The Enneagram Helps Me Understand My Family (Part 2)


If you missed Part One, I discussed how the Enneagram helps me understand my family and talked about types 1-4. In this post, we’ll cover types 5-9.

Type Five: The Investigator

Think: Sherlock Holmes

Investigators seek to be competent and capable above all else. If you want to hire the world’s best researcher or analyst, you’d better seek out an Enneagram Five!

Andy Computer
Andy sherlock
Andy Goggles

My oldest son is most definitely an Investigator. He stores an unbelievable amount of knowledge in his 14-year-old brain. He requires lots of alone time in order to think, research, and plan. He’s unafraid of debate, even with adults, and revels in the acquisition of new competencies. I have yet to see him dissolve over a difficult homework assignment. He just works and works until he gets it. Most of the times I’ve seen Andy get upset, it’s been because he was shown to be wrong about something.

It’s important to note that, competency means different things to different people. My grandfather, a Physics Ph.D. and an Enneagram five, got very upset when my family bought him a new recliner. At first, we couldn’t understand why he was so angry. After a bit of conversation, we realized that giving him the chair communicated a message we didn’t want to be sending: “You’re not competent enough to a) know you need a new chair and b) provide one for yourself.” Once we understood, we could make amends and find peace again. We just needed to see through his lens.

Type fives need to hear: “It’s ok to be yourself.” 

Type Six: The Loyalist

Think: Sebastian (The Little Mermaid)

Loyalists seek security above all. How do I know?  Well . . . I happen to be one. Driven by fear of, honestly, so many things, we work hard to prepare for the worst. We can be pessimistic and worrisome, though we are also fierce, dependable champions for those we love.

You see this? Classic six behavior. And facial expression.

I used to say that my middle son, Levi, was the one I had the hardest time connecting with. I said things like, “I just don’t understand him on any level.” And then came the day that we were listening to an Enneagram book together in the car. When we reached the chapter about sixes, I realized that we actually understand one another on a very deep level.

Because Levi and I both operate primarily from a place of fear, we doubt the stability of everything . . . even our own perceptions. We struggle so greatly with self-doubt that we may become self-limiting. For this reason, though he absolutely loved the game, Levi would cry with anxiety on the way to every baseball game for years. And I get it. That same anxiety kept me from doing any sports at all growing up.

Levi would sometimes catch snippets of conversations about things going on in the world and stay up all night worrying about them. He’ll confirm plans for the day 15 times. And yet he is always his coach’s favorite kid on every sports team, beloved by all his peers, and a truly genuine, dedicated, loving soul who would give his life for another. That, in a nutshell, is a six!

Type sixes need to hear: “You are safe.”

Type Seven: The Enthusiast

Think: Camilo (Encanto)

Sevens. The fun ones! The entertainers!  The sunshine and rainbows of the world! Enthusiasts seek happiness above all, and it shows.

For real, my sister-in-law in the top photo and my husband in the bottom are the MOST fun human beings I have ever met. As you can tell from the pictures, they don’t hesitate to put on a show. They’re witty, hilariously funny, and easily become the life of any party.

An Enthusiast dreams big and wild. This was something that created difficulty between my husband and I for a good while in our marriage. Being a natural pessimist and a scaredy-cat seeking security, my husband’s big, wild dreams intimidated me. He would begin to dream out loud and I would immediately poke holes in his ideas . . . totally deflating him.

Additionally, when he would find a new interest or hobby (as sevens like to do!), I would balk at the excess that it seemed would stem from that new interest. If he were into coffee, we had to have 10 different coffee-making contraptions! If he were into biking, he had to go get all the new gear! I gave him a REALLY hard time about this stuff for a while.

