This is absolutely one of my favourite episodes of all time!
Enneagram is a knowledge system that is very close to my heart and has been for years. I was pretty star-struck and beyond delighted to be able to talk with Beatrice Chestnut, one of my favourite authors on the Enneagram. We went really deep on this one on all the character structures, their core fears, dominant features, relationship patterns, etc.
It may be more suited to people who already know about the Enneagram and have some basic knowledge of their own Types, but equally, if you have never heard of it, this may spark your interest!
We actually went through the nine types one by one, and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to pick Bea’s brain.
Please do give this a listen. This conversation is intellectually stimulating and deeply insightful.
Imi: Oh, how are you today?
Bea: I’m good. And you?
Imi: Yeah, I’m very excited. I mean, I came across your book a long time ago when I was very young. I came across the Enneagram when I was really young.
Imi: And always been a staple of my life, so… And then I discovered your podcast recently and I’ve been binge listening to it.
Bea: Oh, great. It’s really nice to meet you.
Imi: Absolutely. And your recent episode on the Awareness Levels was really helpful.
Imi: Yeah. I mean, with today’s chats. Thank you for making time for this.
Bea: My pleasure.
Imi: Yeah. And so I absolutely love what you do. I feel like talking to you is almost selfish endeavor. So I guess to talk to heroes have inspired me throughout the years.
Bea: Oh, I’m really honored by that. Thank you.
Imi: Yeah. I mean, personally, the Enneagram has been a big part of my life. I first came across it when I was as young as 14, and I remember crying nonstop because I felt like, “Wow, nothing and no one has ever nailed me to the T in this way.” And since then, it’s like a lens that you wear, and once you have worn it, you can’t take it off. And I just started seeing the world through the lens of the Enneagram.
Bea: Wow. Yeah. That’s a really good way to put it. Yeah. And that’s wonderful that you found it when you were so young and that it resonated with you.
Imi: Oh, absolutely. And it has been very useful. I remember being a teenager and I will talk to my best friends, “Who do you…” having crushes on people and then we’re sussing out their Enneagram type. It was fun back then.
Imi: And obviously now it has become a very useful tool in my clinical work.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s great. Good.
Imi: Yeah. So we have a lot to get through today. Are you ready?
Bea: I’m ready. Yes.
Imi: Absolutely. How should they address you? Bea? Beatrice?
Bea: Either one is fine. Bea is fine.
Imi: All right. I’ll address you as Bea then. Thank you.
Imi: So I planned to have two parts to our conversation. I guess the first half of it, we will focus more on some general aspects of the Enneagram, perhaps for our audience who are not already familiar with it, and then maybe in the second half, if we have time, we may take it a bit deeper and gear it towards Enneagram geek like me.
Bea: Yeah, it sounds good.
Imi: I know it’s difficult because there are nine types, but we may, just very briefly, get through some of them if we have time.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay.
WHAT IS THE ENNEAGRAM
Imi: Absolutely. So I shared some of my own personal encounter with the Enneagram. I hope my audience know what it is, but if not, do you mind just start it by telling us a little bit about what’s the Enneagram is and how you first discovered it yourself?
Bea: Yeah. So the Enneagram is a… it’s an ancient symbol that has a lot of meaning if you know how to read it or understand it, and not very many people do. But more recently, it’s a framework for a model of personality types, and there are nine interconnected personality types, and it really helps us make sense of our patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving when we find our type. It sheds a lot of light on both habitual patterns that can be very unconscious and automatic, and through learning the patterns that comprise our personality type, we can understand what we’ve mistakenly identified with that kind of persona so that we can move beyond it. So it’s both a psychological, personal development tool and also a spiritual tool that can help us really grow and transform in whatever ways may we might want to. There’s so much to it that the more you study it, the more you can get out of it in terms of your personal growth.
Imi: I absolutely agree. And I just agree with the spiritual dimension of it, which to me, sets it apart from other typology system. I hate it when it’s been butchered up by the marketing world or the business world to dilute it down to something very simplistic. And then you get people saying, “Oh, I really don’t like these typology things. It just box me in,” when actually that’s the last thing the Enneagram does because it’s such a complex system and we all have all nine types in this, so no one is boxing anyone in, but yeah, hearing sentiments like that, I understand it comes from a misunderstanding, but it really frustrates me.
Bea: Yes. And what we often say when someone says that… and it’s understandable that people don’t want to be pigeonholed or put in a box… we often say that, the Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box, you’re already in a box, you just don’t know it, and the Enneagram helps you see the box you’re in so that you can get out of it.
Imi: Oh, that’s a really good way of putting it. Yeah.
BEA’S PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH THE ENNEAGRAM
Imi: So what was your personal journey through it? When did you discover it?
Bea: I discovered it 30 years ago when I was in my early 20s and I just really discovered it by accident. A very good friend of mine from age 13 on, his father was one of the early pioneering teachers in the Enneagram movement in California, starting in the late ’80s.
Bea: And he partnered with Helen Palmer, one of the people who wrote one of the first popular books about the Enneagram, and over dinner one night, he told me, he thought I was [inaudible 00:06:26] two. And I took Helen’s book home with me and I read all about my type, and I was just amazed that it told me so much about myself because I didn’t really believe that personality typologies could tell you very much beyond the most superficial or obvious things.
Imi: Absolutely. I love Helen Palmer’s work. It wasn’t my first encounter with it. I think I first came across the big blue book..
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Imi: That one, yeah. There’s slightly differences in people’s approaches, which is also interesting in themselves.
Imi: And would you say it has changed your life?
