David Bowie – a Shining Enneagram Three

BowieDavid Bowie was a picture perfect Enneagram Three.

Type Three is the Achiever, the Performer, the Catch, the Best. Threes have their eyes on the prize, and go for it. Bowie blazed into the pop music scene in his early 20s, and never really lapsed in public adulation. He conquered the movies too – playing a war hero, a goblin king, Pontius Pilate, Nikola Tesla and Andy Warhol. And right before he died, he put out a new album – which garnered rave reviews, before anyone knew he was dying.

Threes can be powerhouses of proficiency. Bowie said he was never attracted to depressants, like marijuana or heroin. He preferred stimulants, saying “I hate sleep. I would much prefer staying up, just working, all the time. It makes me so mad that we can’t do anything about sleep or the common cold.” And notice his preference would be to stay up working, not partying.

Threes don’t shy away from accolades. They know they’re great. Bowie knew his value as a rock star. He said: “To not be modest about it, you’ll find that with only a couple of exceptions, most bowie and imanof the musicians that I’ve worked with have done their best work by far with me.” Threes know they’re the best, and know they deserve the best. They’ll take the most desirable person as their mate – in Bowie’s case, Iman, a Somali supermodel.

Threes are very image conscious. How am I coming off? Which aspects of myself will I accentuate to achieve my goal? An unintegrated Three believes their own sales pitch, confusing their image with their actual self. But an aware Three knows they do this. Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson pointed out that Bowie was a master of this. He made a game of reinventing himself in various guises. The audience knew he was doing this. And he knew you knew. Lady Gaga and Madonna – also Threes – excel at this too.

In a revealing quote, Bowie describes his initial cultivation of different personae as a compensating mechanism:

“As an adolescent, I was painfully shy, withdrawn. I didn’t really have the nerve to sing my songs David-Bowie-Ziggy8on stage and nobody else was doing them. I decided to do them in disguise so that I didn’t have to actually go through the humiliation of going on stage and being myself. I continued designing characters with their own complete personalities and environments. I put them into interviews with me! Rather than be me — which must be incredibly boring to anyone — I’d take Ziggy in, or Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke. It was a very strange thing to do.”

Even though Threes project supreme confidence and skill, there’s often self-consciousness at the root of their achievements and image projections. They fear the world seeing the “real” them. It can be hard to get close to a Three. Intimacy can seem threatening. If someone sees the frail person behind the mask(s), they’ll see how imperfect, how human, how ordinary I really am…

His real last name was Jones, by way. David Jones.

He also let himself look silly. In a behind the scenes interview for his appearance in Ricky Gervais’ series Extras, he straight-fadedly describes supplying Gervais with jokes for upcoming episodes, like “you and whose army??” In the interview he maintains this facade of empty-headedness, playfully tarnishing his image, which makes him all the more loveable.

He once said “I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, ‘Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.’”

Iman-and-David-Bowie-BabyAnd yet he not only came to recognize his own humanity, but described it happily, saying “I’m very at ease, and I like it. I never thought I would be such a family-oriented guy; I didn’t think that was part of my makeup. But somebody said that as you get older you become the person you always should have been, and I feel that’s happening to me. I’m rather surprised at who I am, because I’m actually like my dad.”

A healthy Three can be a shining star without losing their humanity. Their ordinariness doesn’t dim the brightness of their accomplishments – it adds a refreshing warmth. Healthy Threes remind us that we can shoot for the stratosphere, we can pluck the stars from the sky and present them as glittering, fascinating diamonds to the world – and this doesn’t mean neglecting the simple pleasures of love, companionship and self-deprecating laughter.

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