What if the personality itself were a helpmate in the journey of becoming? Using the natural bias of the unconscious default mode in a conscious, purposeful manner might be one of our greatest assets in breaking the hold of Enneagram type. Tom Condon has said that our personality type developed from a place of great sincerity. If that is true, then our Enneagram Point may actually assist us in loosening its grip. Here are some practices (one for each type) that enlist the habit in breaking habits.
Frivolity as Self-Improvement
The Perfectionists’ focus on improving and becoming the best that they can possibly be, often has them working even during their leisure time. Leisure pursuits include exercise, reading self-help literature, and classes that improve them. There is little time left over for frivolous, purely fun endeavors. We can engage the personality to assist us by noting that frivolity and foolishness make one a better person. We learn about openness, spontaneity, and joy which round us out as human beings.
Charity Begins At Home
Caring for others is how the Two ensures the life-blood of connection. Sensing and meeting the needs of those important to the Helper is the automatic mode of the personality. Often, this externalization keeps the Two from knowing that her own needs are not met, until she is completely drained and turns on those she cares for. This eruption can be disheartening and humiliating to the Helper. Eliciting the help of the personality, the Two determines that giving to herself and meeting her own needs are the best help she can offer to those significant to her. Then help flows from her full cup and doesn’t drain her. Others feel no hook in her helping or “giving to get” and a more genuine, mutual relationship can develop.
“Being” Increases My Productivity
Multitasking Threes are generally in the midst of a whirlwind of activity. (I liken my husband at times to the Tasmanian devil in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons.) Lots of balls are in the air at all times, and continuous motion may become synonymous with accomplishment. Performers produce prodigiously, but they are not always efficient. Moving too fast can cause corners to be cut or jobs to need “repair” or extra work. The Three just keeps pushing through, continually doing. In harnessing the personality, the Three Finds that stopping for periodic intervals actually can increase productivity by allowing contemplation of the best way to proceed. And of course, these “being breaks” allow the Three to examine whether this endeavor is really an authentic desire or goal rather than the default of “I’ll do it because I can make a success out of it”.
Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
The Romantic’s natural antipathy for things ordinary or mundane can have the Four constantly searching for intense emotional experience. The high highs and low lows can be exhausting for the individual Four, as well as for those around them. Yet, the Romantic believes that exhaustion and pain are small prices to pay for cultivating authenticity of experience. The habit can be tricked into breaking the automatic pattern when the Four decides that the most authentic of experience can be found in the ordinary, in the plain and simple things of life. The drive for authenticity can make this seeming flatness bearable until the Romantic truly discovers the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Language of the Heart
The Observer’s concern about having too little energy often leads them to withhold time and energy to be sure that they have enough. This scarcity mode has the Five hoarding knowledge, time, even his presence. The fixated mode of the personality believes in the supremacy of mental knowledge. Yet the Five’s lifelong quest for wisdom and understanding can be used to disrupt this habit of withholding when the Five begins to honor the wisdom and intelligence of the heart and emotions. With the heart, the more energy you give, the more energy you have. It paradoxically seems to create more energy, the more you give it away to others. And as you share yourself and your knowledge with others, the more free they feel to naturally share their knowledge with you. It further relieves the Observer of expending energy in actively soliciting and grasping for knowledge.
Playing Devil’s Advocate
The Six’s tendency to take the opposite stance of the skeptic can be used to great advantage in disrupting the usual habitual mode of the personality. Loyal Skeptics can begin to question their own worldview by playing devil’s advocate to what they believe to be true. The Six is hypervigilant to danger, downsides, and hidden motives. Yet Six can harness this vigilance in the service of scanning for upsides, positive visions, and the “good” in life. (I said it would be simple, not easy!) When a Loyal Skeptic develops a hypothesis and begins looking for clues in the environment to support it, the opposite stance can be taken to look for clues that refute the Six’s belief. Playing devil’s advocate comes naturally to doubting Loyal Skeptics and can be invaluable in breaking the hold that the fixation has on them.
Missing The Experience
Seven’s gluttony for life experience causes the Optimist to desire and avail themselves of all life has to offer. “I don’t want to miss anything,” say most Sevens and herein lies the way to harness the personality into overcoming the default programming. Optimists avoid difficulty and the “dark” side of life, eg sadness, pain, limitation, etc. When the Seven believes that they are missing half of life by turning away from this “dark” side, they are intrigued. If an interesting experience can be had by exploring this half of life, the Seven wants to find it. The desire to experience as much as possible of life can overcome the avoidance of difficulty and limits, helping the Seven along his journey of self-development.
The Invulnerability of Vulnerability
The Boss is invested in being strong and believes that to be vulnerable is to be weak. But if the Eight considers the belief that only the strongest show their vulnerability, they may “trick” the personality enough to let them learn the truth that there is an inherent invulnerability in showing one’s vulnerability. What more can they do to you? How can you be hurt, when you’ve already willingly shown the vulnerability that your enemies try to find? The control then is squarely in the Boss’s hands, right where she wants it. An interesting twist to break the hold of the personality concerns the matter of control. Eights hate to be controlled, yet when the personality is operating in the habitual mode, that is exactly what is occurring. The Boss may break the pattern to reassert control – and to avoid being controlled by the default mechanism.
It’s Easier to Do It Now
Going with the flow can seem to ensure harmony and peacefulness for the Nine. The path of least resistance is the favorite of the Nine on automatic mode, and this ease in life can make it difficult for the Mediator to get things done in priority. All things being equal makes it hard to know the priority, and the innate faith of Nines that “things just work out for the best” can work against them. A task or (even more difficult) authentic desire of the Nine comes into view on their screen. The internal turmoil that ensues with conflicting things of equal weight can have the Nine declaring inner peace by “not doing”. It seems easier to “get to it later”. Later is an amorphous sometime-in-the-future for the present moment Nine. To harness the default mode of the personality, the Mediator must learn that it is genuinely easier to “do it now” and to “finish” it. The Nine finds that harmony will follow from engaging and completing, rather than “waiting” for a better time.
Personality as Helpmate
Activating the personality as helpmate in our personal development can be inordinately helpful. We are able to use the considerable energy that keeps the habit in place, to our advantage. In essence, we are not actually tricking the fixation or automatic mode of the personality at all. We are uncovering a new truth while enlisting the habit’s aid. We are opening ourselves to more than the limitations of our entrenched worldview.
To get the personality to collude with us and help us grow will be very simple using our “tricks”, but it will not easy. This may be some of the most difficult and rewarding work we have ever undertaken. To shift our inner beliefs and patterns will take observation of our inner landscape and asking questions such as “what if?” What if it were true that frivolity would make me a better person? What if caring for myself first and filling my own cup really was giving the greatest gift to my loved ones? How would I act differently? What small actions can I undertake to see if this is true for me? The Enneagram must be experienced and internalized to be truly useful as a map for our personal journey. Find what works for you. And don’t forget to proceed with small, sacred steps.
You may have discovered other ways to elicit help from type in breaking free from it. Please share them here in the comments section or you may email me direct at email@example.com.