Bea: Yeah. I mean, it changed my life almost instantly. [inaudible 00:07:08] it changed the path of my career. I wasn’t really going to be a psychotherapist. When I discovered the Enneagram, I was on my way to get a graduate degree in communications studies. I studied mass media and politics, but after I was done with that degree and working on my dissertation and just working as a waitress, I started more intensively working on my own personal development. I got into therapy for the first time. I was in a women’s group and I really started applying the Enneagram to my own journey and it really helped me so much to understand myself and to realize that I wanted to go back to school and become a psychotherapist and use the Enneagram really as a central part of my work in life.
Imi: I’m so glad you did, and I’m so glad you wrote the book. Yeah, it’s my favorite one now. Whenever people ask me, I recommend that one, your book, to them.
Bea: Oh, thank you.
Imi: Yeah. So we mentioned how people say they don’t want to be boxed in.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Imi: Lots of people also ask a question like, “Oh, isn’t it just like horoscope?” Or, “Where is the science behind it?” Do you have… I don’t know… elevator pitch for the Enneagram?
Bea: I do. I often say that the Enneagram is self verifying. I mean, it’s not necessarily for everyone. I think you needed to be motivated to grow, but if you are, it gives you a really clear pathway. I think, it’s hard to scientifically validate things like this. I was a social scientist for a while and it’s hard because it’s hard to measure psychological phenomenon in the same way we might measure the natural world, but if you learn the Enneagram, you realize it really maps patterns that are common between different kinds of people. And if you read about your personality type and you’re reasonably self-aware, it’s almost like you don’t really need a scientist to validate it, it’s like, “Well, there it is. It’s right in front of me in terms of…” It describes, not only the patterns we tend to be conscious of if we really start to notice, but also our blind spots.
Bea: I remember when I first learned I was a two early on, and it said that twos are manipulative, and I was like, “Oh, that doesn’t sound very good.” But when I really thought about it, I realized that was true, and it really helped me to know that even though it was hard to hear it first.
Bea: And very honest and straight forward.
Imi: Well, that was the tough side of my type, but we can get into that later. Thank you.
ENNEAGRAM AND SENSITIVITY
Imi: Yeah. I don’t know what your thoughts are. Would you have assumed the same if you were me that this description of people being highly sensitive and emotionally intense, certain type of people might identify with it more in terms of the Enneagram or not really? What do you think?
Bea: Yeah, I think it would make sense that they would, but when I start thinking about it, I think either you will attract fours, or any type that either has a connection to four, or needs to learn from being validated for being emotionally intense, or having emotions that they feel strongly. So I think at first glance you might think you would attract maybe fours and twos, but I think it would make sense if you would attract more people than that. Because I think you might attract people who already have that pattern, but also people who really need to learn to embrace their emotions. And I think a lot of people are emotional, but, for one reason or another, whether it’s cultural messages or family messages, they don’t feel permission to feel their emotions or their sensitivity.
Imi: Absolutely. And there isn’t even a tendency. I don’t actually attract more fours than other types.
Imi: And there were phases where I attracted lots of eights and I was very surprised, but actually I guess different people have their different intensity manifestations, different kinds of things trigger them, which we can talk about a bit later, but everyone has their triggers and everyone has their struggles with emotions.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Imi: Do you think there are particular types which might be more prone to emotional dysregulation?
Bea: I think there are probably two categories of types, types that are more in touch with their emotions, like maybe fours and twos, and eights, it would make sense because I think eights really relate to intensity, and when we hear emotional intensity, we tend to interpret it in terms of whatever we feel in an intense way. I think some sevens could be intense, some ones could be intense especially the one-to-one or the sexual one. So I think it’s not just confined to fours or emotional types, I think intensity and sensitivity, which are, I think words that you use, I think a lot of people could relate to that and especially in terms of the way they want to grow to be both more embracing of their sensitivity and intensity, and allow it to be there so that they can get to know themselves at a deeper level.
ENNEAGRAM AND MBTI
Imi: Yeah. That makes total sense. I was very interested as well in my earlier career too. I had a graph on my desktop, which links the Enneagram to the DSM diagnosis, and I thought I was a genius to have come up with that, and I realized I was… and as I tried to also map it with the MBTI system, “This is going to be revolutionary,” it turns out other people are doing it too. But can you explain to our audience maybe, what’s the Enneagram… I mean, I guess this conversation probably is more suited to people who already have some idea what the Enneagram is, or maybe they’re more familiar with their type. Are there a correlation with the DSM diagnosis?
Bea: Well, I think, as you know, the DSM is divided into what we all might call personality disorders, which are thought to be more deeply rooted and persistent over time, and symptom diagnoses. I think there’s a really clear correlation with the personality disorders, and I think less so with the symptom disorders. Although, I think that for instance, Claudio Naranjo, one of my favorite Enneagram theorist-
Imi: That’s my favorite theorist.
Imi: I wanted to do a retreat with him and I kept missing it. I’ve got all his book. It’s so deep.
Imi: Sorry. I got very excited. Oh, he’s my favorite.
Bea: Yes. He’s my favorite too. And he says, in one of his books, something that just I thought was revolutionary and I don’t think very many people have noticed it, but you might have. He said that all psychopathology is characterological, which I took as meaning, really it’s the personality types of the Enneagram that are more primary. For instance, I think there are nine kinds of depression, and I think it’s a little bit unfortunate that we think of depression or anxiety as kind of one thing, and I’m hoping that people like you and me will keep doing the work we can do to clarify that, “Well, when nines get depressed, it means this.”
