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Thread: Enneagram seems like a mishmash of defense mechanisms and habits

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    Default Enneagram seems like a mishmash of defense mechanisms and habits

    And a very useful one at that.

    I see too many correlations and fuzzy boundaries in it. It was originally made in terms of 'fixations', and I am of the opinion that the Enneagram simply covers most of the ways people end up falling into limiting behavioural habits.

    I have studied the Enneagram, found areas of improvement, and ultimately have found that there are defense mechanisms and ingrained habits that I recruit from multiple areas within the Enneagram. It makes no clearly discernable pattern, and therefore I think while the Enneagram is useful, its method of categorization is, well, erroneous. Its greatest contribution, I think, is the focus on discerning underlying motivations and habitual patterns to protect oneself.

    Hence why some people seem to find that no one type fits properly, whereas others do.
    Last edited by KazeCraven; 01-22-2011 at 07:08 PM. Reason: Decided to elaborate

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    Yeah, that's been my general impression. I'm still going through the process of trying to sort it all out and figure out which parts are valid and which are more shaky. I go through cycles of getting annoyed at the mishmash and giving up, and then later getting curious again.
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    I do that with personality theories in general, but for me it's like deciding to scratch an itch only to realize that 10 minutes later I've broken the skin.

    I think the part that's shaky is the part that says there are necessarily 9 types. Even if one takes the broad perspective that all people can be roughly assigned to one of 9 'families', with no one trait being necessary to be part of the family, there are still individuals that seem to oscillate from one to another.

    That, and the supposed link between individual types and their respective 'center'. Not that there aren't head, heart, and gut types, but rather that a given motivation or defense mechanism won't necessarily match up with one's primary center.

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    Yesterday I spent some time reading a research article that has a good history of the Enneagram and description of its purpose. Helped me a lot with regard to understanding it. The article is available for download or online view through Google Docs:

    Attachment Styles and Enneagram Types

    Apparently, each of the 9 types has an emotion that they did not learn to regulate properly as children (such as anger). To adapt, they focus attention away from that emotion and onto something they think they can control (such as mistakes). The person develops a "habitual thought pattern" (such as resentment) that helps them deal with the problems that arise from denying that emotion, but creates a blind spot to the area that could help them regulate that emotion.

    So in the example I was using, the Enneatype One is a person who did not learn to regulate anger as a child, so they fixate on correcting their mistakes and the mistakes of others in a black-and-white perfectionist way. They avoid showing anger and instead develop a thought pattern focused on resentments toward others (i.e. beliefs that people are getting away with badness) that keeps them blind to the shades of gray that would upset their fixation on mistakes. All of that information is on pages 34-37 in the article.

    The way I understand the Enneagram, the types begin to arise in early childhood based on the child's focus of attention, which may itself be based on the family environment and how the child was raised. That's why the Enneagram may be so useful for helping people with emotional or adjustment problems. It can also help the average person who wants to find a way to improve his or her life but doesn't know where to focus. Enneatype is not something inborn, it's written based on early childhood. That particular article tries to draw a link between your Enneatype and attachment style (avoidant, anxious, anxious-avoidant, secure). The author thinks attachment style (which develops in early childhood) has an impact on where the child focuses attention (which is the purview of Enneagram). She uses statistical analysis of people with confirmed Enneatypes (mostly professional Enneagram practitioners) who took tests to determine attachment style.

    Anyway, regardless of one's interest in linking Enneagram to attachment styles, the sections on the history of the Enneagram and the composition of an Enneatype are quite interesting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danielle View Post
    holy crap i didn't realize people could write a dissertation on a typology like Enneagram and be taken seriously! that gives me hope for socionics...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danielle View Post
    Interesting. I suspect I may have to take the mishmash part back after I read this.

    And I will read it, but it's long, so in the mean time I must express my current doubt that this mechanism manifests as 9 distinct categories that persist throughout one's life. The way the Enneagram is discussed on Personality forums and by guys like Riso&Hudson, it's as if these fixations are the only neuroses that people develop, and that each person has only one fixation that persists throughout life.

