Tag Archives: Personality type

What Drives Us?

Memory

(Photo credit: Our Hero)

One of the things I like about the type profiles in Don Riso and Russ Hudson’s Personality Types is the succinct “Key Motivations” they describe for each type. Since my score on their Enneagram test (way back when) had only a one-point difference between 8 and 7, reading the Key Motivations helped make it abundantly clear to me that I’m an 8w7, not a 7w8.

Recently, I incorporated these Key Motivations and some of Jerome Wagner’s information on the shadow into descriptions of what drives each type. This was for a group I’ve been working with in which everyone knows their type. During the group discussion, it became clear that some people think these are conscious motivations. As conscious motivations, they seem somewhat objectionable or at least unflattering. But they’re not conscious, they’re unconscious. Enneagram behavior is automatic, or autopilot, behavior. It’s the opposite of conscious behavior.

1s, for example, don’t wake up in the morning and tell themselves nothing is more important to them that day than being right. I don’t get up in the morning and tell myself I’m off to assert myself and prevail over my environment.

Our unconscious motivations are like hidden—at least to us—agendas. They’re more obvious to others because other people see only what we do and say and how we react. They see us from the outside. They don’t have access to our inner experience or personal history. More importantly, they don’t have access to the stories and explanations we’re constantly spinning that tend to obscure our agendas and keep them hidden from us.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t uncover our unconscious motivation by looking inward. If we want to understand what drives us, we have to look not at what we think or feel or want to do, but at what we actually do.

Socrates was only partly wrong that the “unexamined life is not worth living.” The key is the kind of self-examination people perform, and the extent to which people attempt to know themselves solely by looking inward, versus looking outward at their own behavior and how others react to them.

–Timothy D. Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves

Paying attention to what we do is a great focus for self-observation. And paying attention to what we do pays off, too, because as long as our agendas are hidden from us, we’re stuck being at the effect of them.

Unconscious Motivation for the Nine Types

[Note: Key Motivations from Personality Types are in italics.]

1s are compliant to their idealistic obligations, moving toward what will help them earn righteousness and resisting the inner impulses that might lead them astray. To keep their angry impulses out of their awareness, they do the opposite of what they are inclined to do (instead of confronting someone, being nice to him or her; instead of being sexual, becoming puritanical). They tend to be concerned with what is right in front of them (subject, as are the other two Compliant types, to what has been called “the tyranny of the immediate moment”). They tend to play by the rules and expect others to do so, too. They want to be right, to have integrity and balance, to strive higher and improve others, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone. Type 1 is called The Good Person, The Achiever, The Reformer, and The Perfectionist.
Keyword: Principle

2s are compliant to their need to be seen as friendly and helpful by others, so they move toward what will help them earn attention and approval. They tend to be concerned with what is right in front of them (subject, as are the other two Compliant types, to what has been called “the tyranny of the immediate moment”). They tend to recognize the needs of others and are happy to roll up their sleeves to tackle others’ problems while pushing their own into the background. Because their own needs make them anxious, they keep them out of their awareness by repressing them. They project their needs onto others (so other people are needy, but they aren’t). They want to be loved, to express their feelings for others, to be needed and appreciated, to get others to respond to them, to vindicate their claims about themselves. Type 2 is called The Helper, The Giver, The People Pleaser, and The Partner.
Keyword: Persuasion

3s aggressively attempt to maintain both an inner and an outer image of success, moving against anything that prevents them from attaining their goals. To keep failure out of their awareness, they identify with whatever successful mask or role they are playing at the time. They identify with their roles instead of with themselves. Like the other Aggressive types, they tend to hurry through the present and not give much thought to the past. They will play by the rules if that works for them, but they’re willing to bend the rules in order to meet their goals or objectives. They want to feel valuable and worthwhile, to be affirmed, to distinguish themselves, to have attention, to be admired, and to impress others. Type 3 is called The Performer, The Succeeder, The Motivator, and the Status Seeker.
Keyword: Performance

4s withdraw in order to nurture an internal image of uniqueness, moving away from anything that triggers a sense of something lacking. In order to avoid experiencing the common and ordinary, whenever anything seems bland they turn it into something extraordinary or dramatic. Like the other Withdrawing types, they tend to focus on the past, often feeling victimized by it. They tend to feel like they’re on the outside to begin with and are very sensitive to slights and perceived slights (lack of support). They are easily hurt. They want to be themselves, to express themselves in something beautiful, to find the ideal partner, to withdraw to protect their feelings, to take care of emotional needs before attending to anything else. Type 4 is called The Individualist, The Tragic Romantic, The Artist, and The Sensitive Person.
Keyword: Passion