Bea: Or, “When one gets depressed, when a five gets depressed, it means this.” I think it’s expressing different things for different types. And so I think the symptom disorders are a little bit vague in terms of the generality of the experience, especially because I think each different type experiences what we might call disorders for different reasons, often defensive reasons. It’s like a way that the body or the mind is trying to take care of itself or defend itself against a deeper kind of painful experience or the re-experiencing of early trauma.
Imi: Oh, I love that there are nine types of depression, nine types of anxiety, nine types of ways of surviving in the world, which probably is the roots of it. So there’s a difference between the character structure as Nancy McWilliams puts it.., and there’s difference with the surface symptoms. Yeah. So then, there might be different reasons why people become nauseated. That’s just a symptom, but then the underlying character structure is a different story.
Imi: And I think it ties very much into how the nine different ways defend themselves in the world. I like the word survive better. Is their way of surviving in the world, but then, in psychological terms, we call it the defense mechanisms.
Imi: Maybe it’s a good time to just quickly run through them, the nine types of defense structures that maybe people would… [inaudible 00:18:16] maybe. What might they be if you can just briefly say… Obviously this is a such a deep topic. It can be an episode in itself. But if we were just to quickly run through the nine different types of defense structures?
THE NINE DEFENSE STRUCTURES
Bea: Sure. So if we start with one, for instance, and I’ll say a little bit about the early experience, because I think that’s where this gets set up, but of course, you probably know that I believe that type is with us from birth. So it’s going to sound like I’m saying the type rises up to… forms through defense or through a need to survive, but it’s more like we come in with our type, and then the type, in a way, is the basis for what defensive structure or coping strategy that we choose.
Imi: That’s not what everyone thinks, isn’t it? Some theorists think it’s shaped by childhood experience and you believe it’s inborn temperaments.
Bea: Yeah. I mean, I actually think it’s both, but I don’t think it’s just shaped. I don’t think we’re a blank slate. I think we come in as who we are and then the way we survive is a reflection of that. But if you look back at your childhood experience, you can often tell a story about how the experience has fit the defense. So I think, in a way, it’s both, and in an interesting way, it’s almost a spiritual belief to say that maybe we’re born into the life that gives us the lessons we need to learn.
Imi: Oh, that’s cool, yeah.
Bea: And so it can be seen a little bit like that, but I would say, for instance, type ones often have an early experience of being criticized from the outside or forced to adhere to rhythms from the outside instead of their own natural instincts and rhythms, as you know, Claudio Naranjo who said type one is an anti-instinctual type, because they go against their own instinctual impulses to try to be good. So the survival strategy is, “I’m going to internalize the rules from the outside and use those to regulate what I do by adhering to ideas of good and bad, right and wrong.” So the defense is like, “If I do everything right, if I monitor myself and proactively criticize myself in order to do the right thing or act appropriately, I won’t get hurt, or punished, or I’ll escape blame.” And so there’s a way that ones are… that the whole defensive structure is around doing things that are good, not making mistakes so that they don’t get blamed or punished.
Imi: Are you aware of the Kohlberg’s moral development model?
Bea: I’m aware of it. I don’t know it very well though.
Imi: So he has this idea that, as a child develop… as they were younger, it’s a very punishment-reward based way of doing things like, “If I do the good thing, I’ll get rewarded, if I do the bad thing, I’ll be punished.” And then, as they grow older, is about what societies… they lay down the rules and then as they’re more developed, they come up with their own value system. I just sometimes wonder if it has a correlation with type one and their degree of moral development. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. Something I have been pondering. I have a close family member who is a one, and sometimes I look at the way they do things that [inaudible 00:21:50] this is a very childlike way of defining morality. It’s very reward-punishment based, but then there are also very mature Ones. So I don’t know. It’s just something I want to throw out there.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. One of the things I love to think about is, the people who develop these theories, their theory often reflects their type. Like for instance, he sounds like he might be a one, right? If his whole theory of development is based on morality for instance.
Imi: Oh my God. I never thought that.
Bea: Like Melanie Klein, I don’t know if you’ve studied Melanie Klein, she’s so obviously a sexual four, right? Because her whole theory is about envy and aggression and competition. So I think it’s fun to recognize that even some of these really important developmental theorists, if you look at their theories, it’s a reflection of their type sometimes.
Imi: What’s Freud and Jung?
Bea: I’ve heard it said that Jung was a nine.
Imi: Because he incorporates everything in his diary.
Bea: In a way he was very spiritual. He went beyond Freud and he found these universal archetypes. You talked about the collective unconscious, which I do think it is a-
Imi: It’s so nine.
Bea: Exactly. I’ve heard it said that-
Imi: [crosstalk 00:23:15] everyone gets along.
Bea: Exactly. I think Freud could have been a six, maybe a social six, or he could have been a one as well because his whole theory was about instinct and then instinct to getting with… He thought that instinct was the main driver in development. And that was instinct and then civilization controlling instinct, and the sexual drive. And then the people, of course, right after him, were all Freudians. They all shifted gears and said, “Well, it’s not really instinct that’s the main factor, it’s early relationships with caregivers and a lack of love, or problems in relationship that actually cause, or seem to set in motion our defensive structures.”
