Enneatype Nine

Type Description

People of enneatype Nine are essentially looking to maintain a sense of peace, harmony and balance and to avoid conflict and disruption. Nines tend to see the best in people, to be fundamentally optimistic about the future, and, when reasonably healthy, to have a calming and grounding effect on those around them. As a general rule, Nines are fairly “easy going;” they adopt a strategy of “going with the flow.” They intuitively know how to wait for the openings so that they can slip effortlessly into the stream. Nines don’t tend to “sweat the small stuff.” On the whole, they are self-effacing, tolerant, even-tempered and likable individuals. Nines aspire to be supportive, loving and gentle and more than any other enneatype, are likely to embody these valuable qualities. Given such a portrait, it might seem difficult to understand what is so problematic about the type Nine fixation.

The central problem for Nines revolves around the fact that their desire to maintain peace and to avoid conflict is compulsive. As the potential for conflict in life is virtually ubiquitous, the Nine’s inability to confront it forcefully and deal with it effectively, leaves the Nine at a serious disadvantage when it comes to living a full, satisfying and honest life. This deeply rooted tendency to avoid discord plays itself out both internally and in the realm of external action, but generally manifests most centrally in close personal relationships, as intimate relationships more than anything else tend to trigger core defenses.

Many Nines are reasonably “successful” when it comes to their interactions with the world. They are frequently productive and often manage to rise through the ranks on the basis of their likability and reliability without having to engage too forcefully in direct competition. Thus, even in a capitalist economic system, many Nines manage to “succeed” while maintaining an attitude of forbearance and cooperation.

Nines are not necessarily without ambition either, something easily attested to by the sheer number of leaders who have had a type Nine fixation. Some such Nines are able to take on leadership roles because they wear their fixations lightly or because they are buoyed by the ambitions of others to whom they are attached. Perhaps they enjoy the benefits of a fortunate upbringing or perhaps their work on themselves has borne fruit. Sometimes Nines who take on leadership roles seem to be the living embodiment of a solution that has been offered to us from the depths of the collective unconscious. They represent the only possible answer to the exigencies of a time in which the forward path cannot be determined by aggressive self-assertion or even by clarity of intellect. Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the greatest of America’s presidents, could modestly state “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” Healthy Nines are in touch with their depths and are able to maintain their sense of self even in the face of the most forceful opposition or the most appalling conflict. Even as they rule, they serve those they lead.

Less healthy Nines who take on leadership roles however, tend to adopt a strategy of “muffling” from awareness the likely negative consequences of their actions. Often they surround themselves with like-minded others who reinforce their sense of security and who serve as a buffer from all forms of dissent, thus enabling the Nine to remain insulated. Most of the unhealthy Nine’s insulating buffers against reality, however, are actually internal to the psyche. A deeply entranced Nine simply dissociates from whatever is unpleasant or unpalatable, from whatever disturbs his preferred view of the world. Such comfortably numb Nines simply fail to process any information which would be a cause of discomfort or disturbance. About this phenomenon, Naranjo comments, “Not wanting to see, not wanting to be in touch with one’s experience is something akin to cognitive laziness, an eclipse of the experiencer or inner witnessing in the person.” Unhealthy Nines, even as they take on roles of leadership, which would seem to involve self-assertion, are often actually deeply entrenched in a peculiar form of self-abnegation. Hence we encounter the portrait of the “nice guy,” the one who is affable to even the lowliest employee. He has a ready smile and a genial manner. He means no one any harm. But he has just busted the union, slashed the benefits to the school lunch program, or authorized the bombing of Iraq. He heads for his private sanctuary; he mindlessly kisses his wife; he watches the TV. He sleeps well. His conscience is clear. He never assumes any responsibility for the evil he has wrought.

It is an almost universal rule that those leaders who rise to power in spite of, or even by virtue of their unconsciousness, have managed to do so because they have unwittingly embodied and reflected back the irresponsibility and lack of consciousness of those who brought them to power. About such rulers, it would be fair to say that, even as they rule, they follow those they lead.

