Anyone in 12 Step recovery knows about the Levels of Development from their daily life. It’s as simple as this: on good days I’m clear
headed, serene, not emotionally reactive, less self-absorbed, can relax and do my best work, and am less distracted. In essence, I
am more present to what is happening inside me and outside me, and less inclined to be distracted by my opinions. I still have
them, I just don’t hold onto to them as if they were made of gold. And, I seem to have better access to feelings of well-being and
contentment, and when feeling really good, experience a kind of seamless unity and kinship with those around me. I like everyone
just as they are. Now we’re talking about a peak day, when the sun is really shining inside me. On these really clear days, I don’t
mistake people’s moods and bad actions as indictments on me, nor indictments on them. I see they are suffering, that something is
bothering them, and instead of reacting as a result of my own buttons being pushed, on this day my triggers seem immune to being
ignited. What shows up instead of my reactivity is compassion, a soft heart and understanding heart, a mind that can discern clearly
what is happening in front of me. I suddenly seem to be able to hold the otherwise difficult person in kind regard. Now I know I’m in
the flow of a good day, and I’m also certain that something really sweet seems to be arising in me that creates this openness. That
is, I’m aware that I didn’t make this delicious awareness occur. It, instead, is flowing through me. I notice that I seem to take in reality
more deeply, vividly and with deeper satisfaction. You could say that in this healthy state I am more ‘present’ than usual and each
moment seems to be something I can savor, taste, and behold with gratitude. Yes, I am being blessed me this day.

So, the Levels of Development actually measure our states of presence and openness, or our emotional reactivity and our narrowing
perception of reality. We all know too well what it’s like when another person’s tone of voice, or words, or facial expression seem to
trigger us into a robotic rage, or strike a chord deep in us that sends our insides whirling with fear or shame, or throw our quiet mind
into a furious frenzy of worry. When our emotional ‘buttons’ are triggered, we don’t think clearly, we don’t act with intelligence or
precision, we say things that curl our own toes, and then we instantly defend our behaviors with rationalizations. You see, ‘there were
good and intelligent reasons’ for my actions and words. Not!

The Levels of Development measure whether our hearts and minds and bodies are open and awake, or closed and tightened like a
fist.  Put more practically, they represent the full spectrum of possibility for any Enneagram Type, describing the attributes and
qualities that arise when the type is healthy, present and awake (the essential qualities of the type), and likewise describing the ways
in which an individual’s behavior changes as they become less present and more defended and constricted, and drop down into the
average and unhealthy levels of their type.                      
There are nine Levels divided into Healthy, Average, and Unhealthy Levels.  Levels 1 to 3 are called the Healthy Levels in which
individuals are conscious and in contact with their innate gifts. Level 4 to 6 represent the Average Levels of health, in which
individuals are progressively losing contact with their innate healthy qualities and the ability to be present, and relying more and
more on defensive emotional reactions and distorted perceptions inherent to their type. Levels 7 to 9 represent the Unhealthy Levels,
in which individuals descend into mental illness, compulsion, delusion and self-destructiveness. Here’s a visual representation.        
Levels of Development

Level 1:  The Level of Liberation—In contact with Real Self/Essence
Level 2:  The Level of Psychological Capacity –In contact with my highest qualities   
Level 3:  The Level of Social Value—Giving my Type’s gifts to the world

Level 4:  The Level of Imbalance/ Social Role—Identifying with a social role  
Level 5:  The Level of Interpersonal Control—Manipulating others to affirm me
Level 6:  The Level of Overcompensation—Coercing through aggression

Level 7:  The Level of Violation—desperate, trying to end suffering at any cost
Level 8:  The Level of Obsession and Compulsion—out of control and agonized
Level 9:  The Level of Pathological Destructiveness—murderous or suicidal

Each of us has had many palpable experiences of the Levels in ourselves. We know what it’s like to feel ‘with it,’ and able to respond
with clarity, grace, precision and sensitivity to what arises in our life (Levels 1-3); and what it’s like when we’re not at our best,
preoccupied and taken by stress, worry, shame, anger, hurt, numbness or fear (Levels 4 and below). It’s as if the light and clarity of
our awareness, when stressed, is dimmed, fogged or blocked, and our perception of what to do in the present moment is obscured
and narrowed. Instead of responding with clarity, precision, adaptability and sensitivity, we get tangled in our subjective
interpretations of life, or knocked off base by the emotional reactivity endemic to our type. That is, we are taken by our type’s
personality habits, preferences and particular skew of reality (Levels 4 and below). And each of us knows that there is a predicable
path we descend down when we are not doing well. This path also reveals our personality type to us.                                             

