Tag Archives: Personality type

In the Shadow of Type 8: Weakness

Crying..

Crying.. (Photo credit: Anders Ljungberg)

People often look to 8s to take the lead because 8s are perceived of as self-confident, decisive, strong, powerful, direct, courageous, resourceful, just, and of course take-charge. They talk the talk and walk the walk. Since taking charge comes naturally to them, others pick up on it and often fall in line behind them. Hopefully the 8 taking the lead is heading somewhere everyone else wants to go and not for the nearest cliff. That’s a danger since 8s can be very convincing. This is often because they don’t rely on outside authorities but prefer to figure things out for themselves, so they are quite firm in their resulting convictions. That makes them appear extremely confident, which is something we value in leaders.

I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.
–Colin Powell

Right. No one wants a weak, wishy-washy, fearful, timid, muddled leader. And no 8 wants to be seen as such. So while 8s really do possess many of those admirable qualities, they also know those are the qualities others want them to project, especially when they are in leadership roles. However, it’s hard for 8s to take off the leader hat when they go home at the end of the day, hard to let down their guard in one setting and keep it up in another.

About that River in Egypt

Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, says the defense mechanism of 8s is denial.

To prevent weakness from showing up in your awareness or persona, you deny any presence of it. “I don’t hurt, I’m not nice, I’m not sentimental, I don’t need you,” etc.

Each 8 probably defines weakness in his or her own way, but however 8s define it, it is definitely anathema to them. They don’t want to experience it, and they certainly don’t want others to see any sign of weakness in them. So they power through situations that might leave others gasping at the side of the road. There’s a time and place for that, but not every time and every place.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
–Washington Irving

8s are good at denying, stuffing, covering up, or ignoring what they perceive as weakness. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make it go away, though, so the better 8s get at denial, the more pressure builds below the surface. Some days you can look at an 8 the wrong way and receive The Wrath of Khan in return. You don’t know what just hit you, and the 8 is as surprised as you are.

Take a Hike!

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have a number of suggestions for 8s that center on getting in touch with their feelings (which they admit is a cliché) and aren’t very specific. I don’t think telling 8s to get in touch with their feelings is particularly helpful, since not all 8s are out of touch with their feelings, or at least not all the time. They just don’t consider them a high priority. The following suggestion seems much more practical and therefore likely to appeal to 8s:

Take some quiet time to restore your soul. This doesn’t mean watching television, eating, or drinking—really take time to be with yourself and enjoy simple things. Take a tip from your next-door neighbors, the Nines, and let your senses be revitalized by nature. Although your type would not be among the first in line for a class in meditation, quiet, centering practices are tremendously helpful to reduce your stress levels.

8s are Doing types, so going for a walk or hike or just getting out in nature on a regular basis can be a non-threatening way for them to center themselves, if they do it alone, or to connect with other people. Physical activity is also an excellent way to de-stress. And the 8s also get to feel that they’ve accomplished something at the same time!

No escape, no effort…no despair

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s an excerpt from a piece in one of the Krishnamurti Foundation Bulletins that Krishnamurti dictated in 1970.It’s titled, “The Problem of Living.” When he speaks about how we act from our centre (center), he seems in this case to be describing how we act from our compulsion.

“As one can observe, we have always acted from a centre—a centre which contracts and expands. Sometimes it is a very small circle and at other times it is comprehensive, exclusive and utterly satisfying. But it is always a centre of grief and sorrow, of fleeting joys and misery, the enchanting or the painful past. It is a centre which most of us know consciously or unconsciously, and from this centre we act and have our roots. The question of what to do, now or tomorrow, is always asked from the centre and the reply must always be recognizable by the centre. Having received the reply either from another or from ourselves, we proceed to act according to the limitation of the centre. It is like an animal tethered to a post, its action depending on the length of the tether. This action is never free and so there is always pain, mischief and confusion.

“Realizing this, the centre says to itself: how am I to be free, free to live happily, completely, openly, and act without sorrow or remorse? But it is still the centre asking the question. The centre is the past. The centre is the ‘me’ with its selfish activities which knows action only in terms of reward and punishment, achievement or failure, and its motives, causes and effects. It is caught in this chain and the chain is the centre and the prison.

