Tag Archives: Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles

In the Shadow of Type 7: Pain

Nothing Remains the Same

Nothing Remains the Same (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever the reason for the party, 7s are the ones who want to get it started, and the rest of us are usually willing to join in the celebration. They’re the fun-loving, enthusiastic cheerleaders who people often want to be around: adventuresome, gregarious, spontaneous, uninhibited, entertaining, optimistic, and imaginative.

In fact, others don’t just want to be around 7s, some actually want to be 7s. The exterior is very appealing, especially to those who don’t naturally have the abundant energy and optimism 7s seem to have. The reverse, however, is that 7s may be viewed as superficial dilettantes—again based on outside appearances. What’s really behind their whirlwind of mental and physical activity?

Escape from Boredom and Pain

According to Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, 7s are working really hard to avoid experiencing pain and suffering. Their primary defense mechanism is sublimation:

To keep pain out of your awareness, you sublimate it and turn it into something interesting or good. You automatically look for the good in everything. So you might celebrate the new life of a deceased loved one rather than mourn their loss.

7s don’t just want to be happy, they need to be happy. Therefore, they work and play as hard as they do in order to try to maintain a steady state of happiness. Pain and suffering are a major buzz kill. If 7s can’t outrun or outfox it, they’ll find a way to reframe it the same way 3s reframe failure. This can lead to a variety of risky behaviors—including addictions—that in the long run create a great deal more pain and suffering than they were being employed to try to avoid in the first place.

Too Much of a Good Thing

7s need constant stimulation. They have extremely active, quick, and agile minds that can easily solve complex problems and generate amazing insights, but may also move with lightning speed from one thing to another, never focusing on anything long enough to truly grasp or appreciate it. They may be more concerned with possibilities than actualities. They like what is new and intense rather than what is humdrum and ordinary.

There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled. –Ovid

You could substitute any substance or activity or emotion for alcohol and the words would still mean the same thing. The relentless pursuit of happiness is also known as escapism. In trying to escape from pain and suffering, 7s only succeed at escaping from themselves.

Finding Fulfillment

In The Wisdom of The Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson suggest 7s focus on being present in this moment rather than anticipating what might be around the corner in the next one:

Find the joy of the ordinary. Like Fours, Sevens tend to seek out heightened reality—you like things to be extraordinary, fabulous, exciting, and stimulating. The amazing thing, however, is that when we are present, all of our experiences are extraordinary. Cleaning your room or eating an orange can be a totally fulfilling experience if you are in it one hundred percent. Each moment is a unique source of delight and amazement. Your fear of deprivation and your desire to entertain yourself prevent you from finding the fulfillment you seek. Think about which moments from your past were the most alive and fulfilling—a child’s birth, a wedding, a picnic with friends during college, a perfect sunset. What about them made them so satisfying and real? Also notice that these moments do not necessarily make exciting stories, although they have another quality that makes them fulfilling. Your life will change to the degree that you find out what that quality is.

7s have so much to offer. When they slow down, calm down, and learn how to be with themselves without all the external stimulation they habitually surround themselves with, they often  get in touch with a different kind of happiness—a quieter, but deeper happiness that doesn’t depend on the next great thing.

In the Shadow of Type 5: Emptiness


Emptiness (Photo credit: herrnanditovsk)

5s like to see themselves as perceptive, logical, reasonable, observant, informed, deep, intelligent, self-sufficient, and objective. Others may see them essentially the same way but put a slightly different slant on those characteristics. They may view 5s as aloof, insensitive, in their heads, eccentric, and maybe even know-it-alls like Sheldon Cooper on TV’s The Big Bang Theory.

5s aren’t the only people who misunderstand how others perceive them, but because of the structure of their personalities they may be the most likely to do so—as well as the least likely to care. Since they prefer to avoid a lot of interpersonal contact, especially intimate contact, they aren’t bothered if their behavior keeps others away. Interacting with other people distracts 5s from what Riso and Hudson call the Inner Tinker Toy they have put together in their heads.


Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.

–Robert Baden-Powell

Of course, it’s impossible to be prepared for anything and everything that could possibly occur. The definition of an emergency is that it is an unforeseen event that requires immediate action. An accident, too, is an unexpected, unintentional incident. But it’s hard for 5s to recognize, even in the normal course of events, when the time has come to stop preparing and to act.

I’ll Be in My Cave

In The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, Jerome Wagner names isolation as the primary defense mechanism for Type 5:

To avoid feeling empty, you isolate yourself in your head away from your feelings and people. You go to your thoughts where you feel full and comfortable. You also isolate or compartmentalize one time or period of your life from the next.

