9: Psycho Spiritual Inertia and the Over-Adjusted Disposition

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The Enneagram 9

The inertia or laziness of the 9 refers to a laziness of the psyche and of the spirit, rather than a tendency toward inaction, otherwise known as a deafening to the spirit and a loss of the sense of being—to the point of not even knowing the difference. A loss of internal-focus, a refusal to see, and a resistance to change.

If not careful, the 9 begins with indifference and an attitude of not caring, extends to the deliberate refusal of joy, and culminates in a morbid introspection and despair. The 9 adopts tolerance to protect itself from the outer world, embraces disillusionment, and produces a sense of good-hearted, comfortable “earthiness.” The 9 has not learned to love themselves and has accepted this through a stoicism unparalleled in the other types (which makes the 9 the “least-sensitive” of all the types).

9s are content, generous people who experience a loss of inwardness, an aversion to psychological exploration, and possess a resistance to change that exists side by side with an excessive stability and a mantra of “don’t rock the boat.” Like the 4s and 6s, the 9 can be dependent. Unlike them, the 9 is incapable of resisting outside pressures. People and situations easily seduce them. They are kind, do not give others trouble, and are often reasonable, docile, laborious, and modest. They are sociable, good-natured, friendly, cheerful, humorous, jolly, hasty, calm, easily depressed, quiet, and soft-hearted. 9s find it easy to relax, and show a gluttony for food, company, affection, or social support. Their primary motive in life seems to be the assimilation and conservation of energy.

9s love physical comfort, have slow reactions, enjoy eating and socializing through doing so, are polite and ceremonious, possess a greed for affection and approval. They are people-focused, even-tempered, tolerant, complacent, need people when troubled, and oriented toward childhood and family relationships. 9s are duty-bound, hard-working, patriotic in sentiment, conform to belong, and have conservative ideas. They are overly pleasing and self-sacrificing while showcasing passive-aggressive behavior.

The 9 can spend their lives nurturing everyone except itself, giving much more than they receive and accepting the imbalance because the 9 feels they are the least important person in the family. They measure their worth only in terms of how much they supply to others.

Traits shared with dependent and submissive behaviors: unable to decide without an excessive amount of advice or reassurance from others; allows others to make most of the important decisions; agrees with others even when the 9 believes they are wrong, out of a fear of rejection; has difficulty starting projects or working alone; volunteers to do unpleasant or demeaning things to gain approval; feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone or goes to great lengths to avoid feeling alone; feels devastated when close friendships end; often fears abandonment; criticism or disapproval easily hurt them.

The 9’s center-of-gravity rests in others, not themselves. They adapt their behaviors to please those upon whom they depend and deny the thoughts and feelings that may arouse the disapproval or displeasure of others. They are self-effacing, ever-agreeable, docile, and ingratiating, denying their individuality, subordinating their desires, and hiding their true identities from others. They are outwardly calm, stoic, and pleasing, sympathetic; they have no desire to affect others, impress, influence, or change them. Though the 9 is always ready for peaceful coexistence, they may come across as not-warm or indifferent. The 9 strikes down any stormy emotions with a murderous coldness.

9s are grounded, aware of reality, practical, and dependable. They approach work with a sense of duty and dedication and often go unnoticed and unappreciated. The 9 feels hurt by indifference and need others to appreciate them and the abundant services they offer. A 9 might keep a certain immaturity or underdeveloped sense of inertia even in adulthood. They may crave the slow, protected, tranquil existence of childhood to the striving, competitive world of adulthood. The 9 has a lack of determination, which leads to low levels of ambition, energy, and drive. They are too easygoing, too resigned, or distasteful for the unnecessary ‘striving’ of life, not wanting to push or compete in a world that demands it.

9s are procrastinators, easily distracted, tarries, and fiddles with petty things rather than tackle the business at hand. They wear themselves out with minutiae to postpone undertaking harder, more serious tasks. They can be lethargic, apathetic, and phlegmatic, or a hard worker who perseveres to overcome or over-compensate for their inertia. They can sometimes reach a point of ‘insane industry,’ working day and night without letting up.

Identifiable Traits:

Psychological Inertia: 9s possess a loss of inner self, a lack of fire, and a lack of passion, because of blocking their emotions and desensitizing themselves to become “long-suffering.” Their loss of inwardness leads to a deadening of feelings, either making them excessively complacent in self-expression or giving them a jovial disposition. The 9 has deafened their inner voices; they do not want to see or be in touch with their experiences. The 9 may be wholly ‘concrete,’ and possessed of an excessively earthbound attitude, motivated more for survival than the mysterious.