    Even within the realm of the Enneagram, I think people can get over some of their issues with one emotion, only to realize that now their primary problem is with another emotion. Though I will say this is the perspective I most agree with, where your Enneatype is not your personality or what you truly value.

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    Is it just me, or do INTJs have the most issues with Enneagram?

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    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    Interesting. I suspect I may have to take the mishmash part back after I read this.

    And I will read it, but it's long, so in the mean time I must express my current doubt that this mechanism manifests as 9 distinct categories that persist throughout one's life. The way the Enneagram is discussed on Personality forums and by guys like Riso&Hudson, it's as if these fixations are the only neuroses that people develop, and that each person has only one fixation that persists throughout life.

    Even within the realm of the Enneagram, I think people can get over some of their issues with one emotion, only to realize that now their primary problem is with another emotion. Though I will say this is the perspective I most agree with, where your Enneatype is not your personality or what you truly value.
    I don't know, the problem a lot of people have with the enneagram is what it appears to be is some new age non sense, where someone draws a mythical looking shape and assigns these random types to them and claims it to be divine truth. You should conveniently ignore that aspect of the enneagram, its mainly hype to get people interested in it and has very little intellectual validity.

    Two things is first you must understand the that the enneagram's context is limited as are all theories which are self contained. They address a topic with a particular limited scope. The enneagram doesn't claim to explain the entirity of human experience, it merely presents a closed system which explain particular aspects of that experience, and serves a utility within this context.

    Second you must understand that 9 types is merely a mnemonics, in reality things are more fluid and diffuse. 9 types and the symbol is used because its easy to remember.

    Once that is understood the next thing is to understand the system.

    You have 3 traids....

    Heart
    Gut
    Head

    I don't care what anyone says but this is the center of what makes the enneagram useful, it is its defining principle.

    Heart addresses a single issue
    Gut addresses a single issue
    Head addresses a single issue

    and then domains are tied together in a chain that is connected in a circle... i.e. the enneagram. More on this later

    Heart is issues of self-worth, self-esteem... a.k.a. if you feel worthy and valid, etc

    Gut is issues of instinct, primal emotion, and anger.... a.k.a. how you manage your impulses

    Head is issues of anxiety, fear, and dread.... a.k.a. how you manage your uncertainity with life.

    Each triad contains three types

    A center type and two fringe types

    The center is the most balanced in that traid

    6,3,9 are the center types for head, heart, and gut respectively (forming a triangle a highly stable and balanced geometric shape)

    lets consider 6, in the thinking triad

    the two fringe types are 5 and 7... 5 being in the direction of feeling, 7 in the direction of gut/instinct

    5 is a thinker with more feeling, they don't merely wish to think, but seek validation from their unique thoughts more so than a 6

    7 is a thinker with more instinct, they aren't as stiff and anxious, but seek to think in a freer and more instinctive way

    Where two fringe types, like 7 and 8, meet there is a diffusion across a boundary from instinct to thinking... so for example, studying 7w8 and 8w7 helps one understand the nature of instinct and thought better.

    This principle of triads, center type, and fringe types... can help one not only understand the three issues but how they connect together in a single unity, i.e. the geometric circle (a symbol for unity).

    As one understands the various types they build a more robust understanding at points along the way. As one understands things such as wings... one understands how these types fade into each other. And so forth.

    Its a rather arbitrary system, but it aids in understanding of certain human issues.

    If you wanted to you could make up 12 types that fit in the same span of the 9 types, or make up 2 types that fit in the span. Or perhaps build a different span to fill in with types.

    The span of the enneagram is mainly concerned with the 3 issues of each triad...

    one's feelings of worth in life
    managing one's instinctive impulses
    one's relationship with anxiety and the unknown

    and how these issues relate to each other....

    how do instinctive impulses relate to anxiety and the unknown....

    7w8 - 8w7 is the goto for that answer

    how do instinctive impulses relate to feelings of worth in life

    1w2 - 2w1 is the goto for that answer

    how do feelings of worth in life relate to anxiety and the unknown....

