Bill Cosby has been typed as an Enneagram Two by many. The way he’s been responding to the flood of sexual abuse allegations that have been coming his way reveals a particular aspect of the shadow side of that type.
Type Two is the Helper, the Giver, the Lover, the Special Friend. Twos are warm, and caring and generous. They’re self-sacrificing, deny having needs of their own, and have a sharp sense of what others need. They live to love, and they need to be needed.
A Two at the average or unhealthy emotional levels flatters, people pleases and does favours as a bargaining chip – trying to earn love, to make themselves appreciated and indispensable. A healthy Two acknowledges that she has needs, and takes care of them. She extends her love and care-giving, not as a strategy to receive anything in return, but because she can see when and where it’s genuinely needed and helpful.
Each type has a ruling passion – a central misperception that distorts our experience of the world. These correspond to the seven deadly sins – of which there were originally nine. The ruling passion for Twos is pride.
Pride doesn’t usually play out in an obvious way with Twos. You won’t hear them bragging. Cosby, incidentally, never submitted his name for Emmy consideration in all the years his sitcom was triumphing critically and in the ratings.
The pride of Twos will more often show up in the form of casting a positive sheen on themselves, their actions, and their motivations.“I’m caring and giving.” “I feel good when I’ve brightened up someone’s day.” “They need me.”
Twos can lose interest in the Enneagram – or other types of personal work – when it comes time to examine their shadows. They’re so used to seeing themselves in a positive light, it’s jarring to confront the possibility of having ulterior motives to their generosity. They might deny it, and run back to the safety of their self-concept of positivity and guileless giving. They’d rather not go there.
Kind of like Cosby has been doing with these accusations.
In an NPR interview, host Scott Simon brought up the allegations, and later described how Cosby gave “that delightful, impish little kind of Cosby smile, at first, and then was silent.”
Cosby is famous for his smile, and for making funny faces. This is probably something he’s done since childhood, to make others laugh and love him. It’s been a solid part of his career and persona. In this case, it didn’t do the trick. So he kept silent.
He remained quiet and shook his head as Simon asked two more questions, offering him a chance to respond to the accusations. Simon went on to ask questions about Cosby’s art objects, which he’d loaned to a museum exhibit, and Cosby resumed the interview as if nothing had happened.
In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Nov 6, when the rape allegations came up he said “We don’t answer that.” Off camera, he asked that the exchange be “scuttled” from the tape. I can imagine that the reporting of this request of his particularly stings, as it shows him trying to manage his image in the direction of positivity.
The water is getting hotter for Cosby. Netflix dropped an upcoming stand-up special. NBC scrapped a sitcom being developed for him. TV Land has cut reruns of The Cosby Show from its line-up.
Cosby cancelled an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. It’s hard to imagine Letterman wouldn’t have brought up the subject.
But he’s going ahead with a stand-up tour, which continues steadily until the Spring. He opened in the Bahamas, and played a show in Florida, and didn’t make a single mention of the increasing controversy. His audiences in both venues supported him. Despite this seeming success, upcoming shows in five states have been cancelled.
It’s impossible to know what’s going on behind closed doors with Cosby. Is he taking a long, hard look at his behaviour over his five decades of fame? Is he able to see the times he crossed the line?
His public approach to this controversy does mirror that of an average or unhealthy Two. Don’t go there. Stay positive. Smile. Hope it goes away.
Before his recent show in Florida, he made a telling comment to a reporter, implying that he believes himself to have done nothing wrong: “I know people are tired of me not saying anything. But a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos. People should fact check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.”
Cosby’s situation, of course, mirrors a more widespread tendency in all of us, regardless of type. An honest and thorough moral inventory – whether public or private – is hugely daunting. Easy to put off, even as the evidence of our transgressions mounts. It’s much easier to forge ahead, pretending everything is okay, seeing ourselves as good, hoping the sun shines our shadows out of existence.
Doing that comes at a price. The more we estrange ourselves from the impulses we don’t like, the bigger the divide will be between the version of me I believe I am, and the version others interact with.
If we’re willing to look at our shadows, we can develop a relationship with them. They have that much less power to steer the car. We can participate in the world, noticing when we’re angling for the approval of others or taking advantage of them. We can take more and more steps toward authentically be ourselves, in the moment, seeing others as they are, secure that we’re seen by them and valued by them, faults and all.