Personality Types

Nines: "You're Not Really That Sick"

A couple years ago, a woman I know developped a rare condition.  The symptoms of her condition, affecting a mere 6,000 people in the world, are mostly invisible, so her regular doctors had a hard time believing she was really in pain.  After about year of physical pain coupled with the psychological torment of watching her life unravel, no longer able to work, drive, think straight, or get enough sleep, and not knowing why, she eventually- and incredibly- found a specialist a mere ten hours away who knew about her illness, a massive comfort after encountering hostility and skepticism from her general practitioners. 

Six Things To Know About Depression

I feel ill-qualified to write a blogpost about depression this morning; there are hundreds of millions of articles on the internet about it, many of which are written by medical doctors who've been studying psychology for several years.  Having depression doesn't necessarily qualify a person to write about it for two reasons. 

Is There Enough Internal Conflict in Downton Abbey's Mr. Carson?

Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey's butler.   Image from

Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey's butler.  Image from

He seems pretty easy to type- as a stickler for decorum, serving the Crowleys properly and containing his emotions- Mr. Carson, the butler on Downton Abbey, seems to fit pretty neatly into the Type One constellation of characteristics of the Perfectionist.  We can all be perfectionists from time to time in our lives, but Ones take the compulsion to bring everything into alignment with their inner "north star"-- that which is good, virtuous and true-- to the level where it defines their entire approach to life. 

Let's look in depth at the logic behind the type to see if anything's missing in Carson's portrayal... because seriously, where is his anger? He does get exasperated from time to time, but he's usually walked it off between the kitchen and his office.  Where is the perpetual, roiling frustration with imperfection?

In Personality Types, Riso and Hudson describe the healthy Type One as "conscientious with strong personal convictions, [with a desire] to be rational, reasonable, and self-disciplined, mature, and moderate in all things".   When they're in the average levels (where 99% of the world inhabits), those traits become a bit more rigid, resulting in an inability to appreciate themselves or what arises in their environment as inherently good; thus, they become trapped in an interminable mental habit of trying to alter their behavior or that of others to fit their definition of perfection.  In their minds, they are responsible for maintaining a high standard of practices, and if it weren't for them, the whole order of things would fall apart.

We do see Carson time and time again correcting others, noting a tear in their uniform, demanding that they carry out their duties with more seriousness, or that they serve the food with the proper gloves.  But if he's a Social One, he'd be more complainy and huffy (not to mention more sociable), and if he's a Self-Preservation One, there would be more attempts at self-improvement, and the anger would be almost invisible except in private with Mrs. Hughes or alone in his office.  We can get into distinctions of the subtypes of Ones later, but first let's look at the overall traits of the type called The Perfectionist.

Not only is Carson a product of the One-ish Victorian/Edwardian era where libidinal energy is moralized and kept strictly under wraps throughout the land, but Carson is a personification of the archetype himself.  His personality is largely responsible for casting an air of severity, gravity and seriousness to the downstairs culture of Downton Abbey, but maintaining order and making sure staff are kept in line are actually his job, so as a One, he's perfectly placed as the butler.  Moreover, he's perfectly cast, as I believe the actor who plays him is also a One. 

So with all this drive for perfection in the culture, the script and in the actor himself, I wonder if something is missing in his portrayal of a One.  The whole crux of their internal dilemma hinges on a simultaneous desire for perfection and an unwillingness to admit an ounce of badness or wrongness into consciousness, whether their own or anyone else's, so instead of relaxing into the perfection of life as it arises, they try to change it, correct it, or rigidly suppress it.

This idea that everything is already perfect is the Holy Truth for the Type One.  It's not an easy one to swallow, though, and Sandra Maitri, master of depth psychology in the Enneagram field, helps us understand the truth that Ones are trying desperately- and justifiably- to bring to the world.  "Without the filter of the subjective self", she explains, "we see that all of existence has a quality of completeness, wholeness, and faultlessness just because it is."  She borrows an analogy of Almaas' to expand:

We know from physics that atoms are the building blocks of all matter, and they in turn are made up of subatomic particles like electrons and photons, and smaller still, quarks and gluons.  All atoms are complete, whole, and perfect unless they are altered, which is what happens when we create a nuclear explosion.  At this atomic level, whether the atoms make up an emerald or excrement, the reality of each atom is still perfect.

But when there is so much war, selfishness, and hatred in the world, how does it make sense to say that everything is perfect as it is?  I believe Almaas' response is probably something that one can only see through many years of meditation. 

The way we ordinarily see the world is not the way it really is because we see it from the perspective of our judgments and preferences, our likes and dislikes, our fears and our ideas of how things should be.  So to see things as they really are, which is to see things objectively, we have to put these aside- in other words, we have to let go of our minds.  Seeing things objectively means that it doesn't matter whether we think what we're looking at is good or bad- it means just seeing it as it is.  If a scientist is conducting an experiment, he doesn't say, "I don't like this so I'll ignore it."  He may not personally care for the results because they don't confirm his theory, but pure science means seeing things the way they really are.  If he says he is not going to pay attention to the experiment because he doesn't like it, that is not science.  Yet, this is the way most of us deal with reality, inwardly and outwardly.

