Which Enneagram type is most common?
Which Enneagram type is most common? While there’s no definitive answer, because not all humans know their type, the sampling thus far heavily suggests that Type Nine is the most common type.
Nines sit at the top of the Enneagram symbol, and some teachers believe that Nine is the proto-personality type. That is, the original human personality type is Nine, and all others grew out of it over time during the course of human development. Though there’s no way to confirm that, it’s interesting that many cultures that we Westerners label as “underdeveloped” or “developing” have strong Nine characteristics. These include community, egalitarianism and the desire for a peaceful existence.
Enneagram Type Nine Overview
Nines reside in the Anger triad (8-9-1), but if you know a Nine, this will surprise you. It’s rarely, show anger. They seem very mellow and they are amenable to just about anything. They would not even be aware of their own anger (for the most part) and would deny it as strongly as a mellow person can. But they are angry, all right.
Why? Nines are angry at being ignored. Why are they ignored? Because they don’t put forth their own desires as important. They are not forceful in their opinions, as Assertive types are, for instance. This is because they don’t want to rock anyone’s boat. If the group wants sushi for lunch but the Nine dislikes sushi, the Nine will acquiesce to the group’s desires in order to keep the peace. “It doesn’t matter” and “It’s not important” are favorite phrases of the Nine.
Sometimes Nine is the Mediator. This role is of great value in the world, but the desire for peace in the Nine most often arises from a desire to not lose connection with others. Loss of connection is the primal fear of the Nine and feels like annihilation, like negation of being. That’s heavy. That’s where the desire for unity and peace come from, and why Nines seem to never have a strong preference. Going along with what someone else wants is almost always less scary than staring into the void of non-being.
For this reason, Nines “fall asleep” to their own selves and to their own desires. This makes them sort of invisible, because they don’t contribute strongly like the louder or more assertive types. This strategy of “whatever” works a lot of the time, but eventually Nines notice that they are being overlooked or ignored, and then the anger kicks in. Humans want to feel significant, and Nines start to notice that other people may not think they are. They are most often passively aggressive, but sometimes a mellow Nine will EXPLODE in a rage that shocks those around him or her. Then, steam vented, the Nine returns to “normal.”
The passion of the Nine is sloth. Not that Nines are lazy in general – they are lazy about connecting with their own selves. Riso & Hudson explain in The Wisdom of the Enneagram that Nines think that in order to be connected to others, they must not be connected to their own selves. I was going to have lunch with a Nine friend and asked where she wanted to go. “Oh, I don’t care,” she said. But I would not choose for us; I waited until she could actually get in touch with what she wanted. That can be very difficult for Nines initially, but it is a necessary growth step.
Conflict, understandably, is particularly difficult for Nines. A Withdrawn type, Nines will retreat from conflict into a beautiful Shangri-La of fantasy that Riso & Hudson call the “Inner Sanctum.” Only the “good” aspects of relationships are allowed into this secret garden, where the Nine can enjoy all the unity and community without real-world problems interfering. It can be said that Nines are often having a very different relationship than their loved one!
Enneagram Nines in Relationships
Speaking of relationships, Nines are “mergers.” That means they have a tendency to fully take on the opinions, goals and preferences of those they’re in relationship with. As Dr. Beatrice Chestnut says in The Complete Enneagram, “They lose the boundaries between themselves and other people.” Nines also tend to idealize their partners. These may seem like great characteristics in a partner – no conflict! Constant agreement and rose-colored support!
Yet your partner’s needs and wants get ignored. And they have a hard time dealing with the difficulty realities that arise in life. Further, when they finally get fed up with being ignored, they explode with anger – which leaves the loved one dazed and confused. These characteristics are not the basis for a strong, healthy relationship.
Gifts of Type Nine
When Nines wake up to themselves and realize that they do matter, they bless the world with their welcoming demeanor and ability to listen. Nines do make great mediators and can be found bringing peace to situations large and small. Nines make you feel calm and welcomed. They, like the Apostle Nathaniel, are without guile.
Famous Nines include at least three presidents (Reagan, Ford and Lincoln), George Lucas, Audrey Hepburn and Walt Disney.
The Building Blocks of Type Nine
Now, let’s look at the key elements that come together to make a Type Nine.
Center: Body/Gut (underlying emotion is anger)
Harmonic: Positive Outlook
Object Relation Group: Attachment
It’s strange to think of Nine as an anger type, for the most part. Nines are typically mellow, welcoming, amenable people. The issue is that Nines are asleep to their own anger – or rather, to their own bodies, just as Threes are asleep to their own hearts and Sixes are asleep to their own minds. Whereas Eights relish and display their anger and Ones control their anger, Nines pretend it isn’t there.