In retrospect, we often stand back, aghast, that once again we got hooked by something in us that led us astray. In time we begin to
sense that, horrors of horrors, we live in a kind of predictable prison of habits that often chooses for us our next action (the longer we
are sober, 15, 20, 25 years, the more clearly we see our deeper personality patterns which easily elude us). With deeper awareness
we see that we wander about it in these habits, often mesmerized and entranced by them, wondering how we can finally free
ourselves of their gravitational pull upon us. One friend said it this way: “I pace about in a psychological cage, reciting the same lines,
thinking the same thoughts, and making the same errors, in spite of my best intelligence, my best intentions, or the libraries of
experiences I have accumulated about myself. I should be able to use my acquired information to respond intelligently and gracefully
in moments of stress, and yet, I too often repeat the same errors—I react predictably like a damn robot!” Welcome to the temple of
Level 4 to Level 7! Where our Inner Robot runs free, going where it wants in spite of us and our intention to change! Here is where
our deeper work is, which after a period of time, becomes more evident.                                                                                         

It’s not rocket science. When we are less present, we make more errors, and misread the signals that our loved ones, friends or life
is giving us. In addition, we don’t ‘read’ ourselves well. It’s like we have layers of fog or sludge that distort the truth of our experience,
or the clarity of our feelings, so that our intimacy and clarity with ourselves also distorts, and becomes vague and distant. We walk
around inside ourselves like strangers in a strange land. With a little self-observation and reflection, each of us knows the story of
what happens when we’re not ‘with it.’ It is then that something like an automatic pilot switch turns on, and in spite of our best
understanding, we go ‘into action’ (or are ‘taken’ into action) by habits of being which we’ve probably vowed for years, to not be taken
by. We might even notice a little voice in the distant back of our awareness that pleads with us, “Stop, dude. You are headed in the
wrong direction. Stop now before you are swept up in the torrent of your fast-moving habits. You know where this leads!” Truth is, our
personality habits are so quick and nimble that they blow past this inner observer with the speed and ferocity of a speeding bullet.
Until we gain more presence and awakeness. The Levels of Development are a map and guide to greater Presence. Let’s take a
closer look.         

The Healthy Levels—Awake, Present, and Alive

When we are functioning in the Healthy Levels we are flexible, spontaneous, joyful, open-minded, heart-felt, compassionate,
understanding of others and self, and more often objective in our interpretation of reality. We are often able to call upon
courage, and are balanced, creative, perceptive, and curious. Put simply, we embrace life with heartfelt openness and
sensitivity, are in touch with the aliveness, passion and electricity of our body, and are blessed with a quiet and curious mind.
Wild open and awake, we are able to endure difficulty with grace, flexibility, spontaneity and intelligence. At home with our self,
attuned to what is real and true within us, we are genuine, sincere and unpretentious. Truly humble, yet able to embody our gifts
and capacities, we wear our personality (and our preferences) lightly and effectively. Clearly aware of our ‘reactive emotional
triggers’ and able to own them often without acting them out, we graciously avoid blaming others for their emotional reactions.
We take full responsibility for ourselves and are empowered to make healthy changes when needed. Not tied to our view of
reality or our particular opinions, we are open and available to all the possibilities, and more importantly to receiving the input,
intelligence and loving support of others. In this manner we are available to be touched by life. Pretty great! Exactly why we got
clean and sober!   

Similarly, we can compassionately see when others are projecting their suffering onto to us and don’t take it personally, don’t
take it into our soul, don’t suffer with the attack, but see it for what it is—an errant projection. Because we are conscious, we
are able to listen to our creative impulses and put them into action. We can utilize our intelligence and our emotional nature in
the service of our life and those we touch. And because we feel good, we naturally share our well-being with those around us.
We give away the best of who they are. Generosity comes naturally.