“There is another action which comes when there is a space without a centre, a dimension in which there is no cause and effect. From this, living is action. Here, having no centre, whatever is done is free, joyous, without pain or pleasure. This space and freedom is not a result of effort and achievement, but when the centre ends the other is.

“But we will ask how can the centre end, what am I to do to end it, what disciplines, what sacrifices, what great efforts am I to make? None. Only see without choice the activities of the centre, not as an observer, not as an outsider looking inward, but just observe without the censor. Then you may say: I cannot do it, I am always looking with the eyes of the past. Be aware, then, of looking with the eyes of the past, and remain with that. Don’t try to do anything about it; be simple and know that whatever you try to do will only strengthen the centre and is a response of your own desire to escape.

So there is no escape, no effort and no despair. Then you can see the full meaning of the centre and the immense danger of it, and that is enough.

–J. Krishnamurti
Meeting Life

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.

Types and Stereotypes

Latina: Systema taxinomicum

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any system or method of classifying people has the potential to be used in harmful ways. But classifying things—and people—is one of the ways in which we organize and make sense of the world. Our brains do a certain amount of classifying on their own without our conscious intervention. If they didn’t have that ability, we wouldn’t have survived long enough to have this discussion. It isn’t possible or even desirable to dispense with our classifying behavior.

In order to classify, the first thing we do is observe. From our observations, we then make generalizations. Based on our generalizations, we create classifications.

In terms of the physical/material world, it’s good to know which classifications of mushrooms are safe to eat and which are not, which insects have a deadly sting and which are harmless, which sounds and smells signal danger and which are innocuous.

In terms of people, things can get a bit dicey. We have all kinds of classifications for people based on nationality, religion, race, gender, age, level of education, type of car people drive, whether or not they have children, physical appearance, the language they use, whether or not they just cut you off in traffic, where they live, and even whether or not you know them. We also, of course, classify people by their personalities or temperaments. The Greek physician Hippocrates is the first person we know of to come up with this way of classifying people. Carl Jung may be the most well-known for “typing” people as a result of the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Inventory) based on his work.

NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD

Although there are some people who object to being classified by personality type, in general typing does not have the bad rap that stereotyping does. But in fact, typing and stereotyping are really the same thing. And I don’t think the problems we encounter with the misuse of typing are a result of stereotyping.

“What people call ‘stereotypes’ are what scientists call ‘empirical generalizations,’ and they are the foundation of scientific theory. That’s what scientists do; they make generalizations. Many stereotypes are empirical generalizations with a statistical basis and thus on average tend to be true. If they are not true, they wouldn’t be stereotypes (emphasis his).”

–Satoshi Kanazawa, Psychology Today

Most of us think that stereotyping people is wrong. I think it’s wrong. Or at least I did until very recently when I started to investigate the concept and came to the conclusion that it isn’t stereotyping that’s the problem. As Kanazawa says, “stereotypes are observations…neither good nor bad, desirable nor undesirable, moral nor immoral.” The problem is that we use stereotyping the wrong way. You could even say we abuse stereotyping.

The first way in which we abuse or misuse stereotyping is that we tend to forget about individual exceptions. Just because something is true in general for an entire group of people (let’s call it Group Type A) doesn’t mean it is true for every single individual within Group Type A. The generalization still applies—it just doesn’t necessarily apply to the particular person from Group Type A you happen to be talking to or working with or in a relationship with.

The second way in which we misuse stereotyping is by using stereotypes against people. The most egregious examples are racism, sexism, religious persecution, and the like. But we also use personality stereotypes against other people.

“Stereotypes tell us what groups of people tend to be or do in general; they do not tell us how we ought to treat them.”

But isn’t that one of the points—and benefits—of learning about systems like the Enneagram? To know how to get along with different types of people? It’s kind of a conundrum, isn’t it?

OUR BIASES ARE ALWAYS SHOWING

Difficulties arise because the “empirical generalizations” that underlie systems like the Enneagram are viewed by each of us through our own set of filters, biases, opinions, judgments, personal experiences, and type. We don’t live our lives as scientists, examining the world through a microscope and trying to be as objective as possible before proceeding from one step to the next. We make snap judgments, we jump to conclusions, we react emotionally. Inevitably conflicts arise or someone says or does something we don’t like. It may be tempting, if we know about the Enneagram, to blame behavior we don’t like on the other person’s personality type. And to let them know we’re on to them.