When I came to understand that Enthusiasts view the world through an adventurer’s eyes, hunting down happiness and novelty the same way that I hunt down security, things changed. This is somewhat of a superpower. For instance, when my sister-in-law got “into” weightlifting, she became an actual bodybuilder and competed in a real competition! Who does that?! My husband’s visionary leadership is to thank for his thriving business and the creation of several Albuquerque non-profits. When Enthusiasts put their minds to something, there is NO stopping them!

I now have greater appreciation for Enthusiasts’ big dreams and incredible dedication. I also see that I have the opportunity to either support them or squash them with my worries and “what-ifs.” Knowing this has helped me learn to support my husband more effectively, as he has learned to support me by addressing my inherent concerns!

Type sevens need to hear: “You are cared for!”

Type Eight: The Challenger

Think: Luisa

Challengers seek strength in every facet of life. They thrive on intensity, and if they don’t find it, they’ll create it! Challengers are natural-born leaders and are known to demolish obstacles. Edna Mode from The Incredibles movie sums up a Challenger’s mantra well: “Go. Confront the problem. Fight! Win!”

I believe my dad is a Challenger. He’s never seen a problem he couldn’t fix. He’s never let intimidation stop him. And he sure doesn’t hesitate to tell you what he thinks! He is unafraid to bring up politics AND religion in the very same conversation with literally anyone. Though convincing my dad of anything he doesn’t already think is quite the challenge, he has a heart of gold and is one of the most generous humans on the planet.

My dad has seen my tendency to be fearful and has made me strong. Encouraging me to take on tasks of which I didn’t feel capable is one of the most loving things he did as I grew up. When my son was sick in the hospital, instead of tearful sympathy, he lent strength: “You’ve got to steel yourself for the sake of your kid,” he said. “Suck it up. You can do it.” And I did. He is the one who constantly sent me one loud, clear message that still reverberates in my ears: “You are STRONG.” Man, am I grateful. Though we have gone toe-to-toe at times, our work at understanding one another over the years has yielded a truly wonderful relationship.

Type eights need to hear: “You are strong!”

Type Nine: The Peacemaker

Think: Mufasa

If you find yourself in the most enjoyable conversation you’ve ever had, you’re likely talking with a Peacemaker.  Peacemakers have the amazing ability to see life through the lens of every other Enneagram type. They empathize better than anyone and expertly find collaborative solutions where everyone wins. Clearly, they seek peace above all.

Peacemakers, like my brother Chris, bring people together in ways the rest of us only dream of.

The only reason I made it to adulthood is that my brother is a Peacemaker. Any other Enneagram type would surely have killed me had they been forced to grow up with me! Chris is the most enjoyable person I know. He’s never met a stranger, gives generously, works hard, and laughs easy. Thankfully for me, his mean older sister, he is quick to forgive and forget! He would rather bury any hatchet than pass up an opportunity to enjoy a beer with you, no matter what you may have done to him.

Over the years, Chris has shown me how beautiful life can be when you don’t take things too seriously. Sometimes, I still find myself giving him advice and being frustrated when he won’t take it! The way I’d deal with a terrible landlord is completely different from the way he would. I get angry when I sense that others are taking advantage of him, yet he often doesn’t see it that way. When people mistreat him, he’s quick to laugh it off and even feel sorry for them. While I live in the world of “what if,” he is freely enjoying the moment. While I’m constantly striving to avoid suffering, he accepts what comes . . . rain or shine. He reminds me to slow down, and shows me what I miss as I hurry about through my days. I’m so grateful for his influence in my life.

Type nines need to hear: “You matter!”

The Enneagram As A Tool For Compassion

In his book “The Road Back To You”, Ian Morgan says, “The Enneagram is a tool that awakens our compassion for people just as they are . . . not the people we wish they’d become so that our lives would become easier.”

I have experienced this very phenomenon as I’ve learned more about who my loved ones are. Looking at the world through their lenses has simply helped me love them better. Instead of wishing they all thought and acted the way I do, I am able to appreciate the ways our differences and contributions create a flourishing family. I hope you will experience the same in your family!

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.


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