The Enneagram, a well-known psycho-spiritual model for describing personality types and their paths of growth, outlines 9 basic types of human behavior. In what follows, I share what each of those 9 types might do in a relationship when they are in their trance, i.e. when each type is at their lowest level of emotional intelligence and lacks self-awareness of their own shadow. (Of course each of the 9 types has a high side as well, but I won’t be going into that as much today.) I also give an antidote for each type, i.e. things each type needs to do to befriend the shadow, progress on the path of personal growth and enhanced emotional intelligence and, consequently, enjoy healthy relationships.
Saying: Honey, I have organized everything (well in advance!), and I have outlined the rules of engagement. I am, of course, always on time and I treat you with integrity, and I get so frustrated that you can’t do the same. I just can’t understand why people (you!) can’t be organized, punctual, responsible and hold themselves to the highest standards. Why can’t you have the same drive for self-improvement as I do? And how could you mess up the bed that way when I have aligned the covers perfectly so we can have sex in a pristine and ordered environment? You want to be spontaneous? Sure, I can organize that! Define the rules of spontaneous, please.
The antidote for the perfectionist: Lighten up, mess up a bit (or a lot!), and sin from time to time. You can’t be always right.
Saying: Honey, look what I made for you! Oh, it doesn’t matter if you want it or not. And now please don’t tell me you don’t want it after all the effort I have gone to, slaving away and sacrificing myself for you. You owe me at least some appreciation for my efforts. You don’t need my efforts? But I live to serve you!! I have no needs other than meeting your needs. And of course you owe me your time, love and validation given everything I do for you (oh yeah, it turns out that I do have needs after all… and perhaps ulterior motives… ) Do you really see my giving as controlling and suffocating? How can you say such a cruel thing when all I can think of is our relationship and your needs? Why would you want your personal space after everything I do for you (even when it’s not asked for)?
The antidote for the giver: Spend plenty of time completely alone and resist the temptation to help and barge on other people’s life (especially your other half’s). Don’t get too enmeshed with the other, let them breathe and take care of themselves. You take care of yourself and your needs (which you have plenty of – you are, indeed, the neediest type of all when in your trance).
Saying: Honey, I spent 11 hours at the office today, of course I went to the gym afterwards, and now I am headed for my night business course. Oh, and in my lunch break I worked on my new website project and I also managed to call this cool place and arranged for a tailor to come and take my measures for a new suit. You want to spend time with me? Well, let’s see if I can fit you in my otherwise extremely busy schedule… Oh, you want to have sex? Sure, that can be arranged… say 14th June?
Thinking: Please appreciate me for all the things I do, and don’t take me away from my projects (or judge me for constantly tagging myself on FB so people can see me). I am completely unlovable unless I achieve millions of things and look my best at the same time, all the time.
The antidote for the achiever: Do less, procrastinate, and FEEL more!!
Saying: Oh, I so yearn for that sweet yet riveting, full of light yet hidden, mysterious yet revealing connection where a handsome prince from another land will cross the ocean and whisk me away into the depths of the unknown, and love me passionately for who I am, for my uniqueness and talent, and will adore my pain, and will feel this pain, and we will merge in pain forever and live happily ever after… What’s that, honey? You are saying you are a real person and you do love me here and now? Oh that sounds so ordinary, I’d rather go back to my dream. (Meanwhile it would be nice if you made some money to pay the bills.)
Thinking: I feel so unworthy, so lacking and so jealous of what other people have, my own tragedy and depression and this deep feeling of abandonment overwhelm me so much that I just want to escape. I think I might cut my wrists. But first I will write a poem for which one day, after I am long gone, I will be finally acknowledged, appreciated and loved…
The antidote for the dreamer: Get real! See the light and joy in the ordinary! Appreciate what you have right here, right now. Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t envy what others appear to have. Approach life in a more pragmatic way. Do more, dream less. After all, someone has to pay the bills and there is nothing wrong if you yourself do that. Artists are allowed to make money too, suffering is not their only calling.
