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The Basic Structure of Clinical Enneagram


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The Enneagram is a vast and complex personality system and for people who are just starting out, the availability of information might come off as overwhelming and confusing. Starting from the very beginning, Enneagram is based on the degradation of consciousness, that is, a theory of neurosis. For western currents this can be likened unto the Fall of Adam, where everyone fell from a higher state of being into a lower one, and this lower one constitutes our subjective human experience. Through this subjectivity we are fated to blindly perpetuate our fallen state until we can see the truth of our actions; and that is the ultimate purpose of the Enneagram. This fall into a lower state of being is unconscious, we do not know that is has happened often until it begins to have a significant effect on our lives, when we realize that that subtle dissatisfaction with life that underlies every experience is in fact existential.

Enneagram represents our deficiency in a form called trialectics, that is, everything can correspond to the number three in some way shape or form, and in doing so it creates a model that measures a continuous cycle. This is represented in the example of the three Buddhist poisons with unconsciousness at the top, and then craving and aversion at the two bottom points of the equilateral triangle. Unconsciousness is the starting point, and then we become fixed at another point on the Enneagram.

But how does this all happen? Where does any of it even originate from? In the modern theory of the Enneagram of Personality the origins of such factors come from frustrations and solutions we create in order to abate suffering, they are often culturally influenced and come from the way we give and receive love, especially in the family dynamic. We see the world as threatening or desolate in some way, and in order to cope with this we create solutions and coping mechanisms which glance off of facing the real problem at hand. This traps us in a loop, one that can be described as the backwards law, "the more you try to have something, the more you emphasize that you don't have it." One person may believe that the solution to their pain is perfectionism and will try indefinitely to reach a state of perfection without ever truly becoming perfect. It is a temporary solution, the more they try to be perfect, the more they emphasize how imperfect they are.

These solutions are the main facet of the ego, and the ego can be broken down into two parts, the passion and the fixation. The passion is a factor measuring motivation and emotional habits, while the fixation is a cognitive style. In context to the above diagram, the passion is lower feeling, and the fixation is lower intellectual.

The Cyclic Ego

The passion is the most basic representation of the degraded conscious as they constitute the earliest instance of fallenness in early childhood. To put the terms we have been using so far together, it is a "deficiency motivation" which describes emotional habits. For one type this may be a passion of Anger which they habitually fall into, but are wholly unconscious of. The thing that turns the passion's motivating power into a cycle is the fixation, which supports and justifies the passion. The fixation is a set of ideas and delusions about the world and about "how things are" which create a specific character around the passion. For example, the E1's passion is anger, but their fixation is perfectionism. Because they are trying to establish perfection everywhere and because perfection is inherently impossible, they have a habit of becoming wrathful, which further fuels the need to perfect.

Essence and Unconsciousness

The way to achieving the essential state is through the clarification of the ego in objective terms. The whole idea of the ego is that it traps you in your subjectivity and you are unable to see beyond how you are specifically distorting your reality, but an objective view of this distortion equalizes the playing field, and you come in contact not just with what reality really is, but who you are on this plane of reality. For example, the E4's fixation is false-deficiency, they think that from an existential viewpoint they are inherently lesser than other people, supporting the motivation to envy them. But if an E4 views this objectively and for what it really is, they will realize that there is no such thing as people being inherently lesser or greater than others, there are simply others. Any notion of lesser and greater is a subjective distortion of reality that doesn't exist as an immutable law, it goes away as soon as you stop believing in it. Through this the character is able to achieve an essential state.

Paralleled in this is Jung's notion of the unconscious, which is also a term very commonly used in the modern iterations of the Enneagram. In psychology, there is no "essence" as this is mostly a philosophical concept. Its scientific equivalent would instead be "unconscious," as this is a part of our identity which is far older and more archaic. Everything that we forsake that causes our fall is in our unconscious. For example, in E2 they repress neediness in the unconsciousness and convince themselves of their own independence, without realizing that in their pursuit of independence they are only emphasizing their lack of it. By opening themselves and healthily integrating neediness into their consciousness, they can achieve an objective view of the self.

Centers of Intelligence

The centers of intelligence are more accurately referred to as a "triad of passions." As explained before, the Enneagram is based on the law of trialectics, and thus to get nine types around the circle we will need three basic passions that create all the rest. These passions are indolence (the first one that everyone goes through), vanity, and fear. These all come from various practices. Fear and anxiety is the basis of Freud's theory of neurosis, vanity is that of the Buddhist's, and indolence is an original summation of the two. Starting with E9, the loss of being occurs as the E9 becomes Indolent to it, numbing their essence into unconsciousness so they do not have to deal with their basic inner conflicts. This loss of being deprives the person of a basis to act, and having no basis to act creates fear, so we move to the passion of the E6 which is Fear. But sometimes we don't want to face our fears and want to appear mighty and courageous, moving to the passion of E3, vanity.

