Category Archives: Examples

Bill Cosby and the Don’t-Go-There Side of Enneagram Two

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.

Cosby making a funny faceA 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 seriousCosby 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.

Jian Ghomeshi and the Shadow Side of Enneagram Threes

Type Three on the Enneagram is the Achiever, the Performer, the Catch, the Best. Threes are ambitious and driven, ready and able to climb to the top of their chosen field (Arnold Schwarzennegger, Nora Ephron). They’re very image conscious, presenting a crafted version of themselves to the public to achieve a given goal (Madonna, Tom Cruise). At their best, they’re aware of themselves as role-players, and play up that element of their public persona (David Bowie, Lady Gaga). They can be charming and likeable as well (Paul McCartney, Anne Hathaway). In North America’s celebrity focussed culture they’re commonly involved in the media (Diane Sawyer, Oprah Winfrey, Ryan Seacrest, Dick Clark).

jianwtie-200I don’t know enough about Jian Ghomeshi to say with certainty that he’s a Three, but that’s my guess. Like many Threes, he came from humble origins and shot to the top. He attained prominence in his twenties as a musician, and then leveraged that into a career in the media, becoming one of the best known and respected public voices of the arts in Canada. He’s good looking, charismatic, and entirely comfortable being in the spotlight.

Now he’s embroiled in an ever-widening scandal for alleged sexual and physical assault to multiple women. More and more voices are surfacing, saying that for years he’s had a reputation as not just a womanizer, but someone with dark secrets. This wasn’t part of his public persona.

Each type has what’s known as a ruling passion – something that clouds our view of the world and causes us to see ourselves as separate not only from each other, but from Being. For Threes the ruling passion is Deception. This doesn’t necessarily take the form of deliberate lying – although it might. It’s more that a Three shapes herself into the image that exemplifies the elements her culture (or chosen subculture) values, and often believes this presentation herself.

Ghomeshi got ahead of the scandal before it broke, posting his version of the story. He copped to engaging in rough sex, but didn’t go into detail, saying his sex life is private – very smartly appealing to the generally tame sexual mores of Canadian culture. He’d been fired by the CBC unjustly, it seemed, because of their prudish fear of the impending attack by a bitter and crazy jilted ex. It was a well crafted bit of writing. I believed him. Many did.

The tide of public opinion seems to be irrevocably turning against him as the allegations pile up. Due process certainly needs to take its course. But it’s hard for me to imagine Ghomeshi ever holding any kind of place in Canadian public life again, no matter what the courts decide – if he ever goes to trial, whether with his own lawsuit against CBC, or if criminal charges are filed against him.

What’s of particular interest to me is what Ghomeshi will do next – and I mean this in two very different senses.

His PR firm ditched him. A musician he managed has dumped him too. I’ve read an analysis of his lawsuit against the CBC, saying that he can’t possibly win it, and he knows it. In the many articles coming out about him, I haven’t read a single voice supporting him. His world is closing in. He might be planning a swift, brilliant and unpredictable Captain Kirk-like sortie that’ll somehow get him in the clear in the high court of public opinion. (Captain Kirk is another Three, by the way)(As is William Shatner)

Or – presuming the allegations are true – he might take this opportunity to genuinely face the shadows in his life that led to horrific criminal behaviour, and more importantly, allowed him do so without remorse. This could be the chance to look into the layers of estrangement from the pain and passions in his heart, and to move from the image to the real thing – someone who owns up to his faults, his excesses, and all of his shadows.

In this way, his story is very relevant to all of us. The impulse to bury our difficult feelings is widespread, especially when doing so will help us gain a desired end. We live in a very achievement oriented culture. “Making it” is the goal. We could all benefit from looking at our own lives, and how we’ve tried to Make It. Who have we stepped on along the way? Who have we ignored or left behind? Which of our own feelings have we buried? How have we justified our actions to ourselves, and in doing so lost the connection to our genuine selves, and to those around us? And what can we do to atone and reconnect, not just with others, but with ourselves?

Metallica’s James Hetfield, and the Sensitivity of Eights

Heavy Metal seethes with power and aggression. And Metallica is the best known metal band there is. And front man James Hetfield has always been the chest-thumping-est powerhouse in all of rock – quite certainly an Enneagram Eight.

James Hetfield - aggressiveType Eight is the Challenger, the Rock, the Bear, the tough, fierce, independent type. Eights don’t take any shit. They don’t want anyone controlling them. They love intensity. And if they perceive they’re being attacked, they’ll hit back – immediately, and hard.

