(Inspired by subreddit r/enneagram. Posted here)
Today I want to talk about using Enneagram as a growth tool.
Most Enneagram resources online mention briefly growth path, growth journey and health level. Basically, most of them just talk about what are each type’s blind spots and how to grow.
I think it is worth mentioning the theory behind Enneagram growth that has been missing.
We are all born with all Enneagram type
For someone who starts to type themselves according to Enneagram and feels like they have multiple types, you are correct.
Every human being has some degree of every type. That is a given. I’m type 7s and I’m fixating on happiness according to Enneagram. But I can assure you no one in the world look at me like an alien and wondering “why the hell does this creature want to go for happiness? Does not make any sense to me”. Everyone can relate to and understand a human need for happiness to a certain degree, regardless of what their type is.
To expand on this, when we look at Enneagram 1s we are not like “why does this creature have an internal moral system? What is the purpose of it? It does not make any sense to live with integrity.” No, right? We understand type 1 to a certain degree even when we are other types.
We also don’t look at Enneagram 9s and be like “why is this creature need comfort and peace? Does not make any sense.”
I can go on but I think I already made a point.
This is because every human has every type’s capability. We are in some sense, every Enneagram type to a certain degree. We all have shame, fear and anger. We all have the capability and yearn to be integrity, loved, successful, authentic, self-sufficient, safe, happy, autonomous and comfort.
We are not an AI maximizer which will do everything imaginable for just one single yearning that we are programmed with. We are human. We have multiple yearning and need.
This leads to the next question.
If we are every type, what really makes us a certain type?
Short answer: Fixation.
A human of type is a human with a strong fixation on particular core emotion and core fear. They become imbalanced.
We don’t really know why every human ends up with a particular fixation. That is out of the scope of Enneagram.
While every human wants to be happy, a human of type 7s will have an unhealthy fixation with happiness to the point that only a few seconds of unhappiness and boredom will make 7s anxious and need to do something.
While every human wants to be right, a little imperfection will drive a human of type 1s crazy and drive them to act something.
Every type has this strong fixation toward their core fear that when we look from the other type’s perspective, it is clear that the fixation is kinda “crazy”. But if they look from their own type perspective, it’s just a “normal” and “natural” thing to feel, think or do.
“I’m bored for 5 seconds now so I need to do something else. It’s natural.” - Unhealthy 7s “If someone punches me the only thing I can do is punch back. There is no alternative.” - Unhealthy 8s
What’s wrong with fixation?
Type fixation is a survival strategy that humans choose to utilize as a default strategy.
According to some theories, we develop these fixations because of childhood trauma. I don’t know the validity of it. We don’t really know if it comes from nature or nurture yet.
The point is, the type strategy works (otherwise humans of that type would be already dead) and usually the type will become an innate talent and advantage.
1s has innate talent for perfection. 2s has innate talent toward love. 3s has innate talent toward success and so on.
The type strategy will work 99% of your life and if that is the case, there is no need for growth.
But I can assure you, there will be 1% of the time where your type strategy and fixation do not work. And that is exactly when you need to learn to grow out of your type.
And when I say “does not work”. I don’t mean literal death. I mean, there will be a certain kind of strong disappointment that you can innately feel about your own way of dealing with life.
You will feel dissatisfied and unease with yourselves even though your decision is perfectly aligned with your type of strategy and your decision seems to be a “natural” way to deal with things according to you.
That is exactly when your type does not work.
- 3s get every type of success imaginable and then they realized they are in bad physical health. Technically speaking, they can double down in their type and say I would rather die young but successful anyway so let me go back to work. But at some point, they will feel unease with that type of decision.
- 7s get anxious in the search for happiness. Technically speaking, they can still keep exploring all kind of pleasure and happiness the world has to offer and say I would rather die exploring than be limited and settle down for less. But at some point, 7s will feel unease with their life situation.
- 5s get to be alone and be very self-sufficient. At some point, they will start to feel unease with the disconnection.
Every type’s strategy taken to the extreme will create dissatisfaction in life.
The growth starts when you start to see that your own type is not the only way to deal with the world. It is only an option.
When you start to introspect into your type and let go of it when 1% of life situations call for it. That is when you grow.
When you can freely use your own type of talent or utilize another type of talent (since we are all born with every type’s capability), that’s when you are growing from your own type.
Your own type will still be your innate talent, but you are from seeing that as the one and only way to live.
You can freely choose to use your own type when it fits, and not use it when the situation does not call for it.
- A type 5s dad or mom that can let go of their fixation and compassionately give their kid the amount of time and resource their kid need. They still can go back to their power-saving mode later though once it’s done.
- A type 8s who can let go of control when it comes to their partner. They can freely choose when to take control and when not to, instead of their own type of belief that they need to be in charge of the situation, every freaking millisecond of their life.
- A type 7s who can freely accept that enough is enough and let’s fully enjoy what they have instead of tiring and anxiously exploring.
When type lets go of fixation, their type strategy becomes a talent.
When type can’t let go of their own fixation, sometimes their type becomes an obstacle.
The path of growth consists of these steps
First, be aware of your own type and know that the type does not define you. You are not your type. Your own type and beliefs are not the only possible way to live (think/feel/act).
This is very hard to accept.
Once you are aware and truly understand that you are not your own type, you can consciously “choose” not to use your own type. At first, this will come with strong discomfort. Like, 7s let go of happiness sometimes. 8s let go of control sometimes. 5s spend energy inefficiently sometimes. 1s let go of imperfections sometimes. etc. etc.
But eventually, you will learn to live with that and start to become more whole.
And you can decide how to live which aligns with your own inner self and not just your type.
Your own type becomes a tool, not your master.
Your own type cannot lie to you that “the world works like this and the only option you have is to feel/think/do that” anymore.
You might even be able to access other type’s talent, once you are free from your own type. I, for example, start using type 4s innate talent of authenticity with my own feeling. I’m just a beginner of this but I can bring that energy up sometimes. (My default trifix is 739/793. Not sure what is the order)
That’s the concept behind the growth path of Enneagram.
Enneagrams have a concept of health level. The higher level of health is just that you can use your own type more consciously. You become the master of your type. At a low level of health, you are a slave to your own type.
That’s a wrap.