In Earth Game: The Evolution of Consciousness, I briefly mentioned the selection of an “Enneagram” personality drive as one of the choices to be made in the course of planning and designing a lifetime within “Earth Game”. Because that book was purposefully short, I resisted the temptation to include an explanation of the Enneagram and why it is an important choice in the design of a lifetime. (To put the importance in context, I am told that Enneagram personality drive is chosen before selecting parents.) I now provide that explanation, summarized as best I can.
In the process of planning an Earth lifetime, you (technically, your Higher Self) select one of nine Enneagram types (the word itself comes from the Greek word for “nine”). Your Enneagram number is not your personality; rather, it is what drives you.
You are precisely one of the nine Enneagram types. You are not a little bit of this one and bit of that one with a dash of a third thrown in. You are not half and half.
No Enneagram drive is preferable to or in any way better than any other. With each type, your greatest strengths and your greatest weaknesses will be cut from the same cloth. The important thing to note is that you chose a particular Enneagram drive for good reason. It provides clues to what you had in mind for your present round of “Earth Game”. Keep that in mind as you explore below.
The Nine Enneagram Drives:
Without further ado, here in vastly oversimplified form is a description of the nine Enneagram types, one of which most definitely is you:
- Ones are logical, analytical, idealistic, honest, virtuous, fair-minded, service-oriented, perfectionist, hypercritical. You may be a One if: you want to reform everything, right every wrong, and change the world; it is virtually impossible for you to lie; you tend to see things as black or white; you tend to see even small flaws as major defects; doing the “right” thing is very important to you; you generally have no difficulty making decisions; you tend to be sure you’re absolutely right, even when you aren’t; when you discover you have been incorrect, you don’t have any particular difficulty rejecting the old position and embracing the “right” one (because it is important to you to be “right”).
- Twos are nurturers by nature, caregivers, other-oriented. You may be a Two if: you instinctively focus on meeting the other person’s needs; you naturally gravitate to looking after others; you want to be loved by everyone (but especially those in positions of power or authority); feeling appreciated is important to you – and feeling unappreciated is terribly painful; you have to remind yourself to do things for you and take time for yourself; you sometimes feel that you are a bit of a drudge.
- Threes are achievers, goal-setters, get-things-done types. You may be a Three if: it seems natural for you to perform; you feel you have to win at everything you do; you tend to achieve a lot; you tend to seek concrete manifestations of success; you want to get approval from everyone; you tend to rationalize that the end justifies the means; you can be somewhat deceitful if that is what it takes to achieve your goals.
- Fours are elegant, classy, off in their own world, yet somehow have a deep sense of human tragedy. You may be a Four if: you are a bit of an artist (or artiste) – even if you never pick up a paintbrush; you are a sharp dresser; there is an elegance about you; you believe – or want to believe – that you are “special”; you are drawn to the trappings of success, especially the finer and more cultured trappings; you feel somewhat isolated from the masses, perhaps even elitist; you feel an indefinable sadness about the world; you can be a bit of a cynic – you tell others that’s just the way people are or just the way the world is.
- Fives are reflective, cautious, private. You may be a Five if: you are a thinker – rational and analytical; in a group, you’re the last one to voice your opinion (Ones are usually the first, by the way); you almost never shoot your mouth off; you are uncomfortable making decisions until you have all the information; you are thorough, detailed and careful in your approach to things; you believe that all sides of an issue deserve equal consideration; you tend to “hold your cards close to the vest”.
- Sixes are loyal, group-oriented, authority-oriented team players. They are also worrywarts who tend to sweat the small stuff and see landmines on every horizon. You may be a Six if: you tend to focus on what could go wrong; you tend to be concerned about what other people think of you; you feel it is important to do the proper thing; if you see a police car in your rear view mirror, your heartbeat races, even though you are not speeding and your seat belt is buckled; you are either very focused on authority or instinctively anti-authority; you often feel a need to point out to others risks or worries to which they don’t seem to be paying proper attention.
- Sevens feel that being nice and having fun is what it’s all about. You may be a Seven if: you were a happy baby; you tend to laugh a lot; being nice to others is important to you; you tend to be the first to arrive and the last to leave at social gatherings; you often encourage others to “lighten up” or look on the bright side; you tend to want to avoid any kind of emotional pain; you need to remind yourself to be thorough and pay attention to detail; you like novelty and adventure; your idea of the perfect world is an endless “recess”.
- Eights are courageous leaders. They are self-reliant and fearless. They can be bullies. You may be an Eight if: you are a natural leader (that is, you just assume that you should be in charge); when challenged, you tend to take it personally and “fight to the death”; you have a hard time retreating from a position even if it turns out to be incorrect; you see self-reliance as an important virtue; you tend to hate any weakness in yourself; you tend to be caring and considerate to anyone who seeks out your help; you can be a strong “champion” for a cause; you don’t find it easy to forgive others; you have a weakness for greed, lust, gluttony, or revenge; your idea of the perfect world is where everyone agrees that you should be in charge.
- Nines are peacemakers. Their motto is “why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down?” You may be a Nine if: you find it easy to relax, and not so easy to motivate yourself; you feel you can get along with just about anyone; you avoid conflict, and you do not handle discord or turmoil well; if you regularly exercise, it is mostly for the camaraderie; you don’t sweat the small stuff, and you don’t see too many things as a “hill to die on”; you have a natural flair for being a mediator.
If you know yourself well, the odds are that one of the above categories jumped out at you. If you can’t find yourself in one of the nine types, then perhaps ask someone close to you which one fits you.