Hetfield’s muscular rhythm guitar playing, his barked singing and equal love of vivid experience off-stage make him a poster child of Eights. His heavy drinking earned him the nickname “Alcoholica.” In the music documentary Some Kind of Monster, he returns to from a bear hunting vacation in Siberia.

But there’s another side of him.

Beneath every Eight’s hard shell is a soft and tender underbelly, which they protect with all their might. Very few get to see it. Hence, people around an Eight might not think of them as sensitive at all, and say or do things that hurt the Eight tremendously – though they probably won’t let anyone know that.

The personality is a survival strategy, developed early in life to get our needs met. A young Eight will learn that she can seize life by the throat and no one will mess with her. And she’ll repeat this so often and so well that she might forget that it’s not who she actually is, but just a strategy.

Hetfield came to see his personality for exactly this, after undergoing extensive therapy whilst in rehab for alcoholism. He described rehab as “college for your head,” where he learned that he’d James Hetfield - ragingbeen fighting to get what he wanted ever since he was a kid, and had continued to operate like that as an adult:

“Getting into Metallica meant that initially I had to fight to survive, for food, for the towel for the shower, for everything. And then fighting to be the best band you can be, and putting other bands down. Finding fault with everything was how Metallica was fuelled. And not only did I play a part in that, I was buried in that. “

He was fierce in asserting what he wanted the other band members to do in the studio, a tendency he later described as “totally childish.” He freely worked on side projects, but prevented other band members from doing so. He said:

“I had panic attacks that Jason or even Lars would start other projects and like those better than Metallica. To hold the band together I forced Lars, Jason and Kirk to stay and to go on. I love Metallica so much that I almost crushed the band with my love.”

James Hetfield sadWithin that desire to control others is a deep vulnerability, a fear of being abandoned. And given that the personality is, after a point, self-defeating, that exact desire can be what drives others away from us. In the case of Metallica, Hetfield’s iron hand caused bass player Jason Newsted to quit the band.

It’s easy for any of us to avoid the long, slow, humbling process of personal work, and I can only imagine this is especially so for a multi-millionaire Eight being given all the success one could dream of as a reward for his raging Eight-ness.

But introspection and the careful untangling of the personality comes with a different set of rewards. Hetfield has been sober since 2002. He limits Metallica’s concert schedule to three consecutive performances before taking a break to give his voice a rest. The band has set hours in the studio for writing and recording, replacing their earlier pattern of working late into the night, drinking until they passed out, and starting again whenever they woke up the next day.

In Some Kind of Monster he states that his alcoholism is rooted in abandonment issues stemming from his absent father growing up. He also discussed this in the documentary Absent, about this specific topic. In the manner of a truly healthy Eight, he has not only come to recognize his own vulnerability, but to embrace it, and let others see it too.

James Hetfield - happy“There’s a lot of machismo in this world, but I suppose the most manly thing you can do is face up to your weaknesses and expose them. And you’re showing strength by exposing your weaknesses to people. And that opens up a dialogue, it opens up friendships, which it definitely has done for me.”

He doesn’t regret the difficult aspects of his life and the battles he’s fought to overcome them, saying:

“In some ways I’m thankful for my addiction, because I experienced my inner self through it. Now I finally see a happy man. I could have died or gone into prison a hundred times. But nothing happened to me: my family is fine I’ve got fans who want to hear Metallica songs, and my band is intact. That makes me happy – really happy.”

Carrie Fisher – A Six Rises When Pushed

IShockaholic’ve seen Carrie Fisher listed as a Six a number of times. A certain episode from her excellent and hilarious autobiographical book Shockaholic has a definite flavour of that type.

Six is the Loyalist, the Defender, the Devil’s Advocate, the Doubter, the Questioner. Sixes’ minds run on overdrive a great deal of the time worrying about many different things, and yet they’ll spring into action in an emergency, or when pushed – especially by an abusive authority figure.

Carrie Fisher was in her late twenties, on a date with Senator Chris Dodd, and found herself at a restaurant with Ted Kennedy, his date and another couple. She describes her awestruck reaction to his presence:

ted_kennedy_1“Well-spoken, extraordinarily intelligent, poised, thought-provoking – he was a statesman in every sense of the word. I was intimidated by him, in awe of him, overwhelmed. He has something, for lack of a better word, heroic about him…. Who was I to contribute to a conversation being conducted by such lofty, learned men? Men who ran things. Men who talked the talk. Men who not only knew the law, but wrote it! Surely I was out of my depth as I ever would be. It wasn’t my even my depth, it was theirs! I was sinking to the bottom of this erudite, senatorial swamp as they rose higher and higher with each cocktail.”

