Hi and welcome back! Last week we talked about some basic information on the enneagram. Here’s the quick recap:
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. 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, to experience their oversized feelings, and to 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, to merge with others, and to avoid conflict.
Nobody is exactly the same all the time. Another thing I love about the enneagram is it gives us language for behaviors and energy from different numbers. I don’t know about you guys but I have, “day-to-day Caroline,” “crazy train Caroline,” “vacation Caroline,” and “standing in the sun Caroline.” Let me tell y’all, vacation Caroline is real fun. Standing in the sun Caroline is spiritually balanced and appreciating my strengths and shortcomings equally. Day-to-day Caroline gets the job done. And crazy train is hanging onto the world by my toenails and approaching overwhelmed at every turn. We all have different aspects of our personality that come out when we are on the daily grind, when things are stressful, and when life is easy breezy. As a therapist, I have adopted vocabulary for labeling the different versions of who we are. When employing self-awareness, it helps us communicate to others what headspace we are in. It’s been through knowing where I move in stress and security, that I have begun to find a balance in knowing where I go when I feel like everything is crashing down and the glorious leap I make when I feel all is right with the world.
Everybody is the number they are. Just like in other personality discussions, people wonder is it nature: did you come out of the womb being the way you are? Or is it nurture: did life shape you into who you have become? I fall into the camp of “both.” Spending as much time around babies and kids and I have, tabula rasa does not fit my worldview. People come into this world with something already on the tablet. Lots of things can play into that, but babies come into the world with a personality. So—you are your core number and most of the time you span the gamut of healthy to unhealthy in your number. When I’m in healthy One space I am goal-oriented, being of service to others, and working toward making the world a better place while knowing it will never be just like I want it. As a One when unhealthy, I am fixated on perfection, trying to perfect myself and you, and asserting my control over anything is my way of finding relief (you better believe that my office is cleanest and most organized when I am grasping at straws for survival). Once behavior has become exaggerated and has moved into excess, a person moves into their stress response number where they again operate within the span of healthy to unhealthy in that number. When there is trauma, a person immediately moves into excess. We move into security when we are able to pick up energy from our other number. Security is not a place where most of us spend much time. The world we live in is propelled by achievement, controlling our environment, and again, achievement. To understand where we move in security, we have to practice it. To be secure, we have to live in the essence of who we are and not our personality. Personality is the predictable patterns in which we behave. Our essence is who God created us to be. In order to move into our essence, our personality (the predictable ways that we behave) has to fall away. Let me just tell you people do not love you for your essence; they love you for your personality.
I went to an 8-hour workshop on moves in stress and security. To try and sum it up in a paragraph is hard but it will play into next week when we talk about the energy from all three numbers and how that influences problematic and dysfunctional behaviors. The main takeaway here is that we cannot take care of ourselves without understanding where we move to in stress and security. We need those actions and reactions to protect and advocate for ourselves in different situations. Striving to be the healthiest form of our number is the goal.
Let’s talk vocabulary. Most of us spend our time in average (somewhere around the middle—not too great, not too bad, moving through the world without hurting ourselves or others) space. Ideally, we would do enough self-work to live in the “high side” of our number—the best part of ourselves. The “low side” of a number is where we operate when we’re acting poorly. I will talk more about the “high” and “low” sides of numbers next week when we talk about how our numbers predispose us to certain patterns of dysfunctional and problematic behaviors.
Ones. Ones in stress move to Four (the Romantic) territory. Fours are fixated around what the world could be. When Ones move into Four space poorly, it looks like depression, inwardly turned anger, clinging to control, feeling unlovable, and thinking in “if onlys.” In security, Ones move to Seven (the Enthusiast) space, and my, what a jump! Security leads to grace for themselves and others and spontaneity for Ones.
Twos. Twos in stress move into Eight land (the Challenger) and man, they are tired of being taken advantage of, and they aren’t going to stand for it anymore. Twos get angry because they are out of energy. In unhealthy space, they blame people, are demanding and controlling, aggressive, and fall into martyrdom. When in security, Twos move to Four (the Romantic) space. They are able to feel their own feelings, understand what self-care looks like, and discover self-worth that is not connected to other people.
Threes. In stress, Threes move to Nine (the Peacemaker) space. When channeling stress in unhealthy ways they are busy but not productive, are apathetic, neglect self-care, and have lower energy. When Threes feel secure, they move to Six (the Loyalist). They are much more aware of their own and other people’s feelings, they are less work focused, feel loved for who they are, can have downtime, and do not want to be in the spot light.
