Sunday, June 23, 2013

Enneagram Type Six

Fear and its lesser synonyms such as anxiety, nervousness, worry, etc. are the keywords with Type Six.  As the central of the three types in the Thinking Center (5, 6 and 7 -- all of whom have their core issues around fear and anxiety), Type Six's challenges in this domain are amplified to the maximum.  Whereas Fives "make friends with" their fears by becoming sickeningly fascinated by them and Sevens distract themselves from their fears by quickly moving their attention to something else every time their anxieties begin to catch up with them, Sixes have no such coping mechanism (except insofar as they have well-developed Five and/or Seven wings).  On the contrary, their membership in the Reactive Triad (4, 6 and 8) -- which I've said before is the "squeaky wheel" triad, i.e., the types that help call the attention of the rest of us to issues that may need fixing -- means they're sensitive to negativities or problems and tend to be dissatisfied or unhappy about them.  So they are left to suffer from the full strength of their fears -- at least at first.

These fears and worries, and the desire to achieve safety and security for themselves (and their loved ones), shape every aspect of the Type Six nature.  Because they so much crave the security of dependable loving relationships -- friends and family members who will be there for them when needed, no matter what -- they are one of the relationship-oriented Enneagram types (with 2 and 9) and one of the compliant types (with 1 and 2): i.e., they try to please others, to do what others would want them to do, to earn love and protection by endearing themselves to others.  Since they very much appreciate the emotional and physical security that is generated when others are dependable, responsible, and trustworthy, they endeavor to treat others the way they'd like to be treated by being hard-working, dependable, responsible and trustworthy themselves.  They're sensitive to others' feelings because they themselves know what it's like to feel incredibly vulnerable and sensitive, and because they generally view making friends and keeping them as important.  Although the degree to which they care about this will vary with their instinctual stacking, Sixes are naturally endowed with the social instinct, like 3 and 9.  This instinct involves the desire to be accepted by a group and to look out for the group's interests/welfare; in the case of Sixes, the unconscious motivation behind this is the idea of "safety in numbers" -- the herd mentality.  So no matter what their instinctual stacking is, you will usually see Sixes seek out some sort of herd to be a part of -- no matter how small -- even if it's just their own family.  Sixes tend to be very clannish.  "Blood is thicker than water" sounds to me like something a Type Six would say.  Pride in their own family heritage (or to some extent in their own school, city, state or country) gives them a sense of belonging: yet another layer of security for them.  It's not just the cozy feeling of "aww, I belong!  Yay!" that they love.  Though that's part of it too, it's deeper and more serious for them than that.  Since Sixes perceive the world as a place filled with danger, they have a strong sense that those who are willing to bond together as comrades need to watch each other's backs against threats from the natural world and unscrupulous humans.  So their main idea is that as long as they build and maintain close relationships with everyone in their connection by being there for those others whenever they're needed, they'll be able to expect everyone else to rush to their aid in case they themselves are someday in difficulty.  "All for one, and one for all" is THE MOST Sixish motto I've come across.  Type Six is often referred to as "the Loyalist" because, in spite of their fear, they will risk death for those they care about -- and they hope for the same selfless dedication in return.  They are team players.  If someone on the team (be it a marriage, extended family, business enterprise, or sports team) was down, suffering or struggling in any way, a healthy Type Six would feel strongly that that person deserved patience, sympathy and support, not judgment or exclusion!  Once they got back on their feet, the team would be so much stronger and more bonded for having helped that person through.  (Besides, the next time it could be the Six who was in trouble!  So if a culture of supporting those in difficulty was not in place, then what would happen???) 

In keeping with this deep value that they place on loyal behavior and with their compliant, responsible nature, Sixes will try with everything they've got to make a family or marital relationship work out before they'll give up.  Being naturally humble, they will forgive much.  If they ever do give up, it's because they've come to the conclusion that there is zero hope of the relationship ever being reciprocal.  If they get to that point, where they're burned out and their capacity to repose any trust in the other person has been utterly extinguished, there's no getting them back.  They'll shut that person out of their heart forever and want nothing more to do with them. 