Eights, by the way, tend to recognize their type immediately, because they are acutely aware that they always just assume that they are – or should be – in charge. Ones also recognize themselves right away, except it irks them to admit that they tend to be hypercritical and thus imperfect. Nines and Sevens tend to be fairly obvious – if you can get their focused attention long enough. Twos may cling to a hope that they are other than Twos, feeling as they sometimes do like Cinderella before the Fairy Godmother has made an appearance. Threes might lie about their type if they figure there is a win in that. Fours can be tricky to spot, but the shoes or car may give them away. If you’re really not at all sure, you may well be a Five or Six. Fives don’t like to be too sure about anything, and Sixes may worry they will pick the wrong type and get in trouble.
You also have a secondary “wing” or “lean”. That is, if you are a One, you will tend to have some characteristics of either a Nine or a Two. If you are a Seven, you will lean towards either Six or Eight. You will not, however, be half Four and half Five; you can be a Four with a Five wing, or the other way around, but no one is ever “on the cusp”.
The significance of all this, to recap, is that character is destiny. Know that you chose the Enneagram drive that would best facilitate your life’s path. But, there is another wrinkle to explore, discussed next.
Disintegrating and Integrating Directions:
Here is perhaps the coolest thing about the Enneagram. Take a calculator and divide 1 by 7. You will get an infinitely repeating sequence: 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 …. That sequence reveals your disintegrating direction, where you take on the negative characteristics of the next number in the sequence:
- If you are a One, you disintegrate in blame and judgment to the “nobody understands me” of the Four.
- If a Four, you disintegrate in your fantasy world, moving towards Two and waiting for your prince (or princess) to come.
- If a Two, desperate to be loved and appreciated, you become as the bullying Eight, determined to fix others “for their own good”.
- If an Eight, isolated and alienated in your obsessive self-reliance, you become the brooding and secretive Five, clandestinely plotting revenge against your enemies.
- If a Five, paralyzed by over-thinking, you retreat into a tofu-like world where you never make a decision, simply going with the prevailing current and seeking the Seven’s escapism.
- If a Seven, your attempts to avoid the pain fail you, and you deteriorate to the blaming and judgmental One.
Enneagram drives Three, Six, and Nine have their own triangular sequencing:
- Disintegrating Threes become disillusioned, conclude they cannot win or achieve their goals, and deteriorate to the slothfulness of the Nine.
- Nines, traumatized by discord and disarray, deteriorate to the paranoid Six.
- Sixes, desperate to create safety, deteriorate to Three, convinced that they must win at all costs in order to keep the wolves from the door.
It’s not all bad news. There is also an integrating direction, being the reverse of the above sequence:
- For Ones, it is to move towards Seven, lightening up, letting go of blame and judgment and instead joyfully and playfully embracing the adventure of life.
- For Sevens, it is to move towards Five, becoming more thorough in their thinking, more analytical in their pursuits.
- For Fives, it is to move towards Eight, there finding the courage to finally get off the fence, to make decisions, and to lead.
- For Eights, it is to move towards Two – to take that courage and leadership ability and use it to be champions for others who are not so self-reliant.
- For Twos, it is to move towards Four – throwing off the drudgery that being the nurturer can slide into, and instead finding the romance and elegance of their own uniqueness.
- For Fours, it is to move towards One, finding something of principle and integrity worth standing for.
Likewise, the triangulation of Three, Six, and Nine has an integrating direction:
- For Threes, it is to move towards Six – to become team players.
- For Sixes, it is to move towards Nine – to at last relax!
- For Nines, it is to move towards Three – to get off the couch, set goals, and pursue worthwhile achievements.
You can use the above to assess how you are doing – and also to assess whether those you are working with or interacting with tend to be moving in their integrating or disintegrating direction. (Hint: engage with the former more so than the latter.)
Enneagram Drive as Limitation:
When you have come to be fully familiar with your Enneagram drive, it will seem such a part of who you are that it is difficult to conceive of it as blockage. Yet, ultimately, your Enneagram drive is in the way, because it colors your perception of your reality and your place in that reality. Think of your Enneagram drive as glasses with tinted lenses; not one of us sees the world through a clear lens. Eventually, you will feel a call to step beyond that limitation.
If, for instance, you are a Six, you will be confronted with the need to step beyond fear, to cease the constant scanning for danger. If you are a Two, you will need to walk away from needing to be loved and approved of by everyone (or at least those you see as being in positions of power). If you are a One, you will need to let go of feeling you have to fix everything and make it “right”. And if you are an Eight, you will need to move beyond hating your own weakness and having to be entirely self-reliant.
It will not be easy to step beyond your Enneagram drive, because it will seem to be stepping beyond who you are. Moving in the integrating direction (discussed above) is where you begin, but there seems more to it than that. When you have mastered the lessons you had in mind when you selected your Enneagram drive, you will be ready to transcend that drive. Your Enneagram drive was selected for this lifetime precisely because it is limitation. Only beyond the limitation will you find true freedom – the freedom to do what you came to do.
To put all this in a personal context, the precision of the Enneagram appeals particularly to me as a One. Having a Two “wing” or “lean”, I like the idea that sharing knowledge of the Enneagram may help others. I am mindful of preferring my integrating direction of the Seven (let’s play!) over my disintegrating direction of the Four (nobody understands me, boohoo). And, I have learned to remind myself to focus the laser-like vision of the One on looking for beauty rather than flaws.
To wrap this up, I will share an anecdote from many years ago, when I had first stumbled upon the Enneagram. I was lying awake in bed, pondering the significance of the infinitely repeating numerical sequence generated by dividing 1 by 7. There seemed something strangely significant about that sequence, and something deeply and wonderfully mysterious about our nine numbers. Although it was past midnight, sleep was not near. Eyes wide open, I was staring at the ceiling, pondering. My wife stirred from slumber: “What are those numbers doing on the ceiling?” she asked, still half asleep. Aha, I thought, there is definitely something about those numbers.