The Enneagram and the Types

The Enneagram Symbol

What is the Enneagram? It is a system that describes the Nine fundamental Types of personality. “Ennea” means nine, and “gram” means model or type: Nine Types of personality. As you can see by the abovediagram of the Enneagram, there are nine points located around the circle, with a triangle and a six-sided-figure, the hexad, located inside the circle. The circle represents the One, God, the Absolute, Great Spirit or the Unity of everything. The triangle represents the three centers of intelligence in a human being: the Instinctive Center (the body, the instincts and five senses), the Emotional Center (or the Heart/Feeling Center) and the Thinking Center.

Put simply, when an individual becomes conscious in all three centers of intelligence then he becomes a fully conscious human being, present and awake and internally and externally unified, “at-one” or in harmony with himself and life, which represents the circle. He is awake, present, and healthy, not pulled in dozens of directions, but is in a state of unity within himself. He knows himself and is at ease within himself, the very goal of addiction recovery. He is happy, joyous, free, serene, and able to navigate life optimally. (The graphic of the triangle inside the circle has been a cornerstone of AA for fifty or more years. The triangle represents the three sides of recovery: recovery, unity and service, while the triangle represents God and comes directly from the Enneagram. Only missing to complete the symbol as the Enneagram is the six-sided hexad, the symbol of growth or decline.)

The hexad, the six sided figure (which runs from 1 to 7 to 5 to 8 to 2 to 4 to 1 inside the circle), is the symbol for change. It symbolizes the reality that everything is in a state of change, be it evolving or disintegrating. Nothing is static. If a human being becomes conscious they begin to evolve, expand, and experience reality on deeper and more satisfying levels. If they remain unconscious then they move in the direction of negativity and addiction. As is said in recovery circles, “You either grow, or you go.” Meaning, you are either evolving or expanding your awareness, or inevitably preparing for a relapse back into unhappiness and addiction.The Enneagram is a tool for assisting individuals in becoming conscious, aware, and joyfully engaged with self and loved ones. It is a map out of the darkness of addiction and into the realm of freedom, well-being, and the capacity to create deep emotional bonds and serve those one loves.

The Roots of the Enneagram

The Enneagram symbol can be traced back to 2500 B.C. in Egypt. Through a remarkable adventure a man named Georges Gurdjieff discovered the symbol in Afghanistan in the early 1900s and through Gurdjieff, the symbol eventually made its way to America. (To get a glimpse of this remarkable journey, read In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky.) It was in the 1950s that Oscar Ischazo associated the Nine points of the Enneagram symbol with Nine different personality types, and then through the pioneering work of Don Riso beginning in 1970 that the depth of the Types was mapped out.

Don Riso discovered that there are nine Levels of Development in the types divided into three sections: healthy, average, and unhealthy. These levels are critical for understanding addiction, and the particular way it manifests in each type, and the specific challenges that each type faces in their journey to recovery and discovery of their true self (See Chapter 2 on the Levels of Development).

Don Riso also discovered the psychic structure of the types, identifying the psychological paradigm that each type lives in and struggles with. The more unconscious an individual is (as a result of trauma and addiction) the more one is imprisoned and blinded by the restrictive and compulsive defense mechanisms germane to his type. That is, the less freedom the individual has to objectively experience reality, to consciously choose his response, or to choose amongst possible alternatives. In addition, the more unconscious and constricted an individual is, the less likely he will respond with clarity and alertness, or have the capacity to draw upon his innate gifts to navigate and celebrate life. His defensive reactions will limit his ability to engage, enjoy and trust people, or to navigate life with grace and dignity and confidence.

The Enneagram is designed to open the doors to an individual’s freedom such that one’s genuine, innate self can arise and no longer be shrouded in misery. Knowledge of the psychic structure of one’s type is critical for making this heroic journey through addiction, and for releasing the defensive structures one has acquired due to one’s suffering.

