for the healing message of “you will be cared for.”

Eights. If you have a project, you want an Eight on your team. They have the most energy of all the numbers on the enneagram. Before saying a word, their presence is felt. They take up a lot of space without even meaning to. They are intense in actions and without lots of working on themselves, are abrasive and confrontational. They want you to tell them like it is, and they will do the same for you. I always laugh when I think of the golden rule because you do not want an Eight to treat you like they want to be treated. They want non-sugarcoated facts, and they want them upfront. Eights make excellent attorneys. Eights champion the underdog. They stand up for justice. They do not want to be in control, but they do not want to be controlled. Eights are emotionally guarded, and often times their straightforward demeanor is mistaken for vulnerability. Eights have the wound message of “it’s not okay to be vulnerable or trust anyone”; they need the healing message of “you can trust people.”

Nines. Nines are nice to a fault. They do not have many strong opinions about things and will happily merge with your thoughts if you do. They are looking for the path of least resistance. They are constantly worried about people intruding into their inner peace. They are hardworking when they get going but they have the lowest amount of energy on the enneagram. A great way to describe the procrastination of a Nine is this: a woman has mother-in-law coming for dinner at 6:00pm. She goes to the grocery store to get stuff for dinner and as she is about to get in the car, she realizes the trash needs to go out. So she takes the trash to the curb and wouldn’t you know it, the neighbor is passing by on a walk. So she stops and talks to her because her mother just had surgery, and she has been meaning to check-in but has not had the time. So they talk and she finally gets in her car and goes to the grocery. Then at the grocery store she runs into another friend whose child was in the same class as her youngest child, and they have not seen each other in years. Finally as she is walking to the checkout, she passes the floral sections and realizes it would be really nice to have fresh cut flowers for when her mother-law-comes over for dinner. So she gets home with all her groceries, although she forgot one thing, and gets to work on the flowers. Her husband comes in at 5:15 and she is arranging the flowers. Dinner has not been prepped, there is stuff everywhere around the house, but the flowers look beautiful. Nines are always busy; they are just generally not doing what actually needs to be done. Nines enjoy acts of service but do not like to be recognized for them. They are excellent helpers, but they are not great leaders. If they are a leader, they need a very dynamic assistant beside them. Nines have the wounding message of “it’s not okay to assert yourself” and need to hear and believe “your presence matters.”

Okay folks if you made it all the way to the end, THANK YOU! If you cannot tell, I’m very passionate about the enneagram. It has changed my life, my family’s life, our marriage, and my relationships with friends and in the workplace. I hope you will check back in to hear about how we function in stress and security and how our number specific blind spots can lead us into problematic and dysfunctional behaviors. Have a great week! :)

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