With a quiet mind and an open heart we see the innate goodness in human beings, and also recognize when that goodness has
distorted into its opposite, or is only partially embodied by the individual. In short, we have eyes to see what is real and true
about human beings and ourselves. This is what it means to be healthy! We are often delightful to be around because we give
others space to be themselves, are not compelled to judge them or try to fix others, and can generously appreciate other’s
beauty, value and significance. Trusting other’s innate capacity to find out what is true for them, we listen to them with full
attention without feeling we need to advise them or assume we know what is best for them. We are teachable because we are
not under the delusion of believing we know everything. We are humble in this regard, which makes us more innately intelligent.
(Note: Each Enneagram Type has a particular way they express the healthy aspects of their type, all of which touch upon the
above qualities in a type-specific manner.)                                                                                                 

Each of has had moments in our lives in which we have lived in the healthy levels of our type. When we are there, it feels great.
Our sense of communion with life, our capacity to savor what is great about ourselves, our loved ones, and life on planet earth
is enhanced. And truth be known, most of us make visits here and truly wish we could spend more time here. In reality, we live
most of our time at the Average Levels of Health.

The Average Levels—Going on Automatic Pilot                                 

At the Average levels of development (Levels 4 to 6), when an emotional trigger is touched by another or by a stressful
circumstance, the individual frequently blames and judges the external source for the suffering they are experiencing (As in…”
It’s your fault I feel so badly. If it weren’t for you I’d be having a great day!”). Here, feeling good and being ‘happy’ depends on life
matching one’s expectations, wants and desires from the outside. Things need to go our way to feel okay about our lives. At the
healthy levels, feeling good is an ‘inside job’ and not dependent on external factors as the source of well-being.  We take
responsibility for our experience and are empowered to make the changes we need.

Let’s take a closer more specific look at average Levels of Development as these levels are critical to understanding addiction,
recovery and growth and indicate the warning signs that can undo an individual’s recovery efforts at any juncture in their
Level 4: the Level of Imbalance and Social Role                                         

At Level 4 the individual strongly identifies with his personality and a particular ‘social role’ (Riso-Hudson defined the social
roles of each type, see The Wisdom of the Enneagram for additional information) that he tries to ‘be’ and get others to confirm
and identify with. (Two: I am the Special Friend. Four: I am the Unique One. Five: I am the Expert. Eight: I am the Protector. Seven: I
am the Energizer. Three: I am the Best.) It’s as if his actions are now an advertisement that says: “This is who I am.”  For
instance, the Type One takes on the role of the mentor/teacher and attempts to promote an image of ‘teacher’ to those around
him. His message to the world is “I am the teacher, the one who can improve the way you and I do things.  I know how things
should be done and what should be corrected.” He see’s what’s wrong with you and will help you, in fact, he often feels
obligated to help you. At level 4 his effort to be ‘the teacher’ is not harsh or abrasive. If you met this man (or woman) you’d find
him to be likeable, intelligent, and easy to be around.
At Level 4 the mental and emotional habit of each Type makes its entry, both of which serve to disconnect him from a direct
experience with himself and reality. For instance, the mental habit (or fixation) of the ‘judging mind’ and the emotional habit (or
passion) of ‘resentment’ arises for the Type One as he begins to abandon his genuine experience of himself. The One begins to
feel resentful because he feels compelled to take responsibility for assuring the quality of all the work around him, for
correcting the errors of others, and feels he is working harder than anyone else to improve circumstances. At Level 4 he is
becoming ‘the burdened one’ who carries the responsibilities of others on his shoulders.        

Level 5: The Level of Manipulation and Interpersonal Control                                 

At Level 5 all the constricting tendencies of Level 4, the emotional and mental habit, and social role, etc., intensify. The One goes
from promoting his self-image to the world (Level 4), to trying to manipulate and coerce others to see him as “The Teacher”
(Level 5). His emotional habit of resenting others intensifies and he responds by being more critical about the errors of others,
while feeling more obligated and insistent in improving others through his interventions. He is losing contact with what is good
about other people and himself, and is suffering more due to his disconnection. As the result of his increased suffering he
reacts by applying his judgments and standards more harshly on others and himself. At Level 5 he is unaware of what is truly
driving his behavior, and unable to see how he is affecting and offending others, while believing he has insight into the problems
at hand. Unable to sense his real feelings, he gets lost in his personal reactivity and subjective feelings (as all types do at this
level), while believing his impressions, feelings, and reactions to life represent objective reality. He is suffering with the “illusion
of certainty’ regarding his take on reality, on who he is, and is offended when those around him do not agree (Each of us knows
this dance in our own lives.). In his own type-specific manner, he is becoming more self-centered and unavailable for true
connection with others. This is called going on automatic pilot. With a little awareness we will begin to see how much of our day
is actually spent at this level where we are functioning yet ‘checked out’ for all intent and purposes.  Becoming aware and
conscious of Level 5 behaviors (and Level 6) is absolutely fundamental for sustaining a life of drug free living.

