9: The Need to Avoid

“… it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable appearance as Wickham.”

of Jane Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

One of the sweetest characters in literature, Jane in Pride and Prejudice has a pleasant, unassuming, and forgiving nature. The mild-mannered Jane rarely shows or shares her feelings (“she does not show her feelings even to me,” Lizzie says in the most recent screen adaptation). While her heart abounds in adoration for Mr. Bingley, Jane remains stoic and temperate in his presence. Her sister’s friend Charlotte urges Lizzie to tell Jane to show more affection than she feels, out of a concern that Jane’s stoicism will get read as disinterest. That proves to be the case. Her lack of outward passion convinces Mr. Darcy she is a fortune-seeker, and he tries to drive them apart.

When this happens, the stubborn Jane, determined to see the bright side and think ill of no one, insists Bingley must have a good reason to leave the area, that his sisters are not destructive or aligning against her, and that all will turn out well. Though she has every right to feel furious over what has happened to her, Jane remains calm. When her youngest sister runs off with Mr. Wickham, a man the entire family trusted, Jane assume the best of him—that they must have gotten married along the way, since surely neither of them would bring such disgrace upon them all! Though worried, she displays no outright anger about the situation, and accepts Mr. Wickham as her brother-in-law after a forced marriage. She is tolerant, amiable, and generous of spirit. When at last she finds happiness in her engagement to Mr. Bingley, her father remarks that both of them are so amiable, their servants are likely to cheat them.

Jane must come to terms with her loss, admit her culpability in being left behind, and find it in herself to resent the deliberate mechanisms of Mr. Bingley’s sisters in trying to prevent her own happiness. She is the perfect example of an Enneagram 9.

Read on to learn more about Enneagram 9s.

The Need to Avoid

Enneagram 9s are peacemakers whose ability to accept others without prejudice makes others feel understood and accepted. They can be unbiased arbitrators, because they see and appreciate the positive aspects of both sides to any argument. Their sense of fairness makes them committed fighters for peace and justice. Others can accept their criticisms because of their ability to present the hard truth calmly and without accusation.

Despite the peaceful presence they present to others, 9s often feel inner fear and restlessness. Their lack of a powerful drive contributes to an internal vagueness. They struggle to understand their own nature—figuring out what they want and who they are is difficult. They are “everywhere but nowhere,” connected to everything. Often generalists, they can do a little bit of everything but rarely master anything completely because they lack focus and determination. Some 9s lack courage or consider themselves to unimportant to display their talents before others. They fade in and out of everything without being noticed. They will continue a conversation started by others, but “go with the flow” and abandon it when others do.

They feel overlooked and lost, ignored even despite their occasional outburst, and so keep their anger to themselves. They want to understand both sides to avoid feeling trapped between two strong, opposing points of view. They often, when with others, feel the needs and interests of everyone else. Their internal temperament can be steady, without big highs or lows in their emotions. They want to remain comfortable and avoid straining themselves through tackling achievement.

Though easy to like due to being amiable and good-natured on the outside, 9s are hazy individuals. Their choice of the path of least resistance makes them fearful of decisions that may pin them down. They avoid anything too hard or that takes too much energy, even postponing important tasks or responsibilities. It’s easy for them to get distracted into nonessential tasks to avoid the big ones, such as meticulously cleaning the grout in their bathroom rather than tackling the stack of work on their desk. The bigger the anxiety of facing the undesirable task, the easier they fall into unimportant side tasks. They struggle with constant distraction, and their actions follow their thoughts. They can seem scattered or absent-minded, easily lose track of their thoughts, and tell long, distracted, convoluted stories rather than getting directly to the point.

They may consider themselves simple and uncomplicated. They are honest and lack any hidden motivations; this means they are sincere in what they say. Since it takes great time and effort to come up with their opinions, they can sometimes feel angry at themselves for sharing them, which “exposes” the truth of their thoughts to others. 9s often belittle themselves in their own and other people’s eyes. Their “humility” conceals a false modesty and uncertainty about who they are. It allows them to go unnoticed. They tend to self-medicate to numb themselves to unpleasant emotions or tasks, especially if the stimulus can give them a temporary boost of energy. They seek strong outer stimulation to compensate for an inner lack of it.

