Growing with the Enneagram
|The Influence of Neighbors
Once you locate yourself on the Enneagram and gain some insight about your basic type, the next task is to look at how you are influenced by your neighbors on the circle. There are no pure types. This is good news. It frees us to look at the complexity of our lives and truly gets us "out of the box." All of us are a mixture of types even though we live from one primary orientation.
Any type on the Enneagram has two neighbors which are the numbers on either side of it. In Enneagram language these neighbors are referred to as wings. Your neighbors or wings have an influence on your personality type. Each person is a certain primary type that is flavored by one or both neighbors.
For example, you could be a Two, the Helper, and be strongly influenced by the One or Reformer. Your style of helping would include trying to improve or perfect the person or situation and you would tend to be more idealistic and objective. As a Helper influenced by the Motivator you would direct your helping towards energizing others and creating a success. You would be more self-assured and competitive.
All types are influenced by their neighbors so there are no pure types. No one is a pure Three or a pure Six. We are always influenced by a neighbor. With this understanding the Enneagram is given much variety and it can be seen that people are not pigeon-holed by finding their personality type. Many options exist.
In regard to wings it has been suggested that in the first half of life we may develop one wing and in the second half develop the other so we become balanced.
The inner lines or arrows of the Enneagram represent directions of change and development.
An arrow moves away from one type and leads to another. Think of this "away" arrow as representing the easy, natural, downhill course of action. It is the natural thing to do and occurs most often when a person is under stress. It is called the direction of disintegration because it is usually has a negative impact on the self and others. When you follow this direction then you move to the lower level functioning of that personality style. You exhibit the negative features of that type and as a result it intensifies your own problems.
The arrow that comes toward a type from another is the direction of integration. It constitutes positive and growthful action. Think of this "towards" arrow as representing a arduous, uphill climb to reach a goal at the mountain top. It is difficult to do but enables growth. If you follow this arrow it takes you to the highest qualities of another type and helps you move towards becoming more complete.
This inner dynamic of change (the inner arrows) helps us understand what we need to do for our journey to psychological and spiritual wholeness as well as what we need to avoid.
For example, the type Two is the Helper who is usually seen as kind and sweet and always reaching out to others. A Two can give and give until they are exhausted. A Two (as do all types) has a hidden agenda. The type Twos agenda is of wanting to be appreciated for what they do. Imagine a Helper who has been busy helping all week and absolutely no one has appreciated them. This puts her under stress and she moves to the position of a low functioning Eight. The Eight is the confrontational power oriented person. So, the Helper suddenly blows up in your face and tells you off as to how you are an ungrateful self-centered rat and she will never help you again. She storms off leaving you wondering what happened. The Two has followed the path of disintegration. She will later feel remorseful and apologize only to become more helpful.
Ideally, what the Two should do is follow the path of integration to be more like a high functioning Four - The Special Person- the Individualist. What Fours know all about is what goes on inside of them and what their needs are. Average Fours can do too much of this and become too self absorbed. However, a Two must eventually learn that it is normal to have needs and to express them. To grow a Two must admit and accept their neediness.
For a Two the move to Eight is one of disintegration but for the type Five, The Thinker, it is the direction of integration. The Five is an introverted type who has difficulty moving into action in an assertive manner. When the Five goes to Eight he is able to take on the courage and directness of a high functioning Leader.
Locate yourself on the Enneagram and see where stress takes you. Do you readily recognize this pattern of disintegration. Look to see where integration will takes you. If you resist and do not like the tasks of your integration journey then this may only confirm you type. What must be done for growth is not something that we like (or we would already have done it) but something that challenges us to break out of the "box" that contains us.
Once the integration journey is begun, it continues and you follow the successive arrows to the other types. For the Type Five the journey takes then first to Eight but arrows continue on to Types Two, Four, One, and Seven. Through the influence of the arrows and the wings all the types, any specific type has contact with all the other types so as to facilitate growth.