The Psychic Structure of the Personality

The internal psychic structure of each type consists of the following:

The Essential Qualities of the Type represents the innate gifts and qualities of Authentic Being that an individual is born with. When individuals are forced to disengage and close down their true qualities due to an environment that cannot support them, the Basic Fear arises in response to this soul-cracking shock. The basic fear represents the tremendous terror that ensues when contact with one’s genuine qualities and real self) is lost. The small child goes into a freak out that Riso-Hudson call this the Primal Catastrophe. The more we’ve disconnected from our true essence and innate gifts, the more we experience this fear, and the more rigid, defensive and contracted we become in response to the loss. In response to the basic fear, a Basic Desire arises that reflects an individual’s wish to manifest and reconnect to the inherent gifts of their type, to the innate gifts that the individual loves deeply and wishes to express and be in contact with.

The Passion of the type (not one’s creative passion but the emotional habit of the type) reflects the emotional reaction and constriction one experiences when losing contact with one’s true nature. When an individual’s heart shuts down (be it from life trauma or addiction) the particular passion, or emotional habit, of the Type is activated. The Fixation or mental habit of the type works in concert with the passion supporting the individual’s disengagement from reality, thus inhibiting the individual’s capacity to know and sense what is real. Depending on how strongly the individual is under the power of his type-specific fixation and passion, he will be more or less unconscious and unable to clearly observe himself and the suffering he is causing self and others. Addiction and substance abuse intensifies the emotional passion and mental fixation of the individual and sends him into more reactive, impulsive and constricted behavior, thus increasing his suffering and his tendency to be driven deeper into addiction.

The Inner Critic represents the type-specific ways that an individual has learned to criticize him/herself and abandon himself (meaning shut down his true feelings, thoughts, and aliveness in order to be safe and avoid conflict, suffering and attacks from the environment). The Inner Critic and its soul-inhibiting messages develop in a child in reaction to the many ‘shoulds,’ ‘expectations’ ‘rules’ and “judgments’ ‘condemnations’ and ‘shaming’ communicated to him through his parents, friends, care-givers, culture, school, teachers, etc., all of which gave birth to his inner critic messages that play like an audio-tape through his mind. When a child learns that he or she cannot safely express anger, joy, fear, enthusiasm, love, tenderness, honesty, etc., the child develops a type-specific ‘Inner Critic Messages’ that support the inhibition of what is real and true within him or her. He learns to ‘act’ in a certain manner, shape-shifting to please or adapt to his care-givers demands. The Inner Critic Messages support the automatic operation of the fixation and passion, and serves to discourage expansion, optimization, and free-flowing creativity, love, joy and in the
individual. Initially developed to endure and numb the suffering of childhood, the Inner Critic mechanism is a prime source of unhappiness and addiction in adulthood.

The Self-Image consists of each Type’s identification with their innate capacities. For instance, the Type Four draws on his sensitivity and creativity to develop an identity. When healthy the Four’s self-image actually reflects who he truly is. The Four says, “I am sensitive, creative, passionate, emotional real, intuitive, attuned to the depth and beauty of reality” and his actions reflect his self-image. As the Type Four (or any Type) loses contact with what is real and true within them, they continue to believe they are manifesting the healthy qualities of their self-image while their behaviors begin to move in the opposite direction. The less healthy they are, the more their actual behaviors reflect the opposite of their innate gifts. The less healthy Type Four treats individuals with insensitivity but imagines himself as sensitive. This distortion magnifies when addiction sets in, as does his self-awareness.These are the fundamental psychic-structure building blocks of the individual’s personality type. They will be specifically described in each chapter on the Types. Let’s take a brief look at the Nine Types.

The Nine Types in Recovery

There are nine types of individuals. Each of us has inherited a particular personality type (or temperament) that we navigate life with. This is the lens through which we interpret, receive and experience reality. When healthy we express the positive qualities of our type in our own unique manner while the negative manifestations are only mildly problematic. When we are not healthy our negative manifestations hold sway over us and we are often run by our defensive emotional and mental habits which operate automatically and often beyond our conscious control and insight. We take actions without our permission (Similar to the alcoholic who realizes ‘I drink without my permission.). We act without real choice or real awareness. That is, ‘we react’, rather than ‘act.’ Much like our drinking and drugging addictions. When less healthy we can’t observe ourselves clearly or accurately, don’t have eyes to see what is triggering us and moving us into action, can’t consciously see our buttons have been pushed, and can’t perceive with accuracy how our behavior has affected others, or us. And yet we think we understand reality, think we are interpreting correctly. Bottom-line: We become sincerely deluded.