    4w5 - 5w4

    now is it any coincidence that 7w8 8w7 are quick minded action oriented?

    is it any coincidence that 1w2 2w1 are moralist and controlled?

    is it any coincidence 4w5 5w4 are withdrawn and existentialist?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tcaudilllg View Post
    Is it just me, or do INTJs have the most issues with Enneagram?
    Oh, I was a staunch "believer" of it up until about a month and a half ago. Then I noticed it was the perspective on people that was effective, and not necessarily the types themselves.
    ---

    @HaveLucidDreamz: I'd address your points, but you are talking as if I am new to the Enneagram. Unless you mean to address everyone with your ideas?

    I don't mind the mysticism. It's all the axioms that are a problem. If the Enneagram was even more wishy-washy then I would happily recommend it to anyone seeking to find himself. "Notice your patterns in life. Here are 9 profiles, and you probably identify with one or two much more than most."

    But there are too many correlations which people insist are necessarily there. Again, I'll get back to this once I've read the rest of the document someone linked above.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tcaudilllg View Post
    Is it just me, or do INTJs have the most issues with Enneagram?
    I sincerely hate it.

    It's sort of a cosmopolitan personality profiling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    @HaveLucidDreamz: I'd address your points, but you are talking as if I am new to the Enneagram. Unless you mean to address everyone with your ideas?
    Well my assumption was that usually people who don't understand something are new to it. My assumption is that its hard for critical thinking people to take it seriously because it goes to great lengths to make everything sound all deep and mystical and provides little derivation for where the type descriptions come from.

    Maybe you have different problems with the enneagram but until you really pointedly mention these I have nothing but assumptions to go on.

    And lol you don't have to address my points, they aren't really points, so much as just an explanation of the core principles/axioms of where the types come from.

    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    I don't mind the mysticism. It's all the axioms that are a problem. If the Enneagram was even more wishy-washy then I would happily recommend it to anyone seeking to find himself. "Notice your patterns in life. Here are 9 profiles, and you probably identify with one or two much more than most."
    Alright once again most of this was address above, but I can't help but feel you take issue with it because you don't identify solely with a single type. Ftr, I think that is a bad application of the theory/system to understanding oneself. If your bringing a personal motivation into your study, that is, you want to find a type description that matches/characterizes you perfectly... then I don't think the enneagram is useful to that end. In fact I wouldn't suggest anyone study type from any system if that's there motivation, I would suggest they write an autobiography, and then you will have a perfect self-description that matches.

    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    But there are too many correlations which people insist are necessarily there. Again, I'll get back to this once I've read the rest of the document someone linked above.
    You should mention these correlations which you feel do not follow, that's really the substance in your arguments.

    Ftr also, I'm not trying to defend the enneagram, I don't care what other people think about it. I just hear this sentiment a lot on the board and I don't know where its coming from. Its rare for people to bring up arguments against it, to try to disprove its validity, mostly its kind of a sit around the campfire and grumble over how you think its bullshit - a shared sentiment kind of thing. My own feelings on the enneagram? -- Personally I wouldn't go so far as to call it some divine truth, but I do see it as a tool with its uses, which if you understand how to use it can be extremely effective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HaveLucidDreamz View Post
    Maybe you have different problems with the enneagram but until you really pointedly mention these I have nothing but assumptions to go on.
    Okay, I'll tell you my type: Type 1. Or 135, if you're a fan of trifixations. It's true that I start by finding problems where things break down for me, and when I go to type other people with it there is a somewhat similar issue. But my main problem is with what else that's supposed to imply, which gets to the actual substance of my argument...

    You should mention these correlations which you feel do not follow, that's really the substance in your arguments.
    Probably the biggest one is the Triad issue, though that's because it's something pretty much everyone who uses the Enneagram agrees on. Wings seem more or less 'optional' to many I have talked to, so I'll deprioritize that one. With the Triads, we say that people are either Head-Heart-Gut types, though these are only rough categories. Even once you get at the core of the meaning of these groupings, we're saying things such as "people whose primary defense mechanism is to move on to new things and away from their fears (type 7) are necessarily people who are focused in the Head area". I don't think that's the case, for I have a friend who best fits Type 7, and yet he seems to have no trouble with what is usually talked about when we refer to the 'head' area.