The personality, the filter that separates us from Essence, prevents us from seeing everything as inherently good and complete, a particularly painful loss for the One.  We can trace their compulsion to correct herself or her environment back to the pre-verbal stage of infancy when, as Freudian developmental psychologist Margaret Mahler suggests, the infant, having just emerged from the womb, still has a pristine sense of awareness that everything is connected, and they are connected to it all through mother's warmth. 

The perfect circle, otherwise known as the Monad, contains everything and is integrated with everything within it.

The perfect circle, otherwise known as the Monad, contains everything and is integrated with everything within it.

If we were to get metaphysical, we can go back even further than Freud to the Greek philosophers who understood spiritual characteristics to be connected with the numbers one to nine (which curiously correspond to the Enneagram's nine types), and in his book, A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schneider shows how the first numeral, represented by a perfect circle, or the "Monad", demonstrates the unity underlying our perceived separateness. 

The Monad, or oneness, expressed as a point and a circle, is the foundation for our geometric construction of the universe.... We, too, are part of the world's harmonious design and can't help but express the Monad's principles in the things we do and create.  Everything seeks unity.  The goal of many religions and mythic ordeals is to return to a lost state of Divine Oneness.  But we have no need to return to a state of oneness because unity is axiomatic, and we already are integrated in it.... Only a self-imposed illusion of separateness keeps us from recognizing our own centre of awareness and identity with the One.

About six hundred years later, the neo-Platonist Plotinus developped an eloquent system of thought based on this concept of The One, massively influencing Western thought for the next couple of millennia, but we won't go there.  Rather, let's just say that when we're in touch with the fundamental principle of essential wholeness, we see that

... who we are is inherently and implicitly perfect, ...we are just right as we are, ... we do not need anything added to us or subtracted from us.  ... From this angle, we see that we do not need to become better, that we do not need to be different, and that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with us.  All we really need to do is to connect with and realize our inherent perfection.

But obviously the type One baby can't see this and there is nothing that can be done to prevent her inevitable disconnection from this understanding.  Usually before the age of four, she learns to see herself as separate, beginning with the first stage in all babies' cognitive development, learning where their body ends and mother's begins.  Understanding herself as a separate body from the arms that hold her is the foundational principle of object relations, with unique implications for all of the types' identity formation; for the Type One baby, the distinct "I" slowly starts being reinforced as it begins to experience imperfection in herself or the world, leading her to start opposing certain experiences, further "reinforcing the 'I' that is reacting."  Maitri explains how baby might come to develop an aversion for imperfection:

[It] may arise in concert with an early childhood in which the message was communicated directly or interpreted that he just wasn't good enough or wasn't the right thing.  This may have resulted from his biological needs being subtly or overtly judged and rejected, leading to the sense that they were wrong, or from having an overcritical and emotionally withholding parent who imposed very high standards that seemed to the young One impossible to live up to.  One or both parents may have had very One-ish tendencies such as strong moral judgmentalness and fundamental religious beliefs.  Sometimes the whole early situation was a setup, in which he was looked to by the parents to fulfill unfillable needs, such as replacing a lost loved one, resulting in a profound sense of not being good enough or having what it takes for the task.

In an attempt to please her mother and get back to the bliss of connection with Essence, the "I" of the Type One learns to align with the Superego, their conscience.  Trying to paddle backwards to Essence results in frustration for the One, though.

Regardless of the source [of feeling wrong], the One is left with the sense of not being what was needed or wanted in the environment and of being somehow wrong.  In order to return to his prior state of bliss, it becomes critical for him to deduce, form, and create an idea of what perfection is.  He tries to figure out what mom wants, what will restore the sense of harmony and once again allow his soul to relax and reconnect him with the lost perfection.  So his instinctual drive to reestablish homeostasis is turned toward trying to be good, achieve perfection, and make mommy happy.  Eventually his drive energy gets fully coopted into this striving for perfection, and in time this quest turns him against his own instinctual energy.

At this point, it must be reiterated that parents don't necessarily make us into our types.  They may have been quite enlightened, or they may have been abusive, but wherever they lie on the spectrum, the baby will still separate from Essence and develop a personality, so it's less a question of blaming parents for not being able to mirror our True Nature as it a question of taking this information and learning from it to shed our layers of personality so we can re-access the particular quality of Essence associated with our type.  Maitri explains why I think Carson isn't having enough inner conflict.  Unable to completely please mom,

[he] comes to feel that he is imperfect, and it may seem to him as if the very substance of his soul had a fundamental flaw, a basic badness or wrongness about it.  There arises a mental fixation or underlying and all-pervasive belief that he and the reality he perceives are essentially imperfect, not good enough.

The shape representing the Type One and his distortion is the perfect circle divided in half.  By aligning with the Superego, the One is inherently divided against himself.  He's got a good self and a bad self, which is ironic because more than any other type, the One's driving force is to be in integrity with themselves.

The shape representing the Type One and his distortion is the perfect circle divided in half.  By aligning with the Superego, the One is inherently divided against himself.  He's got a good self and a bad self, which is ironic because more than any other type, the One's driving force is to be in integrity with themselves.

Every disavowal of his inner experience, says Maitri, strengthens the perosnality and his identification with it. 

