9s can be very pleasant and peaceful to be around. They are tolerant, calm, agreeable, supportive, considerate, patient, non-judgmental, accommodating, diplomatic, kind, and adaptable. Their very presence can be reassuring to those who may be more inclined to run in circles, scream and shout. They make excellent mediators, partly because they seek harmony and partly because they are able to identify so well with others.
The flip side is that in order to maintain this serene exterior and create a tranquil space for others, they have to contain all the non-nice thoughts and feelings roiling below the surface. Their compulsion leads them in the direction of tuning out their own preferences and going along with what other people want. True peace of mind is attained by acknowledging and coming to terms with the dark, unpleasant, and unharmonious aspects of life, not by trying to pretend they don’t exist.
Peace at any Price
According to Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, the defense mechanism favored by 9s is narcotization:
To avoid conflict you numb your feelings, wants, and preferences. You make everything the same and highlight nothing. You make molehills out of mountains.
9s don’t want to be upset, nor do they want anyone else to be upset. As is true for all the other types and the things they avoid, this is completely unrealistic. No one can escape conflict. It’s a part of life, and it isn’t always negative or harmful. Furthermore, trying to avoid conflict is disempowering to a type that has the potential for great personal, interpersonal, and spiritual achievements.
Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.
—William Ellery Channing
9s think that if they speak out and stand up for what they want and need it will alienate the people closest to them. So they expend a lot of energy in making those molehills out of mountains, suppressing themselves and acting as if they don’t care one way or the other—about anything. While they constantly feel pressured to respond to the external world, they are frequently too tired to muster the energy to do it; hence the need for a nap or some other narcotizing activity.
I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.
The vicious cycle this can create is that by numbing out or checking out, 9s often fail to deal with actual problems that need resolution, which creates more internal pressure that takes effort and energy to contain. It’s exhausting!
The Importance of Being You
In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have several good tips for 9s. One of them is for 9s to learn to sense anger in their bodies and to realize it’s OK to be angry and to tell others when they’re upset with them. But the following suggestion regarding personal development seems especially apt, given 9s’ habit of undervaluing themselves:
Take a tip from healthy Threes and invest time and energy in developing yourself and your talents. There are many pleasant, perfectly valid ways to spend your time, entertaining yourself or hanging out with friends or loved ones—but make sure you do not shortchange yourself by neglecting your own development. The initial struggles may bring up many of your anxieties about yourself, but the rewards of persisting in your development will be much greater and more deeply satisfying. Further, investing in yourself will not lead you away from your connection with others: everyone will benefit from a stronger, more fully actualized you.
9s often find themselves in circumstances where others depend on them, which gives them a compelling reason not to pursue their own interests and self-development. But they have played a role in creating those situations, and they have the right and the ability to modify them. As Riso and Hudson say, when they do that, everyone will benefit. Put that way, how could any 9 refuse? I jest, but some 9s may need to view stepping out in terms of their relationships with others in order to be able to take the first steps.
- Only the Shadow Knows (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 1: Anger (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 2: Neediness (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 3: Failure (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 4: Ordinariness (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 5: Emptiness (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 6: Deviance (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 7: Pain (ninepaths.com)
- In the Shadow of Type 8: Weakness (ninepaths.com)