So here we see a characteristic of Six – inflating the status of others and deflating her own, which sets her up for what happens next.

Kennedy turns to her and says “So, do you think you’ll be having sex with Chris at the end of your date?”

It was a first date.

Her date doesn’t intercede, but smiles at her.

The other guests try to pretend nothing untoward has been said.

Fisher responds just like a Six would when confronted with what she perceives as a shove, and from someone abusing their authority at that:

carrie-fisher“This would not do. Seriously. There was no other way to look at this than completely not okay. Even if this man’s brother had been a hero. Even if two of his brothers had been heroes. Even if he, in his legislation-passing, cause-confronting way, was a hero. I was not just going to lie down and let this man moonwalk all over me.

“‘Funnily enough, I won’t be having sex with Chris tonight,’ I said, my face composed and calm. ‘Not that probably won’t happen.’ People blinked. ‘Thanks for asking, though.’”

When put in the fire, a Six’s nervousness evaporates. They’re calm and in the zone as they act – in this case, seconds after she’d been quaking in intimidation.

Kennedy keeps pushing.

T Kennedy“‘Why not?’ the senator demanded of me. ‘are you too good for him?’

“I tilted my head, my head, my mouth pursed, and glanced at Senator Dodd’s expectant face. ‘Not too good, no just… ‘ I shrugged. ‘I’m newly sober, you see, and I’d have to be truly loaded to just fall into bed with someone I’ve only very recently met. Even if that someone is a Democrat.’

“Now the air around us hung back, holding itself in check to see what would happen next. But I knew that I would not let this man get the upper hand, or somehow discomfit or shock me. I had some laws and this was one. Whatever this imperious… I want to say drunk, but he wasn’t that, not yet… whatever this imperious inebriate-to-be threw at me, I’d say something right back.”

A Six will stand up to anyone when pushed. It doesn’t matter how much they might seem outmatched. And they’ll do it with a strength and certainty that would make a giant pause.

Kennedy then asks her about having been a drinker. She responds that acid was her preferred intoxicant. He asks if she ever had sex on it. Nope. How about masturbation?

I don’t know enough about Kennedy to know his type, but his behaviour in this anecdote makes him seem like an Eight – the Challenger. He enjoys pushing someone’s buttons. He’s being intentionally provocative in order to see if the person can take it, to find out what they’re made of.

Carrie Fisher with gunFisher describes masturbation as playing with oneself, and proceeds to play peekaboo, putting her hands on her lap and opening and closing them, saying “peekaboo, I see you!” as the rest of the guests freeze solid.

“By now we had blundered headlong into a world of who could outshock who. Which one of us would say the thing that would stun the table into silence?”

The subject of Fisher’s father – singer Eddie Fisher – comes up, and Kennedy eventually challenges her into singing one of the songs he used to sing with her as a child.

So she does. A showtune. At full volume. In a crowded, expensive restaurant.

She sings the entire song.

And eventually the evening wraps up. Kennedy’s parting words to her: “Would you have sex with Chris in a hot tub?”

“I’m no good in water” she responds.

Years later, a woman told Fisher she’d been at the restaurant that night, saying she’d talked about that incident for ages: “It was incredible. We’d waited for years for someone take him on like that.”

She remarks to herself “So it did happen! I didn’t make it up, didn’t hallucinate it, didn’t forge it out of some gray lying part of my brain where dreams go to die. There really was a night that I sat and sang at this famous senator from New England. Sang the entire song without once breaking free from the cage of his gaze.”

Although few people have had encounters with the famous and powerful, most Sixes will be able to recall some occasion where they felt pushed by some bully, and rose right up to his or her face, refusing to back down, defying the fear and anxiety that usually grips them.

And then after the fact they’ll wonder if they did the right thing, if they over-reacted, if that even happened at all. They’ll probably leave that out of their picture of themselves, continuing to believe they’re the scared little person, until the next time someone powerful gets in their face, or the face of anyone who can’t fight back. Then watch out!

Robin Williams and the Sadness of Sevens

Robin Williams’ suicide has stirred a tremendous outpouring of love and sadness from millions who’ve been entertained by him.