I know we at some point need to talk about the subtypes because Self-Preservation Ones see the badness mainly in themselves, and Social and Sexual Ones perceive the badness mainly in other people, although there is overlap, so let's just go with the underlying issue that the One perceives badness "somewhere" and wants to correct it out of themselves or others. 

This disgust with badness and wrongness is where the One's vicious cycle begins.  Their experience of themselves or their environment as imperfect only makes them even more driven to bring every aberrant urge and drive to order.  As a consequence of not making the mark, which, as it is always extremely high, they rarely do, the instinctual heat of anger arises, but because anger is a "bad" emotion, one of the very uncivilized instincts that needs to be suppressed, the Superego charges the One to block out her anger, but because emotions have to go somewhere, it gets leaked out or it explodes under the immense pressure that their inner catch 22 puts on them.  When a One gets angry at someone who just won't change, or at themselves for indulging in chocolate cake, the Superego judges the One even harsher for their perfectly human reaction, resulting in an incredible amount of pressure that the One must daily endure under the serene composure that they feel is "the right" face to present to the world. 

So the irony for the One is that they want so badly to be in integrity with themselves, but in their bid to be perfect, the Superego forces aside the animal nature instead of facing it head-on, resulting, as Maitri explains, in the most entrenched and hardened split between the Superego and the Id of all the nine types. 

In his righteousness about fighting the good inner fight, he neglects to see that his rejection of the primitive within does not transform it but instead only gives it more power in the unconscious and causes it to leak out behaviorally in one way or another. 

So if the hypothetically "pure" One is a perfect circle, able to abide in deep serenity with all that is, including having a transformative compassion on the parts of them that feel wrong, the average One is a divided circle, harshly rebuking itself for tolerating its own base instincts, causing him to lash out at others to relieve some of the pressure, resulting in an even harsher rebuke from the Superego for not being able to contain the already unrelenting storm of punishment within himself.

Internally, the "bad" parts of himself are pushed away and so they also appear to be outside of the good self he takes himself to be, and his aggression is directed just as mercilessly against these bad parts as it is toward the badness he sees in others.

Only in private or under intense enough pressure, the anger comes out, and depending on the subtype, it manifests as anything from huffiness and annoyance to an intense volcanic eruption.  Sandra Maitri defines the spectrum of severity of their outbursts:

Most Ones repress their anger unless they are convinced that it is objective, and then they feel justified in giving vent to it.  Some Ones simply seem perpetually annoyed, peeved, and irritated by everything and everyone, while others have flashes of righteous indignation which feel fully warranted because of the "obvious" badness, meanness, or unworthiness of another.  Some Ones are like pressure cookers who keep a lid on their rage until it reaches critical mass and they blow a gasket.  They may appear calm and serene most of the time, but in the privacy of their own homes with those they feel comfortable with, they explode in critical tirades or violent rages complete with thrown dishes, slamming doors, if not physical violence.

A person could definitely build a case for Carson being a Social One based on the fact that we've seen him correcting others time and time again, and he does get huffy more than we see any concentrated ourbursts of anger.  A Social One, according to Beatrice Chestnut, sees themselves as the model of perfection for others to learn from, "a paragon of correct conduct".

Non-adaptability or rigidity refers to the tendency of this character to rigidly adhere to particular ways of being and doing things, as a way of expressing exclusive ownership of the "right" way to be, think and behave.... The Social One has a (usually unconscious) need to feel superior or to appear superior (because a conscious desire to be superior would constitute bad behavior).  It is as if they are implicitly saying, "I'm right and you're wrong".  They have an underlying need to make others wrong to have some power over them.  If I'm right and you're wrong, then I have more right than you to control the situation (Chestnut, 2013).

Clearly, Mr. Carson does see himself as a model that the servants should emulate, but I don't see an insecure need to be better than others, let alone the instinct to socialize.  In his defence, he doesn't come into contact with many people on his level that he could socialize with, with whom he can let down his guard- his old friend with whom he used to lead a salacious life is probably the closest thing he has to a friend in the show, and then there's Mrs. Hughes, although I think Mrs. Hughes, being a female means, in his conservative mind, that she is more wont to give into indulgence than him due to the weakness of her sex.  The problem with being a Social One is that because they see themselves as above others, appear to be aloof, and always think they're right, they would inherently have a hard time making true friends, so maybe by his age, he's tried and given up.  Furthermore, I think Social Ones are deliberate about reaching out with a smile and looking friendly and approachable because that's what a good person would do, and I don't see that effort in Carson. 

If he's a Self-Preservation One, on the other hand, he would only be correcting and scolding the servants because it's his job, not because of a savior complex that he has, and he would do it in a quieter, more disarming manner, I feel.  His main concern, the source of his worries, is if he is a good enough person, although again, that doesn't stop a Self-Preservation One from being concerned with how his staff present in front of the Crawleys. 

In conclusion, I might be making too big a deal out of Carson not suffering enough, but I'm deeply suspicious of anyone who has a perfectly polished exterior, and I'd much rather know how and when they get mad than have to walk around on eggshells wondering when they're going to explode.  So this post maybe speaks more to my nervousness around smooth and squeaky clean people than the fact that there's anything wrong with Jim Carter's acting or Julian Fellowes' writing, although I do feel that Fellowes needs to decide if Carson is a Self-preservation One or a Social One (he's not even close to a Sexual One).  It might be that the actor is Social, and he's playing a Self-preservation character, which could explain why Carson is able to shake off his peevishness so easily in the five steps between the kitchen and his office.  Either way, there are depths to which Fellowes could be taking this character for a more realistic portayal of a One if he so chooses.  His complex portrayal of Mr. Bates, another type One on the show with an intense Sexual instinct shows that it's not just ignorance of the type that's preventing him from going deeper with Carson.