5s doubt their ability to deal effectively with the external world, so they withdraw into their own minds to avoid coming in contact with anything that might make them feel inadequate. To avoid feeling empty, they isolate themselves in their heads away from their feelings and other people. They focus on their thoughts in order to make themselves feel full and comfortable. They also isolate or compartmentalize one time period—or aspect—of life from another. Like the other Withdrawing types, they tend to focus on the past and often reflect on their prior experiences. They aren’t interested in following rules. They don’t like being a part of the system, so they prefer to do things their own way. They want to be capable and competent, to master a body of knowledge and skill, to explore reality, to remain undisturbed by others, to reduce their needs. Type 5 is called The Observer, The Investigator, The Knowledge-Seeker, and The Thinker.
Keyword: Privacy

Because they are anxious about their inner worlds and the external world, 6s move toward whatever—and whomever—they believe will make them feel safe and secure. 6s are the most anxious of the three Thinking center types. They project onto others their own sense of disobedience and rebellion. Other people are trying to get away with things, and 6s need to monitor their activities and bring them in line with their authority’s principles. Or others are trying to trip them up and trap them. They tend to be concerned with what is right in front of them (subject, as are the other two Compliant types, to what has been called “the tyranny of the immediate moment”). They want to be seen as strong and reliable, but at the same time they want to feel supported by others. They can get defensive. They want to have security, to feel supported, to have the approval of others, to test the attitudes of others toward them, to defend their beliefs. Type 6 is called The Loyalist, The Questioner, The Guardian, and The Devil’s Advocate.
Keyword: Participation

7s want to avoid experiencing the pain that could result from their own thoughts and feelings, so they aggressively move against whatever gets in the way of their happiness and contentment by focusing on external events and activities. To keep pain out of their awareness, they sublimate it and turn it into something interesting or good. They automatically look for the good in everything. So they might celebrate the new life of a deceased loved one rather than mourn their loss. Like the other Aggressive types, they tend to hurry through the present as they make plans for the future. They tend to be more focused on their own needs and often fail to notice the needs (and problems) of others. They want to be happy and satisfied, to have a wide variety of experiences, to keep their options open, to enjoy life and amuse themselves, to escape anxiety. Type 7 is called The Adventurer, The Epicure, The Generalist, and The Enthusiast.
Keyword: Pleasure

8s aggressively assert themselves against others and the environment, moving against what gets in the way of their pursuit of their agendas. To prevent weakness from showing up in their awareness or persona, they deny any presence of it (the real kings and queens of denial). Like the other Aggressive types, they tend to hurry through the present and not give much thought to the past. They are comfortable in the supportive role, but they don’t want to need other people, so they keep their guard up to prevent others from getting too close. They are easily angered. They want to be self-reliant, to resist their weakness, to have an impact on the environment, to assert themselves, to stay in control, to prevail over others, to be invincible. Type 8 is called The Challenger, The Confronter, The Leader, the Asserter (and a few other things that are unprintable).
Keyword: Power

9s withdraw so others won’t disturb their inner peacefulness, moving away from anything that triggers a sense of distress and discomfort, whether it’s internal or external. To avoid conflict, they numb their feelings, wants, and preferences. They make everything the same and highlight nothing. They make molehills out of mountains. Like the other Withdrawing types, they are focused on the past and tend to ruminate about what happened, both good and bad. They try to pay attention to others’ needs as well as their own; as a result, they often become overwhelmed so they tune out instead of responding to either. They want to have serenity and peace of mind, to create harmony in their environment, to preserve things as they are, to avoid conflicts and tension, to escape upsetting problems and demands on them. Type 9 is called The Peacemaker, The Preservationist, The Mediator, and the Universalist.
Keyword: Peace

Peace out. 🙂

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Type 9: Notoriously in Need of a Nap

9This is the video clip of Type 9 from understandingpersonality.com, the last one in the series. Viewing this from my perspective as an 8, I was keenly aware of being impatient at how slowly the keywords appear in the beginning and how many times the people being interviewed pause.

“Oh, get on with it,” my inner voice nearly shouted. Then I stopped and took a deep breath.