Fours. Fours in stress move to Two (the Caretaker) territory. When not handling stress well, they are needy, self-absorbed, irrational, and jealous. Fours in security move to One (the Perfectionist). They become more aware of others, they are nurturing and outward focused. In One space, they are moved to achieve, feeling without the need to express it, and are active in relationships instead of just taking.
Fives. Fives in stress move to Seven (the Enthusiast). What a leap from someone so cautious to someone footloose and fancy-free…that’s not exactly what it means though. Five in stress become gluttonous. They are frivolous, easily distracted, find it difficult to stay connected, and fritter away energy. In security, Fives make a giant spike to Eight (the Challenger). When they are healthy, Fives in security are more outspoken and spontaneous, they have more energy, feelings and emotions.
Sixes. In stress, Sixes move to Three (the Performer) space. When not functioning well in stress they are workaholics, do too much too quickly and overcommit, misrepresent themselves to others, and will not try tasks they do not think they can do successfully. Sixes move to Nine (the Peacemaker) when they are feeling secure. They are able to see a broader view of things, trust their own life experiences, not take things so seriously, and truly believe that things could be all right.
Sevens. Sevens make the jump to One (the Perfectionist) in stress. On the low functioning side of one, they are hypercritical and judgmental, they take themselves very seriously, have the black and white thing, and think they know everything. In security Sevens move to Five (the Investigator), another huge jump. In security and high functioning, they are slowed down, more thoughtful, will go deeper in relationships, want others to know they are more than a good time, and can experience satisfaction.
Eights. Eights make a huge leap to Five (the Investigator) when they are in stress. For people that never meet a challenge they cannot conquer and a foe they cannot defeat, Five space is next to unthinkable. When not doing well in stress, Eights want you to follow along and do not necessarily make space for your feelings and thoughts, cannot sleep, have poor dietary habits, and withdraw from others. For a group of people that need to move against things to feel complete, withdrawing is significant. Eights move to Two (the Caretaker) in security. They are willing to be vulnerable with a few people, operate from a gentle and tender heart, feel like there is something bigger than themselves, and realize they can only contribute to justice not create it.
Nines. Nines would rather step on their own lips than being in conflict with someone. Nines so closely guard their inner sanctum that they compromise themselves into no longer recognizing who they are if it means not being in conflict with you. When Nines are in stress and handling it poorly, they move to Six (the Loyalist) and are overwhelmed and have unspoken anxiety, they are more indecisive and more rigid (their typical merging for convenience sake fades), they are reactive and worse-case scenario planning takes up their already low energy level. Nines move to Three (the Achiever) in security. They are more self-confident, take more control of their own lives, and enjoy their place in things.
So that was a lot and was potentially very confusing. I have included a chart that explains where people move in stress and security. You can use the recap at the beginning to see where people move. Understanding the basic premise of each number will help you start to understand how people channel different energy to protect themselves.
I will leave you with an example illustrating moves to stress and security and how they help us get our needs met. A writer that is a Two (the Caretaker) needs Four (the Romantic) space to be able to write. He needs to move from outward focused Two to an inward focused Four and lean into his own feelings so he is able to write meaningful material that connects with others. Now let’s look at Two moving into their stress number (the Challenger). A woman was adopted and wanted desperately to meet her mother. Through a series of events, she came to be in the position to meet her. She went to the door and knocked and her mother did not answer. Can you imagine the heartbreak? In the time that it took her to walk across the street back to her hotel she moved into unhealthy Four space. She was aggressively asking people to help with their luggage on her way in the door and by the time she got upstairs, she was Mad. As. Hell. She told her friend, “How dare she not want to meet me. I have spent my whole life wanting to meet her. I wanted nothing from her but the opportunity to talk with her and know her just a little bit.” Her ability to move into Eight space: self-assured, justice oriented, and seeing her value outside of what she does for others protected her in that moment of rejection.
We need our moves in stress and security, without them we could not protect ourselves. The whole goal of the enneagram is to learn how to be the best version of yourself. What is the “high side” of your number and the numbers you move to? We cannot change the way we see the world, but we can change the way we respond. To me the enneagram is empowering. It’s empowered me to embrace the parts of me I do not like, treat them compassionately, and figure out what I need to do to grow in those areas. Grace is in short supply these days, and, in my opinion, it is what is now most needed. I hope you will join us next week as we start to talk about where our number can lead us astray when dealing with life.