Cost of avoidance

Each Enneagram style has a facet of experience they are reluctant to allow into their lives. At some time in their life they learned that this kind of experience was threatening. It was either forbidden or dangerous or superfluous or something. At any rate, it was to be avoided.

Let’s start with style One. Ones frequently are suspicious of or are reluctant to experience sensual pleasure. The high side of style One is a preoccupation with the way things should be. But sensual pleasure is a threat to “the ways things should be.” It is hard to control and does not really operate according to the rules either of personal morality or societal norms.

What this costs them is spontaneity and pleasure. The public demonstration of this is American Puritanism. Puritanism, still a default moral position for much of America, has a public suspicion of pleasure. The sins of the flesh are considered much worse than sins of the mind. Sexual sins are more threatening to a politician than lying or racism.

Flesh -9

Nines see themselves as strong but slow. In my “magic questions” I use to determine people’s Enneagram style, I ask what animal they would be. Nines, about 80% of the time, answer a large, slow animal (horse, elephant, whale and one delightful person wrote 3/4 tiger, 1/4 sloth).
Nines have this subterranean awareness of their power, but are frequently unaware or if aware, reluctant to use this power. The are asleep to their own body as well as to their other forms of power and assertion.

Flesh – 8

Eights see themselves and their bodies as larger than others. I coached a style 8 CEO of a firm who was having a problem with a passive-aggressive Nine (who are the most problematic for Eights, BTW) and I told him he intimidated the style Nine employee. I said, “You’re bigger than he is.” He replied, quite innocently, “I’m bigger than everybody.”
He was a large man, but his spontaneous assertion of his size came from his Enneagram style, not measurement.

Flesh – 7

Sevens, in a certain sense, are trying to get their body to go faster. They are often described as having champagne in their veins, but it would also be helpful to think of them as having coffee in their veins.

Sevens often plan to do too much, crowding their calendars and consciousness with too much. If/when they do this the get a “hurry up” feeling. Their body is trying to keep up with their minds.

Flesh – 6

Sixes can feel fear first in their bodies. Sixes often feel physically vulnerable, and often report waking up frightened. Sixes often carry tension in their bodies and their minds interpret tension as physical fear.
For this reason many sixes learn physical disciplines (think Chuck Norris, the counter-phobic six, who is a martial artist and whose politics are right-wing paranoia) in order to feel physically strong. Then their experience of strength weakens their fear.

Flesh – 5

Fives have a different relationship to their bodies. If they are in their trance, they don’t acknowledge their bodies enough. I tried to coach a Five with a weight problem, but he at without noticing what he ate. What usually happens is that Fives eat while absorbing information: TV or something to read or their phone. They pay so much attention to the information they ignore what they are eating. The geeks in Silicon Valley are pictured spending all night writing code with pizza boxes piled up in a corner.

Einstein said the function of the body was to carry the head around. If Fives live in the minds too much, their body suffers.

Flesh – 4

Fours are frequently unhappy with their body IF they are comparing their body to the bodies of others. Comparison is the dynamic that can drive Fours into dissatisfaction.

The usual dynamic is that Fours, if they envy, they tend to envy what they have first denied in themselves. “He’s really buff” can be the narrative of a Four while not acknowledging his own entirely adequate physique.

The good news is that a great way for Fours to improve their emotional life and spiritual growth is by taking care of their body. Bodily self-care is the kind of symbolic assertion that Fours understand because of their intuitive understanding of symbolism.

Flesh – 3

Style Threes treat their bodies a little differently than most. Because they are image-conscious, many Threes are trim and in good shape. They take their bodies and body-language seriously, especially how they influence others. Threes in the gym will tend to become competitive to see who can be the most buff.

If/When style Three does not pay enough attention to their personal health and well-being, they can become workaholics and ignore bodily demands to get work done. Two years ago I applied to teach the Enneagram to a very succe$$ful businessman and his staff. He was tough guy – marine, he said – and stated flatly “I don’t know the meaning of failure.” You have no idea how ashamed of myself I was (to get the job) that I didn’t point to his 56 inch belly and ask how he was coming on his diet. How could he miss that? When Threes ignore their body their language is frequently mechanical. “I have to make a pit stop,” or “We’ll have to go pedal to the metal” or “I’m just getting burned out.”

Flesh – 2

Style Two often is oblivious to the shape of their body. I don’t mean “shape” in the frequent use as meaning “athletic condition.” Some Twos are unaware of gradually becoming overweight. Their focus is so consistently on others they don’t notice themselves, even their bodily shape. I was teaching an Enneagram class in the inner city. I asked the participants for a metaphor for themselves. The style Two said, “I’m a sack of potatoes.” To be frank, she did look like a sack, her form was without much shape, he dress hung loosely and she moved poorly. (To help her save face I asked her who she fed as a sack of potatoes. Sure enough, she devoted much of her time feeding the homeless in her area. The high and low side of Two combined.)

So as a coach, I always start with physical self-care to help them admit they have needs. The bodily self-care is symbolic of their general movement toward emotional and spiritual growth.

Flesh, One

Ones are body types, and when they are under stress they frequently polarize against feeling their body, especially sensual pleasure. Ones really understand the advertising phrase, “sinfully delicious” that is occasioanlly used to describe fine food or beverage. Sensual pleasure is a threat to moral probity. Old fashioned Catholicism used to consider sins even worse if you took pleasure in the act.

On a cultural level, American Puritanism is stridently one-like. H. L. Mencken, an early 20th century columnist, described Puritanism as “the haunting fear that somewhere, someone is happy.” Pleasure is a moral threat.