    The other thing is the integration-disintegration. I agree that, say, a type 5 would most benefit from moving towards reality to get out his detached state, but that doesn't mean type 5's become more 8ish when they get healthier.

    So, let's start with those two: Triad-Type mapping and Integration-Disintegration. I'm not saying that some people won't relate to it, but rather I'm saying that it will not necessarily be the case, so they shouldn't be considered axioms.

    Personally I wouldn't go so far as to call it some divine truth, but I do see it as a tool with its uses, which if you understand how to use it can be extremely effective.
    What do you say the application is? I would say the application is to notice your habits and self-defeating patterns by observing yourself. In which case, this can be expanded beyond the Enneagram, simply using the Enneagram as a starting point for what possible things to look for.

    I'm not saying it's not useful. In fact, that's the first thing I said in this thread: it's very useful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    Okay, I'll tell you my type: Type 1. Or 135, if you're a fan of trifixations. It's true that I start by finding problems where things break down for me, and when I go to type other people with it there is a somewhat similar issue. But my main problem is with what else that's supposed to imply, which gets to the actual substance of my argument...
    Yea basically you identify only with certain aspects of a type, but not others.

    This is common, actually I've been there, but I don't take type descriptions as serious as the core principles and axioms. I'm much more of a top-down person. I use the descriptions to better understand the principles/axioms and what they really mean, and I use introspection to review my own understanding of myself in a global manner to better understand my core motivations, goals, and needs and then strive to find points of common contact between the two. I first start by establishing a closest fit to a type, then proceed to try to explain divergences and incompatibilities.

    Think of it like setting two equations equal and solving, but the equation is transcendental so instead you try 9 different solutions, select the closest one by trial and error, and then use a series expansion and perturbation theory to correct the solution to an exact one. Further lets consider the 9 original solution made up a complete set of linear independent functions, then what you gather is a linear combination of 9 different types.

    That's how I view using type theory in a logically rigorous way, but it probably means nothing if you don't understand the math analogy.

    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    Probably the biggest one is the Triad issue, though that's because it's something pretty much everyone who uses the Enneagram agrees on. Wings seem more or less 'optional' to many I have talked to, so I'll deprioritize that one. With the Triads, we say that people are either Head-Heart-Gut types, though these are only rough categories. Even once you get at the core of the meaning of these groupings, we're saying things such as "people whose primary defense mechanism is to move on to new things and away from their fears (type 7) are necessarily people who are focused in the Head area". I don't think that's the case, for I have a friend who best fits Type 7, and yet he seems to have no trouble with what is usually talked about when we refer to the 'head' area.
    Well the fact it doesn't match usually means that reality trumps theory. But its also possible you have made a poor observation or have a poor understanding. If you've rigorously tested both observation and your understanding then your probably right the theory is wrong, what even better is if you can identify why its wrong and prove that logically.

    Lol at any rate, I wouldn't loose sleep over the fact it doesn't match, matching theories with reality is an art form that no one gets right all the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    The other thing is the integration-disintegration. I agree that, say, a type 5 would most benefit from moving towards reality to get out his detached state, but that doesn't mean type 5's become more 8ish when they get healthier.
    I'm actually not big on integration-disintegration, I have ignored that aspect for now as I don't find much use in it. I've never thought of myself in terms of integrating or disintegrating somewhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    So, let's start with those two: Triad-Type mapping and Integration-Disintegration. I'm not saying that some people won't relate to it, but rather I'm saying that it will not necessarily be the case, so they shouldn't be considered axioms.
    Well I'm not commenting on integration-disintegration, but triad-type mapping is straightforward. Like I said a 7 is primarily a thinking type which deals with issues of anxiety... ala the think as a way of dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety in life. The 7 in particular is slanted in the direction of the instinct triad... so there thinking is more guteral in substance, prefer to think more improvisationally and for fun. This breeds a type with the primary motivation of thinking for entertainment. This is contrasted by the type at the opposite side of the spectrum for thinking types, the 5. The 5 leans in the direction of the feeling triad so they regard their thought as not only an alleviation of anxiety but also as an issue of self-worth. They are withdrawn and more deep/existential/philosophical as the issue of uncertainty and anxiety is more existential and asks questions pertaining to ones self worth and purpose of existence. They are more withdrawn, detached, and have a disposition to melancholy the closer they get to type 4. The 7 is more optimistic and positive because their thinking slants towards instinct and entertainment. Those are the two poles.