  1. A foundation of neurosis is fear—transformed into anxiety (as Freudian and post-Freudian psychology affirms).
  2. Another aspect of neurosis is narcissism, or excessive preoccupation with one's own image, as modern clinical psychology has affirmed.
  3. The root of neurosis is unconsciousness, as yoga and Buddhism once affirmed, and existential psychology has re-emphasized when speaking of a loss of being that entails something like robotization.

These are the three bases of the passions.

The Three Instincts

As is shown on the diagram there is also an element of instincts in the Enneagram. These instincts come from an eclectic group of sources. First, the conservation instinct comes from Marx, the sexual instinct comes from Freud, and the social instinct comes from object-relationists. These instincts are areas through which a type's passion can be distorted and changed into a subtype. For example, E6 has very different subtypes; the sexual E6 is a very aggressive character, while the conservation E6 is very meek and submissive. Because there are three instincts and nine ego-types, there are 27 possible subtypes. However, these three instincts are only lower instincts in distinction, that is, once the instincts are all integrated together they become "pure instinct" which is a higher manifestation of the instinctual psyche. Having just one dominating instinct in itself already suggests that it is lower. This does imply, however, that the instinctual type can change.



Finally, there are the axes which more broadly classify the types into general dispositions and traits. There is an X-axis and a Y-axis to the Enneagram. On the top of the Y-axis is the hypo-intraceptive characters, i.e. characters who are directing their psychic energy outward and away from the internal subject. These are characters who do not want to "see" what is inside because it brings them in contact with their existential desolation, and their egos are solutions to avoiding that pain. As a general trait among the hypo-intraceptive characters is the feeling of not having many problems because they are insensitive to all of their problems, such that not having enough problems actually becomes a large problem in and of itself. On the bottom of the Y-axis are the hyper-intraceptive characters who are directing psychic energy inwards. While the hypo-intraceptives are anti-ontic, the hyper-intraceptives are very ontological and consider everything from a very existential viewpoint. While the hypo-intraceptives don't let anything pass through, the hyper-intraceptives let everything pass through their psyche, so they are much more predisposed to suffering. These are called the "poor-in-spirit" characters.


On the left of the X-axis is the rebellious characters, those who are iconoclastic and have a larger tendency to go against authority, while on the right are the social characters, those who seduce others or appeal to a hyper-social standard in order to sustain the artificial paradise.

Antipodal Axes

Antipodal axes are also very commonly referred to with Freudian terms, so do not be alarmed when someone refers to a character as "anal" or "oral."

E1 and E5

If the gesture of anger is to run over, that of avarice is one of holding back and holding in. While anger expresses greed in an assertive (even though unacknowledged) way, greed in avarice manifests only through retentiveness. This is a fearful grasping, implying a fantasy that letting go would result in catastrophic depletion. Behind the hoarding impulse there is, we may say, an experience of impending impoverishment

- Character and Neurosis

The axis which is presented in the relationship between E1 and E5 is commonly referred to as "possessive," or in Freudian terms, a fixation on the anal stage of psychosexual development. In the E1 as we have observed there is a possessiveness in getting what they desire through embodying false goodness, having a "right" to these things and expressing anger when what is felt to be deserved is lost. Unlike the E5, however, the E1 is an enforcer of rules. Both are ascetic and seek to minimize their needs, but the E5 is oriented to an internal perfectionism, while the E1 is oriented to an external perfection of the environment (of reality). When the E1 becomes a self-perfectionistic character, such as through the conservation instinct, they perfect the self by perfecting the environment.

E8 and E4
E7 and E2
E6 and E3

Adjacent Axes

E8 and E1

The E8 has a polarity with the E1 of anti-moral and moral. While the E1 is hyper-social and upholds preconceived canons of behavior to an absolute tee in order to exact perfection over their impulses, the E8 is anti-social and generally views morality as a form of intellectualism, which is just another way to perpetuate impulse control. The E8 opts for the anti-moral approach in order to uphold its feelings of invulnerability and the idea that they have a limitless autonomy to do whatever they please. The E1 upholds the moral approach in order to maintain its superiority over others and control its aggression.

E7 and E5

The E7 and E5 have an axis of expressiveness and aloofness respectively. On one hand, there is the aloof and disengaged E5 who lives on the sidelines and introjects his reality to experience, while on the other hand there is the E7 who becomes an amiable, seductive, and active participant of his life in order to experience it.

E2 and E4

The E2 and E4 have a polarity of happiness and sadness, differentiating from the head adjacent axis in their emphasis on abundant or deficient emotions. The E2 is someone who is full of a false amount of love and gives it to others under false pretenses with their own ego at the center, while E4 is someone who is a depressed character, choosing to suffer and deny the experience of real pleasures.

Inner Flow


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