Level 6: The Level of Overcompensation and Early/Middle Stage Addiction                                                  

When an individual becomes addicted to a substance, they descend to Level 6 (and below) where they are more constricted
emotionally, mentally and physically by their type-specific defensive habits, causing their innate gifts and capacities to constrict,
disappear and morph into their polar opposite. They feel numb, depressed, lonely, ashamed, angry, and afraid, and use
substances to alter or numb these feelings. In response to deep suffering and addiction, the Two’s capacity for loving-kindness
becomes shrouded in fear and manipulation; the One’s capacity for fairness is distorted by strident, one-sided judgment; the
Seven’s enthusiastic joy gets lost in impulsive hedonism; the Fours creative sensitivity is smothered by self-indulgence and

At Level 6, the individual has further constricted his capacity to sense his true feelings, to inhabit the aliveness of his body, and
has fully lost contact with quiet mind. He is suffering terribly and filled with fear, shame, anger, despair, hopelessness, and
heart-break, and is more unable to accurately comprehend reality. Here, addiction begins to take hold as he finds substances
that temporarily quell his suffering. He has moved from ‘promoting’ a self-image at Level 4, to ‘manipulating others’ into seeing
and approving his self-image at Level 5, to becoming ‘aggressive’ about forcing his personality agenda onto others at Level 6, all
of which correlates with an ever-deepening unconscious sense of despair within him. The Type Four gets aggressive about
whether people are seeing and reflecting his uniqueness; the Eight gets aggressive about convincing people that he’s in charge
while certain others are betraying him; the Seven gets aggressive about asserting his desire for pleasure, the One gets
aggressive about his principles and ideals and turns to reprimanding and punishing others when they don’t follow his dictates,
his principles, or his judgments.
Each type at this level tries to inflict on others what he fears most. That is, “Do unto others what you’d least like having done to
you.” Whatever the type fears and hates most they impose and punish others with. Riso-Hudson have named this aggressive
behavior as the “Leaden Rule.” The Eight, who fears being harmed and controlled, begins to threaten harm and is abusive to
others. The Three, who fears having no value, treats others as if they have no value. The Type Six, who fears having no support
or guidance, makes others feel like they have no support or guidance. The Nine, who fears he is nobody special, treats others
as if they were not special.                                                                                               

At L5 and L6 individuals are acting in ways that defy and oppose their self image (their idealized view of themselves which when
healthy, represents the truth of who they are), yet imagining they are in accord with it. The Four, who sees himself as deeply
sensitive, is rejecting and humiliating those who don’t have ‘good aesthetic taste.’ In fact, he is despising them, but can’t ‘see’
himself acting badly. His actions are done in the service of his self image: “I am deeply sensitive and creative.” Each type has
their version of this. Of supreme importance to recovering and thriving in addiction recovery is the critical ability to see when
one’s actions do not match one’s idealized self-image, that is, when one has descended to Levels 5, 6 and 7. And to realize daily,
that each of, at some point in our day, drops to Level 5 and 6. For those in addiction recovery, this dip to Level 6 is a major wake-
up call because the more one inhabits this level, the more the unseen tendrils of our addiction reach through to us, sweep in
unseen, and begin chanting  the fatal lines that devour many: “You can have one drink (or drug). It’s safe. You know how to
control your addiction now. Go ahead, you deserve a break.” At Level 6 we can easily decide that “We want what we want and
screw the world!” Of course, driving this ego-centeredness is despair, sadness, hopelessness, and shame, which if not held
with kindness and clarity, so easily morphs into self-indulgent, it’s-all-about-me, behaviors that deliver the hammer-blow of