Why Dan Stevens Left Downton Abbey

I admit, I'm writing about this three seasons too late, but I'm still reeling from Dan Steven's decision to leave Downton Abbey.  His character, Matthew Crawley, was killed in a car accident at the end of the 2012 Christmas special, the very day his long-awaited baby boy was born, and I just

The Enneagram types of the Downton Abbey Characters

You have an opinion on the personality types of the characters in Downton Abbey, do you?  Do tell.   Image from

You have an opinion on the personality types of the characters in Downton Abbey, do you?  Do tell.  Image from

I'm slowly working my way through the Downton Abbey series- I'm on Season 3, and I was dissapointed to see Lady Sybil killed off, although I'm glad to know it was her choice to leave the show. 

This afternoon I went on Google to see what other people thought of the casts' Enneagram types, and I almost died when I saw the first two results- Lady Mary an 8?  Lord Grantham a 2?

When there's disagreement about an Enneagram type, all kinds of ego activity goes off, so I am just breathing here, trying to do this as even-keeled as possible. 

From the website, I offer, side-by-side, one person's opinion of the characters' types in the left-hand column, and my opinion (where I have one) in the right-hand column.  (I'm very sorry for the formatting- I can't seem to get my comments to stay in their own column)

"Johnathan G."                                                                    Me

Robert Crawley - ESFJ 2w3 Sp/So                 Type 8 (his temper explodes, then subsides)
Cora Crawley - ISFJ 2w1 So/Sx                       Type 2 (touchy-feely, emotive, affectionate)
Violet Crawley - ESTJ 1w2 So/Sp                    ?
Mary Crawley - ESTP 3w4 Sx/Sp                    ?  Not a three or a four
Edith Crawley - ISxJ 2w1 Sp/So                      ?  Not a two
Sybil Crawley - ENFP 9w8 Sx/So                    ?  Not a nine, and SO isn't one of her top instincts
Matthew Crawley - INFP 6w5 So/Sx               ?
Isobel Crawley - ENFJ 2w3 So/Sx                   Type 2 (wants to help so bad, but is also highly principled, so probably 1 wing?  Not seeing any Threes at all on this show except the showy obstetrician who presided over Sybil's childbirth.)

Charles Carson - ISTJ 1w2 So/Sp                     Type 1 (high standards of service, principled, unmoved by displays of emotion, utterly condemns his "wild" past.)

Elsie Hughes - ISFJ 1w2 So/Sp                         ?
John Bates - ISFJ 2w1 So/Sx                            Type 1 (highly principled, has zero self-interest in his court case, entrusts himself to the justice process, Ana has to practically beg him to take an interest in his own cause.)

Sarah O'Brien - INTJ 6w7 Sp/So                     ?
Thomas Barrow - ENTP 7w8 Sp/Sx                Type 8 (Sp/Sx) (tough, cunning, self-serving, no qualms about making up shit, absolutely explodes with anger when he finds he's been swindled, it takes a lot for him to express emotion)

William Mason - ISFP 6w7 So/Sx                    ?
Anna Smith - INFJ 2w1 Sx/So                          ?  Not a Two, too self-contained.  Maybe Six.
Tom Branson - ENTP C/P 6w5 Sp/Sx             Type 4 (SX) (Impertinent, incidiary [literally], daring, seems to meet every challenge to his cause by talking about how he's going to put himself in danger, aversion to stability and disdain for social norms ("I'm different than all of you- not because of my class, but it's the prerogative of my personality to simply refuse to fit in"), carries the cross of the Irish cause with great consternation. (which could also mean he's a One or a Six as Sixes are loyal to their own kind, and Fours are perhaps more loyal to those who are different?).  Another trait that doesn't fit with the Four is when he ran away to elope with Sybil, there wasn't anything passive-aggressive going on when he found out he'd been followed (like he didn't extract any emotional juice out of the exchange with the sisters who found him- no frustration.)
Some days I want to cast everyone as a One, but only because the cultural overlay of the Victorian Era was very One-ish.  Modesty, principles, and a puritanical uprightness govern the division between the classes.  There is a "certain way that things should be".
Daisy, the cook downstairs, seems to be a Six.
Anyone else want to venture an opinion?

Do Children of Type Nines look like them?