Your type indicates a spectrum of positive qualities and attributes that you are endowed with and describes the manner in which you embrace reality, or leave reality and abandon yourself and your gifts, through addiction and your type-specific, unconscious reactive habits. When an individual becomes more defensive and reactive (less healthy) he begins to express behaviors that run opposite to his innate gifts. Let’s briefly take a look at some of these dynamics.

For instance, the healthy Type One is the Reformer (The type names come from the work of Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and can be found in all their books. See The Wisdom of the Enneagram.), known for being very rational, principled, fair, and idealistic. He is motivated to improve himself so as to deliver services to the world that qualitatively improve it and inspire it. The healthy One embodies the wonderful qualities of honesty, integrity, practicality and reasonableness. But as they become unhealthy their gifts turn to criticizing what is wrong with you and with the world, such that you feel frustrated, degraded, and on bad days, corrupt and evil. Impatient with the slow progress you are making, they sometimes toss their arms up, barge in on you and declare, “Let me do this, I know how to do it correctly” and take over. You’re not sure whether to break down and cry, or slug them. Either way you feel as though you were doing it wrong, imperfectly, and way too slowly. As in, “What the hell is wrong with you, can’t you see the ‘right way to do it.’ Move over and let me do it. It’s a damn good thing I’m in your life, cowboy.” Chagrin driven, their pursed lips constraining judgment like a tight fist, body tense and filled with negative evaluations, the less than healthy One will rigidly fix what you are unable to. You may be swamped with an intense wave of judgment, your gut tightening and recoiling on the feeling that you are inherently bad. Not fun, for you or them.

You can recognize the Type One in ‘early recovery’ at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because they know the rules, want the rules engaged properly, and have a strong sense that they know how AA and the 12 steps ‘should’ be practiced. They are often frustrated because no one seems to understand what they understand. They are impatient with the lack of perfection demonstrated by other recovering people, and the apparent disorder that shows up at AA meetings. Internally they may be scolding everyone in the room, their body language, tone of voice communicating ‘There is a right way to do things!’ At their worst they become strident, curmudgeon’s, sober but angry. Able to stay sober, they are unable to rest, relax, be playful, or express gratitude. How can they? Their judging mind (the mental fixation of the One) is too busy spotting exactly what needs to be improved. Unless they engage in spiritual, psychological transformation, (step work, healing emotional work, meditation) in time their lack of joy will re-open the door to their addiction.

The healthy Type Two, the Helper, is caring, generous, attuned to the needs and hurts of others, and inspired to help those needing help. They love people and seek to touch others with love. At their best they render generous loving-kindness and compassion, expressing warmth and emotional support for your suffering. But as they become less healthy they can be compelled to help you no matter what, to intrude and give you what they’ve determined you need, and are angered or hurt when you fail to notice their giving actions. Their gift of kindness and compassion, when unhealthy, can turn to a weapon used to make you feel indebted to them. Often in great need of feeling loved, they can sell themselves out for the temporary fix of someone returning or noticing their kindness.You can notice them at AA meetings in early recovery because they are scanning the room for an individual who needs them, and who they might love and save. Their “who needs love” radar is constantly monitoring. When unhealthy they are driven to mother others and are at risk of being taken advantage of by other wounded individuals. They represent the classic enabler (remembering that all of us has an affinity with type two dynamics—remember, we have all the types inside us and can be enablers in our own way) looking to find the alcoholic/drug addict who needs saving. Unwittingly they believe that they can love the ‘sick’ person back to health. Instead of asking and getting help for their addiction, they relapse trying to save another wounded warrior.