The Unhealthy Levels—When the Lights Go Out

When individuals drop to Level 7 and below, they are fully leaving the track of reality, in fact, you could say they are off the rails,
having lost contact with objective reality. Here they act out the distorted versions of their innate gifts and become destructive to
themselves and others. Desperate to the core, they are ‘driven’ by the type-specific defensiveness of their personality type,
hoping beyond hope that this will somehow head them in the right direction. It doesn’t. They have entered the realm of mental
illness and once here, need the support and guidance of others to find their way back. Unable to comprehend what is real and
true, they will continue their slide down into ever-deepening mental illness, despair and hopelessness unless support arrives.
(The Eight becomes abusively aggressive, the Three, deceitfully self-promoting and destructive of other’s dreams, the Two,
more manipulate and dishonest in service of love, the One, vitriolic and hateful in service of integrity, the Seven, insatiably self-
centered and hedonistically driven in the name of joy and freedom.)                                                                           

Level 7: The Level of Violation—Deepening addiction                                          

At Level 7, individuals are mired in active addiction and often enter recovery through the vehicle of a treatment center, jail, or an
intervention that alerts them to the reality of their life, and the need for emergency assistance. All the types at this level are in a
state of full-blown addiction, be it to a substance, an activity, or the particular type-specific trance they are taken by. Feeling they
have been violated and abused by life, they feel fully justified in being abusive and violent to others. In response to their intense
suffering and fear, they attack self or others for relief. Aggressiveness at L6 turns into harming self and others physically,
emotionally, and verbally at Level 7. Mental illness begins at Level 7 and deepens at Level 8 and 9.                                         

At Level 7 and below, the individual, caught in cross-hairs of addiction, has glimpses of the horror he or she is sitting in, but
often cannot hold and digest these impressions, nor has the power and clarity to move in a direction of true support. In the face
of actions that harm others, their ability to see what they have done, to absorb the real consequences of their actions, is at zero.
As in, “No one is home.” And yet, if one has taken a foray to Level 7, one might remember that in spite of being checked out, one
can still formulate stories, rationalizations and denials that appear sane to oneself. Everyone else observing can see these
distortions like huge monoliths, but the individual caught at Level 7, in the face of death or utter destruction, does not.  At Level 8
mental illness deepens and we see compulsion and delusion gripping the individual. At Level 9 pathological destruction occurs
in one form or another, be it towards self or others.                                                 

Understanding the Movement Up and Down the Levels                       

Everyone has a center of gravity located in one of the Levels of Development. That is, each of us has a customary level of
awareness and sensitivity, or center of gravity that we live at, where we feel like we are being ‘our self’. During the course of the
day, our awareness (but not our center of gravity) moves up and down from this central position based on what is occurring
within us. Let’s say one’s ‘awareness’ or ‘presence’ or level of health (remember, the Levels measure our degree of our
‘presence” or ‘awareness’), is located at Level 4. Here, our personality patterns are stable and we’re not creating much
mischief for ourselves or others. We have a comfortable social role that we utilize to navigate reality. Our negative, unconscious
manifestations are operating in a manageable fashion. We can comfortably navigate life and get along with the people in our
lives. Then we go to a workshop or retreat and become relaxed and undefended. Suddenly, we experience a clarity of mind that
we really like. Everything seems more evident and understandable. We experience deeper and more heartfelt connections with
others around us. We notice how much better, awake, alive and clear we feel. Our awareness (but not our center of gravity) has
moved up to the higher levels (perhaps Level 2 or 3) during the retreat, and we feel good, as ease, self-confident, trusting
ourselves and our impressions, and comfortable in our own skin. We feel grounded and have the strong sense of knowing who
we are and what we are about. In this relaxed, more present state, we may have deep insights into actions we took that harmed
others. We sense and see the effect we’ve had on others in our life, and perhaps realize how we’ve been checked out and
missing what is sacred and precious in those we love. We prepare to make heartfelt amends to them.

We notice when we return home that things that typically irritated us or set us off, don’t seem to activate us. We’re nicer to our
loved ones, and it comes naturally. Where we were feeling frustrated and filled with judgment towards a loved one, we now feel
open, compassion-ate and less disturbed. Our ability to understand and feel empathy for them is enhanced and we like this! It
seems that we can be with whatever arises in a healthy and constructive way, and we are not taken be taken by our habitual
and often not useful reactions. We have more freedom to be with whatever we encounter, to stay open and receptive, to see
options more easily. But we also notice that in a very short period of time, perhaps a week or so after we’ve returned from the
workshop, that we’ve lost the positive traces of the workshop inside us, and we’re back to our normal experience of reality
(Level 4). Our openness and well-being constricts. We had the good grace of experiencing Level 2 or 3, and now are back at the
center of gravity point, Level 4. We might even experience this return to our ‘home’ level as “I feel like myself again.” You find
yourself relaxing into a familiar, but less alive state of being.