While the above may seem something of an exaggerated portrait, exaggerations often serve to illustrate key points. Virtually all Nines tend to see what they wish to see, to idealize those whom they love and to ignore whatever would disturb their comfort and peace of mind. These tendencies are not left behind until a Nine is truly healthy. The problem with this approach, of course, is that problems do not cease to exist, simply because the Nine ignores them. They have consequences, often deleterious one, both for the Nine and for those in the Nine’s life.

While some Nines do assume positions of leadership, most Nines are not especially ambitious. They pay their dues to the world but essentially prefer to withdraw from it. They are “home bodies” who are generally devoted to their families, especially to their children. They enjoy their hobbies and appreciate some time to themselves. They generally value simplicity and cultivate the virtue of patience. They are frequently creative in a modest and unassuming way. They adopt an attitude of acceptance towards life. They don’t ask for too much; sometimes they ask for too little. At a very deep level, at a level which seldom breaks through to conscious awareness, most Nines simply feel that they don’t deserve too much. Nines would do well to develop a certain kind of healthy selfishness, as many of their difficulties turn on the fact that they are too selfless.

As mentioned above, the Nine’s core issues tend to manifest most profoundly in the context of intimate relationships. It is here that the Nine’s need to avoid conflict bears its most obvious fruit. Many Nines seem to find it excruciatingly difficult to assert themselves against those they love, even when it comes to trivial matters. They would rather defer to their partner than assert their own preferences. Their preference is not very strong, they reason, whereas the partner is willing to put up a fight. It seems only reasonable to “give in.” In that manner, the Nine gets to avoid the unpleasantness of a conflict and vicariously enjoy the pleasure that the partner feels. Nines tend to merge with their partners and to empathetically take on the partner’s feelings and desires. This naturally makes it difficult for the Nine to cause hurt or frustration to those they love. On any individual occasion, this policy of appeasement might indeed be reasonable, but as a general policy it does not bode well for either the Nine or the partner of the Nine.

The problems generated from this policy follow a few predictable patterns. The Nine’s partner might actually begin to resent the passivity of the Nine. It can be difficult to respect someone who will not defend boundaries, who will not take a well defined position. Other individuals gladly accept the willingness of the Nine to adopt their agenda and become overtly dominating and, in some cases, even abusive. The Nine might even appear to accept such aggressions against them, although resentment invariably builds beneath the calm and placid surface. Nine’s have a difficult time accessing their anger, as anger is the emotion which, in its pure form, signals to us that one of our boundaries has been violated. As Nines tend to have a diffuse sense of their boundaries, they tend also to fall asleep to their anger. The anger exists however and will manifest itself, perhaps in passive-aggressive foot dragging or “checking out” from important engagements. For some Nines, unprocessed anger manifests itself through the development of psychosomatic illnesses. Other Nines experience instances in which pent up anger expresses itself inappropriately and unexpectedly with such a fury that it shocks those on the receiving end. All of these manifestations of anger are naturally a good deal more harmful to the Nine and to the Nine’s relationships than expressing it in a way which is appropriate to the needs of the situation. The ability of a Nine to acknowledge anger and recognize and deal with its causes is a pretty good measure of the Nine’s general level of health.

The really crucial problem for type Nine individuals is that they tend to have an inadequate sense of self. This leads to a tendency on the part of Nines to both downplay their own significance and to borrow a sense of significance from others. There is, in fact, a sort of paradox at the heart of the type Nine fixation. At a largely subconscious level, Nines intuitively grasp that the constructed personality, the personality with which most of us identify, is not the true self; it is not who they are. This is, in fact, a very deep truth; the constructed personality is simply that – a construct through which consciousness operates, much of it built out of defenses and reactions to dangers which are no longer present; it is, in a sense, both a limitation and an obscuration. But the constructed personality also serves a necessary function; it gives the individual a base from which to operate, a sense of self, however ultimately flawed and partial. While the constructed self is not ultimately who we are, it is a necessary step towards the development of true individuality. Gurdjieff has this to say: “For inner growth, for work on oneself, a certain development of personality, as well as a certain strength of essence are required. An insufficiently developed personality means that…a man cannot begin to work on himself, he cannot begin to study himself, he cannot begin to struggle with his mechanical habits.”

