#2 Tearing Apart Personality. Wisdom of the Enneagram
I’m Maseh Hadaf, and this is DeepTox. Every episode, I’ll explore an idea that challenges the way I see the world. I want you to leave this podcast the same way I came into it, having discovered something of value. Thank you for being here with me.
Today, I’ll be exploring personality, what drives us, how our basic fears play into the patterns of our minds, the realm of the unconscious. I’ve come across the Enneagram, an ancient symbol that’s been applied to systematically help people like you and me discover our personalities, and most importantly, how to change them. I’ll also be sharing how to use the Enneagram to create richer relationships with a partner, friends, and on teams.
And the best part is, you don’t even have to take drugs.
Let’s get it.
How Do We Change Our Personality?
“Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West and then seek.” – Ivanovich Gurdjieff
This book changed my life: The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. It is, to this day, the most compelling book I have ever read. If you have the time, I would recommend checking out the Blog Post on Deeptox.co, not .com, .co, it has pictures to make this far easier to digest.
I cannot cover the richness of this system, this is a 400 page book, which is itself a masterful condensation of thousands of years of spiritual practice, and a century of psychological research. We have 25 minutes. I can’t emphasize it enough, you’re only sampling the ice cream here, the rest is up to your own curiosity.
Alright, what is the Enneagram?
It’s a symbol that maps out nine fundamental personality types of human nature and the relationships between them. It’s a circle with 9 points, and there are straight lines inside the circle that connect each point to another in the circle. The symbol itself is ancient, its origins lost to history, some say it originated 2,500 years ago in Babylon, but no one really knows. It was only recently that the power of western psychological research was combined with this ancient symbol from the east for the purpose of mapping out personality types.
Each of the 9 points represents one of nine fundamental personality types, each type has its own unique characteristics. Type 1 is called the Reformer, Type 2 the Helper, Type 3 the Achiever, Type 4 the Individualist, Type 5 the Investigator, Type 6 the Loyalist, Type 7 The Enthusiast, Type 8 the Challenger, Type 9 the Peacemaker. The names for each type can be misleading, depending on how you interpret each word, that’s why I prefer using just the numbers, but it does make it easier to remember each type.
Each type has its own basic fears, basic desires, unconscious childhood messages, its virtues, its sins or passions as the book calls them. No type is better than the other, there’s no ranking, it’s not like 1’s are the best and 9’s suck. In fact, every person has characteristics of all the types within them, this is critical to understand the Enneagram in a meaningful way. But there is one type for every person that causes the most imbalance and holds the person back the most from reconnecting with who they truly are.
At its core, “The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box, it shows the box that you are already in—and the way out”. You don’t find out all that you are from your type, the complete opposite actually. And this is the beauty of the Enneagram and what makes it stand out amongst personality systems. The purpose of finding out your personality type, is to free yourself from it, and to show you that you are far more than your personality.
Hold up. If I’m not my personality, then what am I?
The book puts forth the idea that you, your “self”, is not your personality, but rather, you are the observer of your personality. You are not the voice in your head, but the listener of that voice. This awareness can feel strange, because it’s so implicit, it’s like when we found out that air is a thing around us, or that you can actually see your nose right now or that you’re breathing.
This metacognition, which just means thinking about thinking, this awareness, naturally leads you to no longer identify with your personality or the voice in your head, it frees you from overthinking about the past, fantasizing about the future, or being anxious about all the things that you need to get done by next week.
It leads to a sense of Presence in the here and now, to the physical sensations, and a vibrant experience of the present moment that is so easy to forget. In a way, fundamentally, we are Presence.
The book puts forth the idea that every being is part of an interconnected whole, and that we have lost some connection to the vast interconnectedness of the universe, instead identifying with the personality that keeps us from experiencing this wholeness, this oneness. It argues that you and I have a Soul, which is a manifestation of Essence or Spirit, it’s called. To paraphrase a bit, if Essence or Spirit is water, then our Soul is a lake, and our personality is the waves on its surface.
Another useful metaphor is that every being’s Soul is an orb of light, that is inherently perfect regardless of what the being does or does not do, and the personality is a crust that covers this orb of light.
Depending on our upbringing and our natural tendencies, as well as the inner work we commit to, the crust can be thick, opaque, rigid, barely letting any inner light of who truly are through, or it can be fluid, transparent, allowing for our inner light to shine through and connect with others.