While 8s visibly expend their energy, 9s expend their energy internally. If you didn’t know that, you might wonder why they are the ones who are so tired. But I get that being a 9 can be exhausting. And I thought this was the most profound statement:

There’s a moment where you stop adapting.

You can almost feel this woman letting go. Ahhhh. 

Type 8: We Get the Job Done Right

Sunburst_8Here’s the video clip on Type 8 from understandingpersonality.com. After watching this a couple of times, I still had trouble relating to several of these people and their descriptions of their personal experiences. I thought that might be because I have such a strong 7 wing. But I’ve watched 8s on other videos with whom I’ve identified quite closely. Then I noticed that someone else commented that he or she thought only one of the people in this video is actually an 8. I don’t know whether that person was another 8.

I call a spade a spade, and I use it.

Ha! That was my favorite comment. It made me laugh out loud. But what I related to most were the two comments about dealing with “fools.” My partner used to threaten to get me a T-shirt (one in a series) that said “Does Not Suffer Fools Gladly.”

Type 7: Always Leave Them Laughing

Number 7Here’s the video from understandingpersonality.com on Type 7. 7s are pretty insistent about what’s important to them–they are, after all, one of the aggressive types.

Often, as they themselves say, 7s “bring the sunshine in.” So we like to be around them.

I must have light, and I must have laughter, I must have humor, I must have friends, and I must have people. I’m drawn to groups having fun. I need to have that. And I must have that because it’s as vital as water. The major part of my life is probably fun.

Type 6: Suspicious Minds

number_6This video clip on Type 6 from understandingpersonality.com suggests that life, for 6s, is akin to being trapped in an endless Halloween scene–or a scary fairy tale with no happy ending in sight.

It’s hard to feel safe when the witches and goblins are always after you. The deer-in-the-headlights expression on this 6‘s face below says it all.

The comments definitely have a theme. Here are three statements from three different participants:

…a constant checking for what’s going on
…you’re always watching your back
…it’s all about staying safe

Maybe 6s should come equipped with eyes in the backs of their heads.

No ToE (Theory of Everything)

No person

I have enjoyed learning about and working with the Enneagram for the past couple of decades because it explains—amazingly accurately—so much about how we humans actually function. I’ve gotten to know myself much better as a result and have learned to curb some tendencies and to live with some shortcomings. Best of all, I’ve learned to laugh at myself, at least a little. I’ve also gotten to know others on a deeper level as a result of using the Enneagram.

But sometimes I think we ask too much—or expect too much—of the Enneagram. As comprehensive a tool as it is, the Enneagram can’t and doesn’t explain everything there is to know about us. It is not the personality equivalent of a Theory of Everything.

One aspect of the Enneagram that has become increasingly popular over the past 10 years is identifying the so-called Instinctual Variants, and more recently Instinctual Variant Stacking. The concept seems to have originated with Oscar Ichazo, but it has been considerably expanded and given greater significance than it once had. The purpose of the Instinctual Variants, and the stacking thereof, appears to be to try to explain the differences within types. (This is what I’ve read, not just my interpretation.)

Well, of course there are differences within types. And there are all kinds of things that could explain them, most of which have nothing at all to do with the Enneagram. More than 10 years ago, my partner in crime Elizabeth Libbey and I devoted a great deal of time and effort reviewing a large portion of Enneagram literature and looking at how the Enneagram maps onto or corresponds with other psychological, sociological, and neurological research. We found a solid basis for the Stances (Aggressive, Compliant, and Withdrawing), but nothing comparable in regard to the Instinctual Variants. In fact, I came across research results that flatly contradict that what the Enneagram community considers “Instincts” have anything whatsoever to do with actual biological instincts. That’s why I don’t write about that particular topic here.

Trying to fit all the disjointed, fractured, and misshapen pieces of us inside the Enneagram doesn’t seem realistic or useful to me. And I wonder if that isn’t what turns some people off about personality typing systems. I think that who we are is much more complex and mysterious—and ultimately unknowable. I also think that’s a good thing!

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Type 5: Sponging Everything Up

fiveHere’s the clip on Type 5 from understandingpersonality.com. I think it’s fascinating that two of the people interviewed referred to having a “black hole” inside. The waiter I tentatively identified as a 5 last fall also made a reference to black holes.

There’s this black hole inside, and if you know enough you’re safe.

Could this be coincidental or might it be a commonality among 5s?