Over-Adaptation: leads to self-denial, self-neglect, inattention to personal needs, and an over-controlled disposition. It is not possible to adjust without the ability to take hold of oneself and inhibit one’s impulses. Therefore, the 9 may enjoy good food—it is a way to indulge their physical appetites that does not provoke the intense unpleasantness of extreme aliveness’ found in other activities. 9s are deliberate and responsible. They may postpone their own good and the satisfaction of their own needs in an excessive yielding to the demands and needs of others. To survive this, the 9 adapts self-forgetfulness.

Resignation: the 9 gives up of oneself and thus abdicates from oneself and from life. They play dead to stay alive. They are “lazy” in the observance of their own needs, contentedness, and giving up or not standing up for themselves.

Generosity: along with a goodness of nature, kindness, helpfulness, forgiving tendencies, and good humor. The 9s adapt an attitude of taking themselves lightly in order not to be a burden to others; and their friendliness is an attempt to be ‘for the other’ rather than for themselves. The 9 is an excellent listener, ready to be helpful, sympathetic, and comforting.

Ordinariness: 9s are unassuming. Their concern with excelling or shining is also low, and they may neglect their appearance. Yet, there is a deep and unconscious love thirst in their resignation and a wish for love retribution. 9s feel ‘loved’ by vicarious participation; living through others and becoming symbiotic with them.

Bound to Habits: 9s are creatures of habit, bound by custom and regularity, excessively concerned with protecting and preserving their sense of inner balance. They can be traditional, with an excessive attachment to the familiar, to group norms, or ‘how things are done.’ 9s possess a passion for psychological comfort.

Distractibility: the 9 approaches life with a strategy of not wanting to see, resulting in a diminished capacity for psychological self-insight and literalness. 9s are easily distracted, confused, and often possess bad memories. This may be because of a lack of concentration, or they have pushed outer events into their side vision to remain in a state of inner harmony. The 9 will deliberately pursue distractions, to avoid ‘seeing’ the world. They would rather numb themselves out, or distract themselves with TV, newspapers, sewing, cross-word puzzles, or anything else that gives them relief and comfort, rather than face the unpleasantness of the outside world and demanding tasks.

Defense Mechanisms:

Putting oneself asleep through immersion in work, stimuli, or distractions, otherwise known as deflection—casting their attention on one thing, to avoid looking at another one, and often, turning aside from direct contact with another person. 9s do this by laughing off what they say, not looking at the person they are talking to, being abstract rather than specific, not getting directly to the point, coming up with bad examples or none, politeness instead of directness, by substituting mild emotions for intense ones, talking about rather than talking to, and shrugging of the importance of what they just said. In this way, they “water down life.” Their action is off-target, weaker, and less effective. They or the person they are with can deflect contact, leading to frustration on both sides. The 9 can put up an invisible shield, experiencing itself as unmoved, bored, confused, blank, cynical, unloved, unimportant, and out-of-place. If the 9 can learn to engage rather than deflect their and other people’s energies, they heighten the sense of contact between themselves and others.

Another coping mechanism is a fantasy of fusion, or rejecting one’s own isolation, loneliness, and individuality from loved ones. This 9 cannot conceive of any but the most momentary difference of opinion or attitude. If there is no simple solution, rather than agreeing to disagree, the 9 will flee into isolation, sulk, withdraw, become offended, leave the ‘making up’ to others, or become ‘forgetful’ of the others’ needs through flagrant disregard. The disagreeing person has become an object of concern and the 9 thrusts them aside. If the 9 decides to repair the relationship, they may become too agreeable, frets over slight differences, and needs proof of their total acceptance. Sometimes, the 9 who cannot stand contradictions, bribes, bullies, or compels others to agree with them.

The 9 must grow into a place where they not only respect their own and others’ opinions, tastes, and responsibilities, but actively welcome the animation and excitement that comes from airing differences and disagreements. Confluence makes for routine and stagnation; contact for excitement and growth.

What created them: they often come from a large family, where they received less attention than desired and thus developed a sense of overall un-importance, or from a hard-working family with no time to spend upon the needy 9 child who wanted love and to feel cherished. To get this desired love, the 9 became over-giving and self-denying. The 9 realized complaining or drawing attention to themselves would be of no use in attracting attention, or feels doing so might cause them to lose whatever they already have. They gave in to their natural inclination toward resignation, and learned to laugh things off, to convince others they are “okay.” They may have been the mother or father’s ‘helper’ and taken undo responsibility for another, thus depriving themselves of a childhood.

Where other types actively seek love, the 9 has resigned themselves to not receiving it, yet give in expectation of return. They feel it is inappropriate to express their love wish, but feels gratified when others acknowledge their efforts. The 9 radiates a sense of contentedness that often convinces others of the 9 being more at peace with, or more present, than they are.