I’ll pause here to recognize that there are probably red flags going off for some listeners. If you’re listening to this and thinking that I’m an Illuminati disciple in disguise or something, trying to convert you with my black magic symbol… Whatever you do, don’t blow my cover fam.
The Enneagram is not a religion or a faith, it isn’t meant to replace any existing systems of belief or paths, rather it’s meant to complement them. If you don’t believe in any religion or spirituality itself, if you’re agnostic or unsure of what you believe, and this just sounds really strange to you or if you’re anti-theistic and think that this is some empirically unverifiable hippie propaganda that you did not take the necessary drugs to entertain, I ask that you stay with me.
You don’t need to believe in anything mystical to gain incredible value from this system, and the wisdom it has to offer.
It’s easy to dismiss these spiritual concepts, words like souls, spirits, essences, orbs of light, interconnectedness, and presence as being nothing more than abstract ideas that we attribute a desperate sense of meaning to in order to numb the sense of existential dread that we really need to face. Take an evolution or philosophy course and this conclusion will be easy to come to. It is far more difficult to accept that we really don’t know.
The same goes for uncritical believers. I think that believers of spirituality should consider everything with considerable skeptical doubt and for non-believers to do the same, except with the possibility that it might be true. Regardless of what you believe, and regardless of whether these spiritual concepts are real or not, the Enneagram can be of tremendous value, if you entertain it with an open-mind, and take from it what you need.
Alright, enough of the background stuff, let’s get to the core of the Enneagram, and the juicy question, what type are you?
Triads and the Nine Types
Once again, there are 9 types. These 9 types are divided into three groups called triads. Each triad is characterized by an underlying root feeling of either rage, shame, or fear.
The Instinctive triad deals with the root emotion of rage and said to be located in the gut includes Types 8,9,1, the feeling triad deals with the root emotion shame, is said to be located in the heart, types 2,3,4, the thinking triad deals with the root emotion fear, is said to be located in the mind, types 5,6,7. So once again, instinctive triad in the gut deals with rage, type 8,9,1;feeling triad in the heart deals with shame, type 2,3,4; thinking triad in the mind deals with fear, type 5,6,7.
We’ll go through each type one by one and then I’ll share with you what I think my own type is, for the sake of an example of how deep this can get. Remember that no type is better than the other. Let’s take a look at each type, try to imagine someone you know, or a character in a story or movie that aligns with each type, and of course, whether or not you fit the description.
Type 8 The Challenger
- This type is strong, assertive, intense, full of vitality and energy. They can be proud and stubborn, feeling that they must constantly be in control of their environment, unafraid of confrontation and intimidating others if need be. They are the first type in the instinctive triad, over-experiencing their response to rage and pointing it outwards, to the world and people around them. Their basic fear is of being harmed or controlled by others. Their basic desire is to protect themselves, to determine their own path and course of action. Their sin is “Lust”, not so much in the sense of sexual lust, but in terms of an intense forcefulness in attaining their desires. Their unconscious childhood message, what became ingrained in them growing up, was that ‘it’s not okay to be vulnerable or to trust others’. Survival is of utmost importance for them and they are tempted by the belief that they are entirely self-sufficient, that they don’t need anyone. Their virtue, on the other hand, is innocence, the same innocence they felt they had to leave behind early on as young children. At their best they can be heroic, magnanimous, self-sacrificing, and even historically great.
Type 9 The Peacemaker
- This type is easygoing, trusting, laissez-faire. They are the second type in the instinctive triad, and in denial of their deep-rooted rage. They are supportive and patient, but can forego what they truly believe or want to avoid confrontation and to maintain a false sense of peace. Their basic fear is of loss and separation, being broken apart and even annihilated, to be so invisible it’s as if they never existed. Their basic desire is peace of mind and a sense of wholeness. They seek harmony and stability, within themselves and with others. Their sin is sloth, being passive or disengaged with reality, choosing instead to escape into their fantasies or day-dreams, video-games and fantastical stories. Their unconscious childhood message, was that ‘it’s not okay to assert yourself.’ It’s fitting that their virtue is action, and a deep awareness of the interconnectedness of everything, the wholeness of all things without losing the uniqueness of their own Being.