5s not only isolate in their heads, they often create personal spaces into which they retreat. These spaces are often an extension of 5s’ interests and fascinations, which they fill to the brim with materials, tools, books, etc., just as they fill their heads with information and knowledge. 5s are often as loathe to give up these material objects and their tinkering with them as they are to give up their incessant intake of information and mental activity. Both serve the same purpose: to avoid experiencing feeling empty.


This suggestion from Don Riso and Russ Hudson in The Wisdom of the Enneagram focuses directly on the shadow issue of emptiness.

Remember that your mind is clearest and most powerful when it is quiet. Take the time to cultivate this quiet in yourself, and do not confuse it with an insistence that your external world be silent. Rather, learn to notice your nonstop internal commentary on all of your experiences. What arises when you simply take in an impression of the moment without connecting it with what you think you already know? Being connected with your physical sensations will greatly help you quiet your mind.

5s fill themselves up with so much information as a way to insulate, as well as isolate, themselves. But what happens is that they eventually lose touch somewhat with the actual world because in observing it from the safety of their minds, all they can see is the construct they have very carefully built up over time.

So practices that quiet the mind can be powerful antidotes to this escape from reality. But since escaping reality—or at least some portion of it—is what they have wanted to do all along, those practices can also be very threatening.

Working on a project with one or two other people is also a good practice. 5s do have lots of insight and expertise to offer. They can be excellent problem solvers, too. Engaging in an activity with someone else who shares one of their interests can be a grounding experience. It can also help 5s develop confidence in the area of interpersonal relations, which is a gateway to the wider world.

In the Shadow of Type 3: Failure


Failure Freeway (Photo credit: StormKatt)

3s see themselves—and definitely want you to see them—as self-assured, industrious, ambitious, purposeful, high-achieving, decisive, focused, dynamic, hard-working, energetic, and of course, successful. 3s are goal-oriented, to put it mildly, as well as possibly the people who invented multi-tasking. After all, if you can get two or three things done at the same time, why settle for doing just one thing.

Since 3s also tend to be well-organized and great at motivating people to rise to the occasion, they are good leaders and managers who can complete complex projects. They are highly competitive and always go for the win. Most people find winning desirable and prefer it to losing, but for 3s winning is essential. Their sense of self-worth is based on their ability to succeed, achieve, and be the best at what they do. Depending on the circumstances and your relationship to the 3 in question, you may admire this aspect of 3s or despise it.


“Winner” is a role 3s play. They may get to be so good at playing the role they lose themselves in it. When that happens, it won’t matter how successful they are or how much they have achieved because they will have lost touch with who they are—and possibly with the people they most want and need to be connected with.

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.

–Wilma Rudolph


Jerome Wagner says, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, that the defense mechanism for 3s is identification:

To keep failure out of your awareness, you identify with whatever successful mask or role you are playing at the time. You identify with your role instead of with yourself.

The drive to succeed at whatever they do often leads 3s to reframe situations in which they failed at something so that they somehow still come out as winning. People tend to misunderstand the ambition of 3s and view it through a glass darkly. 3s have been described as arrogant and superficial, but they can also be extremely charming. They seek attention and the positive regard of other people at least as much as 2s do. They believe that as long as they are successful others will think highly of them. Therefore, if they feel that positive regard slipping, they may shift into overdrive to increase their level of achievement. This is a vicious cycle that does not end well for 3s.


In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Riso and Hudson suggest 3s involve themselves in a creative pursuit:

Threes really benefit from creativity, especially when the creativity is for themselves and not an audience of some kind. Painting, making pottery, playing music, writing or drawing, and journaling can help you get in touch with your feelings and bring you into greater alignment with yourself. You may even want to create a sacred space in your home that is devoted solely to your creativity and self-discovery. No work-related tasks are allowed here! It is your refuge from the demands in your life, especially the demands you make on yourself.

I like this idea because it doesn’t ask 3s to stop doing, but to focus their doing in a different direction. Spending time alone doing something without a win-lose outcome is a good practice. It could give 3s an opportunity to get in touch with who they are when they’re not performing in some way. It can also provide them with a chance to “fail” by pursuing an activity they may not be skilled at purely for enjoyment. There’s freedom in having nothing on the line and no audience to evaluate the results of their creative endeavors.

By doing something by and for themselves, they may find it easier to be themselves.

Online Enneagram Tests


personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

There are quite a few websites that allow you to take personality typing tests online to help you discover your Enneagram type. I say “help you” because getting your type right may not be that easy or straightforward. But at least taking one or more tests can get you in the ballpark. You should be able to rule out several types even if you’re still unsure which one you are. Then you can do some further exploration by reading about and looking at the differences between the types you’re still considering. Focus on motivation instead of behaviors. Motivation is key.