One of the reasons is that they belong to the Positive Outlook camp. Nines are committed to peace and community, but showing their anger would jeopardize both. So, they continue to maintain that everyone is great, including themselves, and that everything will work out fine. This causes Nines to sometimes stay in unhealthy relationships longer than they should, past the point of redemption. They just keep looking on the bright side and idealizing the other person.
This can make them asleep to relationship or work problems, however. If those problems do intrude into their conscious minds, Nines withdraw so that they can maintain their peaceful existence and idyllic fantasies.
Attachment types hang on to something—a person, situation or state—that is “working” for them. In the Nine’s case, he or she attaches to that secret garden or inner sanctum and doesn’t like to go outside it. This fits well with the Nine’s cardinal sin of sloth; here, it’s an unwillingness to move beyond what is comfortable for them. That unwillingness is really fear.
They fear that moving beyond set boundaries might unleash anger, and Nines fear that their anger is so powerful that it will destroy everything around them. But anger doesn’t have to be explosive and destructive. Part of the growth path for Nines is to wake up to the sensations in their bodies that signal anger (heat in the gut, sudden sleepiness etc.) and don’t act on it but simply notice and admit it.
How to Deal with Enneagram Type Nine
All Types have wonderful things about them. My Nine friends are caring “people persons” who always have time for me. Their welcome mat is always out! The information above discusses tendencies and patterns, not individuals. Each Nine is unique and deserves unique attention and care. So, let’s consider some compassionate, healthy ways to interact with Type Nine:
- Hang out: Nobody can chill like a Nine. Make time to just be present with the Nines in your life – no agenda needed. The giving and sharing of time is precious to them.
- Let them choose: Decide on an activity, and then let the Nine choose the movie, the hiking spot, the restaurant. Don’t make suggestions or recommendations, because the Nine is bound to agree. Let him or her take the time to connect with what they actually want. This helps them feel seen and diminishes the anger over being ignored.
- Take an interest: In the same vein, think about what gives your Nine joy and plan an activity around it or accompany him or her to something they’ve planned. It may not be something you’re into; it could just be reading a book on the couch! Whatever it is, tap into the Nine-ness within you and give your whole attention and presence to it.
- Acknowledge the anger: Recognize that even if the Nine in your life isn’t expressing anger, it’s there. Don’t ignore it; check in with the person to see if they are feeling overlooked. If the person is exhibiting stubbornness or is withdrawing from you, these are subtle signs of Nine anger. Pay attention to them. And if your Nine suddenly explodes, understand that it’s a symptom of their typical resentment. Let the explosion occur, and then talk with him or her after to see how you can pay better attention to the Nine’s needs going forward.
Enneagram Nine Self-Growth
All Enneagram Types tend to over-use the patterns of their personality and tend to run on autopilot. But all Types can also increase their self-awareness and learn strategies to overcome those autopilot setting. Here are ways Nines can experience personal growth:
- Learn what anger feels like: One Nine friend says that when conflict arises, she instantly feels sleepy and wants to take a nap. Other Nines may feel a knot in their gut or sudden hunger; what does it feel like to you? Identifying the bodily feeling of anger will help you acknowledge it and come to terms with it. It’s just a signal that something is out of balance, not a life-or-death event. Feeling your own anger will help you be less afraid of it and help you to control and address it so explosive episodes aren’t necessary.
- Base your relationship in reality: You tend to idealize relationships so you don’t have to deal with disharmony, but disharmony is going to happen. So, practice really seeing something in your partner that you don’t like. Hold it in your heart and mind; feel it in your body. Notice that this doesn’t diminish the person but rather creates a more complete and realistic picture of them.
- Make your needs and wants known: Your Basic Fear, according to Riso & Hudson, is of loss and separation, and your brain’s way of avoiding this fear is to erase all possibility of conflict by erasing your own preferences. Operating on the personality’s default is HARD to overcome, but not impossible – it takes practice. So, find situations in daily life where you can feel safe about giving an opinion or telling someone what you need.
- Give yourself permission to exist: Riso & Hudson name the Nine’s social role as “Nobody Special,” but that’s just how your brain is trying to keep you “safe” from your Basic Fear. It’s not true, and it’s not who you are. You also fear annihilation, which then ironically leads you to annihilate your presence and perspective most of the time. But you are a valuable, unique being that the world needs. You’re here for a reason, and you have purpose. You are allowed to exist, to have a viewpoint and to step into who God intended you to be.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.