Type 1 The Reformer
- This type is principled, morally righteous, idealistic. They are the third type in the instinctive triad, and repress their sense of rage. They are well-organized, focused on constant improvement, and hold themselves, and often others, to high standards. They can be overly critical or perfectionistic, and at times, impatient with others. Their basic fear is of being bad, evil, or corrupt. Their basic desire is to be good, virtuous, balanced, to have integrity. Their unconscious childhood message was that it’s not okay to make mistakes. Their sin is anger or resentment, directed towards themselves and others for not being good enough. Their virtue is serenity, a sense of integrity, that all is happening exactly as it was meant to, of withholding moral judgment and being open to new experiences and embracing an appreciation for spontaneity. At their best, ones are wise, morally heroic, realistic, and noble.
Type 2 The Helper
- This type is caring, empathetic, self-sacrificing and in tune with the emotions and needs of others before themselves. They are the first type in the feeling triad, and over-experience their sense of shame. They have a deep need to needed by others, and can resort to people-pleasing, or insincerely flattering others to fill this gap. They struggle acknowledging their own needs and taking care of themselves. Their basic fear is of being unloved and unwanted for who they really are. Their basic desire is to have this love, and their unconscious childhood message was that it’s not okay to have your own needs. Their sin is pride, and they direct their self-image of a helping, selfless person outwards to the world, and play the role of rescuer. Their virtue is humility, and a recognition that no matter how much they self-sacrifice, they won’t be able to heal their hearts, not until they love themselves as much as they do others, where they can love unconditionally without having to gulp down resentment. At their best, they’re unselfish, altruistic, and love unconditionally themselves and others.
Type 3 The Achiever
- This type is success-oriented, image conscious, and charming. They are the second type in the feeling triad, and are in denial of their sense of shame. They have a need to be the best, are ambitious, and very concerned about what others think of them. They can be very competitive and insecure, masking their sense of worthlessness and inauthenticity with more and more accolades, and making sure people know about these accolades. Their basic fear is of being worthless, and having no achievements. Their basic desire is to be accepted by others, to be desirable and to be the best. Their unconscious childhood message was that it’s not okay to have your own feelings or identity apart from your accomplishments. Their sin is deceit, and they may create an image of themselves that they project outwards and inwards, trying to convince themselves that they’re better than everyone else. Their virtue is authenticity, a sense of innate value regardless of their accomplishments or what others think of them, and instead focusing their energy for the well-being of others. At their best, threes are authentic, role models, self-accepting, and truly humble.
Type 4 The Individualist
- Type 4s are introspective, self-aware, more reserved, they tend to be artists. They are the third type in the feeling triad, presenting their self-image inwards in response to their sense of shame, trying to convince themselves that they are just different than others. They can be emotionally honest and self-revealing, adopting very romanticized ideas about themselves. They can also be moody, indulging in self-pity and feeling the need to be rescued, victimizing themselves in an unconscious plea for validation from others. Their basic fear is having no identity or significance, their basic desire is to “find themselves and their significance, to create an identity out of their inner experience”. Their unconscious childhood message was that it’s not okay to be too functional or too happy. Their sin is envy, of the confidence and easiness everyone else seems to enjoy, while they remain convinced of how unlike everyone else they are, and that they could discover who they truly are if they find some part of themselves that’s just missing. Their virtue is a sense of balance, and a realization “our true self is not a thing with fixed attributes, but it’s constantly transforming and renewing itself. At their best, type 4s are inspired, creative, and able to transform their experiences without feeling the need to feel a certain way.
Type 5 The Investigator
- Type 5s are fascinated by the world of ideas, they’re critical thinkers, theorizers, independent and innovate, seeking out new constructs to describe the world around them. They are the first type in the thinking triad, fleeing within themselves in response to their sense of fear and anxiety about the world around them. They can become detached and high-strung, isolating themselves from others and escaping into fantasy, or overly specializing in useless, ultra-specific fields of study; seeing themselves as separate from the world around them, with no more a connection than just being detached, amused observers. Their basic fear is being helpless, useless, or incapable of something. Their basic desire is to be capable and competent, and their unconscious childhood message was that it’s not okay to be comfortable in the world. Their sin is greed, they may feel small and incapable of providing enough for everyone, and they try to hoard resources, be them emotional/financial/physical, by cutting themselves off from others, limiting their personal needs, and preventing others from being dependent on them. Their virtue is non-attachment, which is different from the detachment they normally experience, this non-attachment is a sense of clarity and inner knowing that recognizes the interconnectedness of all things and of their very own, albeit passing, role in the universe. At their best, fives are visionaries, ahead of their time exploring ideas that push the frontiers of thought, and allow us to see the world differently.