The healthy Type Three, the Achiever, is motivated to succeed, to become the best they can be, to shine and polish their gifts, to become a paragon of self-development. At their finest they motivate others to express their talents to the fullest, to strive for the best within themselves, to capitalize on the talents they possess, to celebrate their capacities and bring them to the world. But at average and unhealthy levels they are driven to impress you or whoever else they deem as important to their self-esteem. They put on the face of whatever is considered the “best” and “most admired,” morphing into what they believe you want them to be to gain your approval.

At AA meetings in early recovery they can be motivated to show you how successful they are working the steps, and can put on the “healthy” face of the ideal AA member. Like a chameleon they literally morph into the picture of recovery ‘health” to demonstrate their recovery ‘success.’ They can ‘perform’ feelings flawlessly while simultaneously being out of touch with their feelings, particularly feelings of grief, sadness, remorse, or inner suffering. Being disengaged from their true emotions, the dragon of addiction rises and takes them into the dream world of their addiction, where they can fantasize and become the “star” they hunger to be—at least in moments of drug intoxication.

The healthy Type Four is the Individualist, and is known for being expressively creative, introspective and sensitive. When healthy they are capable of understanding and articulating the depths and heights of human experience through a chosen art form. At their best they express both the beauty and horror of existence while demonstrating the potential of the human soul to transcend suffering, turning horror into spiritual gold. Deeply attuned to their feelings, they invite you to go deeper.When unhealthy, the Four becomes self-absorbed, searching through their emotional reactions and wounds for their identity, constructing an inner fantasy world to retreat to. Suffering deeply, they become entitled, hyper-sensitive, and narcissistically reactive—meaning everything seems to be about them, and often non-attuned properly to them. Others walk on eggshells around them, afraid of their potential for emotional reactions. Their profound gentleness and compassion has turned to envy, jealousy, and rage.At AA meetings in early recovery you will notice them because of their tendency to be withdrawn and mysterious. Hard to reach, they give off a message that says, “Stay away” while internally hoping they are noticed. Hyper-sensitive to the actions of others, and struggling with self-hatred and self-rejection, when they finally open up they pour the blood and guts of their soul onto the floor—nothing is edited—shocking and waking everyone up in the room. Feeling like nobodies they can remain on the outside of participation (where help is available), and fall prey to loneliness, depression and self-pity. It is here that the back door to their addiction swings wide open, promising relief.

The Type Five is called the Investigator and is known for being an intense analyzer, perceiver, and observer of life. Endlessly curious they are inspired to understand things at depth, to go to the very bottom of the object of their fascination to discover what is real and true. At their best they create worlds within worlds, and master intricate understandings of things many cannot comprehend, let alone think about. Perceptive and intense, they have a passion for exploring, analyzing and mastering new fields of thought. Their gift to the world is outrageous curiosity and open-minded inquiry. When unhealthy, they become cynical, nihilistic and contemptuous of the stupidity of human beings. Disconnected from their heart they are secretive and mistrusting, and begin to use their knowledge and wisdom to protect themselves, and to hurt and shame others. They become hyper-focused on what is negative. At AA meetings you might notice them barely. They can be very withdrawn, as though off in another world and yet they see every move you make, hear every word you say, nothing goes unnoticed. There is a covert spy in the room, and it’s the Five.

In early recovery they can be sullen, critical, dark, the one delivering the bad news, calling a spade a spade, and seeing the bullshit and naming it, doing their best to destroy and annihilate the comfortable myths individuals live by—and unable to see what is good. Because of their innate brilliance they can be repulsed by the lack of intelligence and perceptiveness in people and can retaliate with aggressive scorn, pushing everyone away. In this way they unwittingly distance themselves from the help they could receive at an AA meeting (NA, counseling, etc.).

The healthy Type Six is the Loyalist, known for seeking, creating and wanting security, and for being loyal to those individuals, causes, or organizations they identify with. At their best they are able to engage others and to enlist them in their particular causes. Kind, respectful, supportive of those in need, down to earth and unpretentious, one of the guys (or gals), their inviting manner, their good will and earthy humor invites others to join forces with them. At their core they can struggle with continual anxiety around who to trust, what to trust, what to rely on, who to depend on. At their best they are pathfinders, guides for others, and warriors for the security of others.