When upset or in a crisis, the 9 disappears to avoid burdening others with their problems. It never occurs to them that others may help them. They require love and attention to emerge from their self-imposed isolation. Part of the reason for their retreat sometimes is also to ‘detox’ from the world and its influences. When they are with you, you are inside them and in their head; your opinions are their opinions; your energy has bombarded them, and they need to go into a full retreat to center themselves in who “I” am. This only happens when alone in an immature 9 who has not yet learned to put up boundaries between merging into your opinions and holding their own. Their challenge in life is to discover and develop their feelings of self worth and their own inner drive, as separate from others.

Immature 9s lack any instinctual drive and never take initiative, develop projects, gain new perspectives, or finish what they start. They avoid being committed at all costs and need firm deadlines in order to keep going; if left to their own devices, nothing ever happens (they never date, ask someone to marry them, buy a house, change jobs into something they enjoy more, or learn self-sufficiency). Their trouble is by loving comfort as much as they do, they become lethargic and unmotivated.

They depend on being approached (noticed) by others before they can engage. They are prone to inertia in relationships and disappearing acts, where they may vanish for weeks or even months. When you contact them, they feel delighted and eager to respond. Immature 9s never think to contact you first. This can mislead the other types into assuming a lack of interest but they come alive if you reach out. However, if responding to you requires effort or obligation, such as writing a long e-mail to catch you up, they will procrastinate and postpone it.

The secret of the 9 is beneath the mild disposition lies a layer of cynicism toward life and the people in it. There is also a passive aggressive element to their behavior. Their avoidance of commitment hides an arrogant self-absorption in that “you are not worth me inconveniencing myself.” They are, after all, a gut type and hostile toward the outer world. They can be stubborn and immobile, especially the more you want them to do something; rather than get forced into a decision that seems to them to be premature, they will resist, stall, and delay things to keep them “uncommitted.” If what you want them to do involves strenuous or complicated labor, they will become even more resistant to the idea, assuming they lack sufficient energy to do it.

To avoid conflict, 9s either ignore it or vanish. They may refuse to help resolve a situation and hope it fixes itself. If they retreat, it’s a form of aggression, because the 9 is good at sensing what other people want from them. Retreat is their way of saying no without initiating conflict by stating their feelings out loud. Their withdrawing is a passive-aggressive form of rebellion. Sometimes it’s even to cause an argument, because they want one but also want the other person to start it. They will use delaying, not showing up on time, being too slow, or “forgetting” a task to provoke others, thus increasing their energy enough to yell back. Sometimes, this happens after a long period of going along with the other person and their ideas, feelings, or thoughts. The 9 realizes somewhere along the way that they do not share them, but then must decide if a confrontation is worth it or not. Their rare violent outbursts often shock their loved ones, because they are so uncommon and out of character.

They prefer simplicity and clarity to the complex or convoluted. Immature 9s in this way avoid everything—life, the world, relationships, self-awareness, and challenges, because they feel that they are up for none of it. 9s have no defense against the world and find it exhausting. They use up all their energy avoiding or deadening their powerful feelings. They may seethe inside, but look outwardly calm and composed. Young 9s focus too much on agreeing whether they agree with your opinion or not, rather than seeking a position of their own. The 9 most of the time tries to please everyone and be open to everything. They are excellent peacemakers, able to mediate and understand both sides in an argument. Their indirectness makes them disarming to others, enabling the 9 to easily earn other people’s trust.

In romantic relationships, 9s feel torn between a desire between symbiosis and independence. It can take years to let people in, commit to them, or get married. Once they learn who they are, the 9 can meet a partner without “vanishing into them” or becoming an extension of them. They also struggle to let other people go. The 9 often relives memories rather than moving forward, and can collect and accumulate clutter out of a reluctance to let anything or anyone go. Being left by someone feels like losing a limb. They hold on to relationships long after they have run their course, out of a “habit” of that person always being there. Their tendency to accept others means they may accept totally unacceptable behavior in others just to avoid confrontation. They often know what they do not want more than what they want. 

One of their talents is their ability to do complex tasks without needing to devote mental energy to it. Once they establish a routine, they can do difficult jobs without a conscious mental awareness, often without mistakes. They can compartmentalize their brain and let their body do one thing, while they are thinking about something else entirely.

9s need to feel wanted and like they have something to contribute. They must learn that others believe in them, so they can believe in themselves. To overcome their cynicism about life, the 9 must learn to believe they are capable of purposeful and decisive actions. They must challenge themselves to act boldly and enjoy the risk. They need to find a focus point, so they can act intentionally. They must struggle deliberately against inertia and toward finding their own opinions rather than just responding to others. They should adopt a routine to make the best use of their energy. Schedules help them by removing the need to decide and thus procrastinating, and can help them avoid using addictive habits to avoid figuring out what they truly want. Habits and schedules give them a clear vision for their day, tasks to complete, and allow them to daydream at the same time. Instead of wishing and dreaming for things to happen, the 9 must challenge themselves to select the most obvious job and start doing it.