Using the Enneagram to understand other people better is one thing, but throwing someone’s Enneagram type in his or her face is never OK. Even if someone behaves stereotypically, we can’t be certain their behavior wasn’t the result of something totally unrelated to type. We can never fully know someone else’s story. If we judge them solely on their personality type, we’re doing ourselves, the other person, and even the Enneagram a huge disservice.

In the Shadow of Type 6: Deviance

English: Do not deviate from the path!

Do not deviate from the path! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can count on 6s. They are the folks you want to have in the trenches: dutiful, sensible, prepared, steadfast, loyal, reliable, conscientious, thorough, stalwart, and enduring. They will keep putting one foot in front of the other to see the job through. They appreciate structure, know how to follow the rules, and cooperate with others.

6s want things to work out for the best. They’re not convinced that’s actually going to happen, of course, but they will do whatever they can to keep themselves and others on the straight and narrow path to a positive—or at least not disastrous—outcome. If you want caution thrown to the wind, don’t ask a 6 to do the tossing.

As with all types, however, there’s a flip side to this picture. It takes a lot of effort—sometimes positively Herculean effort, in fact—and some mental gymnastics in order to keep on keeping on.

You Devil, You

In The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, Jerome Wagner describes projection as the primary defense mechanism of 6s:

You project onto others your own sense of disobedience and rebellion. Other people are trying to get away with things, and you need to monitor their activities and bring them in line with your authority’s principles, or others are trying to trip you up and trap you.

Deviance is antithetical to all the positive characteristics possessed by 6s. Yet 6s do rebel—at least internally—at maintaining the steadfast, responsible, and reliable persona they work overtime to project. It’s understandable. Not only are they constantly straining to determine what others expect from them—and then to deliver it—they also have to listen to the jibber jabber of their inner committee’s running commentary about…everything!

Who wouldn’t want to turn off the phone and burrow under the covers or take the money and run and let someone else deal with the consequences this one time?

I Can Do That!

You can’t be all things to all people.
You can’t do all things at once.
You can’t do all things equally well.
You can’t do all things better than everyone else.
Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.

–Eleanor Roosevelt

Objectively speaking, no one would disagree that trying to be all things to all people and do everything at once is impossible. But objectivity is hard to come by for the person who’s in the middle of the massive spider web this particular compulsion tends to weave. And the middle of the web is the vantage point from which others are viewed and judged to be either allies or antagonists. The antagonists bear the brunt of 6s projections.  I’m being responsible; they’re being irresponsible. I’m being reliable; they’re being inconsistent. I’m thorough; they’re sloppy.

Enlist some Listeners

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have several good suggestions for 6s, including this one:

While you want to be there in a responsible way for everyone else in your life, you tend to shortchange yourself by not believing that your own self-development is worth the trouble. This can be exacerbated by fears of change—of moving into the unknown. Take risks, especially when it comes to moving out of familiar, safe patterns. Having a therapist that you trust or a spiritual group that you work with can be invaluable for creating the kind of support you need to explore difficult issues. But remember, it is your own courage and strength that ultimately are required (and available) for such explorations.

Any type can benefit from having a person or a group to listen non-judgmentally and provide feedback, but I think this may be especially helpful for 6s who often have trouble quieting their minds enough to be able to listen to themselves.

6s might also benefit from finding an outlet for their rebellious streak, as soon as they admit they have one. Deviating from the path once in a while might be a start.

In the Shadow of Type 5: Emptiness

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.

EXEMPLAR OF THE BOY SCOUT MOTTO

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.

QUIETING THE MIND

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.

Take Ten

Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012)

Visualizing mindfulness (Photo credit: ConnectIrmeli)

You know, the mind whizzes away like a washing machine going round and round, lots of difficult, confusing emotions, and we don’t really know how to deal with that, and the sad fact is that we are so distracted that we’re no longer present in the world in which we live. We miss out on the things that are most important to us, and the crazy thing is that everybody just assumes, well, that’s the way life is, so we’ve just kind of got to get on with it. That’s really not how it has to be.