Robin_Williams-EsquireHe’s long been the poster-child of Ennea-type Seven – the Enthusiast – the high energy, gregarious, optimistic, fun loving life of the party. At their best Sevens brim with a radiant joy that touches on the divine, energizing everyone they meet, making them glad to be alive.

He burst into the world of stand-up as a whirling dervish of jokes, impressions, characters and improvisational tangents – serving as a prime example of Sevens’ quick-mindedness, easily connecting one thing with another, enjoying the thrill of the high speed ride. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t write down his material, and early in his career his manager hired a court stenographer to transcribe an audio recording of him on stage, which he then used that to help build a consistent set.

Sevens are egalitarians. Williams spoke to minor cast members in films and up and coming comedians with no condescension. And he played local comedy clubs wherever he was filming, no matter how small or seemingly beneath his fame-scale.

But beneath the lightness of Sevens is a whole lot of pain and anxiety, unseen by many, and sometimes very powerfully kept from the Seven’s own awareness.

Robin-WilliamsA Seven’s basic fear, as described in The Wisdom of the Enneagram, is to be deprived and trapped in pain. This fear would have no purchase on a Seven’s soul if they weren’t already in pain at some deep level.

Stress and pain activate compulsions in every type, and the particular strategy of Sevens is enjoyment and distraction. This can come in the form of travel, of a busy social calendar, and in some cases, substance abuse.

Williams famously struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse for years, and underwent treatment. He readily talked about his excesses in his comedy, but never talked about the pain that lay at the root of his addictions.

Speaking of the very candid Richard Pryor, Williams once said: “He has this incredible ability to recognize the most basic human truths, to talk about deep-seated fears. I’ve never been able to talk personally about things…. That’s such a Pandora’s Box. Once you open it, can you deal with it?”

The ability to own up to our pain and sit with it is challenging for any type, but it’s a particular hurdle for Sevens. Their quick-minded approach can treat a surface encounter with their pain as having “gone there” when in fact there’s a great deal more personal work to do and profound, powerful sadness to experience and finally purge.

As Russ Hudson said in a post about Williams, and depression: “What does not help are exhortations to ‘cheer up’ and ‘get over it,’ to just ‘think positively,’ etc. Such suggestions when a person is in the grips of depression actually heighten the sense of being broken, flawed, and not worth saving, because at such times the individual WANTS to be free of their dark thoughts and moods with all of their soul but feels unable to do so.”

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-23183012-2000-1330A Seven is in a particular bind when facing depression. The protective mechanism of their personality chastises them to get over it and move on to something enjoyable. And if they do, their true pain remains, all the more powerful for being invisible.

I don’t know enough about Williams life to even hazard a guess as to where his pain came from. I wish he’d been willing to talk about it in his stand-up. I’m sure he would have provided a helpful light to millions who struggle with depression and addiction. And he’d have certainly found a way to bring even the darkest exploration around to a funny place.

His succumbing to the sadness inside can act as a invitation to all of us to be willing to open our Pandora’s Box. To do so isn’t to chain yourself to a ten ton millstone of pain and deprivation for the rest of your life. We’re already chained. Taking a long, honest look at our pain is the first step toward picking the lock.

Sharon Van Etten – a Heart-Bleeding Four

Sharon Van Etten is a heart-bleeding indie musician. I think she’s a great example of a Four.

sharon van etten against a red fenceShe’s open and candid about herself:

“I have a hard time not wearing my heart on my sleeve and answering people honestly. You know, my friends warn me that I should be more guarded, cuz sometimes I am too honest and open, but it’s also just who I am. I don’t like to hold back. Especially with who I am and what I do, it’s all me, everything’s my name, it’s what I do, it’s how I feel, it’s what I think.”

Fours are willing to plumb the depths of their emotions. In fact, that’s the only way to be.

“I was a 90s kid, so I was into alternative and grunge and emo and math rock, you know, so when someone calls me emo in a derogatory sense I’m just like, hell yeah I’m emo – I’m an emotional person, dammit! Why don’t you acknowledge the sad side of yourself too? You pretend you’re confident and happy all the time – you’re a liar! No – we all go through shit. Cry! Let yourself cry, let yourself hurt, let yourself talk about it. Let people know every side of yourself; nobody’s perfect. Even a successful person has their own dark side, you know? It’s OK! Someone calls me emo… I’m fine with that.”

Sharon Van Etten - guitar, microphoneFours process their experience through artistic creation.

“My music is very therapeutic to me, so if I’m going through something I just sing. I’ve always struggled with communicating my emotions to people, so whenever I’m trying to work something out, I write.”