Then, life being life, we have an upsetting conflict with someone we love and we get angry and defended, and become brittle and
restricted inside. Life does not feel good and it seems that all our emotional buttons are easily ignited. We overreact, take things
personally, and react to control others and our environment in the type-specific manner of our Enneagram type. In the moment
we can’t access what usually makes us feel happy, or at least, normal. In essence, we’ve dropped down to Level 5 or 6.  When
we’re out of the conflict and our tension releases, we return again to Level 4, our default setting.

Each of us knows what it’s like to be clearer and more aware on a given day, or to be foggy, irritated and confused, and that
during the course of the day we see that we go through a wide range of responsiveness, from being awake and clear, to upset
and reactive, depending on what is occurring around us. Real spiritual transformation is about moving our center of gravity up to
the higher levels, to the clearer and more present states of awareness, so that a deeper and more expanded state of
awakeness is stabilized within us. For example, as we work on our spiritual transformation in recovery we notice over time that
we are a lot calmer on a daily basis than when we first arrived in recovery. This represents a qualitative movement to a higher
level of awareness or presence. We’ve moved our center of gravity up, perhaps from Level 7 to Level 5. Although we can swing
back to Level 6 or 7 temporarily, we don’t live there. And on good days we may experience Level 4 or Level 3. Let’s take a look at
how addiction and relapse operate in reference to the Levels of Development.              

Addiction Recovery and the Levels of Development

When individuals arrive in addiction recovery their center of gravity is often located at Level 6 or 7. Locked in a narrow type-
specific personality prison, their range of choices for meeting their needs are small, repetitious and rarely satisfying (which
increases their fear and despair). Their substance of choice has been the vehicle that has given them fleeting moments of joy,
pleasure, and happiness, but by the time addiction is in full bloom, the positive benefits of their substance use have vanished.
Now they use substances to feel numb and less anxious, which in turn, causes more unhappiness, anxiety, and despair. The
worst of their personality type is fully in control. Stuck at Level 7, their heart has shut down (numbed and hardened) which
blinds them to what really nurtures and expands their heart, and destroys their capacity to sense the hearts of others. Heart-
dead, they take actions that injure those they love while being utterly unable to see how they have hurt them. With my heart shut
off, I can’t sense that my inattention to my children is devastating them. I can’t ‘feel’ how my angry words cut through my partner’
s heart. I can’t feel the true heartbreak of my disconnection with those I love. I can’t feel the true heartbreak of the destruction I’
m causing myself. I think I’m whistling past death as death tightens its grip around my

My mind, capable of perceiving reality with curiosity and intelligence, constricts to the ever-hardened certainty that my view on
reality is the “correct” and “only” view. I perceive life out of the fear-filled, deluded window of Level 6 and 7. I become more
certain of my delusions, saying, “I don’t have a drinking or drugging problem; you’re the one with the problems!”—which is
maddening and heart-breaking for loved ones. I’m possessed by a consuming selfishness regarding what I want, need or
deserve (Level 6 and 7 manifestations = me, me, me!) while inundated with bone-cracking, low self-esteem that I am either
crushed by, or transform into a stance of crazy superiority. It’s as if I’m returned to a raw state of early childhood and am solely
concerned with my singular needs. In reality, I’ve shut down and can’t sense the needs or feelings of others nor my own.        

Lost in the deluded states of Level 6 and 7 it appears to others that I don’t care about my family, my children, my jobs, or my
health. Truth is I am overwhelmed (which translates to a heart, mind and soul that are closed and frozen like a fist) and unable
to comprehend the truth of my situation. I have one goal: to end or numb my suffering. If I am fortunate and get sober, you will
witness the terrible, heart-breaking remorse I feel for the abandonment of all whom I love. As reality comes on-line (my
objective experience of what has happened in my life), I will drop to my knees in horror, shame and heart-breaking sorrow. I
truly could not see what I was creating.