Without a well developed personality, without a firm sense of self and adequately defined boundaries, the Nine is left in a state of permeability to forces both outside the ego and to those subterranean forces that reside beneath it. Understanding this essential porousness of the ego of enneatype Nine is absolutely essential to an understanding of all of the basic manifestations of the Nine’s specific problems and challenges. It is the difficulty that type Nine individuals have in addressing this core issue which is called in the traditional enneagram, the vice of indolence. As already indicated, indolence does not here refer to laziness in the traditional sense, although it can manifest in that manner in some individuals, but to the lack of attention to the most important matter at hand, the lack of attention to what constitutes true work, i.e. the development of a solid sense of self from which the Nine can be truly effective in the world.

According to the teachings of the traditional enneagram, the essential virtue of each type appears when the fixation or vice weakens. Oscar Ichazo, the father of the modern Enneagram, indicated that the virtue of type Nine was what he called “Holy Love.” Nines, even at average levels of health, tend to be kind, compassionate and tolerant individuals; their personalities dimly sense and partially embody the nature of their type specific virtue. True love does involve openness to others and permeability of ego boundaries; it does involve acceptance and forgiveness; it does involve a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, just as Nines have known all along. Like all of the fixations, the type Nine fixation can be viewed as a sort of failed short cut; it can be viewed as the personality’s flawed attempt to achieve the true virtue. As type Nine individuals learn to love and honor their own integrity, they are able to extend that love to others in a truly effective and beneficial manner. As they heal themselves, they heal their relationships with others and actively work towards healing the wounds of our ailing planet. Nines are sometimes called “the peacemakers” but they are not really worthy of that name until they leave behind the idea that peace is synonomous with the absence of conflict. Making peace requires the Nine to develop a truly active nature, the nature that Nines are able to manifest when they shed the passivity associated with their fixation.

Nines with a One wing tend to be more cerebral and imaginative than those with an Eight wing. They typically withdraw under stress more than those with an Eight wing. They sometimes find it difficult to ground themselves. They tend to lose focus and can get lost in worlds of their imagination. Nines with an Eight wing are overall more grounded and assertive. They tend also to be more sociable than those with a One wing. Nines with a One wing are more theoretical; those with an Eight wing more practical.

Type Exemplars

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower and G.W.Bush are all examples of enneatype Nine. (G.W.Bush is a perfect example of the principle of disintegration; Nine goes to Six under stress. But, G.W.Bush is not an over thinker who is fixated in the mental center; hence not a Six. His father is the Six.)

Famous actors Uma Thurman, Liv Tyler, Jennifer Anniston, Sophia Loren, Jimmy Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Kevin Costner, David Carradine, Keanu Reeves and Ray Romano.

Nines often have an intuitive grasp of the workings of the subconscious mind. Consider Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell in this regard. In an extended sense, we can even see Walt Disney, the fantasist, in this light.

Nines tend to have an innate desire to attain a sense of unity with nature, and many famous naturalists have been Nines. John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, and Ansel Adams, photographer for the Sierra Club for many years were both Nines. Also, essayist of nature Joseph Wood Krutch, evolutionary theorist Stephen J. Gould, American transcendentalist philospoher Ralph Waldo Emerson and more recently, naturalist Mark Bittner who befriended the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill.

Musicians include Paula Abdul, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Dave Mathews, Josh Rouse, Willie Nelson and Janet Jackson.

Authors include J.K.Rowling and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Also, cartoonist Charles Schulz. Painters include Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse.

A good case could be made for typing Jesus’ mother Mary as a Type Nine. She had that quality of acceptance.

Lao Tzu, or whoever was the guiding spirit behind the mystical/philosophical Tao Te Ching also expresses the Nine’s sensitivity to nature and desire for harmony and balance:

If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are one with the Tao
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are one with loss
and you can accept it completely.

Open yourself to the Tao,
then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.

Fictional examples include most of the hobbits in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as well as the author of that book and its sequels, and the director of the films – Peter Jackson. Also, J.K.Rowling’s famous hero, Harry Potter is a Nine. Other fictional examples include Star War’sLuke Skywalker, as well as George Lucas, the director of Star Wars. Finally, “Santa Claus” is a Nine, not a Two, despite his penchant for giving. (Mrs. Claus is likely the Two.)