Their artwork is very often directly, nakedly autobiographical:

“This album [the recently released Are We There] is everything that’s going on with me right now; everything that’s happened in the last year or two. It’s everything that I’ve experienced; from my career becoming more full-time and the effects of it on my day-to-day life; and I’m still going through it!”

The creation and the performance of art is cathartic for Fours. There’s nothing like that emotional purgation – it’s the whole reason for doing it:

sharon-van-etten-photo“It’s very cathartic. Even if it was cathartic to write it, recording it is too in that it’s realized, then performing it is cathartic because it’s re-realized and everyone’s connecting to it which helps me feel validated in what I’m doing.”

In fact, if the emotion in your work isn’t going to be deep and real, why do it at all?

“Some songs I just can’t do any more, it’s not even remotely me – unless I feel it’s something I can I can play emotively still. I’ll only really play a song when there’s a chance that I might cry.”

One journalist watched her rehearse the song Your Love is Killing Me with her band, and was overwhelmed at the emotion and power she brought to it, seemingly out of nowhere. He had to excuse himself after the song to pull himself together. She understood and said “Imagine how I feel.” She calls the song “the Beast” and notes the band needs a break after they play it.

I recommend listening to this song on headphones, with the volume turned way up. See if you can pick yourself up off the floor when it’s through.

She tells the story of her mother calling her after hearing that song, saying “What’s going on with you? Are you alright? I thought you were doing fine.” Van Etten responded “I am doing fine. It’s just this is what I do.”

Although they’re in tune with their own sadness, it’s a mistake to think that all Fours live in a constant gloom. Healthy Fours have a great love of life, and can be very funny and joyous.

Sharon Van Etten“I’m a total goofball. I love comedy, I love jokes, I’m a total geek. If I didn’t have music, I’d be really sad, but because I do I can put that away.”

With regular psychological and emotional deep-sea diving, a healthy Four ends up working through a lot of her shit. Sadness isn’t feared, nor is it over-emphasized. It’s accepted and processed, bringing self-knowledge and growth.

“I’m just not that broken any more. I feel like I’ve been hurt and I’m still hurt, but for different reasons. I know who I am more, I know what I want, I don’t take as much shit, I know what I don’t want, I know what I will not tolerate, I know when I’m making someone else happy and vice versa. I still get hurt and get sad, I’m still a romantic at heart, but I think that one thing about growing up is that you know what you want more.”

In two interviews she expressed the possibility of giving up the profession of music in order to become a psycho-therapist – a common profession among Fours.

Sharon Van Etten in a hood“I’ve thought about taking time off and going back to school to pursue therapy and see if I’d be a good therapist, because in a way I feel like that’s what I’m doing for people, except that I’m not actually getting to talk to as many people as I’d like to.”

And if her career does turn in that direction, she says she’ll always write music for herself. Healthy Fours know that a creative practice doesn’t need to be validated by anyone. It’s simply there because it’s good to let that which is inside us come out. Especially if it can be crafted into a beautiful shape.

Leslie Knope – Social Two, Self-Prez Blind Spot

Leslie Knope – the Assistant Parks Commissioner of the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation – is a great example of a Social Two, with a Self Preservation Blind Spot.

Two is the Helper, the caring, love-oriented type, who lives to please others. Twos suppress their own needs in order to satisfy those of others. And they need to be needed.

A Two with the Social Instinct at the top of her stack will be inclined toward acts of service for her chosen group, and in the case of Leslie Knope, her group is the people of Pawnee, a city she leslie knope at her deskloves proudly and fiercely. When the city narrowly survives a budget crisis, she misses the day to day workings and interactions of her job, saying “The bankrupt government of Pawnee has been shut down all summer so it’s been three months of no work, no meetings, no memos, no late nights, nothing. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

Leslie works for Ron Swanson, and never shows the slightest annoyance at his complete refusal to do any work related to his job. In fact, she seems to genuinely enjoy the dynamic this sets up, as she’s not only completely needed by Ron and the department, but she has the real power, knowing where everything is and how to get everything done.

She has all the time and patience in the world to give to anyone who comes to her office or speaks up at a public forum, no matter how much of a crackpot they are. “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.”

Twos go to great lengths to show people how much they care about them. Leslie showers her friends with compliments. There’s a website devoted to compliments she gives to her best friend Ann:

Leslie compliments Ann“Ann, you spectacular cloud of brilliance.”

“Ann, you beautiful tropical fish.”