Imi: Oh, that’s really interesting. Yeah. I guess that the six makes sense too, in that sort of finger up to the authority at the time were Freud. Interesting. What about as a correlation with the… Oh, sorry. You just talk about one. Do you want to go-
Bea: Yes, I’ll go. I’ll try to be quick. So the two is a type that in childhood often got the message that their needs weren’t important and they suffer from a lack of love and a lack of getting their needs met. And so the defensive maneuver is, “Well, I’m not going to have needs and I’ll take care of the other so that I’ll be taken care of in reciprocal fashion.” And so twos have a hard time being in touch with their own needs. They tend to focus a lot on the others and not really attend to what’s going on inside. So it’s a kind of, “I’ll take care of you, so you’ll take care of me.”
Imi: Is there a propensity towards codependency then?
Bea: Definitely yes. You find twos getting addicted to the person they’re helping in a way, and addicted to the helping relationship, and enabling people, and having a hard time making firm boundaries with other people.
Imi: Yeah. That makes sense.
Imi: What about threes?
Bea: So for threes, the main defense mechanism there is identification. So threes, they often had an early message that to be loved, they needed to be competent or successful. And so there’s a way they tune in to their environment and figure out, “What do other people value? And I’ll just become that.” And so they very much identify with role models or people that they want to admire them and almost turn themselves into whoever they need to be, to be perceived as successful or admirable. And so there’s a lot of attention to having the right image, and doing things, and reaching goals, and being achievement oriented.
Imi: I don’t get… Well, do I? I get a lot of people with three wings. I know you have a unique angle on wings as well, which we can quickly address, but unless they get really burned out, threes come to me when they’re so fairly burnt out.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I could see that. I think threes get stereotyped as not being very emotional, but if they can slow down the emotions are often right there.
Imi: Oh, they’re. Yeah. Well, usually it’s like a volcano because they have bottled it up for so long.
Bea: Yeah. So if we talk about fours. Fours often had an experience of loss, sometimes a loss of the attention of an important person in their life. There’s often a description of it as a lost paradise, and it can be a figurative loss or just another sibling that comes along after. And fours often feel a sense of disconnection and then unconsciously as children do, blame themselves for it. So, “There’s something wrong with me that I couldn’t achieve the connection or the love that I needed and wanted.” And so there’s a focus on a kind of inadequate sense of self but then focusing on an idealistic future or a nostalgic past to compensate for feeling too ordinary or not special enough or not adequate enough in the present moment.
Imi: [inaudible 00:27:45] Let me choose, [inaudible 00:27:47] you describe my type.
Bea: Anything you want to add about that or…
Imi: Oh, I don’t know. I need some time to process it, but yeah, I think the feeling of abandonment, very often characterize early experience of a four, but what I want to clarify is there may not have been a real abandonment. They often, as I did, felt like an orphan, or I actually wanted to be an orphan because that would make me feel more real, but it’s not like my parents have actually abandoned me, and I think likewise with many fours, it could have just been an emotional experience. It could even have been that your parents were preoccupied with something else, or like you said, a younger siblings come along or they were depressed, or too busy, and you can feel emotionally abandoned like that. And I think in my case, as well, there is temperaments mismatch where we’re just very different and I just felt like, oh, people didn’t get me. And that could feel like an abandonment as well.
Imi: So I think, this echoes with your earlier point that although we are trying to come up with patterns and systems so that we can understand the world better and people better, we can’t just draw a straight line. I can’t just look at someone who comes to [inaudible 00:29:11] and say, “Oh, they have obsessive compulsive tendency.” And I go, “Oh, you have to be a type one. You have to be.” It’s not like that and I do want to just clarify that. It’s a useful guideline, but we need to understand that the pathway to understanding people is actually zigzaggy, it’s not straightforward. Yeah.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. Yeah. You always have to be careful just to not stereotype, and you’re absolutely right. It’s a complex picture and it’s important to take into account the whole thing, or as much of it as you can.
Imi: I like the fives. I like them.
Bea: Yes. Me too. Yeah. My business partner’s a five and yeah, fives are… And speaking of sensitivity, fives are very sensitive. And a lot of times people don’t understand that about them, is that they’re hyper sensitive, and they may not always be connected to their emotions, especially when they’re with other people, but they’re very sensitive to what’s going on around them.
Imi: Oh, I love that description. They are.
Bea: Yeah. And-
Imi: So tell our audience about the fives just briefly.
Bea: So fives often had an experience in childhood where they were either neglected or intruded upon. So it’s a little bit like, “I can’t have my inner resources for myself. I need to…” They withdraw within themselves and erect boundaries. It can feel unsafe for them to share too much of themselves often because they aren’t met or seen or understood in terms of their sensitivity. And so they withdraw into mental activity where they feel more uncomfortable and… more comfortable rather, and they automatically disconnect from emotions and emotions, especially other people’s emotions, can feel draining and they tend to protect their energy, and that can be time or space, but they can be very sensitive to opening up to others because it feels like, “I’ll be depleted of my energy if I get too entangled with other people.” So there’s a sense of protecting their private space and time.
Imi: Which, if you understand the underlying mechanism, you can really… because sometimes I get frustrated with them where I would express an emotion as I have many, and they would give me a theory, or intellectualized it. I’ll [inaudible 00:31:41] like, “Oh, I’m feeling this and that.” And they’ll be like, “Oh, according to so-and-so, this is…” And I would just roll my eyes. But yeah, actually they are deeply sensitive.
Imi: I struggle a lot with sixes.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Six, it’s the core fear point. And sixes, because of the fear, a lot of the motivations and the defenses are built around coping with fear for a six. But the interesting thing is, not all sixes relate to being fearful before they learn the Enneagram. Sometimes they’ll say, “Well, I didn’t name it fear, I just thought I was always really prepared, or I thought I was a good problem solver.”
Imi: Well, that may be because externalization and external projection is their key defense.