Possible Mistypes

Nines and Ones can be mistaken for each other if the wing is especially strong or the individual observed under a narrow set of circumstances. Nines, in particular, can have an opinionated streak and strong moral convictions which they might express freely; in this way they might appear somewhat One-like. (The Nine’s conflict avoidance is often enough not global, so that there are some Nines who will forcefully argue for e.g. their political positions while nevertheless deferring to their spouses on all matters of any significance.) But this potential similarity notwithstanding, Nines are far less likely to try to control others or the environment and are generally much more capable of seeing the elements of truth in opposing points of view, something which is often a weak spot for Ones. On a personal level, Nines often struggle with self-assertion, whereas Ones find it comes more or less naturally. Nines generally find ways to relax when feeling tense; Ones have generally tense personalities and experience real difficulties when it comes to relaxation.

Nines and Twos can easily mistype. It is especially the case that female Nines who are identified with a nurturing role might mistake themselves for Twos. Both types tend to be generous and oriented towards feelings and relationships. Nines, however, are truly humble and generally self-effacing, whereas Twos tend to have a high opinion of themselves and tend to want to receive recognition for their good deeds. Twos are also far more aggressive when pushed than are Nines who characteristically withdraw under stress.

Nines and Threes can mistype if the Nine is especially successful or the Three especially depressed. Nines can identify with a social role, much as Threes can, and can be charismatic like many Threes. But the overall pattern of their lives ought to indicate the true type. Even very successful Nines tend to adopt an attitude of easy-going, unpretentiousness; they tend to be more cooperative than overtly competitive, unlike Threes. And even workaholic Nines seem to know how to relax, something which generally does not come easily to the more driven Threes. Finally, while Threes can lose their motivation when depressed, their essential goal oriented nature is likely to assert itself fairly quickly.

Nines and Fours can both be sensitive, creative, withdrawn and introverted and for these reasons can cross-type, although it is generally the Nine who mistypes as a Four or who is mistyped as a Four by others on the basis of these similarities. Nines, in particular, sometimes recognize that they are far less happy than they let on, and many Nines feel inadequate when depressed; they therefore think they must be Fours. The internal landscape of Fours is much darker than that of Nines however, who tend to see the best in others and who characteristically detach from strong emotions, especially strong unpleasant emotions. Nines are also not in search of an authentic self or the proper presentation of that self; they are generally somewhat oblivious to these concerns. Finally, Nines tend to relate well to a greater variety of people than do Fours, who often feel like misfits.

Nines and Fives are both withdrawn types and many Nines are systematic thinkers and intellectuals, therefore there are some commonalities which might generate a mistype. It is generally Nines who mistake themselves or are mistaken by others as Fives; Fives almost never mistype as Nines. One of the principle differences lies in their approach to thought. Nines tend to look for thought systems which offer some sense of harmony; Fives are attracted to what disturbs them and often embrace or struggle against nihilism. Nines relate well to a wide variety of people; Fives to only a few.

Nines and Sixes can easily mistype or be mistyped by others, although Nines more commonly mistype or are mistyped as Sixes than the reverse. This is exacerbated by the fact that both Sixes and Nines tend to be blinded to the nature of their respective fixations. In addition, many Sixes do not appear to be visibly anxious and some Nines do. Overall, however, Nines lack the nervous mental energy of type Six. Nines moreover tend to be trusting and optimistic about the future; they tend to see the best in others. This is almost never the case with Sixes who have a suspicious streak, generally believe that there is something possibly threatening just below the surface and often have a very cautious view about the future outcome of present events.

Nines and Sevens are both optimistic, and Sevens can appear to be easy going and self-effacing, so the two might be confused, although Nines seldom mistype as Sevens and it is not common for Sevens to mistype as Nines. Sevens tend to be self-centered, whereas Nines tend to yield too much to the preferences of others. Nines tend to go with the flow; Sevens tend to push their agenda. Sevens tend towards hyperactivity; Nines tend to be “laid back.”

A mistype between Nines and Eights might be generated if the wing is especially strong, but as a general rule, the two should be distinguishable in terms of the manner in which they assert themselves. Assertion comes naturally to Eights; not so for Nines. Nines tend to be conflict avoidant; Eights sometimes invite conflict in order to rev up their experience or to “clear the air.” Nines tend to withdraw under stress; Eights to assert themselves.

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