The 9 should feel and express anger and aggression inwardly until they break down their numbing defense systems. The more used to their own powerful emotions they get, the more easily they can learn to express them outwardly in constructive ways, rather than letting them simmer into passive-aggression. They need to take the initiative in relationships and challenge themselves to keep in touch and reach out to their friends more often. In difficult situations, the 9 must remind themselves that they have every right to the support of their friends and family and do not need to withdraw. The 9 must remember, above all, that they have much to give others.

Psycho Spiritual Inertia and the Over-Adjusted Disposition

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 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 Habit: 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 get easily distracted, confused, and often possess terrible 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 repairs 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 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 9s have resigned themselves to not receiving it, yet give in expectation of return. They feel it is inappropriate to express their love wish, but feel 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

9s present in two different ways based on the influence of their preferred wing. While it’s possible to have balanced wings, or no wing at all, most people can relate to the traits, fears and defense mechanisms of one wing in particular.

9w8: The Referee

8s need to go against power and 9s need to avoid conflict. Anger energizes 8s while 9s avoid it at all costs. Thus there is an internal struggle between the dominant 9 and the suppressed but also visible 8 wing. The 9w8 is more energized, confident, stubborn, outgoing, and inner-directed than the 9w1, with greater access to anger and the ability to express it more openly. Often the 9 will suppress up to a point, then the 8 wing will explode in a flash and fade (a flash of anger that soon fades), leaving the core 9 with the desire and anxiety of “cleaning up the mess I just caused.” The 9w8, however, is still not as openly combative as the 8 or any other number with greater access to their anger. Though they will sometimes change their minds, the 9w8 finds it easy to be clear and direct about the things that matter most to them. They still will rarely act on their own behalf, but are energetic in championing for the underdog and the common good. They are more confrontational than the 9w1, but also quick to be consolatory.

Character Example: Harry Potter shows both the temperate nature of the 9 and the rebelliousness of his 8 wing, throughout the course of the seven Harry Potter novels. A boy often “seething” under the surface, for many years he does his best to avoid his uncle and aunt’s wrath, and lives a quiet life “in the cupboard under the stairs.” When Hermione and Ron spend much of the third book quarreling, Harry is both annoyed at them, and refuses to mediate between them after a certain point, choosing instead to “tune them out.” He is quick to defend others, coming to Neville’s defense against Draco Malfoy, and developing an antagonistic and resentful attitude toward Snape for his bullying tactics. (At one point, he and Ron almost ‘attack’ Snape outside his classroom for making Hermione cry. It’s fortunate Snape did “not hear them swearing at him.”) In the fifth novel, Harry often falls into his 8 wing, in his sheer rage at being left alone, with no news, after the death of Cedric Diggory all summer (Rowling uses ALL CAPS to express how loud, assertive, and angry he has become). Harry accepts his need to die to defeat Voldemort, as a necessary sacrifice, and calmly walks to his “death” surrounded by the loving ghosts of his parents and loved ones. A true ‘surrender’ of self.

9w1: The Dreamer

The 9 wants inertia and a quiet life while the 1 wing wants to be perfect, good, above reproach, and to keep things organized. Since the 9 represses anger and the 1 denies it exists in themselves, this makes for a 9 who has less access to their inner turmoil, their resentment, and less of an inclination to express their anger outwardly, because they will want to suppress it until it boils over into a “mood.” 9w1s have a strong sense of the difference between right and wrong. The 1 wing helps them stay a little more focused, so they can accomplish more (and also feel a need to “do more” according to the high standards of the 1). They are more critical of themselves and others, orderly, introverted, and passive aggressive than 9w8s. Because of their concern about matters of right and wrong, they’re apt to get involved in peacemaking or other social justice causes. They are principled and modest, known for their integrity and steady character.