As they become unhealthy they find it difficult to relax, be at ease, and due to anxiety and worry, are often driven to make sure they’ve done what is expected of them. Plagued by a worrying mind, anticipating the next thing that could go wrong, and thinking ten steps ahead of reality, they are hyper-vigilant to any cues that might suggest potential bad outcomes. In early recovery you see them at AA meetings, anxious, nervous, trying to be the good AA, yet at the same time wired towards rebellion against anything that smacks of too much authority. Back and forth between following and rejecting the rules, they are nervous-Nellie’s. And yet, at their best, they are looking for ways to support everyone, to collaborate and make people feel welcome, supported, and part of the community. A prime relapse trigger for them is the overwhelming feeling of anxiety. Unless they develop skill in working with this sensation, and learn to develop quiet mind, their addiction will be ripe for takeover.

The healthy Type Seven is the Enthusiast, who is often a spark plug of fun and humor and improvisation. With an adrenaline-fueled mind and spirit, they enjoy the blast of excitement that comes from entertaining and experiencing all the possibilities of life. They deliver a gift to the world: life is to be savored and experienced fully, unabashedly, spontaneously, joyfully! Celebrate it! Like a humming bird flitting from flower to flower, they fly from experience to experience, tasting and savoring and satisfied by each moment. At the healthy levels they are spontaneous, creative, futuristic, visionary, competent, fast thinking and fast acting, and able to synthesize an array of information and make sense of it. Story-tellers, and magicians of words, they can create improvisation celebration with only the slightest cues.

At average and unhealthy levels they are driven by anxiety and a fear that if they sit still too long, they will be captured in negative emotions, and stuck in pain and ‘boredom’ forever. Thus, they have a tremendous aversion to staying with any painful feelings that arise, or any painful experience they are involved in. Often, their mind becomes manically cluttered with the search for more and better pleasurable experiences. Their humor becomes a torch of derision and humiliation. Their joy turns to cynicism and self-centered seeking. Their ability to bring hope to others turns to self-centeredness indulgence.

The Seven in early recovery struggles with the slowness of recovery. And yet recovery mean’s slowing down long enough to sense and take stock of what addiction has done to one’s life. For the Seven this is almost unbearable. Faced with the results of their addiction, overwhelming sensations of impatience, boredom, and fear of being trapped, arise. Unless the Seven learns to navigate these intense feelings states and allow themselves enough time to sense their deeper feelings, their fast-fluctuating attention will catapult them directly back into the arms of their addiction.

The Type Eight is the Challenger, an assertive, decisive individual who loves to be in charge. At their best the Eight is strong, courageous, protective of those weaker, and inspired to make an impact on the world. Passionate about empowering others and sharing their strength, they exhibit and inspire confidence, independence and a can-do capacity in others. Inspired by risks that challenge their skills, they thrive on adventures that test their strength, and inspire others to confront and move through their fears and limitations.

When no longer healthy they are driven by a fear of being violated and harmed, and losing their independence. They become a hard shell of aggressiveness, and adopt a style of attack-before-you-are-attacked, and overwhelm the opposition with force and intensity to control them. In a state of fear (that they deny or are unaware of) they use their power to control people, places and things, and expect others to praise and respect them for their capabilities. They protect themselves with grandiose displays of power, or by threatening others who don’t recognize their capacity.

In early recovery they act as if they are the generals of the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, in charge of it, having the last and final word on everything. It’s their way or the highway (They can get into turf battles with Types One). Unafraid to confront people who are not following their dictates, and being driven to overexert their influence with other AAs, they can quickly inspire defiance and rebellion in others. Calling a spade a spade in the name of honesty (remember this: honesty without compassion is simply a camouflage and rationalization for attacking someone), they push people away. Driven by the belief that they must be fully independent, learning to ask for help and humble themselves, and recognizing their heartfelt need for human support and kindness is a primary recovery lesson.

