How Enneagram Works
Spirituality by Enneagram Type
Why use the enneagram for spiritual practice? Aren’t there already enough tools to use in developing one’s spiritual life? For those of use who have tried traditional spiritual direction and have failed miserably at it, apparently not. That is why I teach spirituality by enneagram type.
Traditional spiritual practices are heavy on silent meditation. Yet for some people, this is almost impossible. For others, it is all too easy to retreat into the safety of the mind, and what is needed to nourish the spirit is to become more physically active. This one size fits all spiritual guidance has left many people unsatisfied and discouraged. This is where the enneagram can help. With the enneagram, we can readily discern what is needed to make us more complete as spiritual human beings.
The controlled, logical, perfectionistic Type 1, is a compliant type in the Instinctive Center whose superego message is that they “should” be perfect, and try to perfect everyone and everything around them. This leads to frustration and resentment, and a controlled, critical attitude.
For Ones, spirituality may involve getting in touch with the playful, out-of-control side of the personality. It may mean learning to let go of outcomes and saying that something is “perfect enough.” They also need to learn to distance themselves from the incessant demands of the superego, and get in touch with their own higher thinking centers.
The ever-helpful-to-others Type 2, a compliant type, is in the Feeling Center and is the type that overexpresses the heart center energy. This doesn’t mean they actually feel their feelings, though. As a compliant type, they are slaves to the superego message that says that they must love and serve others always.
For Twos, spirituality may involve getting in touch with their own needs, and learning to get their needs met directly, instead of through other people. Type 2s are the “people persons” of the enneagram and are exquisitely in tune with the needs of others. They embody the Judeo-Christian ethic of serving others. The problem comes when they work and work and work to take care of others, and the others don’t know how to pay them back, or even know that it is expected.
The optimistic, hard-working, driven, successful Type 3s, an aggressive type, is in the middle of the Feeling Center, and is the most our of touch with their feelings. Type 3s are very much admired in our culture for their ability to set their feelings aside and “get the job done.”
Type 3s often are living out the goals of their parents, and adjust themselves constantly to please others. Threes may find that being spiritual involves stopping what they are doing, taking time to “smell the roses,” and learning to tune into and follow their own hearts’ desires.
The soulful, emotional, melancholy Type 4, a withdrawn type, is in the Feeling Center. Type 4 underexpresses their feelings, and instead tends to hold on to them and amplify them by thinking sad thoughts.
Type 4s may find that spirituality means learning to not identify so much with their feelings, especially suffering, and to actually feel the pain of living, and then let it go. It may mean becoming more grounded in the body, and learning to be a bit more objective about life.
Type 5, a withdrawn type, is the most likely of all the enneagram types to want to live completely in their heads. They are the type in the Thinking Triad that overexpresses the thinking energy. Think of 5s as being like computers with overheated central processing units.
Fives are the deep thinkers of the world and like to spend their time analyzing and tinkering with ideas and belief systems. For that type, spirituality involves integrating their big hearts and becoming grounded in their bodies, and learning to get themselves and their visionary ideas out into the world.
Sixes are in the middle of the Thinking Triad, and as such, can be highly intelligent, but are the most out of touch with their quiet minds. They tend to overthink everything, and dwell on worst case scenarios. As a result Sixes tend to be overly fearful, or phobic, and seek security outside themselves in the form of belief systems or outside authority.
Spirituality involves learning to turn off the constant ruminating and learn to use their minds as a tool, instead of letting it use them. Sixes then and develop the courage to think for themselves and live in the moment without worrying about the future. They also learn to trust in a universe that is good and is on their side.
Type 7s are lively, spontaneous, and uninhibited. Sevens are an aggressive type in the Thinking Center. Sevens tend to underexpress their higher thinking intelligence. Their minds spin and they lack focus. Sevens like to stay busy.
For Sevens, spirituality may mean learning to turn off the constantly spinning thoughts, stop moving and doing all the time and learn to hold the body energy. As an aggressive type, they need to strengthen the connection to the heart, or feeling center. It may mean learning gratitude for what one has, rather than acting on the insatiable need to acquire more experiences or material things.
Type 8s is an aggressive type in the Instinctive Center who tend to overexpress the instinctual energy. This usually manifests in anger, and in a larger-than-life energy, and in challenging and confronting other people. Type 8s are lusty people, who live fully in their bodies.
For Eights, spirituality may mean learning that not all people thrive on conflict, to learn to express their vast physical energy in less confrontative ways. As an aggressive type, they also need to get in touch with their softer, more tender side by reconnecting with their heart centers.
Type 9 is the most relaxed and conflict-avoidant type of personality. They are centered in their bodies but out of touch with their bodily energies, especially anger. When healthy they become able to express their own needs and stand up for themselves and those they love.
Spiritual growth for the 9 may involve getting in touch with their repressed anger and finding healthy ways of expressing it. It also may mean getting in touch with their own needs and desires. Nines tend to be physically active, but not in ways that are important to themselves and those around them. They need to learn to do what needs to be done.