It's a long weekend and I don't feel like writing something serious this morning, so I'm posting something fun.  As my girlfriend has sent me pictures of her babies for the last year and a half, I can't help but notice they both look so much like her and not her husband, who is a Type 9.  I know this is totally subjective, but I wonder if that's a thing with Nines,

I love it when I'm wrong

My grade 12 English teacher, Mr. Koldingnes told us once that when new students walked into his classroom every September, he formed opinions about each of us within the first week- on the first day even.  He was a SP/SX 8, and of course 8's know everything right away apparently, but whatever, all of us form opinions super fast.  "But," he said, smiling and smacking his meter stick on a desk in front of him, "I love it when

Little Type Four Kids at Level 6

Some teachers I know are working with a couple of dramatic and melancholic Type Four kids whose need to be different and special have both blown up in the last few months.  From what I can tell about their Riso-Hudson levels of health, they're both at Level 6, flirting with Level 7.  The Red Flag fear at Level 6 is "I am ruining my life, I am wasting

Bernie Math

I love College Humour and also Bernie Sanders, so I thought this skit was super funny.  I mean, don't ask me about math or the American political voting system, but this is totally the kind of math I'd love to get away with.  According to Jung's definition of introvert- I'll have to look it up later- but it's something like we perceive truth on the inside, like in the psyche, or by way of intuition- there's some kind of technical definition, and Enneagram Fours are definitely introverts, so give me a psychological problem to solve any day over math.  When I do math, the information enters through the head centre, goes down to the heart (the intelligence centre of the Four) and does some twirls and summersaults and maybe even some drugs, and then gets discharged to the gut centre for execution.  I mean, not all Fours are bad at math.  Knowing the information makes that extra stop at the heart definitely makes me more careful, I know that.  Anyway, this video totally reminded me of heart math.  Still can't stop me from cheering tho.

Working With the Internal Logic of the Nine Types

When we cross the threshold into our thirties, something happens to our strident march into the future: we start looking around at the expensive car, the fancy house, the busy kids, and the gym membership, and asking, "Is this it?"  Even for those who have none of these, after thirty, we start to realize that we need a more adult-like way of dealing with stress besides alcohol and late nights because whether or not we've checked off any of the Big Four Milestones yet-- marriage, career, family and home-ownership-- we've crossed a lifechanging mountain range that ends in a vague and lingering itch that's very hard to scratch.  At thirty, we've reached a horizon with very few big landmark, life-defining moments left in the long stretch before us, and we ask ourselves, "This is everything I've been working towards?" 

A possible point of view from those who are still trying to get past milestone #1.  Image and article from  The Onion .

A possible point of view from those who are still trying to get past milestone #1.  Image and article from The Onion.

Not that life after thirty is a drag- I personally love it- but however you've appraised your progress, the daily routine of the nine to five-- couched on either side by groceries, traffic, line-ups, meal prep and alarm bells-- is the hallmark of the adult life.  The endless string of expensive birthday presents, mortgage payments and bills can be overwhelming, and a lonely slog if we're single or in a relationship that isn't working.  Whether we're raising children, working nine to five, or trying to get a book published, most of us after thirty would very dearly like a break: some rest, a sick day, a week at a retreat centre, a hug, a spa day, or a month-long Sabbatical to work on a side-project.  If we stop and reflect on the pain after such a break is over, we start to understand the Buddhist principle of impermanence: any comfort and pleasure in life is too short. 

In describing modern life, Buddhist monk Chogyam Trungpa could easily have been describing any adult's pre-internet days (which he was), but even moreso now that we have computers and smartphones.

Everything is suffering because the experience of our life becomes a nuisance.  We are not just saying, "Our baby is a nuisance; therefore we should send him or her to the babysitter".  In this case, nuisance is not ordinary nuisance, but fundamental nuisance.  Whenever you try to do something, it is always a nuisance....

Technology is supposed to integrate our day-to-day activities to create more of a flow, but when they don't work, the constant stop and go of the flow exposes the irritation in the gaps separating our happy moments.  We can be forgiven for trying to satisfy our cravings and aversions in our twenties- unless we were raised by enlightened parents, we tend not to know any better.  But when we have to become responsible adults and start saving for retirement, we need to develop a more mature way of handling ourselves in those irritating fissures.  Otherwise, we'll start to justify an over-reliance upon our unique ego distractions, things we do to make us feel a certain way, to help amplify the good feelings on either side of the cracks.  Trungpa uses a mundane example to illustrate how satifying our cravings leads to a feeling of emptiness:

For instance, you have a good cup of coffee in your hand.  You put cream and sugar in it, and you stir it with satisfaction.  You inhale the aroma, you drink, and you have a great sense of satisfaction.  At last!  A good cup of coffee.  You have been looking forward to it for a long time.  But now you have drunk it- it is gone, and your appreciation has become pain.  You feel as though you never drank that cup of coffee at all.  It is all gone, which is quite disheartening.  You could fill the gap by drinking a second cup, but the second cup dissappears as well, and you end up drinking so much coffee that you feel sick.  (The Path of Individual Liberation, pg. 14-15). 

"That's right, kids: people come in all shapes and sizes, but we're all assholes."  - College Humour

Married people are blessed with the stability of a long-term relationship while at the same time, cursed with having someone specially suited to point out how they're being assholes much of the time.  Single people just have their own internal critic to worry about, the voice chiding us to change.  One of the biggest causes of insanity in the West is that we don't know how to change.  As in, what are the core fundamentals to changing?   Our society is no longer connected to its mystical heritage that tells us how, and in fact, we've disavowed it in favor of science.  We know if we want to lose weight, we have to go to the gym and eat less, but what happens when we can't control our overeating and can't make it to the gym enough times to make a dent?  Science is doing its best to give us the answers, and science is wonderful, but are we losing weight as much as we want?  Is there a more fundamental level where change starts?  This is what this article is about- the nine different ways that people with different personality types need to understand about themselves first before they can change.  It has to do with how we deal with the gaps between the happy moments.   Surprisingly or not, there are not two, not five, not eight, but nine ways our ego selves handle the gaps.

