Enneagram Series by Mark McGuinness
Having introduced the three Enneagram Heart types in my last post, IÃ¢â¬â¢ll now move on to the three thinking or Ã¢â¬ËHead typesÃ¢â¬â¢.
The minimum you need to know about the Enneagram symbol is that it is divided into three parts, representing the three Ã¢â¬ËcentresÃ¢â¬â¢ or types of intelligence in human beings – emotional, mental and physical. Another way of looking at the three centres is to see them as corresponding to different types of action – relating, thinking and doing.
In this post I will outline the three Ã¢â¬ËHeadÃ¢â¬â¢ types – types Five, Six and Seven. These typesÃ¢â¬â¢ strength lies in their mental intelligence – their ability to think clearly, to penetrate deeply into a subject or to create new options for action.
ItÃ¢â¬â¢s important to remember that no types are better or worse than the others. Each type has strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and obstacles. And the Enneagram is not about putting people in boxes – we all have the potential to occupy any position on the Enneagram, and in different situations we can take on the characteristics of any of the nine types.
Type Five – The Observer
Type Five has a gift for focused concentration and deep thought, able to analyse a problem, topic or situation and reach carefully reasoned conclusions. Fives take their identity from their status as guardians of knowledge and founts of wisdom. Because of their patient ability to explore a subject in depth, they become authorities on whatever they set their mind to. Problems arise when thinking becomes a substitute for action, and when they get so used to Ã¢â¬Ëliving in their headsÃ¢â¬â¢ that they lose touch with their own feelings and become insensitive to others.
The stereotype of the Five is the ivory tower intellectual, but they are not necessarily academics – they are the deep thinkers and reserved characters to be found in any walk of life, the ones most likely to take a step back from a situation and give it considered thought.
At their best Fives are wise teachers, generous with their learning and eager to help others. They are able to set aside their own prejudices and examine the data impartially, often reaching an original conclusions that it is hard to contest. They know the joy of learning for its own sake, regardless of trappings such as qualifications or high status positions. They are able to balance deep thought with a healthy awareness of their own feelings and deeply felt connections to those around them.
At their worst Fives are cold and distant, cutting themselves off from others and withdrawing into a world of abstract thought. The respected authority becomes a boring know-all, highly sensitive to any perceived slight on their status as the fount of all wisdom. The thirst for knowledge turns into an obsessive collection of data, without regard for its utility or relevance. Lost in a world of abstract thought, they lose touch with their real feelings and can compensate through compulsive or addictive behaviour. The dark side of The Observer is the paranoid Pedant.
We all experience point Five when we become so absorbed in learning about a topic that we experience a deep pleasure in marshalling all the facts and seeing meaningful patterns emerge – and maybe feel slightly superior to those who havenÃ¢â¬â¢t looked into it so deeply?
Type Six – The Guardian
Type Six is a hard-headed thinker who applies practical intelligence to securing the wellbeing of a group – such as a family, circle of friends, team, company or country. Sixes take their identity from their position as loyal members of the group. Because of their ability to spot danger and put the group interest first they are dependable team players. Problems arise when their identification with the group leads to an Ã¢â¬Ëus and themÃ¢â¬â¢ mentality and they become suspicious of Ã¢â¬ËoutsidersÃ¢â¬â¢.
The stereotype of the Six is the policeman or security guard, prepared to put their life on the line for the status quo, but they can be found as loyal members of any kind of team – such as those in business, sport, the military, politics or the family.
At their best Sixes are loyal, trustworthy guardians whose Ã¢â¬Ësixth senseÃ¢â¬â¢ for danger is placed at the service of their community. They are able to keep a clear head even when alert for danger, and see potential threats in perspective, responding appropriately. They are happy to work tirelessly in the background, without the need for special recognition. They are wise enough balance their identification with their group with a healthy respect for others and their differences, and extend a warm welcome to strangers.
At their worst they are suspicious and volatile, quick to accuse and slow to trust or forgive. Their alertness spills over into paranoia. Both Fives and Sixes experience paranoia, with the difference that Fives are typically paranoid about themselves as individuals, Sixes on behalf of the group. Tormented by anxiety, they see everyone as a potential threat – Ã¢â¬ËinsidersÃ¢â¬â¢ are potential traitors, Ã¢â¬ËoutsidersÃ¢â¬â¢ are viewed with prejudice and can even be persecuted. The dark side of the Guardian is the paranoid Bigot.
We all experience point Six any time we feel part of a team and experience the sense of everyone pulling together to achieve a common goal – and maybe start to see Ã¢â¬ËoutsidersÃ¢â¬â¢ as Ã¢â¬Ëthe oppositionÃ¢â¬â¢?
Type Seven – The Optimist
Type Seven has a gift for looking on the bright side of life and thinking up exciting new options. Sevens see themselves as Ã¢â¬Ëthe life and soul of the partyÃ¢â¬â¢. Whether at work or play, they take it upon themselves to lighten the mood and help others to see the glass as half-full (and just waiting for a top-up). Because they are so good at infecting others with their enthusiasm they are charming company and usually surrounded by a group of friends. Problems arise when their optimism leads them to gloss over difficulties and makes them afraid of facing up to the darker side of life.
The stereotype of the Seven is the bon viveur and party animal, and thereÃ¢â¬â¢s no denying most Sevens have a taste for the finer things in life – but their optimism can also be applied to serious technical, business or life problems, where they can be relied upon to bring a solution-focused mindset and plenty of practical creativity.