To grow, the 9 must become more of a seeker of things—of themselves, of what the world has to offer, of their wishes, demands, and innermost desires. The 9 must venture outside their comfort zone, try unfamiliar things, step into another routine, and risk themselves to find themselves; but they must also learn to accept their anger and other feelings, and to believe themselves as deserving of love. It is all right to express themselves; not to want to give endlessly, and to say no. This may scare the 9, whose loved ones’ needs and joys have become their own, but is a vital step in their emotional development.

Enneagram 9 Wings

Enneagram types often have influences from the number on one side of them, more than the other. While it’s possible to have balanced wings, or no wing at all, most people can relate to one wing in particular.

9w8: The Referee

Healthy: 9w8s mix the ability to be agreeable and to comfort others with endurance and strength. They are both powerful and gentle, able to easily engage with people and things in the world, mediating between people and lessening conflicts. They often seek new projects to have an occasional change of pace from their normal routines. They are also practical and are typically concerned with their immediate needs and physical and financial circumstances. More sociable than the 9w1, they prefer to work other people. They excel in helping professions and consulting and can be effective in business, especially in negotiations or in human resource capacities.

Average: 9w8s enjoy socializing and good times and are more attracted to losing themselves in sensuality and comforting routines that interfere with their ability to stay focused on significant goals. They can be stubborn and defensive, tending to dig in their heels and refusing to listen to anyone. They often have bad tempers, though it’s difficult to predict what will set them off—threats to their sense of personal well-being or to their family, job, or beliefs, are typical. They can be blunt and explosive but suddenly return to a state of calm and placidity.

9w1: The Dreamer

Healthy: 9w1s are creative and imaginative, often able to synthesize different schools of thought or points of view into a vision of an ideal world. They are particularly good at nonverbal forms of communication (art, instrumental music, dance, sports, or work with animals and nature) and can thrive in large institutions. They are typically friendly and reassuring but have a distinct sense of purpose, especially about their ideals. They often make good therapists, counselors, or ministers, balancing nonjudgmental listening with the desire to be of help to others.

Average: 9w1s want external order as a way of giving order to their internal world. They tend to get caught up in nonessential activities and busyness. They can be energetic but in a detached and uninvolved way that interferes with their ability to stay with long-range goals or to enlist others in joining them. They are less adventurous and more reserved than 9w8s, expressing anger with restraint and smoldering indignation. They are concerned with respectability and often feel morally superior. There may be a puritanical streak to them, as well as a prim and proper, perfectionist quality to their personal style.

Social Variants:

Read through each to determine which resonates the most with you.

The Self Preservation 9: The Comfort Seeker

The combination of the passion of laziness and the dominant instinct for self-preservation in these 9s results in a personality subtype called “Appetite.” The deeper motivation of this subtype is finding comfort in the world through satisfying their physical needs. This personality finds satisfaction in activities such as eating, reading, playing games, watching television, sleeping, or even working (if work is a comfortable thing to do).

Average self-preservation 9s are pleasant and easygoing and don’t ask much from life. They prefer simple pleasures that are readily available—eating at the nearest fast food restaurant, watching a favorite rerun on television, or “zoning out” in a comfy chair. They are usually not ambitious, although they can be quite talented. They deal with anxiety by getting involved in busywork—puttering and routines—and may use small tasks to avoid dealing with bigger projects. They become increasingly attracted to minor rewards as compensation for not being able to pursue real desires—but always with some repressed underlining anxiety about not attending to their real needs.

The “inertia” of the 9 shows up most clearly in this variant. Apathy and self-neglect can cause them to have difficulty mobilizing themselves to obtain what they really want or to take care of their genuine self-preservation needs. They can use food and drink to suppress feelings of anxiety or anger and often possess large appetites and a tendency toward addiction. They do not want their pleasant moods to be disturbed by other sand often resist others simply by not responding to them, remaining stubbornly silent.

Unhealthy self-preservation 9s fall into deep apathy about their lives and can become fatigued and ineffectual. They become the chronic couch potato, emotionally shut down and slowly wasting their health, relationships, and possibilities. Addictions are common.

The Social 9: One Happy Family

Average social 9s are the most interested in bringing people together and in making peace. They like to be involved with others, to be part of whatever is going on, but they also resist having too many expectations placed on them. They can be emotionally and mentally disengaged while physically involved. They have a good deal of energy and like to stay active, but within defined, familiar structures. They do not mind working or helping others, but they like to have a clear sense of what will be expected of them. They can be surprisingly conventional and conformist, in the sense that they will meet the expectations of their social circle or family, but they are also anxious about losing their identity, of becoming a “clone” or an appendage of someone else.

Insecurities about their worth plus their desire to please and fit in also causes these 9s to have difficulty saying no to people. They often end up resisting others anyway, usually passive-aggressively. Trying to please various people in their lives can lead them to being scattered and disenchanted, like average 7s. They often have trouble setting independent goals and following through with their intentions.