If the feelings of nuisance -or being a nuisance- prod us into painful enough territory like rejection, failure or loss, after more than enough false leads that bring home the painful reality that we're the ones causing our own problems, we'll start our journey inwards, looking for true Reality behind our egoic delusions.  This is a difficult journey, but the most rewarding one, and invitations are only extended towards select individuals.  Actually, getting an invitation feels more like getting hit on the head with a brick, or slapped across the face every morning for 18 years, or having the carpet ripped out from underneath your feet after years of building up stability.  So if you've "received" a ticket, lucky you.  But you need to be outfitted with the right gear before you get too far into the journey.

The Enneagram symbol.  Image courtesy of  the Enneagram Institute .

The Enneagram symbol.  Image courtesy of the Enneagram Institute.

One of the most useful tools you'll want to take with you to help you understand your your ego's thesis statement is the Enneagram, a personality typing system, kind of like Myers-Briggs, but much more profound and helpful if you actually want to change anything.  You can imagine the Enneagram like a healing labyrinth, inviting us into its geometry to become more and more aware of our unconscious emotional, mental, and instinctual patterns and how we relate to those of others.  Of course, there is no actual labyrinth traced out on the ground somewhere; it's just a symbol, but a dynamic one nonetheless, and its function, paradoxically, is to liberate us from our patterns, to unfold us from our self-contradictory internal logic to one that serves us so we're not always shooting ourselves in the foot.  You might say the Enneagram is for soothing the irritations in the cracks between our happy moments for an integrated experience of our true nature, who we were really meant to be when we're in flow.

Embedded within the name of the Enneagram are a couple hints about what it's about.  The first part of the word, "Ennea", is the Greek word for the number nine, and the suffix, "-gram" hints that there's some kind of systemic philosophical scaffolding behind the number.  Indeed, the Enneagram is a way of understanding types in nature that reflect nine qualities what to means to be in integrity with yourself, complete, and well, holy, if you will. 

Enneagram Dinner Party .  Illustration by Elizabeth Wagele.

Enneagram Dinner Party.  Illustration by Elizabeth Wagele.

Let's say you have nine friends, one of each type.  Your type One friend is the Perfectionist who shows us what it means to be a moral, serious, and upstanding person.  They want to do good and they hardly ever get angry.  If they do, they'll suppress it unconsciously and become really nice instead, because feeling angry isn't a "good" feeling.  While they want to be in complete integrity with themselves, they end up splitting themselves off from their bad parts, ironically creating a dualism within themselves.

Your Type Two friend is the Helper who shows us how to be a sweet, loving person.  They're always complimenting you and giving you banana bread and casseroles.  They want to be helpful because love is what makes the world go around, but they suppress their own needs because having needs is selfish, let alone stating them.  So they have to get their needs met a round-about way... like kind of tricking you into giving it to them.  For example, eventually after enough compliments and banana bread, you'll start feeling either grateful or guilty and you'll wrap the Type Two in the same brand of love and affection they've been lavishing on you. 

Your Type Three friend is the Achiever, the cheerleader, the type who shows us how to be winners.  They're the perky friend who always surprises you with how competent they are.  They get a lot of things right- they can be quite efficient and productive- because they study successful people to learn their secrets.  Their inner contradiction is that their drive to be seen as successful is "a tad" stronger than the need to actually do the things necessary to be successful.  So the image takes precedence over the actual homework needed to look as dazzling as they want to look, and oh how loathe they are to be found out for the corners they've cut.

Type Four is the moody, creative friend who has the same drive for a positive image like the Three, but whose melancholic moods and their feelings of deficiency hold them back from starting things, finishing things, marketing their things, or saying anything positive about themselves in general.  Like the Three, Fours are ashamed of their deficiencies, but unlike the Three, don't do anything about it; in fact, they hide their true self behind their inadequacies. They retreat into their emotional lives to create a fantasy self that they'll probably never actualize unless they become aware how their moods are controlling them and preventing them from getting any significant work done on their goals. 

Type Five is one of the "head types."  Now ask 50 people if they're "head, heart, or gut types", and all 50 people will tell you they're "head types", even though the nine types are evenly distributed between the three.  It's just that we all hear ourselves think too much these days due to all the distractions around us.  But few types demonstrate more clearly the thrill of linking new concepts together and the hell of having no place to go but the head.  This is nerd culture archetype, the one who you ask how they are and they tell you about something in the news or about computers, as if information is supposed to be the answer to a subjective question like how their day was.  GIving you information is their way of connecting with you.

Type Six is also a head type, but, as Russ Hudson explains, while Fives try to know everything as a defense against the uncertainty of the world, Sixes are constantly looking for those people outside themselves who know the answers.  Masters of projection, Sixes look for anything that looks secure, true, honest, reliable like an organization, a boss with a good reputation, or a confident and reliable spouse.  A Six can finally relax when they've found them, and holds on to them, denying that they might be a source of knowledge themselves.