    So your friend, if type 7, should be mentally bright just like all thinking types, but what differentiates a 7 from other thinking types is their more optimistic attitude, they are less anxious and worry prone. They are also primarily motivated to think about things they are interested in, rather than things they are concerned about. In a sense they let instinct guide their thoughts a lot more than their underlying uncertainties. The only uncertainty they really have is to allow themselves to be uncertain. This characterizes the instinctual attitude, they are however still in the thinking triad and tend to mainly think.

    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    What do you say the application is? I would say the application is to notice your habits and self-defeating patterns by observing yourself. In which case, this can be expanded beyond the Enneagram, simply using the Enneagram as a starting point for what possible things to look for.
    I don't know in general I see it more useful for self-understanding than for inter-type relations like socionics.

    Also its useful for other things, making connections between different personality attributes and seeing personality defects from different perspectives.

    Like one concept of the enneagram, the levels of the types are useful for showing the way that certain features have both positive and negative poles to them. It shows that one can look at themselves honestly and neutrally identify a particular trait and then learn to cultivate that trait to the positive pole and avoid the negative pole. That aspect teaches people to recognize ones traits neutrally instead of with a bias slant and to use that recognition to cultivate the positive potential in that trait instead of the negative, and thus aid a person. Consider a 3 which in the negative is a narcissistic, the levels, connect narcissism not just as a defect, but as a negative pole to a trait which could manifest itself as a positive. It provides a roadmap to fixing narcissism by making these connections. And there are 9 of them which are connected, providing an entire networked system of understanding the negatives and positives of human nature, allowing multiple personality defects to be analyzed as a system in the manner above.

    Quote Originally Posted by KazeCraven View Post
    I'm not saying it's not useful. In fact, that's the first thing I said in this thread: it's very useful.
    Yea lol it is the first thing you said

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    Quote Originally Posted by HaveLucidDreamz View Post
    That's how I view using type theory in a logically rigorous way, but it probably means nothing if you don't understand the math analogy.
    I couldn't repeat it back to you, but I think we mostly agree, so I'll clarify my position by saying I think many people take it too rigidly. Which I think you might agree with, so we can leave it at that. It's starting to get a bit too long for my tastes.
    ---

    @Danielle et al: I've read the article Danielle linked, and while I didn't think the article gives conclusive evidence either way, it did give me the idea that the Enneagram is based on our emotional reactions but is still secondary to Socionic/Jungian types.

    Unlike a theory like socionics, people aren't born into a type. There's a reaction to an emotion (according to the linked article) which would probably end up in the way shown. But I'm starting to think that the manifestation is actually quite influenced by one's Socionic type. Someone from another thread mentioned that the ILI detachment isn't particularly well-defined and can refer to various types of detachment. Well, if we say that type 5 is governed by avarice, it seems unlikely that all Ni-dominants are as such, yet there is for all of them a characteristic Ni-detachment. So I think it will be the case that we won't be able to clarify what is of the Enneagram until we separate individuals by personality. Note that I'm saying something very distinct from the idea of Socionic-Enneagram type mapping. Also notice that I'm saying that the Enneagram is describing something other than personality.

    So, in essence this thread turned out very useful for me, I recant my intuition that the Enneagram has no underlying structure, and I will get back to the issue of parsing it out if some variation of what Jung discovered gets clarified enough to reliably pinpoint people's underlying personality for research purposes.

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    The lack of a solid foundation is also my main problem with Enneagram, though I usually just whine, "...But why NINE?" and leave it at that.

    From what I've read, some dude in the 70s just took a 4th century monk's findings on 9 common "evil thoughts" amongst monks and put them onto a diagram which conveniently had 9 points... *shrugs* I think it's useful too, but I'm not convinced that it gains anything by being thought of as a complete typology, rather than an open-ended aid for self-reflection.
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