Unhealthy social 9s can become resigned and depressed about their lack of development. Their neediness and intense insecurity are usually masked by emotional flatness. Displays of indignant anger may alienate people, thus heightening their feelings of social isolation.

The Sexual 9: Merging

Average sexual 9s want to take on the energetic qualities of their significant other, often gravitating toward aggressive types. They can display minor aggressive traits themselves. They tend to be sassier than other 9s and their anger can be easily aroused if they feel that their connection with others is threatened. They seek a complete partnership, thinking of it as “our life” rather than “my” life. It is as if they want the other to fuse with them. Sexual 9s often idealize the special person in their life, not wanting to see their flaws, but they can also become critical or demanding, especially if they have a 1 wing. Compliments to the other are compliments to the self; the same is true for insults or disappointments.

The other becomes their center of gravity, the axis of their identity. As a result, these 9s may fail to develop their own identity or any real sense of independence. These 9s can be highly romantic and resemble 4s. Unrealistic rescue fantasies, the “Cinderella complex,” wishful thinking, and clinging to loved ones can all be part of the picture.

Unhealthy sexual 9s become highly disassociated and depressed and seem to lack a core self. Unable to merge with the other adequately, they feel lost. Fantasies of the other mix with fantasies of anger and vengeance, but they rarely act on the latter. These types either end up in highly dependent relationships or floundering on their own, waiting for one. Or the self may become a function of past relationships, longing for someone who has left them.

Spiritual Growth Suggestions

As 9s work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of creating discomfort and disharmony by erasing themselves to create peace and harmony. By creating a stronger connection to their own internal world, asserting their needs and wants, and acting more powerfully on their own behalf, they can avoid their tendency to over adjust to others to the point of total self-forgetting.

Notice when you are…

Self-forgetting to go along with the wishes and wills of others. Observe what happens when someone else asks you what you want. Tune in to what’s going on when you have a priority and distract yourself with less important matters. Look out for how you use passive-aggressive behaviors and look for clues about what anger is motivating it. Note any activities you engage in to fall asleep to yourself.

Avoiding/diffusing conflict to stay comfortable and avoid separation. Note all the ways you diffuse tension, mediate conflict, and avoid disharmony. What do you do? How do you feel at the threat of conflict? What makes you uncomfortable? What do you do to stay comfortable?

Getting stuck in inertia over your own priorities. What happens when you need to act and don’t? What do you do to distract yourself? What are you avoiding? What does decision-making feel like inside you? What do you get out of not deciding? How do you feel when change happens?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How and why did these patterns develop?
  • What emotions are these patterns designed to protect me from?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • How are patterns of avoidance and self-numbing operating in me?
  • What are my blind spots, because of these patterns?
  • What do they keep me from seeing?
  • What are the consequences of continuing to be this way?
  • How do my coping mechanisms trap me?

Self-Development:

To counter-act self-forgetting to comply to others’ wishes and wills.

  • Practice “remembering yourself.” Tune into yourself, feel yourself, and be conscious of yourself at the moment.
  • Ask yourself what you want and have others ask you too. If you keep asking yourself what you want, after a while, “I don’t know” becomes a specific answer.
  • Fake it until you make it. If you don’t know what you want, make something up. Your “guess” might be close to the truth.

To counter-act avoiding/diffusing conflict.

  • Re-frame conflict as a positive thing that brings you closer to others. Realize that arguments can be a way to get to know each other, learn to trust each other, and resolve differences.
  • Work to get in touch with your anger and be more direct. Anger is power and brings a passion for living. Experiencing anger doesn’t mean always showing it, but directness in expressing yourself and what you want will improve your relationships.
  • Practice giving and receiving feedback. Practice giving feedback to people you trust. Start small and work up from there. Remind yourself that feedback and conflict does not automatically lead to separation.

To counter-act inertia over your priorities.

Remind yourself to stay comfortable leads to discomfort. Denial of practical realities will cause problems. Be proactive and positive about thinking through the consequences of resisting change. Remind yourself that “not choosing” is a choice. Allow yourself to imagine positive outcomes. You need to learn to act to get what you want.

Using your integration and disintegration numbers for self-growth:

Move to 6 by adopting the analytical skills and proactive activity to support self-protection. The 6’s alertness in intuiting and tuning into threats and overall alertness can balance your desire to stay comfortable and self-distraction. Go into your head to analyze what’s happening in your life and internalize how you are self-forgetting and how that might threaten you in the long term.

Move to 3 by reminding yourself it’s okay to want attention and important to value yourself and your accomplishments. Act in positive ways, strive to meet specific goals, and think about how others perceive you. Using 3 integration will reclaim your ability to get things done. 

Sources:

Main analysis from Claudio Naranjo: Character and Neurosis. Wings and Subtypes: Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram. Growth sections: Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge. Sections have been quoted but some are heavily edited. Please purchase the original books for more information.