Bea: [crosstalk 00:32:35] projection, yes.
Imi: “Everyone else is afraid, not me.”
Bea: Yeah. Or, “Other people are a threat, it’s not that my fear is an issue.”
Imi: Oh, yeah.
Bea: Yeah. But they tend to also be very responsible, and humble, and self-deprecating in a way. And there’s where you have to talk about subtype because you can almost not be able to talk about one six because there are three sixes.
Imi: Is that your unique invention, by the way, the subtypes?
Bea: No. The approach to the subtypes that I teach, which I think is very powerful, comes from Claudio Naranjo.
Imi: Oh, how have I missed this?
Bea: Yeah. It all comes from him. And the subtypes were around as a topic in the 90s, but they weren’t very clear, they were a bit vague. It wasn’t until later on when Claudio, I think, had really refined his descriptions with a lot of clarity that… I learned his approach in 2004 and it really was amazing to me because it described dimensions of the types that I’d never heard of before, but that were so powerful and clarifying the three versions of each of the three types, and how they’re really 27 types, and how it’s important to know that because when you just talk about nine, there are some subtypes that don’t get described at all and those people have a hard time finding their types in this system.
Imi: Well, Claudio Naranjo’s work is not always immediately accessible to most, and I think your work has really brought the subtypes into public consciousness.
Imi: It’s all over the internet, Bea.
Bea: Yeah. I mean, when I learned them and I realized no one else was really listening to his version, that’s when I went on a mission and that was a big motivation for writing my first book.
Imi: Before I jumped on the call, I actually didn’t know that his your favorite teacher too. Now, that explains why you have become my favorite teacher in terms of more than writing, because we have the same roots. Yeah.
Imi: Yeah. Interesting. What’s his type? Do you know?
Bea: Yes. He’s a social five.
Imi: He’s a social five? Oh, that makes perfect sense.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. The social fives, my business partner and co-teacher is also as… if you’ve listened to our podcast, Uranio he’s also a social five, so…
Imi: Oh, they’re the lights.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Imi: All right. Well, let’s quickly go through seven, eight and nine.
Bea: Seven, eight, nine. Yeah. So sevens are also fear types, but usually don’t feel fearful. So when they experience fear in childhood, sevens… it’s as if they back up in their psyche to an earlier stage where they were experiencing the world in a way that was very exciting. When the infants first starts to walk, there’s a period of time when there is kind of an exhilaration and excitement about exploring the new world. And then the child goes a little bit farther away from their mother protective figure and fear comes on the picture, and sevens usually go into their imagination and it’s almost as if, “I can control whatever experience I have by whatever I think about or whatever I feel.” And there’s a sensitivity to being limited from the outside and a tendency to rationalize whatever they want to be doing anyway.
Bea: Yeah. So it’s fear-based, but not always fear inside and seven’s really focus a lot on what’s positive as an unconscious avoidance of what’s painful or uncomfortable, and there’s a fear there of getting trapped in an uncomfortable emotion.
Imi: I had a long standing attraction to sevens just because when I was younger, my best friend was a seven, but it was a very interesting path because I was a really turbulent, and immature four and she was a happy go-lucky seven. And so, all our conversations would be me calling her out of nowhere, crying my eyes out about random things that happen during my day, and she’ll be all positive and pull me up. I’ve never understood that pairing, but yeah, it’s always intrigued me, the four and the sevens. And actually I see that pairing a lot in my relatives. I see lots of more four or five type men usually, and then they pick a partner who’s along the seven, eight spectrum. [crosstalk 00:37:46] that balances their energy out.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bea: Yeah. It’s opposites attract kind of thing, I think.
Imi: Probably, yeah. Okay. Eight and nine.
Bea: Eight and nine. So eights often experienced a violent or turbulent childhood situation where they had to be strong and tough to survive. Sometimes they had to be strong at too early in age.
Imi: Or maybe they were bullied, bullied by a sibling, or… It doesn’t have to be physical violence, is what I’m trying to say.
Bea: Absolutely. Yeah. Often it is. Surprisingly, they often do experience difficult childhoods where there’s violence. However, it doesn’t have to be that of course. It can sometimes be being the youngest child in the family and not being treated too gently because of it, in a big family. It can be, say oldest child who loses a parent and then they become the parent and protect the younger siblings. It can be a lot of different stories, but usually it’s a defense of needing to identify with strengths, and deny weakness and vulnerability.
Imi: Well said. Identify with strength.
Bea: Yeah. And so it’s like having a bigger energy, being able to do big things in the world, and denying the vulnerability that might stop you on the way. And so that’s eight.
Bea: And then nine, nines often felt overlooked or not heard in childhood, and sometimes there were just louder voices, or people in the family that were just more controlling, or got their way more, and so the nine learns it’s easier to go along to get along. So it’s a kind of adaptation or overadapting kind of personality of going with the flow, wanting to avoid conflict, and so adapting and harmonizing with other people’s agenda and not being so in touch with their own, because that would bring them into conflict with others. And so nines tend to be mediators and people who tend to be very easygoing and friendly, but sometimes don’t know how to prioritize their own goals and needs and wants.
Imi: Or be assertive. [inaudible 00:40:10].
Imi: Yeah. I mean, this can go on forever if we’re [inaudible 00:40:16] going through the nine types, because there are so many things I want to ask. But since we’re now in the weeds, maybe we can do a few more questions like that, where we go through the nine types and then we’ll come back out to more generalized things and then wrap up.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Imi: I’ve always been intrigued with the nine types relationship to anger.