“Ann, you wild and crazy flower pot.”

“Ann, you magnificent tree of life.”

“Ann, you spectacular, golden-tongued sunflower.”

“Ann, you beautiful, confused, defender of justice.”

She loves surprising people with gifts perfectly suited to them. She does genuine detective work Leslie Knope Christmas Giftsto discover Ron’s birthday, teasing him all day about what a big birthday surprise she has in store for him, before giving him exactly what he’d like: a steak dinner, a bottle of scotch, war movies on a TV, and complete privacy.

When she finds out that Ron’s wife Diane has given birth, and that Ron kept it quiet, she shrieks that now Diane must be walking around wondering why Leslie hasn’t sent her a gift yet!!

Although Twos appear soft and sweet, they have a streak of steel in them. When crossed, they show a sudden fire that would give a raging lion pause:

leslie knope very mad“The only thing I’ll be waving is your decaptitated head on a stick in front of your weeping mother!”

“You’re in trouble because of your own stupidity.”

“You look tired and you’re all sweaty all the time. What’s your excuse? You wanna go there, Jerry?”

Furthermore, Twos don’t just give their love away to everyone. They’re selective. Leslie resents the neighbouring city of Eagleton:

“I’m not being melodramatic when I say that people from Eagleton are snobby and evil and they look down on Pawnee and they would most likely exterminate everyone from Pawnee if they weren’t so busy being obsessed with themselves! (breathes) Oh God, that was close. Sometimes when I rant about Eagleton I forget to breathe and I pass out.”

A Self-Prez Blind Spot manifests as neglect for one’s physical needs. Leslie is always willing to sacrifice sleep or rest for the sake of work. After all, the people of Pawnee need her…

In one episode we see her house is completely cluttered with binders, files, file folders and other work related paraphernelia, and she doesn’t seem to realize what a mess she lives in, or see any reason why others would look askance at her space.

Leslie Knope eating a waffleShe seemingly lives on waffles and whipped cream and little else. Her terrible dietary habits come out in other entertaining lines:

“One time I accidentally drank an entire bottle of vinegar. I thought it was terrible wine.”

“I stand behind my decision to avoid salad and other disgusting things.”

And tellingly, she’s never shown hosting a dinner party, or gifting people with baking – a commonly seen trait of Self Prez Twos.

A central challenge for Twos is to realize their own ambitions instead of putting themselves in a subordinate role in order to please someone else. Leslie runs for Pawnee City Council, and (major spoiler) later becomes director for parks of the entire midwest.

The world of politics is likely dominated by people who identify with the Social Instinct, their attunement to others and their genuine enjoyment of steering government to the common good keeping their fires burning in spite of long hours, medium pay and homes full of file folders and hastily eaten meals.

Ron Swanson – Self Prez Eight, Social Blind Spot

Ron Swanson – the parks commissioner of the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation – is a great example of a Self-Prez Eight, with a Social Blind Spot.

Eight is the Challenger, the tough, assertive, independent type. Eights have no tolerance for bullshit, and will call it out immediately. They can’t stand to be controlled by anyone. They’re in charge of their lives. And they love intensity.

When Eights have the Self-Preservation Instinct at the top of their stack, this comes across in some ways that are repeatedly seen in Ron Swanson.

ron swanson steakHe demonstrates the Eight’s love of excess combined with the Self-Preservation Instinct’s attention to physical needs in his grandiose love of steak. He orders and eats three porterhouses in succession in one episode, and then invites the dinner guests back to his place for some omelettes. In another episode he tags along on a trip to Indianapolis for the express purpose of eating at Mulligan’s – “the best steakhouse in the whole damn state!”

People who identify with the Self-Prez Instinct often love going out to dinner, and look forward to it all day, envisioning what they’re going to order, how it’s going to taste, what they’ll drink, what the atmosphere of the restaurant will be like. They’re devastated if the dinner has to be called off, as Ron is when the steakhouse turns out to have been shut down by the health board. He consoles himself at a diner, telling the counter guy: “Give me all of the bacon and eggs you have. You may have thought you heard me say I wanted a lot of bacon and eggs, but what I said was: Give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Do you understand?”

ron swanson in his wood shopThe Self-Prez instinct can also express itself in a facility with tools, repair, and construction – especially with Eights. They don’t want to be at the mercy of a repairman or a contractor.

“I don’t want to paint with a broad brush here, but every single contractor in the world is a miserable, incompetent thief.”