Character Example: The desire to keep everyone around her happy is what we most remember about the capable, but timid Amy Dorrit in Charles Dickens’ classic novel Little Dorrit. Beset by resentful and demanding relatives (a sister who is an actress and thinks she deserves the best, a brother often in debt because he wants more than what he can afford, and a father whose pride has transformed his shame into a ridiculous sense of haughty aristocracy), Amy is the selfless, sweet, and good-natured girl who takes care of them all, who finds their insults hard to bear, who wishes she did not “shame them” so much, passes judgment on their rudeness, and holds herself to impeccable standards of kindness and goodness. She eventually comes to recognize her own self worth, learns to stand up for what she wants, and eventually has complete control over her own life and may marry whom she chooses, but never once surrenders her character.

Social Variants:

Social variants determine how we respond to the world around us and where our major priorities in life lie. Attentiveness to bonding, social responsibilities, and how we ‘appear’ to others is in the realm of social (soc). Survival, fulfilling all of one’s needs, and a focus on ensuring one always has enough resources for a comfortable life is self-preservation (sp). Sexual displays, competing for attention, being like a moth to a flame in your pursuit of another person, or competing for a mate falls under the realm of sexual (sx). 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 ask little 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 minor tasks to avoid dealing with bigger projects. They become increasingly attracted to minor rewards as compensation for not being able to pursue genuine 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 get 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 others to disturb their pleasant moods and often resist others 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.

Character Example: Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown exemplifies this brand of 9. By her own admission a “simple woman” of common needs, she contents herself with a life of structure, small pleasures (walks with her dogs, visits to Scotland, “stalking” deer on her country estates, and discussing homey things). She finds it difficult to know what she wants, and cannot even name her “favorite child” (much to her husband’s amusement) without interviewing each to assess their character afresh according to her moral standards. She is diplomatic, often shocked at her family’s rudeness and quick to reassure her guests or rearrange the schedule around them, but also finds it difficult to access her own feelings. She has become numb to them and sunken into what is ‘expected’ of the sovereign, which is to hold no views. Something she urges her son Charles to do also, but… he cannot. Not with the natural ability to suppress, ignore, downplay, and force into the smoldering resentment that comes so easily to her.

The Social 9: One Happy Family

Average social 9s are the most interested in bringing people together and in making peace. They like to get 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 others expect of them. They can be 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. They use emotional flatness to mask their neediness and intense insecurity. Displays of indignant anger may alienate people, thus heightening their feelings of social isolation.

Character Example: Unlike his friend and protector Sam, who finds the journey to Rivendell and beyond tedious in Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins offers very little complaint—about the road or the people they encounter on it. When Sam wishes he was back in the Shire and enjoying the comfort of his own bed, Frodo peacefully tells him to just shut his eyes, ignore the “dirty great root” in the middle of his back, and go to sleep. Frodo has a dreamy nature, forgiving and malleable. He will sacrifice his own life and sanity to carry the Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it for the greater good. Frodo sees the good in Gollum that may or may not be there, due to his nonjudgmental disposition, and treats him with too much kindness and tolerance, and not enough distrust. Frodo is so incapable of withstanding the furious arguments over the fate of the Ring, he volunteers to take it for them. Throughout the story, various characters, from Elrond to Gandalf, remark upon his “extraordinary resilience” to the Ring’s evil, his ability to ignore it. But the closer he comes to its destruction, the more he merges into its evil. Yet, one of his greatest joys in his ordeal was to be in the Fellowship.

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 are sassier than other subtypes and any threat to their connection with others arouses their anger. 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 do not develop their own identity or any genuine 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.

Character Typing: An international ‘heartthrob’ and an interesting character in his own right, Jamie of the Outlander series is this kind of 9. Passive, malleable, and addicted to Claire like the air he breathes. His entire world revolves around her, he will go to any lengths to protect her, and he endures (stoically) much torment, punishment, humiliation, and abuse on her behalf because he has merged into her. Claire is his entire world… and he shows both the fire of his sexual subtype in his defiance and heated, argumentative nature (as a 9w8) and an over-adjusted disposition. Jamie wants to do little more than lie with his wife, most of the time. To him, it’s a symbol of their merging and closeness. Though initially resistant to her desire to return to the future, over time Jaime makes it his own mission to help her find her happiness. In a later season, he becomes a sexual toy for a woman because his resistance has faded into nothingness without Claire in his life as a stabilizing force. He hates the scars on his back, yet shows them everywhere he goes at the behest of his lord. He will take punishment for others, rather than let them suffer.

Peeta Mellark’s undying devotion for Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games also displays the devotion and ‘merged’ nature of the 9; he does not care if he lives or dies, so long as the woman he loves survives.

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: Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Claudio Naranjo: Character and Neurosis, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge. Sections quoted or paraphrased. Please purchase the original books for more information.