Bea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Imi: So I thought that might be a useful question to ask since I have experts in the house.
Bea: That’s a great idea.
Imi: So what are the nine types different relationships to anger? How may they feel it, express it or suppress it? And how does that ties in with their defense mechanism?
Bea: That’s a great question. And this one might be a good one to go with in terms of starting with what we might call the anger types, which eight, nine, and one are the body-based types. There are three centers of intelligence and eight, nines and ones overuse or come more from the body center, the instinctual intelligence, the gut-knowing, that kind of intelligence, and the body types are connected with anger. And I won’t go into too much detail, but you may know that I’ve done some work integrating the Enneagram types in Object Relations theories and-
And eights, nines and ones, it’s as if their personality really has its basis in not getting their needs met in the differentiation period. If you follow Margaret Mahler, the first stage of the psychological birth of the human infants is differentiation. And it’s when the child needs to grow apart from the fusion with the mother, and eights, nines and ones, they need a lot of holding… We all need holding at that period, but I think, it’s my theory, that part of what shapes the personality styles is unmet core needs at whatever of the three main sub-phases, and that would be differentiation, practicing and rapprochement. The body-based types are rooted in a certain way of not getting enough holding in the differentiation period. If you look at nines, either being pushed away too quickly, or the mother holding on and not letting them differentiate< could be one story, for instance, with nines.
Bea: And if you think about the differentiation period, there is an experience early on of anger or protest at separation. So I think the body-based types have a deeply rooted experience of anger, and it’s part of why anger is sort of the main emotion that shapes their personality. And it’s not that these three types go around feeling angry all the time. Far from it, it’s more that their relationship to anger structures their personality, so-
Imi: Oh, that’s a good way of putting it, their relationship to anger.
Bea: Their relationship to anger. Yeah. So eights overdo anger, nines underdo anger and ones are in conflict with it.
Bea: And so eights have easy access to anger and they’re… Eights and sexual fours are probably the types on the Enneagram with easiest access to anger and they get angry the most. Of course, eights get stereotyped as always being angry, which isn’t true at all. And as Naranjo, used to say, sometimes eights don’t need to get angry and that’s because they carry with them a kind of strength and power and presence. But I would say eights have easy access to anger. And again, in talking about anger, I always like to tell especially Enneagram audience that I don’t see anger as a bad thing. Anger can be very positive and certainly we get into a lot of trouble, all of us, when we’re unable to express anger.
Bea: It’s very healthy to be able to express anger in healthy ways. Anger on its own isn’t good or bad, however, we can use it in destructive or constructive ways. So eights tend to be angry, but it goes away very quickly and it can be about general things, about injustice, about unfairness, about people encroaching on their territory, or not observing their boundaries, or not doing things the way they think they should. Nines, another anger type in the body-type triad, they tend to not be very in touch with anger because anger gets in conflict with their main coping strategy, which is to create harmony in the environment and avoid conflict. And so if you’re avoiding conflict you’re certainly motivated at a deep level to not be aware of your anger.
Bea: However, when we’re not aware of our emotions, as you know, it doesn’t mean they go away. It more means they leak out in some form or another and with nines, anger leaks out as passive aggressive behaviors or passive resistance. So nines can tend to be stubborn. These sort of tamped down versions of angers, stubborn, they say yes to something and then they don’t do it. So it’s anger that’s suppressed to the point of leaking out in passive aggressive forms, so it’s not open or direct anger, but it’s there. And as nines develop, when they’re on a growth path, a big part of their growth tasks are getting in touch with anger and expressing it more directly, and recognizing that anger is connected to power, and the ability to make boundaries, and being powerful and making boundaries are very important things for nines to learn to be able to do.
Imi: Yeah, well that captures a lot of my work with these three types actually.
Bea: Yeah. Because ones are very interesting when it comes to anger, they’re in conflict with it. So ones naturally feel anger because they’re very tuned into the right thing to do, or the moral thing to do, or being responsible, and they try very hard to hold themselves to high standards, but then they look around and they see that not everyone is doing that and they get frustrated, or resentful, or irritated. Again, tamped down forms of anger that reflect a sense that things aren’t right. So in one’s anger, it’s sort of an opposition to what’s happening. People aren’t following the rules, people aren’t behaving correctly, people aren’t doing things the right way.
Bea: And so it creates a lot of anger and yet, because they want to be good, ones often repress their anger or suppress it because they think it’s maybe not okay to express anger. And so you get a situation where they hold a lot of tension in their bodies, and again, when we don’t express important emotions that can even create illness. So ones can tend to be very rigid and hold themselves back in ways that aren’t good for them. And so when we work with ones and they’re growing, it’s very important for ones to learn to accept their anger and have compassion for themselves when they’re angry and channel their anger in conscious ways.
Imi: Yeah. Thank you.
Imi: Well, we have a few other types.
Bea: Yes. So let’s look at the heart types next. And in terms of anger, I would say, of course, they all have anger. It’s not as primary as sadness, which is the core emotion of the heart types, but twos can definitely tend to get angry. They go back and forth a little bit like ones between repressing it or suppressing it often because they don’t want it to get in the way of connecting with other people or making other people like them, which is their core coping strategy, but they often get resentful or angry when people don’t meet their needs. And it’s tricky for twos because they don’t say what their needs are, but they often hold an expectation that people should meet their needs in the same way they meet other people’s needs without people asking them to meet their needs.