In one episode Ron fashions a wedding ring out of a wall sconce, saying “Any moron with a crucible, an acetylene torch, and a cast iron waffle maker could have done the same thing. The whole thing only took me about twenty minutes. People who buy things are suckers.”

A Social Blind Spot can express itself in the form of undervaluing social programs. Combined with a dominant Self-Prez instinct, a great resentment builds up at the seemingly undeserved removal of the individual’s wealth for redistribution to the parasitic masses.

ron-swanson-failed businessRon works as parks commissioner, but has a complete disdain for public works: “The government is a greedy piglet that suckles on a taxpayer’s teat until they have sore, chapped nipples.”

He delights in doing as little as he can on the job, loathing the few times he has to deal with the public.

He’s proudly anti-social, seeing no value in spending time with friends, or even exchanging pleasantries with coworkers.

“When people get a little too chummy with me I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them.”

“The less I know about other people’s affairs, the happier I am. I’m not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes.”

There are many more quotes that bring these various characteristics to life:

ron swanson child labor laws “Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.”

“I call this turf ‘n’ turf. It’s a 16 oz T-bone and a 24 oz porterhouse. Also, whiskey and a cigar. I am going to consume all of this at the same time because I am a free American.”

“When I eat, it’s the food that’s scared.”

“Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.”

“There is only one bad word: taxes.”

“Great job, everyone. The reception will be held in each of our individual houses, alone.”

“Friends: one to three is sufficient.”

“You had me at meat tornado.”

A Social Blind Spot masks a secret desire to belong, and this slips out in the occasional episode, with Ron trying desperately to make sure no one notices these lapses in his surliness – for instance in using his Self-Prez skills to fashion a wedding ring for friends at the last minute when theirs is lost.

ron-swanson-babyNo matter how gruff and armour-plated Eights might seem from the outside, they’re very soft and caring inside (Ron has a secret life as a smooth jazz saxophonist)(he’s also a doting father). But this softness has to be defended, and Ron Swanson does this very entertaingly, in one episode after another.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson – a Five and a Six

Sherlock – the BBC’s updated Sherlock Holmes reboot – is excellent. If you haven’t seen it, there are copious spoilers ahead. Major spoilers. Huge ones.

Seriously. I give away some good shit. And the huge plot twists are a big part of what makes it so great. Watch the show. All three seasons. Then read this.

sherlock thinksSherlock Holmes is written and played as a textbook Enneagram Five – the Investigator. Here’s how:

He’s brilliant. Any type can be intelligent, but Fives identify with their exceptional minds to an extreme degree. Fitting in with the longstanding hook of the character, Holmes infers elaborate things from the tiniest clues. When asked how he knows something, he’ll give an explanation at lightning speed, at one point making a flabbergasted Watson exclaim “That’s fantastic!” to which Sherlock responds “Do you know you do that out loud?”

Fives know how smart they are. They’re proud of it. And they look down on anyone they consider ignorant. At average and unhealthy levels, Fives will shame others for operating at a lower mental gear.

Sherlock: John, I envy you so much.

Watson: You envy me? 

Sherlock: Your mind; it’s so placid, straight-forward, barely used. Mine’s like an engine, racing out of control; a rocket tearing itself to pieces, trapped on the launchpad. 

Average Fives believe themselves to be completely rational. In his best man speech at Watson’s wedding, Holmes tells the assembled guests:

All emotions, and, in particular, love, stand opposed to the pure cold reason I hold above all things. A wedding is, in my considered opinion, nothing short of a celebration of all that is false and specious and irrational and sentimental in this ailing and morally compromised world.

But of course Fives have feelings, even if they deny it. Sherlock comes to care strongly enough for Watson to fake his own death in order to save his life.

Watson is written and played as a Six – the Loyalist. When he and Holmes meet, he’s recently returned from service as an army doctor in Afghanistan, and is going nowhere, tormented by dreams about the war. But it’s soon revealed he misses it. When nothing’s going on, an average Six’s mind goes into overdrive, thinking of worst-case scenarios and second-guessing the Six into paralysis. But as soon as Watson accompanies Holmes on a murder investigation, he comes alive. His psychosomatic limp disappears.

Sherlock (2010)Sixes search for someone or something they can believe in, and for Watson, that’s Holmes. Watson is a valuable assistant on his investigations, without having to take the lead. He has a purpose. Holmes’ supposed death devastates him.

When Holmes appears after a two year absence, Watson’s furious with him. Holmes makes a flippant remark and Watson punches him in the face. Repeatedly. A stressed out Six is very reactive. They can go on the attack in a second, like an Eight.