Here are five sites to check out. Most have free tests, but a couple of them cost $10.00 to take.

ECLECTIC ENERGIES (www.eclecticenergies.com)

This site gives you two options, a “Classical enneagram test” and an “Enneagram test with instinctual variant.” I took the Classical test and the results were accurate.

ENNEAGRAM INSTITUTE (www.enneagraminstitute.com)

There are three test options here, two free and one for $10.00:

The free RHETI Sampler consists of 36 forced-choice statements and is estimated to take 10 minutes to complete.

The free Brief QUEST is estimated to take 5 minutes to complete.

For $10.00, you can take the full RHETI, which consists of 144 forced-choice statements and is estimated to take 40 minutes to complete.

I took version 2.0 of the RHETI years ago and the results were accurate for my type and wing. There is now a version 2.5 of the test, which I don’t have any experience with. Overall, I think this is the best Enneagram test out there. But, as with all the tests, the results aren’t always as clear-cut.

ENNEAGRAM CENTRAL (enneagramcentral.com)

This test first accurately pegged me as an Aggressive type, but then mistyped me as a 3. (3 was my third-highest score in the RHETI, but it wasn’t close to 8 or 7 in that test.)


You can take the WEPSS (Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales) online for $10.00. I took this test many years ago, but I don’t recall the results.

ENNEAGRAM WORLDWIDE (enneagramworldwide.com)

As long as you register, you can take the The Essential Enneagram Test online. This consists of paragraph descriptions of the 9 types. You select the three that are most like you. This one was easy for me, and I think the descriptions are good.

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In the Shadow of Type 2: Neediness

We Need Help

We Need Help (Photo credit: Alain-Christian)

2s see themselves as caring, sympathetic, kind, nurturing, friendly, giving, compassionate, warm-hearted, and above all, helpful.

2s make good friends. Having a 2 in your corner can be very reassuring. They will readily offer their assistance—sometimes even before the other person is aware he or she needs it. 2s’ sense of self-worth depends upon how valuable they are to others, or how valuable they perceive themselves to be.

Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and we can probably agree that there isn’t enough genuine altruism in the world. So it’s easy to applaud the selfless behavior of 2s. It’s also sometimes easy to take advantage of it since 2s really, really want others to like them.

The Flip Side

Of course, as with all the types, there’s a catch. If 2s aren’t acknowledged for all they do and recognized for the important role they play, they may either turn into martyrs or lash out at the very people they had previously lavished their love and attention on.

In The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, Jerome Wagner lists repression as the primary defense mechanism of 2s:

Because your own needs make you anxious, you keep them out of your awareness by repressing them. You project your needs onto others (so other people are needy, but you aren’t).

Needy is kind of a loaded term. There are people all over the world in need of the most basic elements of survival: food, water, shelter, clothing, and personal safety. They are undeniably needy, or at least in need. Then there are those of us who haven’t experienced those kinds of needs and aren’t likely to.

But emotional needs are important, too. The mental health profession makes an interesting distinction between needs and neediness. Becoming aware of and expressing one’s needs is a positive thing. Being a needy person, however, is generally viewed negatively. On top of that, we have the cultural dissonance (somewhat reflected in the divisiveness of U.S. politics) that applauds both self-reliance and toughing it out, on the one hand, and concern for the less-fortunate, on the other.

Everyone of us needs to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves.

–Princess Diana

In a way, 2s reflect our society’s discomfort and ambivalence about needs, neediness, and needy people. Although quick to identify, sympathize with, and respond to others’ needs, they relegate their own needs to the shadowland. In a way, they tend to themselves by tending to others. But, of course, that indirect route isn’t really very satisfying for either party.

Don Riso and Russ Hudson (The Wisdom of the Enneagram) suggest 2s examine their motives:

Twos tend to give too much and then regret it. Be brutally honest with yourself about your motives when you do anything for anyone. Learn to doubt your own rationales. Learn to listen to your body and your heart: when both ache, you know that you are hurting, and giving more to others so that they will appreciate you will not ultimately heal that hurt. On the other hand, closing down and cutting off ties with others will not solve the problem, either. Only brutal honesty about your intentions and your needs will do.

I’m not so sure about the being “brutally” honest part. Many 2s are carrying around a huge bag of unmet needs, so I think they need to be gentle with themselves. Getting into the habit of asking, “What do I need in this situation—or right now?” can help them slow down, settle down, and learn to focus inward, rather than outward.

The irony for 2s is that acknowledging their own needs—and being straightforward and honest about getting them met—can actually lead to the deeper, more intimate connections they crave. The more they take care of themselves, the more they will be able to freely offer themselves to others, and the more likely they are to develop the genuine friendships and relationships they are looking for.