Bea: And so twos can definitely be angry, but I would say it’s a little bit more of an effort or some important work for twos to be able to get in touch with their anger so that they can express it in a regular way instead of repressing it and blowing up when it backs up on them or it gets to be too much. So I would say twos can be angry. It’s not their main go-to emotion, but it gets in there. When you talked about threes about anger, they often say they experience anger as impatience. Because threes are again, always wanting to move toward the goal and a lot of what they focus on is getting things done and moving forward and accomplishing.
Bea: And what tends to make them angriest is when people create obstacles between them and their goals, or when they slow them down, or when they’re incompetent, or when they’re making them look bad, or in some ways not supporting what they’re doing. But that said, again, it’s good for threes to learn to get in touch with healthy anger and to the extent that they can feel it more from the real self as opposed to the personality. [inaudible 00:49:55] tend to feel it as impatience because they’re trying to move forward, but the more threes get in touch with themselves, they get in touch with their real feelings. It’s actually good for them to feel whatever natural anger they might feel, but they don’t tend to lead with anger most of the time.
Bea: And again, fours are a little bit like sixes. There’s three subtypes, are so different from each other that you almost can’t talk about one four. So in terms of anger, for instance, social fours and self-preservation fours repress it more. Social fours feel guilty for feeling angry, and so they don’t tend to show it, but of course they are underneath. And then sexual fours actually lead with anger because they externalize their internal suffering as anger, as a way to defend against feeling shame and hurt and sadness and deficiency inside themselves.
Imi: I actually still have a hard time figuring out which subtype I am, even after all this time.
Bea: Oh really? Wow. Yeah. In fact, Naranjo said that sexual fours are the angriest type on the Enneagram.
Imi: Oh, interesting.
Bea: And I think that clarified a lot for people that I know that are coaches and things, who thought they were working with eights when they had someone who had easy access to anger, and some of those were fours. And one of the ways I sometimes differentiate is, “What kinds of things make you angry?” And for sexual fours, it’s more about being misunderstood, not being seen, not being heard, not having their creativity or the things they communicate fully understood and heard and identified and validated, and so I would say that about fours. And I find sexual four really interesting type because they aren’t really afraid of conflict, they aren’t very afraid of very many things that come up in relationships.
Bea: Another thing I would say about the different emotions is, again, a lot of it’s about why do you get angry? What kinds of things make you angry? And for the heart types, that can come up more in relationship or in especially personal relationship. I know some social and self preservation fours who may not get that angry in general, but they do get angry with the people closest to them, for instance, where it’s a bit safer to express that emotion. So then five, six and seven are the head types. And so they’re fear types. So again, anger is not their main go-to, but they can get angry. Five has a connection to eight and fives, again, typically don’t tend to be really that angry or that much in touch with anger, but in fact, I just had a coaching session today with a five and it was the first time I met with him and I could really feel his anger.
Bea: And he says he tends to be very assertive, definitely a social five, but very assertive. My business partner’s like this too. And we talked about it, is kind of along that line to eight, that sense of being passionate about what they believe in or making a point. And sometimes anger for fives can be about making boundaries or connecting with people, interestingly. Because eights sometimes say that they don’t trust someone fully until they’ve had a conflict with them. And so I know five, especially social fives that can be a little bit more extroverted than the other two fives. They often will have a kind of access to assertiveness that feels like anger that can be either about making boundaries or about connecting, finally saying what they don’t like as a way of coming toward you, in a way that’s about connection.
Bea: And I would say self preservation five has a really hard time expressing anger. So you probably won’t see as much from them or… But sexual fives can have an edge sometimes, I would say. And, of course, all the sexual dominance, the sexual subtypes, tend to have more access to anger generally. I would say, not so much the sexual nine, and that’s why you got to be careful not to say something… There’s almost nothing that applies to all of the nine subtypes. So it doesn’t apply for everyone, but a little bit more. And then when we come to six, the sexual six is quite angry-
Imi: I think we need to fill our audience in fairly quickly in that. Actually in Bea’s work, there are these three subtypes to each types, making it 27 types in total, and the three subtypes are sexual, self-preservation and social. and sexual doesn’t mean you are sexual in the way we usually understand it. So if anyone is interested, please absolutely get Bea’s book and in a very accessible way, get a deep dive into these.
Imi: So sorry for interrupting. I just felt like maybe someone was not catching up with that.
Bea: Yeah, you’re absolutely right that these are instinct based subtypes and which subtype you are depends on whether your self-preservation instinct or your social instinct about getting along with the herd or the tribe or your one… So we sometimes call it a one-to-one instinct to… or your sexual instinct, which is most dominant. We all have all three. It’s another breakdown into three. So each of the nine types comes in three versions. It’s important to know those. So yeah, it’s important to define that, I think. So yeah, just to finish out the types and anger, sexual six of the three sixes would be the six that’s most in touch with anger. In fact, each of the three sixes is defined by how they cope with fear. And self-preservation six copes with fear by finding friends and allies and protectors. And so they tend to be friendly and warm, and they aren’t in very much in touch with anger and aggression because they’re afraid of other people’s aggression. That’s one of the things they fear. And if you’re going to attract allies and protectors, it’s good not to be scary or angry.
Bea: So self-preservation sixes tend to be one of the types that are least in touch with anger. Social six tends to be very intellectual six, also not too in touch with anger, although it can come up when they get rebellious, because they’re a mix of fearful and counter phobic, which is going against the fear responses. And then the sexual six is a more counter phobic six. It’s a six that goes against fear with strength that thinks the best defense is a good offense when it comes to fear, and so they tend to be very assertive. So when they get afraid, instead of feeling fear, they actually can express assertiveness or an aggression but it isn’t real courage, it’s more…
Bea: Naranjo said, it’s the courage of having a gun. It’s like a fake courage that’s intended to scare you away, but isn’t… Courage only happens when we’re in touch with fear and then we move forward despite fear. But the sexual six skips over their own vulnerability and fearfulness and goes to anger instead.