Your type Seven friend is the Enthusiast that is always busy moving from one fun activity to the next and you can barely keep up with them.  One day they're learning how to fly a plane; the next day they're getting their realtor's liscence and planning a trip around the world.  The Seven's internal contradiction is they want to experience everything life has to offer, but as Russ Hudson explains, never allow "anything to touch [them] deeply, and only in allowing things to touch [them] deeply is there any possibility of transformation."

Eight and Nine are body types, but they're complete opposites to each other.  Both of them have an intelligence around the instinctual centre- the gut.  They use their gut energy primarily to stop things in their tracks before they affect their way of doing things.  Unlike the Twos, Threes or Fours who press their faces up against the window of someone's soul to see how they need to act in order to gain approval, the gut types just act how they want to act and it's up to you to make a berth around them.  You can think of them as having issues around their first chakras- where issues of boundaries and "hereness"-- how you take up your space on the earth-- are of primary importance.  Body types enforce their boundaries without having to spend a lot of time thinking about them.

The Eights are the Challengers.  They're the friend who goes after what they want, whether loudly or quietly, but very directly, and aren't ashamed or ambiguous about their desires or drives.  They do what they need to do to survive- it's a tough world out there, and Eights know it.  They can be brusque and use too much energy, volume, or sneaky underhanded tactics to get control of their environment, but it comes from a fear of someone getting control of them, whether financially, physically or otherwise.  Their irony is the most obvious of the nine types- if you're grabby and pushy about getting what you want in life, you'll inevitably push people away.

Finally, your sweet Nine friend - the peace-loving, gentle Nine is the laid-back friend who will never impose on you.  They'll invite you over to their house or to the gym with them to relax or do push-ups together.  They just want everyone to get along, but they think they'll cause conflict by asserting themselves, so ironically, under stress, the self-effacing Nine unwittingly causes conflict by receding into into a stone wall of stubborn - yet deceptively peaceful-looking- silence as a way of asserting their autonomy.


If we've reached a certain age and we're smart, we'll start to notice how our internal contradictions are working against us and we'll start to do some inquiry around some of our most obvious self-destructive habits. 

We can take some advice from Plotinus, the neo-Platonist who urged us to forgo things that promise immediate gratification for things further down the line with a bigger payoff.  In the language of the ancient Greeks, we're forgoing "The Many" for something that looks more like "The One".

In Plotinus' way of seeing things, the One is the Source of all creation; it is uncreated and eternal.  Contemplation of the One is where we lose our ego self.  Think how truly satisfying it would be to not only not be an asshole anymore, but to lose the identity on behalf of whom the asshole acted so that you see that you're One with everyone else. 

We can understand our essential nature by contemplating how we are a manifestation of one of nine divine forms, we have the essence of The One within us.

In other words, our very own personality type can lead us toward the source of those pure essence qualities we're trying to cultivate in our lives- vibrancy, success, attentiveness, calm and peace.  Each of us represents a facet of The One, or The Truth, or a legitimate viewpoint on true reality.

So why nine and which one are you?  Let's first look at why the number nine is so important.

The nine original Egyptian gods, whom the Greeks dubbed "the Ennead".  Image from  this person's Flickr account .

The nine original Egyptian gods, whom the Greeks dubbed "the Ennead".  Image from this person's Flickr account.

The ancient Egyptians had a base 10 numerical system -- most likely because of our ten fingers-- and the first nine numbers, to them, each reflected a core spiritual principle that applied to natural life.  The number one stood for perfect unity, two stood for connection, three stood for a finished process, and so on.

The Egyptians also had developped a complex mythology around the original family of nine gods.  Today we call it the Egyptian Ennead.  They were the nine primary deities who created each other, the heavens, the earth, and everything else in the manifest world.

The fact that nine gods arose from the One (Atum) speaks to how Egyptians understood the number nine to represent completion.   

With the genesis of the nine gods from the One, the creation theology of Heliopolis is completed.  The number nine is, numerologically speaking, a limit that cannot be surpassed without returning once again to the beginning." 

The Eyptian numbering system.  Notice how the number ten is a curved line, indicating a "return to one".  Image from . 

The Eyptian numbering system.  Notice how the number ten is a curved line, indicating a "return to one".  Image from

Horus was the last god to emerge from this incestual family of gods.  He's not pictured, but he represents the number 10, which is a mirror image of Atum.  So we see the return to one.

As their mathematical and geometrical principles were just as useful in the manifest world as in the inner world, we can appreciate how Egyptians viewed "humanity [as] a complete process within a complete universe" (Schneider, 1994)

Nine represents the boundary between the mundane and the transcendental infinite.
— Michael S. Schneider, A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science

As in the Egyptian tradition, the Greeks approached the study of truth through mathematics and geometry.  In fact, you couldn't study philosophy until you'd learnt the essentials- how a circle represented one, wholeness, and perfection; two represented division, polarity and inevitably, the search for connection back to the One; three represented a finished product arising from the tension of the two opposing polarities. 