At their best Sevens are delightful people, the first names on the list when invitations are going out and the last to leave at the end of the evening. They are concerned with othersÃ¢â¬â¢ pleasure as much as their own, and will go to considerable lengths to ensure that everyone has what they need for a good time – all the while insisting that Ã¢â¬ËitÃ¢â¬â¢s my pleasureÃ¢â¬â¢. They are also wise enough to acknowledge problems when they arise, and to apply their intelligence and creativity to finding workable solutions.
At their worst Sevens cling to pleasure, sometimes to the point of addiction, as a way of avoiding difficulties and shirking their responsibility. Delight in the good things in life becomes a sense of entitlement, and they react angrily when others refuse to play the game and indulge their whims. Formerly charming, they can be bitterly critical and hurtful of their Ã¢â¬Ëso-called friendsÃ¢â¬â¢. The dark side of the Optimist is the selfish Hedonist.
We all experience point Seven when we are filled with an irrepressible sense of the joys of life and its possibilities, and an eagerness to share these with others – and maybe when we know itÃ¢â¬â¢s time to face up to our responsibilities, but want to keep playing just a little longer?
- Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?
- Can you think of an example of someone making an outstanding contribution by playing to the strengths of the Five, Six or Seven?
Part 4 in Enneagram — a Brief Introduction, The Body Types, will appear Monday, July 2, at about this same time.
Mark studied the Enneagram as part of his training as a psychotherapist. He has used it for his own personal development and in his work with individuals, families, and organizations. Mark McGuinness’ business Wishful Thinking, is a specialist coaching and training service for creative businesses such as design studios, ad agencies, film and TV production companies, computer games developers, architectÃ¢â¬â¢s practices and fashion designers.
Thank you, Mark,
–ME “Liz” Strauss
See the complete series listing at Series: The Enneagram Ã¢â¬â a Brief Introduction
Jesse Petersen says
I am a 5 through and through. I think these descriptors sum up my original guest post in December:
* Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
* Basic Desire: To be capable and competent
[Fives] attain skillful mastery of whatever interests them. Excited by knowledge: often become expert in some field. Innovative and inventive, producing extremely valuable, original works. Highly independent, idiosyncratic, and whimsical.
Yup. That’s me.
ME Strauss says
I came out with a lot of 5 answers too. Though 5 and 7 were my runners up. 🙂
I agree the paragraph there does describe you — especially the “extremely valuable” part. 🙂
Mark McGuinness says
Thanks for a thoughtful response. I’ve just read your guest post and found it inspiring. I see what you mean re point Five:
“What is my idea or what knowledge do I have or need to get in order to make a difference?”
Very interesting to see that it’s “knowledge” or an “idea” that you reach for first as the prerequisite for making a difference.
All the Enneagram types want to make a difference, but they have different concepts of what kind of difference is most valuable, and what is needed to achieve it. E.g. a Three would probably ask “Who do I need to influence to make a difference” or a Two might ask “Who needs my help most for me to make a difference?”
Jesse Petersen says
Mark, thanks for reading that post. I like to go back to it every now and then to see how far I’ve come since December. Liz has helped me with that vision a lot, as has my very patient wife by allowing me the freedom to get in a funk and think for a day or two. 🙂
In fiction, something tells me that Anakin Skywalker is/was a 5, too. All he wanted to do was to have the knowledge to save Padme.
I find these types fascinating and I’ll read them as time permits at breaks and maybe I’ll get me “idea” in there. /double grin.
Karin H. says
Hi Mark, Liz
This is great to read Mark. When I did the test this week number 5 is a strong ‘runner-up’, and your description of the strong and ‘weak’ points makes other ‘tests’ much more cleared/deeper (the Strength Finder test for instance). Now I know/realise why being a number 2 in strong conjunction with 5 (and perhaps 8 – looking forward to the next part) integrate and sustain/enhances the 5 top strengths.
I’m working on a post myself about ‘working on your strengths’, hopefully that will make it clearer than I seem to be doing here ;-))
Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)
Hi Liz and all the wonderful people here,
Can’t really identify myself in any of these groups… I dare not comment any more because I haven’t read the intro to first three Enneagram Heart types.
Then again, I’m just starting to find my character (if I have one, that is) after having blocked it for decades.
I come here everyday and spend a little time cogitating the questions… and learning about myself, bit by bit. It’s all Liz’s fault anyway.
It’s my weekend now so I’m up and early… 🙂
ME Strauss says
I see how much you have grown too. And how much I have grown to appreciate you. 🙂
ME Strauss says
I’m having the same experience that you are. I’m also finding that Mark’s deep understanding of the subject has produced a series far stronger than any I’ve read.
ME Strauss says
How did I ever have a blog without you. I’m so enjoying being the cause of your troubles. I can’t imagine not having you in my comment box. 🙂
Mark McGuinness says
Jesse – interesting point about Anakin, I’m sure we could have fun doing the Enneagram of Star Wars! Personally I would place him at 8 because of his love of power and desire to take the lead. At first this comes across as an idealistic desire to promote justice, but later on he becomes a textbook case of the (ahem) dark side of point 8, when the leader becomes a mere bully. Yoda seems to me a closer fit with point 5 – a deep love of wisdom and always advocating careful consideration before taking action. But I’m sure you could make a good case for Anakin at 5 too – points 8 and 5 are of course connected, so both characters will move between the two points at different stages of their lives.
Karin – Yes it’s interesting to see how we can relate to more than one type, as if different parts of us had different personalities. I came across a great quote from Virginia Woolf last night: “I am twenty people!” – I think I know what she means! I’ll be interested to read your piece about working on your strengths, please let me know when it’s up.
Zakman – it’s a good idea not to rush to conclusions about your Enneagram type. Personally I got mine wrong for several months… I think I was trying to pick a more ‘flattering’ type!