Bea: And then the sevens, they are definitely not at the top of the list of angry types. Some of them can have access and I would say really all three, depending-
Imi: It goes very quickly though for seven.
Imi: Hold onto anger for very long.
Bea: Right. Or any uncomfortable emotion for that matter.
Imi: Yeah. It’s true. That’s more [ crosstalk 00:57:31].
Bea: Yeah. They like to move on quickly from emotions that can feel hard. And I think they tend to be covert rebels. Sevens don’t like to be told what to do or controlled by the outside. And so they can tend to be really good at charming and disarming. So instead of overtly rebelling against control, they’ll get charming. It’s like intellectual charm is rebellion. And so usually anger is not the first line of defense for sevens, but I have heard seven say if their charm doesn’t work and someone’s still trying to tell them what to do, or trying to limit them, or put them in an experience they don’t want to be in, they can get angry.
Imi: Thank you so much for sprinting through the nine types with me. I really appreciate it. And you went so deep with all of them.
ENNEAGRAM-INFORMED COACH OR THERAPIST?
Bea: Well, it’s good questions and I appreciate your embrace of the work and your deep knowledge of it.
Imi: Oh, I absolutely love the work. There are 10,000 more questions I could ask you, but I also have to be respectful of your time. Maybe a final question would be, if people are interested, what are the benefits of going to an Enneagram coach and someone who is Enneagram informed, like a therapist? People might think, “Oh, I don’t want to go into the room and get typed by them.” So what might be some of the myths or some of the benefits of doing this work with someone?
Bea: Naranjo used to say that the Enneagram is not a standalone tool, that it is excellent tool for personal growth, but it’s necessarily used in the context of therapy or some sort of therapeutic relationship in a workshop or a retreat or some sort of context where you can be supported in your inner development work by someone who’s trained and experienced. And when we’re using the Enneagram, the first step is identifying your type. And sometimes that can be hard and sometimes it can be easy, but I think the main thing is to see it as the first step in the development process. And I think, working with the Enneagram in therapy, it’s just like working in therapy generally only I think it actually helps you get to the heart of the matter more quickly.
Bea: It helps therapists to use the Enneagram, I think, just to have access to a model that is sort of a grand theory of psychology, is the way I sometimes think of it. Different forms of therapy can be identified with different aspects of the Enneagram or the Enneagram types. There are body-based therapies, there are therapies that aim more cognitive understanding, and there are therapies that aim more to really focus on the emotions, and then there are therapies that combine all of them or somatic work. So it’s good to know what kind of therapy you want to do but I think everyone can benefit from therapy.
Bea: It’s a little bit like you wouldn’t be sick and not go to the doctor. I think all of us humans need help and support growing, sometimes healing hurts from the past that are holding us back. And so I think, it’s always an act of courage and it can be vulnerable to go to a therapist, but I think that someone who knows the Enneagram well is often someone who can understand you readily and quickly in an objective way, in a way that can really do good work in terms of not wasting time and really speaking to what’s most important.
Imi: That is a wonderful way of putting it. Yeah. Thank you. And if people are interested, where should they start?
Bea: Well, if you’re looking into knowing more about the Enneagram, my business partner and I, my friend and co-teacher Uranio Paes, we have an Enneagram school. It’s called the Chestnut Paes Enneagram Academy. It’s international.
Imi: Oh, amazing.
Bea: Back when we could travel more often, we do workshops in the San Francisco area and the London area, in Cairo, Egypt, and Shanghai, China, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Those are our centers, but of course now we’re doing a lot online. We have an online content platform that we’re slowly turning into a learning community that has a lot of videos and audios. For instance, I just finished a subtype video interview series where I interviewed six people of each type, two people of each subtype. So if you want to see people talking about themselves, we did a panels course in January that is recorded, that you can get access to. We have a masterclass instincts and subtypes courses. There’s a lot of information if you go to our website.
Imi: Well, when COVID is over, I would absolutely love to meet you in person. And I will go to one of those locations. I mean, London, Shanghai, these places, I have easy access to.
Bea: We would love to have, we’d love to meet in person.
Imi: Absolutely. Anything else you would like to say to our emotionally sensitive, intense clients who may or may not be in touch with their instincts and defenses? Just any last piece of advice or wise words, Bea?
Bea: I just think it’s really important for all of us to acknowledge and honor our emotions, and I really appreciate the way you highlight the importance of embracing emotional intensity and sensitivity. And I think, so many challenges and problems and even illness occurs when we don’t embrace our emotions. And one of the things Enneagram I think teaches, is how we can understand our emotions in a deeper way in order to help ourselves heal and grow. So I appreciate the work you’re doing, and I really thank you for having me as part of what you’re doing here.
Imi: Oh, it has been absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much.
Bea: Thank you.
Imi: All right. So hopefully our paths will cross again.
Bea: I would love that. It’s been wonderful talking to you. Please stay in touch.
Trigger Warning: This episode may cover sensitive topics including but not limited to suicide, abuse, violence, severe mental illnesses, relationship challenges, sex, drugs, alcohol addiction, psychedelics, and the use of plant medicines. You are advised to refrain from watching or listening to the YouTube Channel or Podcast if you are likely to be offended or adversely impacted by any of these topics.
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Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.