Geometry is ... the bridge between the One and the Many.
— English philosopher John Michell

Commensurate with their love of geometry, when the Greeks conquered the Egyptians, they absorbed a lot of ancient mathematical principles of the pyramid builders into their own culture, but then added dimension to it.  In an ancient Greek math class, young students would learn the shape and volume associations with each number between 1 and 9.  One was represented by a circle, the picture of unity and perfection; two was represented by the dyad, the two-sided shape that results from two half circles joined together.  Three is the triangle, and so on.  Each shape had very important qualities that helped you understand the spiritual and philosophical significance of each form. Mathematics educator Michael Schaffer points out that the phrase "sacred mathematics" gets thrown around a lot without people really understanding it, but it really means that mathematics is sacred when it helps you discover the hidden spark of the divine within yourself. 

The Greek philosopher Pythagoras-- who was probably educated in Egypt-- "considered the first ten numbers to be seed patterns for all the principles of the cosmos", says Schneider. 

Schneider elaborates:

Nine is the final number having a specific identify.  It represents the highest attainment to be achieved in any endeavor.  Nine is the unsurpassable limit, the utmost bound, the ultimate extension to which the archetypal principles of number can reach and manifest themselves in the world.  The ancient Greeks called nine 'the horizon', as it lies at the edge of the shore before the boundless ocean of numbers that repeat in endless cycles the principles of the first nine digits.  Nothing lies beyond the principles of nine, which the Greeks called the Ennead.

Throughout history and across religions, we see repetitions of this principle.  In the mystical sect of Judaism, Kabbalah, there are nine sephirot (the circles connecting the lines) in the Tree of Life, with the number 10 assigned to God himself.  The nine sephirot denote the nine manifestations of God in the natural world. 

The Tree of Life was actually instrumental in clarifying the connection between spiritual qualities and emotional health in the early 1940's.  It was a chance insight while studying the placement of the sephirot that led Bolivian mystic Oscar Ichazo to try to not only match up the nine qualities with the nine points on the Enneagram, thereby assembling the first dynamic model for how the nine personality types ebb and flow into each others' territory depending on mental and emotional resilience, but he placed them in the correct order.  For example, on the Enneagram at least- not on the Tree of Life- Type Fives are connected by a line between 8 and 7.  When a Type Five person is stressed, they will deteriorate to the negative qualities of the number 7 like being frazzled and hyper, but when they're at their best, they're embodied and secure not needing to know everything, while putting their ideas into action.

The search for Reality leads us inevitably toward the type, the enigmatic one that lies behind the obvious world of the Many.
— John Michell

Healing The Enneagram Types with Geometry

So now that we've established why the number nine is such an important number, how does knowing ancient Greek geometry help us become integrated, healthy, and whole people today?  We could call this the sacred part of geometry right here.  understanding the geometric representation (The One) behind our type helps us uncover our gifts and heal from our inner contradiction.

In the Enneagram, Type One is the perfectionist.  People of this type want everything to be "just right".  They are bothered by disorder, messes, spelling mistakes, and they abhor people who take shortcuts.  Their eyes scan for disorder so they can put it in order.

To the Greeks, the number One was represented by a perfect circle.  Circles represented the mother that gives birth to all of the shapes via the vescies pisces.  The world was frequently depicted in European paintings as enclosed in a circle containing all creation.  Because the Type One longs to be in integrity with itself, it vehemently denies (represses) everything in it that it feels to be bad, predominantly its anger.  So irony of ironies, the Type One, who wants the most to be in integry with itself ends up the most split apart from itself than any of the other types.  Type Ones can heal by identifying with the all-encompassing circle that accepts the good and the bad in them instead of denying the bad.  Knowing their tendency toward repressing the parts of themselves they don't like, and knowing that they're represented by an all-enclosing circle can help them become aware of their tendency to judge themselves so harshly.

Again, the number four is represented by the Tetrad, the first of the geometrical shapes to have 3-D depth to them (think of the pyramid shape) whose flat surface gives it maximum stability. Conversely, people who are Enneagram type Fours are always trying to attain greater and greater depths by mimicing their true Essence nature represented by the Tetrad, but tend to get seduced and entranced by their ego that persuades them that reality is only in the shadows and depth, and end up- ironically- the most depressed and unstable of the types. By returning to their Essence nature through self-awareness practices like meditation, Fours can become more healthy and stable like their representative shape. Also, he might pair up with Cynthia Bourgeault or Russ Hudson who have one of the most fine-tuned understandings of the Law of Three, a critical ancient Egyptian principle that serves as a lynchpin for the entire lot of numbers 1 to 9.


One important figure in Enneagram history who didn't get mentioned in this article is the Chilean psychiatrist who studied the Enneagram under Oscar Ichazo.  He brought it up to California in the early 1970's.  Claudio Naranjo was a psychiatrist-in-residence at Esalen at Big Sur, and started fleshing out the type descriptions, using material gathered from his work with his own patients.  To introduce the topic of the Enneagram, he quotes Dr. Oliver P. John, author of the Big Five Inventory, and professor at University of California, speaking about the need for an objective personality typing inventory.

Like any field of scientific study, personality psychology needs a descriptive model or taxonomy of its subject matter... a taxonomy would permit researchers to study specific domains of personality characteristics.... Moreover, a generally accepted taxonomy would greatly facilitate the accumulation and communication of empirical findings by offering a standard vocabulary or nomenclature....  Most every researcher in the field hopes, at one level or another, to be the one who devises the structure that will transform the present Babel into a community that speaks a common language (Naranjo, 1994).

Wouldn't it be remarkable if the structure psychologists were looking for was beneath our noses this entire time?