The healthy Type Nine is known as the Peacemaker. Recognized for being easy-going, laid-back, kind and unpretentious, they create space for people to simply relax and be. This soothing capacity defuses angry exchanges, assists people in settling down and returning to objective and calm reasoning, and creates space for peace to abide. Their ability to create comfort and affiliation between opposing sides is their hallmark, that is, they assist others in recognizing how much they are alike and have in common, and from this place of unified connection, the ground for creation of peace unfolds. Healers at heart, they inspire others to relax, be at peace, and rest in well-being.

When no longer healthy the Nine can become a ghost. Feeling terribly vulnerable to conflict, they become agreeable and compliant and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. Saying “yes” when they mean “no” they avoid conflicts or controversy at all costs. Disengaging from a felt sense with reality, they float into the world of their imagination, hanging out in their inner cave of safety and comfort (One Nine friend names this his ‘inner bomb shelter’ where no one can affect him. Another call it ‘going down the rabbit hole.’). While attending to tasks in their daily life, they create soothing routines that further support their need to remain hidden and to avoid unexpected difficulties or conflicts that might arise and disturb their peace.

At AA meetings and recovery circles they are quiet and non-intrusive, and agreeable to a fault. Masters at utilizing an Invisibility Cloak, they can vanish without even moving. While conflicts arise around them, they are secure in a comfortable fantasy, living in a soothing dream. Hidden, they disengage from the present moment where real people with real emotions live, where they could engage and enter life and feel substantial fulfillment. The unhealthy Nine relapses repeatedly from living in their Inner Bomb-Shelter, looking for the food of their soul in the imagination, and utilizing addictive substances to further bolster this safe-haven, dream world.

Transformation and Thriving in Recovery: Awakening Essential Qualities

That said, it is apparent that in all the Types there is a potential for healthy to less healthy expression and awareness. Each type, when healthy, is in touch with the Essential Qualities of their Type. Bill Wilson, in As Bill Sees It, alludes to these expanded, more present states (which he describes as ‘Presence’) when he describes his first spiritual experience:

“Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, ‘So this is the God of the preachers.’” (As Bill See It, p. 2)

Although words are difficult to explain these states of ‘Presence’, all recovery work aims towards the resurrection of these very real, satisfying, and embodied states of joy, clarity, compassion, aliveness and true authenticity. Sometimes alluded to as ‘happy, joyous and free,’ the Enneagram describes the full gamut of possibilities for individuals who do the required inner work of transformation. Happy, joyous and free becomes a multi-faceted diamond that unfolds at deeper and deeper levels of self-realization, as the recovering individual more fully inhabits his body, his heart, and quiet mind.

The challenge for men and women in addiction recovery is two-fold: First, based on one’s type, becoming clear about those habits of mind, heart, and body that limit one’s range of expression and capacity to engage and sense reality, and set one up for their particular type-specific delusions, and patterns of repeated suffering and addiction relapse. And secondly—becoming equally clear about what wakes up joy, enthusiasm, deep love, intimate connections with others, courage, value, competency, spontaneity and the ability to flow with reality (the Essential Qualities of the types). Both must be addressed and understood if one is to have a transformative, expansive, adventurous experience of sobriety. Hey, if your life isn’t getting richer, deeper, more inspiring, creative, interesting, impacting, and fully participated in, why be sober? And it is always ‘chronic unhappiness’ that drives sober and clean individuals back into the arms of addiction. Understanding these patterns is the tremendous contribution the Enneagram makes to addiction recovery and the real transformation of negative ego patterns.

There are many people who get sober and lack clear knowledge and understanding about how to move in the direction of their greatest potentials. They become bored, disappointed, frustrated, stuck in repetitious feeling states, flat-line emotionally and often eventually relapse. This tenet rules: If you stop moving in the direction of your growth, stop expanding, you will wake up every negative potential of your type—and your addiction. (In AA terms it is spoken as “Either you grow or you go.”) Out will come the inner monsters of addiction and self-destruction, licking their lips. Your soul wants growth. Your personality and its treasured, familiar habits, does not.

Let’s move to the Levels of Development and see more specifically how this all works.

Introduction to Utilizing the Enneagram in Addiction and Transformation by Michael Naylor, M.ED Copyright 2018

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