Type 6 The Loyalist
- Type 6s are committed, loyal, and reliable. They are the second type in the thinking triad, and constantly seek an external sense of security. They look outside of themselves and identify with ideas/jobs/relationships to deal with internal anxiety and then retreat inside away from people out of fear that they might have made a mistake, and then they become afraid of their own uneasy feelings and go back outwards and the cycle repeats. Sixes are characterized by their 50-50ness, indecisiveness, being full of contradictions, often times at the extremes. Their basic fear is having no support or guidance, being unable to survive on their own. Their basic desire is to find security and support. Their unconscious childhood message was that it’s not okay to trust yourself. Their sin is fear, and is usually characterized by an emotional distortion of reality, catastrophizing, which means constantly imagining and overexaggerating the likelihood of the worst possible scenario, and often testing the loyalty of others around them. Their virtue is courage, which is not the absence of fear, but the decision to face their fear head on, and to harbor a sense of guidance and value that is not dependent on anyone or anything other than themselves. At their best, they are “internally stable, self-confident, self-reliant, and supporters of the weak and powerless.”
Type 7 the Enthusiast
- Type 7s are energetic, spontaneous, and full of life. They are risk-takers, versatile, and very optimistic. They are the third type in the thinking triad, directing their sense of anxiety outwards into the world, keeping themselves busy to avoid facing the dread of anxiety lurking within their minds. They can be scattered, undisciplined, exhausted from being constantly on the go, having a garage full of great ideas that they never saw through. Their basic fear is of being deprived from new experiences and trapped in pain. Their basic desire is to be happy, fulfilled, and to experience positive everything there is to experience. Their unconscious childhood message was that it’s not okay to depend on anyone for anything. Their sin is gluttony, seeking to fill inner emptiness with things and experiences, often physical gratifications. There is a constant need for more. Their virtue is a sense of sobriety, realizing that all life is full of joy, and that true happiness is only attainable when you stop seeking it through projects and plans of the personality. At their best, 7s focus their energies without an unquenchable thirst for more, becoming joyous, accomplished and full of gratitude at even the smallest experiences.
I’m type 3, I think.
I’ve really only scratched the surface here. I’ll go through what I think my type is and the inner work that I’ve been doing this past year since learning about this in depth. For the sake of providing you a glimpse of how deep this gets, and how much I left out in the descriptions.
Creating with the Enneagram
With your partner:
- Identifying each other’s types, coming to terms with difficult conversations, discerning what root emotions cause each of you to act in certain ways. Dissolving boundaries of the personality that keep you apart. Type 6 and Type 3.
- With friends and family: Difficult, particularly when you’re known to fill a specific role for a long time. Being open to change and inviting others to as well, especially with family.
Working in teams:
- Uncovering types together and working synergistically
- Discerning what each person needs to feel fulfilled and contribute meaningfully
- Having difficult conversations
In your work:
- In storytelling, basing characters off the Enneagram for realistic depth.
- Not needing to be in certain moods to create, not being dependent on objects or pieces in the room to elicit a certain vibe to work, finding that within, particularly for type 4s
- Working with people
- Social workers, healers, international aid workers, understanding the deeper reasons why you are drawn to your work. What effect it has on you, why you are doing it. How you carry and present yourself, what you expect in return.
- Working with ideas
- Overspecialization in non-useful pursuits for type 5s, endeavours that hinder people’s sense of awareness of themselves, over-identifying with a system of beliefs as for type 6s
The DeepTox Spark
And that, is the tiny bite-sized sample of what the Enneagram is all about, I really recommend reading The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.
Think of it as a heuristic, a rule of thumb, there’s a non-certainty about it, but it in general, you may find it to be roughly accurate. It’s like rounding, but if we forget that we’re rounding, just like we can forget that this isn’t all encompassing, we can get it some trouble down the road. It may all be completely wrong, or completely right, we aren’t sure.
I’ll leave you with this invitation, an abridged quote from the end of the book.
“Everyone is aware that something momentous is happening in the world today… We know that we cannot, as a species, continue to live as we have and survive much longer. The time for rampant egoism, heedless consumption, and grasping individuality is over. They have run their course, and we see the damaging results on a global scale. It may be that the Enneagram has been given to mankind in our era as a tool for accelerating the transformation of the individual ego self… It may not be possible just yet to know where humanity is going, but if the Enneagram accelerates our awakening, then it will have profound and far-reaching effects. If even a few hundred individuals awakened and began to live fully conscious lives, the history of the world undoubtedly would change.”