–Andy Puddicombe

Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and co-founder of Headspace. He writes for the Huffington Post and the Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living. He’s also pretty good at juggling (see video). He gave a TED Talk called “All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes” about spending just 10 minutes a day on mindfulness meditation. Among its other benefits, this 10-minute break is an opportunity to observe our compulsions and to disidentify with them–if only for those few minutes. I think 10-minute habits can work wonders since the effects accrue over time.

I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary, and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary.

We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it.

Here’s his full Ted Talk:

In the Shadow of Type 4: Ordinariness

ordinary people

ordinary people (Photo credit: wader)

Tap into the psyche of a 4 and you will find a person who sees him or herself as original, aesthetic, self-reflective, deep, sensitive, intuitive, creative, romantic, passionate, expressive, and of course, special. On the face of it, these are some wonderful characteristics to possess, but in fact, they are a lot to handle. 4s want to be understood by others, but at the same time they want to be seen as unique (different from others). This is a set-up for interpersonal conflict.

Riso and Hudson call 4s “deep-sea divers of the psyche.” Of all the types, 4s may be the least suited for or appreciated by current Western culture, which tends to value the quick, the productive, and the superficial. 4s can get so caught up in their inner worlds that other types sometimes wish they would get over themselves and get with the program. Getting with the program, however, is antithetical to 4s, who would rather create their own program, cast aspersions on the current program, or bypass programs altogether.

TWO FOR ONE

In The Spectrum of Personality Styles, published in 1996, Jerome Wagner describes the defense mechanism of 4s as introjection, but in the workshop he led at one of the IEA conferences I attended in 2000 or 2001, he identified it as artistic sublimation. Trust 4s to be the only ones with two defense mechanisms.

Introjection:

Instead of simply grieving, letting go of the past, and getting on with your life, you carry your suffering and loss around inside of you. This melancholy is a familiar companion, and it makes you feel special. Yearning and longing are constantly in the background of your experience.

Artistic sublimation:

In order to avoid experiencing the common and ordinary, whenever anything seems bland you turn it into something extraordinary or dramatic.

Both ring true to some extent for the 4s I have known well. But although hanging onto the past and the melancholy it arouses is part of the compulsion for 4s, they are generally aware of and will admit to it. They are much less willing to accept being ordinary. Ordinary is boring, shallow, bland, common, and dull. Ordinary is following the rules. Ordinary is going along with what everyone else is doing. Ordinary is doing things the usual way, meeting other people’s expectations, being just another blip on the radar screen. Same old same old, as my partner, RC–a 4–used to say.

The reality is that no one is completely unique. 4s focus on their uniqueness because everything about them that is ordinary has been consigned to the shadowland.

THE NOT SO GREAT ESCAPE

Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.

–Blaise Pascal

4s’ intense fascination with aesthetics, passion, romanticism, and the contemplation of their inner worlds can sometimes be nothing more than escapism. If they spend enough time in such rarified air, they might be able to convince themselves that those are the things that really matter rather than the mundane things everyone else is concerned with. But this not only distances them from other people, it actually distances them from themselves—at least from the parts of themselves they don’t want to acknowledge.

ROUTINE AS PRACTICE

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Riso and Hudson suggest 4s develop routines:

Set up positive, constructive routines for yourself. Fours tend to wait for inspiration to strike, but inspiration has a better chance of getting through to you if your daily schedule and living space are arranged in ways that support your creativity, your physical and emotional health, and above all your active engagement with the world. In your case, a little structure can go a long way in freeing up your creativity.

This seems like excellent advice. In fact, all of the healthy 4s I’ve known have followed it, and as a result, have been more productive and have seemed happier than the ones who haven’t. Routines can be grounding for 4s, creating a kind of interface with the external (commonplace) world and the people who live in it.

Routines are also a way for 4s to recognize their own ordinariness and to intentionally be ordinary, thereby lightening the load of their very heavy shadow.

In the Shadow of Type 3: Failure

Failure_Freeway

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.

PLAYING A ROLE

“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

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…

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.

A CREATING SPACE

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

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.)

THE ENNEAGRAM SPECTRUM OF PERSONALITY STYLES (enneagramspectrum.com)

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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