Saying: Speaking about sex, honey, did you know that the largest brain-imaging study of its kind indeed finds some sex-specific patterns to men and women, but overall there appear to be more similarities than differences. The investigation work raises interesting questions about how brain differences between the sexes may influence intelligence and behavior… For decades, brain scientists have noticed that on average, male brains tend to have slightly higher total brain volume than female ones, even when corrected for males’ larger average body size. But it has proved notoriously tricky to pin down exactly which substructures within the brain are more or less voluminous. Most studies have looked at relatively small sample sizes-typically fewer than 100 brains-making large-scale conclusions impossible… In a recent new study, a team of researchers led by psychologist Stuart Ritchie, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh, turned to data from UK Biobank, an ongoing, long-term biomedical study of people living in the United Kingdom with 500,000 enrollees. A subset of those enrolled in the study underwent brain scans using MRI. In 2750 women and 2466 men aged 44-77, Ritchie and his colleagues examined the volumes of 68 regions within the brain, as well as the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the brain’s wrinkly outer layer thought to be important in consciousness, language, memory, perception, and other functions…
What? You are saying you want for us to have sex? Oh, I need to do so much more studying before I dare put any of that precious knowledge into practice. I will just recluse again and continue my research.
The antidote for the thinker: Participate. Practice what you have learnt. Start dancing all the steps you keep reading and researching about. Engage less with books and more with people. We do like you even though you act like a snob (and no, we don’t normally care about all the “cool” facts you keep sharing). Just come out and play with us, we don’t bite.
The devil’s advocate
Saying: Honey, why do you all of a sudden want to try a new restaurant, after we have been going to the same one for 5 years now? What if the food is not good and we get food poisoning? What if there is too much noise? What if it’s too cold inside? Oh, I know… you have fallen in love with a waiter there! Have you been cheating on me? Why can’t we stay loyal to our restaurant? Why can’t you be loyal to me? I am totally loyal and devoted to you!
Thinking: I feel so insecure knowing you want change. Don’t you every change things on me… But OK, I love you and I will follow you to that restaurant (and to the end of the world, if I have to). I just need a bit of time to prepare for any unforeseen circumstances.
The antidote for the devil’s advocate: Be aware of your paranoia. Be more trusting and stop trying to predict what might go wrong every step of the way. Embrace change and surprises as a positive thing. Embrace the new.
Saying: Honey, let’s all get together and have an orgy!
Thinking: I love you so much that I want to share all the fun experiences with you and I want you to have fun with me. Besides, I get bored with the sameness so quickly I can hardly stick to you unless we mix things up a bit (well, a lot!) so I can feel excited and alive. I must try everything! I just don’t want to miss out.
The antidote for fun-loving: Commit and go deeper into one thing. Avoid overcommitting, overdrinking, overeating and overspending. Don’t be a narcissist. Start reading books instead. Yes, we know you hate reading but the things you hate the most are good for you. Pick something and stick with it.
Saying: Honey, when I pick a fight with you and start yelling, please don’t run away to hide. I expect you to fight back! Oh, my anger scares you and you think you are in danger around me? But I am here to protect you! I had no idea you found me domineering and overpowering. I am simply being overprotective (and I would fight anyone else who tries to hurt you). I am certainly not violating you, that’s how I make love.”
The antidote for the macho: Breathe deeply and use half of the force and lust you normally do. Don’t be afraid to show at least some of the vulnerability you carry inside and you desparately try to cover up for.
Saying: Sure, honey, whatever you say and want is fine by me (as long as there is no conflict). I am in no rush.
Thinking: I have already lowered my expectations anyway (so I don’t get disappointed and don’t go after what I want in case I need to be assertive, make decisions and, God forbid, create conflict). I am not even sure what I want anymore (let alone articulate it or go after it), so sure, I will go along. However, please ask me again (and again!) what I want because if you keep ignoring me and my needs (which I myself have no idea about), my anger will keep building up and will eventually explode at the least expected time.
The antidote for the easy-going: Wake up to your own life. Get present to yourself, to your needs and wants, and learn to express them despite the potential for differences in opinions and desires. Get off the couch and start doing the things that will further you and only you. And please hurry up – time does fly despite your perception that everything is still and you will live another 200 years.
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