At Level 6 and 7 the individual has fallen down the rabbit-hole of psychological awareness and can barely perceive any facet of
reality with clarity or precision. This is the horrid nature of addiction. The further one falls down the Levels of Health, the more
likely that some kind of devastation will have to intercede to stop the descent, and to hopefully inspire or guide them to get help.
Often people do get into recovery via the loss of everything they care about. But it is by no means the only way.

Addicted individuals (or substance abusing individuals) are not easy to help. They are defensive, reactive, and blame others for
their suffering (The nature of being at Level 6 & 7). As individuals who have attempted to get loved ones into addiction treatment
will attest, the addicted individual is often tenaciously resistant to their attempts to help them. And for good reason— they are
unable to embrace and ‘see,’ ’sense,’ or ‘feel’ what is real—that their life is in serious danger and they are destroying everything
they care about. However, if they get clean and sober and are living in an environment of support and compassion, they will start
to relax their defensiveness and get glimpses of reality. By not acting out their impulses to shame, blame, judge or hurt another
or themselves, and by staying sober and clean and following a path of 12-Step Recovery (or another spiritual path), they will
begin the process of truly seeing and healing their suffering. And with continued inner work, they will begin to make the ascent
to the higher levels of health. This is where the gift of the Enneagram intervenes. As they understand the psychological terrain of
their type, and what is required to ascend the Levels of Health indicated by their type, they begin to take the type-specific
corrective actions that support this growth. In addition, they will develop the awareness and skill to disidentify with the magnetic
habits of their personality type, which brings further clarity and growth.                                                             

Navigating the Levels in Recovery—What it Means to Become Conscious                                               

When an individual is living at level 5 or below they are living in a state of unconsciousness. (This doesn’t mean they don’t have
times during their day when they are more conscious and present.) What does being “conscious” of oneself mean? If an
individual is conscious they are able to objectively observe themselves in action. That is, when they are triggered emotionally
they remember the event and their feelings as it ‘actually’ happened. If someone pushes an emotional button of vulnerability in
them and they respond with quick anger or make an aggressive attack to cover this feeling of vulnerability, in self-reflection
they can say to themselves: “Wow, I wasn’t really under an attack by Thomas, but his tone of voice seemed to ignite fear inside
me. Without thinking I reacted as if he was bringing on a full-scale attack. I was scared for some reason, and instead of simply
saying I was triggered by his tone of voice, I reacted with instantaneous fear, anger and attack, and put him on the defensive. It
happened so quickly that I couldn’t control it, and I completely lost track of my real feeling of fear. None of this was planned. I
need to apologize.”

A more conscious person is able to track their reactive responses and to quickly make amends in their communication. Or, at
the very least, can quickly reflect in the aftermath of the reactive explosion, that “Yes, I was a little insane in my response, in
fact, I wasn’t there at all. What was there was my habitual emotional ‘reaction’ that got triggered before I could even say, Hold
on there, Jackson, let’s think this through. The reaction exploded from the gates of myself like a frenzied racehorse, while I
stood in the aftermath thinking, yikes, I will need to apologize for this reaction once

An unconscious person will believe their reactive response (Level 5 and down), and believe that their over-reaction was a
necessary and correct interpretation of reality. At the healthy levels of expression (Level 1 to 3) the individual is less likely to
misread the behavior of another as an attack on them, or will be able to notice in the moment that someone’s behavior is
triggering something vulnerable or reactive in them. They will not impulsively retaliate with either withdrawal, or counter attack.
This is precisely what happens at the average levels and unhealthy levels of health. People go unconscious and don’t know they’
ve gone unconscious. It all happens so fast that they are unable to sit back and observe what they felt, how they reacted, and to
what extent their response was a result of their own internal reactivity. Their type-specific way of leaving reality has taken
The Type Eight Going Blind—The Dynamics of Type “Triggers”                         

As an example of this, let’s look at the Type Eight. When healthy, the Type Eight is inspired to express strength, decisiveness,
courage and power in service of love and support of others. He enthusiastically takes charge of his life and its direction. At his
core he has a fear of being violated and controlled. His ‘triggers’ center around his perceived loss of control, and his potential
violation or betrayal by others. When he is living at the average levels of health and below his gut response to perceived threats
is unrestrained anger and assertion, forceful and quick. (As in, “Get the hell out of my way. This is war. Don’t mess with me or I’ll
hurt you, now.”) But here’s the deal. When the Type Eight is unaware of his triggers (the perception and fear that he’s being
attacked—L5 and down) he may be prone to attacking and confronting the environment, people, groups, etc., when they aren’t
really attacking or threatening him in the least, while he feels certain they are. If he stays unconscious to this internal response
pattern, he will feel justified in attacking whenever he senses a threat, real or imagined (Level 5-7 dynamics) and he will end up
causing the very attacks he is fearful of receiving.