I've alluded to the concept of trust a few times already because it is a key issue for Sixes.  In the beginning of their lives, Sixes tend to be extremely trusting of others.  We all expect others to be like ourselves until we discover otherwise, and Sixes are no different.  Since they're so innocent, sincere, well-meaning, good-hearted and trustworthy, they naturally expect that others are also good, caring and trustworthy and have their best interests at heart.  Some Sixes are fortunate enough to make it through life with this innocent, sweet nature relatively intact.  However, unfortunately, many -- probably most -- Sixes don't make it very far without realizing, in some kind of terrible and shocking (to them) episode, that not everyone is honest or trustworthy after all. After that experience, many of them begin to doubt everyone, to be cynical or skeptical, to need proof before they will again be able to believe in anyone or anything.  One of the primary themes of the Type Six's life is trying to figure out what to believe, and whom to trust and follow and support with their loyalty.  This mental endeavor to sort out their ideas and values and figure out what's what, what is believable and dependable and is not going to shift under their feet without warning and throw everything out of kilter for them, is why they're said to belong to the "Head" or "Thinking" center -- even though they also have huge caring hearts and a sentimental nature that becomes too easily attached (to things that may be lost). 

In their efforts to protect themselves and those they care about from danger and difficulty or to solve other problems in their lives, they often fall back on very practical and logical thinking methods (troubleshooting)... a very mechanistic type of thinking.  They may be very good at this.  But when a question arises which they feel unable to solve in this manner, their mental uncertainty and tendency to place their trust in others leads them oftentimes to ask their family members, friends, and other trusted authorities for advice when they're trying to decide what to do.  When they finally figure out what it is that they believe and then become able to begin making up their own mind more often, it's a great triumph for them. 

There's another way Sixes can change over time.  As I stated at the end of the first paragraph, they feel vulnerable and exposed to the full strength of their fears during the first part of their lives.  To a greater or lesser extent, they will always feel like that as long as they remain in the grip of their Sixish programming.  However, since those who are brave and courageous are idolized in society and those who are cowardly are despised, many Sixes who fail to realize what courage really is while they're young will dislike their own fearfulness and wish to disown that quality of theirs.  In an effort to cut out that part of their nature and be the opposite -- strong and brave -- they may throw their accustomed caution to the winds and become wild and reckless daredevils.  This is called going from phobic to counterphobic.  Counterphobic Sixes can also be quite rebellious, rejecting the tame/quiet/meek/compliant/cooperative/obedient qualities of the phobic Six, if they happen to have a disapproving attitude about those traits too.  Some Sixes remain phobic all their lives; some, after a certain point, exhibit their counterphobic personality exclusively; some may go back and forth between phobic and counterphobic as their mood dictates. 

The path of growth for Sixes is to develop the good qualities of Type Nine: to become relaxed, accepting, cheerful/positive, unaffected, unattached, peaceful and happy, and to be able to maintain this attitude through all the storms of life.  In order to do this, Sixes need to transfer their attachments from those things that are perishable and subject to being destroyed to those that are indestructible, eternal, and spiritual.  The only way for Sixes to escape from their programming and its curse of constant fear is to seek knowledge about the self and God. 

The wing types:

Sixes with a 5-wing are more interested in science, more introverted and studious, and sometimes become obsessed with questioning, critiquing, and exposing the faults of the system by which society is run.  Finding out and exposing all kinds of cheating or falseness (loathed by all Sixes) wherever it's been institutionalized or enshrined in a position of power may be what some 6w5s see as their calling.  This can sometimes lead them to become conspiracy theorists; conspiracy, or the idea that "things are not as they seem because of some scoundrels' ill intent," is an intensely touchy / intolerable subject for Sixes, and therefore a fascinating one for some of them. 

Sixes with a 7-wing tend to be more extroverted and fun-loving, often enjoying physical activity and parties.  This is the most common of all Enneagram types, so 6w7s may seem like very average, normal people.  Still, the reason they're so common is because societies built of these people are healthy and successful -- they make wonderful parents, family members and friends, hard workers, and selflessly sincere servants of the common good.  Sometimes they may fall prey to the Sevenish weaknesses for addictive substances and/or overspending. 

All in all, Sixes are some of the best and sweetest people in society.  They make our world function safely and smoothly.  They value truth and good behavior, rejecting falsity and corruption.  They know the meaning of honor, duty and sacrifice.  Since they know the most fear, they also know the most courage, as we know that courage means feeling fear but doing your duty anyway.  In every line of work, there they are, working their hearts out and/or putting their lives on the line for the rest of us, every single day.  We can all be grateful we have them.