In another episode, Watson walks into a crack house in order to retrieve his despairing neighbor’s absent son. When confronted by a knife wielding junkie, Holmes approaches him with a steady demeanor, and disarms him, sweeps his legs out from under him, and leaves him groaning on the floor. Sixes will go into the fire for someone else. And when doing so, their anxiety vanishes and they’re all business.

In that same episode it comes out that Watson’s wife has covered up a former life as a spy and assassin. Watson is livid, exclaiming: “Is everyone I’ve ever met a psychopath?” Holmes responds:

You were a doctor who went to war. You’re a man who couldn’t stay in the suburbs for more than a month without storming a crack den, beating up a junkie. Your best friend is a sociopath who solves crimes as an alternative to getting high…. John, you’re addicted to a certain lifestyle! You’re abnormally attracted to dangerous situations and people, so is it truly such a surprise that the woman you’ve fallen in love with conforms to that pattern?

Sherlock-Benedict-Cumberb-006So the series provides insights into what both types can work towards. Can a Five see the value in feelings, and accept them as a part of herself? Can a Six quiet her mind in times of calm, and rise to the occasion in times of stress, not to relieve overactive anxiety, but because it’s appropriate to do so?

Batman: a Suspicious Six

There have been many interpretations of Batman since he first appeared in a comic in 1939, so there are portraits contrary to the one I’m about to paint, but I see him as an Enneagram Six - the Doubter, the Questioner, the Devil’s Advocate, the Loyalist.

Sixes can be difficult to describe. Certain aspects make them look like pretty much any other type. But Sixes are commonly a bundle of contradictions. The specific combination of seemingly contrasting impulses has been referred to as the fingerprint of the Six.

Trust is a central issue for them. Who can I trust? Even when Sixes find someone seemingly rock solid, they can’t stop themselves from doubting and questioning them. Can I really trust them?

We see this blend of trust and suspicion in Batman, as he appears in the graphic novel Liberty and Justice (2003), written by Paul Dini, with artwork by Alex Ross.

The Justice League are called to the Pentagon. The heroes who respond are The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter (aka J’onn J’onzz – a green skinned telepath).

While being briefed about an outbreak of unexplained paralysis in Africa, Batman, hiding in the rafters, makes silent contact with the Martian Manhunter.

Batman contacts J'Onn - largest

Batman dialogues with J'onn J'onzz

This suspicion of the government’s motives brings up another commonly seen characteristic of Sixes: ambivalence toward authority. Sixes might resent an oppressive boss, but stay at their job anyway. They might fume at academic politics, and then stay in university and complete their degree. And then get another one. Batman disappears on J'onn

Batman fights to uphold the law – outside the parameters of official law enforcement. He has an informal relationship with a few allies on the police force, but keeps most of his information from them, investigating crime on his own.

In this instance, he’s willing to work on a mission the US government sends the Justice League on, but he’s suspicious of them. Who’s sending us on this mission? What are their real motives? After all, government corruption is common enough that you can count on it. Or can you?

It’s also noteworthy that he surprises the telepathic Martian Manhunter, showing up unannounced, and then somehow disappears from his awareness, without saying good-bye, much less thank you for allaying his suspicions. After all, why tell him he’s on his way? Why tell him where he’s going? Or how he gets around? You never know if the Martian Manhunter himself might have ulterior motives…

As the panel below shows, the team determines the paralysis to be from an alien virus. The Flash explains this to Woman Wonder, who’s flying her invisible jet – presumably a vehicle of magical origin, whose communication system Batman has somehow hacked.

Batman - the JLA figures out it's a virus

Why ask for access? Can he trust the access she gives him? And wouldn’t he then have to reciprocate? Or would she hack him if he refused? And yet he volunteers to allow the other heroes into the batcave to develop an antidote for the virus.

Wonder Woman remarks “That’s what I like about him, a team player all the way. I’m just glad he’s on our side.” He’s indeed a bundle of contradictions: an excellent team player and a completely independent operator at the same time.

Batman cuts in on Wonder Woman's frequency

Batman never hesitates to engage in direct action, which indicates that he has more counter-phobic tendencies, than phobic (in a counter-phobic moment, Sixes rush toward the source of their fear – in a phobic moment they avoid it). And yet his action is always informed by his vigilance, as he scans every situation and detail for danger, for betrayal, for gaps in his preparations.

And he’s pretty goddam badass.