He will be constantly monitoring the environment for signs of betrayal, or for signs of someone trying to take his independence
away, and will snap into action when he feels this is happening. In effect, he becomes “an attack waiting to happen” and will
experience life through the tiny window of “Life is a battle that I must defend myself against.” The more unconscious he is (L5
and below), the more he will be an attack-dog simply waiting to be betrayed.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of the Type

Charged for attack, what sort of freedom does this give the Type Eight? Almost none. The farther an individual has descended
down the Levels the less freedom he has to navigate life with flexibility and clarity, and the more he creates what he wishes to
avoid (welcome to the prison cell of Level 5-7). His ability to open up and experience loving connection with others, to trust life
itself, to feel the graceful flow of life, will be greatly hindered. Until the Eight gets healthier he will continually create and fulfill his
self-fulfilling prophecy and core belief: that life is a battle and he must defend himself against it or be harmed. His capacity to be
at ease, to be vulnerable and open to others will be minimal. He will have little range of movement to taste and experience the
broad range of possibilities for joy, spontaneity, love, celebration, tenderness and gentle reverie. Little real happiness will touch
him. And his unhappiness will further support his belief that life is an unpleasant place where people will attack you and harm
you. (And addiction will look like a solution. Why stay clean and sober when I can’t trust life or enjoy it?!)

Looking at life through the window of paranoia and betrayal, he will see justification  everywhere for his feeling of paranoia and
betrayal. He will be unaware that he is missing a broad expanse of human experience and confusing his one-window view of the
world as reality (Level 5 and below in all the types). Nor will he see that this fixed way of seeing life creates life to be exactly as
he projects it.                                                                                 

Recovering individuals living at L5 to L7 are often in the grip of their own self-fulfilling prophecy, paradoxically creating the
reality they wish to avoid. Sober, they discover that they habitually undo their very best work. As their heart, mind and body close
down due to their emotional reactivity or fixated thinking patterns, they unwittingly head in the wrong direction. The Type Nine
lives fearful of conflict and separation from loved ones and by disengaging from reality he creates terrible conflicts and
separation from those he loves. The Type One lives fearful of being wrong and making errors and through his opinionated, harsh
judgments makes psychological and emotional errors that isolate him from others. The Type Two lives fearful of having no love
and by her unhealthy attempts to intrude upon, connect with and create love with others, insures she will not be loved. The Type
Three lives fearful of failure and striving to promote an image of success at all costs and gain approval from others, fails his
own heart and loses what he cares most about. The Type Four lives fearful of being insignificant, and through his self-absorbed,
envious, entitled behaviors (L5-L7 behaviors) creates the very insignificance he seeks to avoid. The Five, afraid of not
understanding life, withdraws into his analyzing mind and loses contact with real understanding. The Six, filled with doubt and
wanting security, creates more doubt and insecurity through his worrying, anxious mind and reactive behaviors. The Seven,
seeking true satisfaction and joy, creates unhappiness through his impulsive search for satisfaction. The Eight, fearful of being
harmed, defends and protects himself in such manner that he inspires retaliation and rejection by those he cares for.

With the dynamics of the Levels of Development under our belt, let’s take a look at the next chapter.

Introduction to Utilizing the Enneagram in Addiction and Transformation by Michael Naylor, M.ED  Copyright 2012
The Enneagram Center for Transformation and Change
Enneagram Center for Transformation and Change
South Portland, Maine 04106

By using this website, you agree to our
Terms of Use and Privacy
© Copyright 2014
The Enneagram Center for Transformation and Change.  All rights
The Enneagram, Addiction Recovery & Transformation of Self Sabotaging
The Levels of Development in Addiction Recovery
*Information on each of the nine Riso-Hudson type names  and related Enneagram concepts are from the
Enneagram Institute © Copyright 1998-2011.  All rights reserved.  Used with Permission.  Please see our relevant
Dedication.  For the Very Best information available on the Enneagram go to