Our egotism is often about power and control, so we are most apt to do our enneagram habitual style when we feel helpless. Want to do a little experiment to show yourself how contagious and powerful you are? Contagious: whatever you think, feel, do or hope influences those around you.
Here’s the experiment, purloined from Harvard Professor Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage”
Tell one person that she is to not show any emotion on her face for seven seconds.
Tell the other person to make clear eye contact with the emotion-less one and smile.
Achor says he’s tried this hundreds of times, even in cultures that are less expressive and more than 90% of the people cannot resist showing a positive emotional response.
Didn’t know you could control people’s responses that much, did you?
Soooo, what kind of responses are you aware of and how much responsibility do you take for them?

Too much

One way to discern and perhaps weaken the hold of your enneagram style is to ask, “What do I do too much of?” The USA is a style Three, basically, and we work too much. Right now, we have a real unemployment rate of 25%. Part of the reason is that we overwork. We identify with what we have and what we do, so those who have jobs are painfully stressed by working 50-60-70 hours a week, especially if you include commute time. But what would happen if they only worked 30 hours a week? Then we’d use the other 25% unemployed and the unemployed would spend their time working instead of looking for work. When I first started thinking about computers, I assumed we’d go down from 40 to 30 or 35 hours a week because of their efficiency. But we compulsively use that efficiency to make the workers work even harder and make others idle.
We do the same thing with our Enneagram style. We do what we compulsively do too much and let other talents and longings lie idle. If we are a Two, we give too much and don’t enjoy the pleasure of letting others give to me. If I’m a Five, I try to think my way through life and don’t allow myself to nurture and enjoy my body. We think well, so we do it really really hard –too much, too narrow – and we don’t let our unemployed body absorb some of our time.
So what do you too much of?

Finishing weak

Sevens frequently have a slight or pronounced weakness for starting projects with great enthusiasm and then not finishing. I am a Seven and here is one thing I found quite effective. I shut drawers. Yes, I would get something from a drawer and then go on to my task and leave it open. I resolved to close all doors and drawers behind me. It really surprised me how foreign and strange it felt to close them. But it made a significant difference in my finishing. This was years ago. Now my technique is to include on my “to do” list one or two things I will finish. Not just any assignment, but to finish an assignment I’ve made myself or project I’ve begun. It works. If you’re a Seven, try it. But it doesn’t work as well as closing drawers.

When you’re NOT great…

A close friend recommended the book by Alan Fine, “You Already Know How to Be Great.” The book is OK, but his starting point is that we don’t do what we know we should. That’s where the Enneagram begins. When we don’t know what to do, we do our Enneagram style. It is like a default position on the computer. If a Two doesn’t know how to solve a problem, he solves someone else’s. If a Five is stuck, she gets more information. Alan Fine is right about information alone not helping, but his solutions are all terribly logical and rational, whereas our Enneagram patterns usually resist improvement by rational persuasion. Everyone knows why they should not smoke or over eat. So they will stop if we explain, right? No. The information processing and response patterns are neurological pathways and it takes some deeper interventions. The Enneagram suggests what those patterns are.

Sixes As Early Warning system

Style Sixes constantly scan the environment for possible dangers. They are not only highly observant, but they connect dots better than other styles. Tom Condon tipped me off to an excellent documentary that is an extended interview with a style Six at his best and perhaps worst. It is ominously named “Collapse.”
Michael Ruppert is a former CIA operative. The CIA is your quintessential six organization, raising paranoia to an art form and a life style. But Ruppert is exceptionally well informed and treats a topic already hot on the internet among non-Fox viewers–peak oil. Peak oil is that time when we have extracted half of the world’s known oil resources. That time is now, Ruppert says, and spends a lot of the movie explaining the dire consequences of that. His information is solid, as far as I can tell. It fits in with all the science I have been able to read. But as you watch the movie, you also see that he is coming from a deep inner fear that is or is not warranted by the data. He is right, but he is narrowly right. He does not see any solutions to the bleak picture he paints. If you watch this, you might want to go see Ray Kurzweil, a Seven, talk about how our information technology is doing wondrous things and is going to get better all the time. You can google him on TED.

Writing reveals your style

I’m reading a wonderful book, Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas. The author is learned and sensitive. But he reveals a real Nineish problem in this 500 page book that could have been written in 200 pages. Here’s a sample sentence:
It (archetypal energy) provided this mediation, not by spelling out in a literalistic predictive manner, but rather by disclosing intelligible patterns of meaning whose very nature and complexity–multivalence, inteterminancy, sensitivity to context and participation, and a seeming improvisatory creativity–were precisely what made possible a dynamically co-creative role for human agency in participatory interaction with the archetypal forces and principles involved.
The mind reels and one wishes he would not summarize his whole theory in one sentence. He does. Then, like a lot of Nines, he will repeat it, in this case at least three or four times. This bad writing is rooted in a Nine’s desire to say something from all points of view at once. When you are irritated that a Nine doesn’t get to the point, it is because he is trying to put a global, frequently kinesthetic insight into linear phrases. It’s hard. Then they repeat because part of the self-erasure of a Nine can be an inner conviction that he was not heard the first time he said (or wrote) it.

This is slightly different from the bombastic, pretentious prose that academics (usually 5’s) use to impress each other. Their abstract, passive writing styles are meant to exclude the ignorant. The writing above is to include everything he knows at once.


Fives have several interesting apparently contradictory habits. You can read the biography of Warren Buffet to see them. On the one hand, they collect. Almost anything – he collected bottle caps at one point. Others collect comic books, baseball cards, statues of frogs and in Buffet’s case, companies.
On the other hand, many Fives lead spartan lives without collecting much of anything. They may have only a few clothes and a cheap car. The difference seems to lie in their degree of introversion. Fives can live in their head, so they are comfortable without external possessions, but if they are more extroverted, they tend to collect stuff.

In either case, it reflects an inner belief in scarcity. Hoarding is one thing, fasting is another – both can manifest a sense of a basic shortage of what they need. One can either try to have an abundance or learn to live without.